More Than Mindfulness: 9 Self-Care Ideas That Actually Work

You’ve tried deep breathing. You’ve taken yoga classes, booked a spa day, tried your hand at journaling, and even repeated affirmations in the mirror.

Maybe some of those self-care ideas worked for you—or maybe they just didn’t feel right and left you feeling as stressed or anxious as you were before. 

Fear not—you’ve come to the right place. This article forgoes all of the traditional self-care ideas you can read about in plenty of other publications. 

Instead, focus on bringing mindfulness into a few of these unconventional self-care practices:


1. Hike up a mountain (and scream!)

It’s well known that regular exercise is an excellent form of both physical and emotional self-care. That’s why you often feel a little high when you come out of the gym—the chemicals in your body are rewarding you for a job well done.

Going to the gym works for some, but if you live in an area with outdoor trails or city walks nearby, you can “double up” your self-care by exercising outside—being in nature is also well-known to boost mood and prevent burnout

If you want to take that a step further, try adding some scream therapy to your outdoor walks. 

“The scream is a natural and intuitive way for your body to release emotion, i.e., anger/rage,” Sarah Harmon, a licensed therapist, told Healthline. “It takes your sympathetic nervous system to the extreme and really there’s no other place to go ‘down’ from there but into a relaxation response.” 

If you want to practice this emotional self-care idea, make sure you’re in a secluded space by yourself (or with people who know what you plan to do). When you’re in an isolated spot, let out a scream or two at the top of your lungs. 

As you do this, visualize your stress and anxiety leaving your body. Just as you would with quiet meditation, allow your brain to explore on its own as you shout. 

This may not be a long-term solution, but it’s almost guaranteed you’ll feel better once you let off some steam with a primal yell. 


2. Take yourself on a date

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When looking for self-care ideas, you’ll see various tips that essentially boil down to: “Treat yourself!” 

It’s true—treating yourself with kindness and affection (known as loving yourself first) is key to caring for your heart and mind. But it’s important not to mix up “treating yourself” with impulse purchases that won’t bring you true happiness. 

You may feel a burst of joy when you buy an expensive shirt or splurge on drinks with friends; indeed, these can be forms of self-care. But as with all self-care ideas, it’s better to do this mindfully. Take time to plan, acknowledge, and appreciate the kindness you show yourself. 

One way to do this is to take yourself out on a date. It may sound a bit strange, especially if you aren’t the type who gets a lot of alone time.

All you need to do is consider what date you’d like to go on (within your budget, of course). Here are some ideas: 

  • Visit a restaurant you’ve been wanting to try 
  • Spend a slow morning at a cafe with a good book 
  • Go on a walk around a park or nature trail 
  • Go to a movie or performance you’ve wanted to see 
  • Spend a day thrift shopping 
  • Spend a night in with Netflix

Go the extra mile for these self-dates. Choose an outfit you love, plan it in advance so you have time to get excited, and allow yourself to thoroughly enjoy the time you’ve carved out. 


3. Seek out some physical touch

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Physical touch with another human can help calm your nervous center, lower your blood pressure, and decrease your cortisol (the hormone that causes stress), according to Psychology Today.

If you’re the kind of person who gets a boost from physical touch, then seeking it out is one self-care idea that’s likely to help your mental state. 

Getting physical touch may be easy if you’ve got a partner or live with an affectionate parent or friend. If not, you can make an effort to be more physically affectionate with friends—as long as all touch is consensual.  Even hugging friends hello and goodbye could help you get a mood boost. 

Getting a professional massage not only gives you physical touch, but it’s also an excellent form of physical and emotional self-care. And for the brave, there’s also cuddle therapy to consider… 


4. Visit the dog park (even if you don’t have a dog)

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If you’re not a dog person, you might want to skip to the next tip. 

Still here? Good, because people who have dogs report greater self-esteem and life satisfaction, as well as a reduction in loneliness and anxiety. 

If you’ve already got a furry friend in your house, build them into your self-care routine. Increase the number of walks you give them, or spend time before or after a stressful day brushing their coat or playing tug-of-war. 

And what about those of us who can’t or don’t have a dog right now? The nice thing about dogs is they’re often extroverts. You can pay a visit to your local dog park, and simply watching them run and play can boost your mood. 

There are other options for getting more canine time in your life: 

  • Visit or pet-sit for a friend who has a dog 
  • Volunteer at a local shelter
  • Start a side hustle as a dog sitter


5. Go somewhere you’ve never been before

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If the monotony of everyday life is part of what’s making you feel the need for more self-care, then perhaps a bout of exploring is needed. 

You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on plane tickets and a hotel in some far-flung destination. There are probably some places in your own backyard that you’ve never visited before. 

Public parks, tourist destinations, shops and stores, public libraries, historical markers—the number of potential places to explore is endless. Google or someone who knows your area well can help you discover one. 

If you have a bit of extra money to spend but not enough for a whole vacation, then a Staycation on your own or with a friend can take this self-care idea to the next level. Book an affordable hotel in a part of town you’ve never been to, and play tourist for a night or two. 

Your goal with this tip isn’t to have some mind-blowing, life-changing travel experience. Instead, you’re finding a creative way to break up that monotony and give your brain something new and interesting to play with. 


6. Make a playlist for someone (or yourself)

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Music is one of the best ways to ease anxiety, whether you want to chill out to some lo-fi beats or bang your head to death metal. 

It’s not just opinion—according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, music has the power to improve sleep quality and memory, boost mood and alertness, and lower anxiety. 

To turn listening to music into genuine self-care, you need to go beyond just playing tunes in the background while you work or run errands. You need to (once again) go about this mindfully. 

One of the best ways to do that is to sit down and make a playlist. Create a list of songs that speak directly to whatever is weighing on your mind. You can do this just for yourself, or if it helps with your focus and intention, make a playlist for someone you care about. 

When you’re done, put on some good headphones or fire up your speaker. Dim the lights, light a candle, pull up the lyrics if you so choose, and give the entire playlist a listen from start to finish before you close out this self-care strategy. 


7. Commit yourself to a day of extreme laziness

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It’s not easy being lazy. That may sound like an oxymoron, but many people feel guilty about taking time out of a busy schedule to do absolutely nothing

That’s why it pays to be intentional about your day of relaxation. Don’t snatch up moments of laziness here and there where they fit in—block off a full day (or heck, a weekend) where you make a promise to yourself: 

“Today, I’m only doing things that I absolutely want to do.” 

Plan in advance. Go shopping for all the things you’ll need while at home, and make sure your work colleagues and friends or family (who aren’t included in your day of laziness) know you’re taking a day off. 

Maybe your day of laziness looks like sleeping in and having a long brunch at your favorite restaurant. Maybe it’s staying in your sweatpants all day and ordering delivery food for every meal. 

If at any point during this special day you start to hear that voice inside that tells you you should be doing something with all this free time, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you made a commitment and set this day aside specifically to have a guilt-free sloth day. 


8. Learn how to make your favorite comfort food

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It’s called comfort food for a reason! 

Eating a meal that you love and has special meaning can warm you inside (literally and figuratively). Taking the time and effort to learn how to make such a meal is an even further step toward self-care, assuming you enjoy spending time in the kitchen. 

Think about foods that make your mind, body, and soul feel good. Perhaps it’s a childhood favorite or a specialty dish you tried somewhere and want to recreate.

As you’re cooking, enjoy the scents, feel, and sneaky bites you take along the journey. When it’s done, hopefully it’s a masterpiece—but if not, take pride in your attempt and know you’ll improve as you practice. 


9. Write to a pen pal

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Journaling is a popular self-care idea because writing down your thoughts, feelings, and observations can help you manage emotions and gain new perspectives. 

But what if you aren’t the type who enjoys journaling? You may get the same benefits by starting correspondence with a pen pal. 

Your pen pal can be anyone—even if it’s someone you see in person from time to time. You can write to them via email or go old-school and pick out some nice stationery and a good pen for writing by hand. 

In these letters, write about whatever you want—observations about your daily life, what’s new with you, or your hopes and dreams. Hopefully, whoever you write to will choose to write back, but even if not, simply putting your thoughts down on paper can help you feel better and reduce stress. 

If you don’t know anyone you want to write to, there are lots of organizations like Compatipal or Pen Pal World that can help connect you to people around the world who share your interests. 

The key to successful self-care is finding a solution that works for your personality, schedule, and style. Hopefully, you’ve discovered at least one or two unconventional self-care ideas on this list that will bring you to a calmer, happier place.