The term “self-care” is bandied about a lot these days, and is often associated with lavish activities like massages, spa treatments, expensive vacations and products promising happiness for a hefty price tag. In fact, due in large part to Instagram and social media, the term “self-care” has often become synonymous with self-indulgence, narcissism, and selfishness. But this really isn’t the true meaning of “self-care.”
Distilled down to its most basic definition, self-care is the proactive practice of preserving and improving your own mental, emotional, and physical health. It’s actively taking the time to make small but purposeful changes to improve your wellbeing. And most of the time, the small changes you can make won’t cost you a cent. Forget boutique gym classes and costly cleanses; here are some ways you can practice self-care without it costing you anything.
Practicing mindful meditation, even for just ten minutes a day, is one of the most beneficial ways of reconnecting to your mind and body. It involves focusing on an “anchor” such as sound, sensation, or breath as a way to be in the present moment. Mindful meditation trains the mind to filter out outside thoughts, distractions and worries and center yourself in the here and now. Shifting from a “doing” mode to a “being” mode promotes a sense of calm, reduces anxiety, and lifts mood. If you’re not used to meditating, you can explore guided meditations through free versions of apps like Calm and Headspace, or find videos on YouTube that won’t cost you anything.
Whether it’s dancing in your bedroom, doing squats in your living room, or running around your garden, moving your body is a great way to relieve stress, boost your mood, and feel good about yourself. And regular exercise doesn’t mean you have to be a fitness fanatic. Yoga, for example, is a low-impact activity that gives you equal benefits for mind and body. And, thanks to a wide assortment of online videos on YouTube, you can stretch, exercise, and feel great without any of the usual yoga or gym class costs.
Related: “Redefining How You See Exercise”
All you need for this simple act of self-care is a pen and some paper. Set aside thoughts of a teenage version of yourself venting angsty thoughts in your diary; the act of journaling is so much more than crushes and narcissistic wallowing. It’s a therapeutic practice that can really help with reflection and aid in externalizing emotions. Another useful journaling tool is creating a Gratitude List. The act of writing a daily list of all the things you’re grateful for in that moment is a helpful way to center yourself and invite happiness into your everyday life.
Tidying up your living space
Cleaning may not seem like the most relaxing activity to engage in when you’re trying to take time for yourself but consider tidying as an investment in your own wellbeing. When your personal space is a mess, be it your apartment or your office, the disorder can take a toll on your mental state, causing you to feel anxious, overwhelmed, and stressed. Taking time to tidy up can be turned into an act of self-love and self-care, creating a healing effect on your overall mental state.
Give yourself a “tech detox”
Most of us have a certain degree of dependency on our digital devices. However, it’s important to take a break from technology once in a while in order to avoid burnout, anxiety, and depression. Social media and the internet are incredible tools for connecting with others and cultivating a community for yourself. However, our digital devices can also be places of overconsumption and distraction. Instead of mindlessly scrolling through the news or social media on your phone, put it down and try to be present in the here and now. Taking short breaks from staring at your screens will allow your brain to recharge, be creative, and focus on the present rather than being in a whirring state of constant distraction.
Related: “Getting Your Sleep Back On Track”
Make time for better sleep
Great sleep costs absolutely nothing but pays off for your overall wellbeing in countless ways. Quality sleep on a regular basis improves your immune system, lifts your mood, and allows for better work to be done. Keeping a regular sleep schedule with enough hours of quality rest will keep fatigue-induced stress and anxiety at bay. If you have trouble sleeping, you can try free versions of sleep-aid apps like Pzizz, Slumber, or Sleep Cycle. There’s a reason sleep is known as the third pillar of wellness (after exercise and nutrition). So invest in your “zzzs” to feel like the best version of yourself.
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