Self-care ideas needn’t be complicated: 33 totally free things you can do from home

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  • 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 2021 fitness trend – experts are adamant that self-care is one of the best ways to boost both your physical and mental health.

    Let’s face it – it’s been a stressful few years. Do know that it’s only normal to feel stressed after several rounds of lockdowns, restrictions, and rule-changing.

    Long Covid, chronic stress, and post-pandemic stress disorder are all very real, and all three could be making you feel apprehensive about Covid-rearing its head again after a period of what felt like things returning to normality.

    So, what’s the definition of self-care? 

    According to the renowned healer, emotional trauma expert, and founder of Divine Empowerment Antonia Harman, 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’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, Antonia 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.

    33 totally free self-care ideas you can do 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.

    Self care ideas: Woman jogging in a Park

    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 for the first time ever. 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. 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!”, 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.

    Self care ideas: Close-up Shot Of Young Woman Enjoying Music Over Headphones And Using Smart Phone

    7. Read a book

    Another of the self care ideas 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,” Antonia shares.

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

    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 Chatty. Our round-up of vitamin D recipes may help.

    Self care ideas: Young Woman Drinking Green Juice For Cleanse Diet

    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 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 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.

    Self care ideas: A middle-aged woman in white jeans and a yellow sweater sitting on the bed in a yoga pose in front of a laptop and a cup of coffee

    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 goals 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 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 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.

    Self care ideas: Low Section Of Woman Relaxing At Home In The Bathtub

    19. 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..

    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. Self care ideas never looked so simple.

    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.

    Self care ideas: Woman in bed with coffee and book

    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.

    We love the following notepads:

    ‘Joy’ notepad, £19.99, Papier
    Papier are known for their thoughtful, beautifully designed notepads and journals and this is no exception. You can personalise your pad with your name or a memorable quote for no extra cost, too.

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    Recycled notepad, £14.99, Accomplish
    Looking for an eco-friendly option with sticky notes, too? You’ll love the new Accomplish notepads: manufactured in the UK from approximately 95% recycled materials, they’re also made from paper sourced from FSC accredited paper mills and printed with eco-friendly vegetable based ink. Neat.

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    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 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.

    25. 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 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 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.

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

    26. 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.

    Self care ideas: a woman getting a massage

    27. 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.

    28. 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.

    29. Try daily affirmations

    Ever heard of daily 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.

    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. Neat.

    Mal Paper Affirmation Card Deck – £14

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    30. 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. (Read our guide to breathwork training, here).

    31. 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.

    Self care ideas: woman doing skincare

    32. Reduce screentime

    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: If you can’t commit to turning your phone off due to work or family commitments, then take advantage of the iPhone’s screentime option. It allows you to set limits for how long you spend on certain apps each day and will tell you when your time is up. Bye, bye, mindless Insta scrolling.

    33. 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 more in a 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 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.

    Additional reporting by Georgia Rhodes

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