Looking after yourself never looked so easy (or cheap).
Everyone’s talking about self-care ideas right now, and rightly so. There’s a reason they were a standout in our 2021 fitness trends piece – experts are adamant that it might just be the anecdote, or at least an important tool for staving off the winter blues as the world, once again, begins to look a little uncertain.
So, what actually is the definition of self-care? According to renowned healer, emotional trauma expert, and founder of Divine Empowerment Antonia Harman, in short, self-care covers any time you take 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 is 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 trying Dry January, outlining realistic goals for 2021, or studying so you can move up the corporate ladder, Antonia explains. “Self-care is anything that improves your quality of life,” she goes on.
So, why is self-care so important right now, you ask? “Let’s face it, since lockdown three, a sadness has infected the nation. We are stuck inside and worried,” Antonia shares. She goes on to stress that taking time to grow and relax is paramount to keeping yourself stable during this strange time. “‘It’ll help you process it all and release the mounting tension,” she adds.
Remember here: self-care looks different on 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,” Antonia stresses. “So focus on doing what makes you feel calm, connected, and happy,” she concludes.
Not sure where to start? We’ve asked the experts for a round-up of the most simple ways you can actually practice self-care – totally for free – from home. Self-care rituals really needn’t be complicated, time-consuming, or expensive. Things like taking a bath, walking for fifteen minutes, deep breathing, carving out time to read your favourite book, and switching off your phone all count.
Scroll for a whole handful of suggestions from some of the best in the business: a healer and emotional trauma expert, a yoga teacher, and a Headspace exec. Never underestimate the importance of self-care – especially at current.
25 totally free self-care habits you can practice from home
1. Get outside into nature
Fresh air and even sunlight will do you the world of good, shares Antonia. “A walk in the park or woods is good for you. Nature will ground you and make you feel more at peace,” she shares. Check out our favourite UK hiking trails, now.
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), and Instagram lives at current which will make exercising from home fun, rather than a chore. “Even ten minutes of exercise will get your endorphins pumping,” the expert reckons. Keen to read how you’ll be working out in 2021? You’re in the right place.
3. Get your groove on
In other words, dance. Sounds mad, feels great. Antonia recommends cranking up your favourite tune and dancing around your living room. You won’t regret it.
4. Breathe in, and 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.
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!”, Antonia explains.
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. And… breathe.
7. Read a book
Another simple yet seriously effective self-care idea? Carving out some time to actually sit down and read some of that book you’ve had on the shelf for months. “It can count as really precious ‘me’ time,” Antonia shares.
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 Chatty.
“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.
10. Cook a nourishing meal
We mentioned above that self-care encompasses 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 Chatty.
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 Chatty? “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 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 Chatty.
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.” We’re in.
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 Chatty.
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,” Chatty 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 practicing gratitude is actually a really important part of maintaining a positive mindset. So, how can you get into the habit of practicing gratitude?
“Have a notebook by your bed, and each morning write down three things you’re grateful for,” Chatty 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 lookout 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 aims for every day, Chatty advises. “Ticking things off a list is hugely satisfying, so try 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. Reflect on your day
Being reflective generally is a good way to practice self-care and 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 spend a moment enjoying that,” Chatty recommends.
18. 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.
19. Watch a movie
Similarly to reading a book or listening to a podcast, snuggling up and watching one of your favorite 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..
20. 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. Got it?
21. Try a new hobby, like baking
Cooking doesn’t have to be a rushed experience or something you do on auto-pilot, Jolawn 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 help 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.
22. 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.
23. 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,” Jolawn explains.
24. 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 being 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.
25. Improve your sleep quality
Again, obvious but really important: nailing your sleep hygiene is vital for smashing your day ahead, according to Jolawn.
“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 the quantity, and troubled sleep is rooted in a thinking and busy mind,” she explains. Hear, hear.
Top tip from Chatty: 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.
So what do you reckon – which self-care practices will you be taking into your day-to-day?