While it might sound like some new wellness trend, self-care is the most basic form of looking after your body and mind, covering everything from getting optimal sleep to eating well. A positive mindset and a strong immune system will put you in a good place to take on just about any of life's challenges. But to keep yourself happy and healthy, you need to invest in yourself first.
To get you started, we've put together a list of nine self-care ideas. Most are readily available and relatively low-cost or even free. So what are you waiting for?
It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that we recommend journaling as a way of keeping your mind and body strong, but we aren't the only ones. After studying the effects of putting pen to paper, researchers at Michigan State University found that expressive writing can help the brain 'cool down' in the state of worrying. Another study by famed psychologist James Pennebaker also concluded that journaling can help strengthen our immune system and make us feel less stressed. Who knew? Well, we did.
2. Set Goals
We, humans, are creatures of habit, so creating a routine will give you the structure you need to achieve anything you set your mind to. To take it further, you can also set short-term, achievable goals for yourself. It might be a work project, a fitness challenge or something as simple as taking a shower every day. But by setting yourself up for success, you'll benefit from those small wins.
3. Practice Gratitude
We cannot stress this enough. Even in the midst of hardship and adversity, there is always something to be grateful for. No matter how small or insignificant it might feel or how hard it may be to see. From increased happiness to reduced pain, a growing body of evidence shows the benefits of seeing the good. While we're writing this, it's no longer raining, and the clocks have gone forward, which means an extra hour of sunlight.
"Even in the midst of hardship and adversity, there is always something to be grateful for."
4. Get Some Sleep
Nodding off is easier said than done for some people, but it's important to take sleep as and when you can get it. You've got to top up the sleep bank if you're overdrawn. There are countless apps, masks and sprays that will help you rest more soundly, but the simplest thing you can do is practice good sleep hygiene. That means turning in and rising at a regular time, being mindful of what you eat and drink, and no screens before bed.
5. Drink More, And Less
It's simple: drink more water, drink less alcohol. Knocking back two to three litres of water a day will keep your immune system healthy and help flush out any toxins. And drinking less alcohol will help you sleep better, boost your mood and save you a few pennies in the process. Why not experiment with alcohol-free cocktail making or brewing your own 0% beer?
6. Move Your Body
We're all for taking a moment to be still and reset, but there's also a time to get a sweat on. There is a seemingly endless number of workouts, stretches and mindfulness exercises you can follow online that require nothing but your body and a bit of space. According to a study by the Boston University School of Medicine, all it takes is 20 minutes of low-to-medium-intensity exercise to measurably improve cognitive function.
7. Eat Well
A healthy gut equals a happier, healthier you. Top up your good bacteria with some probiotics, eat plenty of vegetables in as many colours as you can, and do your best to eat good sources of protein, good fats and grains. Stay away from refined carbs, sugary snacks and ready meals. Yes, we know Deliveroo can get a burger to your door in 10 minutes, but what's the rush? Conquer the kitchen, and rustle up your own invention.
8. Learn Something New
Using your free time to do something worthwhile rather than endlessly doom-scrolling is always a good idea. However, that doesn't have to mean learning a new language, instrument or skill. If that's what you feel like doing, then great. However, it's important to remember that if you need free time to do the basics or take some time out, that's fine too.
9. Switch Off The News
It's important to know the right facts at the right time. Just before bed and first thing in the morning when you've barely woken up is probably not the best idea. Allow yourself a news update from a reliable source of 10-20 minutes per day, and then continue about your business. Don't leave the news on 24/7. Turn off notifications or alerts. Delete any news apps. Control your consumption.
Keep In Mind
Why is this list important? Because sometimes, it's easy to forget the basics. Even if you only follow a few of the recommendations above, you'll hopefully start to feel better physically, emotionally and mentally. This list is not going anywhere. You can come back to it anytime you feel like you may be losing your way. And give yourself a break. You're doing great.