In today’s hustle-driven world—and especially during the collective hard times we’ve had lately—it can be challenging to prioritize yourself and know what you need to feel centered.
If you’re used to tying your worth to your productivity, for example, you might be coping by working yourself close to burnout. Or you may feel entirely shut down and numbed out, and not sure how to tap into your feelings.
There’s a reason that when you fly, you’re told to put on your own oxygen mask before helping anyone else. You can’t offer much to anyone when you don’t take care of yourself first! Slowing down to offer yourself love, care, and compassion helps build resilience, combat burnout, and can help you feel calmer and safer as you navigate life.
What are Self Love and Self Care—And Why Do They Matter?
Taking care of ourselves should be non-negotiable. Doing so will benefit you and the world around you. As Skillshare instructor, author, and activist Chidera Eggerue says, “I realized that the world around me won’t change until I do.” Practicing self love and self care will allow you to show up more fully in the world, boost your creativity, and nourish your inner artist. Creativity doesn’t exist in a vacuum; everything you do to build a better life for yourself contributes to the collective and to all areas of your life.
So what does this mean? In a literal sense, self love and self care are pretty straightforward—offering ourselves care and love across all areas of our lives.
However, in practice, that can prove to be confusing to many of us who didn’t grow up around these terms. We may be totally confused as to how to practice self love and self care. And neglecting these areas of our lives can lead to mental distress, physical discomfort, and other issues.
The good news is, like anything, we can learn how to be better at self love and self care. All it takes is some awareness and thoughtful action to get started.
When we get in the groove of practicing self love and self care, we start to feel calmer and more confident in who we are. We act in ways that align with our values. We come to appreciate being alone and learning things about ourselves. In turn, we become a more loving and grounded presence in other people’s lives because we’re standing on a stronger foundation.
18 Ways to Practice Self Care and Self Love
Learning how to practice self love and self care is just that: a practice.
Social media may have you thinking that all you need to do is run a bath and throw a face mask on and you’re good to go. While self care and self love certainly can involve facials and hot soaks, there are so many other ways to be good to yourself beyond that! Your self care and self love practice will look different based on your needs and interests, and it will probably involve (at least at first) experimenting with different things to see what sticks.
Here are 18 great ideas to start with:
1. Start a Journaling Practice
Writing can help you get to know yourself better and teach you how to love yourself. It also allows you to get your stressful thoughts and hard feelings out on the page and chart your growth over time. To start, check out this Writing for Self-Discovery course offering prompts to help you grow.
2. Slow Down
It’s easy to get lost in your daily to-do list and never stop until the day’s flown by. Try to instead make rest an intentional part of your life. Even if it’s just laying down or sitting quietly for five minutes in between things, try to slow down, enjoy some stillness in your mind, and carve out a space that’s just for you.
3. Spend Time With Loved Ones
Make a list of the people that you feel best around and think about the last time you talked to each of them. Can you reach out and ask any of those people to chat or (safely) get together? Spending time with friends and family and investing in those relationships is essential for your wellness.
4. Use Mantras
Mantras are words that you repeat to yourself on a regular basis until they become more natural thoughts. For example, you could use a phrase like “I am growing” to reassure yourself that what you’re feeling is normal. You could even dive into finding a creative mantra and then using that to guide your work.
5. Honor Your Boundaries
Listen to your personal needs. If you need time to yourself, take it. Don’t feel pressured to be someone you’re not and drain yourself in order to conform or fit in. Protect your peace.
There are many different ways to meditate. Some people do it sitting down, some people meditate in bed in the mornings, some with eyes open, some with eyes closed. Meditation helps still your mind and makes it easier to access a calm mindset when you’re faced with something stressful.
7. Put Your Phone on Airplane Mode
Many people report feeling less anxious when they take purposeful breaks from social media or their phones. Consider putting your phone on airplane mode or in another room while you’re working or spending time with people so that it doesn’t distract you.
8. Get Rid of Things That Aren’t Serving You
Look around your house. Is it full of things that hold good memories for you and make you happy? If it’s not, it might be time to do an inventory and purge things that you’re keeping around out of habit. If you’re feeling extra bold, take a minimalism challenge and see how much you’re really hanging on to.
9. Choose Foods That Nourish You From the Inside Out
Just as you want your external space to make you happy and feel nice to you, be good to your body with your food choices. Everyone’s dietary preferences and needs are different, but in general aim for a range of mostly unprocessed fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins, as well as the occasional necessary indulgence.
Ready to Elevate Your Self-Love Practice?
Revolutionary Self-Care: Embrace, Nurture, and Grow Your Authentic Self
10. Make the Small Moments Special
Can you add in more micro-celebrations throughout your day? Could you play music while you’re in the shower to set the tone for the rest of your morning? What about lighting a candle you love while you’re working? The small moments of your day are what add up to be your life, so don’t feel like they aren’t worth celebrating.
11. Practice Gratitude
As with many things on this list, there are lots of ways to practice gratitude. You could write gratitude notes, you could exchange voice memos with a friend detailing what you’re grateful for, you could do a nightly list in your journal.
12. Try Something New
Whether it’s a new class, a fun recipe, or an alternate route to go to the store, try something different. Even if you don’t like it, you’ll likely learn something new and feel more connected to yourself.
13. Move Your Body
Rather than setting exercise or fitness goals that feel punitive, consider moving your body just for the sake of feeling good and shifting your energy. Even just a quick 10-minute walk in the morning or between meetings can reset your mood—bonus points if it gets you outdoors!
14. Spend Time in Nature
…which brings us to this one! Nature is a great model for how to love yourself in that it always accepts things as they are. Spending time outside is great for your physical and mental health. You can couple being outside with a hobby like photography, but you can also just sit or stroll in the great outdoors and still reap the benefits.
Giving your time to help people who need it can help you see outside of what’s bothering you. It can give you a sense of purpose, allow you to connect with others, and make a difference in the world.
16. Ask for Help and Allow Yourself to Receive It
Lots of us have a hard time accepting even a compliment, let alone offers for help. Even if we need it, we may shun outside assistance. However, it’s human to have needs and to lean on community in order to meet those needs. Try to allow yourself to be vulnerable and accept help from others.
17. Make a Vision Board
Creating a vision board and displaying it somewhere you’ll see it often can help boost your mood and remind you of what you want to attract and accomplish in your life. A lot of people make these when the new year starts, but there’s never a wrong time to create one.
18. Learn How to Tend Plants
Plants are an awesome mood-booster, and learning how to take care of them can give you a sense of purpose. Seeing something thrive and grow under your care is an amazing feeling!
Above all, be patient with yourself. Learning to love and take care of yourself is revolutionary and a life’s work. There’s no looming deadline or pressure to have it all figured out by a certain point. This is about feeling good and offering yourself the support you’ll need to build resilience, enjoy the present moment, and continue to grow.