50 self-care activities that take two hours or less
Think you don’t have time to look after your own wellbeing? Here are 50 self-care activities that take two hours or less from Nicola Semple.
You have a couple of hours to yourself; how do you spend that time?
A few weeks ago I had an afternoon to myself. No work, no kids, no obligations. It was a delicious rarity but I found myself in the strange position that I didn’t know what to do with myself!
In the end I decided to go for a long walk. That evening I wrote a list of all the things that I would like to do the next time I had some free time. I don’t want to waste my time off trying to decide what to do with it!
In case you find yourself in a similar position, here are my 50 self care ideas that take two hours or less.
SELF CARE STRATEGY #1 – GET OUTSIDE
1) Walk, walk, walk
Walking is the simplest form of exercise. Use the power of your own two feet to get from A to B and reap the health rewards. No special equipment required. A comfortable pair of shoes and you can start and finish anywhere that you want.
Feeling grumpy, get walking, and blow the cobwebs away. Feeling happy, get walking, and spread your good vibes around the local community. Feeling sad, get walking, and notice all the natural beauty around you.
It’s always a good time for a walk!
2) Spend time in a favourite place
I have many happy places: perched on the lions in George Square in Glasgow, sitting beside the bandstand in Tenby, Wales, sipping a gin martini in Campbell’s Bar in Grand Central Station, New York. These are all places where I feel completely content. When I return to these places all is right with the world.
Think of your happy places close to home and when you have a couple of hours to spare you know exactly where to go.
3) Tidy up the garden
There is nothing quite so satisfying as giving the garden a tidy up. First of all, you are outside so you have a bonus of fresh air and you can quickly achieve dramatic results. Weeding, gathering debris and a quick sweep can create an instant transformation of your outside space.
4) Grow something
Transforming a tiny seed into a plant or fruit and vegetables that you can east is immensely satisfying. Growing a plant takes time and attention but it is worth it to reap the fruits of your labour.
You won’t be able to grow an entire plant in two hours but you can take the first steps such as picking what you will grow or going to the garden centre to buy seeds.
5) Get close to the water
Water has an incredibly soothing effect on the soul. In his book Blue Mind, Wallace J. Nichols outlines why being near, in, on, or under water can lower stress and anxiety, increase our sense of well-being and lower our heart and breathing rate.
Where is your nearest beach, river, or even pond? Spend some time there enjoying the benefits of the water.
6) Visit a local landmark
It can be lots of fun to play tourist in your own neighbourhood. Compile a list of local landmarks and places that you would like to visit within a 10-mile radius of home. So often we can forget about the beauty and landmarks that are right on our own doorstep.
SELF CARE STRATEGY #2 – CREATE SOMETHING
I have come to appreciate the joy of creativity in recent years. I had always convinced myself that I wasn’t artistic. My creative endeavours stretched to drawing stick figures and a bit of doodling.
I’m no Picasso but I will now get out paints and chalk and have a go. The result is never particularly impressive but it is nice to get lost for a while and play.
8) Guided creativity
That said, if you are not one of the world’s natural artists, it can be helpful to have a starting point or a guide. You can buy kits for paint by numbers, embroidery, mosaics, diamond painting, bath bombs, candles, glass painting….. the list goes on and on.
Now we are much more in my zone of genius! I love to cook. I love to try out new recipes. I love to repeat old recipes. I love to look in my fridge and uncover all the bits and pieces that are leftover and then see what I can come up with.
You don’t need to make anything complicated to get an enormous amount of satisfaction. The simple recipes are often the best.
10) Create digital art
Creating digital art can be particularly satisfying if, like me, you are not a natural artist. Applications such as PicMonkey and Canva, have an entry-level free offering. Both have a range of templates and drag and drop options making the experience fun and rewarding.
Writing can be a wonderful way to get thoughts and feelings out of your head and into the world. Let your imagination run wild with creative writing, poetry, or even song writing.
12) Create a video
I am amazed by the incredible videos that my 11-year-old daughter and her friends create. This seems to be a medium where they feel comfortable and at home. And with the range of apps and software at your disposal it is child’s play. You can talk to the camera, create a montage of photos, time-lapse videos, stop motion animation.
13) Create a playlist
Music is incredible way to connect to memories, places, people, and also to influence our mood. Create your own playlist or even playlists for different scenarios, for example Friday Feelings with an upbeat tempo to rev you up for the weekend, Sunday Sessions to soothe and calm you into the week, and Morning Moments to ease you into the day.
Alliteration is not a prerequisite for your naming you playlist but it can be fun!
SELF CARE STRATEGY #3 – LEARN SOMETHING
14) Attend a face to face course/workshop
I love to learn. Attending a workshop with likeminded people and learning something new is heaven. In these times of Covid-19, face-to-face courses are few and far between.
As times goes on, there will be more opportunities for socially distanced, face-to-face learning so keep an eye out for something that appeals to you.
15) Take an online course
The online learning market has EXPLODED in recent years and you can learn about pretty much everything online. Take a look at Mindvalley, Udemy, and Curious for some ideas and also look out for local and niche providers and learn everything from business building to mindfulness.
16) Visit the library/invest in a book
Books, glorious books! Reading is a simple and accessible way to increase knowledge and learn new skills. A trip to your local library means that it doesn’t even have to cost you anything to learn something new.
17) Spend time with somebody that you find interesting
I started my podcast The Good Life Well Lived to meet interesting people from the comfort of my own home. I love to learn and I love to talk to people who can teach me things. Who could you spend time with that could teach you something new?
SELF CARE STRATEGY #4 – PAMPER YOURSELF
18) Move your body
I have included exercise in the pamper section because moving your body is a way to treat yourself! The gym bunnies will know this already and will bathe in those post exercise endorphins.
If you are a more reluctant exerciser then find ways to move your body that you enjoy. There are lots of options – yoga, salsa, taekwondo, jujitsu, you name it and there are lessons to teach you how to do it! Even a brisk walk, gardening, or housework can get those endorphins flowing.
19) Mask up
We wear face masks to protect ourselves and others daily, but don’t forget the other type of face mask! In fact, you can now buy masks for pretty much every part of your body, face, hands, feet even your boobs (yes, even your boobs). If time is tight, applying a mask can be the perfect pampering solution.
20) Have a bath
I love baths. It’s one of my happy places and I would have a bath every day if I could fit it into my schedule. You can go the whole hog with epsom salts, essential oils, and scented candles.
I am happy with a tub full of hot water and a good book. You can flex depending on how much time you have and how luxurious you want to make the experience.
21) Have a facial
You can book into a spa for a professional facial or you can DIY at home. This is your chance to use up all the products and testers have accumulated in drawers over time.
If you find that you don’t have a plethora of products at your disposal then ask friends what you can beg or borrow. We often buy products, use them once and find they don’t agree with our skin but would be perfect for other people. You could even organize a product swap.
22) Give yourself a health MOT
It goes without saying that you should book in all your regular check-ups. I know, I know, smear tests are not fun but they are a necessary evil. Between checkups you can also give yourself a Health MOT.
Keep track of your weight, blood pressure (my doctor’s surgery has a self-service blood pressure machine) and give yourself a thorough boob check. Also, take off all your clothes and spend time looking in the mirror, has anything changed? Does it concern you? Do you need to talk to a doctor about it?
23) Do a DIY dental check
You should also book in regular dental checks. But between checkups you can give your mouth a deep clean.
Take your time to floss, spend time looking at your gums to see if anything has changed and if you have concerns, make an appointment with your dentist sooner rather than later. Also make sure you’re not grinding your teeth in your sleep.
SELF CARE STRATEGY #5 – REFLECT
24) Vision board
My West of Scotland cynicism meant that I used to think Vision Boards were a load of guff. How on earth could tearing out pictures from a magazine and gluing them on a bit of cardboard make any difference to your life? And then I learned more about how to create a vision board and I was hooked.
25) Write a letter to your future self
Writing a letter to your future self is a powerful way to define what you want from life. Address yourself in the first person and describe in detail the direction that you want your life to take.
26) Set goals
Set goals and get clear on exactly what you want to achieve. When you write down what you want it activates the Reticular Activation System (RAS) in your brain.
This means that your brain starts to look out for opportunities to help you get what you want. Having clear goals mean you can align all of the decisions and actions you take with those goals to make they take you closer to where you want to be.
27) Create a bucket list
Your bucket list is things you have never done that you would like to do someday. These aren’t goals or accomplishments, but experiences you want to have. It can be anything from traveling or going on a cruise, to buying a house or swimming in the ocean. Have fun with it!
28) Conduct a 3 month/6 month/12 month review
How often do we say ‘I can’t believe how quickly time is passing?’ Before we know it a whole year can have passed and we are not sure how. We get swept away by external events and allow ourselves to drift through time.
Scheduling regular checkpoints allows us to move through life with purpose and intention. We can take control of our time and our life to make sure we are on track and spending our time on the things that light us up.
Journaling is the act of exploring your inner life and then putting your thoughts and feelings in words on paper. When you write down what is happening in your inner world, you slow down and pay attention, to listen to rather than run away from your feelings.
Journaling also helps you discover your sense of purpose and meaning in life.
30) Practice gratitude
Taking time to express gratitude allows you to deeply appreciate what you have in your life. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have you focus on what you do have.
Write down everything you are grateful for. It can be a specific person, friends, a home, a stable job, pets who you love and love you back. List everything that comes to mind.
SELF CARE STRATEGY #6 REPLENISH
Meditation allows you to focus your attention and listen deeply to the lessons that are there for you to be learned. Many people think they are getting meditation ‘wrong’ or that they ‘can’t do it’ is because their mind wanders during the practice.
No matter how experienced you become with meditation, your mind will wander. The important thing is to notice that your mind has wandered and then bring your attention back to meditation.
32) Read a book
Books crop up several times in this list. I am convinced there is no better way to escape reality for a few hours than to immerse yourself in a good book!
33) Watch a movie
Curl up on the sofa, grab a blanket, and watch a movie. Returning to old favourites can be a source of great comfort. Watching the latest blockbuster can get the adrenaline going and feel like an adventure. And discovering something off the beaten track can give you a taste of different cultures.
34) Take a nap
A quick 30-minute nap can have an amazingly restorative effect on your body and your mind. NASA found pilots who took naps for about 25 minutes showed a 54% improvement in their alertness compared to pilots who didn’t nap. Those who napped also showed a 34% increase in their job performance.
35) Create your own home retreat
Covid-19 restrictions mean attending live retreats can be tricky at the moment. But there is nothing to stop you from creating your own bespoke retreat experience at home. Take some time to plan out what the ultimate retreat looks like for you.
Making sure that you get a balance between the chance to rest and recharge and also time to reflect and look ahead. You can use the Home Retreat Made Simple resource pack to help you plan out your ideal retreat from the comfort of your own home.
SELF CARE STRATEGY #7 – GET ORGANISED
36) Tidy out a wardrobe/drawer/cupboard
Decluttering, sorting and tidy a messy wardrobe, drawer, or cupboard is hugely satisfying. Take control of one small area of your home like a wardrobe, drawer or cupboard. This will build momentum and encourage you to take action and declutter other areas of your home.
37) Have a digital declutter
Give your laptop, your phone, or your tablet a good spring clean. Delete all the apps that a dou never use. Make sure your files are arranged into folders.
Work through your photos and delete duplicates or anything that you don’t want to keep. This will free up storage on your device and also make it easier to find exactly what you are looking for when you need it.
38) Clear out the bag of bags
Every home has a bag of bags or a drawer of bags. Sort through them, recycle any that have holes, or are no longer usable, and then fold up what is left and store in an orderly fashion to save you time the next time you go looking for a bag.
39) Cull your book collection
Books are wonderful and have the magical power to teach us about the world around us and ourselves. That said, you don’t need to hold on to every book that you have ever read. Work through your book collection and pick out anything that can be passed on to friends or the local charity shop.
40) Visit the library
Libraries are wonderful places that give us completely free access to a wide range of books. Go for a browse and pick out some books that you might not normally read. You’ve got nothing to lose and you might just find that you discover a whole new genre that you haven’t explored before.
41) Conduct a financial audit
Take some time to review your finances. Create a spreadsheet to summarise your financial position. List all savings and debts. Build an overview of monthly income and expenditure. Construct a snapshot of your finances that you can update each month and stay on top of your finances.
42) Create a photo album
We take more photos than ever before but most of us rarely take the time to get a hard copy. Browse through your digital albums and pick out your favourite photos to create a photo album or photo book. You could pick a theme or create a book as a gift for somebody.
43) Research clubs and activities
Do you always say ‘I should join a Rock Choir’ or ‘I’d love to skydive’ and then you do nothing about it? Spend some time researching options for clubs and activities near you. The first step to joining a club or taking part in an activity is knowing what is available. Take that first step.
SELF CARE STRATEGY #8 – CONNECT WITH OTHER HUMAN BEINGS
44) Arrange to meet a friend
Face to face connection is SO important for our mental wellbeing. There is nothing quite so satisfying as a long chat with an old friend or getting to know a new acquaintance in more depth.
Go for a walk, a coffee, a picnic, treat yourself to brunch. Most importantly give your time, energy, and attention and connect with other human beings.
45) Phone a friend
Global pandemics, time zones, and geographical differences can make meeting up in person tricky. You can still pick up the phone and have a chat or a video call. Not quite the same as in-person but a good alternative.
46) Set up a Zoom get together
I suspect after lockdown lots of us are Zoomed out. In the early days, we enthusiastically set up calls with family and friends to keep ourselves busy. It wasn’t long before the novelty wore off. That said, modern technology is a wonderful thing. If you can’t meet up with groups of friends in person, Zoom is the next best thing.
47) Write a letter
Dig out some fancy stationery, your favourite pen and write a proper letter. You could write to somebody you admire, to support an important cause, or just to say hello.
48) Dig out old photos and reminisce
Unearth that box of photos that you have been meaning to sort through and allow yourself a trip down memory lane. Photos are a wonderful way to trigger old memories. You may even decide to get in touch with people that you haven’t seen in a very long time.
49) Volunteer your time
Being a volunteer can be a great way to make new connections and help you remember all that is good in your life. Studies show that volunteering has a positive effect on mental health and depression.
And last but by no means least.
50) Just be
It is great to make plans and get the most from your leisure time, but sometimes you need to be spontaneous. Ask yourself ‘at this exact moment, what do I need right now?’And then give yourself that.
Nicola Semple is a Mindset Coach, Host of The Good Life Well Lived Podcast and creator of the Home Retreat Made Simple. Her passion is helping her clients focus on their time, energy and attention on their priorities, so they create their own version of a good life well lived.