“Get a pedicure!!” Sarah tells you, thinking your toes will unleash a magical cascade of well-being.
“Reward yourself to a shopping spree!!” every company conveniently lists on their self-care lists.
“Buy your favorite scented candles,” your favorite magazine suggests, discounting that each costs a ridiculous $20.
Some self-care lists are for the rich—or at least the non-broke.
This list is for everyone though. Even if you literally have 0 dollars. And it’s all science-backed.
If you’re looking for affordable self-care tips, keep reading to discover how you don’t need to spend a cent at all.
Think doing the same thing every day is boring? Of course, it can be. But starting and ending your day the same way takes off a load of stress. If you don’t have one already, develop routines that you use every morning. Having a set of habits you do every day helps you get things done faster and with less brainpower. This means you’ll have more mental energy to spend throughout your day!
What your routine looks like depends on you and the time you have. Here’s some examples:
Exercise is considered a form of treatment for anxiety and depression. Moving your body helps release endorphins, which has been dubbed the “feel-good” hormone. What you do to move your body depends on what you like. It could be a traditional workout, a walk around the block, an at-home exercise routine or something less intensive. If you’re just starting out, try a beginner’s yoga session on YouTube or simply stretch your body.
Even science says that nature is good for your mental health. If you have a park or greenspace where you live, take a walk around it. Or, find a new hiking trail close to home. No options? Some research suggests even looking at photos of nature can make you feel better.
If you’re feeling bad, try to make someone else feel good. Yep, science says being nice is good for your mental health. Brainstorm a list of acts of kindness you’re willing to do. Commit yourself to doing one weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. Options could include leaving kind notes around town, raking a neighbours driveway, leaving a kind comment on a YouTube video, etc. I started doing this a year ago and one of my go-tos is writing short emails thanking people I follow. I was surprised—many responded how much it meant to them. Which made me even happier.
Mindfulness is being in the moment and experiencing it to the fullest. That means you aren’t thinking about the future or the present. This often leads to calmer thoughts and a happier you. Mindfulness has been heavily studied and it seems to change the brain of depressed people. Tangible practices include meditation, mindful eating, mindful walking, and more. Not sure where to start? There’s a free Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program.
Out of all the self-care ideas on this list, I hate this one the most. But as someone who lives alone and works alone, I know how quick self-care can unravel without connection. Research shows that your well-being depends on it. Take time every day to be with others. Even if you can’t in person, call people or try to see their faces, play games online, etc. Do anything you can to remind you that other people exist.
Often, we have pets in our home and we almost forget they’re there. We feed them, take them out, engage in a little play time, and do it all again the next day. But how often do we just sit with them and like… admire them? Look into their cute little faces and think how could the world make something so adorable? Isn’t it a miracle a brain can fit in those little tiny heads? Research shows that dogs trigger similar brain pathways as the parent-baby bond. This decreases depression and loneliness.
Don’t you feel a little better when you laugh? Science shows that most people do. So lighten your day a little by adding something funny. If you have Netflix, watch a comedy special. If not, there’s plenty of funny prank videos or stand up specials on YouTube.
There’s no way around it: Humans need sleep. We can focus on literally anything else, but if our sleep is bad, it’s going to be hard to make headway. Researchers have continuously uncovered how important sleep is for our mental and physical health. Sleep is so closely related to mood that a lack can make you stressed and irritable; the opposite of self-care.
Self-care is trendy and sounds fun. But honestly, many suggestions put the solution outside of ourselves. Let’s be real, if shopping sprees, massages and mani-pedis were a key of self-care, every celebrity would be happy. And yet, they’re far from it. Free self-care ideas aren’t just free, they’re the best ones!
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