When you think of the term "self-care," do you envision luxurious spa treatments or lavish resort-style vacations? The term has become widely used on social media, often accompanied by images of self-pampering or indulgence. But the premise is actually much simpler and easier to achieve: Self-care is simply the practice of taking care of oneself.
Practicing self-care means getting enough rest, eating well, exercising, taking your medications on time, connecting with friends and loved ones, and finding time for activities you enjoy. These are some of the most basic tenets of health and wellness, but they can be easier to lose sight of than you might think as you go through the motions of your daily routine. Setting your intention to prioritize your physical and mental wellbeing by taking simple steps—such as setting aside time on a regular basis to pursue simple pleasures—can make a big difference in your quality of life.
Take a moment to consider how well you've been taking care of yourself recently. Could you use more sleep? Have you reached a point where you feel having a fun or relaxing moment to yourself is just not in the cards for you? While self-care is a daily practice and not a one-time event, one way to get started on your self-care journey is to designate a specific day and time to focus on you. Here are five self-care day ideas to try for yourself.
- Go outside. Studies show time in nature can have a positive impact on your mental health. And it's an easy way to increase your physical activity levels. This can be as simple turning off the news for an hour to tend to your backyard garden or going for a walk around your neighborhood. If you're feeling more adventurous, plan to hit up your favorite hiking trail or visit a local park to practice yoga. Spending time in nature doesn't always have to involve physical activity. When was the last time you set up a chair or blanket by the nearest body of water to meditate, draw or paint, listen to music or read? Taking time to create a serene experience for yourself can result in a sense of renewal.
- Break out the arts and crafts box. You don't have to be an artist to benefit from creating! Creative outlets can be a powerful tool for mental health, and no prior experience is necessary. Whatever activity you choose—drawing, sculpting, scrapbooking, finger painting—remember that it's about the journey and not the destination. Channel your inner child and let go of any rules or expectations of how your project should turn out.
- Write letters. Connect with loved ones the old-fashioned way—with a handwritten note! Social connection is essential to mental and emotional wellbeing, and, while social media has made staying in touch with friends and family members easier than ever before, true connection still requires effort. So what better way to show you care than by taking the time to write? You can keep it simple or flex your creative muscles by doodling in the margins, practicing calligraphy, recounting a memorable story or throwing in some old photos.
- Cook your favorite meal from scratch. You might think that "easy" or "convenient" goes hand in hand with self-care, but that's not necessarily true. Skipping takeout to create a nourishing, delicious meal from scratch can be a full-fledged sensory experience, and it's a great way to nurture yourself and your body. If you don't have a favorite dish or recipe in mind, browse Pinterest for fresh ideas. Put on some music or an interesting podcast in the background. Then, take your time, feeling each ingredient in your hands and appreciating the effort you're making to nourish yourself.
- Read a good book. Block your calendar, turn off your phone and find a comfortable place to dive into that book you've been meaning to read for months. If you don't have a book on standby, see what's available for pickup at your local library. Audiobooks are a great option too. You can listen while you use your hands for something else you enjoy, like painting or gardening—twice the treat!
Whatever self-care day activities you choose to pursue, give yourself permission to enjoy this "me time." Even if you keep working toward those vacations and other special activities, keep in mind: The path to sustained wellness may be right in front of you through some of these old-fashioned but life-enriching activities.