“Self-care” is a phrase that has peaked in popularity since the pandemic. But it’s also a phrase that is often misunderstood. For this year’s International Day of Happiness (March 20th), we’re focusing on why self-care is important and sharing some self-care tips, to help you to be the happiest version of yourself.

Why is self-care so important?

“Self-care” refers to any activity that helps you feel happier and improves your wellbeing. Research suggests that self-care can help us to manage stress, anxiety, and other difficult emotions. It can also help us to cope with problems more calmly, boost our productivity, and fuel our confidence.

The happier we are in ourselves, the kinder we are to those around us. Self-care can have a huge impact on our relationships, as we tend to be more patient and caring when our own needs are being met.

Self-care has been more important than ever during the pandemic, as being unable to meet up with loved ones has meant that we’ve had to rely on ourselves to stay happy and motivated. But even as restrictions ease, its important that we continue to practice self-care, to help us to cope better with life’s challenges.

How can I practice self-care?

Self-care looks different for everyone. What makes one person happy won’t always work for someone else. But there are some steps that we can all take to look after our wellbeing.

Have a good night’s sleep. Getting enough sleep is one of the best things we can do for our mental health. It can help you to reduce stress, improve concentration and perform better at school or at work. Try setting yourself a wind-down routine before bed. This could include:

  • Having a warm bath, to help your body reach the best temperature for rest
  • Writing a “to do” list for the next day, to organise your thoughts and stop yourself worrying late at night.
  • Avoiding using phones, laptops, or electronic screens for at least an hour before going to bed. These all emit a blue light, which can prevent us from drifting off.
  • Going to bed and getting up at a similar time each day. Having a routine helps your body clock settle into a pattern, making it easier to switch off at the same time each evening.

Keep a gratitude journal. Appreciating the positive parts of our lives can have a huge impact on our mindset and mental health. Jot down five things you’re grateful for each week. Looking back on these when you’re feeling low can also help to shift your mood!

Don’t run from difficult emotions. It’s important to accept how you’re really feeling, rather than trying to be happy all of the time. Explore your emotions by writing down your thoughts in a journal, or talking to a trusted friend or parent. Mindfulness and meditation can also help you to become aware of your thoughts and feelings and to manage them better.

Learn a new skill. Many people find that being productive and learning something new boosts their mood. But different people will enjoy different activities – so it’s important to find one that you enjoy! Take time to do something you enjoy on a regular basis, like reading a new book or testing out a new recipe. If you’re looking to start a longer-term project, FutureLearn and OpenLearn have a huge range of courses to choose from.

Connect with friends or family. Feeling connected to other people is vital for our mental health. Human contact helps us to feel less isolated, more connected, and can give us a new perspective on our worries. Try to spend some time connecting with others each day, whether that’s greeting neighbours, calling a friend, or going for a walk with a parent.

Step away from social media. Social media can be great for staying in touch with our loved ones. But constantly seeing everyone’s highlight reel can increase feelings of sadness and loneliness. It can also prevent you from focusing on the present moment and being grateful for the positives in your life. Try taking short breaks from social media by leaving your phone in another room or setting a timer, even if it’s just for 10 minutes!

Get outside. Getting active and stepping outside have both been proven to have huge impacts on our mental health. Have a read of our last blog post to find out why getting active is so important and the impact it can have on your mental health.

Seek support if you need it

Making self-care a key part of your life can work wonders for your mood, self-esteem, and relationships. But remember, if you’re going through a difficult time or struggling with your mental health, it’s important to get support. Reach out to one of our caring mentors who can support you if you’re struggling.