Self-Care Activity List: 366 Ideas

8 Dimensions of Self-Care

Having trouble coming up with fun and interesting self-care ideas?

Last year, I took on a self-care challenge. For each of the 366 days in 2016, I experimented with a new self-care activity and then blogged about it.

What would you add to the list? Be creative and come up with your own bucket list of activities that reflect your personal style, needs and priorities.

  1. Enjoy a fermented food (or learn to ferment something yourself)
  2. Set intentions for the next day, week, month or year
  3. Express gratitude
  4. Take a walk in the woods
  5. Bake whole grain bread
  6. Include strength training exercises at least 2 days each week
  7. Get a haircut
  8. Get vaccinated
  9. Give blood
  10. Buy nothing (give something instead)
  11. Use a pressure cooker
  12. Get equipped for fitness
  13. Tidy up
  14. Drink enough water
  15. Get a pedicure
  16. Travel (without stress)
  17. Enjoy a sunset
  18. Listen to the ocean
  19. Go fishing
  20. Visit a fruit stand
  21. Meet new people
  22. Enjoy the sunshine (and then apply sunscreen)
  23. Overcome a fear
  24. Give yourself a break
  25. Sleep in
  26. Get a massage
  27. Cook with garlic
  28. Journal
  29. Walk and work
  30. Pay taxes
  31. Do “The Work”
  32. Relax by a fire
  33. Peruse the bookstore
  34. Fold laundry
  35. Drink tea
  36. Write a haiku
  37. Take a road trip
  38. Play in the snow
  39. Spend time with friends
  40. Floss
  41. Join (or start) a book club
  42. Eat local
  43. Meditate
  44. Continue education
  45. Use affirmations
  46. Receive gifts
  47. Relax with aromatherapy
  48. Eat colorfully
  49. Accept what is
  50. Volunteer at the food bank
  51. Snuggle with pets
  52. Taste
  53. Shop for groceries
  54. Zentangle
  55. Learn CPR
  56. Reminisce
  57. Garden
  58. Explore new possibilities
  59. Go out for breakfast
  60. Define your “enough”
  61. Change your mind
  62. Chase good weather
  63. Love the middle seat
  64. Cool off with shave ice
  65. Explore new places
  66. Smell the roses
  67. Go to the beach
  68. See the bigger picture
  69. Be a tourist
  70. Think in traffic
  71. Get a mammogram
  72. Read scripture
  73. Make a contribution
  74. Lounge
  75. Be part of a community
  76. Cry
  77. Practice good skin care
  78. Get certified
  79. Prune what’s no longer useful
  80. Press the pause button
  81. Listen
  82. Be quiet
  83. Eat green
  84. Celebrate
  85. Meander
  86. Notice nature
  87. Make the holidays healthier
  88. Plan
  89. Go cycling
  90. Reflect
  91. Recover
  92. Try fermented dairy
  93. Walk the dog
  94. Take a nap
  95. Build a support system
  96. Write a book
  97. Calm down
  98. Be vulnerable
  99. Set boundaries
  100. Laugh
  101. Play games
  102. Dine alone
  103. Walk (in the airport or elsewhere)
  104. Plan a menu
  105. Ask for help
  106. Cook for yourself
  107. Hug a pet
  108. Give gifts of gratitude
  109. Find inspiring spaces
  110. Talk yourself into fitness
  111. Listen to an audio book
  112. Be inspired
  113. Stay in
  114. Understand your impact
  115. Set weekly goals
  116. Use an iron skillet
  117. Stay in touch with friends
  118. Do the dishes
  119. Forgive yourself
  120. Let the oven do it
  121. Go to the doctor
  122. Work in the yard
  123. Savor something
  124. Make new friends
  125. Plant some herbs
  126. Build new skills
  127. Assemble (or reassemble) a first-aid kit
  128. Make a toast to a memory
  129. Shop the farmers’ market
  130. Say thank you
  131. Give feedback
  132. Hug a tree
  133. Take a hike
  134. Read the (entire) Affordable Care Act
  135. Make broth cubes
  136. Bake a cheesecake
  137. Make a breakfast bowl
  138. Use a foam roller
  139. Change your sheets
  140. Eat 5 (to 9) servings of fruits and vegetables each day
  141. Network
  142. Entertain
  143. Sit in stillness
  144. Think positively
  145. Make chicken noodle soup
  146. Do something you don’t want to do
  147. Don’t worry (be happy)
  148. Self-direct your care
  149. Admire art
  150. Eat some cherries (or another in season fruit)
  151. Watch a game
  152. Love lentils
  153. Cultivate awareness
  154. Review your finances
  155. Fuel up for a workout
  156. Celebrate success
  157. Work to physical exhaustion
  158. Take the day off
  159. Eat a big salad
  160. Apologize
  161. Spend time with family
  162. Go sightseeing
  163. Visit a museum
  164. Marvel
  165. Color
  166. Start a bullet journal
  167. Count your blessings
  168. Bake a spaghetti squash
  169. Work in bursts
  170. Drink coffee
  171. Go to the gym
  172. Pick berries
  173. Go to the dentist
  174. Take a yoga class
  175. Track your goals
  176. Lean into discomfort
  177. Stretch
  178. Give gifts
  179. Make yourself a bouquet
  180. Take shorter showers
  181. Test your day for flow
  182. Buy new exercise clothes
  183. Get an eye exam
  184. Set boundaries
  185. Clean your yoga mat
  186. Blend a smoothie bowl
  187. Ferment pickles
  188. Volunteer at a community garden
  189. Take a home-canning class
  190. Bake zucchini bread
  191. Get (and stay) connected
  192. Learn self-defense
  193. Attend a virtual retreat
  194. Envision
  195. Care for your feet
  196. Breathe deeply
  197. Make chicken salad
  198. Go camping
  199. Listen to music
  200. Use a sugar scrub
  201. Window shop
  202. Buy yourself a gift
  203. Make a Thai salad
  204. Organize your recipes
  205. Bake blueberry muffins
  206. Make a (healthy) Waldorf salad
  207. Study
  208. Try a new recipe
  209. Organize your mind
  210. Eat lunch at the park
  211. Do some gratitude journaling
  212. Be proactive
  213. Try again
  214. Brew beer
  215. Rest
  216. Learn from others
  217. Research
  218. Get a scalp massage
  219. Stop
  220. Stargaze
  221. Go floating
  222. Take a moment
  223. Get a manicure
  224. Weigh the pros and cons
  225. Share your story
  226. Travel back in time
  227. Snack
  228. Walk with a friend
  229. Savor salmon
  230. Admire apples
  231. Enjoy a mocktail
  232. Go meatless
  233. Ask for a Box
  234. Indulge in an Acai Bowl
  235. Understand the Science of Happiness
  236. Rediscover Old Recipes
  237. Experiment with Eggplant
  238. Eat (or at least try) Sushi
  239. Carry an EpiPen (if you have been advised to)
  240. Work Outside
  241. Crack Fresh Eggs
  242. Eat Tomatoes (off the vine)
  243. Say No
  244. Buy a New Pillow
  245. Talk About Ideas
  246. Monitor Your Performance
  247. Clean Your Refrigerator
  248. Treat a Minor Injury
  249. Change the Air Filter
  250. Make Moroccan Meatballs
  251. Choose My Circles Wisely
  252. Begin Again
  253. Get Acupuncture
  254. Plan a Vacation
  255. Remember
  256. Try Matcha Tea
  257. Get New Socks
  258. Commit
  259. Speak Up
  260. Prepare a Snack Board
  261. Update Your Wardrobe
  262. Sort & Purge
  263. Tour a Food Forest
  264. Be True To Yourself
  265. Donate to Charity
  266. Coordinate a Walking Meeting
  267. Ask Questions
  268. Get Your Hands Dirty
  269. Pack a Mobile Emergency Kit
  270. Plant a Tribute
  271. Enjoy a Sweet Treat
  272. Connect Dots
  273. Sip Bubbles
  274. Eat Fresh Figs
  275. Celebrate
  276. Melt
  277. Moisturize
  278. Catch Up
  279. Evaluate Your Social Media Activity
  280. Be Negative
  281. Understand Your Personality
  282. Hire a Coach
  283. Read a Book
  284. Spend Quality Time
  285. Create a Manifestation Space
  286. Reconnect with a Friend
  287. Stay Open
  288. Prepare for Emergencies
  289. Set a Deadline
  290. Do Something for Love
  291. Make Space
  292. Cook with rosemary (or other culinary herbs)
  293. Arrive (rather than impose)
  294. Buy coffee for a stranger
  295. Make a vegan dish
  296. Learn more about your body
  297. Just be
  298. Establish a morning ritual
  299. Give a random gift
  300. Try reflexology
  301. Try new exercises
  302. Vote
  303. Experiment with a sourdough starter (or other cultured food)
  304. Organize your personal space
  305. Collaborate
  306. Write down your soul
  307. Learn bonsai
  308. Create an afternoon of self-care
  309. Island (s)hop with a friend
  310. Crochet (or create something)
  311. Rake leaves
  312. Live vicariously
  313. Sit with ambivalence
  314. Gain an understanding of politics
  315. Evaluate what’s essential
  316. Clear your calendar
  317. Ask for what you need
  318. Practice something that’s difficult for you
  319. Maintain financial harmony
  320. Have a kind disagreement
  321. Support a friend
  322. Brainstorm
  323. Learn something new
  324. Rearrange furniture
  325. Decorate
  326. See your favorite band live
  327. Try reiki
  328. Bake a pie
  329. Prepare a special meal
  330. Watch a funny movie
  331. Look up
  332. Do chores early
  333. Make a list
  334. Email yourself ideas
  335. Arrive early
  336. Warm up
  337. Learn to knit (or some other form of art)
  338. Notice the little things
  339. Watch it snow
  340. Drive slowly
  341. Choose theme words
  342. Stay open
  343. Move forward
  344. Have faith
  345. Don’t make plans
  346. Stay in your jammies
  347. Stay in touch with mentors
  348. Relax at the spa
  349. Learn about gun safety
  350. Get a fluoride treatment
  351. Call in a professional
  352. Go to the symphony
  353. Challenge yourself
  354. Listen to an inspiring audio book
  355. Read old journals
  356. Be a caregiver
  357. Have coffee with a friend
  358. Find a “plan B”
  359. Enjoy a holiday tradition
  360. Feel grateful
  361. Binge watch a series
  362. Have breakfast in bed
  363. Discover your core desired feelings
  364. Go Snowshoeing
  365. Whiten your teeth
  366. Reflect on your year

Ready to start your own challenge? Download a free self-care planning worksheet here.

Need some help developing your own self-care practice?

Start Here

Self-Care Challenge (Day 361): Binge Watching a Series

a close-up of popcorn

I am not a TV lover. In fact, I often say (and mean it) that if it wasn’t for my husband’s love of it, I wouldn’t have a TV at all. I would much rather read or work on an artsy fartsy project.

That said, I do enjoy a good series.

With my husband on vacation, we decided it was the perfect time to snuggle in for a self-care series: House of Cards.

52 shows later, we were exhausted. As suspenseful as it was, I remember at one point thinking to myself, “Do I really need to see the end that badly?” Nevertheless we couldn’t look away.

While I admit that the 40-ish hours it took us to watch it is a bit excessive, it was kind of nice to lay our other distractions aside and get immersed in a fictional TV show. I don’t read a lot of fiction, so this was rare for me. (I have a little problem with suspension of disbelief.)

I totally get the attraction to binge watching. You don’t have to wait as long for the conclusion, you don’t have to carve out time from the normal busy week to watch it. But still, I cannot imagine doing this very often. Honestly, it was draining. Toward the end it felt like work.

What have you binge watched, and did it feel like self-care or work?

 

Self-Care Challenge (Day 359): Enjoying Holiday Traditions

Christmas tree with white decorations

Most holidays come with holiday traditions. Every family seems to have them: a set of unique rituals that mark the arrival of a particular holy day.

A feast. An exchange of gifts. Board games. Libations. And with the exception of Festivus, most traditions come with ample amounts of joy. Lots of laughing, a general feeling of excitement, gratitude, and celebration. No matter what the underlying belief system or religious celebration, delight and happiness seem to be a common theme.

Our holiday traditions are almost always low key. Intimate, quiet evenings at home. Why? Because that’s what brings us joy. Well, and also because our families live 2,000 miles away, and we don’t have any children. Even as a child, our family holidays were pretty low key. We didn’t typically travel, and we had a small gathering for dinner.

Yesterday, true to our Christmas Eve tradition, we watched holiday movies while enjoying a delectable spread of appetizers and wine beside a rumbling fire.

It doesn’t get much better than that, in my opinion.

What are your holiday traditions?

Self-Care Challenge (Day 357): Having Coffee with a Friend

heart-shaped froth on a cappucino

You know how sometimes you meet someone and think you’d like to get to know them better, but then time gets away from you and it just doesn’t happen?

Yes, time. That elusive and somewhat imaginary concept that keeps all of us on our toes. There never seems to be enough time for doing the things we want to do, for getting together with friends and family. (Or at least that’s what we tell ourselves.)

The truth is that we make time for what’s important to us. Whether it’s social media, art, music, or visits with friends, if it’s truly important–if it brings us joy–then we usually find the time.

Thankfully, Facebook (despite all of its flaws and irritations) does make it pretty easy to reconnect with old friends. A quick search can revive a friendship in matter of minutes. And that’s exactly what it did for me recently.

Yesterday, I met a friend for coffee as my self-care activity for the day. It had been more than a year since we had seen each other, but in just a few clicks we had a coffee visit set up.

It reminded me just how important it is to stay in touch with friends, no matter how long we’ve known each other. People tend to come into our lives for a reason, and it’s up to us to stop and share and figure out what that reason is.

Is there someone you need to reconnect with?

Self-Care Challenge (Day 356): Being a Caregiver

Headshot of a smooth, red mini dachshund

I was caught totally off guard when my dog got sick. It wasn’t on my schedule. In fact, I had plans to go out of town the following morning to visit a friend for the day. But those plans quickly changed when I noticed my miniature dachshund, Zoey, was having trouble breathing earlier yesterday morning.

She had been sneezing for weeks, but I wrote it off as allergies, or the dry heat of the furnace, which has been on almost constantly after the weather turned cold. Until that morning she had been eating, drinking, and doing all of her normal diva routines.

But it turns out that she has pneumonia. (I didn’t even know dogs could get pneumonia.)

As is the case for most caregivers, when a loved one needs us, we quickly shift gears and jump in, focusing our attention solely on the needs of those who are in greater need. But that focused attention often comes at the the expense of our own health, which only impairs our ability to care for others.

Fortunately, this particular situation wasn’t so emergent that minutes mattered. I didn’t have to run out of the house in my underwear. No, this time I had a few minutes to think and plan ahead.

My self-care activity for the day involved preparing myself to be a good caregiver. I had no idea how long the visit to the vet would take, but it was already 2 PM and I was pretty certain that I wouldn’t be home before dark, which meant I would need to get the chickens tucked in safely before leaving. I also had no idea if I’d have a chance to stop to eat, so I tossed some water and a few snacks into my purse before leaving the house–but not before remembering to grab a book too.

It’s a good thing I did, because the first emergency veterinarian didn’t have a vet available due to an emergency surgery. And that added another hour’s drive to our commute.

While I waited for the results of Zoey’s x-rays, I read my book. I drank some water. I had a snack.

When I finally arrived back home around 8 PM, I didn’t feel starved. I didn’t feel dehydrated. I didn’t even feel exhausted or flustered. And that was because prepared myself to spend an entire day away from home. And that little bit of preparation made me a better caregiver.

How do you prepare yourself to be a good caregiver?

Self-Care Challenge (Day 352): Going to the Symphony

Seattle Symphony stage

Last night my husband and I attended the Seattle Symphony’s performance of Handel Messiah.

I have to admit, I usually prefer instrumental performances over vocal ones. But this was a worthwhile deviation from the norm. There’s something really powerful about the scale of a professional orchestra that makes it impossible not to have a strong emotional response. And, for me, easing into that emotional space is an act of self-care.

(It’s almost hard to believe that George Frideric Handel composed the piece in just three weeks in 1741.)

Until I read the program, I had always considered this particular composition to be specific to the Christmas holiday, but I learned it was originally intended for an Easter performance.

The performance itself was so mesmerizing that I noticed quite a few heads bobbing after being jolted awake by a shift in symphonic arrangement. Every detail of the performance was synchronized.

It amazes me how talented and creative human beings can be–especially as part of a group. I wondered how many hours of practice a performance like this required. And then I didn’t want to know.

Attending the symphony was a wonderfully different way to spend a date night.

Self-Care Challenge (Day 351): Calling in the Professionals

hot water heater

Every homeowner knows that repairs and maintenance are part of the deal. It’s an inescapable reality. They almost always come when you least expect them, and, for whatever reason, repairs tend to come in threes.

Our hot water heater is on its last leg. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. There’s no apparent rhyme or reason–but, then again, it is 12 years old. (That’s pretty old in hot water heater years.) So it’s not all that surprising that it decided to stop working just days before a major holiday.

With laundry piling up, and after reading the manual to be sure we hadn’t missed any DIY options, we bit the bullet and called in a professional.

I knew it would have to be replaced, but I wasn’t at all prepared for the enormous estimate that stared back at me from the duplicate form the technician handed me. Um, okay.

Whether it’s our home, or anything that involves our basic needs, being prepared for the unexpected is a solid preventive health strategy.

Imagine for a moment that you need a new hot water heater, but you aren’t prepared for the costly repair. The stress sets in. You can’t sleep. You’re worried about how you’ll pay for it and what you’ll have to give up to pay for the repair. And now imagine that you’re faced with an expensive repair, but you have some money socked away “just in case” something like this happens. You very little, if any, stress. You simply make a transaction and begin rebuilding your emergency fund.

While it does take some time to get to the latter scenario, it is beyond worth it.

Sometimes we have to call in the professionals. Whether it’s a coach, a financial adviser, or a health professional, sometimes we forget that delegating is a healthier choice than trying to do it all on our own.

 

Self-Care Challenge (Day 347): Exchanging Cards with a Mentor

A festive Christmas card

Yesterday, I received my annual Christmas card from Mrs. Lechman, my 9th grade chemistry teacher. For the past 21 years, we’ve been exchanging holiday cards to share what we’ve been up to, where we’ve traveled, and how our families are doing.

It’s been rewarding in so many ways.

Somewhat surprisingly, I’ve met a handful of other people over the years who also exchange letters and cards periodically with a teacher or mentor from their youth. Evidently, these early connections really do have a dramatic impact on who we become as adults.

Perhaps your mentor was a neighbor who taught you how to garden, or a teacher who saw potential in you that no one else saw. Or maybe it’s simply someone who cared about you and listened to your struggles without judgement.

Mentors help shape us, guiding us as we become who we were meant to be.

Think about it: how many of us label those who have discouraged us, criticized us, or made us feel dumb as a mentor? I don’t know anyone. Sure, many mentors challenge us, especially if they know we aren’t putting our best forward, but that’s a very different thing altogether.

Mentors hold a special place in our hearts, a place filled with gratitude and kindness. They give of themselves because they want to, not because they have to. (The difference is obvious.)

Who are your mentors? (Have you thanked them lately for the value they’ve brought into your life?) And who are you currently mentoring? Do you know a young person who could you some guidance and encouragement?

Self-Care Challenge (Day 342): Staying Open

Sunlight peeking through the trees

Our thoughts really do become our reality.

And that became evident yesterday when I did something completely out of character: I reopened a door that I had just closed.

With my newly adopted 2017 theme words in the forefront of my mind (beauty and openness), I noticed myself prying open a door that I had just slammed after feeling incredibly hurt by someone’s stinging words.

Historically, I would have thrown away the key before I ever entertained the idea of cracking it open again, but this time I felt compelled to explore another possibility. Instead of pushing this person away, I wanted to know why they chose the words they did, why they felt it was necessary to cast their negative emotions my way, and what exactly was behind that emotion.

As a highly sensitive person (HSP), hurtful words and behaviors linger with me for a long time. As a result, over the years I’ve learned to remove myself from groups or individuals who seem to thrive on negative energy. The stress I experience takes a serious toll on my well-being.

While I understand that our behaviors toward others usually relate more to how we feel about ourselves than anything else, it’s still difficult to absorb in the moment.

(And by the way, encouraging HSP’s to “grow a pair” or “toughen up” or anything that suggests being sensitive isn’t okay is like telling a bird to pretend to be a crocodile. We are who we are; we cannot change our inner truth anymore than a non-HSP can.)

I can already tell this year isn’t going to be easy. Remaining open when I’d rather return to safety is going to require a lot of work. It’s going to mean listening more, expressing more empathy, and staying put rather than running. And it’s also going to force me to be honest with myself about my own (often incorrect) perceptions.

“There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”

– Leonard Cohen

Openness means being willing to experience uncomfortable truths that don’t align with my own.

(After writing and publishing this post, I later realized that I had already published a post (Day 287) with the exact same title and topic. I guess that’s further proof that I need some work in this area.)  

 

Self-Care Challenge (Day 339): Watching the Snow

trees with a dusting of snow

We don’t get a lot of snow in the greater Seattle area, but several times a year we do get a little, especially at our house where the elevation is slightly higher. Most of the time, it doesn’t stick. It just falls gently from the sky and melts before hitting the ground.

From our lower living area, we can watch the snow fall from several large picture windows that often make it feel more like we’re sitting beneath the towering firs and cedars out back than sitting on the couch.

Yesterday, I sat there completely mesmerized by the falling snow. At some point I had looked up from my knitting needles and noticed the white flakes dancing just outside the window. I couldn’t stop staring.

Having grown up around snow, you would think it was no longer a novelty. But, for whatever reason, it never gets old. Nature has a way of nudging us slightly (and sometimes not so slightly) with its beauty to get our attention.

It felt indulgent just to sit there and watch the snow while enjoying a cup of coffee under the warmth of my crocheted afghan.

An act of self-care for sure.