When it comes to self-care, most of us think of activities like yoga, reading, taking a bubble bath, or getting a massage, but self-care doesn't have to be a typically luxurious activity. Any activity that puts your mind at ease counts, which means there are a number of weird habits that can be considered self-care. Broadening your horizons about what you think of as healthy habits for yourself can help encourage you to participate in them more often, and you might even find it more attainable to fit in these habits into your everyday life.
"What does self-care really mean? The down-to-the-basics definition is something done by you, for you," says psychotherapist Todd Puckett over email. Self-care should leave you feeling good, both in the short-term and the long-term.
Although hitting the gym, getting eight hours of sleep each night, and scheduling a "pamper-me" day each month can do wonders for your physical and mental health, they aren't the only ways to enhance your life and feel better. Some habits — even the ones that seem mundane — can benefit your health in ways you may not have imagined. Here are seven unconventional, but effective habits that can count as self-care.
1Cleaning Out Your Closet
Getting rid of old items we haven't worn in years can be a rewarding experience. "Tossing of the old and leaving room for new possibilities can feel cathartic," says psychotherapist Angela Ficken over email. "Some of us might do this regularly and others might think "How can this be self-care?' But if you are doing something that feels good to you and tending to yourself, that is a form self-care."
"Believe it or not, there is a new trend in the self-care world to reconnect with those stimulating and fun-filled game days that you played as a child," says Puckett. "Some of the most energizing laughter is when it starts and doesn’t stop until your stomach is hurting! If you can allow yourself to realize how relaxing and phenomenal laughter can be, and then blend that with a tiny bit of competition, this can allow for an escape from the pressures of the world."
Sometimes they feel like a chore, but doing housework like laundry, taking out the trash, or paying our credit card bills on time can count as self-care. "These are all things we need to do to take care of ourselves, and I think they get overlooked because it's not, for example, yoga or a message which can bring a more instant gratification," says Ficken. But it can feel good to look at an empty sink or feel accomplished after completing a load of laundry and having clean underwear again. These are skills that can help us feel better in the long run. They might not be as 'fun' as other habits like working out or going for a manicure, but these are ways that help us pay attention to ourselves."
Consider exploring at-home nakedness for at least 30 minutes a few times a week. "No need to panic with this suggestion, just yet," says Puckett. "Nudity doesn’t have to be a dirty or nasty or twisted topic — it can simply provide a sense of freedom. Nakedness has been proven to improve sleep, skin health, and body image, while also reducing the feelings of self-doubt and shame. Self-acceptance can be increased if you can build confidence by being comfortable in your own body."
"Get involved in a charity and volunteer your time," says psychotherapist Julia Baum, MSEd, BFA, LMHC over email. "Helping others helps us find a fresh perspective on our own problems." In fact, research shows that volunteering helps people feel more socially connected, which can help ward off loneliness and depression, according to Harvard Health.
6Writing Thank You Notes
Even if there isn't a particular occasion, take the time to write thank you notes to the ones you love. "Expressing gratitude in a genuine way allows us to fully appreciate what we have and brightens the day of those who care about us," says Baum. Multiple studies show that expressing gratitude can help get rid of negative emotions, help foster better relationships, improve your self-esteem, and even improve how well you sleep.
Going out on the town and breaking it down on the dance floor might seem like the opposite of self-care, but letting loose to some music can actually have some positive mental health effects. Not only does it incorporate exercise, but dancing can help reduce symptoms of depression, according to Psychology Today.