How Caring For Yourself Improves Your Mental Health

Medically reviewed by Majesty Purvis, LCMHC
Updated April 24, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Self-care—defined by many as the act of nurturing your body, mind, and soul—has come to be viewed as a core component of wellness for most. 

Self-care can encompass a wide range of activities that, individually and inclusively, can have a variety of scientifically proven benefits for our health. Self-care can also help you understand your needs, be more productive, enhance your cognitive functioning, and better your relationships with others—all things that can be crucial to your mental health. 

In this article, we’re going to cover the different ways self-care can enhance your mental well-being.

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A therapist can help you practice self-care

How self-care can improve your mental health

Self-care, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, means doing “things that help you live well and improve both your physical health and mental health”.

The demands of daily life sometimes take a toll on our well-being and, simultaneously, make it hard for us to tend to our own needs. Self-care can help us prepare for trying times and give us the tools to work through challenges that arise.

Below are some of the ways self-care can benefit your mental health. 

Fostering emotional awareness

Self-care is often focused on helping us be more introspective. Certain self-care activities are particularly helpful for increasing emotional awareness, which is your ability to identify and understand your feelings. This level of consciousness can help you avoid repressing your emotions or expressing them in unintentional ways. 

Journaling is one constructive way of learning more about your emotions. Writing can be an outlet for your feelings and a way of examining your emotions more closely. As you create a journal, you can go back and reference entries to become more aware of how your emotions may be affected in certain situations, while also tracking your progress when it comes to managing them. Studies also show that journaling can help improve mental health-related concerns, like stress. 

Mindfulness is another self-care activity that can lead to emotional awareness. A form of meditation, mindfulness is centered around an increased sense of presence. Through enhanced awareness, you can connect more deeply with your feelings and learn to recognize them as they arise. This practice has been shown to improve symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions. 

Reading can also help us foster a greater understanding of our emotions. Research has found that there is a direct link between reading and emotional intelligence. Reading—either fiction or non-fiction—can help you learn how to describe what you’re feeling, view situations through different perspectives, and comprehend complicated relationship dynamics. 

Promoting empowerment

Self-care can bring about feelings of confidence and self-sufficiency, which can be vital to our mental health. It can be a chance to remind yourself that you deserve to be cared for and have your needs met. 

Sometimes, just knowing that you alone have the power to give yourself compassion and care can be empowering.

Exercise, for example, can be a motivating and inspiring self-care activity that can improve your mental and physical well-being. When you achieve fitness goals or simply complete healthy physical activities, you might be likely to feel an encouraging sense of accomplishment. Additionally, exercise is generally regarded as a proven method of managing stress and similar mental health challenges. 

Nurturing healthy relationships

Tending to your own needs can provide you with the energy and positive mindset that can be necessary to interact with others in a constructive and healthy manner. It is generally often said that you can’t pour from an empty cup. This means that it can be hard for you to care for the people in your life without first caring for yourself. 

Self-care can help you navigate relationships by helping you feel better, focus and function more efficiently. When you’re caring for your own emotional health, you can better empathize with others and understand their point of view. Self-care can also provide you with more self-assuredness, which may help you advocate for yourself when you interact with others. 

Many of the self-care benefits on this list can contribute to your ability to nurture healthy relationships. For example, increasing your emotional awareness can help you better identify others’ feelings and provide them with support. Additionally, focusing on your physical health can give you motivation, which may translate into a bigger cup from which to pour.  


Improving physical health

There is generally thought to be a well-established link between your mental and physical health. So, when you perform self-care activities that nourish and support your body, it can be helpful to remember that you are often benefiting your mind as well. 

There are a variety of things you can do in your daily life that contribute to physical wellness, even if only in small ways.

Diet is one of the most obvious ways for many when it comes to enhancing physical health through self-care. Giving your body the nutrients it needs by eating a variety of healthful foods can be an effective way to defend against disease and increase energy levels. 

It’s generally best to select a dietary style that aligns with your specific bodily needs and the general need for a variety of nutrition. For example: Consider taking inspiration from the Mediterranean diet, which focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, legumes, and nuts—and has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and even some cancers. 

A massage is a self-care activity that can actually provide several benefits when it comes to your physical—and, in turn, mental—health. Massages can help relax your muscles and release built-up tension, which can alleviate nervousness. You might consider scheduling recurring massage appointments as part of your self-care routine.  

Lastly, another method of caring for your own physical health is to establish a regular sleep routine. The benefits of sleep can be far-reaching, possibly including stress reduction, improved heart health, and blood sugar control. 

To establish healthy sleep habits, you might consider creating a nighttime routine that can prepare your body for bed. This can include tending to your hygiene, reading, journaling, drinking nighttime tea, and avoiding your phone for an hour before you get in bed. It can also help to prepare your space for sleep by eliminating clutter on and around the bed, utilizing white noise machines, or even using aromatherapy to promote relaxation.  

Managing symptoms of mental health conditions

Mental health challenges can impair cognitive ability, affect emotional well-being, and make everyday functioning more difficult. While many mental health disorders require comprehensive care, symptoms can often be alleviated significantly through lifestyle changes. Self-care is a frequently suggested strategy for helping manage mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder.  

If you are experiencing trauma, support is available. Please see our Get Help Now page for more resources.

Breathing exercises are generally regarded as a simple form of self-care that can improve your mental well-being by relaxing the body and easing tension. Box breathing, for example, is a deep breathing exercise you can practice almost anywhere. To start, you can take a deep breath for a four count, then hold for a four count, exhale for a four-count, and hold again for a four count. You can then repeat this process three to four times. 

How can online therapy help someone to pursue self-care?

Therapy can also be considered a form of self-care—one that can give you the tools and support to navigate a wide range of mental health challenges. When you participate in therapy, you can provide yourself with the time you need to address concerns in your life and grow. 

If you’d like help fostering mental and emotional wellness through self-care, a licensed online therapist can help. With an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, you can gain useful resources that can help you adhere to your self-care routine and overall mental health journey. BetterHelp works with thousands of mental health professionals—who have a range of specialties and areas of expertise—so you might have a good chance of matching with someone who can address your specific concerns.

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A therapist can help you practice self-care

Online therapy as a form of self-care: Is it effective?

A growing body of evidence suggests that online therapy can help individuals care for their mental and emotional well-being. In a meta-analysis of over 90 studies, which included nearly 10,000 total participants, online therapy was suggested to be an efficacious form of treatment for several different mental health challenges. Researchers mentioned that online therapy may not only be beneficial for symptoms of mental health conditions but also for self-care-related activities—like quitting smoking. 


Taking time to tend to your needs and cultivate wellness in your life can provide you with significant benefits when it comes to your mental well-being. From promoting emotional intelligence to enhancing physical health, self-care can help bring about meaningful change. If you’d like support practicing self-care or addressing other concerns, you might consider reaching out to a licensed therapist online. Whether it comes from yourself or a professional, you deserve thorough care and improved mental health. BetterHelp can connect you with a therapist in your area of need.
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