What’s the Deal?
Self-care makes up an essential part of a healthy lifestyle that keeps us healthy, happy, and more in-tune with our minds and bodies.
The problem is, we probably aren’t doing enough of it.
Experts suggest we neglect self-care because it can be tough to make healthy changes and manage stress in better ways. Self-care is also sometimes associated with selfishness and lazy, over-indulgent behavior. This mentality might make us feel guilty for thinking we need to take a break from our lives to do something that, simply put, makes us feel better. That’s why taking the time to check in with your mind and body isn’t a bad thing. Plus, by making the choice to practice self-care, we have a tendency to care more for others — proving its importance for not just ourselves, but the world around us.
Your Action Plan
Since self-care is a very individual thing, there’s no set prescription for how or when to do it. That said, mental health professionals recommend taking at least 20 minutes a day to do something for ourselves, which seems pretty darn reasonable to us. Lost for ideas? Don’t fret. We’ve rounded up some sweet strategies that’ll help slash stress, boost happiness, and improve total health. Practice any of these self-care behaviors (or any others that occur to you!) daily, weekly, or even hourly — whatever feels best to you.
1. Get outside.
Ditching the comfort of your home is a great way to improve mental and physical health. Similar to meditation, spending time out of doors benefits the brain.
2. Try an outdoor workout.
Consider taking your sweat session into nature, too. Research shows that working out in the Great Outdoors boosts mental health, and may decrease tension, anger, and depression.
3. Pay it forward.
By helping others, we actually help ourselves, too. Volunteering also positively affects self-confidence, self-esteem, and general wellbeing.
4. Breathe the right scents.
What we breathe might be just as important as how we breathe. While the benefits of aromatherapy are debated, research suggests that citrus scents — orange essential oil in particular — can help slash stress and anxiety, and getting a whiff of rosemary may boost memory.
5. Stress less.
By now, we all know that stress is really bad for our health. Use these strategies, which range from drinking tea to practicing progressive relaxation, to keep the stress monster at bay.
6. Be mindful.
Focusing on the present — without judging how we feel and what we think — can be both a liberating and healthy practice – and may even help keep our minds from wandering.
7. Be happy!
We all know that happiness feels good, but it’s also great for our health. But being happy is easier said than done, right? Turns out there’s actually a simple way to feel more upbeat: Just crack a smile!
Meditation is proof that it doesn’t take a ton of time to do a mind and body good. Just a few minutes of quieting your mind can help relieve stress. The best part? Its benefits continue even when we’re not meditating — consider it the gift (to yourself) that keeps on giving.
9. Dance around.
Shaking your bum doesn’t just make for a fit physique. It may also improve both mood and body image, lead to a better outlook, is associated with a lower risk for dementia, and even help you make friends.
10. Turn up the tunes.
If you’ve ever noticed that certain songs bring a smile to your face, you’re not alone. Research shows that listening to music makes already positive emotions even more intense, and upbeat music in particular can do great things for your mood..
11. Eat more fruits and veggies.
Adding more fruits and veggies to our plate is a great way to practice self-care all throughout the day. And in case we needed another reason to load up on nature’s goodness, filling up on seven portions of fruits and veggies per day might make us happier.
12. Rant it off.
Though a potty mouth isn’t appropriate in a lot of scenarios (work… church… on a date… you get the picture), have a little rant and let off some steam. Research also shows ranting can reduce physical pain, and may even boost confidence and self-esteem. But, as they say, timing is everything — so be sure to filter your ranting to avoid adding embarrassment to stress.
13. Indulge in some retail therapy.
Shopaholics, rejoice! Hitting the mall can help ease mild depression and make us more confident, according to some researchers. Science aside, treating yourself to something shiny, special, and new (it doesn’t have to be expensive!) is a pretty surefire way to put a smile on your face.
14. Become a bookworm.
Reading is cool. Plus, it’s actually really good for our health. Research suggests that reading on a regular basis keeps the mind sharp as it ages, and reading fiction in particular makes for more creativity and a more open mind.
15. Laugh out loud.
There’s a reason people say laughter is “the best medicine”: Chuckling and giggling benefit our mental and physical health, especially when combined with exercise.
Your plan of action: Watch a funny movie or a comedy on television—those reruns of How I Met Your Mother may actually be good for your heart.
16. Look at something cute.
Instant mood booster: looking at pictures of baby animals. Thanks to Pinterest, that’s incredibly easy. Plus, browsing through these photos may even help you when you’re on the job.
17. Get enough Zzz’s.
There tons of things that can sabotage our sleep, whether it’s a late night at the office, a wild night with friends, or just catching up on Scandal. The problem is, skimping on shut-eye can hurt job productivity. Prioritize snooze time for a healthier, happier you.
Some researchers believe that clutter can stress us out and bring us down. On the flip side, sorting through and purging unorganized papers, clothes, knickknacks, or whatever else is crowding our lives may help us be more productive, cheerful, and calmer.
19. Pound the pavement.
Not only does it torch calories, but running is a mood-booster that can help reduce anxiety. Exercise in general is linked to decreasing symptoms of depression, so lace up your sneakers the next time you need a mood lift.
20. Indulge in a massage.
Set aside some time to experience the complete and total bliss of a massage. It soothes both the mind and muscles, improves sleep quality, and reduces stress.
Studies show that physical contact reduces stress and releases a hormone called oxtocin that boosts happiness. As if you needed an excuse to call your mum!
22. Get your Om on.
It comes as no surprise that yoga is a healthy practice. It helps relieve anxiety, stress, and depression, all while boosting energy levels and improving our overall sense of well-being.
These days, it feels like everyone’s glued to a phone, laptop, or both at the same time. Deliberately taking a break from social media, e-mail, blogging, and so on can help us recharge and gives our brain the downtime it needs to work at an optimal level.
24. Get out of town.
Skipping out on time away from the 9-to-5 does more harm than good. Whether booking a trip to an exotic location or going somewhere nearby, time away from work can help refresh our focus, and being exposed to a new location or experience may boost creativity. Plus, everyone deserves a break!
What’s your favorite way to look after and treat yourself?