What is self-care and why is it so important for your health?

There’s no way to say exactly what counts as self-care because everyone’s definition is their own and unique.

The underlying rule is that it’s something that brings ongoing joy in the long run, says Courtney. And while there are many examples of self-care that seem to walk a fine line between health-enhancing behavior and self-indulgence, self-care doesn’t have to be about filling your schedule with luxurious experiences or activities that cost money. (although it certainly can).

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Consider a manicure or a massage or any other pampering activity. It may sound indulgent, but if the activity helps you de-stress and make time for yourself, that counts as self-care, says Amsellem. If weekly manicures or monthly spa days are beyond your means, they will likely add stress to your life in the long run; therefore, there are many other self-care practices you can adopt.

“Self-care doesn’t have to cost you anything — it’s just about doing things you enjoy. And many of the things we enjoy or feel fulfilled cost nothing,” says Amsellem. “Leaving the house and taking a deep breath, for example, can be the ultimate act of self-care.”

Even if you can’t afford to spend a lot of time and money, Gill Lopez says you can still practice self-care several times a week by turning the things you do every day into self-care practices.

Maybe you try to be more aware of your thoughts during the commute, or maybe you find ways to make everyday tasks like taking a shower more enjoyable. Choose a soap with a scent you love and focus on the physical sensations of the bath. Gill Lopez says: What does your shower smell like? How is the sound? How does warm water feel on your skin? “For about 10 minutes in the shower, which I have to do anyway, instead of letting my monkey brain run wild, I’m right there,” she says.

Daily tasks like making your bed in the morning are also examples of self-care – or they can be. “This is where individuality comes into play, because for some people there’s no way to make a bed feel like self-care—it can just feel like a chore,” says Amsellem. But if it helps you claim your day and gives you a sense of accomplishment early on, you’ll have that with you even if the rest of your day derails, says Amsellem.

The simple act of making your bed in the morning probably isn’t enough to account for all of your self-care, she says. You may need to routinely devote time and energy to other self-care practices, she adds. “But if there are some days when you feel out of control, on those days, starting your day by doing what you wanted to do for yourself can be one of the greatest forms of self-care you practice that day.”

And sometimes, when all our other self-care plans go awry (you worked your yoga class, your friend canceled your coffee date—we’ve all been there), it’s these little self-care practices that provide just calm enough to get us through the day and wake up in a better mood tomorrow.

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What is self-care and why is it so important for your health?

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