Whether you’re part of a busy family, full up at work, or have days packed with all sorts of responsibilities, it can feel tough to practice self-care regularly. Yet, as soon as you prioritize even a few minutes each day to check in with yourself, you decide what self-care is needed at that moment in time. Thankfully, there are many free self-care activities that can help you cope with daily stress and anxiety. We’ve rounded up five free, evidence-backed self-care activities for busy adults. 

What are self-care activities (and what they are not!) 

Before we get to the impactful self-care activities, we must define what self-care is and is not. Self-care is “meeting yourself lovingly and appreciatively, taking [your] well-being and needs seriously and actively contributing to [your] own well-being.” (Dahl, C., 2019) Above all, self-care should be based on what you need in the moment — not what someone else needs. Remember, self-care is not self-centered; it’s self-preservation

Your self-care activity is not something you have to do. Instead, true self-care is something you look forward to and want to do for yourself. Remember, there’s no one right way to practice self-care. Self-care practices are individual, can differ from person to person, and even change over time. 

5 free self-care activities for busy people 

Even if you have only a few minutes for intentional self-care, it’s important to practice mindfulness. Jon Kabat-Kinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, defines mindfulness as “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” Bring yourself into the moment when you practice mindfulness during your self-care activity. Mindfulness allows us to appreciate how intentional self-care helps our minds and bodies. Let’s get to free self-care activities that are ripe for busy lives.  

Connect with friends 

According to one of the longest-running surveys of all time, The Harvard Study of Adult Development, close relationships have an incredible impact on lifetime happiness and wellness. Your relationships can help soften life’s ups and downs. You can practice self-care and cultivate great friendships through simple connections like texts, phone calls, and time spent together. The life-long effects of close friendship are well worth your effort. 

Have an “exercise snack”

Short bursts of physical activity, like yoga, running, dancing, or walking, can positively affect your mood, energy, and physical fitness. These “exercise snacks” are excellent self-care moments you can do anytime. There’s no right or wrong activity as long as you find an exercise that works for your self-care needs at the moment. 

Get outside 

Experiencing nature is a great way to practice self-care. Both your mental and physical well-being benefit from deliberately experiencing nature. Spending time outdoors can reduce your heart rate and blood pressure. While you can set yourself up for outdoor meditation, you can also simply walk through a local park or in nearby green-spaces. 

Listen your favorite music 

Music can powerfully affect our mood and mental well-being. It can help us smile, cry, and process. Music can be part of your self-care plan through custom playlists that fit your needs. You can create a calming playlist for your relaxation needs, a throw-back list of your favorite tunes from high school, or something entirely custom for you. Communities and friends can absolutely contribute here too! Ask your closest friends to contribute their favorite tunes to your self-care playlists. 

Express gratitude 

Expressing gratitude is self-care gold. “When we express gratitude, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin — two hormones that make us feel lighter and happier inside.” And, just like all self-care activities, there’s no one right way to express gratitude! You can mail a card to a friend, send a quick text to a loved one appreciating them, or spend just a minute or two writing down what you’re thankful for. Gratitude can powerfully help us balance negative mindsets and ultimately help us improve relationships and our overall happiness.  

A therapist can help you prioritize self-care

Self-care looks different for each person. Your friend may love meditation, bubble baths, and yoga, while you may prefer a loud dance party or journaling. Regardless of how you practice self-care, do what works and feels good to you. Take some time to explore your self-care possibilities. 

Self-care is excellent in conjunction with therapy. If you’re having a hard time and need guidance and support seeking self-care or prioritizing your mental health, we can help. Reach out to us to get started. 


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