We all want to live better and be better, but some self-care practices do more harm than good. For example, my mistaken idea of “self-care” often features a bottle of wine and some takeout — not exactly things that contribute to my long-term wellbeing.
See, there’s an important difference between self-care and self-indulgence. It’s fine to occasionally treat yo’ self, but true self-care is about supporting your physical, mental, and emotional health...without sacrificing the others.
(That Reese’s cup may help emotionally, but it’s definitely NOT helping physically.)
So how can you practice self-care without sliding down the slippery slope of self-indulgence? Here are 15 of our favorite self-care activities that are good for both your health and your soul.
Getting a massage: the ultimate expression of spa-like luxury. But massages aren’t just about the joy of being pampered — they are also mentally and physically beneficial.
Enjoying a massage can help relieve stress and anxiety while simultaneously working out strain and tension from your muscles. A professional massage can be deeply therapeutic, but if that’s outside your budget (or comfort zone), even a shoulder rub from a loved one can help!
They say that music is food for the soul, and it seems like they may be on to something. Listening to the music that you love stimulates your brain and contributes to more creative thinking.
Bonus points if it’s got a catchy beat, because getting your dance on is good for your heart!
This is my go-to suggestion for every issue. Stiff or sore? Have a bath. Trouble sleeping? Have a bath. Feeling chilly? Bath time, obviously!
Much like a massage helps unwind knots and tension, soaking in a hot bath can help relax your muscles. It also decreases stress and can make it easier for you to fall asleep — which, as a fan of sleep, I love. Baths even improve your blood flow and oxygen intake.
Exercise isn’t just great for your physical health — it can also improve your emotional wellbeing.
Getting in your favorite workout can provide you with an immediate boost, thanks to mood-boosting endorphins. And regular exercise can help reduce chronic anxiety and depression.
So if you’re feeling down, don’t bury yourself in a cocoon of misery blankets like I do. Head out for a run, and give your brain chemicals a happy little kick in the rear.
Meditation can be a powerful tool to relieve anxiety and promote emotional stability. You can try meditating with a clear mind, with a mantra or affirmations, or following a guided visualization.
Not sure where to start? There are plenty of free meditations on sites like Youtube.
A little fresh air might be just what the doctor ordered, as consistent exposure to green space is associated with greater contentment and less mental anxiety.
Studies suggest that spending a little time outside can literally change your brainwaves and that a short nature walk can even mimic the beneficial effects of meditation.
I seriously love books. Like, my-mom-was-a-librarian serious. So I may seem biased, but science backs me up that reading supports your mental and emotional health.
A regular reading habit decreases stress, keeps your mind sharp, fosters creativity, and can make you more open and receptive to new ideas. And as an extra perk, reading in the evening can help you wind down and get to sleep!
Aromatherapy is increasingly popular. And why wouldn’t it be? Therapeutic scents can help fight anxiety, boost memory, and clear your mind.
When in doubt, go for natural fragrances! They’re better for you (and usually smell better, too).
Sometimes the co-dependent relationship with your phone can become overwhelming, and you need a digital detox. Enough notifications already!
Taking a break from social media can give you time and space to recenter yourself. This mental recharge gets your brain back to prime working condition, improving its ability to learn and form new memories.
A little breathing room can also be positive for your self-image. Stop comparing your life to the girl who sat beside you on the school bus in 4th grade and remember all the great things about being you.
Mindfulness is all about focusing on the present. Don’t think about your to-do list for tomorrow or that dumb thing you said to your coworker yesterday. Just think about now.
By occupying your thoughts with the current moment, mindfulness can help bring down your stress and give you valuable perspective.
If you struggle to keep your wandering thoughts on your surroundings, try intentionally occupying your mind with a simple task like sipping tea or folding laundry.
Yoga is like the healthy little lovechild of exercise and meditation. You can stretch your muscles, release endorphins, and center yourself into a sense of calm with even the simplest of yoga poses.
Plus, yoga is a practice that can easily be tailored to fit different goals and ability levels, so you can customize it into a practice that is quintessentially yours.
Clutter doesn’t only take up space in your house — it takes up space in your mind, bringing down your mood and making it more difficult for you to feel calm and productive.
Don’t let your clutter get you down! By purging some of the unnecessary mess, you can free up both physical and mental space.
Wine and Reese’s cups are tasty treats, but they can’t exactly support a healthy diet on their own. On the other hand, you might not be ready to commit to a salad-only regimen. Fortunately, there is a middle path.
This self-care moment is about finding healthy foods that you actually like and building your dietary habits accordingly. Don’t force yourself to eat broccoli if you despise it! You’ll just strain your willpower to the breaking point. Instead, focus on incorporating healthy options that you want to eat.
Need a few examples? We’ve got 99 ideas for you.
Most adults aren’t getting the recommended amount of sleep. Are you one of them?
Lack of sleep can lower your productivity, contribute to conditions like diabetes, and even damage your complexion. Fortunately, there are ways to improve your sleep quality. So show yourself some real self-care by giving yourself plenty of time to rest and refresh!
We started this list talking about massages, but it turns out that any human contact can be beneficial for your health. Physical touch can help reduce your stress and release mood-boosting hormones.
So grab your cuddle-buddy and snuggle up for the greater good!
In the end, self-care isn’t about giving in to your every whim or comforting yourself with online shopping and a dozen delicious, delicious tacos. It’s about fostering your best self, and treating that self with love and respect.
Sometimes that means committing things that are good for you, but a little hard. You can do it! Put down your phone for an hour, hold hands with your bestie, or clean out your closet. Take whatever baby steps work for you. The benefits will speak for themselves! xx