When you indulge your HSP body, mind, and soul, you finally start to feel whole again — and stop living on the edge of overload.
I’ve had a lifetime of denying myself. Growing up as a very spiritual kid, I found my way to a strict interpretation of religion by age ten. I believed obedience was the only path to holiness, to the point that I abandoned my own needs. The journey to be kinder and gentler with myself has been harrowing.
As I’ve grown in understanding myself as a highly sensitive person, I see all the ways I berated my sensitivities in the name of holiness. Religious or not, many HSPs learn to neglect their sensitivities from a very young age. We are socialized into thinking we are making too much of a situation, and that we just need to get over our sensitivities. We are taught that the problem is us.
We try to ‘toughen up’ and magically be unbothered by all the stimuli constantly bombarding our finely-tuned nervous systems.
We deny ourselves.
When Was the Last Time You Indulged Your Sensitivity?
All this self-denial costs us more than discomfort. When we try to ignore our sensitivities or prove we can live like everyone else, we lose connection to our true selves. We lose our ability to trust our senses and instincts after working so hard to dismiss them. We stop feeling like a whole person.
This is devastating for highly sensitive people (HSPs). Our sensitivity is an important and valuable part of ourselves. We need to nurture our awareness, empathy, and responsiveness — not neglect them.
Personally, I’m on a journey of learning about the connection between feeling good in my body and being more of who I want to be. I spent so much of my life in a state of self-imposed neglect that now I’m experimenting with something that still makes my pious inner child squire: indulgence.
I’m indulging my sensitivity. Giving it what it wants. Nourishing it.
It turns out that indulging my sensitivities has helped me be a more resilient HSP. It’s about working with our bodies in nurturing our nervous systems so that we can endure the tough world. That, in turn, nurtures your sensitive mind and soul. It helps you stop feeling overwhelmed, and start to feel whole.
If you’re like me and struggle to even know how to begin to practice indulgence, here are 23 little ways to get you started.
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23 ‘Indulgences’ that Make HSPS Feel Whole
1. Indulge in a good vibe.
HSPs are sensitive to emotional energy and can’t help but notice a vibe — the mood or emotion of a room, place, or group of people. Since we are more responsive to what we take in, vibes impact us more, whether it’s the tension in a meeting at work or your child’s excitement over the day’s plans. Renowned psychologist Rick Hanson advises intentionally “Taking in the good”: lingering on good feelings and positive moments to balance out the negative bias of the brain. This is such good advice for HSPs — we might not be able to help but linger on a stressful or depressing vibe, but we can intentionally sink into the good ones, too.
2. Indulge in blood sugar-balancing treats
In The Highly Sensitive Person’s Workbook, Elaine Aron explains that HSPs can easily deplete their blood sugar levels due to frequent overstimulation and overwhelm. Being overwhelmed is essentially a stress state, so our bodies go into overdrive to compensate.
This has been a huge revelation for me. I have always struggled with feeling hunger symptoms more frequently and more intensely than others seemed to. Now I embrace a lifestyle of frequent blood sugar-balancing snacks and treats.
3. Indulge in ‘Buffering’
I live in an area where we have to drive everywhere, so I’ve started taking a few minutes after I arrive and before I leave at a destination to just sit in the car and let myself buffer. I sit in silence, drink some water, observe my surroundings or close my eyes, whatever feels good. It sounds insignificant, but it has done wonders for my sensitive self. It’s like I’m letting my nervous system catch up and ease into what’s happening. I feel calmer and more connected to myself when I break the frantic cycle of getting to the next thing.
4. Indulge in affirming your strengths
Plenty has been written about our many sensitive strengths. But it’s easy to forget those strengths when you are out in a world that does not value them.
That’s why this indulgence isn’t a vanity project. It’s a necessity. We have strengths the world needs so we must do our part to nurture and put them into action! Indulge in frequently affirming your strengths. Keep a notepad on your phone to remind you of all you bring to your friendships, job, and even just being out in the world. You bring awareness and empathy everywhere you go. Indulge in the truth of your strengths often.
(Not sure where to start? Here are some of the most powerful things you can say to yourself.)
5. Indulge in a daydream
Sometimes, when my husband notices me lost in thought, he’ll gently ask what I’m thinking about. I struggle to answer. I realize I’ve thought about approximately 500 things in about 30 seconds, all interconnected to each other in the complex web of my mind.
Daydreams and even zoning out help our minds catch up on their processing. Give your extra responsive brain the gift of an indulgent, aimless daydream.
6. Indulge in more comfort
This idea might make me squirm the most. Part of piety, for me at least, involved valiantly seeking out discomfort in the name of holiness. But as an HSP, I don’t have to look very far to find discomfort. It’s a given in this deeply feeling body. So now I indulge in any little thing I can manage to make myself more comfortable. Maybe it’s a sip of water or finding a more comfortable chair. Comfort, I’m now convinced, is not a slippery slope into hedonism. It’s a precious refuge for our sensitive bodies.
7. Indulge in self-compassion
A big part of my spiritual journey has been to shift from constantly berating myself for all the ways I fall short of a religious ideal to instead treating myself with gentleness and compassion. I’m learning to have my own back instead of constantly tearing myself down. I’m practicing interrupting all the painful self-talk I used to do with a simple message: “I’m here, I’ve got you, this is hard and you are not alone.”
8. Indulge in sensitivity breaks
When things are getting to be too much, indulge in a sensitivity break. If the situation warrants it, set an alarm on your phone, excuse yourself, and step out for 5-10, even 15 minutes if you can. Make these breaks as simple or elaborate as you like – maybe you listen to a favorite song or two or read a few pages of a book on your phone. I tend to prefer having a snack and a big glass of water and just sitting in silence, giving my body and mind a chance to breathe. When you’re out, use a bathroom stall if you must but I like to dream bigger – an empty balcony or spare room, someplace where I feel like I am truly sneaking away. It’s just divine!
9. Indulge your favorite sensory experiences
We spend a lot of time dealing with light that’s too bright, noise that’s too loud, smells that are too strong, the list goes on and on. What sensory experiences can you offer yourself that utterly delight you? Don’t just focus on turning down the dial on stimuli that overwhelms you, indulgence in the sensory experiences that bring you joy!
10. Indulge in crying
Listen, HSPs have their own rules about crying. Go ahead and forget about what the rest of the world says about it. Crying is one of the most integrated somatic experiences you can have, and no training or guidance is required. Just go ahead and cry if you want to!
Need to Calm Your Sensitive Nervous System?
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That’s what you’ll find in this powerful online course by Julie Bjelland, one of the top HSP therapists in the world. You’ll learn to turn off the racing thoughts, end emotional flooding, eliminate sensory overload, and finally make space for your sensitive gifts to shine.
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11. Indulge in personal days
Whether you work or study remotely or at a brick-and-mortar, HSPs deserve to take time off just for the sake of our mental health. We need routine days where we take a break from our responsibilities and focus on recharging however we see fit.
12. Indulge in saying, ‘No’
As people pleasers, which HSPs often are, we need to keep up a practice of saying “No.” For us, it’s an ability that atrophies without practice. When you just don’t want to do it and can afford to refuse, indulge the ‘No.’
13. Indulge in play
Unstructured playtime is not just for kids! Humans need playfulness for a lifetime. Practice being open to whatever your mind conjures up and go with it, even for just a few minutes — or try these suggestions.
14. Indulge in giving 50%
Remind your perfectionism that it’s a facade. HSPs tend to give 110% on everything, big or small, which is just exhausting. Let 50% be enough from time to time. (You may be surprised to find that an HSP’s 50% is still an A+ by most people’s standards.)
15. Indulge in the scenic route
Yes, fuel consumption is an important consideration. But when and where you can sustainably do so, take the long way ’round. A little extra time watching the world go by, maybe even taking the scenic route just for the beauty of it, treats our sensitive souls.
16. Indulge in sad songs
I’m all for a happy jam that turns my perpetual frown upside down. But it’s just a fact that sad songs are always going to be my favorites. They connect with a deep part of me that little else does. Of course, take care not to go too deep into depressive-inducing music if you know that’s a gateway into depressive moods for you. But as much as sad songs help you with your emotional responsiveness, indulge them.
17. Indulge in memories
Remember number 1, taking in good vibes? Sometimes it helps to indulge the memories of the good moments. I keep a journal of funny, sweet, precious things my kids say and do, and simply the act of keeping it helps me take in the good of those fleeting moments. Put your responsive brain to work for you by indulging in memories.
18. Indulge just being in nature
I am all for nature walks, hikes, and activities galore. Have at it. But I think we have largely lost the art of just getting out in nature and doing nothing.
I noticed this on a road trip through several national parks in the American West. Of course, people will be bustling about at the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, or Yosemite. There is so much to see and do! But my favorite moments on that trip are when I got still: Waiting for the sunset over the Grand Canyon. Taking in Old Faithful. Sitting in the grass in Yosemite Valley. I took that stillness home with me. When I go to my local park, I politely smile at the passers-by while I find the perfect spot to just sit and be.
19. Indulge in deep-dive friend dates
Make a date with that one friend who loves to deep dive with you and let yourself go all in on what you’ve been sinking into lately.
20. Indulge in movement
I refuse to be prescriptive here. This is about indulgence, after all. So, what does indulgent movement look like for you? Can you even make exercise indulgent?
For me, a carefully curated playlist has always been key. Not just filled with hype, but with whatever connects my emotions to my movement. In fact, my workout playlists are shockingly melancholic. The right music, even downers, helps me find the right movement and pace to release some of that pent-up emotion I carry around all the time as an HSP.
For others, gentle exercise like yoga, perhaps while listening to a podcast to give your mind a break, might be better. (I promise not to tell your yoga teacher!)
21. Indulge in an HSP nap…
Otherwise known as a yoga inversion, but I can personally attest to its use for HSPs. Lie on the floor with your legs up against a wall. According to HSP expert Alane Freund, a 3-minute HSP nap is the equivalent of a 30-minute actual nap. Check out her video on the HSP nap and try it for yourself!
22. …Or indulge in an actual nap
Of course, an actual nap is also worth indulging in. Research suggests that HSPs are deeply processing even at rest, so we deserve a nap when we can indulge in one!
23. Indulge in slowing down
I connect my compulsion to be productive with my religious background. There was a spirit of always doing for the church and what a joy it should be to be doing more, giving more, and volunteering more, more, more. It only left me exhausted and feeling like a “slothful” failure. Now I see that keeping pace with this sense of productivity is not a moral failing. I’m learning it’s okay to move at my own pace, even though it means I will never keep up with less-sensitive people. Now I know I’m not supposed to. Sensitive strengths don’t fit into insensitive timetables.
I used to see indulgence as akin to the deadly sins. Now I see it as essential to living a thriving HSP life. If we can balance out those inevitable hardships with a little indulgence here and there, we’ll be more connected to ourselves, more resilient in an insensitive world, and “more” of who we are meant to be. In other words: we’ll finally be our whole selves.
What are your favorite sensitivity indulgences?
You might like:
- 18 Things That Fill Highly Sensitive People With Joy
- These 8 Things Bring Peace to Highly Sensitive People
- How Being a Highly Sensitive Person Affects Your Body Physically
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