One massively common misconception about self-care (which, btw, is a non-negotiable, fundamental part of your healthcare regimen) is that it’s all expensive spa days and luxurious body-care treatments. Let’s reframe self-care for ya, because truly — we all need more self-care, especially in 2020. And spoiler alert, there are thousands of free self-care activities that serve to mitigate stress, support a healthy mind and body, and ensure you’re taking adequate time for restoration.
The best part? You don’t need a gym membership, a massage appointment, or a pricey meal subscription to get started.
Ahead, nine of our favorite ideas, and five of Jonathan Van Ness’s go-to self-care activities.
9 Free Self-Care Activities
#1 Take Your Shoes Off
Earthing (sometimes called ‘grounding’) is a technique in which you remove your shoes and make contact with the earth, whether that’s the grass in your local park, the dirt in your garden, or the sand at the beach. Physical contact with the earth and submerging yourself in nature is known to have soothing effects. And, it definitely doesn’t hurt to spend some time in nature, going barefoot, and feeling a little more free.
#2 Go For An Early Morning Walk
There are so many reasons why a daily morning walk is the ultimate free self-care tip. For starters, a morning routine can help set the tone for a healthier, happier, more balanced, and productive day.
The simplicity of creating a basic regimen gets your mind (and body) on track. Second, a consistent wake-up time and getting some sunlight (30 minutes, to be exact) within an hour of waking up can both regulate your circadian rhythm and help you get better sleep (thus helping you manage stress, recover better, and more).
And thirdly, low-impact, low-intensity cardio (sometimes called LISS) is great for keeping your body and brain in a state of vivacity and health. This is a serious win, and it’s so simple! Go with your dog, your roommate, your partner, a friend, or by yourself — and soak in some fresh air.
If you’re still not totally sure you’re interested in daily journaling, perhaps some science-backed data will change your mind. A thrice-weekly journaling practice (of just 15-20 minutes per day) could yield “significantly better physical and psychological outcomes,” according to one study. This pen-to-paper exercise may help reduce stress, sharpen memory, boost mood, and overall, add positive value to your life.
#4 Do Some Yoga
We can’t talk about free self-care without mentioning exercise, and we know, we know — you’ve heard this one before. But sometimes you just need a reminder that yoga is so dang exceptional so you can re-motivate yourself to get into those asanas. Yoga may also help boost energy, improve physiological function, and help you manage stress.
#5 Start a Workout Challenge With Your Friends
Another zero-cost way to support your health and manage your mood is (obviously) exercise — but if you want to up the ante, we have a hot tip. You’ll be more likely to stick to this routine if you grab a few friends (or family, or coworkers) and start a challenge.
Heads up — you can create your own challenges right in the FitOn app and invite your friends to join.
This one is pretty damn hard for most people, especially in today’s hyper-digital age … but we believe in you. Try to unplug for at least an hour each day. Need some tech-free activity ideas?
- Cook a meal (don’t forget to print your recipe if you need to!)
- Do a jigsaw puzzle
- Grab that journal (from tip #3!)
- Read a paperback or hardcover book
- Organize a cabinet or closet
- Color, paint, draw
- Play an instrument
There are so many things to do beyond the confines of your screen.
#7 Spend Time With Animals
For those of you who have pets or access to animals, it’s time to take advantage of the soothing, mood-balancing magic that these special creatures can provide.
Whether it’s your family dog, a rescued kitten, a horse, tortoise, or guinea pig, time spent with an animal has proven to have profound benefits, according to studies (and therapists recommend this all the time).
Spending time with your pup is free, of course. But if you don’t have an animal at home, you can always volunteer at a local shelter or adoption center, and get double the mental health benefits: the feel-good effects of charity work and time with furry friends.
#8 Try Heat Therapy
You don’t need an infrared sauna to warm your way to a calm mood! For this free self-care tip, make yourself a warm cup of tea or some soup; take a bath or warm shower; snuggle up under a blanket; use a heating pad. There’s some evidence that warming up your body ever so slightly with one of these nurturing activities may help ease feelings of anxiety and help you get into a restful, contented state.
Therapists and doctors will agree that one of the best, most important parts of your mental and physical wellness regimen is sleep. It is so foundational, yet so neglected. Make good quality sleep a luxurious habit — get into bed early, keep the screens away, maybe diffuse some essential oils, have a wind-down routine with skincare, or even a facial mask — you get the picture.
JVN’s Free Self-Care Techniques
Jonathan Van Ness shared his favorite free self-care tips as well:
Try Them All
You have no money to lose, and all the self-care to gain! Try each of these over the next couple weeks, and keep note of how you feel. See which tips and tricks work best for you, your mood, and your overall health — and before you know it, you’ll have a complete (and completely free) self-care routine on your hands.