For anyone who’s been looking for a good reason to #TreatYoSelf, you probably don’t do it often enough.

A 2-month holistic yoga retreat isn’t necessary either. You can get nourishment simply by putting on the radio and shakin’ what your mama gave you for a few minutes.

Putting “me time” on the back burner is a big part of why we can all feel run-down, frenzied, and overwhelmed. Enter self-care, who cuddles you and tells you everything’s alright.

Even during COVID-19, when many of us have more free time than we know what to do with, self-betterment became difficult after the seventh day in pajama bottoms.

It seems that 21st-century life revolves around working ’til your eyes bleed or spending months on lockdown with nothing to do. However, it’s more important than ever to be kind to yourself and make self-care a priority.

We found 25 ways to step up your self-love game.

Often ignored but totally necessary, self-care is any action or behavior that helps a person avoid health problems. Excessive stress may increase your risk for heart problems, for example. So, by definition, stress relief can help someone keep their ticker ticking.

Self-care also helps us sharpen our mental and physical health through better self-esteem, stress management, and overall well-being.

These behaviors help provide balance in an increasingly overstimulating world. Self-care forms an essential part of a lifestyle that keeps us healthy, happy, and more in tune with our minds and bodies.

The problem is, you probably aren’t doing enough of it.

It’s easy to confuse self-care with self-indulgent behavior. This mentality might make us feel guilty for thinking we need to take a break from our lives to do something that, simply put, makes us feel better.Doran J, et al. (2014). The unspoken truth about self-care.

However, it’s also important not only to be kind to yourself and allow good, nourishing things into your life, but also to know your own line. Self-indulgence involves little quick fixes that feel better temporarily.

These are fine in moderation, and who doesn’t love a treat? But quick bursts of indulgence are not a sustainable route to health and happiness — and they can affect others too.

A 2019 study, for example, found that student nurses may neglect their own health and wellness needs while training to look after others — and this might, in turn, reduce their effectiveness when providing care.Mills A, et al. (2019). Helping students to self-care and enhance their health-promotion skills.

That’s why taking the time to check in with your mind and body isn’t a bad thing. In fact, the pursuit of health and happiness is far from selfish.

When we take good care of ourselves, we’re likely to see an improvement in many aspects of our lives, including our physical health and relationships. And this puts us in a better position to serve as a pilla of support for people we love.

Since self-care is a highly individual practice. There’s no set prescription for how or when to do it.

You should take time every day to do something for yourself. Lost for ideas? Don’t fret. We’ve rounded up some sweet strategies for slashing stress, boosting happiness, and improving overall health.

Practice any of these self-care behaviors (or any others that occur to you) daily, weekly, or even hourly — whatever feels best to you.

1. Get outside

Ditching the comfort of your home is a great way to improve mental and physical health. Similar to meditation, spending time out of doors benefits the brain.

Other research suggests even just looking at pictures of nature sparks positive activity in the brain.Hyunju J, et al. (2019). Physiological benefits of viewing nature: A systematic review of indoor experiments.

So if you can’t immediately head into the wilderness, have a peek at your standard Mac screensaver. Or, ya know, out the window.

Even living in an area with more green space (i.e. parks and gardens) is associated with greater life satisfaction and less mental distress.White MP, et al. (2013). Would you be happier living in a greener urban area? A fixed-effects analysis of panel data.

Get out into the garden, too — it’s a great way to sneak in some outdoor exercise.

2. Try an outdoor workout

Consider taking your sweat session into nature, too.

Research shows that working out in the Great Outdoors boosts self-esteem more than indoor exercise, especially for people with mental health difficulties.Barton J, et al. (2010) What is the best dose of nature and green exercise for improving mental health? A multi-study analysis.

Another study found that outdoor exercise makes people feel more revitalized and energetic, as well as less tense, confused, depressed, and angry.Coon Thompson J, et al. (2011). Does participating in physical activity in outdoor natural environments have a greater effect on physical and mental wellbeing than physical activity indoors? A systematic review.

We’ve got an ace bodywork routine you can try in the park.

3. Pay it forward

It’s nice to be important, but important to be nice.

By helping others, we actually help ourselves, too. Lending a hand not only boosts mental health, but may also lead to a longer life.Jenkinson CE, et al. (2013). Is volunteering a public health intervention? A systematic review and meta-analysis of the health and survival of volunteers.

Is it truly altruism if you also benefit? Well, you’re making other people happy! You get to be a little happy too. Volunteering can also positively affect self-confidence, self-esteem, and general wellbeing.

4. Breathe the right scents

We know that breathing techniques can help us chill TF out. But what we breathe might be just as important as how we breathe.

While scientists continue their back and forth on the benefits of aromatherapy, research suggests that when life gives you lemons, citrus scents — orange essential oil in particular — can help slash stress and anxiety.Jafarzadeh M, et al. (2013). Effect of aromatherapy with orange essential oil on salivary cortisol and pulse rate in children during dental treatment: A randomized controlled clinical trial.

Getting a whiff of rosemary might also boost memory for some people. Of course, scent is highly subjective — a soothing smell for one person might be aggravating for another.

However, finding your favorite aromas and having them on hand, whether it’s through candles, infusers, or bottles of essential oils, can help you create an environment that suits your schnozz and calms you down.

5. Stress less

Ugh. Stress. We all know the feeling, and if you’ve never experienced stress, it’s very likely you’ve never attended a family dinner. But stress can become a real burden on health if you find yourself in that state all the time.

Enter self-care.

By now, we all know that stress is really bad for our health. Research suggests that stress may be contagious, and the more stressed we think we are, the worse it might be for our heart health.Richardson S. (2012). Meta-analysis of perceived stress and its association with incident coronary heart disease.

But between work, relationships, family, and whatever else life throws at us, it’s difficult not to succumb to stress. Don’t let it get you. Use these strategies, which range from drinking tea to practicing progressive relaxation, to keep the stress monster at bay.

6. Be mindful

Focusing on the present — without judging how we feel and what we think — can be both a liberating and healthy practice. This is known as mindfulness, and it has become an ever-more-mainstream practice in psychological therapy.

Studies show that getting in tune with ourselves through mindfulness improves well-being and brings down stress.Kuyken W, et al. (2013). Effectiveness of the mindfulness in schools programme: non-randomised controlled feasibility study.

Mindfulness also helps us see ourselves in a truer light.Carlson E. (2013). Overcoming the barriers to self-knowledge: Mindfulness as a path to seeing yourself as you really are.

It may also help you to keep your mind from wandering.Mrazek MD, et al. (2013). Mindfulness training improves working memory capacity and GRE performance while reducing mind wandering.

Here’s how to get in the mindset for mindfulness.

7. Be happy!

We know. This often seems easier said than done. Happiness feels good. I mean, duh. But it’s also genuinely great for your health. When you’re healthy, you’re happy, and vice versa.

Research suggests that feeling happy may even prevent disease,Fredrickson BL, et al. (2013). A functional genomic perspective on human well-being. including heart disease.Steptoe A, et al. (2005). Positive affect and health-related neuroendocrine, cardiovascular, and inflammatory processes.

For those who find “be happy” just a little bit of a reach, it turns out there’s actually a simple way to feel more upbeat: Just crack a smile!Ma K, et al. (2016). Mood migration: How enfacing a smile makes you happier.

If even forcing a smile is hard right now, here are 15 reasons to do so.

8. Meditate

Meditation is proof that it doesn’t take a ton of time to do a mind and body good. Just a few minutes of quieting your mind can help relieve stress.Mohan A, et al. (2011). Effect of meditation on stress-induced changes in cognitive functions.

Other benefits include a boost in compassion and emotional stability.Campos D, et al. (2019). Exploring the role of meditation and dispositional mindfulness on social cognition domains: A controlled study Some research suggests that meditating could even improve quality of life to the extent it could help keep winter illnesses at bay.Obasi CN, et al. (2013). Advantage of meditation over exercise in reducing cold and flu illness is related to improved function and quality of life.

The best part? Its benefits continue even when we’re not meditating — consider it the gift (to yourself) that keeps on giving. Sneak some meditation into day-to-day life with these 10 awesome techniques.

And if you make the excuse that you don’t have time to meditate, you should put aside twice as much time to practice. That’s shorthand for “I don’t have time to invest in my wellness,” which is peak time for needing mindfulness techniques.

9. Dance around

When all else fails, do Baby Shark. Or one of the other dances, but they’re less important. Fine, it can be any dance.

Shaking your booty doesn’t just burn calories. It may also lead to improved mood and body image,Muller-Pinget S, et al. (2012). Dance therapy improves self-body image among obese patients. a better quality of life, a lower risk for dementia,Verghese J, et al. (2003). Leisure activities and the risk of dementia in the elderly. and funkier friends and connections.

Consider this your cue for a silly impromptu (physically distanced) dance party (even if you think you can’t dance).

10. Turn up the tunes

If you’ve ever noticed that certain songs bring a smile to your face, you’re not alone.

As it turns out, science has taken note, too. Research shows that listening to happy music helps stimulate creative thinking.Ritter SM & Ferguson S. (2017). Happy creativity: Listening to happy music facilitates divergent thinking.

Plus, jamming out can also improve heart health.Miller M, et al. (2010). Divergent effects of joyful and anxiety-provoking music on endothelial vasoreactivity.

11. Eat more fruits and veggies

Adding more fruits and veggies to our plate is a great way to practice self-care all throughout the day.

Research shows that eating berries boosts brain health. Noshing on peppers may also help reduce the risk of Parkinson’s.Nielsen, SS. (2013). Nicotine from edible Solanaceae and risk of Parkinson disease.

And in case we needed another reason to load up on nature’s goodness, filling up on seven portions of fruits and veggies per day might well make us happier.Blancheflower DG, et al. (2012). Is psychological well-being linked to the consumption of fruit and vegetables?

Seriously, if we wanted to list every benefit of every vegetable, we’d run out of website. So here’s the best way to cook them for preserving nutrients. Neat.

12. Swear it off

A potty mouth isn’t appropriate in a lot of scenarios (work… church… on a date… meeting your date’s parents… during your subsequent wedding speech… you get the picture).

However, dropping an F-bomb might be an easy way to blow off some steam. Research also shows swearing can reduce physical pain, and may even boost confidence and self-esteem.Stephens R, et al. (2011). Swearing as a response to pain-effect of daily swearing frequency.

But, as they say, timing is everything — so be sure to filter your expletives and avoid adding embarrassment to stress. If you’re less of a swearer and more of a lover, here’s how to give compliments like a badass.

13. Indulge in some retail therapy

Shopaholics, rejoice! A 2011 study suggests that buying new clothes can lift your mood.Subhani M, et al. (2011). New article of clothing translates the mood of an individual.

Science aside, treating yourself to something shiny, special, and new (it doesn’t have to be expensive!) is a pretty surefire way to put a smile on your face. Don’t be foolish with money, but, also, don’t deprive yourself of nice things through a misplaced sense of guilt.

(However, if you’re short on dough, this step will add extra stress to your life. Setting yourself a goal or saving up for something you really want could work though!)

We took a closer look at retail therapy.

14. Get it on

So… not all of us have this option, obviously.

There are tons of awesome things about sex, even apart from the way it makes us feel. Getting busy can make the immune system more adaptable and better at protecting us.Pyer LM, et al. (2018). Sexual activity modulates neuroinflammatory responses in male rats.

It can help to reduce stress, and may even relieve migraine pain — and that’s just to name a few of its health benefits. It can even make blood pressure react less to stress.Brody S. (2006). Blood pressure reactivity to stress is better for people who recently had penile-vaginal intercourse than for people who had other or no sexual activity.

Next time you stick on your half-heartedly assembled Sexy Music playlist on Spotify, just know that it’s pretty much what the doctor ordered.

15. Become a bookworm

Contrary to what some middle school bullies believe, books are cool. Plus, reading is actually really good for our health.

Research suggests that reading on a regular basis keeps the mind sharp as it ages.Wilson RS, et al. (2013). Life-span cognitive activity, neuropathologic burden, and cognitive aging. Reading fiction in particular makes for more creativity and a more open mind.Djikic M, et al. (2013). Opening the closed mind: The effect of exposure to literature on the need for closure.

Cracking open a book may also improve sleep and make us more empathic, which is great if you want to be an all-round, stand-up person.Bal PM, et al. (2013). How does fiction reading influence empathy? An experimental investigation on the role of emotional transportation.

Combine a vacay and a good book with a reading retreat.

16. Laugh out loud

Because LOL.

There’s a reason people say laughter is “the best medicine.” Chuckling and giggling benefit our mental and physical health, especially when combined with exercise.Hirosaki M, et al. (2013). Effects of a laughter and exercise program on physiological and psychological health among community-dwelling elderly in Japan: randomized controlled trial.

Giving into a case of the funnies can improve our overall quality of life, while getting goofy with other people can help us connect with the people we laugh with and foster our relationships.

Your plan of action: Watch a funny movie or a comedy on television — those reruns of “How I Met Your Mother” may actually be good for your heart (until the last season, which is just bad for your life).Sugawara J, et al. (2010). Effect of mirthful laughter on vascular function.

Here’s more on why laughter has a whole bunch of benefits.

17. Look at something cute

Instant mood booster: Looking at pictures of baby animals. If you don’t feel 1000 percent better while looking at puppies upon kittens upon baby dolphins, we don’t know how else to help.

Thanks to Pinterest, that’s incredibly easy (Just take a look at this board — it’s chock-full of super cute furry friends.). Plus, browsing through these photos may even help you when you’re on the job.

Research suggests it may boost your productivity at work.Nittono H, et al. (2012). The power of kawaii: Viewing cute images promotes a careful behavior and narrows attentional focus.

Just, uh, don’t let the boss catch you. Or, if you work at Greatist, invite the boss to have a scroll with you. Here’s what else dogs can fetch for your health.

18. Get enough Zzz’s

There’s tons of things that can sabotage our sleep, whether it’s a late night at the office, a wild night with friends, or just catching up on “Scandal.”

The problem is, skimping on shut-eye can hurt job productivity, make us choose to eat larger portions, and may lead to diseases like heart disease and diabetes.

Prioritize snooze time for a healthier, happier you — even if it’s just a quick cat nap during your lunch break.

19. Declutter

Some researchers believe that clutter can stress us out and bring us down.

On the flip side, sorting through and purging unorganized papers, clothes, knickknacks, or whatever else is crowding our lives may help us become more productive, more cheerful, and calmer.

Here’s how to find your inner Mari Kondo and declutter with the best of them.

20. Pound the pavement

Not only does it torch calories, but running is a mood booster that can help reduce anxiety.

Long-distance running in particular may even provide pain relief.Boecker H, et al. (2008). The runner’s high: Opioidergic mechanisms in the human brain.

Exercise in general is linked to decreasing symptoms of depression, so lace up your sneakers and head out on a run next time you need a mood lift.Belvederi Murri M, et al. (2018). Physical exercise in major depression: Reducing the mortality gap while improving clinical outcomes.

Reluctant to run? Here’s 30 reasons to get over your hangups about running.

21. Indulge in a massage

Set aside some time to experience the complete and total bliss of a massage.

It soothes both the mind and muscles, improves sleep quality, and reduces stress.Labrique-Walusis F, et al. (2010). Massage therapy for stress management: implications for nursing practice.

We dug into massages and how they really work.

22. Cuddle

Whether you’re the big spoon or little spoon, cuddling is good for you. Studies show that physical contact reduces stress and releases a hormone called oxytocin that boosts happiness.

Hugs can also smooth things over during rough patches in a relationship, helping reduce the negative moods that develop after a spat (according to the study, they don’t necessarily make the mood all the way positive, but the negative mood is lower).Murphy MLM, et al. (2018). Receiving a hug is associated with the attenuation of negative mood that occurs on days with interpersonal conflict.

Cuddling yourself can even pass as meditation. That’s right.

23. Get your Om on

It comes as no surprise that yoga is a healthy practice. It helps relieve anxiety, stress, and depression, all while boosting energy levels and improving your overall sense of well-being. Om indeed.

Try these restorative yoga poses to erase any built-up tension.

24. Unplug

These days, it feels like everyone’s glued to a phone, laptop, or both at the same time. Deliberately taking a break from social media, e-mail, blogging, and so on can help us recharge and gives our brain the downtime it needs to work at an optimal level.

25. Get out of town

When it comes to taking vacation, most Americans don’t do a lot of it.

But skipping out on time away from the 9-to-5 does more harm than good: Studies show that missing the family vacay is associated with a higher risk of heart disease in both men and women.Gump BB, et al, (2000). Are vacations good for your health? The 9-year mortality experience after the multiple risk factor intervention trial.

Whether booking a trip to an exotic location or going somewhere nearby, time away from work can help refresh our focus. So slip on those terrible shorts and a couple of fanny packs and get vacationing!

Plus, being exposed to a new location or experience can help you spark creativity and build memories. And everyone deserves a break.

Life is hard. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it. The first step is wanting to see a change in your day-to-day life. If something’s not right, fix it.

The most important part of all this is being kind to yourself. Don’t punish yourself for forgetting to go on a run or being too busy to sit down with a book.

It’s more important that these changes are sustainable and nourishing, rather than a chore and a drag. So, if you go for a day of self-indulgence, don’t beat yourself up. Just try and do more to really care for yourself the next day.

Be careful not to become unhappy while trying to find happiness — it’s a common pitfall.