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16 Self-Care ideas for a Happier Mind.

Have you been neglecting your mental health?

(Originally posted on

Now more than ever, self-care is essential to your wellbeing and mental health.

The pandemic hasn't been easy on us. It's been more than a year and counting.

Self-care is an inward focus on what nourishes you and gives you something to look forward to each day. Planning activities and habits that gives you pleasure and purpose keeps your mind and emotions in a healthy state.

So how can you practice self-care and create a more healthy and balanced lifestyle? I've shared many articles from Positive Psychology, the Science of Wellbeing, on this blog.

Here, I've rounded up 16 self-care tips to promote better happiness and to keep your mind smiling.

1) Plan a Daily Vacation. Yes, it's possible.

Overseas travel might be restricted right now, but that doesn't mean you can't take a holiday. In fact, here's a positive psychology practice to plan a little vacation everyday.

Each day, plan a simple activity that you really enjoy doing. It can range anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes, but during this time put away your phone and try your best to minimise distractions.

This activity can be anything you enjoy, be it having a coffee, reading a book, listening to music, exercising, having a nice meal. Specifically mark this time as a vacation, and slowly enjoy the activity.

2) Prioritise sleep.

Your sleep time is sacred as part of your self-care routine. Sleep is a critical part of restoring your mind and body, and recharging for the next day. Though you might be tempted to stay up longer to watch TV or play mobile games because you're just working-from-home - don't. Get your eight hours of beauty sleep so your mind can be fresh the next day.

3) Write down three things that went well each day.

This is one of the most well-known activities in Positive Psychology. It's a writing activity that helps you to tune in to the good bits of your life. You can write them down like a diary entry, and it doesn't matter whether it's on paper, your computer or phone. Just make sure to keep a record of each day.

4) Take some time to simply breathe and be present.

You might be tempted to keep yourself busy and distracted - all the time. However, your mind also needs a break from all the thinking and doing. A useful way to press the pause button on all of this is to tune in to your breathing.

Here’s a quick exercise called the Nine Deep Breaths. You can try this now if you want to:

  1. Take nine, slow deep breaths.

  2. For the first three breaths, focus on your chest and abdomen and observe how the air flows in and out of your body.

  3. For the next three breaths, while continuing to be aware of your breathing, connect fully with your environment. Notice what you can see, hear, touch, taste and smell.

  4. For the final three breaths, still focus on your breathing but notice how your feet feels on the ground.

5) Move your body and keep yourself healthy.

Exercise isn't just good for your body, it's good for your mind too. Exercising sends a shot of dopamine into your mind - it gives you a boost of happiness. Try your best to exercise at least once a day, whether it's going for a walk, run, swim, cycle or a HIIT routine.

6) Do some virtual volunteering.

The pandemic hasn't seen the end of volunteering - and neither should you too. There are all sorts of virtual volunteering happening online, including singing with seniors, tutoring youth and befriending the disabled.

It's an easy way to connect with other people, instead of being isolated at home. Spreading kindness is also a great way to keep your happiness levels up - knowing you are helping others keep you feeling useful and fulfilled. If you're interested, check out the Zeles app for more virtual volunteering opportunities.

Research by the leading Positive Psychologist, Sonja Lyubomirsky, suggests that doing random kind deeds for others can boost your happiness up a few notches. Other than virtual volunteering, you can try performing random acts of kindness in your day.

Some ideas include:

  • Helping a colleague at work.

  • Sending a thank you note.

  • Cooking a meal for your loved one.

  • Doing a chore you don't normally do.

  • Thanking the SMRT bus driver.Do something nice for a neighbour.

  • Leaving your Food Panda delivery man a tip.

8) Use your Signature Strengths in new ways each week.

In each of us, there exists a core set of strengths that make up who we are as a person, right this very moment. Intensive research has found that there are 24 types of Signature Strengths in the world.

We do best when we harness up to five of our best strengths in our lives. You can find out what your Signature Strengths are here. A good way to put them into practice is to use them in a new way each week.

9) Take a Forest bath.

The Japanese have this concept of taking a Forest Bath. It's called Shinrin-yoku. It's a great way to take a break from the busyness of everyday, and find some solace in Nature. Being amongst the trees and listening to the rustle of leaves in the wind is one of the best ways to be more present and stay grounded.

10) Get lost in a beautiful book again.

Reading fiction takes you to wonderful places and new worlds. Besides the worlds or universes you create in your mind, you get to live the lives and perspectives from the different characters too. Psychological research has actually found that reading literary fiction can improve your capacity to understand and mentally react to other people. It helps you develop empathy, theory of mind, and critical thinking too.

11) Savour a long, hot shower.

Have you been taking your bath time for granted? I know I have - I've been spending my bath time planning my to-do lists. Yet is that the best use of this time?

Showers are inherently pleasurable. They are one of the many instances of our day that we can simply relax, away from any distractions, and enjoy the time to ourselves. Try savouring your next shower with this two-step process. Simply label the emotions you're feeling, and then give each of your senses a turn at enjoying that experience.

12) Revisit some fun childhood activities.

Our childhoods were nostalgic times of adventure, novelty, and exploration. Yet the things we used to love doing as kids seem all but forgotten. It's a good time to bring back some of the things we used to love doing as kids, in their adult versions of course. Some ideas include:

  • Go out and simply get lost in the world.

  • Go throw a ball or a frisbee, or just laze about in a park.

  • Get stuck in battle of wits in a board-game.

  • Pick up drawing just for the fun for it.

13) Find a new hobby.

Hobbies are a great way of keeping your mind engaged and happy. It might even help you get into a FLOW state - a state where psychologists recognise as one of the optimal experiences of being human.

Why not try writing a short story, learning a musical instrument, picking up sewing, or even brewing a keg of beer at home? Make them challenging and your mind will thank you for it!

14) Visit the beach and take a dip. Or even go out for a long swim.

Our waters may not be the clearest in the world, but they are still pretty darn enjoyable. The wide open sands and waters are an easy way to socially distance too. If you're up for it, try open water swimming. Some of the best places are in Sentosa, for example at Tanjong Beach. You will find many other swimmers enjoying the ocean vibe and soft currents there.

15) Find a way to stay connected.

Even though we can't meet our friends for a meal or drink outside anymore, it's still important to stay connected. You cannot live in isolation! Have a friend or two over, maybe even plan a sleepover. Otherwise catch up with a wider group of friends on Zoom - I know a few friends who even have exercise sessions on Zoom too!

16) Retune your compass and rediscover your Meaning in life.

The pandemic has somewhat put a pause-button on our life's progress. It's really difficult to plan anything long-term right now - whether it's a wedding, buying a new house, a career change, or even going on an overseas holiday.

This however does give you some leeway to slow down and put a pause on all your planning, scheduling and progressing. Instead, you can take a moment to review your life, and see how well you are living according to your true values. One of the best psychological activities for rediscovering your values is the Best Possible Self intervention. Read more about this here.

I hope everyone is well and gets a chance to practice some of these self-care tips. Do let me know in the comments if they've been helpful for you!


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