small acts of self-care

12 Small Acts of Self-Care That Make a Huge Difference

Time is a precious commodity, and there never seems to be enough of it, especially when it comes to caring for yourself. From the busy mom of three running around to the young professional fighting to make a name for themselves, people from all walks of life are busier than ever.

You may not have time for a lengthy vacation or even a couple of hours every day for a yoga or exercise routine, but do you have a few minutes to practice self-care? Even small acts of self-care can make a big difference in your overall well-being. Explore some practical and brief ideas.

The True Meaning of Self-Care

Self-care is a practice of micro-actions to restore your energy and recenter yourself. It empowers you to become the person you want to be more fully each day — for yourself and the people you care about.

The reality is there’s no magic formula for self-care. It’s not a list of dos and don’ts. Self-care means something different for everyone. The trick is finding what’s feasible for you, your lifestyle, and your daily demands.

The Reasonable Benefits of Self-Care

The grind — a cultural mindset that says any time spent on anything but work is wasted time. Humans aren’t designed to operate at full throttle 24/7. When that happens, life becomes an eternal struggle to roll the boulder up the hill like Sisyphus. Once in a while, you need a break.

silhouette of a woman looking off into the distance

Self-care is not indulgent. It’s not selfish, and it doesn’t have to be earned. Self-care is vital.

It’s OK to be a motivated person with goals who wants to accomplish something with this life. Self-care can help with that. The more you care for yourself and your physical and mental resources, the more you can achieve in your personal and professional life.

Here’s a rapid-fire list of the clinically proven benefits of self-care:

  • Improves your overall health
  • Reduces feelings of stress, anxiety and depression
  • Boosts your energy and productivity levels
  • Prevents burnout
  • Betters your relationships 
  • Brings joy and fulfillment
  • Boosts your self-esteem and self-worth

Wrapping Your Mind and Schedule Around Self-Care

Chances are, you already know the benefits of self-care. Or, you have an inkling that you’d like to have a little more time for your needs. Now, it’s time to implement a self-care practice. But when life feels chaotic, how can you fit one more thing on your to-do list?

Like any habit, setting yourself up for success takes a little work and priority shuffling. If you want your self-care routine to stick, here’s how to lay the groundwork.

Shift Your Mindset on Self-Care

Does the addition of one more item on your calendar feel overwhelming? Remember — self-care is not a luxury.

When you care for yourself, you equip your mind and body to tackle your various roles. In light of that, self-care just makes sense — personally and professionally. So, give yourself permission and time to grow, improve, and be happy.

Assess Your Current Routine

Whether your schedule is a digital calendar or an old-school planner, it can feel like a taskmaster that dictates your every minute. 

If you take a good, long look, there may be some areas where you could carve out extra time for self-care. This could mean:

  • Waking up 15 minutes earlier
  • Bundling self-care into your commute or daily chores
  • Opting out of social media time in favor of “me time”
  • Blocking self-care into your agenda

Set Realistic Self-Care Expectations

You may be on a self-care kick right now, but keep your future self in mind. Ensure your expectations are realistic and sustainable with your lifestyle. Self-care can be simple acts you take daily, so choose attainable goals to enrich your body, mind, and spirit.

woman sitting in a relaxed pose taking in a deep breath

Examine Your Current Needs

As you carve out periods of self-care, there may not be time to address every aspect of your life. Take a few minutes to examine yourself and note any imbalances. These are areas that need some focused attention to enhance your overall well-being.

Ask yourself:

  • What do you need right now?
  • What calms and comforts you?
  • What motivates and energizes you?
  • What makes you feel fulfilled?
  • How do you express your personality or creativity?
  • What makes you feel grounded or connected?

12 Acts of Micro Self-Care When Life Feels Too Busy

It would be outstanding if you had time for more leisurely self-care practices, like weekly massages, a well-deserved mental health day, or a tropical getaway. Yet, even the smallest acts of self-care can greatly impact your sense of well-being.

If you can’t find time for self-care, think in terms of micro habits. These actions take less time and can be added to even the most overflowing agenda. Whether you have a few seconds, a couple of minutes, or an hour, here are 12 small acts of self-care you can add to your schedule for a significant difference in your physical and mental health.

1. Go For a Morning Walk

The crisp morning air is calling. A short morning stroll has incredible health benefits. It’s also an excellent way to prepare your mind for the challenges your day may bring. When you’re walking, focus on the beauty around you, taking note of a few things that bring you joy in your surroundings.

Don’t get bogged down by what’s to come — stay in the moment. You may not have endless hours to hit the gym or pursue a workout routine, but even a short walk as part of your morning routine can jumpstart your health goals.

early morning walk outside with the sunrise

2. Get Hydrated

Coffee, tea, soda — most people drink anything but water. However, water is fundamental to life, so drink more and drink often.

If you can’t commit to eight glasses of water a day, try this method: Drink one glass of water with every meal and at least one between meals. It doesn’t have to be a huge cup — that may be overwhelming to start. Instead, drink whatever feels comfortable to you and quenches your thirst.

3. Listen to Music

Music is powerful. Listening to your favorite song or a playlist can bring instant joy. Adding music to your day is a simple act of self-care that sends a rush of dopamine flooding your body and is even associated with better physical health. The genre doesn’t matter, and you don’t have to sing along — just crank up the tunes. (For ideas, check out our list of the best upbeat songs of the last 50 years!)

smiling woman sitting cross legged on her bed, holding her phone, and listening to music

4. Prioritize Your Nocturnal Respites 

A self-care list is only complete with a recommendation for more and better sleep. You probably know all the health benefits, from improved immunity to better concentration. Still, with all that knowledge, humans are the only creatures on the planet to delay sleep.

A sleep ritual is a great way to prioritize sleep. This could include:

  • Creating a sleep-only space — no work allowed
  • Sipping some sleepy-time tea
  • Turning on a diffuser with calming essential oil scents
  • Opting out of screen time an hour before bed
  • Playing music, nature sounds, or white noise to help you fall asleep
  • Adjusting light and temperatures to your optimal levels
  • Snuggling under a weighted blanket

5. Stop the Endless Scrolling

People use screens for work, connection, and entertainment. Yet, studies show excessive screen time is linked to depression, sleeplessness, and obesity.

While you may feel like your phone or tablet is a form of self-care, helping you unwind after a hard day, it’s important to unplug from time to time. This is particularly beneficial at mealtime and before bed.

Designate a tech-free hour or no-screen zone in your home. These are times and places where you can be free from the distractions and disturbances of modern life. Social media can lead to comparison, and streaming services rob endless hours, so create boundaries with the devices in your life.

6. Give Yourself Breath Breaks

You’re bound to have stressful experiences in your life. Thankfully, humans have a built-in relaxation tool that’s always available, easy to use, and free of charge — breathing.

Conscious, quiet breathing throughout your day can help you balance your emotions and de-stress your life. Whether between projects or post-meeting, take five minutes to duck away and breathe.

man taking in a deep breath outside

7. Plan Out Nutritious and Delicious Meals

You may intend to eat healthy, but when a busy day filled with activities rolls out, cooking a full meal is the last thing you want to do. The best way to combat this is preparation.

Take just 10 minutes every day to plan your meals. This can help you avoid unhealthy choices down the road.

There are plenty of options filled with the vitamins and nutrients your body needs to thrive. Vitamins D and B12 can contribute to a healthy metabolism and energy production and are often found in seafood or colorful veggie dishes. Chowing down on a fresh, energizing meal like this can instantly brighten the soul, not only through the careful process of chopping and stirring but through a flavor explosion as well.

8. Connect With Friends and Loved Ones

Do you feel isolated? You’re not alone. Loneliness is a global crisis impacting millions. Connecting with others is more important than ever.

Friendship and connection are foundational forms of self-care. A simple conversation or outing can improve your outlook and help you feel more grounded. So, take proactive steps to increase your socialization. This could include:

  • A quick text or message to let someone know you’re thinking of them
  • A dedicated hour every week to video chat with family and friends
  • Sharing posts on social media of times you’ve had together
  • Handwritten notes of encouragement or appreciation for their friendship
  • Regular coffee chats or monthly meals together

9. Make Room for Creativity

Too often, people neglect essential parts of their personalities in favor of more practical demands. One aspect of their lives that usually gets brushed to the sidelines is creativity.

Creativity brings diversity and joy to people’s lives. It also has practical benefits, such as improved problem-solving and communication.

Set aside 10 minutes every day for some kind of creative pursuit. You could make music, paint, or free-flow journal. These more traditional creative endeavors aren’t the only ways to express yourself. You could also try cooking a new recipe, dancing around your living room, or staring out a window, daydreaming. 

smiling man painting with his hands

10. Add Movement Throughout Your Day

Humanity is stuck indoors more than ever before. If you work in an office, retail setting, factory, or even from home, most of your day is spent between four walls. Exercise is important — yet, simpler than that, you just need to get up and go.

Movement doesn’t have to be a lengthy chunk of your day. There are simple movement activities you can perform on your busiest days, such as:

  • One-minute movement breaks every 45 minutes, such as jumping jacks or push-ups
  • Commuting to work on a bike
  • Desk-friendly exercises, such as shoulder rolls and leg lifts
  • Post-lunch strolls

For a bonus, do your movement breaks outdoors. The fresh air will invigorate your mind and body and help reduce stress.

11. Change up Your Scenery

Variety is the spice and seasoning that makes life worth living. Treat yourself to a change of scenery.

Changing up your backdrop is an excellent way to shift your perspective. Escaping from your everyday surroundings forces your brain to process new information and can help you feel more invigorated, relaxed, or creative.

While it would be wonderful to explore new landscapes or meet interesting people every day, here are some easy ways to break up monotony:

  • Work from a new location, even if it’s just another room
  • Move to an outdoor space for some fresh air
  • Explore a nearby town you’ve never visited
  • Take a different route to work for variety
  • Sample food from a different nationality or culture

12. Give Your Brain a Boost

Staying mentally and intellectually stimulated is a fantastic form of self-care. Keeping your memory active will also serve you long-term as you age. Mental pauses break up your day, help you relax, and boost your brain power. Here are some mentally stimulating activities:

  • Reading books and newspapers
  • Listening to podcasts
  • Learning a new language
  • Taking an online course
  • Playing thinking games like Scrabble
  • Engaging in stimulating conversations with friends and coworkers
woman sitting on a rocky beach, reading a book

Final Thoughts

Even on your busiest day, there are always a few precious moments to nurture yourself. These self-care ideas are by no means all-inclusive. Use these micro-actions as a launching pad for your own self-care endeavors. Just a few minutes every day can drastically improve your health and outlook.

Cora Gold freelance writer

About the Author

Cora Gold is a freelance wellness writer and the editor of women’s lifestyle magazine, Revivalist. She writes about self-care, healthy living, and mindfulness for publications including YouAligned, The Balanced CEO, and Om Magazine. To read more from Cora, connect with her on LinkedIn.

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