Self care can seem, well, selfish. After all, it has “self” right in the name and is time that’s focused exclusively on yourself. For the uninitiated, self care is purposefully and purposely chosen time dedicated to caring for your own health and psychological needs.
Psychologists say this type of “me time” is healthy and important to having healthy relationships with others. So, it’s not selfish! But with jam-packed schedules involving family, kids and work, you may not have time to slip in a spa day on the regular. That’s OK: You can practice self care every day at home with these easy tips that actually fit into your busy schedule. Choose some that you will enjoy and that fit your needs so you can be the best, healthiest, happiest version of you—both for yourself and for all you do for those you love.
Show yourself some love with these seven simple tips for self care at home:
1. Start with sleep.
It’s one of the simplest ways to promote proper health: Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep. But more than one-third of Americans—including almost 40 percent of people between the ages of 25 and 54—don’t make the mark, says the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
A lack of sleep, of course, messes with your attitude. According to the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, research shows that lack of sleep can make you overreact to negative stimuli in your life and notice less of the positive things.
Your sleeping habits can also impact your weight loss goals. Lost sleep can make you more likely to snack on “highly palatable, rewarding snacks,” such as cookies, chips and candy, says the University of Chicago News. According to CBS News, lack of sleep can also cost you productivity at work and even literally kill you: Sleeping fewer than 6 hours per night increases your risk of early death by 13 percent.
Make a good night’s sleep a priority. Set an earlier bedtime if you need to, but also make your bedroom a more slumber-friendly space. Make your room as dark as possible and avoid looking at your electronic devices. According Harvard Health Publishing, multiple studies have shown that exposure to blue light can suppress melatonin and impact the circadian rhythm. The National Sleep Foundation says that 71 percent of us go to bed with our smartphones, exposing ourselves to blue light that suppresses melatonin. In fact, when it comes to self care…
2. Give yourself some phone-free time.
When you view stressful things happening in other people’s lives on social media, you can actually “catch” that stress—your stress levels can increase because of these events happening to other people, says Pew Research Center. According to Science Daily, scientists at Lancaster University have found that certain social media can create a kind of stressful loop: One feature of the platform stresses you out, so you seek to distract from that stress, or cope, by looking at another feature… which also stresses you out.
Give yourself a break. Take some scheduled time away from your phone and your social media. Put the device on “Do Not Disturb” while concentrating on your self care activities, and you could reduce this contagious, self-reinforcing stress.
3. Move your body.
You already know the physical benefits of exercise—lower risks of heart disease and stroke, better sleep, a rockin’ booty. But moving your body also has powerful effects on your mood and mental health, according to numerous studies. In one study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, scientists examined the exercise habits and mental health of 1.2 million people. They found that those who exercised regularly had about 43 percent fewer days of “bad self-reported mental health” in a month compared to those who didn’t exercise.
You don’t have to become a powerlifter to reap these benefits, though. In the study, people who played some kind of team sport or rode a bike had the best results. But even just completing household chores had a powerful effect, reducing those “bad mental health” days by 10 percent.
Here at Nutrisystem, we recommend 30 minutes of physical activity per day. If you don’t love to exercise, start with a short walk. A 2015 study, published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, found that walks of even just two minutes every hour reduced the risk of all-cause mortality—early death—by 33 percent. Put a reminder in your phone to get up and move for an hourly burst of self care.
4. Spend 20 minutes outside.
About one-third of an hour outdoors can boost feelings of “life satisfaction” by more than 60 percent, according to a study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Health Research. However, getting out of the house—even on days when you’re “stuck at home” has plenty of other health benefits, too.
For starters, you’ll get more vitamin D: It’s estimated that 35 percent of Americans are deficient in D, says research, published in StatPearls. They explain that vitamin D deficiency is linked to osteoporosis, cancer, diabetes, depression, autoimmune disorders and heart disease.
According to ScienceDaily, “Exposing skin to sunlight may help to reduce blood pressure and thus cut the risk of heart attack and stroke.” The study findings, published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, show that outdoor time in the sun dilates blood vessels, leading to the drop in pressure
So, set a timer and get outside! You don’t even have to do anything. Research, published in Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine, found that when people in Japan went “forest bathing,” a popular activity where they just go sit in the woods, they experienced a reduction in their cortisol levels and blood pressure.
5. Eat something that will improve your gut health.
Foods with probiotics, like yogurt, can help lower your blood pressure, improve your oral health and boost your immune system—not to mention the benefits for your waistline. The bacteria in your gut also affects your brain and emotions.
In one study, published in Gastroenterology, scientists gave one group of women a probiotic yogurt two times daily, while another group didn’t get the good bacteria. After four weeks, both groups were given an “emotional task,” a matching test involving pictures of faces. Brain analysis during the task showed that the yogurt-eating group had calmer brains during this test, while the no-yogurt group showed brain “hyperactivity” during the task. Good gut health means a calmer mind that reacts better to problems—exactly what you’re looking for in self care.
6. Write two thank you notes.
Showing gratitude has been shown to make you feel better and live longer. According to Harvard Health Publishing, “Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, tested the impact of various positive psychology interventions on 411 people.” It was found that when study subjects wrote a note of gratitude to someone they hadn’t properly thanked, this led to a large, immediate increase in their happiness scores—with some of those feel-good benefits lasting for a month.
But the benefits of gratitude don’t stop at happiness. Your physical health may also be impacted by this positive habit. In a study of heart patients, those who kept a daily gratitude journal, writing down two or three things they were thankful for each day, decreased inflammation and improved their heart rhythms in two months, says Greater Good Magazine. Psychology Today explains, “Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than other people, according to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences.”
Why two thank you notes? Because one’s for you. After you’ve tapped out a quick note or text of thanks to someone you love or want to thank, take a few moments to thank yourself for something you did—for exercising, making a good choice or even just taking the time for self care.
7. Schedule it!
It’s easy to let caring for yourself fall to the wayside when you’ve got so many other things on your schedule. However, all the other things on your schedule are exactly why you need (and deserve) self care. There’s a simple way make sure it fits into your schedule: put it in your schedule! Make certain types of self care non-negotiable, must-do items in your daily or weekly routine. That way, you won’t have to try to slip them in—these practices will already be there, ready to help you feel better and be your best for all the other amazing things you do.