What comes to mind when you think of self-care? Is it buying yourself expensive gifts? Is it paying for 90-minute massage sessions?
Self-care doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. In fact, some of the best things you can do for yourself are entirely free.
Here are five ways to incorporate self-care into your daily routine:
Exercise is perhaps the ultimate form of self-care. Everything from lifting weights to jogging helps contribute to your physical and mental health in so many ways. It shouldn’t surprise you that working out helps build muscle, reduce fat, strengthen bones, and diminish the risk of various diseases. However, most people overlook the psychological benefits such as increased mood, memory, concentration, and willpower.
However, 80% of Americans aren’t getting the weekly recommended amount of exercise, according to the CDC. The CDC says adults should get 150-300 minutes of moderate exercise or 75-150 minutes of vigorous exercise weekly. They also suggest that adults should practice on muscle-building activities twice a week.
If you need any more proof, 76% of self-made millionaires exercise every day. The data comes from author Tom Corley who spent five years researching the daily habits of wealthy people. Many billionaires such as Oprah Winfrey and Richard Branson also regularly work out.
Meditation, much like exercise, has so many benefits that it would be impossible to count them all. Plus, meditation is very simple and doesn’t require any equipment or memberships.
One study found that a mere two weeks of mindfulness training helped participants improve memory and focus. A different study found that an eight-week mindfulness course helped reduce anxiety as far as three years the course finished. There’s even evidence that mindfulness-based programs help people combat insomnia and get better quality sleep.
Start by setting a timer for five minutes. Sit back, close your eyes, and focus on counting your breaths. Try to clear the mind of any distracting or fleeting thoughts
One study published in Psychotherapy Research examined how gratitude could change the lives of almost 300 adults. Most were in college and seeking some form of mental health treatment for conditions such as depression and anxiety.
Researchers assigned them one of three writing exercises:
The first group wrote a gratitude letter to someone once a week.
The second group wrote about negative experiences.
The third group received no assignment.
Researchers examined participants four and twelve weeks after the experiment started. They discovered that the gratitude writing group reported remarkably better mental health when compared to their counterparts.
Three months later, researchers followed up with another experiment. First, researchers hooked up participants to an fMRI scanner. Then, the researchers gave each participant some money and asked if they’d like to “pay it forward” by donating any amount to charity. Finally, the researchers asked participants questions about how they felt about the benefactor, charity, and life in general.
The most startling discovery was that gratitude has enduring effects on the brain. The fMRI scans found that the gratitude writers had increased activity in the medial prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain associated with making decisions and learning.
Practicing gratitude is easy. You can start a gratitude journal where you write down 3-5 things you’re grateful for. Do this 2-3 times a week. When writing, be as specific as possible by going into detail what you appreciate and why.
Make a To-Do List
Writing a to-do list is easy and helps you organize your day. Busy adults often feel overwhelmed with all the things they say they must accomplish – laundry, job applications, paying bills, cleaning, cooking, and so forth.
Crafting a to-do list is the best way to determine what you need to finish. You can take as little as a few minutes to decide what needs to be completed by the end of today and what should wait until tomorrow. Pen and paper is the classic method, but consider putting your tasks on a digital calendar. This way, you’ll create a productive schedule that tells you when to complete specific items.
When writing, ask yourself how essential each task is. Which items will help you accomplish your dream goals? Which ones are regular upkeep tasks that aren’t as impactful? Which ones can you eliminate?
Do you know who lives to read? Bill Gates. Warren Buffett. Mark Cuban. Oprah Winfrey. Elon Musk.
These ultra-rich and successful billionaires contribute at least part of their success to their voracious appetite for literature. Bill Gates famously reads 50 books annually. Warren Buffett learned to invest by reading as much as he could. Now he spends about 80% of his time reading and thinking. Elon Musk’s reading habits helped him learn rocket science and fear A.I.
Per Corley’s research, most self-made millionaires listen to audiobooks on the way to work. They also prefer to read news, biographies, career development, self-improvement, and history. Only 11% read fiction. (Don’t fret if you love fiction. Research shows that it helps improve empathy.)
Do you already incorporate one or more of these practices into your daily life? Start by performing one or more of these items into your morning routine. It takes about 66 days for people to form new habits. Working on developing these habits will ensure that you are improving yourself every day.