In all walks of life, everyone could use some more self-care. Self-care is simply taking time to enjoy activities that better your personal wellness. Why is self-care important? It relaxes and calms you while reminding you how wonderful you are, deeply impacting your health. Focusing on your physical and mental health can be an easy, calming process with this list of self-care tips to help you get started today.
Here are 30 step-by-step, cheap (including free!) ways to employ self-care to better your body, mind and spirit. This is list is perfect for part-timers, college students, CEOs and everyone in between. Since everything on this list can be done right now, there’s no reason not to try out at least one today!
– Read Self-Care Tips 1 through 5
– Read Self-Care Tips 6 through 10
– Read Self-Care Tips 11 through 15
– Read Self-Care Tips 16 through 20
– Read Self-Care Tips 21 through 25
– Read Self-Care Tips 26 through 30
#1 Create a real-life ‘happy place’ to immediately bring you calming and positive vibes
We’ve all heard the phrase, ‘Go to your happy place.’ However, having an actual happy place in your home can trigger positive, comforting feelings and boost your mental health without any mental effort. Here’s how:
- First, find a bit of free sitting space in your home that has the most potential for positivity and soothing vibes. This could be your bed or a comfortable chair in the corner of your bedroom or living room.
- Decorate by bringing calming items you already own into that space. Add soft pillows and blankets to make the area even more comfortable. Hang motivatiosenal, positive or happiness-inducing posters and pictures. Get year-long use out of Christmas lights by hanging them along the wall for calming lighting (Lamps also work well.). Have a side-table nearby for a soothing candle, lotion, a journal and/or a favorite book to perch on. Get creative.
- As you and your needs evolve, allow your space to do the same. Replace one thing with another to continue to allow the space to inspire you.
- Enjoy the benefits of your new safe-haven while you practice all kinds of other self-care tips.
#2 Positively impact all parts of your life through playing
- Doing an activity for the sheer joy of it is essential to a healthy adult life, as well as in childhood. In a Washington Post article “Why It’s Good For Grownups to Go Play,” travel blogger Brittany Rouille stated, “It wasn’t until I reintroduced play into my life that I started to feel like myself again. Now I play every day, whether it’s roller blading, painting or playing my harmonica, even if it’s only for an hour, because I know how important it is for me to let go and not think about anything except for the fun thing I’m doing in that moment. I find play so crucial to my well-being that I have built my life around playing outside.” Follow these steps to help your stress management and find something fun:
- Consider something fun or exciting you used to do. It could be a recreational sport, hobby, artistic work or club. Would it be possible for you to enjoy it again?
- On the other hand, is there an activity you’ve always wanted to do but never tried?
- A simple Google search, Facebook events, community centers and your city’s website could be of use in the brainstorming process. Websites like meetup could also be helpful.
- You could also introduce a board, party or outdoor game to a group of friends or family members. Perhaps they’d like to play, too.
- Whether alone or in a group, finding something to simply enjoy will lift your spirit and induce fun and positivity. This will benefit your mental health in a myriad of ways.
#3 Find a passion project to nurture creativity and get in the zone
This technique is incredibly helpful for those who need their mind stimulated while resting. If you find it difficult to sit in quiet or meditate, try this as another opportunity to receive a more focused mind.
- Anna North in her New York Times opinion article “Work is My Self-Care” wrote, “The psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined the term ‘flow’ for the state of ‘being completely involved in an activity for its own sake.’ In a state of flow, he says, ‘the ego falls away.’ This is the best description I’ve come across for the feeling I have… realizing that all the worries that had entered the city with me had been pushed aside… To work, for me, is to care for the self by putting the self aside.” Think of something enjoyable that you can become similarly immersed in.
- If you’re at a loss, try something simple, such as a household chore or an old hobby. You may think of something else more enjoyable along the way.
#4 Make a to-do list to clear your mind
Settle and focus a buzzing mind by making lists.
- Get a pencil and a sheet of paper. (If you’re out of the house or office without stationary, a Notes phone app also works.) Feel free to have a special notepad just for a daily checklist. (This can also include a daily self-care checklist!)
- Make a title at the top of the sheet of paper. Something general like “Checklist,” “To Do” or “Think About Later” works, but narrowing it down will help you categorize better.
- Write down everything clouding your focus, separating each with a checklist box.
- Once you feel that everything has transferred from your head to the paper, take a moment to relax and reflect.
- Then, decide your next step. What do you need to prioritize first?
#5 Cross off a “lurker” from your list for inspiration
Ellen Bard on her Tiny Buddha blog post recommended to clear your to-do list of a “lurker,” or, “something that’s been there for ages and you’ll never do.” This is perfect for when you need a self-care project to focus on to clear your mind and make you feel accomplished.
#6 Just five minutes of mindfulness can turn your entire day around
Taking a moment to center yourself throughout the day, especially during challenging ones, can greatly improve your focus and mood. Here is a quick mindfulness practice for any place or time:
- Set a timer for five minutes (or however long you can). Most phones have a timer built in, or you can find one with a quick Google search.
- Sit down with your back straight, feet flat on the ground and hands resting on your thighs.
- Breathe from your diaphragm, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Look around for a moment and take stock of your surroundings using all five senses. You are safe here.
- Return to focusing on the breath and slowly close your eyes. If your mind wanders, acknowledge it without judgement and slowly come back to the breath.
- When the timer rings, slowly open your eyes and return to your day reinvigorated.
#7 It’s easier to think in silence
Struggle against unhealthy habits to check your phone, email or social media when unneeded. This will clear your mind for more productive, positive thoughts.
- Spend at least one hour per day with your phone on silent. Enjoy time alone to connect with yourself or a loved one. Anything else can wait.
- Edit the notifications on your phone and computer to be as little as possible depending on your job and lifestyle. Take this time to reflect on what’s truly important to know immediately.
- Explore the Settings section of your phone. Consider limiting certain social media apps from notifications or deleting them completely.
- Limit social media usage to either your phone or computer and only (blank) times a day. Then, hold yourself accountable (and perhaps do another act of self-care as a reward). Enjoy the serenity and peace your day will have without interruption.
#8 Then, make your social media a place for positivity
Another example of using your social media to help, not hurt, your mental health is decluttering. Decluttering any negativity from your social media feed will make it healthier and more enjoyable to look at. To reap the benefits of positive social media platforms, follow these steps for each website:
- Mute or unfollow/unfriend any people or pages that make you feel poorly. Everyone you follow should foster kindness, positivity and love within you.
- Delete any old, unneeded saved posts or drafts. Look toward the future.
- Weed out your Friends/Following list (or your platform’s version of it). It is incredibly unlikely that an acquaintance from high school is going to positively impact your life. Make room for those who will.
- Follow five new people or pages that make you feel good about yourself and your life. A positive feed will inspire similar thoughts and actions on your part. (Our social media pages are a great start! Follow Merkaela on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.)
#9 Plan one event that will expand your comfort zone
Self-care can include more than just comfort. Expanding your abilities is another way to improve your well-being.
- Think of an event or action that you haven’t done recently that would improve your quality of life (including something that simply sparks joy). Perhaps it’s a sport, game, trip, concert, or activity.
- Facebook events, your city’s website and a simple Google search are helpful tools if you need inspiration.
- Look up opportunities to enjoy that action or event. A quick Google search and some short planning should be plenty. Make a change in your budget if you need to save money for the event.
- If you like, find some loved ones to enjoy the new adventure with.
#10 Open your mind with a simple walk around the block
A short walk can do wonders to treat headaches, anxiety, stress and creative blocks (such as writer’s block). On the other hand, if you’re having a perfect day, it is a great opportunity to reflect on the positives. No matter what mood you’re in, it’s the perfect way to connect with nature.
- Find an extra fifteen or so minutes in your schedule that day. This could be while finishing lunch or just after dinner if your schedule is tight.
- Put on more comfortable footwear, if needed.
- Go outside and enjoy! Allow your mind to wander using all five senses. Notice a breeze, the color of the sky, or the living things around you…
- As you finish your walk, think of other self-care tips that you could implement next time before returning to the task at hand.
#11 Tai Chi: the perfect exercise for many abilities
Whether you’re a practiced fitness trainer or a work-out newbie, Tai Chi is a perfect way to reconnect your mind and body through exercise. Tai Chi is unique in its benefits for both physical and mental health. Focus on doing your best, rather than doing it perfectly.
- Find a clear space that you can take at least a few steps in. If needed, change into comfortable clothing and shoes that aren’t too restrictive.
- Follow this video here to learn each move (includes verbal instructions). In addition, there are plenty of more intricate lessons that you can Google search for, if you like.
- Try implementing a few minutes of Tai Chi into your daily morning routine. Take pleasure in bringing it into nature. Perhaps there is a Tai Chi group in your area that could enhance your feelings of connectedness.
- Tried it but didn’t like it? Try a different form of short exercise in the morning, such as stretching or yoga. Any regular exercise will brighten your morning and prepare you for the day ahead.
#12 Find a favorite lotion, soap, candle or perfume to use when you need comfort
Even if it costs a little extra money than you normally spend, investing in your well-being will be worth the extra positivity, comfort and self-love.
- Feel free to look for coupons and sales on these items if need be.
- Go to the store. Indulge in spending time savoring each scent you come across and judging your favorite. (If you’d rather shop online, check out the Merkaela shop)
- Next time you’re feeling any negative thoughts or emotions creep in, use your chosen product and allow the scent to remind yourself of positivity and self-love.
#13 Plan your sleep tonight for a better day tomorrow
We sleep in short cycles of 20 minutes and long cycles of 1 ½ hours. Take the time to plan your nightly routine (skincare, brushing your teeth, etc.) in advance to use the cycles to promote relaxing and rejuvenating sleep.
- Daily, consider when you need to wake up the next morning. Then, count back 7 ½ hours. (The average amount of sleep needed is 7 ½ to 9 hours. Feel free to take more if needed by counting up by 1 ½.)
- Your goal is to be fully asleep at this time. Consider how long your nightly routine is and plan to be in bed about 20 minutes before that time (depending on how long it usually takes you to fall asleep).
- Analyze how well you’re sleeping and adjust. This tip (more than any of the other self-care tips) requires carefully listening to your body and responding accordingly.
- For daytime naps, take a 20-minute power nap (or a 40-minute longer nap, if needed). For the average person, anything longer will interfere with your ability to sleep at night. Short naps will rejuvenate your mind and body.
#14 A “self-date” will remind you to love yourself as much as anyone else
Ellen Bard on her Tiny Buddha blog post recommended, “Have a self-date. Spend an hour alone doing something that nourishes you (reading, your hobby, visiting a museum or gallery, etc.).” This act of self-help will foster self-love and happiness.
- If you spend most of your time inside, try going out. Show off your independence. Pick a meal, place in nature, class or activity that gets your blood pumping to enjoy.
- If you already spend most of your time outside, stay in but transform the space a little. Dim the lighting to make your home seem fancier; put on some relaxing music and fix yourself a drink, snack or meal that is new or rare to your eating habits. Pick out an outfit that you wouldn’t usually wear and makes you feel good about yourself and your body.
- Whether indoors or out, put away your phone for a while. Focus on enjoying yourself and your independence.
#15 Plan a set of healthy meals for the week
Eating healthy is always important on your journey to personal wellness. Creating a plan is an act of self-help that will make the process even easier—and foster excitement and anticipation for every meal.
- Find a weekly planner that you already own or look up a meal plan template online that works for you with a quick Google search.
- Think of two or three sources of protein, two or three versatile sides that can be prepared several different ways (rice, salad, noodles, etc.) and two or three breakfast essentials (healthy cereal/oatmeal, eggs, mixed fruit, etc.).
- Allow yourself a couple of healthy snacks and a dessert to enjoy occasionally throughout the week.
- Mix and match your sides and proteins with different cooking techniques to create a week-long lunch and dinner plan that’s healthy and exciting. For example, I would make chicken stir-fry with veggies and rice for dinner. The next day, I would prepare chicken tacos for lunch with the leftover chicken and cooked veggies while incorporating some fresh lettuce and a little shredded cheese from my salad supplies.
- Assorted fruits and vegetables can spice up your breakfast essentials while keeping them healthy.
- Once your plan is ready, check what you already have in your kitchen and buy any other necessary ingredients.
- Make your meals and enjoy the extra time and less stress they bring! During one meal, reflect on your progress in your journey and plan other self-care tips to help advance it.
#16 Spice up your diet by introducing something new
Build one meal into your meal plan that is completely new to broaden your culinary horizons. This self-help tip will freshen your perspective.
- Look through cookbooks, online recipes or restaurant menus for a new dish. Choose one (or more than one to come back to later).
- If you’re eating at a restaurant, you may want to make a reservation in advance. If you’re cooking at home, check that you have all of the ingredients and cookware needed beforehand (This may require a trip to the store.).
- Find a friend, significant other or family member to enjoy it with, if you like. Otherwise, savor a self-date (see Tip #14).
- Take pleasure in your meal and your relationship with yourself or others!
#17 Plan something small to brighten your busiest workday
From the beginning of the workweek, most of us know which day will be the busiest. A little pick-me-up can boost your mood and productivity.
- Think of what will bring you the most joy that day. Perhaps it’s a fifteen-minute walk in the fresh air. Perhaps it’s an indulgent snack or piece of dessert with your lunch. Perhaps it’s a fifteen-minute meditation.
- Once you know what you want, open your calendar or planner and make a reminder the morning of and an event specifically for it in the middle of your day.
- A notification from an online calendar or phone app may also help remind you to take a moment for some self-care.
#18 Breaks are just as important as work
If you schedule or perform too many back-to-back tasks, follow these steps:
- Pull out your planner or open your online calendar.
- Write or set a calendar event for at least two 15-minute breaks in your day.
- Treat these breaks as you would any other meeting or required event. Title your break as “Meditate,” “Savor Snack,” “Try Some Self-Care Tips” or “Relax” if you need an active command to stick to.
#19 Call a family member you haven’t seen or talked to in a while to increase your feeling of connection
Increase your sense of love and community in two steps with this simple self-care tip.
- Scroll through your phone’s contact list or look in old address books for a family member whose company you enjoy but haven’t contacted in a while.
- Give them a call and delight in their conversation. If they are not available, leave a kind voicemail saying you missed chatting with them and politely ask them to call you back when they’re free.
#20 Find a book you could truly enjoy
Sometimes, we get out of the habit of reading regularly after leaving school and getting caught up in other tasks. However, it’s important to continue learning new things and enjoying that process well into adulthood. Finding an interesting book is the perfect way to do so.
- Think about other interests in your life: what TV or movies you like, what your hobbies are and who inspires you are good starting points. This can also include past interests, such as an old passion, a favorite subject/ major in school or books that interested you when you were younger.
- Keep searching until you find a book that you can get lost in. Remember, audio books, graphic novels and other nontraditional forms of literature are also an option.
#21 Feel happy and secure through favorites from the past
An article from Huffington Post recommends to
“Revisit a favorite thing from your childhood.”
Elyse Wanshel, Associate Editor of Good News, said, “I’ve been finding that listening to the Harry Potter books on audiotape is super helpful. Especially since the message in those books is that truth, love and bravery trump evil.” This idea can renew the same happiness in you.
#22 Find something new to learn that challenges your mind
Learning something new can be a happy, encouraging experience when you find something you can truly enjoy.
- Choose a subject or concept that you enjoyed in school or a hobby you’d like to learn more about. It can be anything that peaks your interest.
- Find a class that matches it. YouTube videos, DuoLingo and other online resources or phone apps are often free alternatives. A quick Google search may help.
#23 For a happy life, being a good friend is vital—to others and to yourself. Treat yourself as you would a best friend.
Having self-compassion is a vital part of self-care. To be sure you’re treating yourself well, follow these steps:
- Get into a comfortable position, either sitting or lying down.
- Pause to think about how you’ve been treating your body and mind. Are you being kind to yourself? Are you meeting all of your needs—both physical and mental? As you reflect, allow any thoughts or feelings to come and go without judgement.
- As your mind drifts out of the past to the present, think about how you would treat a close friend in the same situation. Allow yourself to feel the same empathy, closeness and love toward yourself.
- When you feel your reflection come to a close, think about the future. How will you treat yourself with more love and empathy in the future? A positive affirmation or promise to yourself may help you to remember. How will you perpetuate those feelings into the next self-care tips that you try? (Read more about positive affirmations here and here.)
#24 Find comfort and motivation in your usefulness
In a Psychology Today article, Mindy Greenstein, Ph.D. said, “If I’m feeling down and don’t feel like doing anything, my mantra is, ‘If I can’t be happy today, I can at least be useful.’ It gets me off my butt, and I often enjoy the experience of feeling useful.”
- Try thinking of at least one thing you can complete right now (perhaps something on your To-Do list from Self-Care Tips #4 and #5).
- Let feelings of motivation and self-worth fill you as you do the task.
- Let feelings of accomplishment fill you when you finish. Perhaps you now have the positive energy to move on to other tasks or self-care tips.
#25 Use this easy way to enjoy self-care anywhere, any time
In the same Psychology Today article, Geralyn Datz, Ph.D said she uses one of her own self-care tips to keep her calm: “I use a technique I learned in a yoga workshop years ago. It’s based on the principle of hand warming. I take my palms and rub them together vigorously, generating heat. When they are warm, I take them and place the palms of my hands over my eye sockets, and allow my fingers to rest lightly on my forehead. I leave them there as long as I need. It’s a form of biofeedback that is really calming.”
#26 Use a mirror to make self-love a habit
Practicing self-love and body positivity can have amazing impacts on your mental health. Make it a habit to:
- Stand in front of the mirror every day as you dress and/or undress.
- Look at yourself and say out loud all of the things you love about your body and mind. Only focus on the positive.
- If you’re crunched for time one morning, say at least five. If you have more time, turn on a song (or sing one yourself) and dance as your list grows longer. Either way, the important thing is to do it daily and enjoy the self-love it brings.
- Find the same thoughts of self-love seeping into other aspects of your life, especially when completing other self-care tips on this list. Encourage them to grow.
#27 Find one indoor part of your life that you can move outside to boost your awareness
Strive to find peace outside of your office or house. Nature has been proven to have a slew of positive effects on us, especially raising your consciousness of other living beings and energy. (Learn more on our “The Ultimate Guide to Raising Your Consciousness” post.)
- First, analyze each section of your day. This includes aspects of your morning routine, exercise, eating habits, play, work and time with family and friends.
- Choose at least one (if not more) aspect of your inside life that you can also do outdoors, such as enjoying a meal on an outdoor patio or hiking instead of using a treadmill. This could also include one of the self-care tips.
- Make an effort to experience nature during that one thing at least once a week. You’ll probably find yourself wanting to increase that ritual to several times a week. Feel free to relax in nature often.
#28 Have something to look forward to with a one-day vacation
Instead of putting off vacations due to time and/ or money constraints, treat yourself to a mini-vacation to bring you the same feelings of happiness and rejuvenation.
- Consider all of the things to do in your city, including the best places to eat. If you live in a small town, where is the closest city? If it’s too far away, where is the nearest campsite, hiking trail or beach to enjoy? Brainstorm ideas in a computer document or by hand.
- Using a planner or online schedule (or make a simple list if you’re more free-spirited), plan your entire day out. What adventures will you enjoy? Make an activities list or itinerary. Does anyone else want to join? Where will you eat? How long will it take to get from place to place? What will the weather be like?
- Pretend it’s a vacation somewhere far away and pack all road trip essentials beforehand. Snacks, water, a jacket, a comfortable pair of shoes, swimming gear if needed and a great playlist are all must-haves. Be sure to double-check the weather. This is a vacation—going back to your home early because you forgot something isn’t possible.
- Maintain the same excitement for your trip that you would any other. Exploring your city for a day can be just as inspiring as a far-away land as long as you have the right mindset.
#29 Re-think your closet for a new sense of self without spending a dime
Think about your lifestyle and career. What do you picture yourself wearing? Consider all aspects of your life. Then, follow these instructions with that picture in mind:
- Get a large trash bag or container.
- Weed out any unwanted clothes. (This includes items you haven’t worn in the past year, items that are too small or too big, etc.) Put them in the container for donation. Feel your mind becoming clearer with the space around you. This is both a cleansing process for you, what you put on your body and your home.
- After decluttering, examine all remaining items and think of how you could use them in new ways or new pairings. Allow your creativity to soar.
- Reorganize your closet, focusing on what makes you feel best.
- Get a pencil and paper and make a list of new purchases you need to make, if needed.
#30 Document completing the self-care tips for further inspiration
- If you have a camera or phone, take pictures of you and your loved ones enjoying self-care tips together.
- Document the act of self-care, the date it occurred and how it made you feel in a journal or list.
- Write down positive thoughts that come as you indulge in self-care on sticky notes or stationary.
- Create a scrapbook or wall decoration with your new memories. This could be as simple as pinning them to a corkboard or as complex as a homemade memory book. Either way, make it your own. When one space fills up, celebrate the work and time you’ve put toward improving your life and well-being. Then, start another creation to fill with memories.
- Refer to your memories to reminisce, comfort and inspire.
Now you’re full of ideas to improve your personal wellness… but nothing will change unless you act on them. Of course, no one is required to do all of the self-care tips on this list, but be sure to take the time to do at least one today. An easy one to cross off your list is #12, buying something especially soothing. Merkaela is dedicated to creating handcrafted, guilt-free products to enhance your self-care routine. Indulge in some self-care and get the ball rolling for a lifetime of positive well-being.
Other Self-Care Tip Lists that Inspired Me:
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