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45 Simple Self-Care Practices for a Healthy Mind, Body, and Soul

Woman at a Spa

“There are days I drop words of comfort on myself like falling leaves and remember that it is enough to be taken care of by myself.” ~Brian Andreas

Do you ever forget to take care of yourself?

I know. You’re busy, and finding the time to take proper care of yourself can be hard. But if you don’t, it won’t be long before you’re battered from exhaustion and operating in a mental fog where it’s hard to care about anything or anyone.

I should know.

A few years ago, I had a corporate job in London, working a regular sixty-hour week. I enjoyed working with my clients and colleagues, and I wanted to do well.

But I had no life.

I rarely took care of myself, and I was always focused on goals, achievements, and meeting the excessive expectations I had of myself. My high tolerance for discomfort meant I juggled all the balls I had in the air—but at the expense of being a well-rounded human being.

So I made an unusual choice. I quit my job and moved to Thailand to work in a freelance capacity across many different countries and companies, which enabled me to set my own hours and engagements.

I began to take care of myself better, scheduling in time alone, for exercise and for fun.

I got to know myself better and know what I needed—not just to function, but to flourish.

But guess what?

At the end of last year, I spent Christmas alone in bed, completely exhausted.

Why did this happen?

Well, I had been running my busy website and consulting in seven countries in just two months. I forgot to take care of myself again, and I got a nasty case of strep throat.

Self-Care Isn’t a One-Time Deal

The strep throat was a harsh reminder that self-care isn’t something you do once and tick off the list.

It’s the constant repetition of many tiny habits, which together soothe you and make sure you’re at your optimum—emotionally, physically, and mentally.

The best way to do this is to implement tiny self-care habits every day. To regularly include in your life a little bit of love and attention for your own body, mind, and soul.

The following ideas are tiny self-care activities you can fit into a short amount of time, usually with little cost.

Pick one from each category, and include them in your life this week.

Tiny Self-Care Ideas for the Mind

1. Start a compliments file. Document the great things people say about you to read later.

2. Scratch off a lurker on your to-do list, something that’s been there for ages and you’ll never do.

3. Change up the way you make decisions. Decide something with your heart if you usually use your head. Or if you tend to go with your heart, decide with your head.

4. Go cloud-watching. Lie on your back, relax, and watch the sky.

5. Take another route to work. Mixing up your routine in small ways creates new neural pathways in the brain to keep it healthy.

6. Pay complete attention to something you usually do on autopilot, perhaps brushing your teeth, driving, eating, or performing your morning routine.

7. Goof around for a bit. Schedule in five minutes of “play” (non-directed activity) several times throughout your day.

8. Create a deliberate habit, and routinize something small in your life by doing it in the same way each day—what you wear on Tuesdays, or picking up the dental floss before you brush.

9. Fix a small annoyance at home that’s been nagging you—a button lost, a drawer that’s stuck, a light bulb that’s gone.

10. Punctuate your day with a mini-meditation with one minute of awareness of your thoughts, feelings, and sensations; one minute of focused attention on breathing; and one minute of awareness of the body as a whole.

11. Be selfish. Do one thing today just because it makes you happy.

12. Do a mini-declutter. Recycle three things from your wardrobe that you don’t love or regularly wear.

13. Unplug for an hour. Switch everything to airplane mode and free yourself from the constant bings of social media and email.

14. Get out of your comfort zone, even if it’s just talking to a stranger at the bus stop.

15. Edit your social media feeds, and take out any negative people. You can just “mute” them; you don’t have to delete them. 

Tiny Self-Care Ideas for the Body

1. Give your body ten minutes of mindful attention. Use the body scan technique to check in with each part of your body.

2. Oxygenate by taking three deep breaths. Breathe into your abdomen, and let the air puff out your stomach and chest.

3. Get down and boogie. Put on your favorite upbeat record and shake your booty.

4. Stretch out the kinks. If you’re at work, you can always head to the bathroom to avoid strange looks.

5. Run (or walk, depending on your current physical health) for a few minutes. Or go up and down the stairs three times.

6. Narrow your food choices. Pick two healthy breakfasts, lunches, and dinners and rotate for the week.

7. Activate your self-soothing system. Stroke your own arm, or if that feels too weird, moisturize.

8. Get to know yourself intimately. Look lovingly and without judgment at yourself naked. (Use a mirror to make sure you get to know all of you!)

9. Make one small change to your diet for the week. Drink an extra glass of water each day, or have an extra portion of veggies each meal.

10. Give your body a treat. Pick something from your wardrobe that feels great next to your skin.

11. Be still. Sit somewhere green, and be quiet for a few minutes.

12. Get fifteen minutes of sun, especially if you’re in a cold climate. (Use sunscreen if appropriate.)

13. Inhale an upbeat smell. Try peppermint to suppress food cravings and boost mood and motivation.

14. Have a good laugh. Read a couple of comic strips that you enjoy. (For inspiration, try Calvin and Hobbes, Dilbert, or xkcd.)

15. Take a quick nap. Ten to twenty minutes can reduce your sleep debt and leave you ready for action.

Tiny Self-Care Ideas for the Soul

1. Imagine you’re your best friend. If you were, what would you tell yourself right now? Look in the mirror and say it.

2. Use your commute for a “Beauty Scavenger Hunt.” Find five unexpected beautiful things on your way to work.

3. Help someone. Carry a bag, open a door, or pick up an extra carton of milk for a neighbor.

4. Check in with your emotions. Sit quietly and just name without judgment what you’re feeling.

5. Write out your thoughts. Go for fifteen minutes on anything bothering you. Then let it go as you burn or bin the paper.

6. Choose who you spend your time with today. Hang out with “Radiators” who emit enthusiasm and positivity, and not “Drains” whose pessimism and negativity robs energy.

7. Stroke a pet. If you don’t have one, go to the park and find one. (Ask first!)

8. Get positive feedback. Ask three good friends to tell you what they love about you.

9. Make a small connection. Have a few sentences of conversation with someone in customer service such as a sales assistant or barista.

10. Splurge a little. Buy a small luxury as a way of valuing yourself.

11. Have a self-date. Spend an hour alone doing something that nourishes you (reading, your hobby, visiting a museum or gallery, etc.)

12. Exercise a signature strength. Think about what you’re good at, and find an opportunity for it today.

13. Take a home spa. Have a long bath or shower, sit around in your bathrobe, and read magazines.

14. Ask for help—big or small, but reach out.

15. Plan a two-day holiday for next weekend. Turn off your phone, tell people you’ll be away, and then do something new in your own town.

Little and Often Wins the Day

With a little bit of attention to your own self-care, the fog will lift.

You’ll feel more connected to yourself and the world around you.

You’ll delight in small pleasures, and nothing will seem quite as difficult as it did before.

Like that car, you must keep yourself tuned up to make sure that you don’t need a complete overhaul.

Incorporating a few of these tiny self-care ideas in your day will help keep you in tune.

Which one will you try first?

Woman at a spa image via Shutterstock

Profile photo of Ellen Bard

About Ellen Bard

Ellen Bard’s mission is to help you shine more brightly at work and in life. She has a fancy degree, works with those who are too tough on themselves, and loves all things that sparkle. For the free cheat sheet: 5 Unusual Ways to Take Care of Yourself, click over to EllenBard.com.

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  • Hi Ellen
    I loved your tips. I really liked that one about the compliments file..we can really be so critical of ourselves, and while we technically don’t need any sort of validation from the outside, it is nice when other people say nice things about us! It is all about where we put our focus and that little exercise can really help condition our minds to go towards what is good about us and not what is wrong or needs to be ‘fixed.

    I resonated with what you said about a high tolerance for discomfort..that is one of the biggest problems. We put ourselves through so much crap we tend not to change until we literally can’t take it anymore and it doesn’t have to be that way. Unfortunately, we are conditioned to think being able to put up with a lot of suffering makes us strong or that we have to go through all of that to be ‘deserving’ of our successes.

    Great stuff here!

  • Thanks Kelli, so glad you enjoyed it. The compliments file can be really useful, because our brains are conditioned to be alert for the negative. So it genuinely does take a lot more positive than negative ‘stuff’ in our environment for us to take notice of it. Compliments files (along with gratitude journals etc) are a lovely way to do that.

    Wishing you a gentle day!

  • Rob K

    Ellen- This is great. I rarely take good care. I really like “goof around a bit” especially for those of us with kids. Being silly with them helps you, helps your kids, and lets them see a different side of you.

  • Thanks so much Rob. I love that you goof around – and children can be a great reminder of how to take care of ourselves as they tend to take care of themselves without thinking about it. Wishing you a weekend packed with ‘play’!

  • Ann Njeri Davis

    Ellen, Thanks for the reminder that taking care of myself is just not sleep. I need to pamper myself- taking a home Spa.

  • There are so many ways to take care of ourselves! Which is wonderful 🙂 Enjoy your pampering, and thanks for commenting.

  • Ashley Trexler

    Great list! Especially love the 15 minutes of sun…I make myself do that, especially in the winter! Thanks, Ellen!

  • Yes, it’s so easy to get in the car when it’s dark, work all day and go home when it’s dark in the winter! But vitamin D is vital in taking care of ourselves. Wishing you a sunny weekend!

  • All great tips, Ellen. I’ve got to work on just about every one of these!

  • Sue Anne Dunlevie

    Love these ideas, Ellen. They are so helpful and some I haven’t tried before for my chronic pain.

    Thanks!
    Sue

  • Thanks Anthony, glad you found them helpful. But my advice – pick just one! Overwhelm is the enemy of self-care 🙂 Oh, and have fun with it!

  • Thanks Sue! I have chronic pain issues too, and self-care is a big part of managing that. The stroking yourself one, to activate your internal self-soothing system is a strange-but-useful one to try! Take care of yourself.

  • Sue Anne Dunlevie

    Thanks for the recommendation!

    Sue

  • Very nice list Ellen! My biggest takeaway is “little and often wins the day”. That’s a great one to remember when even self-care feels overwhelming.

  • Nicki Lee

    Excellent suggestions, Ellen. The first thing I’m going to try is the mini-decluttering session. When I made a cross country move a few years ago, I could only take with me what would fit in the car; everything else got donated. I can remember how freeing it felt to not have all of that “stuff” around me. Over the years, the clutter has returned, and I know it affects me negatively. Thanks for encouraging me to clear out a couple things I don’t really need 🙂

  • Joanna

    Great tips, Ellen and what a range!
    I like ‘scheduled play’ – like ‘scheduled procrastination’, it;s great for reigniting our creativity.
    I’ll go and fix that towel hook then – it’s been annoying me forever

  • willsk8sjax

    No matter what, you should pick up (and use) the floss BEFORE you brush.

  • I use that in a lot of ways – if I’m in any kind of overwhelm, it really helps me to move forward. But with self-care it’s so important, if we just invest a few minutes then it can keep us grounded – if we put it off because we ‘don’t have time’ then that’s when we crash and burn. Thanks for reading Susan!

  • Thanks Nicki, and if you do three things a day, it really takes the pressure off, and it’s so much easier, but after a few weeks you will definitely feel lighter! Good luck and take care of yourself 🙂

  • Thanks Joanna. Fixing a small annoyance is one of my favourite ones funnily enough – mainly because so many of us live with teeny tiny annoyances that nonetheless impact our quality of life – but are so easily fixed! Thanks for sharing, and hope you have a playful week 🙂

  • That’s funny, I read a whole article from a dentist the other day that said it didn’t really matter whether we floss before or after brushing, but that we like the clean feeling of brushing after so we tend to brush after. But I’m sure like every topic there are different schools of thought! Thanks for sharing.

    With the Lurker, the idea of that is that (some of us 🙂 ) have items on our to-do list that we keep just carrying forward – the ‘someday’ items we never quite get round too. And that it releases a psychological weight to just admit to ourselves we’re never going to do it (and that the world won’t fall down around us!) and cross them off.

    Not every item will apply to everyone – pick what your heart, mind and soul are crying out for right now, and try those. Be kind to yourself and have a lovely week 🙂

  • willsk8sjax

    Oh, I get it. Thanks, I have many lurkers on my to-do lists. As far as brushing goes, I like to get the food out of my teeth with floss before brushing, that way the bristles get all the way in between my teeth.

  • Me too 🙂 But I accept the right of people to choose 😉

    Good luck with the lurkers – get rid of one this weekend!

  • Helen McCarthy

    Great ideas Elle. We like to sum up each day with an interpretive dance. I think that’d come under “goofing around” and “get down and boogie”. It works for us and always has us laughing!

  • Vee

    Thanks for the practical tips Ellen. I’m going to try ‘Write out your thoughts’ today!

  • Hey Ellen,
    Great post. I can’t chat now – I’m off to stroke my pet. 🙂

  • shantigirl

    Wonderful…thank you!

  • Haha Helen, that sounds like great fun! And a two for one there 😉 Have a play-full weekend 🙂

  • Which has so many benefits! Have a lovely cuddle 🙂

  • Thanks for reading!

  • Thanks so much Vee. Remember to do it with self-compassion! Have a weekend full of wonderful words 🙂

  • Antoniya Koleva Zorluer

    This is a great resource racked with valuable ideas, Ellen, thank you for making this important list for all of us!

  • vivian0942

    ;

  • Thanks Ellen, great to know I’m not the only one virtually burning up even AFTER I’ve chosen to ditch the corporate life and go my own way. It’s a slippery slope and can definitely need a reminder now and then!

  • 🙂 You take your personality with you! Yes, you always need to take care of yourself – sometimes we can feel even more driven and passionate when we’re working for ourselves… hope you take a few minutes to take care of yourself this week!

  • Thanks so much Antoniya, much appreciated – hope you have some fun with it!

  • Mark Tong

    Love the post Ellen – I’ll choose from each category: have a good laugh, unplug & stroke (no -hug!) a pet . Great simple doable ideas.

  • Love it Mark! I’m with family this weekend, and have been stroking my sister’s house rabbit – I can definitely feel the benefit (and hopefully so can the rabbit as she seems to enjoy it!). Have a relaxing weekend 🙂

  • Laura J Tong

    I love your list Ellen, too many good ones to choose from to go for first up. That said I’ll definitely scratch a few lurkers off my list and make time for a good old boogie. Thanks for sharing such a great list of practical ideas to make time for some essential self care.

  • Great list and great timing! One of our favourite ‘self care’ things to do is make a list of all the reasons why we are valuable… don’t know where that fits in your lists but it is so wonderful for changing perspective!

  • Great, that’s fab! I think that’s a tiny mind tip – like a compliments file which you write yourself, perfect 🙂 There are so many more things that you can do to take care of yourself, thanks so much for sharing another idea!

  • Awesome Laura, hope you have a great dance! Getting rid of some lurkers is like a psychological declutter too. Have a wonderful weekend 🙂

  • Ilka Emig

    What an amazing collection of fantastic tips. Thanks so much for sharing Ellen

  • Lynnie

    Thanks, Ellen! Amazing tips. I am bookmarking this page to remind myself. I work full time with a lot of travelling with my job and I have also recently taken on a pretty intense course in my spare time. So, this has meant I have started to neglect looking after me. Remembering to eat, relax and pamper has become a second priority. Thank you again for the tips!! 🙂

  • Hey Ellen, I love this list. Great to see you again on Tiny Buddha!

  • I’m still here

    clean water will help mind, body and soul

  • Thanks so much Ilka, appreciate it. Do share them with anyone else you think that would benefit 🙂

  • Thanks Lynnie – you’re completely right. Sounds like you and I have similar schedules. I’ve really learned (the hard way 😉 ) that self-care is core to making sure we perform optimally. Enjoy however you choose to take care of yourself this week!

  • Thanks Peter, much appreciated! Have a lovely week 🙂

  • ELD

    Very interesting – and very useful. I am going to eliminate one of my lurkers and deal with one of those small annoyances. It always helps to be reminded, Ellen. Thank you.

  • Thanks! Great ones to do, very practical. The lurkers seem to be a popular place to start – I guess a lot of us have things we’re always saying we’re going to do – but probably won’t! Have a great week and thanks for commenting 🙂

  • Hi Ellen. Wonderful and inspirational. Thanks so much for this. I always find being of service to another is a great way to lighten my soul…love that one amongst so many great tips.

  • Hi Ellen! Thanks for the great list! I’ll print it out and put it on the wall next to my desk 🙂

  • This is great! I love the idea of self-care and am trying to implement it more often. It is so easy to get wrapped up in taking care of everyone else and doing all the things I “should” be doing. This is definitely a great reference and reminder to take time for myself daily. I think my favorite idea is to ask for help – I don’t do it often enough and it would make a big impact on my life. Thanks 🙂

  • Great tips Ellen! I can really relate to all of them. Another thing I love doing for my mind is to put my thoughts onto paper or just open a word doc and let my stream of consciousness flow for like 5-10 minutes and do a brain dump to help clear my mind. 🙂

  • Courtney @ I Watch Them Grow

    I love the cloud watching idea! And anything that brings back the carefree of childhood – swinging on a big swing, jumping on a trampoline etc. Thanks for the great list of tips Ellen!

  • Thanks so much Krysten. It’s hard for ask for help, especially if you’re quite self-reliant, but remember that it’s a good feeling to help others – so you’re helping their self-care at the same time as your own 🙂

  • Awesome! You can tick them off as you experiment with them – just remember not to make self-care a chore 😉 Take care of yourself!

  • Thanks so much Elle! You offer so much help to others with your blog already. Wishing you light and love 🙂

  • Me too Courtney – I think everyone should look up more often, to the clouds, to interesting buildings and architecture. We too often have our gazes on the floor. Thanks for commenting and some other great ideas there!

  • Definitely Theresa. I do morning pages (from The Artist’s Way) every morning and it really helps me clear my brain out of any big worries. Thanks for suggesting it, and have a wonderful week.

  • Great post, Ellen!

    I think I will have to start with cloud watching and perhaps be a little bit more selfish now and then 😉

    Thanks for the great tips!

    Tor

  • Angela Anderson

    Great tips! We often focus on the negatives, and a compliment file is a great way to help refocus on the positives. (I wonder if there’s an app for that 🙂 Thanks!

  • Haha, bound to be an app Angela 🙂 Or a new market if not! Good luck with the compliments file and have a positive week.

  • Thanks Tor. Self-care is most definitely not selfish. You need to put your own lifejacket on first before you help anyone else with theirs 🙂 Enjoy your week!

  • Cherryl Chow

    What a wonderful list of tips, Ellen! Your post reminded me that I forgot to do a mini meditation this morning. And reminded me that connecting with others is a great way to be kind to myself and kind to others.

  • Thanks Cheryl. A mini meditation is a great way to start the day – but don’t be too hard on yourself if you forget 🙂 As an introvert, connecting with others in person is always one I have to remind myself to make sure I do. Wishing you a week with some quality-people-time!

  • Very nice post Ellen! So many simple and easy things that I forget to do. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with everyday business. This is a great list of reminders. Thank you.

  • Thanks Jessica! It’s easier than we think to take care of ourselves for sure – but you’re right, we always seem to deprioritise it. Have a gentle week!

  • Really awesome stuff Ellen, love reading these types of lists and looking to implement them in my day.

  • Thanks Austin, hopefully they’re nice and simple (and tiny 😉 ) so enjoy getting started.

  • Thank you for great article! I love especially “Fix a small annoyance at home that’s been nagging you—a button lost, a drawer that’s stuck, a light bulb that’s gone.” I am going to make a whole list of things around the house that make me nuts and go them! 🙂 I already can feel how happier I am just by thinking I am going to get rid of them!! Whahooo!!

  • Thanks Lolita, these are the small ‘brain-clutter’, or nagging annoyances that are a real drain – and yet they often only take a few minutes to sort! Good luck with the list – wishing you a happy week 🙂

  • Loretta

    Great article Ellen! Can I print it out and share with a group I am speaking to about self care this week?

  • Thanks Loretta, feel free to share but do send them all back to Tiny Buddha as there’s so much wonderful advice here from Lori and all the other amazing contributors!

  • Loretta

    Oh, absolutely! I love tinybuddha! Thanks so much.

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  • darren

    Thanks for great tips

  • Thanks for reading Darren 🙂

  • sheng

    I just found out about your article and I’ve read the reviews. It seems that you’ve help them and with that I also want to take the steps they choose to follow. I need it. I felt so empty right NOW. Thanks ahead. Mayyou continue to bring light to the dark world we are in.

  • sheng

    hi ms ellen..i wanted to share my own story to you. It has been a year since I worked in a company. Right now, I am doing my own business. Lately, I felt so down, weary..I don’t where it comes from..Its like Im going crazy thinking about how lonely I am..I can’t hear my heart and I lack clear judgment on some things..Yup the term no sense of direction. I woke up in the morning, but I am dragging my body to do productive things. Late in the afternoon, I want to sit in our church and sometimes I do cry. On the other hand, I have a loving family. I dont have siblings. My parents give their love to me even in my worst days.
    Hope you’ll be able to read my post. Best regards.

  • I absolutely love this list. While I was reading it I was going “yes, yes and yes!”. Thank you for sharing!

  • Big thanks Ellen. For Tiny Self-Care Ideas for the Mind, I do 10 and 11 every day.
    For Tiny Self-Care Ideas for the Body, I bought a diffuser (which I recommend to everyone) a couple of years ago and I can say that peppermint is an awesome perk me up. For Tiny Self-Care Ideas for the Soul, I do 11 daily too. And number 1 is such an interesting approach!

  • Love these tips! I’m finding that incorporating small habits of self care don’t overwhelm me and I give grace to myself when I don’t do them on a daily habit. Tomorrow is a new day and new opportunity.

  • Kevin Herrington

    Thank you Ellen. Btw ~ you are very pretty in that picture.

  • Windy

    Great list! Do you have any advice for someone who deal’s with depression on normal daily self care?

  • Mariella Salas

    So many on the list help!

    -Focusing on breathing for 5 minutes a day.

    -Sitting with yourself and (no matter how scary it may be) pay attention to how you feel without judging yourself.

    -Take a bath and bring a nice book with you.

    -Open up to a friend.

    -Be patient with yourself.

  • Esther Earnest

    Omg! Life wasn’t treating me unfair, not realizing it was me not excepting,forgiving, loving myself all this time. So easy if only I would of listened to myself. Thankyou so much for opening this door of happiness!

  • Juslymnluvinme

    After reading over these helpful self care tips, this will he me to get rid of these negative thoughts and energy. This will also teach me to love and put myself first. Let today be the start of the new me. Great Job and I want to thank you so much.

  • Well done on going down this path Sheng. Looking after yourself will help you with that emptiness, but don’t forget to seek professional help if you feel like things are too hard for you to cope with alone.

  • Thanks so much Murielle, really appreciate that – hope you have been working on them!

  • Great idea! I’m a real lover of beautiful scents, and peppermint is a great pick-me-up. Thanks for sharing.

  • I definitely agree with the idea of small habits Angela – there’s no point starting something that then is just another way of exhausting and putting pressure on yourself 🙂

  • Thanks so much Natalie, your feedback is much appreciated!

  • Thanks Kevin!

  • Those sound like a great place to start – though maybe just pick one at first, so you’re easily able to maintain momentum with the habit.

  • Thanks very much for reading. Hopefully these ideas and the other many great suggestions on the tinybuddha website will help you in your journey. Be kind to yourself!

  • Thanks Esther – it sounds easy but it can be a challenge for all of us to put into practice. But you are right, there is so much untapped within us. Good luck with listening to yourself – but be kind to yourself even if you have a bad day, as it happens to us all.

  • Thanks! Start small would be what I would suggest, and combining the self-care with more typical suggestions around depression like talking therapy, and journalling in particular. There is a definite positive feedback cycle around taking care of our health, inside and out in terms of self-care, and feeling more able to deal with the day to day. Pick something small, like brushing your hair/ teeth, or getting dressed or leaving the house for a short walk (depending on how tough things are for you right now), and do it for a week. Then build on that habit. Good luck, and take care of yourself <3

  • Teresa

    7. Activate your self-soothing system. Stroke your own arm, or if that feels too weird, moisturize. somehow, this made me laugh. I think this could be a broader mandate for me – if in doubt, moisturize.