Many evenings before bed, I dim the lights, light a candle, and listen to lullaby-esque instrumental versions of Red Hot Chili Peppers songs by a group called Rockabye Baby! (They also produce baby-friendly bedtime renditions of everything from David Bowie and Beyoncé to Hamilton.) For me, listening to familiar songs that replace pounding drums and a shredding guitar with a gentle xylophone and the occasional slide whistle is self care.
In that vein, a self-care routine doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming or really require any serious life changes. The most important feature of it is to simply exist. And often, it’s the very simple, very personalized things we do that have the biggest impact on our sense of well-being—especially if we take the time to recognize the benefits. Need some inspo for your own routine? I asked 22 busy people, “What’s the smallest thing you do for self care?” Here are there answers.
22 small acts of self care that make a huge difference in happiness.
1. Rewatching content
“I watch movies I’ve seen before, or episodes of television shows that I’ve seen before. I’m often spiraling down a dark and seemingly endless well of unknowing, and so I find it really calming to watch something knowing exactly what awaits.” —Hanif Abdurraqib, poetry editor at Muzzle Magazine and author of They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us
2. Making perfect soft-boiled eggs
“I use my egg machine to soft-boil six perfect eggs at a time before the start of every week. I never have to fear or overcooking my eggs, and the delight I take in runny yolks is unparalleled.” —Zazu Tauber, criminal court social worker at Red Hook Community Justice Center
3. Doing a sock ritual
“Each day, I balance on one foot and put on a sock. Then, I switch my balancing foot and put on the [other] sock. It fills me with a sense of accomplishment. It’s also become a reminder to me that small habits add up.” —Peter Pelberg, freelance product manager
4. Enjoying a glass of shower wine
“I pour a little pinot grigio into a red Solo cup, light some incense, play the Alabama Shakes, and sip my wine slowly while in the shower. Those 20 minutes once a week are glorious.” —Danielle Bayard Jackson, co-founder of Stride Media Group
5. Dancing every night
“Hold a nightly dance party with our daughters; gets the wiggles out before bedtime and always leads to a lot of laughing. Family time: check. Healthy hormone stimulation: check.” —Lisa Tan and Martin Rawls-Meehan, CEOs of Reverie
6. Leaning into digital JOMO
“I’m prodigious when it comes to muting people, terms, and phrases on social media. I have also filtered my notifications in such a way that I rarely see the responses to any of my posts from people I don’t follow. I don’t go to social media anymore to argue with some faceless stranger. It’s freeing. If I want to get my news, I’ll go and read the news, but I’m no longer looking for it in fragments on Twitter.” —Joel Kim Booster, comedian and writer
7. Mindfully enjoying dessert
“I give myself permission to enjoy dessert. The more we avoid restricting our favorite foods (mine being sweets), the less we’re inclined to overdo it in the future. Honor your cravings and satisfy your favorite indulgences mindfully. Giving yourself permission to do this is the first step to a healthier relationship with food, which goes hand-in-hand with a healthy lifestyle.” —Rachel Fine, registered dietitian and owner of To the Pointe Nutrition
“I compost my garbage. The act of taking a few extra minutes to throw my vegetables in my composter keeps me connected to nature. It’s an act of self care that helps me to feel grounded, less stressed, and part of something greater. Throughout the day, I save my compostable stuff, like apple cores, banana peels, and eggshells in a container. At the end of the day, I walk down to my garden and add it to my barrel composter. If any compost is done inside, I add it to my garden.” —Suzanne Monroe, founder and CEO the International Association of Wellness Professionals
9. Handwriting thank-you notes
“I hand-write a minimum of two thank-you notes every week—to friends, family members, colleagues, neighbors, or anyone who has done something for me that week. I’ve been known to leave a thank-you note for a particularly helpful bank teller! Forcing myself to look for at least two instances each week that merit thank-you notes helps me focus on the positive things that happened for me. When I’ve had a tough week, finding those moments for gratitude lifts my spirits.” —Liz Kores, principal at Liz Kores Public Relations
“I floss my teeth at least once daily, and have been doing so religiously for as long as I can remember. It makes me feel like I’m hitting the ‘pause’ button on my brain, and resetting my evening. There is nothing more satisfying than a just-flossed mouth!” —Farah Sheikh, strategic marketing partnerships at Squarespace
11. Making the bed
“I make my bed every day. It makes me feel organized and prepared for my day, and it sets me up for a warm welcome when I get home. I suppose my bed is welcoming either way, but something about seeing it made makes it more tempting to jump in bed and rest at night.” —Julio Medina, assistant professor at Cal State University Long Beach, Department of Dance
12. Restorative breathing
“I recline on the floor and prop yoga blocks under my heart and head and take some deep breaths.” —Julie Mayo, freelance choreographer
13. Get moving, first thing
“The smallest thing I do for self-care is every morning when I wake up I get some form of movement in. Some days it can be hard to feel motivated to hit the gym or work out, or you’re just too busy that day. But even doing five push-ups and five sit-ups when you first roll out of bed is better than doing nothing.” —Jennifer Cohen, founder of NGR (No Gym Required) and co-author of Strong Is the New Skinny
“Sort my LPs; I find it relaxing to pull out a shelf at a time and flip through them, make sure they are in alphabetical order, and remind myself of things I haven’t listened to in a while.” —Mark Richardson, freelance writer and former editor-in-chief of Pitchfork
15. Playing music, or just playing
“I play my cello as much as I can and play games with my kids.” —Santa Ono, president, vice-chancellor and professor at the University of British Columbia
“I do five to 10-minute guided meditations from an app on my phone. Short, but effective in centering and grounding and making space to focus on my breath.” —Jessica Ketner, marriage and family therapist
“I divert all my phone calls. I do this when I’m in need of intense self care because the needs of the world and its people will always be insatiable. Zoning out lets me sleep, eat, and think better. It helps clear my mind and allows me to re-prioritize my life.” —Mirabelle Morah, editor-in-chief of BlankPaperz.com
18. Going on a solo date
“Every Sunday, I go to the movies (by myself), purchase a box of buttery popcorn, Hot Tamales candy, and a Coke. This relaxes me and frees my mind of all the stress from the week before. I’m then able to start the new week with a renewed sense if energy.” —Yvette Knott, technical director at Nationwide Insurance
19. Learning new, random-ish things
“I love to follow threads of things that make me happy and come to my attention randomly. Last month, for instance, I noticed a bossa nova song that made me VERY happy, so I made a playlist and listened at work. Then I happened to notice a class at a nearby jazz center about Antônio Carlos Jobim, who internationalized bossa nova. The class was such amazing self care, and a huge bright spot at the end of each week. Really proud of myself for being aware and following that thread.” —Sara Chandler, policy and community manager at Elemental Excelerator
20. Vocally disrupting negative thoughts
“When I have negative thoughts about myself, I interrupt them out loud, with ‘It’s okay, I’m okay.’ I might sound a little weird to people in the room, but it’s amazingly effective at stopping a self-doubt spiral.” —Gabi Moskowitz, author of Hot Mess Kitchen and producer of Young & Hungry TV show.
21. Acknowledging gratitude
“When I first wake up and place my feet on the ground, I pause to think about three things I am grateful for. It supports me starting out the day with a better mind-set and gives me a boost of appreciation for getting out of bed.” —Wade Brill, lifestyle and mindfulness coach at Wade Brill Coaching
22. Watching nature docs
“I watch nature documentaries when I’m at my most stressed. They remind me that I live in a beautiful world and am part of a larger picture. Plus, animals are cool.” —Mars Sebastian, writer
Here’s how Tim Ferriss priortizes self care without compromising productivity. And in case you want to copy Michelle Obama’s self-care routine, know that it’s super simple.
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