6 Easy Ways to Start Practicing Self-Care Today

Start a compliment file, make a “no” list and other simple ways to take care of yourself.

woman holding a cup of tea
1 / 8

You’ve heard the old saying that you have to take care of yourself before you take care of others. But why is it so hard to do? Part of it may be hectic schedules, your natural instinct to be a nurturer or because you’re a caregiver. But the fact of the matter is that self-care is really important—it’s what’s going to help your physical and mental health.

The Millennial generation (those born after 1980), has had no problem jumping on-board the self-care bandwagon. In fact, in 2015, National Public Radio (NPR) reported that more millennials focused on personal improvement than any of the previous generations before. This is probably because they have easier access to workout routines, healthy eating plans and therapy sessions thanks to the internet, but also because this generation is always yearning for more.

"People are really hungry for knowledge. It's a relatively new idea in our culture that we would be paying attention to how we feel and using that as a kind of intelligence. It's something that's really waking up in our culture and our generation,” Gracy Obuchowicz, a facilitator and self-care mentor and coach in Washington, D.C, told NPR in an interview.

Self-care isn’t related to selfishness, but it’s also not just bubble baths and pedicures (although indulging in solitude is part of it). While it looks a little different for everyone, here are some ways to take care of yourself and avoid “running on empty.”

couple having fun in the park
2 / 8
First, figure out what makes you feel good

Self-care is individual. So, before you even get started, it’s important to understand that your self-care routine may look a lot different than your friends, colleagues or even your significant other.

When coming up with your personal routine, you’ll want to try things that will help you feel good. Not sure where to begin? Here are 6 ways you can focus on you.

online shopping
3 / 8
Make a “no” list

Personal coach Cheryl Richardson, author of The Art of Extreme Self-Care: Transform Your Life One Month at a Time, says that creating a list of things that you absolutely don’t want in your life will make you, “feel safe, protected, taken care of and free to be your best self.”

Think about the things that cause you stress or anxiety and try to document them so you can actively work towards eliminating (or minimizing) them from your life. Here are some of the examples Richardson collected from her friends:

  • Not rushing
  • Not using credit cards, unless you’re able to pay them off each month
  • Not answering the phone during dinner
  • Not participating in office gossip

Richardson suggests going through her list, and choosing the “no’s” that might be helpful for you.

couple enjoying the outdoors
4 / 8
Get some sunshine

Stressful day at work? Getting outside for 5 or 10 minutes has all sorts of benefits.

In 2010, researchers at the University of Essex in England reported that just 5 minutes of exercising outdoors could improve your mood and self-esteem. And according to the research report Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, the US communities who are more active in green spaces like parks and lakefronts have fewer obese people, lower rates of heart attacks, are more productive and have better mental health.

All of that to say, getting outdoors—even if it’s just for a lap or two around the block in the middle of the work day—is good for your mental and physical health.

mature woman writing in a journal
5 / 8
Start a compliment journal

What’s not to love about keeping track of all the compliments people give you? Big or small, simply write them down when you get them, and when you’re in need of a boost, pull your journal out and give them a quick read.

When you need a self-esteem boost or are feeling down or low, flip through your compliments to remember how special, unique and talented you are. You can even add some of your favorite uplifting quotes in, too.

woman meditating on couch
6 / 8
Set aside some time for mindfulness meditation

There’s lots of hype surrounding mindfulness—a practice that promotes awareness—these days, and for good reason. Practicing for just a few minutes can help you manage stress and anxiety levels and may even help boost your mood. The practice, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), includes focusing on training your attention and awareness to encourage mental well-being and a sense of calmness, clarity and concentration.

So how can you practice mindfulness? There are a few options and it all depends on what resonates with you. Here are some ideas to help you get started:

  • Yoga: Take a class at a studio near you, or try online videos at home.
  • Tai Chi: Join a class. You can find one near you here.
  • Meditation: Many free phone applications, like Calm or Headspace, can help guide you through a short or long session.
checking phone
7 / 8
Take a break from social media and disconnect from negative followers

Social media can connect you to friends and family, motivate you when it comes to workout routines and fitness goals and inspire you to cook new-to-you healthy dishes. But social media can also have a negative impact on your well-being.

The APA says that attachment to devices and social media is associated with higher stress levels. What’s more: A large amount (44 percent) of people who are constantly checking their social media accounts—43 percent of Americans are, according to APA’s Stress in America—are more likely to feel to feel disconnected to family and friends, even when family is present. On the flip side, only 25 percent of non-constant checkers report these same feelings.

Taking a day, week or month break may probably seem like forever—especially if you’re attached to scrolling through Instastories every few minutes—but the benefits of a “social media detox” are worth it.

If you’re having a hard time disconnecting—make it easy on yourself and delete the applications from your phone. Once you do log back on, you may also want to consider taking a scroll through your social media connections. Unfollowing anyone who posts negative images, harsh messages or things you don’t agree with, may be a breath of fresh air.

young woman enjoying the moment
8 / 8
Block off some time for yourself

And now, the tip you’ve been waiting for—taking some time for yourself.

Author and critic Marya Mannes once said when describing solitude, “The great omission in American life is solitude; not loneliness, for this is an alienation that thrives most in the midst of crowds, but that zone of time and space free from outside pressure which is the incubator of the spirit.” That means, that while taking some time for yourself may feel selfish, antisocial or lonely, that is most certainly not the case; disconnecting can actually have some major health benefits:

  1. You’ll be able to focus on your own thoughts and problem solve without anyone else’s input or suggestions. This can even encourage more creativity and focus when you do connect back with others.
  2. One Harvard study suggests that you’ll form more accurate and lasting memories if you’re experiencing something alone.

And while solitude and the amount of time you can spend by yourself is going to vary for everyone, it’s important you set aside some time to try it. If doing so seems difficult in the middle of your daily and weekly schedules, try setting aside time just once a month. After you’ve mastered that, you may find that making time once a week—or even once a day—is possible (and much-needed!). Time in solitude might simply be 10 minutes of meditation or a few minutes alone to clean the house, but these pampering activities count, too:

  • Try a face mask
  • Take a long bubble bath
  • Get a manicure
  • Burn some essential oils

Find what works for you, and commit to making it a habit.

More On

Small victories create long-term habits


Small victories create long-term habits
Mindfulness coach Rosie Acosta, Dr. Jen Caudle, and therapist Dr. Juliana Hauser discuss the benefits of celebrating the good and reinforcing our alre...
5 Keys to Making Healthy Changes


5 Keys to Making Healthy Changes
Want to be a healthier eater, a more interesting partner, a faster worker, a better parent? You may know exactly what it takes, yet something holds yo...
6 Healthy Life Hacks


6 Healthy Life Hacks
Just because you’re pressed for time, doesn’t mean your health has to suffer. Here are some tips and tricks to make being healthy easier.
As a mom, how can I find time to exercise?


As a mom, how can I find time to exercise?
Finding time to exercise is vital for a busy mom's health, and it also sets a great example for kids. Watch as family physician Gretchen Phillips, MD,...
Episode 8: Stepping out of unhelpful habits


Episode 8: Stepping out of unhelpful habits
In episode 8 of “Small Changes, Big Results” we talk about getting rid out of those unhelpful habits that are no longer serving us. Experts discuss ho...