Whether you’re indulging in “Self-Care Sunday” or on team “#Treatyoself”, it’s apparent that self-care has become mainstream. The concept of self-care has evolved into a pop culture buzz phrase, used by celebrities and influencers who are usually promoting products. As professional consumers, we know that purchasing more products may provide the burst of excitement that can come from impulse spending, but often falls short of the promised relaxation and fulfillment of real self-care. This cycle of desire, excitement, unfulfillment, and more desire, has been cutely coined as “retail therapy” and is the most marketed type of self-care. Breaking this cycle takes the power away from the companies but more importantly can bring you closer to real happiness, health, and authentic self-care. Here are 5 ways to practice authentic self-care for (almost) no money:
1. Yoga and Meditation
Although yoga pants and meditation retreats are the trendy wellness choices of today, the roots of yoga and meditation pre-date our modern idea of self-care by a thousand years. Yoga and meditation practice can lead to a wide range of benefits including: improved immunity, increased strength, better digestion, stress relief, and better memory and focus. There are plenty of options for completely free yoga and meditation online, along with affordable experiences in person. The popularity of yoga in Western society has led to a boom in local studios. For anywhere from $5-$20 you can learn from a certified teacher the techniques to begin or deepen your yoga and meditation practice. Completely free options are also abundant thanks to YouTube, Instagram, Apps like Insight Timer, and if you’re feeling nostalgic the Library. Each one of these options provide you completely free classes or instructions on all things yoga and meditation. Whatever option you choose you should always honor your body with your practice (and if you’re ever unsure consult your healthcare provider).
2. Shake or Dance
This one is all about how you feel after the activity. The idea of shaking your way to health has come a long way since our grandparent’s generation. There is some research that indicates that full body shaking can be beneficial for strengthening muscles and that it can be a signal to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the rest and digest system. To practice shaking: stand with feet a comfortable distance from each other to maintain balance, bring a slight bend into the knees, and begin a bouncing motion while keeping your feet grounded. Once you begin your shaking practice, you’ll learn what adjustments your body is calling for: maybe a focus on shaking hands and arms, or maybe a more meditative practice with the eyes closed. Dancing is another fun way to burn some energy and flood your brain with endorphins, the chemicals that make you feel accomplished and happy. There is no one way to shake or dance! All you need for this self-care activity is some music and an open mind.
3. Take a Bath
One of the most underrated forms of self-care is the classic bubble bath. This simple task can become a sacred spa-like experience with the right intention. If you’re taking a bath as part of a self-care ritual make sure you focus on the relaxation rather than the act of bathing. You might like to take a quick pre or post bath shower where you can focus on the actual washing. Setting up for the bath indicates to your brain that a break from the ordinary routine is on the way. Grab a speaker, put on some relaxing music, light a candle, and pour your glass of water (or wine). Baths are a great time to experiment with those products we tend to accumulate, so bring on the soaps, scrubs, and oils too.
I was introduced to the concept of self-massage during my Yoga Teacher Training and was instantly sold. Our bodies are constantly adjusting to what we throw at them. Maybe you’re on your feet all day, or typing for hours, or have a job that requires looking down most of the time; our everyday activities can add up and make big impacts on the body (think carpal tunnel, stiff necks, slipped discs, etc.). Most of us would love to book a full body massage but due to the price and scheduling required, massage is often thought of as a luxury experience. While you won’t have the same full body experience as a massage, self-massage can be a luxury self-care treat you give yourself. Self-massage works for anywhere you can comfortably reach: hands, wrists, and forearms, shoulders and neck, and calves and feet. This self-care activity can be practiced manually by hand, or with tools like foam rollers and myofascial release tools (which can be found under $20!).
5. Get Outside
Getting outside connects us more deeply with our surroundings and our own human nature. Our society evolved from hunter gatherers to its no surprise that being outside has proven benefits for our wellbeing. Harvard Medical School has published that being outside can make a person happier, improve their concentration, and maybe even increase physical healing. If you have a couple of hours for your self-care break go to your local nature resource: the beach, the mountains, woods, or any outdoor space that makes you feel free. This one also works if you only have 5 minutes. When you hit a roadblock or feel stuck at work take a few minutes to step outside and recharge. Feeling the warmth of the sun, or the breeze, or the sticky humidity will bring you back into the present moment and give you some perspective.
While “retail therapy” may be here to stay, I hope these self-care activities give you something to look forward to and provide an opportunity to de-stress without breaking the bank.