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20 Free Self-Care Practices To Incorporate Into The New Year

Written by Katie Hintz-Zambrano

Photography by Maia Harms

The term “self-care” has now become so ingrained in our society, that it’s clear the practice is not a trend. It’s (thankfully) here to stay. But that doesn’t mean you have to shell out lots of money to access it. In fact, sometimes the best acts of de-stressing and re-centering are completely free and can be easily incorporated into one’s day-to-day life. To help inspire more happiness and connection within your own life, we’ve listed 20 favorite free self-care practices that will help 2024 start off on the right foot.

1. Take a walk. Really, it can be as simple as this. It’s up to you whether you flip on a podcast, an audio book, some favorite tunes, or if you challenge yourself to not engage with your phone at all.

2. Take a shower or bath by candlelight. Want automatic spa vibes? (Even if your kid is hollering in the other room?) It’s amazing how transformative a change in light can be when added to this everyday (or every other day) activity.

3. Turn off your phone. Or at least hide it in another room for a set period of time. Phone addiction is real and it’s something most of us suffer from. Unplugging intentionally and often is necessary self-care in 2024 and beyond. Watch this viral TED Talk by Sherry Turkle for further proof.

4. Read. Reading more remains one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions. Especially with the 24/7 news cycle, reading for pleasure is a great way to recharge and reconnect with that little voice in your head. All you need to do is make a date with yourself to pick up that book or magazine you never finished and get to it. We personally love taking a print edition to a park or local cafe, but an at-home session curled up with a Kindle will also do.

5. Set a daily intention. Listen to this great podcast for more on the power of intention. Asking yourself what your intention is for the day or before you engage in an activity can be a powerful practice.

6. Socialize. IRL human interaction is a must for happiness. And any mom can tell you that a quality chat with a great friend is soul-soothing in too many ways to count. To make sure you’re spending modestly while socializing, make a date to meet-up with your friends at one of your homes, make a pot of tea, try to place your phone out of arm’s reach, and let the hang time begin.

7. Stretch. If you don’t have a regular exercise routine going, stretching is a good way to start. There are plenty of online stretching routines on YouTube, many include options you can do right in your bed!

8. At-Home Workout. Likewise, there are plenty of free online workout routines that you can follow from your computer. And we doubt we have to tell you the many benefits that come with simply moving your body more. Try swapping elevators and escalators for stairs if you’re able and other easy methods of sneaking in more steps throughout your day. Most smartphones also have step-counters, so you can check in on your movement.

9. Meditate. Simply sitting still and just being is a powerful self-care practice. If you want to use an app to do it, there are plenty on the market, and many of them are free. There are also books that can guide you. Check out our guide to starting a personal meditation practice here, as well as introducing mindfulness to kids.

10. Journal. All you need is a pen, paper, and a little time. Not a writer? Warm yourself up with these questions or start by writing down your “happy list” (the practices that make you glow, and that you can reference during funks throughout the year). We personally love The 5-Minute Journal, which bookmarks our day with these open-ended prompts in the morning (I am grateful for… What would make today great?… I am…) and these at night (3 amazing things that happened today… How could I have made today even better?). Rooted in gratitude and accountability, we swear our days feel better every time we commit to journaling these questions each morning and evening.

11. Sleep. Everyone’s sleep needs are different. Are you an 8 hour person? 6 hours? 9 hours? Figure out what you need to feel good and try to make those hours a nightly habit, as well as develop a nighttime wind-down routine if you can muster it. Also, when you can fit them in, we are all about short day-time naps.

12. Eat well. Instead of holding yourself to a new and difficult diet, just try filling your plate with more fruits and vegetables in each meal. Drink more water. Watch your sugar intake. The basics.

13. Make friends with your library. If you haven’t already, explore the many—completely free—benefits of your local library and other community centers. E-books, magazines, and so many options for the kids are all yours for the taking borrowing.

14. Take yourself to a museum. Sure, you could take the kids with you (here are some tips on how to do that), but we all know a museum day by yourself sounds even more heavenly. If you don’t want to splurge on a ticket or membership, research which days of the month are free, mark them on your calendar, and make a date with yourself.

15. Listen to music. An automatic mood-booster. ‘Nuff said.

16. Book a snuggle session with your family. Having a permanent snuggle buddy is one of the highlights of parenthood. Put snuggling, cuddling, and just being together into your agenda for the day. Example: 6:15pm-6:30pm = mommy and me snuggle session. Both you and your kids will absolutely love this tradition.

17. Combine friends, family, and nature. One of our friends said her New Year’s resolution was to hang out with friends and family more in nature. We love this location-specific, double-whammy goal of both enjoying the folks you love and the beautiful world around us, together.

18. Tidy in spurts. Sometimes feeling organized can help your brain feel less overwhelmed. But life is busy and life with kids is messy. So, instead of taking on a huge tidying project, try setting an alarm and tidy in short spurts—do a one minute tidy or a 10-minute tidy—and see what you can get done in a short, focused amount of time, then call it quits. Get the kids involved, too, so they are learning to clean up after themselves.

19. Going deeper with friends, family, and self. Your know those reflection questions we mentioned up there on step 10? We love the idea of filling them out solo, then setting aside a time and date to go over your answers with a few friends or your partner. Not only does it help you feel heard and more accountable for your goals, but you’ll grow closer to the ones you love by opening up together. Deep connection can definitely aid self-care.

20. Sign up for an online challenge. To have a more structured self-care agenda for the New Year, there are plenty of health and wellness challenges out there, many online. We are especially intrigued by the 30-day challenge by The New York Times, which focuses on easy (and free) tasks that are scientifically proven to improve at least one of four pillars of self-care: Move. Nourish. Refresh. Connect. Read about it here.

If you’ve got a free self-care practice that you love (and that wasn’t on our list), feel free to share it in the comments below!

This article was originally published in December 2021.

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