What does self care mean to you? A spa day, a fancy dinner at a restaurant, perhaps a mani pedi? While these are all great ideas, self care doesn’t have to mean luxury in the traditional sense. There are many ways to practice self care, without spending spending a cent. More research is coming to light about the importance of self care on our mental, physical and emotional health. Yet many still consider it self indulgent, expensive or only reserved for very special occasions.
Self care is defined as “the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness.” It is choosing to do those little things for ourself that make us feel good.
By adding in some of these simple practices to your every day life, you can reap the benefits of adequate self care, without breaking the bank. Whether you have 5 minutes or 5 hours to spare, incorporating self care into your routine will result in improvements in your wellbeing. This will provide astounding benefits to you, which will ripple out to your family, friends and colleagues.
Plan a Digital Detox
Technology has provided us with so many amazing benefits. Long distance connection, access to information, the ability to share knowledge and the growing world of e-learning. It has also, however, caused many of us to be somewhat addicted to our phones.
In 2019, research showed that in the UK, we spent an average of 2 hours and 34 minutes on our smartphones. I would guess that number is a lot higher for many of us, especially in 2020 lockdown. And when not on our phone, we may be absorbed by the screen of a computer, television or tablet.
Screens are our biggest distractor and cause us to be in ‘reaction’ mode most of the time. Instead of listening to our own inner guidance, our brain is constantly responding to the endless digital stimulation. When we are constantly reacting to the outside world, it leaves little space for self care. Consciously taking time away from the screen can improve sleep quality, enhance your innate creativity and improve your mental health.
How to digital detox
Choosing to digitally detox doesn’t have to mean switching our devices off for days at a time. Start by setting a screen time limit for yourself in the evening. Turn your devices on to flight mode, or use the built in limits on many smartphones as early in the evening as is practical for you. If you are a nighttime scroller, settling to the limit to 9pm may already be a big step for you. And then gradually reduce it to earlier and earlier, creating a tech free evening routine.
Another way to digitally detox is to go the whole hog and switch your devides off for 24 hours. If you need to, simply warn all the people in your life that they won’t be able to get hold of you. Most of the time, whatever it is can wait a day. Then spend the day engaging in a hobby, walking in nature, reading or going whatever it is that makes you feel good. You wouldn’t believe the difference a day makes.
Sing at the top of your Voice
You may notice that people often sing when they are happy, but did you know that singing actually makes you happy? And there is science to back this up!
Singing activates the vagus nerve, one of the most powerful nerves in our body. The vagus nerve connects the brain to most of the internal organs. It is through this nerve that the body knows when to stress and when to relax. Singing stimulates the vagus nerve, signalling to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). Our PNS is the state of ‘rest and digest’ – the opposite of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which signals fight or flight.
Spending more time in this state of rest and digest is the first step to self care. Yet singing has even more benefits. Studies have shown that singing releases endorphins in the body – the same feel good hormone released though exercise.
In addition, singing your favourite song will often trigger happy emotions and perhaps nostalgia. No matter how your voice sounds, there are plenty of reasons to sing. Belt it out in the shower, in the car or wherever you feel you can completely let go and release your inner Adele.
Massage your Feet
Our feet are possibly the most under appreciated part of our body, yet they are the ones that work the hardest. Most people’s feet spend their lives trapped in shoes and don’t experience any conscious physical touch. Spending a few minutes massaging your feet is an easy and effective act of self care that has many more benefits than you might think.
Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners use the feet to both treat and diagnose health issues in the rest of the body through various acupressure points. The practice of reflexology stimulates these points, or energy centres, increasing the flow of energy or chi and creates an overall sense of wellbeing. And this is something you can do yourself as an act of self care.
How to self massage your feet
Massage your feet using a carrier oil with a few drops of your favourite essential oil. If you don’t have a suitable carrier oil, use your regular body moisturiser. Massage the entire foot and heel, including all your toes. You may want to happy extra pressure in the centre of your arches and in between your toe mounds. Most importantly, do what feels good! There is no right or wrong way to practice self care.
Listen to a Guided Meditation
Taking time out to meditate is one of the most powerful acts of self care. A regular meditation practice will enhance well being, promote a sense of calm, improve focus and even increase your kindness levels. Yet the automatic response people have when encouraged to mediate is either that they don’t know how or they don’t have time.
For more of the many benefits of meditation, read this blog post.
Insight Timer, the world’s most loved meditation app, solves both of these problems. The app is completely free and contains thousands upon thousands of guided mediations from some of the most influential spiritual and self help teachers. The app gives you the option of 5 minute guided mediations to much longer series and workshops as you begin to flex your meditation muscle and fall in love with the practice.
It really is the simplest self care ritual to give you the most benefit in the shortest period of time. And all you need to do is press play, close your eyes and listen.
Go for a solo walk in nature
Mother Ntaure heals everything. And spending more time in nature is a way to supercharge your self care. Science shows that just 20 minutes in the great outdoors significantly lowers the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Plus the added benefits of fresh air, sunshine and light exercise make walks in nature high on the list of the best things you can do for yourself.
Not everyone is lucky enough to live near forests, beaches or mountains. But even if you only have a tiny garden or a park nearby, as long as there are plants and dirt, it counts as nature.
Walking solo is a great way to really take in the natural surroundings. Nature speaks to us through its beauty and you may find that taking a walk can provide clarity to a problem or a situation you’ve been mulling over.
For even more benefits, try taking off your shoes and grounding your bare feet to the earth. This is a practice known as Earthing or Grounding. Earthing your feet as regularly as possible can improve sleep, reduce stress, combat anxiety and improve overall wellbeing.