Treating yourself is an act of self-care.
Self-care is something most of us have heard of and something that we might pay attention to from time to time. Self-care is any intentional act to tend to our own physical, mental and emotional health and well-being. These acts of paying attention to our needs provide a balance between what we give to ourselves and what we give to others. Acts of self-care are not selfish and should be something that we personally enjoy so we will keep coming back to them. Treating oneself is an act of self-care. The only requirement is that you do something deliberate to take care of yourself.
Consider something from this list the next time you are looking for ways to treat yourself without spending much money:
- Listen to your favorite music. Listening to music can be restorative and is used as a regular part of formal psychotherapy. Research has shown that music therapy is effective in the treatment of depression, anxiety and a host of other mental health conditions.
- Exercise at home. You don’t need any equipment at your home or even a large amount of space. You don’t have to be confined to the indoors. You can opt to move outside in your yard, on your deck or around your neighborhood. Thirty minutes of exercise, five days a week, is shown to improve your quality of life, improve sleep, boost weight loss and a long list of other life improving benefits.
- Meditation or other forms of mindfulness. Mindfulness can be defined as paying attention in an intentional way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally. Practicing mindfulness is effective in reducing stress-related symptoms such as worry, depression and physical tension. Michigan State University Extension’s Stress Less with Mindfulness is a free six-lesson series for adults that offers a different way of relating to our everyday lived experiences, including our thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and behavior.
- Give yourself a facial mask at home. Spa treatments can be expensive, but you don’t need to go to a spa to treat yourself! There are so many ways to indulge at home on the cheap with just a $.99 mask purchased from the supermarket. Aside from the benefits of making your skin clearer and soft, one of the most powerful benefits an at-home spa treatment such as a facial offers is being in a safe space to connect to yourself and disconnect with the stressors of daily life.
The ideas above are free or relatively low cost, but if you have the resources and want to spend money to indulge in a special treat for yourself, go ahead! In the acclaimed television series Parks and Recreation, two of the main characters spent time tending to their self-care needs, which really caught on and resulted in a national self-care day called “Treat Yo Self,” (October 13). Setting aside a specific day of the week, month or year will give you something to look forward to.
Consider something from this list if or when you have money to devote to an indulgent act of self-care:
- Shopping. Who hasn’t gone shopping to elevate their mood after a stressful day at work or parenting, after a break-up or even just for a quick mood booster? Retail therapy gets a bad rap, but according to research, it not only provides an immediate mood booster, it can also combat ongoing sadness and stress, as well as increase one’s personal sense of self-control. The key to making it a functional self-care strategy is to indulge in something that you really want or have been eyeing for a while, not overspending and regretting it later.
- Getting a massage. The documented benefits of human touch include reducing heart rate and the level of harmful hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline; these are present in our bodies when we are stressed. Aside from improving our emotional well-being, there are also physical benefits of massage, such as increasing our circulation and releasing toxins from the body.
- Buy yourself a journal and get busy writing. There are so many interesting journal covers and colors at the bookstore to choose from. Get inspired! Journaling about the stressors of life and work can be an effective coping mechanism over the impacts of stress that accumulate in our minds and bodies. Journaling is most effective when done consistently. To get started and to maximize the mental health benefits, commit to it on a regular basis. It’s important to find a routine that works for you, whether it’s once a day, once a week or twice a month.
Although treating yourself can take place on a special day such as a birthday, anniversary or other occasion, it can be any day. Sometimes treating yourself can take the form of things that cost money, but there are many ways to treat yourself to something special that are relatively inexpensive or completely free. Michigan State University Extension offers a wide range of free social-emotional health and well-being programs for you to check out. So, go ahead and treat yourself! Sometimes you come first.