Show Yourself a Little Love | 14 Ways to Practice Self-Care
Valentine’s Day is right around the corner.
With it comes candy hearts, hand-crafted cards, and plenty of opportunities to share the love. Maybe you’ve planned a romantic night out. Maybe you’ve booked a sleepy evening in. Maybe you’re kicking back and relaxing with a couple of friends. You’ve probably bought a gift or two; you’ve definitely drafted a few texts; and, above all, you’ve decided how to give love to the people you love most.
But, in the midst of caring for everyone else, what are you doing to care for yourself?
This month more than ever, self-care is key. Self-care is the act of caring for your needs — physical, mental, and emotional — so that you can be the happiest, healthiest version of yourself. When you are at your best, you can do more and be more.
That’s why, contrary to popular belief, self-care isn’t selfish. As the old saying goes, “You can pour from an empty cup.”
So how can you make sure that your cup stays full?
In honor of February 14, here are 14 simple, science-backed ways that you can practice self-care this Valentine’s Day:
It’s called aromatherapy for a reason. Certain scents are scientifically proven to evoke emotion and put you in a better mood.
Lavender, for example, lessens stress and promotes feelings of calmness. Peppermint creates clarity. Patchouli increases confidence. Rose helps promote strong memory. Prioritize your well-being by lighting a candle, turning on a diffuser, or spraying your favorite scent this month.
Sometimes self-care starts with your surroundings. If you’re looking to spruce up your space and boost your mood, take a trip to your local plant nursery.
Studies show that indoor plants can improve concentration, up productivity, reduce stress, and create feelings of happiness — so they’re worth investing in. If you’re a beginner, opt for a plant that’s easy to look after and reasonably priced. A few plants to look into:
Take care of yourself by taking care of your mind. One of the best ways to be kind to your mind this month is by doing one simple practice: gratitude journaling.
Gratitude journaling involves sitting down, writing out a few things you’re thankful for, and then setting them aside to revisit later. Studies show that practicing gratitude has numerous health benefits — from optimizing heart health to reducing anxiety to promoting peace of mind.
What are you thankful for this month?
Mindfulness is the art of being fully engaged in the present moment: aware of where you are, what you’re doing, and how you’re feeling. You can practice mindfulness on a schedule, or you can take pause for a few moments every day.
No matter how you choose to do it, studies show that mindfulness can alleviate stress, enhance performance, and increase your understanding not only of yourself but also of others.
Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, do yourself a favor and ground back down by practicing mindfulness.
If mindfulness is the awareness of something (the present moment), then meditation is the awareness of nothing.
There are many different kinds of meditation. Some aim to help you develop a clear mind; others aim to promote emotions like kindness, compassion, or forgiveness. All forms of meditation, though, invite you to take a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and simply be still.
Take 5 minutes to meditate every day this month, then see how your mental health improves.
There’s never been a better time to kick back, relax, and unwind with a good book.
Whether you’re a sci-fi nerd or a fantasy fanatic, crack open a few pages of your favorite book — and feel good about it. Science says that reading can improve brain connectivity, improve memory and retention, and fight cognitive decline as you age.
Not sure what to start with? Try one of the best-selling books from 2021:
Be someone you love and do something you love.
This month, take the time to invest in your interests. If there’s a hobby you’ve been wanting to pick up, a new skill you’ve wanted to learn, or something new you’ve wanted to do (but never knew how), now is the time to try.
Take advantage of paid platforms — like MasterClass, Skillshare, and Coursera — to pick up new skills, or tune into a YouTube tutorial for a free alternative.
Taking the time to learn something new can keep your mind active, help you make new friends, and nurture interests you might’ve neglected otherwise.
If you spend most of your time inside, it’s more important than ever to change up your space and take a trip to the Great Outdoors.
Whether you’re engaging in exercise or simply soaking up the sun, time outside can help you in a number of ways: relieving stress, strengthening immunity, and increasing your longevity.
This month, take a trip to your local park, hiking trail, or even just your backyard — and see the benefits
It’s true that laughter is the best medicine, but the best laughs come with the people you love most
Make time to meet with your closest friends, and while you’re at it, share a laugh. Recall fond memories, bring up old jokes, or even watch a funny TV show or stand-up comedy routine together.
Laughter has a number of health benefits, like improving mood and relieving pain — so why not share them with a friend?
If you’re missing out on social support, take to the screen.
In the last 2 years, we’ve seen just how crucial other people can be in times of trouble. Whether you’re struggling with something specific, or you just need someone to talk to, you can hop online and get plugged in with people who get you.
Online support groups can give you a new community from the comfort of your own home and provide you with the social connections we all need.
Click here to find a list of support groups to look into.
February may not be the right time for a full-blown vacation, but it’s a good idea to take a quick getaway. Pack your bags and take a road trip a few hours outside of town. Explore new places, try new foods, and make new memories (with yourself or your loved ones).
Traveling is the best way to broaden your horizons and make new experiences. And a weekend trip won’t eat up any of your PTO days, either.
By now, it’s no secret that screen time can be harmful to your health and your happiness.
The average American spends 7 hours per day staring at a screen, which means there’s plenty of reason to take a break and unplug. Take time out of your morning, evening, or any hour in between, to put down your device and enjoy the things (and the people) around you.
Trust us: your emails can wait.
There’s nothing quite like a home-cooked meal. This month, take the time to whip up your favorite meal (and bonus points if you can incorporate leafy greens, fermented foods, or antioxidants — all of which are scientifically proven to boost your mood).
Life is all about balance, though, so don’t be afraid to cut yourself a slice of cake afterward. Satisfy your sweet tooth and treat yourself for all of the work that you do every day.
Self-care is inherently focused on the self, but that doesn’t mean you can’t share the love this month.
In fact, stepping up and giving back isn’t only an investment in others but an investment in yourself. It can lower stress, decrease depression, and promote greater happiness and satisfaction.
Giving back can take shape in a number of ways. Maybe it means volunteering at a local soup kitchen. Maybe it means doing a favor for a friend. Maybe it just means giving a stranger a smile. No matter how you decide to care for others, know that you’re also caring for yourself. It’s a win-win.
In the past, Valentine’s Day was all about showing love to those you love — but you can’t give love without first getting love (from yourself). This month, take the time to care for your needs, cultivate your interests, and create a happier, healthier you.
You'll be better for it.