Darkness and repetitive thoughts are a recurring theme for people dealing with mental illness. Breaking the cycle requires self-care to help you move in a new direction. But those darkest moments often blind you from the best alternatives.
Often, the best way to reset a brain is to purposely do something out of the ordinary. Here is a list of 50 ideas that will help you change your course. The best part? Most of them are free to do.
Some of the suggestions on the list may seem silly or childish. You male readers may dismiss a few options at not being “manly” enough. Please understand that being something else is the whole point of self-care. Go ahead a try it. No one has to know.
It is all too easy to get stuck in your brain. Being stuck is a problem.
To get unstuck, you must think and act in a new way. It’s okay not to be you for a while.
50 Self-Care Ideas
Your brain needs a reset. What have you got to lose? It’s unlikely that you’ll feel worse.
Part of getting stuck inside comes from doing the same things over and over. As busy as life is, it’s hard not to fall into a rut. Ruts are fine if you want to keep going the same way. When that path includes negative or harmful thoughts, it’s imperative that you break free from that track.
At times, it is best to start over. Taking time to care for yourself will help you to make a new beginning.
As you try the items below, make an effort to only think about the task you are doing. Try to let everything else go and just be in the moment.
1. Walk barefoot in the grass or through a stream
2. Play a song on any instrument
3. Try to walk in the woods without making a sound
4. Watch airplanes land
5. Eat with your “other” hand
6. Chop up a photo you hate
7. Make a “greatest hits” playlist
8. Spend an hour in a field meditating
9. Go Bird Watching
10. Go look at a big city skyline
Is It Selfish?
It might feel selfish to take time for self-care. There might be dishes in the sink or a lawn that needs to be mowed.
That’s okay. Those things will still be there is a little while. Taking time to care for yourself will help you to have the strength and energy to tackle those items later.
11. Sit in the dark for 20 minutes in silence
12. Teach someone something
13. Make a sculpture from junk
14. Dance to drum music
15. Turn your phone off for an hour (or afternoon)
16. Go on a garden tour
17. Make tiny pancakes
18. Clean out your desk (or closet)
19. Sit on a park bench for an hour
20. Make paper airplanes
Isn’t Self-Care Immature?
Some people avoid self-care because they feel like adults don’t need to take creative breaks. Those people are completely wrong.
Is it immature to go make and fly paper airplanes? Maybe. But if it brings a smile to your face or helps you to forget some of the things causing you stress, it is worth it to take the time to do so.
Give yourself permission. Let your inner child out to play.
21. Write a poem
22. Wear a disguise to the grocery store
23. Go to a museum
24. Follow a butterfly for as long as you can
25. Sleep in another room
26. Pick and give away wildflowers
27. Make cave paintings on brown paper
28. Catch bugs in a jar
29. Sing to a friend’s voicemail
30. Call an old friend you haven’t talked to recently
Do Something For Someone Else
One of the most beneficial things you can do to get out of your own head is to do something for somebody else. Is a friend or relative not feeling well? Take them some fresh picked flowers? Are there leaves down in an older friend’s yard? Go rake them.
It doesn’t even have to be a big act. Send someone a text message just because you are thinking of them. Mail a card to someone you have talked to in a while. It may bring a smile to both your faces.
Purposely thinking about someone else and their needs will help you to get out of your own head. That can be a very good thing and beneficial self-care.
31. Lose a dollar (or five or ten) where someone else will find it
32. Bake gingerbread men
33. Try to watch a plant grow
34. Make homemade soup
35. Visit a river or lake
36. Take a weekend retreat
37. Write a song
38. Finger paint
39. Draw a self-portrait
40. Burn incense
When Is The Last Time You Looked Up?
When did you last look at the stars? I mean really looked at the stars. Did you find the Big Dipper or try to track down Orion? What other figures and shapes did you see in the sky?
Far too often we get so busy with everyday life that we lose sight of the things around us.
I live in a beautiful valley. The first time I saw the valley, I knew I wanted to live here.
If I pay attention, I will notice that the mountainsides look different almost every day. Winter, spring, summer, or fall, the landscape is always changing. When did you last notice those changes?
In addition to self-care, mindfulness is another beneficial process. Learn the basics of mindfulness in this post.
41. Write a letter to yourself with you “other” hand
42. Visit a library
43. Sit outside and listen to birds with your eyes closed
44. Build a blanket fort
45. Write a story from an animal’s perspective
46. Sleep outside
47. Count stars
48. Spend an hour watching clouds
49. Visit a pet store
50. Take a long bath
Switch Sides for a While
Experts say that your right brain controls the left side of your body and vice versa. If that is true, that means we spend an awful lot of time in one part of our brain. Think about how often you write, use a mouse, or click things on your phone.
Practice self-care by giving that side of your brain a rest and spend some time doing things with your non-dominant hand. Draw a picture. Write a letter. Play a game.
It can be challenging, but it will also interrupt the thought patterns you might be replaying in your head.
Pick one of these items at random and give it a try. Let me know how it works for you.
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