When was the last time you wrote a list of self-care ideas for yourself and made a commitment to stick to them?
I’ll be the first to put my hand up and admit that up until this point in my life, my own self-care has taken a back seat to other more pressing life priorities. When studies, careers and eventually kids come along, most of us tend to push wellbeing activities and rituals to the bottom of the pile to make space to ‘get more stuff done’, forgetting that productivity ALWAYS starts with a fresh mind and a positive attitude.
More importantly, living a well-rounded, healthy and self-fulfilling life has very little to do what we’re achieving on the outside and a great deal to do with what’s going on on the inside. We might be a whizz in the kitchen, have our gym routine down to a tee and be the best marketing executive this side of the Atlantic, but if we don’t have a grip on our mindset and mental health, we will never be truly happy.
It’s time we redress the balance.
Sadly, I had to learn the importance of self-care the hard way. Following my thyroidectomy (total removal of my thyroid gland) at the beginning of the summer last year after I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, my depleted energy levels and perpetual exhaustion forced me to reexamine my self-care routine and devise new tactics to ensure that every single day I was able to devote at least an hour to looking after my own well-being.
Spending whole days in bed crying into my pillow and neglecting my responsibilities as a wife, mother and happy human being didn’t sit well with me and I needed to do something about it.
Thus, this list of self-care ideas was borne. Putting some of the habits into play in my life was literally the only thing that would enable me to get out of bed in the morning, and eventually, as some of my energy returned, they became the things that changed my world.
I’m not suggesting you take the list literally and make time to practice absolutely everything on it, but I highly recommend using it as a source of inspiration and selecting a few of the things that you know will make you feel great inside, or even trying out a few new things that spark your curiosity.
Committing to a self-care practice of just 15 minutes a day every day will change your life, take it from me – so make a promise to yourself to start today, and let me know how you get on.
Remember, if self-care consistently gets pushed to the bottom of your to do list, then not only are you neglecting to take care of yourself, but you’re impeding your ability to take care of anyone else who relies on you too!
40 Self-Care Ideas for a Healthy Mind, Body & Soul
1. Keep a journal
It doesn’t have to be more than a few lines of writing a day, but noting down your thoughts and feelings, reminding yourself of the positive things that happened that day as well as expressing the things that are troubling you in writing can help to free up your mind, and is a great way to track personal goals and progress.
2. Write a gratitude list
I do this every day as part of my journaling practice, but you don’t even need to write the list down. It’s a scientific fact that spending a few minutes each day just thinking grateful thoughts can significantly increase happiness and well-being.
3. Commit to doing one good deed a day
Ever heard the quotes, “happiness is only real when shared”, or “shared joy is a double joy”? This isn’t hyperbolé, we really do feel great feelings by doing good things for others. One act of kindness a day will get those feel-good endorphins pumping and raise the vibration of the world. What’s not to love?
4. Mix things up
This is a really easy one to try, and something that can yield immediate results. Sit in the front seat of the taxi instead of the back. Take a different route to work. Turn down that event you were going to go to and stay in to read a book instead. “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”, Wayne Dyer.
If there’s one thing that’s changed the state of my mind over the past six months, then meditation is it. I used to think of it as some airy-fairy woowoo practice that only yoga gurus and spiritual hippies took part in, but now I see it as a vital component of life.
TIP: Download the Headspace app or look up guided meditations on YouTube and watch your life transform before your eyes.
6. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is about living completely in the ‘now’ at every point of your day, and not just when you meditate. Whenever you feel your mind wandering to the past or a potential future scenario, draw it back to the present moment by bringing your attention to your breath or following one of these simple techniques.
7. Take up a new hobby
Hobbies are a great way to exercise our creativity, keep our minds fixed on the moment (see above), make new friends and reward ourselves with a sense of accomplishment. If you’re in Qatar, check out Hobbyhouse Qatar for regular classes and ideas.
8. Restart an old hobby
Think about what used to get your heart racing and adrenaline pumping. What did you used to do that made you feel truly alive? It’s never too late to pick up that instrument again, get back in the kitchen or back on that team. Reclaim a slice of your youth and it might even make you feel a little more youthful in the process!
9. Check in with your body
When you’re feeling stressed or fed up, spending a few minutes carrying out the ‘body scan technique’ can help you to address the areas of tension in your body and to let stress go. Close your eyes and bring your attention to each of your body parts, starting at your toes and slowly working up to your head. If you like, you can imagine a ball of white light slowly filling up your body as you go, drowning out darkness and relieving tension. This works especially well for visually-minded people.
Rarely is exercise left off a self-care list because it really is the world’s best stress reliever. You don’t have to be a gym bunny to get started, nor do you need to dedicate hours of your week to it. There are plenty of at-home guided exercises using apps and YouTube that you can use in the comfort of your own home when you get a moment of down time. Yoga is my current favourite because it combines stretching and light exercise with calming the mind.
TIP: This website gives a good rundown of the best apps for step-by-step exercise tutorials and/or tracking your progress in 2019.
11. Go somewhere green
My favourite tip on the list. The benefits of spending time in green space are immeasurable (I actually wrote my Bachelors dissertation on this very subject back in the day!). Humans were not meant to spend their life in concrete jungles all day every day. Spending 10-15 minutes in nature every single day can increase your happiness levels, productivity, health, lifespan and so much more!
12. Use music and scent therapy
When we think of well-being, we usually think of using our sight and physical attributes (touch), but in doing so, we’re neglecting two very important senses! The calming effects of music and scents have been known for centuries, and combining the two by lighting scented candles or incense while listening to relaxing or uplifting music can be so good for the soul.
13. Take a bath
Even better, bring your candles and music with you to the bathroom and have a long soak in a bubble bath, along with some pampering. You don’t have to shell out lots of money or dedicate too much of your precious time to create a relaxing at-home spa experience!
14. Read a book
If I could take three things to a desert island with me, one of them would be a whole suitcase of books (does that count as one thing?!). Books take your mind away from your current situation and into a whole new world of make-believe where anything is possible – and I can’t think of anything more therapeutic than that!
15. Have a power nap
The health benefits of a 15 minute power nap are well-documented, and while many of us don’t have the luxury of time to fit one in most days, for those that are able to snatch a few extra winks in the middle of the day, do it! It won’t just recharge your batteries, but will give you a little ‘mindset reset’, allowing you start afresh with a brand new attitude to your day.
TIP: Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker is worth a read if you’re interested in finding out more about the restorative benefits of sleep.
16. Take yourself on a date
We’re always thinking about pleasing others aren’t we? As a special treat, dedicate one whole day, or part of your day, to putting your own needs above anyone else’s. What is your favourite thing in the world to do? Book a babysitter, clear your diary, turn your phone off and indulge yourself in whatever that thing is. Not only will this give you some much-needed ‘me time’, but it will also teach you to find comfort and joy in your own company, which is one of the best gifts you can give yourself.
17. Take a friend on a date
Something that can make you feel even better than treating yourself is treating someone you love, as a way of saying thank you. I recently took four of my girlfriends out to dinner to say thanks for being there through some really tough times last year. It’s so true that you get more joy out of giving joy to others.
18. Switch off
Phones, laptops, TVs, iPads, computers…you can’t escape screens these days but you can make an effort to disconnect from them on a regular basis. Breaking the addiction and spending less time scrolling can lead to you feeling more focussed, mindful, connected to the world and those around us, and less prone to judgement and comparison. Switching off at least an hour before bed also leads to a better night’s sleep according to scientists!
19. Ask for help
OK, so you’re great at taking baths now, you have some fun hobbies and you’ve started a meditation practice…but that will only take you so far if you have a whole host of worries still rumbling around in your head. We live in a society where it’s sadly sometimes viewed as a failure to admit you are floundering and to reach out and ask for help, or to boldly share your story with the world. Don’t let this stop you. It is OK not to be OK. It is OK to admit you haven’t got it together and you need some help. As soon as you let your guard down, you will allow the right people to come to you and offer you the support and guidance that you’re seeking. Remember: vulnerability is your superpower.
20. Sign up to see a therapist or life coach
A big part of asking for help is recognising that you might need to see a professional to assist you through some of your deeper-seated fears. Research your life coach choice carefully to find someone with the appropriate experience and qualifications, who is also going to be a great fit for you and your needs. If you’re unsure, follow them on Instagram for a while and see if their messaging and guidance resonates with you.
TIP: Some of my favourite life coaches to follow on Instagram are @miss_shefa for positive mindset guidance, @thinklikeaboss.co for empowering and uplifting life and business advice and @a.happy.mind for help with anxiety and overall happiness.
21. Devise a clean eating plan
There is research that suggests that a healthy diet can influence not just your physical health but your mental health and well-being too. Plus, researching and committing to a goal like this gives you purpose and and something positive to aim for. There are all kinds of healthy diet plans out there, but I particularly like the guidance contained in The Autoimmune Solution.
22. Set yourself some goals
Your goals don’t need to be limited to your diet. Goal setting isn’t just about reaching pinnacle moments; it’s about taking small, decisive steps that will move you in a positive direction. Daily, weekly and monthly intention lists are a great place to start. A daily to do list is also a must – nothing feels better than ticking off a few goals, no matter how small they are!
23. Spend time with animals
Just like spending time in green space, spending time with animals has a direct and immediate impact on our well-being. Why is this? Animals don’t have any of the egoic afflictions that us humans are lumbered with and therefore have an instant calming effect on our hectic minds. They demand very little apart from love and affection (apart from maybe cats!!) and have proven therapeutic effects on people going through any kind of life trauma.
24. Do something you’re good at
When was the last time you did something you really excelled at? I’m not just talking about a random hobby now (although if it just so happens that you’re an absolute pro in your chosen leisure time pursuit then all the better), I’m talking about doing something specifically because you know you’re excellent at it. If you write the world’s best prose, can backflip like a trojan or Photoshop landscapes to perfection, the make time to do it. Achievement is good for the mind and soul, and a little boost of pride in our accomplishments is needed from time to time.
25. Have a social media cull
Your social media feeds should be a place to go to feel uplifted, happy and empowered – NOT lousy, envious or inadequate. It’s your little space to curate so curate away! Much like when you’re doing a wardrobe clear-out, ask yourself if each account brings you joy and if not, it has to go (but remenber to be gentle – a mute is much kinder than a delete/block!). I have become a little better at doing this on Instagram this year and as a result my feed is full of inspirational accounts that add motivation to my day rather than detracting from it.
26. Undergo a judgement detox
As humans, judging others is sadly a pretty natural pastime. When you take time to think about it, you’ll find that it’s at the centre of so many of our conversations, actions and decisions. So what happens when you make a commitment to cut it out of your life completely? This is something I’m working hard on personally at the moment, because I wholeheartedly believe that as humans we’re essentially all the same – we’re the same soul reacting to the unique environment and set of circumstances we happen to find ourselves in in our respective lives. Try replacing every judgement you make against another person with a loving thought and watch your own happiness levels rise in response! If you get really good at it, eventually you won’t even need to worry about number 25, because your judgement of others and their actions will no longer bother you. Isn’t that a lovely thought?!
27. Write yourself 365 affirmations
Write a positive message to yourself about your skills, strengths and future accomplishments for every day of the year and pop them in a jar. Read one a day and write your affirmation in your journal.
28. Find a positive in every negative
Did anybody else read the book Pollyanna when growing up? If so, you’ll know that she turned this challenge into a game. It’s actually really therapeutic to play, and you’ll quickly find that it becomes a habit. Broken your leg? At least you get to skip the queues at immigration! Lost your job? It’s just the universe telling you to take that bucket list trip of a lifetime before its too late! Positivity lifts your own energy and the energy of all those around you.
29. Write down all the things you love about yourself
We are all soo accomplished at picking out our faults, but not so great at identifying our awesomeness. Redress this imbalance by writing a list of things you love about yourself, or even better, write yourself a love letter. Remember to read and add to it regularly.
30. Tidy up
Decluttering and washing, hoovering and polishing, folding and minimising… There is something so therapeutic and motivational about making your home fresh, clean, bright and functional. Free your home of clutter and free up some headspace at the same time.
TIP: Unless you’ve been living under a rock since 2018, you will have probably heard of Marie Kondo by now. Her Netflix series and book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up will, well…change your life!
31. Make more connections
And I don’t just mean with your colleagues and friends – I mean in the line at the supermarket, in the lift to your apartment, on the train on your commute. We’ve become an ‘eyes down’ society, but something as small as a smile or exchanging pleasantries with a stranger could make their day, or even your own!
32. Practice saying yes
Say yes to the things that scare you. Bravery is good for the soul.
33. Practice saying no
Say no to the things that bring your energy down. Taking decisions into your own hands and doing the things you want to do instead of the things you feel obligated to do is oh so empowering.
34. Make a vacation out of every day
I saw a quote the other day that said, “One time I talked to this old man and he told me to find a vacation in every day. Even if its walking outside and feeling the grass between your toes. So that’s what 2019 will be, finding a vacation in every day”. It gave me goosebumps! What’s life for if it isn’t for living the best possible life you can live every day? Let’s all make sure we seek out that vacation each and every day.
35. But also plan your next real vacation!
I think you’ll know by now that I am a HUGE advocate of the health and wellbeing benefits of travel (so much so that I wrote a whole post about it here). Even if you can’t get away at the moment, the physical act of planning a holiday and getting things booked is so good for your mental wellbeing, allowing you to live the excitement before it arrives and giving you something positive to look forward to.
TIP: Some of my favourite blogs for vacation planning include: SilverSpoon London, Binny’s Food & Travel Diaries, The Curious Pixie, Adventures of a London Kiwi and Mama Ayla’s Adventures.
36. Start a positive quote book
If you follow me on Instagram (find my profile here), you will know that I am a complete sucker for a positive life quote. I truly believe that they are far more than metaphors or wordy embellishments – they’re messages that can speak right to your soul and help you to think about life in a different light. Collect your favourites in a notebook to look back on them when you’re in need of a quick mood boost or inspirational uplift.
37. Read, watch or listen to something spiritual
By spiritual, I don’t mean religious per se, but something relating to or affecting the human spirit, as opposed to material or physical things. I have made it my aim to read, watch or listen to something uplifting and mind-expanding every day throughout 2019 and it’s already having a profound effect on the way I live my life.
38. Be still
In today’s fast-paced and hectic world, stillness is the ultimate luxury. Some of the practices above will help you to quieten your mind and become still, but if you are struggling, my favourite way to instil stillness is to breathe in deeply while thinking or saying out loud, “Everything I need is inside me”, then breathe out with a sigh while thinking or saying out loud, “Stillness is the key to peace”. Repeat for several cycles of breath until your mind quietens and you feel still.
39. Find love in every moment
Starting your day with loving thoughts and recommitting to them throughout the day is one of the most important acts of self-care that you can gift yourself. Yogi Bhajan said, “If you can’t see God in all then you can’t see God at all”. Spread love far and wide and pay attention to how it makes you feel.
40. Get some sleep!
And this is probably the MOST important of all the self-care ideas listed above, as you won’t be able to face anything with a positive outlook and energy behind it if you haven’t slept well. With anything less than 6 solid hours a night, you’ll find that your priorities start to slip and you quickly fall back into old habits. Maintain your positive steps towards a life brimming with health and happiness by ensuring you get some quality shut-eye: Every. Single. Night.
You have my solemn promise that by committing to just a handful of the self-care ideas above, your energy will rise, your positivity will increase and you’ll feel happier and healthier in your mind, body and soul. You can start off by practicing some of these self-care ideas little and often but please make sure you tick off at least one thing every day, because consistency is key!
Which one will you try first? I challenge you to start today!