Must Try Free Self-Care Activities
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When I worked at a domestic violence shelter they used to talk to us about self-care all the time. I thought it was nice for other people but I always ignored it and didn’t think it applied to me. I was too busy working and going to grad school. It was great for my coworkers who could make time to relax but I didn’t have the time and I had a real “power through it” mentality. I’m sure you can guess where this is going and you’re right, it ended badly in a spectacular breakdown that took me weeks to recover from. These days I take self-care really seriously and I make my mental health a priority on my to-do list. Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of articles on Pinterest about self-care activities that involve spa days and pedicures. If you can afford to get massages and facials then freaking do it girl and drink a little cucumber water for me. I know I’m too freaking broke for that and I’m sure that I’m not the only one. Here are some ideas for free self-care activities. Learn from my mistakes and make it a priority to do something for your mental health today, even if you feel like you don’t have time. Shameless plug-checkout my article on how to afford self care when you’re broke.
Get some library books (mine even has Kindle books!)
Self-help and personal development books have really helped me personally on my own mental health journey. I suggest you take a trip down to your library and pickup one personal development book (see my favorites here) and one book that is just for fun. When I’m having a really crappy time I love to reread Harry Potter. Grab anything that is funny or that you think will put you in a better mood. Reading for pleasure is really a lost art and to me there is no greater feeling than going to bed early with a good book.
Send your friend notes some love notes via text message
Who do you appreciate in your life? Who has helped you out recently? Who do you know that is struggling? Send these people notes of gratitude via text message. It will take you a few seconds and it can really brighten someone’s day. Plus you will totally feel awesome after you send gratitude notes to all of your friends and family. Oftentimes we don’t ;
Write a gratitude list
Everyone in the self-help world is always talking about practicing gratitude but there is a reason. It really freaking works. One of the best things I have been doing is writing a gratitude list every single night. Before I go to sleep I make a list of ten things that happened today that I am thankful for. I try to focus on small things-someone let me in during traffic, I got a nice email from a reader or the fancy coffee drink I had this morning. My brain knows I am going to have to come up with a list of ten things at the end of the day so all day it will look for things to be thankful for so I can add it to the list.
Who knew such a thing existed? One of my friends is always taking free college courses online and she recently finished one all about serial killers. I’m not saying you need to get your self-care by researching murderers but there is something for everyone! There is so much amazing free classes you can take on the internet.
Sign up for a free trial of Showtime or HBO and do some binge watching
I don’t watch much TV these days but anytime I’m sick or just need to have some downtime to recharge I will grab a free trial of a premium channel and watch alllllll the shows and movies! I love watching kids movies or rom-coms when I need to relax. Sometimes you just need to watch a ton of TV and lay in bed.
Clean out your closet and donate your old clothes
I have been on a huge declutter kick lately and it is so awesome! Getting rid of old stuff makes me feel like I’m ready for a fresh start. I love the idea that someone else can use the stuff that I am not using anymore! I just finished cleaning out all of the drawers in my bedroom and I’m hoping to clean out the kitchen next week.
Go for a walk, bonus points if it’s somewhere you haven’t been before
Look online and see if there are any parks that you haven’t been to before. I was really surprised how many are in the city that I live in and I have made it my mission to go to all of them. Going for a walk is my favorite way to clear my head and if I’m feeling blah or uninspired I will make a fun playlist and go for a long walk. It’s kind of like hitting the reset button on my mindset.
Call a friend or family member on the phone
I use text messaging so much these days that I barely ever talk to my friends on the phone anymore. It’s really hard to keep in touch and have a strong relationship with someone that lives far away over text. I don’t get to catch up with my out of town friends that much but every once and awhile my best friend and I will kill an evening chatting on the phone and it is so fun!
Make a playlist of songs that put you in a good mood. Check out mine here.
Music is the fastest way I know to alter my mood. Think about every song that makes you want to dance and put it on a playlist. I am a big believer in dance breaks throughout the day to elevate my mood and energy levels. Having all your favorites songs on one playlist will have you ready to be unstoppable at a moments notice.
Rearrange your furniture
If you’re feeling stale or kind of blah, rearrange the furniture in one of the rooms in your house. I love doing a deep clean and moving all the furniture around in my house. It makes me feel fresh and ready to conquer the world. I am someone that loves change so moving furniture around once and awhile is a necessity to me.
I can’t recommend meditating enough. It has really helped me learn how to control my thoughts and alter my mood quickly. The health benefits for meditation are well documented and the best part is it’s completely free. Make a commitment to trying it everyday for a month and see if you notice a difference in your mood and wellbeing. I have to admit I hated meditating at first but the more I do it the more I enjoy it.
I adore podcasts! I think the fact that so many amazing people have podcasts you can listen to for free is freaking amazing. We can literally listen to some of the most motivational speakers in the world talk whenever we want and it’s free! You can’t beat that in my mind. I listen to tons of podcasts all the time and it is definitely a huge part of my self-care routine. I have learned so many new techniques and gained tons of new perspective from listening to podcasts.
Commit to not complaining for a whole day
I think everyone should take this challenge and take it super seriously. Think how much better the world would be if everyone quit complaining! I am naturally the most negative person you will ever meet in your whole life and I have made a huge effort to quit complaining and become more positive. If I’m not paying attention I will still catch myself complaining about the worlds dumbest stuff. I really try to be diligent and not put negativity in the world because I know it makes a be difference to my mental health.
Setup a Mental Health Planner
I am addicted to planners! I love the feeling of having everything I need to do written down and in order. In addition to my daily tasks, I also write affirmations and gratitude lists in my journal every day. If you haven’t downloaded my mental health planner check it out and get yourself set up for the week. I usually do all of my planning Sunday evening and it is one of my favorite self-care rituals.
Take a bath
You will never meet anyone that loves baths more than me. I can kill hours in the bathrub. I wish I was exaggerating but I’m not. I have read entire books in the bathtub. If I’m really feeling stressed out I will put on an old episode of Sex and the City and zone out completely. There is something about 90’s nostalgia that I find really relaxing!
Turn off your phone, computer and TV for 24 hours
I spend an absurd amount of time on my cellphone. It’s honestly embarassing but I am constantly emailing readers or messaging followers on Instagram. I love being connected to people all the time and I have no idea how I would have been able to survive before the internet. However, sometimes I just have to make myself take a break. It’s hard to really turn inward and process all your stuff when you’re picking up your cell phone every two minutes.
Write down affirmations for the week
If you follow me online you know that I am beyond obsessed with affirmations. I write them in my journal every single morning and they help me step into the person I am trying to become. I think the key is to find affirmations that really resonate with you and help you feel like an upleveled version of yourself.
Join a support group
Being around people that support you and understand what you’re going through is priceless. It is a blessing if you have family or friends that can support you but not everyone has that. I managed my mental health for years all by myself. You can come and join my free mental health support group on Facebook if you would like to connect with other women who are also on a mental health journey.
Spending time outside always helps me clear my head and makes me feel refreshed. This morning I got up super early and went for a sunrise run on the beach. It was spectacular and it made me feel at peace and inspired. I was so glad I took the time to get outside because it really set the tone for the rest of my day.
Write a bucket list of things you want to do in your lifetime
We’re only here for a limited time so I suggest you figure out what you want to experience in your lifetime. Only write down things that really excite you or that you think would be really awesome. Don’t be afraid to dream big. This is you freaking bucket list and it’s not a place to hold back. Who do you want to meet? Where do you want to go?
Listen to stand up comedy on Pandora
Standup comedy is one of my favorite things. If you’re having a crappy mood I strongly suggest you stream some standup comedy immediately. I love lisening to it on stations like Spotify or Pandora because you can discover new people you haven’t heard of before.
Clean your room
I like to do a deep clean of my bedroom at night before I go to sleep so it is completely clean when I wake up in the morning. It is such a nice way to start the day. Declutter all your stuff, dust all your shelfs and put clean sheets on your bed before you go to bed. Trust me, when you wake up in the morning it’s a game changer.
Have a dance party
Dance parties are my favorite way to cheer myself up instantly. If you’re going to do this I challenge you to really commit and go all in. You need to dance freaking HARD! Put on your all time favorite song and dance your face off.
Challenge yourself to drink a shit ton of water
I am bad at drinking water but there are so many health benefits that I am really trying to be better about it. This is such an easy thing to do for self-care and I’m really trying to do better. I definitly notice a difference in my energy levels when I drink enough water.
This is my free exercise of choice. I am not good at running but I do it anyways because I like how I feel for the rest of the day when I run in the morning. I usually run a little bit and walk a little bit. The walking breaks make the whole thing seem less terrible (I hate running while I’m doing it) and help me keep going longer.
Volunteer at an animal shelter
Is there any better self-care than taking care of animals? I got my dog Charlie from an animal rescue so I am really passionate about helping shelter animals. If you can’t adopt a pet just go to the shelter and volunteer. They always need people to walk dogs and help out.
Watch a sunset
I am obsessed with sunrises and sunsets lately. Make it your mission to find the best sunset spot in your city and test out a bunch of different locations. There is something really peaceful and magical to me about the golden hour and it always makes me feel good.
Watch some TED talks
I like to listen to TED talks while I clean or get ready in the morning. There are TED talks on just about every topic under the sun at this point. Dive into a topic or school of thought that you haven’t heard a lot about before. Listening to TED talks is an easy way to get new information.
Go to bed early
Sleep is probably my favorite activities and I am fanatical about getting enough sleep every night. I just can’t function if I don’t get enough sleep. I’ve never been one of those people who could pull an all-nighter and catch up on sleep later. If you have trouble going to bed early I suggest getting up really early. When my schedule gets out of wack I make myself get up at 4am and stay awake all day. By the time 10pm rolls around I’m ready to crawl into bed.
Make plans to see friends that make you happy
If you don’t have friends that can make you laugh until you cry I really suggest that you get some. My friends are really funny but I don’t see them often. Reach out to your funniest friend and make plans with them this week.
See if there are any free museums where you live
I love spending the afternoon wandering around the art museum where I live. Look on the website for your city and see if there are any free museums you can try out. The one where my parents live is free for residents.
Find an organization to volunteer for
This is great self-care for you because you get all the warm fuzzies but it is also great for your community. Find an organization that you feel passionately about and commit to donating a certain amount of time there every month.
Invite friends over to play board games
I’m really trying to have people over to my house more often. It is so nice to connect with someone in a relaxing environment instead of having to go out to a restaurant or bar all the time. Invite your friends over.
Declutter your house and see how much stuff you can get rid of
Challenge yourself to see how much stuff you can donate to charity. Go through all your drawers and closets and purge everything that you’re not longer using. It’s so easy to let our homes accumulate a massive amount of stuff. Going through and doing a big purge is a great activity to do for your future self. You don’t want to be locked down by a bunch of stuff you’re not even using.
I love goal setting. I like to set huge big dream goals and then start breaking them down into smaller goals. I usually have a year-long goal that I break down into three-month chunks. I then use these quarterly goals to help me set me intentions and priorities each month. When I sit down to write my daily to do list I always have the goals for the month in mind. Have a dream session where you decide what you want to accomplish in your lifetime.
I wanted to start a blog for years before I launched this site. I was always too scared about what people would think and I put it off for years. I really wish I had launched it sooner because it is the best thing that ever happened to me! If you have been wanting to start a blog do it!
Watch some motivational speeches
I am a personal development geek and I love motivational speeches. Sometimes I go online and just watch graduation speeches. I love the idea of going out into the world and living out your purpose and most graduation speeches bring in those themes.
Working out is the number one thing I do to manage my mental health. If I don’t stay on top of my workouts my depression quickly starts to take over my life. There are so many awesome free workouts on YouTube you can try. It’s actually really amazing how many good free fitness classes there are online.
Pick up trash in your neighborhood
Here’s a quick and easy good deed you can do right now. You get the trash out of your neighborhood and exercise at the same time. Plus you’re helping mother nature out. Win win.
Build a fort
Challenge yourself to build an Instagram worthy fort and then have a movie night in it. You will look cool as heck on the internet plus building forts is just good old-fashioned fun.
Take a nap
Like I said, I love sleeping. If you’re feeling run down take a nap and get some extra rest. Sometimes a nap is exactly what we need to help us get back to feeling our best.
I love writing in my journal. I carry one with me everywhere I go and I write everything in it from short stories and poems to feelings, affirmations. If you’re feeling emotional or having a hard time challenge yourself to just free write for fifteen minutes. You will be surprised at how cathartic it is to just let it all out. There is something really therapeutic about being able to say anything and know that no one else will read it.
Play with a pet
I am obsessed with my dog. He makes every single day of my life a little better. Find a cute animal and give it some pets!
Find a local club to join
It can be really difficult to meet new people as an adult. See if there are any organizations or clubs you can join where you live. It is always great to be able to connect with new people.
Read articles on Wikipedia on a topic that interests you
I can spend hours on the internet just reading about random topics. It’s a fun way to kill time but it also makes me feel productive because I’m learning new information.
There’s something so relaxing about just laying back and watching the stars. My family always did this on our family vacations so I associate it with relaxing and having fun.
Riding bikes is the best. It’s exercise and it’s fun combined into one. I have been setting a goal to go for at least one bike ride a week for the rest of the year.
Bonus points if you give the bouquet to a friend. I used to have a partner that would pick me wildflowers all the time and it was my favorite thing.
Organize your closet
There’s something so wonderful to me about having all of my clothes organized. I am a mess person so anytime everything is put away and organized it feels like a special treat.
Swing on a swingset
This is just always fun
Learn something new
You can teach yourself just about anything on the internet. What have you always wanted to learn how to do? I am teaching myself how to shoot and edit video just by googling questions and watching YouTube videos.
Do your hair and makeup
Sometimes I will do my makeup even when I’m not going out. I just really like to do a full face of makeup like the beauty gurus. It’s a fun way to try out a crazy eye makeup look and just really go all in.
Who could you forgive right now? What are you holding onto that you would like to be free of? Write a letter to that person and forgive them. You don’t have to tell the person you forgave them, that’s not the point. The point is for you to let go of the negative feelings you are holding onto and set yourself free.
Cancel plans and stay home
I try not to cancel plans too often because I want my friends to know that I value them. However, everyonce and awhile it is nice to cancel plans when you’re not feeling it and spend the evening reading books in bed instead.
Write a to-do list
Having a to-do list is essential to managing my anxiety. When I have everything I need to do written down I tend to worry less and feel more peaceful overall. If I start worrying about getting something done I just add it to the list.
Share something positive on social media
Facebook needs more positive posts! Share a video of a panda. People love to complain about how negative social media is but I challenge you to add something positive instead of complaining.
Take selfies and share the best ones
People love to shame other people for posting selfies. Don’t let those negative people stop you from feeling good and celebrating yourself. Anyone complaining about girls posting selfies on social media isn’t living their best life and should not be taken seriously.
Learn a new language
Again, you can do this for free on the internet! Can you believe we live in this world??
Wash your sheets
Clean sheets are my favorite thing in this world. I feel like a ritch queen when I have freshly washed sheets.
I hope this list helps you think of some self-care activities you can do today. Taking care of yourself is so important and it will help you show up stronger for everyone in your life. Self-care doesn’t have to cost money. Make your own list of free self-care activities that you like to do and keep it handy so you remember to do them. Yeah, going to a spa is great but you still need to take care of yourself when money is tight. Get in the habit of practicing free self-care and save the extravagant items for special occasions. If you’re interested in more mental health resources be sure to check out my posts on depression and anxiety.
I am not a licensed therapist or mental health professional. If you are suffering from a major disorder and need treatment please seek the help of a professional. If you need help finding a mental health care provider call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visit BetterHelp to talk to a certified therapist online at an affordable price. You can download a free printable list of hotlines here and join the free mental health support group on Facebook here. This post contains affiliate links, you can read my full disclosure policy here.
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