Over half, 59%, of Americans say self-care is very important to them, and three in five would prefer fulfilling experiences over material goods, according to a study about the "treat yourself" behaviors of 2,000 American adults conducted by Eventbrite and research company OnePoll.
If you end up splurging on self-care too often, though, that can have a negative impact on your financial health — and end up making you more stressed.
For Ellen Bard, psychologist and author of "This Is For You: A Creative Toolkit for Better Self-Care," self-care is about finding ways to nourish your physical, emotional, and mental well-being. "Self-care is going to look different for everyone because it's really a matter of what that individual person needs," says Bard. "For some, it might mean taking a yoga class to improve their mental and physical health; for others it could be reading a book to nourish their mind and their creativity."
Here are some ways you can practice quality self-care without overspending.
Exercise not only improves your physical health; it's also shown to reduce stress and anxiety and decrease your odds of becoming depressed by 26%, according to a Harvard University study.
Rather than committing to a gym membership, though, which can be costly, consider shopping around and signing up for a few trial classes to get in a workout first. Most gyms offer a free trial workout or fitness class.
You could try working out with friends, too. Some clubs, like LA Fitness and Planet Fitness, will allow members to bring a buddy with them, depending on the kind of membership they have, but you could also head outside and go running, biking, or swimming together. Having a group or exercise partner can make the effort more fun, and having someone to hold you accountable can help you take your effort up a notch.
Make-up stores like Ulta Beauty, Sephora, and NYX Professional offer complimentary make-up services. At Sephora, you can choose to have a mini-facial, a quick eye-shadow tutorial, a personalized skin consultation, and more. Stop in to freshen up your look and boost your mood.
New salons and beauty schools may offer free or discounted services with beginning stylists practicing their skills, so check out locations in your area. The Aveda Institute and Carsten Institute of Cosmetology in New York City, for instance, both offer student-run services. If you're willing to be a hair model, cuts start at just $5.
A facial at a day spa can cost you upwards of $100, but with the right ingredients, you could create a similar glowing effect in your kitchen. Make your own face masks at home with natural ingredients you may already have like honey, oats, and eggs.
Your local library can be a great place to relax and indulge. On average, a 375-page paperback novel can cost between $13-$18, according to Mill City Press, but a library card can get you access to the same reading material at no cost. And the perks don't stop there: A card gives you access to audio books, music, movies, and classes on everything from foreign languages to personal and professional empowerment.
Being somewhere quiet where you can immerse yourself in literature can be peaceful, too. "We live in a time when we are constantly being stimulated by the world around us and people have forgotten how nourishing solitude can be," says Bard. "Taking time to space out, reflect, and be alone can be healing."
Forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, Japanese for "bathing in the forest atmosphere," is a simple way to reset and rejuvenate without paying a dime. Developed in Japan in the 1980s, forest bathing simply requires spending time in a natural area with a calm and open mind — and without a smartphone. Numerous studies have shown that forest bathing offers real health benefits and decreases depression, fatigue and anxiety. No bathing suit, or entry fee, required.
You can find countless online resources to help you unwind, including instructional fitness videos, talks by motivational speakers, and guided breathing exercises and meditations. Yoga with Adriene, a popular YouTube channel with over 5 million subscribers, features close to 500 instructional yoga videos that target different areas of your body and help you unwind. All free.
"Think about what it is that you're lacking," says Bard. "Maybe you're in need of physical touch and practicing self-care could be as simple as looking up a YouTube video about how to give yourself a massage. It doesn't always have to be an expensive spa. It's about being aware of what you need and filling in those gaps."
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