How to live happily and healthily as a highly sensitive person (HSP) has been something I’ve been trying to figure out my whole life. As what I refer to as a “full-blown HSP,” I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how I could make this vision of health and happiness a reality. But before I could, I had to figure out what that vision even was.
In my first few days of my Health Coaching education, I learned a very simple but profound concept that would become a recurring theme throughout the program; a concept that has really stuck with me in my personal life and in my coaching practice. It was a way of looking at life that divides it up into key foundational sections that can either feed us, stabilize us, or drain us. With this model, our overall health and happiness depend on the total sum of our levels of satisfaction in each area.
Too often, we see someone else who looks happy and healthy, and we think: “Wow, they have the perfect relationship,” or “They have an excellent high-paying career,” or “They have the ideal body shape and are incredibly healthy.” We see one thing that someone has succeeded in and think they’ve got it all figured out.
But the person with the wonderful relationship may struggle with their finances or career, and the person with the high-paying job may be burned out. Having the idea that excelling in one area of life brings us health and/or happiness is a misconception. Choosing to focus all your energy into one aspect to reach extreme success in just that single area is actually doing the rest of your life a disservice.
From these realizations, I came to this conclusion: true health and happiness come (and stay) with balance.
Let me show you what I mean with a metaphor: Imagine a structure built atop one single pillar — pretty unstable, right? Hmm… how about two pillars then? That’s a little more stable, yes, but there’s still a great deal of swaying that can occur on either side.
Now, imagine that same structure built atop three, four, or even five strong, solid pillars… pillars that extend far beneath the surface and do not waver in the wind. Now that is a sturdy structure; that is a solid, dependable foundation that can fully support and actualize a vibrant vision of what healthy and happy is for you.
Why This Is so Important For HSPs
Over and over again throughout my studies, I came back to this idea of balancing the energy we put into each of our pillars. I contemplated more deeply what this could mean for someone like me, a highly sensitive person.
This concept is valuable for all people (sensitive or not), however, if you’re an HSP, I believe this is even more so the case. Your pillars as an HSP need to be that much more rooted into the ground in order for your “structure” not to sway back and forth in the ever-changing winds of life.
Part of what makes us beautiful as HSPs — and what makes life challenging at times — is how much we’re affected and touched by life. We need to embrace and work with this aspect of ourselves to truly be happy. Don’t shame the pillars because they’re so shaky. Instead, look at them with loving eyes, and spend time nurturing them.
Strengthen, balance, and slowly build the pillars up. Create a foundation that is unapologetically and uniquely empowering and supportive to you as an HSP.
I want to encourage HSPs to really take this idea to heart. Speaking from personal experience, and those of my clients, it will change your life.
5 Tips to Build a Solid Health and Happiness Foundation
So, how exactly do I nurture my pillars? Here are five tips to help you get started:
1. Make a list of your pillars.
Think of each pillar as an area of your life that stabilizes and grounds you. These pillars can be your career, relationships, nutrition, home environment, and more. Try to look at your life with fresh eyes and be honest with yourself. What are the main factors contributing to your overall health and happiness?
2. Pick 1-3 areas that you think affect your health and happiness the most as an HSP.
Think of the few things that affect your day the most as an HSP. What areas are most likely to uplift you when they are going well, and really drain you when they are not?
For example, I’ve found in my coaching practice that home environment is a big one for HSPs. We absolutely need a sacred space to come home to each day to unwind, decompress, recharge, and de-stimulate. So, you might put “home environment” at the top of your pillars list.
3. Re-evaluate your needs in these areas.
Try to be observational, non-judgmental, and compassionate towards yourself when reflecting on what your genuine needs and wants are, and what exactly may need to shift in your life to better support them. This should be an empowering exercise, not another way for HSPs to beat themselves up.
4. Take action in small ways day by day to improve them.
I encourage people to start small, and work their way up to larger tasks to prevent overwhelm and burnout. Big changes that last happen in small steps that you are consistent with. Don’t increase your likelihood of getting discouraged by taking on too much at once. Pick action items that are manageable that you can and will follow through with. Over time, you’ll see tangible, positive improvements that will stick.
For example, if you chose “home environment,” you might focus on creating an HSP sanctuary of sorts. It’s my belief that every HSP needs at least a nook in their home — if not an entire room! — where they can have a “stimulation break.” An area with soft blankets and pillows, where the lights can be dimmed, and the sounds can be muffled, where maybe they can be surrounded by beautiful artwork or music, and/or where they can be alone and breathe without interruptions.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I currently have a sacred space in my home?
- Do I need to communicate to the rest of the household that I need a time and/or space where I can recharge?
- Do I need to declutter?
- Do I need to shift my living arrangement altogether?
Work to adjust whatever comes up for you, one step and one day at a time. Before you know it, you will have strengthened a pillar.
5. Seek out support from others when you need encouragement or guidance.
Asking for help is not weakness, it is strength. Positive change is much more likely to happen when you have someone to inspire you and hold you accountable, whether it’s a coach, friend, or group of others with similar goals. (If you’re looking for an online group like this, you’re invited to join my Facebook group for support in self-transformation.)
If You Remember Anything From This Post, Remember This
If there was only one thing I could teach HSPs, it would be to believe in the possibility of thriving in life, and not just surviving. There are all these resources out there now for how to survive as an HSP. While I think it’s excellent that these survival guides are helping the trait become more widely known — and providing a helpful tool for HSPs — I also feel that the mere fact that they are titled “survival guides” sends us the underlying message that all we can aspire to be is survivors.
How we view what is possible for us has a major influence on our health and happiness. I choose to believe that our potential as a group is far beyond that.
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From one HSP to another — please, don’t limit yourself to just surviving. Try to entertain the idea, even just for a moment, that you are capable of so much more. Thriving is possible if you start putting loving energy into each pillar of your life until you are well past the point of surviving.
Your pillars can become so well-grounded that the things in life that used to sway you a great deal no longer do. And once you get there, know that your source of health and happiness is coming from a place that has been built with structural integrity, and was created to last.
Trust that it will stay that way if you continue to nurture each pillar as you grow. This is how you cultivate and maintain deeply authentic, long-lasting health and happiness — and thrive as an HSP.