As a French native, I’m delighted to share with you the unique ways French women practice self-care. While the term “self-care” doesn’t have an exact French equivalent, it closely relates to “prendre soin de soi,” meaning to take care of oneself. In France, self-care is not about adhering to strict, prescriptive wellness trends. Instead, it focuses on the pursuit of contentment and feeling comfortable in one’s own skin. This philosophy is a refreshing contrast to the often obligatory nature of modern wellness practices. French women tend to embrace a more relaxed, intuitive approach, prioritizing self-awareness and acceptance. It’s about feeling good in your own skin, on your own terms.
Through this article, we will delve into how this philosophy is reflected in everyday life. From the art of maintaining a balanced diet, the importance of simplicity and quality in our choices, the creation of tranquil evening rituals for better sleep, and a sustainable approach to exercise. As you continue reading, you’ll uncover the secrets behind French self-care, which may inspire you to weave some of these practices into your own daily routine :).
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1. Adopt a balanced diet
In the heart of French self-care lies a philosophy that’s less about rigid health regimens and more about embracing life’s pleasures in moderation. This ethos underpins the French approach to diet, which, rather paradoxically, has little to do with “dieting” in the conventional sense. In France, the concept of dieting is often seen as a cultural misinterpretation; rather, what we call “the French diet” is a seamless and intrinsic part of the French lifestyle. It’s an art form that revolves around the preparation and communal enjoyment of food, deeply embedded in the fabric of French culture.
Central to this culinary philosophy is the emphasis on simplicity and quality. The French diet predominantly shuns processed and artificially modified foods, favoring local, whole ingredients instead. It’s a diet grounded in common sense —an intuitive eating style that avoids snacking and “diet” foods in favor of meals cooked from scratch, where flavor is a non-negotiable aspect, even in the healthiest dishes.
In France, balance is key. If a so-called “healthy” habit feels oppressive, it’s often considered counterproductive to well-being. French women understand this equilibrium intuitively. A sugary treat (like an Opéra cake from Angelina Paris ;)) isn’t a sin; it’s an indulgence that’s offset by a lighter subsequent meal, maintaining a harmonious dietary balance. Indulgence, in moderation, is not just allowed but celebrated.
2. Create end-of-evening rituals for quality sleep
To invite restful sleep, consider reshaping your pre-sleep activities. Forego late-night television, social media browsing, or planning the next day’s tasks, as these can disrupt your mind’s ability to wind down. Instead, embrace earlier bedtimes accompanied by soothing rituals. Light a candle, or use an essential oil diffuser to create a serene atmosphere (I highly recommend Vitruvi stone porcelain diffuser or Aime’s sleep & glow mist). A warm cup of herbal tea and immersing yourself in a captivating book can also be wonderfully calming.
Winter evenings present a perfect opportunity to indulge in a leisurely bath. Enhance this experience with a relaxing bubble bath (you must try L’Occitane’s shea milky bath). Pamper yourself with a luxurious soap (my favorite is Diptyque’s Eau des Sens) and a face mask (the best is Sisley’s black rose cream mask), or give yourself a manicure. Additionally, a gentle, 30-minute bedtime yoga or stretching sequence can work wonders in relaxing both mind and body, paving the way for a deeper, more rejuvenating sleep.
If stress and anxiety intrude upon your sleep, natural supplements can be a supportive remedy. I’ve found Solgar’s Magnesium Citrate particularly effective — taking two tablets daily for a month supports nerve and muscle function and fosters a relaxed state of being. Another go-to is Solgar’s 5-HTP, especially during times of heightened stress, anxiety, or low mood. A capsule at 5 pm and another before bedtime, for a 30-day period, can significantly aid in emotional balance.
Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of herbal teas. Varieties like valerian root, chamomile, lavender, lemon balm, passionflower, and magnolia bark are known for their sleep-enhancing and relaxation properties. Integrating these teas into your evening routine can significantly improve sleep quality, embodying the French philosophy of embracing life’s simple pleasures for holistic well-being.
3. Exercise regularly to manage stress
Regular exercise is more than a physical activity; it’s a key component of overall health and well-being, infusing energy and vitality into every aspect of daily life. Beyond its physical benefits, exercise is a powerful tool for mitigating stress. However, the French approach to exercise avoids the high-intensity, high-frequency workouts that can be overwhelming and unsustainable over time.
Instead, French women tend to adopt a more sustainable and enjoyable approach to fitness, focusing on gentle, regular activities (my favorite being Pilates) that integrate seamlessly into everyday life. This includes choosing to walk to work, enjoying leisurely bike rides on weekends, or favoring public transportation. These simple choices are not just about physical fitness; they represent a lifestyle that values movement as a natural part of the day.
For those who spend considerable time at a computer, it’s essential to take regular breaks to engage in physical activity. Whether it’s walking a dog, strolling through a nearby park, meandering around the neighborhood, or enjoying a beach walk, these moments of movement are vital. They aren’t just breaks from work; they’re opportunities to refresh the mind and spark creativity. By incorporating these breaks into your daily routine, you not only enhance your physical well-being but also return to your tasks with renewed energy and innovative ideas, embodying the French philosophy of living a balanced, active life.
This article is for informational purposes and should not replace professional medical advice. Leonce Chenal is not responsible for any claims, losses, or damages resulting from using or relying on its content.
Leonce is the founder and editor of Leonce Chenal, a lifestyle platform launched in 2018. Originally from France, Leonce offers a fresh perspective that comes from her experience at top tech companies in Paris and London. Having spent several years in Paris and now residing in Amsterdam, she combines her professional expertise with a personal passion for French and Parisian styles. Leonce is committed to guiding her readers through the intricacies of Parisian chic, empowering them to embrace the elegance and sophistication of French style.