26 Free Ways to Take Better Care of Yourself
I celebrated my golden birthday a few weeks ago - 26 on February 26th. While I had to spend the bulk of the day in government offices in Barcelona to make sure I didn't get kicked out of Spain, it was a good birthday nonetheless. For my birthday last year, I wrote a post listing the 25 mental health lessons I'd learned in 25 years, so I thought I'd switch it up this year and give you a self-care list. It's also Self-Care Sunday and it's been a while since I've written a dedicated self-care post, so I figure the timing is perfect.
In particular, I'm focusing on free self-care activities, because fuck late capitalism and its attempts to commodify our wellbeing. Professional massages, bath bombs, yoga classes, acupuncture, therapy, and so many other wellness options get expensive fast. I'm a huge proponent of investing in your health as you see fit - especially when it comes to mental health services - but sometimes that's just not possible for us. I won't pretend that the following suggestions can replace treatment for chronic mental or physical illness, but they can make you feel a little bit better without spending a dime. Enjoy, babes!
- Read. Trust me, it will get you out of your own head. For ideas on what to read, check out my reading log. For free books, check out your local library, or hunt around online.
- Sleep. This may not work well if you're sleeping too much already (as often happens with depression, for example) but most of us don't get enough sleep, and that takes a massive toll on our bodies and minds.
- Drink water. Yes, I'm starting with the basics here. At 70% water, we all know we're basically sentient cucumbers, and yet we never drink enough water. Add lemon, orange, or mint to make it more fun.
- Stretch. In particular, stretch out your hips if you can. We hold a lot of emotional tension and trauma there. Try this six-minute video to open up your hips.
- Get outside. Preferably in the sun. The past three weeks of rain where I'm living have demonstrated to me exactly how much humans need light and nature.
- Meditate. There are so many reasons to meditate, even if just for a few minutes a day. I used to absolutely hate it and now meditate every morning and feel the benefits, so give meditation a shot even if it's outside your comfort zone.
- Create something. It's a shame how modern society encourages us to tamp down our creativity, reserving the label of "artist" for someone who earns a living at it. Screw that. Paint, draw, cook, play music, create something online, take photos, garden, build shit - whatever you can access and enjoy doing.
- Get lost. Losing yourself in your city or town has several benefits. You'll get outside. You'll walk and get your blood flowing. And not knowing where the hell you are will allow you to focus on your surroundings and become more mindful of them.
- Declutter. I highly recommend decluttering your physical or digital spaces as a way to relax. While it may create some temporary chaos, removing unnecessary things from your life will allow you to focus on the more important pursuits, including your own wellbeing.
- Clean your space. Similar to decluttering, cleaning is both meditative and has a positive end result. The state of the spaces we live in have a greater psychological impact on us than we often realize.
- Clean yourself. And by this I mean take a mindful bath or shower. We rush through our daily routines; when was the last time you luxuriated in the soap and hot water? Take your time and care with the process and you'll notice a difference.
- Write. Write a letter, write in a journal, write on a napkin, write on a scrap of paper. Save it, send it, burn it - it doesn't matter. Just get something off your chest.
- Activate your senses. In the sensory overload of the modern world, it can be easy to forget how important it is to connect mindfully with each of our five senses. Delight them in some way.
- Touch. We are tactile creatures. Make sure your clothes are comfortable. Hug someone. Curl up with something soft.
- Burn. Burn a candle, burn incense, burn sage, or burn the piece of paper you wrote on. It's cathartic (and the scent will help ground you).
- Learn something new. The human brain loves a challenge. Learning a new skill sharpens our minds and activates our sense of play, which is incredibly important to our happiness.
- Try tarot. This one may seem a little out there, but tarot has actually become an important part of my self-care practice. I use it as a tool for reflection rather than a predictor. If you don't have a deck, try a free app like this one that gives you a new card every day.
- Eat a vegetable. I recognize that this isn't technically free, but you're probably already buying food of some sort. Add an extra vegetable in there, bonus points if it's green. More plants will only make you feel better.
- Make a playlist. I try to do this ahead of time so I have music on deck when I need a boost. Make a feel-good playlist of your favorite songs, or the ones that make you feel like a boss. Throw some Lizzo on there.
- Write a letter to the universe. It doesn't really matter what it says, but I like to write down what I want to manifest in my life. The universe can't give you what you don't ask for, right?
- Trade massages with someone. Professional massages may not be free, but ones from your friends or family are. I used to be shy about offering to trade massages with even my good friends, but then I quickly realized that everyone else wants them as badly as you do.
- Start a blog. I pay for a Squarespace account, but you don't have to. Try a free site like Wordpress, set up a basic blog, and start writing about whatever interests you. Even if you've never thought of yourself as a writer, even if you never share it with anyone. Make it a space for you to express yourself.
- Tell someone how you're actually doing. Especially in the United States, we tend to breeze through "How are you?" with whatever easy answer comes to mind. This robs us of an important opportunity to connect with other people. If you feel comfortable doing so, let someone know how you actually are today. Then ask them, and listen.
- Call your person. Whoever that is - friend, relative, partner, colleague, workout buddy, whomever.
- Go someplace new. Similar to getting lost, going new places satisfies our need for novelty and exploration. It doesn't have to be a place where you spend money, though trying new cafés is a favorite pastime of mine. Make it a park, a library, a community center, even just a street you've never walked down before.
- Take care of someone else. This may seem counterintuitive, but I believe that we all have a basic tendency to contribute to the wellbeing of others. Care for someone else in your community or in your life. You'll feel good, I promise.
Cheers to another trip around the sun for me, and another day of taking care of ourselves. We're worthy of it.