If you’re looking for self-care ideas for mental health, we’re excited to share our best tips and ideas to help you create and maintain a self-care routine to improve your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
Self-Care Ideas for Mental Health
When I was growing up, there was no such thing as mental health awareness. Asking for help was viewed as a sign of weakness, and I was taught at a very young age to keep my challenges and struggles to myself. I’m not even sure I heard the term ‘self-care’ until I was well into my 30s, and on the odd occasion that I invested my time and energy into my nutrition and exercise routine and/or indulged in a little TLC, I felt extremely selfish.
Thankfully, times are changing. At the time this post was published, there were over 17 million #selfcare posts on Instagram, and mental health is no longer the taboo topic it once was. Businesses across the globe are investing in mental health awareness and support for their employees, and prioritizing a little ‘me time’ each week is no longer seen as a sign of weakness.
What is Self-Care?
So, what is self-care?
Simply put, it’s the practice of taking care of one’s own physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. The idea is that, when we take care of all of these aspects of our lives, we reduce emotional issues like stress, anxiety, and depression as well as the physical reactions they create, leaving us with more energy and motivation, and making us better able to handle the challenges life throws at us.
There are many different types of self-care, including physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual care, and self-care activities can be as simple or as complex as you want them to be. Relaxing in a bath after a long day, treating yourself to a mani/pedi, journalling, volunteering for a charity that has deep meaning to you, and practicing yoga are all examples of self-care.
Why is Self-Care Important?
An imbalance in our emotional health can lead to physical issues such as chest pains, ulcers, and high blood sugar, as well as emotional issues like stress and depression. Our emotional health impacts how we feel about ourselves. It also enhances the quality of our relationships, and effects how we deal with our feelings and handle difficulties. Self-care is key to our emotional health because it helps us manage stress and handle things, both positive or negative, in a healthy way.
5 Ways to Make Time for Self-Care
While many of us recognize the importance of creating and maintaining a self-care routine, it can be difficult to find the time. We live in a day and age where we are encouraged to over-schedule ourselves and our families as much as humanly possible, which makes it even more important to find a way to decompress and find balance. If you’re looking for tips to help you make time for self-care, here are some ideas to try:
1) Start small. When we start searching for self-care ideas for mental health, many of us get sucked into the belief that we need to do all the things all at once. Remember that something is better than nothing, start small, and slowly build your self-care routine over time. The more realistic and manageable you keep things, the more likely you will be to maintain them.
2) Schedule it. Another mistake we often make when it comes to practicing self-care is that we don’t prioritize properly. We leave our so called ‘indulgences’ for the end of the day when we’re tried and strapped for time, and inevitably don’t follow through. If this sounds like you, planning ahead and scheduling self-care into your calendar can make a huge difference in keeping you accountable.
3) Manage your energy effectively. We often hear people talk about managing their time effectively, but learning how to manage your energy effectively can be a total game-changer. The idea is to figure out when you are at your most productive each day, and use that time to power through your most important tasks. I consistently find that when I utilize my energy properly, it’s much easier to find downtime at the end of the day (when my energy is lower) for the things that bring me balance.
4) Learn to say ‘no’. If you struggle to find the time for self-care, it’s time to get your priorities in check and learn how to say ‘no’ to people. Stop being a people pleaser and only commit to the things that are important and that you have time for, and don’t spend an ounce of time feeling guilty about it!
5) Take a mental health day. A lot of businesses have started allocating a certain number of ‘mental health days’ to employees each year, and if you have the flexibility to take advantage of such benefits, do it! Sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves and our mental health is to simply take a day off to do…nothing.
14 Self-Care Ideas for Mental Health
The internet is FULL of self-care ideas for mental health. Some are simple and easy, while others are totally over the top, and the trick to creating an effective self-care routine is to play around with different ideas until you find the activities that help you the most. Self-care is a very personal thing, and what works for one person may not work for another. I’ve included some of my favorites below to help inspire you!
While I’m not really one to write my feelings down on paper for all the world to see, I started practicing daily gratitude at the beginning of the year and it’s had a huge impact on my life. It took some getting used to, especially since I thought my list had to be filled with huge and awesome things. But once I started focusing on the little, seemingly inconsequential stuff, it just sort of had a ripple effect. I found myself searching for the positives instead of the negatives, and if you’re looking for self-care ideas for mental health, this should be high on your list of things to try.
If you’re looking for a guided gratitude journal, I highly recommend The Five-Minute Journal. It’s a simple yet powerful tool you can use to train your brain to start and end each day with feelings of gratitude so you can learn how to be a happy and positive person. And it only takes 5 minutes to complete! The Five-Minute Journal is also available for kids, so you can purchase a set for the entire family and make it a ritual you complete together.
2) Yoga, meditation, and mindfulness
All 3 of these activities can help calm your mind, reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression, and help with mood regulation, making them another great choice for those looking for self-care ideas for mental health. Consider trying a yoga class at your local studio, download a meditation app to your smartphone (I highly recommend Headspace!), and practice mindful breathing to see which ones are most helpful to you.
Adult coloring books gained popularity a few years ago, and for good reason. Coloring is a great stress-reducing activity, and it’s extremely portable, making it a good option for lunch breaks, while traveling, when waiting in doctor’s offices, etc.
For those who enjoy writing, journaling is another one of my favorite self-care ideas for mental health. Writing in a journal provides a great outlet, helps promote a sense of calm, provides perspective, and can help identify triggers and patterns as well as provide solutions. We’ve written a whole post about journaling for mental health, including our favorite guided journals and journal prompts, which you can read HERE.
5) Repeat positive affirmations
Positive affirmations – a practice of positive thinking and self-empowerment – are another great idea for those looking for self-care ideas for mental health. They are short and simple phrases that can help you overcome negative, self-sabotaging thoughts and replace them with positive, self-affirming beliefs. In order to be successful, positive affirmations must be present-tense statements. Instead of saying ‘I will…’, say ‘I am…’, and repeat your positive phrase of choice over and over until you start to believe it! CLICK HERE for our favorite positive affirmations for women.
6) Organize and declutter
I know it seems a bit strange to include decluttering and organizing in a list of self-care ideas for mental health, but restoring a sense of order to your home (or office) can be extremely therapeutic. It can also promote a greater sense of control, which in turn will help you feel less stressed and anxious.
7) Move your body
Engaging in regular exercise decreases the production of stress hormones like cortisol and increases the production of feel-good endorphins, which reduces feelings of stress and anxiety. Walking, yoga, swimming, cycling, and running are all great options to consider if you’re looking for self-care ideas for mental health. Make it a point to squeeze in 30 minutes of physical activity each day – even if it’s just a brisk walk around the block!
8) Turn off social media
Social media can be tricky. It helps us stay connected to the ones we love as well as those we aspire to become, and while I’ve definitely seen a shift in people sharing more honest and raw glimpses into their lives, that still seems to be the exception rather than the rule. So, while it can feel relaxing to lie on the couch scrolling through your Instagram feed, be mindful of who you follow and don’t be afraid to take a break from social media when needed.
9) Listen to music
Listening to music can be extremely therapeutic. Whether you’re blasting pop music during a workout, enjoying a little jazz while you cook dinner, or reliving your youth by singing along to tunes from the 80s or 90s, music can be extremely energizing and motivating, and can help boost your spirits. I recommend steering clear of songs that remind you of painful memories and anything sad if you’re in a funk to avoid escalating those feelings, but I know lots of people find it helpful to work through their emotions through music, so do what feels right.
10) Get outside
If you’re looking for self-care ideas for mental health, finding ways to get outside is another great option to consider. Whether it’s going for a run first thing in the morning, chasing your kids around the backyard after school, going for a walk around the neighborhood after dinner, or enjoying a cup of tea on your front porch before bed, there are heaps of ways you can enjoy the great outdoors, and the fresh air will do wonders for your soul.
Some days, one of the best things you can do for yourself and your emotional well-being is to throw on your comfiest pair of jammies and lie on the couch binge-watching your favorite shows on Netflix. While it may not feel as productive as organizing your closet or going out for a run, there are times your mind and body needs to do…nothing. Enjoy the time and don’t feel an ounce of guilt about it!
If Netflix isn’t your thing, curling up with a good book can be just as relaxing (I’m currently reading The Other Woman by Sandie Jones and it’s a page-turner!). Whether you prefer reading at a local coffee shop, on the front porch, in a warm bubble bath, or in bed, getting lost in a good story can be good for the soul.
13) Take a nap
Another one of my favorite self-care ideas for mental health is to indulge in a mid-afternoon nap. Very few of us get the recommended 8 hours of shut-eye each night, and while you may feel guilty putting aside household chores in favor of sleep, sometimes that’s exactly what your soul needs.
14) Treat yo self
The last item on my list of self-care ideas for mental health is to do something nice for yourself. Book yourself a mani/pedi, get a massage or hair cut, indulge in a decadent dessert, buy a new outfit, etc. Remember that treating yourself doesn’t need to be expensive or elaborate – it just needs to be intentional. Small indulgences can have such a positive impact on your mood and motivation, and can go a long way in making you feel good, both inside and out.
I hope this collection of self-care ideas for mental health inspires you to create and maintain a self-care routine to improve your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Remember to start small, to schedule self-care into your calendar, and to never (ever) apologize for putting yourself first!