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Self care ideas: 35 totally free ways to boost your mood

Self-care has always been important. Studies continue to prove it boosts your confidence, productivity, and happiness, and can benefit your physical health, too – hence this round up of the best self care ideas.

If the change of season and cost of living crisis have left you feeling uneasy, you’re not alone. Recent research from the Mental Health Foundation found that one in five people (20%) feel anxious most or all of the time.

That’s where the below totally free self care ideas come in – because while expensive spa days, yoga studios and manicures might spring to mind when you first think of taking some time for yourself, self care needn’t be complicated or break the bank. 

If you needed more convincing, celebrities including Jennifer Aniston, Beyonce, and Emma Watson have all shared that self care is a non-negotiable for keeping them both physically and mentally healthy. Not sure where to start? Keep scrolling for 35 expert-approved self care ideas to try tonight – and don’t miss our guides to the best self help books, best mental health apps, and our Editor’s top wellness tips, while you’re here. 

35 self care ideas to try tonight

What’s the definition of self-care?

According to the renowned healer, emotional trauma expert, and founder of Divine Empowerment Antonia Harman, self-care literally means taking the time to nourish yourself. “It can be a huge range of things, from bubble baths, to meditation, to doing your favourite activities – you know, truly taking time for yourself,” she expands.

There’s a whole spectrum of self-care needs: from the most basic, like making sure you’re eating healthy food, cleaning, and making your bed, to more advanced self-care, like practicing mindful movement, skipping the latest fitness trend for a lower impact workout that suits you, or studying so you can move up the corporate ladder, Harman explains. “Self-care is anything that improves your quality of life,” she goes on.

Not sure where to start? We’ve asked a healer and emotional trauma expert, a yoga teacher, and a Headspace exec for the most simple ways you can practice self-care – totally for free – from home. Never underestimate the importance of self-care – especially at current.

Self care ideas to try tonight

1. Get outside into nature

Fresh air and even sunlight will do you the world of good, share Hsarman. “A walk in the park or woods is good for you. Nature will ground you and make you feel more at peace,” she shares. 

Try: Our favourite UK hiking trails.

2. Get your body moving

An obvious pick, but an important one. There are countless home workouts, Joe Wicks YouTube workouts (and other YouTube sweat sessions) which will make exercising from home fun, rather than a chore. “Even ten minutes of exercise will get your endorphins pumping,” the expert reckons.

3. Get your groove on

In other words, dance. Sounds mad, feels great, and there’s a reason dance classes ranked in the top ten ClassPass workouts last year. Harman recommends cranking up your favourite tune and dancing around your living room. You won’t regret it.

Try: a dance workout to dance for happiness.

4. Breathe in – breathe out

Yep, remembering to breathe is actually super important, according to the healer. “Breathe in for seven seconds, hold for five, breathe out for seven, hold for five, and repeat,” she advises.

Once you have that mastered, she recommends extending the seconds. Not sure what we’re on about? Our guide to breathwork training will help.

5. Take a cold shower

You’ve likely read about the benefits of cold water therapy, so this one’s another obvious pick. “It’s invigorating and will elevate your mood – a great way to start your day!”, Harman explains.

Or just a normal shower will do the trick. “Take shower breaks if you need to clear your mind, or solve a problem”, says Hector Hughes, co-founder of digital detox Unplugged. “Showers act as a sensory incubator which allows your brain to “blink” and recover from a busy schedule,” explains Hughes. “This gives it the space to think of new ideas, or just be absent-minded for a bit. So next time you need to hit reset, take a shower,” he continues.

6. Have a bubble bath

There’s nothing more relaxing than running a hot bath, adding your favourite bubble bath or bath oil, and lighting a candle, to go with it. And… breathe.

7. Read a book

Another self care idea that’s simple yet seriously effective? Carving out some time to actually sit down and read one of those books you’ve had on the shelf for months. “It can count as really precious ‘me’ time,” Harman shares.

Our book ed’s pick of the best books to read might held.

8. Practice positive self-talk

Didn’t change out of your pyjamas all day? Made a mistake at work? Said the wrong thing to the wrong person?

We’ve all been there, says Chatty Dobson, yoga teacher, and owner of FLEX Chelsea. “But we’ve all come out the other side, too”, she adds. “Cutting out your inner negative talk is one of the ultimate forms of self-care. Try giving it a go”, she advises.

9. Try meditating

If you’ve tried meditation but aren’t so sure it’s for you, know this: meditation is brilliant for improving mental clarity, shares Dobson.

“Sure, if you’ve not done it before, it can be daunting, so an easy way to start is using this method. Set a timer for two minutes, sit comfortably, and close your eyes. Count your breath in for four, out for four, or simply just sit there, if you’d prefer. Your thoughts come and go, but that’s part of it, it’s fine, no one sits there with a totally clear head. When your two minutes are up – not before – see how it felt for you,” she explains.

The mental fitness app Calm is a good place to start, if you’ve never meditated before.

10. Cook a nourishing meal

We mentioned above that self-care ideas encompass nutrition, too, and the simple act of cooking a delicious meal that will nourish your body and in turn, mind, from the inside out, is a great form of self-care. Sure, you cook every day, but do you really take the time to enjoy the process and think about what you are putting into your meal and body?

“Try and include as many different coloured foods as you can, to make it more fun,” advises Dobson. Our round-up of vitamin D recipes may help.

11. Try a new dish

Or, if you want to get a little inventive, why not try introducing a new food once a week, asks Dobson? “If you’re not a big cook, you could try to cook a whole meal from scratch once a week, or alternatively, pay attention to incorporating slightly different ingredients into your food here and there,” she shares.

12. Get your energy flowing

Moving your body is one of those self-care ideas that’s really effective at making you feel good about yourself. Think about it: you spend all day at a desk or lounging around. “The energy in your body becomes stagnant and pools in certain areas,” explains Dobson.

Her advice? Get up and move – be it in the form of walking, dancing, yoga, star jumps, or anything else you fancy. “Get the energy flowing around your body and you’ll feel invigorated and alive.” 

13. Get dressed up

You’ll likely have tried this one before, but don’t underestimate how good trying on a shirt you haven’t worn for ages or applying your favourite lipstick can make you feel. “Making an effort with your appearance is simple but effective self-care. Why? Well, when you look good on the outside, you feel better on the inside,” shares Dobson.

Just because you’re not in an office, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t feel great from home.

14. Listen to an audiobook

Give your eyes a break and put your ears to work, instead. “Put on your comfiest clothes, sit on the sofa with a blanket and a cup of tea and listen to a good old audiobook,” Dobson recommends. 

She shares that you likely won’t find it easy just to sit and do nothing for thirty minutes, but that your mind and body will thank you for it later. “Remember: you don’t need to be doing something every waking minute,” she emphasises.

15. Practice daily gratitude

Another much raved about self-care idea, but studies have found practising gratitude is actually a really important part of maintaining a positive mindset. So, how can you get into the habit of practising gratitude?

“Have a notebook by your bed, and each morning write down three things you’re grateful for,” Dobson advises. “It can be anything, from the love of your family, to the fact the sun’s shining. Humans are designed to look for the negative as cavemen had to constantly look out for danger to survive, but it’s not impossible to rewire your brain to focus on the positive,” she concludes.

16. Smash some goals

Completing a to-do list is a pretty good feeling, right? So give yourself three small goals for every day, Dobson advises. “Ticking things off a list is hugely satisfying, so try to practice this regularly. The tasks can be big or small – it really doesn’t matter – but it’s a great routine to get into.” Hear, hear.

17. Take time off social media

We all know by now that social media isn’t great for our mental health. Hughes shares 72 hours off social media will do the trick. “The 3-day-effect is a theory based on a study that found that people’s cognitive function, levels of calm and stress are reduced considerably after three days in nature. The first day may feel a little anxiety-inducing, but this is normal – we call this the ‘adjustment period’,” explains Hughes. 

Time to stop the mindless scrolling and get outside instead.

18. Reflect on your day

Being reflective is one of the easiest self-care ideas. Remember to congratulate yourself for what you’ve done well with your day. But taking two minutes every evening to reflect could solidify it as a more regular practice.

“Think, did I achieve my goals today? Even if I didn’t, what was the highlight of my day? You should always be able to find one shining positive, despite everything else going on, so try to spend a moment enjoying that,” Dobson recommends.

Try: Journaling for anxiety.

19. Drink, drink, drink

… Water, that is. Making sure you’re hydrated and drinking two litres of water a day is good for a whole plethora of things – your skin, gut, brain function, and energy levels being just a few, so get sipping.

20. Watch a movie

Snuggling up and watching one of your favourite classics, or even a new film, could be a nice way to carve out some time for your brain to relax. Put your phone out of reach and try to find calm. Scary movies not advised..

21. Turn your phone off

We’re sure you sometimes leave your phone on the other side of the room, but do you ever actively turn it off to give your brain some respite from the 101 notifications popping up left, right, and centre?

Give it a try, recommends Jolawn Victor, Chief International Officer at Headspace. “Make sure you remove your smartphone from your calm space or switch it to silent. Trying to do too many things at once decreases your ability to switch between tasks and makes you less able to focus on one activity,” she explains. 

22. Make your morning screen free

Not checking your phone in the morning is tough, and many suggest leaving your phone in another room while your sleep, because reaching for your phone as soon as you wake up, isn’t good for our brains, Hughes tells us. 

“It primes them for distraction and can start the day thinking about what other people or doing, or any urgent emails you’ve got to respond to. Instead, get up and get outside as soon as you can – without your phone in your hand. Sunlight (even in darker months) is the strongest circadian cue, so will help your body wake up and feel ready for the day,” he continues. 

23. Try a new hobby, like baking

Cooking doesn’t have to be a rushed experience or something you do on auto-pilot, Victor explains. “Mindfully creating dishes with leftover ingredients can be the perfect way to invest in your own self-care without spending any extra money. This time in the kitchen can be used as a moment to wind down, calm your mind, while even learning new skills at the same time,” she shares.

Cooking or baking are grounding, therapeutic activities as the sensory and engaging nature of the process helps us to remain present in the moment, according to the Headspace exec. “The repetitive motions and actions, such as mixing, chopping, or weighing, can give you an anchor to concentrate on, allowing stressful thoughts to leave the mind.”

Top tip: try to use your senses as much as possible. Think about how the ingredients look and feel through the process of turning them into a meal. What aromas fill the air, and what sounds can you hear as you break ingredients apart, sizzle them in a pan, or crunch them together? Notice what texture the food is, and the different forms it’s taken from start to finish. Self-care, sorted.

24. Challenge yourself to learn a new skill

Think learning a new language, knitting, or macrame: the possibilities really are endless.

“Self-care can involve upskilling. With the extra time at home, why not try learning a new skill that gives you a daily task and is part of your routine? This allows you to take time out in your day for your own self-improvement, even if it’s just for ten minutes,” she says.

She recommends free resources, such as Kitchen Stories Recipes, which provides thousands of new recipes to try, Elevate, which offers brain training exercises, or Duolingo, which can help you learn a new language with over 98 courses.

25. Write a self-care journal

Self-care journals are all the rage at current, with search up a whopping 800% on Google Trends. While you can buy specific journals with self-care prompts and mantras, journaling, at its essence, is free. All you need is paper, a pen, and some time to scribble your innermost thoughts onto paper.

“Journaling is an easy, free way for you to spend time checking in with yourself,” Victor explains.

We love the following notepads:

26. Enjoy your silence

Ever done it before? You know, sat in silence, and actually taken time to appreciate that silence and stillness all by yourself?

“Taking time to just simply be present in silence to savour your morning coffee before your family wakes up can be a form of self-care. This increased awareness of your feelings can help you gain clarity, make better decisions, and stay grounded, she shares.

Plus, a reminder: if you speak, treat, and judge yourself with gentleness and kindness, you are far more likely to take that into the outside world and how you interact with, and think about, others.

27. Improve your sleep quality

Again, obvious but really important: nailing your sleep hygiene is one of the more simple self-care ideas that’s vital for smashing your day ahead, according to Victor.

“Getting a good night’s rest is one of the most valuable things we can do for our self-care; it costs nothing, but its benefits are priceless. Quality of rest and sleep is more important than quantity, and troubled sleep is rooted in a thinking and busy mind,” she explains. Hear, hear.

Top tip from Dobson: don’t try everything all at once – no one needs that sort of pressure. Over the course of a week, try one or two self-care practices a day until you find what works for you. If you really dislike something, remember, you never have to do it again.

Struggling to sleep? Our guide to insomnia treatment might help.

28. Enjoy a massage

Simple, but oh-so-effective at helping you to wind down and de-stress after a busy day at work. Either rope your housemate or partner in, if you’re on a budget, or if you’re feeling boujee, book an at-home session.

We love the treatments available from URBAN, and they offer a range of at-home beauty and wellness options, too.

29. Go for a picnic

Hear us out – sometimes, immersing yourself in nature and enjoying some fresh air can be the perfect soothing slice of self care, right? Take your book or some headphones and watch the world go by – or, pack a picnic and invite some friends. Just remember layers and, more importantly, gloves.

30. Listen to a podcast

Whether you’re plugging into a podcast to fuel a passion, learn something new, or laugh alongside your favourite comedians, you can’t go far wrong.

Not sure where to start? Head to Spotify and browse your options – there are whole podcast channels dedicated to helping your mental wellbeing and self-love. Our favourites are Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place, Radio Headspace, and doctor Rangan Chatterjee Feel Better, Live More.

31. Try daily affirmations

Ever heard of affirmations? They’re a simple form of self-care where each morning, you repeat positive thoughts for the day ahead. Anything goes – from “I am strong”, to “Today, I will be productive”, to “Gratitude is my main focus today.”

They won’t be for everyone – a bit like manifesting, they’re a New Age approach to wellness that encourages you to motivate yourself into more positive thinking. But by taking two minutes each day, you could reframe negative thoughts and replace them with a more positive narrative, instead.

That said, experts maintain that consistently repeating daily keeping affirmations as part of your self-care routine can help you to access a new self-belief system. 

32. Practice being present with mindfulness

Another of our self care ideas? Being mindful. It’s all too easy to forget to enjoy the moment we’re currently in such a fast-paced, forward-thinking world. Mindfulness simply means taking time to truly enjoy the present moment.

Try this: a bit like meditation, if you feel your mind wandering, pause for ten seconds, focus on your breathing technique, and root yourself in the current moment.

33. Take time with your skincare

Taking plenty of time to enjoy your daily skincare routine is bound to boost your mood (and skin, too). While skincare won’t be for everyone, the premise remains: taking the time to do or whatever makes you happy is really key for self care.

Try this: pop on a face mask, Gua Sha your face, and whack on a good playlist. Self-care at its finest.

34. Utilise do not disturb mode

You all know screentime isn’t great for mental health – one 2018 study published in Prev Med Rep even found a direct link between improved mental health and reduced screen time.

Try this: “Feeling productive at the end of the day, or having some undisturbed ‘you-time’ will make you feel great. So stick your phone on Do Not Disturb (or even off) and put it in another room. A recent study shows that the mere presence of your phone in front of you makes you distracted and less productive. So whether it’s a to-do list you’ve got to complete or book you want to get stuck into, pausing notifications will help you get it done. ” unplugged. Bye, bye, mindless Insta scrolling.

35. Declutter and clean your space

Tidy room, tidy mind – or so the saying goes. Cleaning might not be your first thought when it comes to self-care, but hear us out here.

Experts have long maintained that decluttering your space and tidying your room, kitchen or cupboards will not only give you a sense of productivity but help you relax thanks to your new clutter-free, clean space. Self care ideas? Sorted.

So what do you reckon – which self-care practices will you be taking into your day-to-day?

Remember here: self-care looks different for everyone, as no two people are the same. What one person sees as nourishing, another might find boring. “What matters is what nourishes your soul,” Harman stresses. “So focus on doing what makes you feel calm, connected, and happy,” she concludes.


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