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51 Self Care Ideas To Kickstart Your Self Care Routine

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Living a healthy life isn’t just about your physical health—what’s on your dinner plate or what you do at the gym. True holistic wellness focuses on your mental, social, and emotional health, too. That’s why I argue that it is just as important to workout your self care muscle as it is to get your sweat on doing your favorite activity (and as I’ll argue in a sec—maybe even more important).

If you tend to put yourself at the very end of your priority list, especially when that list gets long, that means you not only are neglecting yourself, but you’re also neglecting everyone who relies on you. It doesn’t seem that way in the moment when you take the time to make little Timmy a healthy breakfast before school but grab a donut for yourself because you’re out of time. But in the long run, if you don’t take time to fill up your own cup, you won’t be able to pour from it any more. You have to put on your own air mask before assisting others.

And if doing self care makes you feel guilty (I find this is especially true for parents), I’m going to tell you a phrase that was said to me when I felt this way a few months after my daughter was born. As parents, we’ll do absolutely anything for our kids. Except, it seems, take care of ourselves. YES. Taking care of yourself on a regular basis is just as important as making sure your kid has a clean diaper or doesn’t play with knives. EQUALLY IMPORTANT.

Full body shot of a woman in a blue shirt and pink pants, holding a bunch of daffodils

How can I practice self-care more consistently?

So practically, how do you go about including self-care in your daily routine? For me, I have to make it part of my to-do list—quite literally. On most mornings, I get up and make a task list for the day. And right alongside things like “clean the kitchen” and “call the plumber,” I slot in one or more self-care tasks. Everyday. They are just as non-negotiable in my daily life as getting the dishes done or cooking dinner.

51+ Self-Care Activities

Below you’ll find my personal list of self-care ideas, but I think everyone should make their own list of self-care ideas to pull from daily! Some of them are small ways to show myself some self-compassion, while others take a bit more time.

My list isn’t one-size-fits-all. For example, I know a lot of folks might put “go for a run” or “go to the gym” on their self-care list, but those items just aren’t emotionally fulfilling for me, so I left them off. So feel free to add them to your own self-care list. Enjoy!

  1. Give myself a pedicure or a manicure.
  2. Read a book or magazine for an hour.
  3. Sit on the front porch. Just. Sit.
  4. Take a bubble bath—complete with candles and calming music.
  5. Pick or buy a bouquet of fresh flowers.
  6. Take a leisurely walk without a goal.
  7. Put on a homemade face mask.
  8. Give myself permission to binge watch my latest show obsession without guilt.
  9. Take a nap.
  10. Order in dinner.
  11. Do something crafty: coloring, knitting, sewing.
  12. Go to the library or bookstore. Sit in a comfy chair and read.
  13. Watch funny YouTube videos.
  14. Sit in the grass and watch the clouds float by.
  15. Look at the stars.
  16. Have a dance party to my favorite music.
  17. Take a mental health day—and feel not an ounce of guilt about it.
  18. Burn a candle or diffuse some oils that have scents that bring me joy.
  19. Sit in a coffee shop and sip on a luxurious drink.
  20. Walk around the fancy grocery store without a list. Buy some stuff just for fun.
  21. Try out a new hobby.
  22. Do yoga.
  23. Cook breakfast for myself before anyone else.
  24. Sing at the top of my lungs. Preferably in the car and with the windows down.
  25. Go for a drive—no destination required.
  26. Close myself in a room and listen to the latest episode of my favorite podcast.
  27. Have a 20 minute stretching session.
  28. Go to the park and play on the playground. Be a kid again!
  29. Go swimming (for fun, not exercise).
  30. Plan out an extravagant vacation just for fun.
  31. Wear an outfit that makes me feel great. Even if I have no reason to (I AM the reason!).
  32. Declutter a spot in my house that’s been bugging me.
  33. Write a list of “annoying tasks” that have been weighing on me and knock them out in an hour.
  34. Bake a dessert I love. And then eat it.
  35. Watch the sun rise or set. Don’t take any pictures or post about it on social media. Just watch.
  36. Have a picnic (by myself even).
  37. Go to bed early or sleep in late.
  38. Research something that I’ve been interested in but haven’t had the time to dive into.
  39. Edit who I follow on social media (if they don’t bring me joy, they gotta go—no matter how nice, inspiring, or cool they are).
  40. Go to a museum: art, childrens’, history, science—whatever brings me joy that day!
  41. Go to a cocktail hour at a bar—enjoy a drink!
  42. Have an at-home spa session—light a candle or diffuse some essential oils, put on calming music, do my skincare, drink some warm tea or an infused water.
  43. Get a massage.
  44. Spend time out in the garden.
  45. Take the time to do my hair and makeup, for no other reason than it makes me feel put together.
  46. Write a list of 10 things I’m grateful for and why.
  47. Make myself a batch of infused water to sip on.
  48. Buy myself a new set of pens or markers.
  49. Write a letter (or an email) to an old friend.
  50. Cook a fancy meal for no other reason than I deserve a fancy meal.
  51. Say “no” to someone.
  52. Unplug for the rest of the day—put my devices in another room and do some meditation, engage in hobbies, or do anything else that soothes my soul.

Woman sitting on a swing outside, smiling

Cassie is the founder and CEO of Wholefully. She's a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. She lives on a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana with her husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and 15 chickens.

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39 Responses
  1. Oh, I love this. Good for you! 🙂

    I think my favorite way to recharge emotionally is to read a good book. I’d also add “Watch Doctor Who, “go for a long drive to nowhere in particular,” and “free-journaling.”

    Thanks for the reminder to take care of ourselves emotionally, too. You’re great!

  2. Great list! I love that you put coloring on here! My self care go-tos include warm baths and pedicures. I recently signed up for a gym membership, and a massage package, so obviously very physical outlets.

  3. Sarah

    Great post! I’m studying for my final exams at the moment, so I’m trying to make sure I leave time for nice things so I don’t completely burn out! This might be a stupid question, but what’s a mental health day? Is it a full day of doing all the other things on your list? I also like to play guitar and piano in order to relax 🙂

    1. Heather

      Hi Sarah! Yes a mental health day is just like a sick day, but for your mind 🙂 I’m in the middle of finals too and sometimes your brain just needs to shut down for a day, do something lovely or nothing at all, maybe disconnect your tech for a few hours and just relax!

  4. I love to take the time to do dry skin brushing with a soft brush before taking a shower. And yet when was the last time I actually did that? Maybe a year ago?

    It’s going on my to-do list right now 😉

  5. What a great post! I love lists like this and number 4 is my favourite, particularly because I find just sitting so very healing, but it’s always such a struggle to make myself do it 🙂 Thanks for the reminder.

  6. Agree 100%! I love every single item on that list. I would add only one thing to it – having the house to myself for the afternoon…bliss!
    Even just reading the list makes me somehow feel a little more relaxed – thanks!

  7. Katherine

    I’m a big believer in cooking catharsis. Whenever my life gets overwhelming (read: my thesis is eating me), I head into the kitchen and whip up something fun and involved, no matter what time of day it is. It takes my mind off anything else I’m doing and it creates a delicious reward just for me and anyone I choose to share it with. Plus, this has led to a lot of 10pm muffin adventures, and you can’t go wrong with those.

  8. Caroline

    This is great thanks! Items I’d add for me are *doing my make-up, *planning my outfit, *cooking something new, *having a belly laugh, *playing with babies

  9. I love how honest your list is – I love that you didn’t put go to the gym because it’s not emotionally fulfilling for you. Sometimes I get caught in the “shoulds” even with my own emotional fulfillment! I think, going to the gym will make me feel better when I know that what would really make me feel better is taking a hot bath. Hopefully I’ll be inspired by your list to make one of my own that’s really honest.

    good luck!

  10. Interestingly, the self-care portion of my healthy life is the one that I find the easiest, sometimes to the point where I have a hard time balancing that out with the other things in life that I don’t want to do so much… I struggle a lot more with diet and fitness.

    1. Same here, Nikkiana. I used to put everyone else first, but then we I developed a gluten intolerance, a vitamin D deficiency, and mono all within two years, I knew I needed a change. My diet is better because I was forced to get better and quit flour cold turkey. However, I still struggle with fitness as well.

  11. i love this…and the whole idea of truly scheduling in time for your own sanity. for the past couple months i have been so busy i haven’t had a lot of opportunity for ‘me time’…but i do have a massage scheduled for tomorrow afternoon!!! so i’m going to take a half day, go to my massage, get coffee with my bff, and just enjoy the few hours of free time. i know i reeeeally need that time because this week in particular has been a huge struggle for me, and when that happens, i tend to just shut down. i haven’t been to the gym. i’ve been eating like crap. i haven’t planned meals. i haven’t focused on anything…i’m just running around all willy nilly with no purpose. and i haven’t blogged at all this week either (and i have several posts to write, photos to edit, etc.), but it’s mostly because i have just been feeling overwhelmed with the ‘everything’ that’s going on right now. i need tomorrow afternoon to regroup and get back at it. and then i’ll start incorporating more small things i can do for myself daily to stay on the sane side of things.

    thanks for this! i really needed it today! =)

  12. great list! I am bad at doing this too and then I get so worn out that treating myself ends up just being watching tv which can be nice, but isn’t as fulfilling as all self care can be.

  13. Love this post. I need to pay more attention to my self-care. Especially right now when my stress levels are so high. I usually use regular exercise to help with that but I need to have some “Self care” i.e. pampering & relaxing too!

  14. Nice ideas! I had a beer on the porch with my fiance last night and it felt so indulgent and I had trouble really embracing it because we’re going on vacation and my to-do list is so complex it is turning into a sentient being.

    My favorite way to take care of myself is to patiently, carefully pluck my eyebrows. Instead of just getting crazy strays, to take time and shape them. It’s relaxing for me. I’m weird.

  15. Amanda Ingle

    This is great Cassie. I agree people don’t focus on themselves enough. I know I don’t. Thanks for this list. I will print and post on my desk to remember to focus on myself too! Next up for me: massage! 😀

Meet Cassie
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Hello. My name is Cassie, and I’m a healthy home cooking expert.

I'm a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, and I've been developing healthy recipes professionally for over 15 years. Food is my love language, and my kitchen tips and nourishing recipes are my love letter to you!

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