A smiling man going on a walk outside, which is a great self-care idea.

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17 Actually Easy Self-Care Ideas to Nourish Your Body and Mind

Prioritizing yourself isn’t always straightforward, but there are expert-approved solutions that can help you become your best self—even if you only have a minute to spare.

By Blake BakkilaMarch 21, 2024


As a first-time mom emerging from the fog of the “fourth trimester,” the thought of finding time for self-care is almost laughable. From adjusting to fewer hours of sleep (and plenty of wake-ups in between) to feeding my 4-month-old son to meeting deadlines at work, it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day for trying self-care ideas. 

I’m acutely aware that my situation isn’t unique. People in all sorts of situations often think it’s impossible to practice even a little bit of self-care on a regular basis. To explore this topic further, we reached out to a handful of mental health experts who offered realistic solutions and plenty of practical self-care ideas—many of which only require a few minutes. 

What Is Self-Care?

“Self-care is often misperceived as bubble bath and face masks or shopping to ‘treat yourself,’” says Anne Appel, a licensed clinical professional counselor and couples and family therapist in Chicago. “And while sometimes those events can improve our well-being for a short dose of dopamine, getting into a regular routine of self-care is filled with more micro-actions for increased physical and mental well-being.” 

In reality, self-care can have different meanings for different people. Much of it depends on what’s accessible and feasible for you, your lifestyle, and your career. You don’t need to (and shouldn’t) overcomplicate your life with self-care, but you can evaluate your availability and needs, and then seek out practical self-care ideas that will work for you. 

Benefits of Practicing Self-Care

When you practice self-care, the benefits create a positive domino effect: The more you prioritize taking care of yourself, the more you can accomplish from a physical and mental standpoint, in both your personal and professional life.

“The benefits of regular self-care are manifold,” says Deborah Gilman, PhD, a licensed psychologist who specializes in child development, trauma, and parenting. “Firstly, it reduces stress levels by allowing you to unwind and recharge, thereby enhancing your resilience in the face of life’s challenges.”

According to Gilman, other benefits of self-care include: 

  • More self-awareness and mindfulness. By achieving this, you can have a better understanding of your emotions, thoughts, and needs. 

  • Improved physical health. Self-care includes things like making time for movement, getting an adequate amount of sleep, and developing nutritious eating habits, all of which help nurture and nourish your body and mind.

  • Healthier relationships. When you take care of yourself, you’re more capable of being present for your friends, family, and coworkers.

Self-care is sometimes confused or equated with selfishness, but Gilman challenges her clients to think of it as “an act of self-respect and self-compassion.” And when you tend to your relationship with yourself, others around you will also reap the benefits. 

Two women happily talking outside while holding yoga mats. Exercising and spending time with friends are great self-care ideas.

FG Trade / E+ via Getty Images

How to Add Self-Care to Your Routine

Knowing you want to prioritize self-care is one thing—but following through and actually setting aside time for self-care ideas is another. Here are a few pro tips for actually adding self-care to your routine:

1. Evaluate Your Energy Level

Before you try any self-care ideas, understand what you can manage. Dianne Mani, PsyD, a therapist and senior clinic director at Octave, likes to think about it as preparing a “self-care buffet” with several activity options to choose from. Depending on how you’re feeling on any given day, you can set out to perform a low, medium, or high effort form of self-care. 

2. Take an Honest Look at Your Schedule

Mani says she will sit down with clients and review their schedules to determine how and when they can practice self-care. 

“We’ll start to go through and decide, ‘Are these things I actually have to do?’” Mani says. “And then I ask them to actually schedule in the time. Even [by] setting an alarm, you’re really making a commitment to yourself, you’re showing up for it, and you’re more likely to do it when you actually sit down and proactively and intentionally put that self-care in there.”

3. Reset Your Stance On Self-Care

When you’re busy and overwhelmed, the concept of adding anything to your schedule is daunting. However, we can all find a minute or two to sneak in some “me time.” In fact, you might want to try shifting your mindset to see self-care as something besides packing more into your schedule. 

“If we combat the ‘I don’t have time’ mindset by understanding that self-care doesn’t always involve taking a vacation or neglecting our responsibilities, we are more likely to engage in the process,” Galasso says. “In doing so, we can untangle any unconscious thoughts or feelings that we aren’t worth improving, growing, or being allowed to be happy.”

4. Stack Self-Care with an Existing Routine

You can more practically add self-care to your life by bundling it with other activities

“For example, I have a long commute to work—instead of mindlessly listening to sports talk radio, I’ve recently started meditating and praying,” says James C. Jackson, PsyD, a licensed psychologist and a professor of medicine and psychiatry at Vanderbilt University, where he is also the director of behavioral health at the university’s ICU Recovery Center. “For me, this is absolutely a self-care practice and [the] car ride to work represents an easy opportunity to do it that doesn’t disrupt the rest of my schedule.”

Another idea for maximizing your efficiency might include listening to your comfort podcast or a fun playlist while doing household chores or meal-prepping your food for the week ahead, for instance. 

Easy Self-Care Ideas for Your Body and Mind

Scheduling time for yourself isn’t always easy, but there are several realistic and beneficial self-care ideas experts recommend to get you started. Whether you have one minute or one hour to spare, there are plenty of deliberate, intentional activities and practices you can do that will make significant changes to your physical and mental health. 

Eager to learn more? Here are some of our favorite expert-approved self-care ideas:

1. Try Meditation or Breathwork

Meditation comes with a host of benefits: it calms your mind, boosts energy levels, sharpens your focus, and so much more. If you’re not sure where to get started, the Peloton App offers a range of meditations varying from five to 30 minutes in length.

If meditation isn’t your favorite, you can also simply sit without distraction and breathe. “Notice the sensations of each inhale and exhale, allowing thoughts to come and go without attaching to them,” Gilman says. 

2. Take Your Shoes Off and Step On the Grass or Sand 

The age-old suggestion “touch some grass” is very real. “This is called earthing,” says Hannah Yang, PsyD, a psychologist and founder of Balanced Awakening. “Our bodies can benefit from having that direct connection with the earth. If you live in a warm climate where this is possible, give it a try!”

3. Consciously Engage In Each of the Five Senses

“Notice five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste,” Gilman says. “This exercise helps bring your awareness into the present moment and grounds you in your immediate surroundings.”

4. Turn On Your Favorite Song

Music and movement can contribute to your joy, even if you take just a few minutes to listen to your favorite song. Bonus points if you bust a move!

“Experts have shown you can ‘fake it till you make it’ with your moods,” says Julia Corcoran, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist and the director of clinical strategy and experience at Modern Health. “Do something that you associate with happiness (laughing, dancing, or even faking a smile) and it can make you feel happier!”

5. Go for a Walk in the Morning

Many experts agree that going for a walk—even one that’s as short as 10 minutes—can help you practice self-care. It also allows you to get outside, which will connect you to nature. Not to mention, walking is an easy activity when you’re low on energy, since it doesn’t require as much effort as other self-care ideas might, Mani notes. For even more motivation, the Peloton App offers guided walking workouts and walking meditations that are as short as five or 10 minutes long.

6. Unplug as Much as Possible

Doom-scrolling is the opposite of self-care. If you can, dedicate time away from your devices, or even create “no-tech zones” in your home, Gilman suggests.

“Designate specific areas of your home or workspace as tech-free zones where digital devices are not allowed,” Gilman says. “Create a peaceful and inviting environment in these spaces, free from the distractions of screens and notifications, where you can unwind, recharge, and focus on relaxation.”

In addition to these zones, Gilman says you can also schedule screen-free activities like eating meals without devices. Whatever you can do to stay present and not rely on technology is key. Even something as simple as disabling nonessential notifications on your devices can improve your life, too. 

7. Unfollow Accounts That Don’t Make You Feel Good

Social media and self-care don’t typically go hand-in-hand, but there are ways to minimize the negative effects of your go-to social apps. If you notice that following certain influencers—or even friends or family—is making you feel worse, Appel recommends unfollowing them. To take a less harsh approach, you could also mute or hide accounts from popping up in your feed. 

8. Connect with the People You Love

Try to have a dedicated hour to calling or video chatting with family and friends at some point during your week.

“Connecting with others is a developmental imperative,” says Joseph Galasso, PsyD, a clinical and sports psychologist and the CEO of Baker Street Behavioral Health. “This has become especially well-known during the past few years when loneliness and isolation have risen to crisis levels. When we connect with others, we help to improve our mood, feel connected, and even begin to make proactive plans to increase socialization.”

Not sure you can commit to one hour? Take a few minutes to send a quick text or email, or jot down a handwritten note to send to a family member or friend. If you’re scrolling through TikTok or Instagram, you can even incorporate self-care by sending your loved one a post that reminds you of them. 

“Express your appreciation for their friendship, offer words of encouragement, or share something that made you think of them,” Gilman says.

9. Set Boundaries with People Who Don’t Make You Feel Good

“Limit time with friends or family [who] make you feel less-than or anxious,” Appel says.

It’s important to identify the people in your life who improve your mental health and make you feel confident and happy. By that same token, you have every right to create some distance between yourself and friends or relatives who aren’t contributing to your joy. 

10. Schedule Workout Classes You'll Actually Look Forward Doing

“When we invest in our physical health, our mental health improves, and vice versa,” Appel says. “Start small with exercise if it’s not your thing, and remember that you don’t have to do an intense, sweaty session to make it count.” (Psst: The Peloton App offers 16 different fitness modalities and thousands of classes to help you find your new favorite way to work out.)

11. Add Movement to Your Work Commute

If you go to your office on a full-time or hybrid schedule, Gilman recommends walking, biking, or adding some sort of movement to your commute. This can allow you to squeeze in some exercise and start your day on a more positive note before dealing with potential stresses at work. 

12. Incorporate Desk-Friendly Exercises

Your work hours can also include moments of self-care. Gilman has a quick and easy desk meditation to try: “Set a timer for one to two minutes and allow yourself to simply sit quietly at your desk,” she says “Close your eyes or softly gaze at a spot in front of you, and bring your attention to the present moment. Notice any sounds, sensations, or thoughts that arise without judgment, allowing them to come and go.” 

Other physical exercises you can perform at your desk? Shoulder rolls, neck stretches, left lifts, or even desk push-ups can reduce your stress and improve your energy levels.

13. Prioritize Sleep

“Establish a consistent sleep routine and aim for seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night,” Gilman says. “Create a relaxing bedtime ritual to signal to your body that it’s time to wind down.” 

Part of your nightly self-care sleep ritual may include the following, per Gilman: 

  • Playing soothing music, nature sounds, or using a white noise machine in your bedroom

  • Having a diffuser that emits calming essential oils like lavender or chamomile

  • Writing down what you’re grateful for in a journal

  • Sipping on herbal tea

  • Powering down your devices at least an hour before bedtime

14. Read a Few Pages of an Interesting Book

Reading “has plenty of benefits to restore our well-being,” Galasso says. “While we are reading, we are actively engaging in an activity that forces us to focus and concentrate. We are more likely to relax when we are engrossed in the content and we are preventing cognitive decline.”

15. Start a Crafting or Artistic Hobby

Learning something new has powerful self-care benefits, but you don’t have to spend hours working on a skill. Once you determine how much time you can dedicate per day or week, you can then schedule the appropriate activities. 

“It can be as simple as getting some colored pencils and an adult coloring book and going to town,” Yang says. “Or you could choose to learn knitting or crocheting and invest in the supplies and know-how.” 

16. Be Kind and Gentle with Yourself

The journey to prioritizing yourself and your well-being isn’t linear or simple. And in a way, you need to practice self-care in your approach to self-care. By focusing on self-compassion and self-love, you can further improve your life by doing what makes you happy whenever you can. 

“Acknowledge that it’s OK to not always be productive or to take time for yourself, and let go of any guilt or self-criticism associated with making time for self-care,” Gilman says. 

17. Consider Talking to a Professional

“Sometimes, we need extra support,” Corcoran says. “If you have access, working with a coach or therapist can be a game-changer in your work to improve your well-being.” 

If you’re not sure where to begin, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provide helpful resources and information that may help you get started. Asking your healthcare provider, social worker, or a trusted loved for a recommendation one can be a great starting place, too.

The Takeaway

No matter how stressed you are, self-care is not something to ignore. By nurturing yourself with these self-care ideas (or other activities that serve you outside of this list), you can more easily take care of others. It only takes a few minutes to drastically improve your outlook, too, and it all starts with reminding yourself that you and your health need to be a priority.

This content is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute individualized advice. It is not intended to replace professional medical evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician for questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. If you are having a medical emergency, call your physician or 911 immediately.


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