25 Simple and Science-Backed Self-Care Practices for a Healthy Mind, Body, and Soul

When I’m feeling really icky I start to lose some of my own self-care principles. I saw that happening for me recently and I knew I needed some reinforcement. Don’t we all at times?

So I came up with the below list of my 25 best self-care tips for the body and soul. While each are worthy of a blog post on their own, I thought this consolidated summary might be quite useful.

1. Get outside.
Ditching the comfort of your home is a great way to improve mental and physical health. Similar to meditation, spending time out of doors benefits the brain. Other research suggests that being outside in nature also makes us feel more alive. Even living in an area with more green space (i.e. parks and gardens) is associated with greater life satisfaction and less mental distress.

2. Try an outdoor workout.
Consider taking your sweat session into nature, too. Research shows that working out in the Great Outdoors boosts mental health, and may decrease tension, anger, and depression.

3. Pay it forward.
By helping others, we actually help ourselves, too. Lending a hand not only boosts mental health but may also lead to a longer life. Volunteering also positively affects self-confidence, self-esteem, and general wellbeing.

4. Breathe the right scents.
We know that breathing techniques can help us relax. But what we breathe might be just as important as how we breathe. While the benefits of aromatherapy are debated, research suggests that citrus scents—orange essential oil in particular—can help slash stress and anxiety, and getting a whiff of rosemary may boost memory.

5. Stress less.
By now, we all know that stress is really bad for our health. Research suggests that stress may be contagious, and the more stressed we think we are, the worse it might be for our heart health. But between work, relationships, family, and whatever else life throws at us, it’s difficult not to succumb to it.

6. Be mindful.
Focusing on the present—without judging how we feel and what we think—can be both a liberating and healthy practice. Studies show that getting in-tune with ourselves through mindfulness slashes stress and depression, helps us see ourselves in a truer light, and may even help keep our minds from wandering.

7. Be happy!
We all know that happiness feels good, but it’s also great for our health. Research suggests that feeling happy may even prevent disease, including heart disease Fredrickson, B.L., Grewen, K.M., Coffey, K.A., et al. University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2013 August 13; 110(33): 13684–13689. But being happy is easier said than done, right? Turns out there’s actually a simple way to feel more upbeat: Just crack a smile! Reading funny quotes is a good idea.

8. Meditate.
Meditation is proof that it doesn’t take a ton of time to do a mind and body good. Just a few minutes of quieting your mind can help relieve stress. Obay .ther benefits include a boost in compassion and emotional stability, and some research suggests that meditating could even keep winter illnesbay. The best part? Its benefits continue even when we’re not meditating—consider it the gift (to yourself) that keeps on giving. Sneak some meditation into day-to-day life with these 10 awesome techniques.

9. Dance around.
Shaking your booty doesn’t just make for a fit physique. It may also improve both mood and body image, lead to a better outlook, is associated with a lower risk for dementia, and even help you make friends. Consider this your cue for a silly impromptu dance party.

10. Turn up the tunes.
If you’ve ever noticed that certain songs bring a smile to your face, you’re not alone. As it turns out, science has taken note, too. Research shows that listening to music makes already positive emotions even more intense, and upbeat music, in particular, can do great things for your mood. Plus, jamming out can also improve heart health. Also, there are many music quotes to show that the power of music is truly magical.

11. Eat more fruits and veggies.
Adding more fruits and veggies to our plate is a great way to practice self-care all throughout the day. Research shows that eating berries boosts brain health while noshing on peppers prevents Parkinson’s. And in case we needed another reason to load up on nature’s goodness, filling up seven portions of fruits and veggies per day might make us happier.

12. Exercise Regularly.
Regular exercise can transform your life. I haven’t been able to exercise much over the last few weeks since I’ve been sick and it’s been torture. I see the difference in how I think, how much I get done, and how much energy I have. As Richard Branson says, one hour of exercise equals four extra hours of productivity. Make time for exercise, it will give time back to you.

13. Indulge in some retail therapy.
Shopaholics, rejoice! Hitting the mall can help ease mild depression and make us more confident, according to some researchers. Another study suggests that purchasing new clothes can lift a person’s mood. Science aside, treating yourself to something shiny, special, and new (it doesn’t have to be expensive!) is a pretty surefire way to put a smile on your face.

14. Allow Yourself to Feel Whatever You’re Feeling.

Sometimes you’ll get down, really down. Sometimes you’ll get hurt. And you won’t want to leave the couch. It’s okay. Let yourself sulk, get it all out of your system. Don’t fight it because “what you resist, persists.” So don’t resist. The sooner you get it all out the sooner you can move on.

15. Become a bookworm.
Contrary to what some middle school bullies believe, reading is cool. Plus, it’s actually really good for our health. Research suggests that reading on a regular basis keeps the mind sharp as it ages, and reading fiction, in particular, makes for more creativity and a more open mind. Cracking open a book may also improve sleep and make us more empathic. Also, you can find positive quotes, too.

16. Laugh out loud.
There’s a reason people say laughter is “the best medicine” and there are a lot of quotes about smiling: Chuckling and giggling benefit our mental and physical health, especially when combined with exercise. Giving into a case of the funnies can improve our overall quality of life while getting goofy with other people can help us connect with the people we laugh with and foster our relationships. Your plan of action: Watch a funny movie or a comedy on television—those reruns of How I Met Your Mother may actually be good for your heart.

17. Look at something cute.
Instant mood booster: looking at pictures of baby animals. Thanks to Pinterest, that’s incredibly easy. Plus, browsing through these photos may even help you when you’re on the job. Research suggests it may boost your productivity at work. Just, uh, don’t let the boss catch you.

18. Get enough Zzz’s.
There tons of things that can sabotage our sleep, whether it’s a late night at the office, a wild night with friends, or just catching up on Scandal. The problem is, skimping on shut-eye can hurt job productivity, make us choose to eat larger portions, and may lead to diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Prioritize snooze time for a healthier, happier you—even if it’s just a quick cat nap during your lunch break.

19. Declutter.
Some researchers believe that clutter can stress us out and bring us down. On the flip side, sorting through and purging unorganized papers, clothes, knickknacks, or whatever else is crowding our lives may help us be more productive, cheerful, and calmer.

20. Pound the pavement.
Not only does it torch calories, but running is a mood-booster that can help reduce anxiety. Long-distance running, in particular, may even provide pain relief. Exercise, in general, is linked to decreasing symptoms of depression, so lace up your sneakers the next time you need a mood lift.

21. Embrace Your Imperfections.
You’ve likely read this from me before. Your imperfections are you perfection. Embrace them. Let them reveal your individuality. Laugh at them if you need to. Perfect is boring. Imperfections make things interesting. And behind every imperfection is a strength.

22. Cuddle.
Whether you’re the big spoon or little spoon, cuddling is good for you. Studies show that physical contact reduces stress and releases a hormone called oxytocin that boosts happiness.

23. Get your Om on.
It comes as no surprise that yoga is a healthy practice. It helps relieve anxiety, stress, and depression, all while boosting energy levels and improving our overall sense of well-being. Don’t think you have to commit to a full-length yoga class to reap its health benefits. Just 20 minutes on the mat improves focus and boosts the brain. Try these restorative yoga poses to erase any built-up tension.

24. Unplug.
Create sacred spaces in your days or weeks where you unplug from everything. No emails, internet, blackberry, nothing. We are turning into an ADD society, jumping from one distraction to another. Seize back control. Unplug regularly or you’ll burn out your emotional hardware.

25. Get out of town.
When it comes to taking the vacation, most Americans don’t do a lot of it. But skipping out on time away from the 9-to-5 does more harm than good: Studies show that skipping the family vacay is associated with a higher risk of heart disease in both men and women. Whether booking a trip to an exotic location or going somewhere nearby, time away from work can help refresh our focus, and being exposed to a new location or experience may boost creativity. Plus, everyone deserves a break!

1 thought on “25 Simple and Science-Backed Self-Care Practices for a Healthy Mind, Body, and Soul”

  1. Very positive suggestions! We had an electricity free night recently with just some lanterns for light. We played a board game and it was magical! Getting outside into nature is so invigorating and always helps me to feel refreshed. Thanks for the reminders!

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