As we grow up, some of us tend to forget about our own health and well being. We assume free time is a waste of time; we believe that unless we are productive, work, or help others, we are not doing anything good. We fall into the trap of thinking that putting ourselves first means being selfish.
This is why it’s essential to practice self care: when you do, you take care of the most important thing in the universe, which is… you, and you forget about everything else.
The thing is, you can’t take care of others unless you learn to take care of yourself. You can’t truly love another person unless you love yourself first. You won’t be able to contribute to the world unless you have fulfilled your own dreams and desires.
Here are fifteen self care ideas you can use whenever you are stressed out and you need to unwind. These are either free or inexpensive, and they don’t require any particular skill — just some free time. If you implement some of them in your life, and make self care a habit, you will probably be happier and calmer than most people.
Self care ideas
What you think affects your body, and vice versa: the position of your body can influence your thoughts, your confidence, and your self esteem. This is the concept behind power poses, which were first introduced by psychologist Amy Cuddy.
Amy discovered that when you change the position of your chest, arms, and legs for at least two minutes, your hormones tend to change. After holding a power pose, you may have higher testosterone (which helps with confidence and overall well being) and lower cortisol (the stress hormone).
Though hormonal changes are not guaranteed, it is undeniable that power poses help you feel better about yourself, so consider adding them to your self care routine. Two of the most common poses are the “Wonder Woman pose”, where you place your hands on your hips, and the one where you raise your arms above your head, forming a V shape.
How often do you take the time to reflect on your life? What was the last time you were aware of your current thoughts, feelings, and emotions? What was the last time you thought about the things that you want in life, and the things that you need to change, or eliminate?
When practiced on a regular basis, journaling is a powerful habit that could change your life. However you don’t need to journal every single day to practice self care: you can do it whenever you feel like.
If you haven’t already, buy a beautiful journal where you can note down your thoughts and ideas. Besides being able to note down what is important to you (rather than trusting your memory, which is usually a bad idea), you will become more aware of your inner and outer world, and improve your mental health.
Ideally, you want to practice meditation for at least two months — according to many studies, that is how long it takes for your brain to change. However, even a single twenty minute meditation session can do wonders for your mental health.
Self care is all about your physical and mental health, and meditation will help you take care of both. After a session, you will feel more relaxed, calmer, and more present. You will probably feel refreshed as well, as if you had just woken up from a nap.
Meditation might seem like a waste of time, but I guarantee it’s not. And it only lasts ten to thirty minutes anyway. If you are a beginner, you may have unwanted thoughts at first — kind of like when you try to fall asleep, but your mind is still very active. If that happens, simply ignore your thoughts and focus on your meditation. You can learn the five easiest meditation techniques here.
We’ve just seen how meditation can improve your overall health, and why you should implement it in your self care routine. Surprisingly, reading a book can be considered a form of meditation as well. Though it’s a completely different activity, it makes you focus on just one thing, unwind, and forget about everything else.
As a self care practice, you can read books that are inspiring, that make you grow as a person, or that you simply enjoy reading. Stay away from anything too depressing, even if it intrigues you — it won’t be good for your mood.
Get a massage
No self care activity list would be complete without massage. Massage is an excellent treatment if you suffer from physical issues, such as muscle tension and stiffness, or even mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
And even if you are 100 percent healthy, a massage session is one of the best gifts you can give to yourself. It helps you relax, and it has countless benefits: it boosts the immune system, improves circulation, helps you sleep deeply, relieves muscle tension, increases flexibility, releases endorphins, and even improves your posture.
Depending on how you want to feel after the session, you can choose a massage that is soothing (such as Hawaiian or Swedish) or energizing (such as Thai). You can experiment until you find the best one for you, but regardless of which one you choose, it will feel wonderful.
Move your body
The word “exercise” can be intimidating, but it doesn’t necessarily mean working out at the gym, or doing anything too exhausting or time consuming. Even a short walk will improve your circulation, your metabolism, and your mood.
Our body has been designed to move; if you sit all day long, you are going to feel depressed because that’s not what your body is supposed to do. Because exercise is key to your health, you want it to be one of your self care practices.
To maximise the benefits on your mental well being, make exercise enjoyable: for example, you can join a class where you are surrounded by people who share your same goal; learn a sport that excites you; or go for a nice walk in nature, which leads us to the next self care activity…
Spend time in nature
Being in nature is basically an antidepressant. There are now many studies showing that nature exposure directly affects our health and our mood in a positive way. As a self care practice, make sure you spend more time in nature — whether you exercise or simply sit down and contemplate the environment.
In a world where we are surrounded by technology, and where staring at digital screens for hours seems to have become the norm, it’s essential that we take the time to connect with nature. So the next time you feel low, go outside, get some sunlight, and breathe some fresh air.
Cooking healthy food
Cooking a healthy meal for yourself is a great self care practice, for many reasons. First, when you cook, you tend to immerse yourself in what you are doing because you pay attention to all the different ingredients, their taste and smell, and the timing of everything.
Second, by cooking the meal yourself, you make sure it’s actually healthy, and you know exactly what the ingredients are (this is particularly useful if you have food allergies or intolerances). Healthy food is one of the basics of our well being, so when you know how to cook it makes it easier to take care of your health.
Lastly, it makes you feel proud of your skills. When you finally sit down and taste your creation, it feels good because it’s as if you had accomplished a task (actually, you have). If cooking is too boring and repetitive for you, choose a new healthy dish you’d like to prepare, and learn the recipe.
Do something creative
When you express your creativity, you improve your mood and you feel better about yourself. You don’t need to be a talented artist to pick up a creative habit, and you certainly don’t need to excel at what you do to enjoy it.
Depending on the kind of art that you want to create, you could even sell it, or wear it. For example, you could create your own logo, and order a custom T-shirt or phone case; you could make a bracelet, a keychain, or a bag.
Do yoga poses
Yoga is a combination of breathing practices, meditation, and body poses. You can do it alone, or join a class. Yoga is a common self care practice because of its countless benefits in terms of both mental and physical health.
For example, according to science (and those who practice it on a regular basis), it reduces stress, it helps you sleep deeply, it strengthens the immune system, and it increases flexibility. Some people have noticed that yoga also contributes to their level of happiness.
Most importantly, yoga doesn’t allow you to dwell on the past, or worry about the future. Much like during a meditation session, when you hold a pose you focus on the present moment, and you get rid of your negative thoughts. When you are anxious, or you simply need some me time, yoga could be an excellent way to de-stress.
Do something for the first time
The human mind gets used to new things very quickly. This is usually a good thing, because it makes life easier: for example, we are able to learn new skills in a relatively short period of time; a new workplace doesn’t feel overwhelming after the first few days because our brain quickly memorizes everything and adapts to the new environment.
There is, however, a disadvantage to this, which is the fact that most people become bored quite easily. Over time, a boring life can actually lead to more stress and depression, so you want to make sure you try out new things once in a while.
When you do something new, your awareness increases. You feel more energy and vitality. You may even discover a side of yourself — or the world — you never know existed. Never stop being curious, because it can do wonders for your mental health.
Surprisingly, the scent of essential oils and plant extracts can be used to improve your well being in many different ways. Each flower, fruit, or leaf has different benefits: some plant extracts help with digestion, some heal or prevent inflammation, some reduce flu symptoms.
As a self care practice, you can use aromatherapy to calm the mind and go into a state of deep relaxation. Apparently, rosemary and mint can improve focus, memory, and concentration; lavender and chamomile can help you heal anxiety and panic attacks; bergamot and sandalwood can increase the quality of your sleep and help you fall asleep faster.
You can practice aromatherapy using a diffuser, body lotions, or bathing salts. Alternatively, you can light an essential oil candle, so you’ll get to enjoy the beautiful scent as well as the soft, warm lighting.
Turn off your phone
Usually, when you practice self care you want to be alone and undisturbed. You want to temporarily isolate yourself from the world and dedicate your time to caring for your most precious asset — you.
Because in today’s world we often feel we should be available 24/7, turning off your phone and making yourself unreachable can be liberating. Don’t worry too much about missing the latest tweets, a phone call, or an important notification. You can take care of that later. As a self care act, or ritual, just turn off your phone.
There is no need to go on a smartphone detox (let alone a technology detox): switching off you phone for one day, or even half a day, can have positive effects on your mood. As a bonus, you’ll probably fall asleep faster as well — staring at a digital screen in the evening has been shown to decrease melatonin production and mess up your sleep.
Spend some time in silence
Notifications and phone calls can be annoying, but what about constant noise? Some of us are constantly bombarded by noise and we don’t even realize it anymore.
Though as human beings we are supposed to experience sound (and being in complete silence for hours can make us insane if we are not used to it), too much noise can definitely be unhealthy, especially for people that are highly sensitive. When you are in silence, you are naturally calmer and more aware.
Unless you live in a remote village, I encourage you to make total silence a part of your day, or at least a part of your week. If you can’t, try listening to meditation music, white noise, or relaxing sounds such as ocean waves.
Have a warm drink
According to Ayurveda, an ancient system of Indian medicine, warm drinks can heal your body. We now know that drinking warm water or tea has many health benefits, not just during the winter, but during the summer as well (your stomach doesn’t like cold drinks as they basically cause a thermal shock).
As a self care practice, you can make a cup of chamomile tea, or any other hot drink, and sip it slowly, ideally before bed. It’s a great way to unwind and relax your body (and warm up during the colder months).
What is your favorite self care activity? Let me know by leaving a comment 👇