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Self-care is a term we hear thrown around a lot these days, often accompanied by images of luxurious spa treatments and pricey meditation retreats. But what if your mental health needs some TLC while your wallet disagrees? The good news is that effective self-care doesn’t require a hefty price tag.

When considering how we nurture ourselves, it’s helpful to reflect on the origins of self-care. During the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. and The Black Panther Party illuminated the connection between poverty, health discrepancies, and systemic inequity. For them, self-care wasn’t merely a personal ritual but a revolutionary act—a strategic move to preserve mental and physical health amidst an unjust social landscape. Angela Davis found solace in meditation during her time behind bars, while Rosa Parks, who had an interest in Buddhism, practiced yoga—all without spending a dime.

SEE ALSO: Mental Health Apps for Black Users

Remember this the next time you find yourself feeling like you can’t afford to take care of yourself. In fact, some of the most powerful tools for boosting your mood and reducing stress are completely free. Below are some ideas to help get you started.

Low-Cost Ways to Maintain Your Mental Health

Get Moving

Exercise isn’t just about physical fitness; it’s a potent mood-booster. Lace up your sneakers and head outside for a brisk walk, jog, or bike ride. The rhythmic movement gets your blood pumping, increases endorphin levels (nature’s feel-good chemicals), and clears your head. If you’re more of a gym person but you don’t have a membership, free online resources offer a myriad of bodyweight workout routines that require minimal space. Even a simple 15-minute dance session in your living room to your favorite playlist can be beneficial.

Get Outside

There’s a reason why spending time outdoors is consistently linked to improved mental well-being. Immersing yourself in nature, whether it’s getting out on a hike, taking a stroll through a park, or simply sitting in your backyard, has a calming effect. Breathe in the fresh air, listen to the sounds of bird songs, and let the natural world soothe your soul. Studies even suggest that spending time near water, like a beach or lake, can be particularly restorative.

Be Mindful

As I’ve previously noted, meditation doesn’t require a special mantra or exotic location. It’s simply the practice of focusing your attention on the present moment without judgment. There are numerous free guided meditations available online, or you can start by simply sitting comfortably, closing your eyes, and focusing on your breath. As thoughts arise, acknowledge them gently and bring your attention back to your breath. Even a few minutes of daily mindfulness can help reduce stress, improve focus, and enhance overall well-being.

Get Creative

Engaging in creative activities is another great way to nurture your mental health. Invest in some craft paint, grab a pen and paper, or explore a new artistic medium. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece; the process of creating is what matters. Whether it’s writing, drawing, playing music, or even coloring in an adult coloring book, creativity provides a healthy outlet for your emotions and allows you to express yourself freely.

Stay Connected

Humans are social creatures, and strong social connections are vital for mental well-being. Make an effort to connect with loved ones on a regular basis. Schedule a phone call with a friend, organize a virtual game night with loved ones, or simply reach out to someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. Even small social interactions can boost your mood and combat feelings of isolation.

Taking Self-Care A Step Further:

Even with free or low-cost options, self-care is a journey, not a destination. As you become more comfortable with these practices, you can explore additional ways to nurture your well-being.

Here are some additional tips:

  • Utilize Free Online Resources—Many libraries offer free online resources like meditation apps, yoga classes, and even access to ebooks on mental health.
  • Participate in Community Events—Check local listings for free community events like concerts in the park, art walks, or fitness classes offered outdoors.
  • Volunteer Your Time—Helping others is a fantastic way to boost your own sense of well-being. Look for volunteer opportunities in your community that align with your interests

Remember, self-care isn’t about grand gestures; it’s about incorporating small, sustainable practices into your daily routine. By incorporating these free and low-cost strategies, you can nurture your mental health and create a happier, more balanced life.

Steph R. Long is a Chopra-certified Ayurvedic health instructor, meditation instructor, and well-being coach. She’s also the founder of holistic wellness and coaching company SRL Well-Being and the former Deputy Director of Enterprise for Refinery29 Unbothered, where she oversaw health, wellness, and spirituality content. As a queer Black wellness practitioner who strives toward inclusivity, Steph centers BIPOC and QTBIPOC, who are often underserved by the wellness industry. Her commitment is to help everyone rediscover their inner wisdom, empowering each of her clients to cultivate self-awareness and lead vibrant, purposeful lives.


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Low-Cost Ways to Practice Self-Care & Maintain Your Mental Health  was originally published on