Prioritizing “self care” is a common New Year’s resolution. But how, exactly, do you do it?
For some, self care may translate into taking a moment to relax, for example with a simple bubble bath. For others, it includes more elaborate rituals or more directly healthcare-related activities. The World Health Organization defines self care as “the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote their own health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health worker.”
Self care means different things to different people, but most would include activities that reduce stress as a critical component of self care—clearly something many of us could benefit from. A 2022 Stress in America survey conducted by the American Psychological Association found that 27% of Americans say they are so stressed they can’t function on most days. So what are some concrete ways to practice self care?
Here are 17 fresh ideas for self care for New Year’s resolutions
1.) Subtract something
A gift you can give yourself is looking at your life and seeing where you might be able to subtract something rather than adding more. Investigate what’s no longer serving you. What no longer adds value to your life? Perhaps it’s a relationship, a habit, an obligation, or something in your house. Explore letting it go.
2.) Cooking a nutritious meal from scratch
There’s something therapeutic about all of the slicing, chopping, and dicing that goes along with cooking a nutrient-packed meal. Home cooking can reduce anxiety in some people and even help them achieve a “flow” state. That’s likely because cooking requires mindfulness. Regularly cooking meals at home is also linked to a healthier body composition.
3.) Mindful eating exercise
Take your home cooking a step further and try out one of these mindful eating exercises as a free way to nurture yourself and more fully experience the joy of food.
4.) Tea party with friends (or another social outing)
Loneliness can be worse for your health than obesity, but combatting it is often overlooked in self care routines. Consider scheduling a simple get-together or even a trip with friends to form or maintain strong connections.
5.) Host a book swap
Jolabokaflod is the Icelandic tradition of gathering on Christmas Eve with family and friends to exchange books. You can add your own spin to it and gather with loved ones to share your favorite books any time of the year.
Taking a short nap during the day can reduce anxiety, improve performance, and even improve heart health. The Sleep Foundation recommends napping for 20 minutes before 3 p.m.
7.) Gentle yoga
Chronic stress impacts breathing patterns and can lead to shallow breathing and otherwise undermine healthy breathing.
A simple yoga posture known as “crocodile pose” helps to calm the nervous system and improve diaphragmatic breathing. Learn how to practice it here.
8.) Yoga nidra
Yoga nidra is a type of yoga practice that involves holding poses for a long time. It has been shown to increase levels of dopamine while also reducing anxiety, depression, and symptoms of PTSD.
Also called “yogic sleep,” you can think of it as a blissful extension of those last few minutes of relaxation in a typical yoga class. This article features free audio for a guided yoga nidra experience.
Clutter can lead to anxiety, procrastination, poor impulse control, and other stressors. There are many decluttering methods out there. Consider finding one that works with your personality and preferences as an act of self care.
Donating time to help others has been shown to reduce stress and reduce blood pressure. The key is altruism–the benefits are most potent when you genuinely want to help others.
11.) Forest bathing
Shinrin-yoku is the Japanese art of using the senses to experience a green space. The benefits of this practice are remarkable. “Forest medicine” can reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and anger; strengthen the immune system; improve cardiovascular and metabolic health; and boost overall well-being.
12.) Developing a morning ritual you enjoy
Do you love reading a few pages of fiction before you start your day? Maybe taking an extra few minutes to floss or mindfully wash your face helps to focus or invigorate you. Experiment with different wellness practices and see which one brings you a joyful start to your day.
13.) Learn something new
Learning a new skill positively impacts your brain chemistry, improves learning speed, helps ward off boredom, and could even reduce your risk of dementia.
14.) Reading for pleasure
In addition to being enjoyable and educational, reading can make you a more empathetic person. Recent research found that readers tend to understand and empathize with others better than non-readers. Reading is also linked to lower stress levels, better sleep, and even increased longevity.
15.) Physical exercise that brings you joy
Workouts should leave you feeling invigorated–not beaten down and depleted. Experiment with different physical activities that you’re excited about since you'll be most likely to stick with those you enjoy.
16.) Take a Science of Well-Being course
Self-discovery and the quest for happiness go hand-in-hand. Get a better handle on what brings you joy by taking Yale’s free Science of Well-Being course. It focuses on proven positive psychology methods to increase happiness and establish productive habits. The free course is available on Coursera.
17.) AdaRose Spa in a Box
At-home spa rituals rank as one of the most preferred ways to practice self care. The AdaRose Spa in a Box provides everything you need to pamper yourself or a loved one with four unique on-demand wellness experiences ranging from 10-50 minutes. The Spa in a Box helps you take care of both your body and mind.
Less important than the particular ways in which you practice self care is the act of taking time to focus on meeting your own unique needs. Try to make a habit of doing it more often in the New Year and beyond!