Easy Self-Care Activities That Are Free & Effective

Most can be done in under 10 minutes.

By Toni Gasparis
woman drinking coffee

Most of our daily tasks don’t require much thought. Things like showering, eating, and using the bathroom are second nature by now, but what if we told you there was a more efficient way to do everyday activities you’ve forgotten about? Correct Me If I’m Wrong… is DoctorOz.com’s new series about improving even the most mundane tasks you tackle on a daily basis so you can live happier and healthier.

Self-care is a huge buzz word. Whether it’s investing in spin classes, buying new skincare products, or enjoying yourself on a tropical vacation, these activities are usually purchased in the name of self-care. But you’re wrong if you think putting yourself first has to cost a lot of money. In fact, there are self-care activities you can do for free even if you only have 10 minutes in your day. DoctorOz.com spoke with Paula Rizzo, author of Listful Living: A List-Making Journey to a Less Stressed You, to break down some of the easiest ways to practice self care — and the importance of doing so.

But before we get into activities, we first need to reframe the idea of self-care. According to Rizzo, self-care and money do not go hand in hand.. “People think [that in order to practice self-care] they need to get a $300 massage or go on a week-long vacation,” says Rizzo. This idea has been perpetuated and monetized as self-care has increased in popularity.

Forbes reported in 2019 that self-care has grown into a “$4.2 trillion dollar wellness industry.” But at its core, self-care, explains Rizzo, is simply small moments you take in your day to rejuvenate yourself. The purpose is to take time to check in with your mind and your body and find moments that bring you joy.

RELATED: Subscribe to the Dr. Oz newsletter for wellness tips, recipes, and exclusive sneak peeks from The Dr. Oz Show.

How to Schedule Self-Care Into Your Day

The thought of scheduling self-care might seem ridiculous; you can’t schedule happiness, right? But convincing yourself to take time out of your day for your wellbeing (when you have so many other things to do) can be tricky, so a schedule is necessary at first to get into the habit. Rizzo advises to start with a list. “Make a list of all the things in your day and your life that you really enjoy. The things [on your list] should be things that help you get in a better frame of mind and help you feel like you’re in control.” Once you’ve made your list, find ways to schedule these things into your days. If you value quiet time during the day set your alarm for five to 10 minutes before you go to bed to let yourself know it’s time to be quiet and unwind. If you value watching your favorite TV show every week, schedule out the time to sit on the couch and enjoy it.

Being honest about your time is also key. Take a look at how you spend your day and what takes up your time. You might be surprised to find that “a lot of what you’re doing is not the best use of your time,” says Rizzo. By identifying where you waste time, you can replace some of those moments with a self-care activity of your choosing. Being proactive about the time you gain back can also help. “If someone cancels a meeting with you at work, instead of jumping into the next task consider using the time for self-care,” advises Rizzo.

Another way to schedule self-care in your life is to overlap it with other parts of your day where you have free time. For example, Rizzo points out, “if you already walk to work [use that time for self-care] and listen to a podcast [or something else you enjoy].” Self-care shouldn’t be a chore or something that hangs over your head. “You should want to do it and find the time to do it,” says Rizzo.

Self-Care Ideas

No one’s self-care practices look the same because different things make different people happy. You know yourself better than anyone, so the most important rule when brainstorming ways to show yourself some love is to make sure they make you both happy and excited. As far as time is concerned, it turns out you don’t need a lot of it. “I think people think things take a lot longer than they actually do,” says Rizzo, “but just 10 minutes [or even less] is enough.” You should be able to take value in small moments as they become available to you.

Here are some ideas (that don’t cost money) to get you started on your self-care journey:

  • Enjoy a cup of coffee or tea
  • Meditate
  • Find a quiet place to sit
  • Read an article from your favorite magazine or website
  • Listen to music
  • Go for a walk
  • Go on a Google maps “vacation” — pick a place to explore on the computer
  • Draw or journal
  • Call a friend to catch up
  • Take deep breaths
  • Go to bed 10 minutes early
  • Try stretching or a quick bout of exercise snacking
  • Try out a word search, sudoku, or other type of puzzle

If you have more than 10 minutes to spare:

  • Take a relaxing bath or shower
  • Cook or bake
  • Listen to a podcast
  • Watch an episode of your favorite TV show
  • Watch a movie
  • Paint your nails
  • Read a book
  • Try out a free online tutorial to learn a new skill
  • Unplug from email outside of work
  • Take a mental health day
  • Go to a free museum, festival, or other free admission events where you live
  • Sleep in if you can or take a nap during the day

The main thing to remember with self-care, according to Rizzo, is if it makes you feel better, it counts. So really think about what brings you joy and get creative. Sometimes, even when you’re carving out time for yourself it can feel like you’re not doing enough. Rizzo says it’s important to now not be hard on yourself. Any form of self-care is good and if it makes you happy, it’s enough. “Be kind to yourself. That’s what it’s all about.”

Related:

10 Self-Care Practices to Put Yourself First 

What Happens to Your Body When You’re Lonely? How It Can Be Physically Damaging 

What Is a Life Number? Take This Personality Test To Learn What It Reveals About You

Article written by Toni Gasparis