5 Self-Care Rituals You Can Do in 5 Minutes or Less

Here are some of our favorite quick and easy ways to practice self-care.

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Photo: Getty / PhotoAlto/Frederic Cirou

In a pandemic reality, time is elastic. Hours can feel like seconds, yet days stretch out like weeks, making 2020 the most Groundhog Day-esque year since the release of Groundhog Day. During these days, self-care can feel like too much. Actually, you may have moved beyond indulgent, bubble bath-filled self-care, and even beyond realistic self-care. We've all seemingly moved past fleeting wellness trends, with the only trend remaining being confusion as to what to do next. The answer? Administering self-care in microdoses, a few minutes at a time.

Take it from Nkechi Njaka, a neuroscientist, artist and meditation guide from San Francisco who specializes in mindfulness. "Short, five-minute activities are enough when there is presence and moment-to-moment awareness," she says. "In wellness communities, there can be a lot of prescriptive language around what people should do, eat, put on their skin and in their bodies in order to 'be well,'" says Njaka. "I personally define self-care as a continuous conversation to meet the self in a place of ease, spaciousness, pleasure and groundedness."

We couldn't agree more; treating self-care as a series of small moments is just reassuring enough, but not too taxing on the mind or the schedule. Which mini activities should you pursue in order to practice self-care, fast? Here are a few suggestions, alongside helpful feedback from Njaka.

Do something with your hands (and brain).

"Mindfulness is a beautiful way to be in the moment to see what is needing our attention. We can ask ourselves: What am I needing? Where can I find more space? More ease?" Njaka says. Origami, the Japanese art of paper folding, is known to boost mindfulness and concentration, and it's completely free.

San Francisco artist Zai Divecha has built her career around gentle paper folding techniques, and although her methods are different from origami, Divecha swears by her art's meditative qualities. Recently, she released two short YouTube tutorials that teach you how to make a paper star or a paper gem lantern. Pull out some paper, start folding and shortly you'll reap the benefits of that hand-eye coordination bliss.

Escape with a travel book.

Coffee-table books aren't just great for substituting for weights—they also offer a visually stunning, relaxing refuge from one's living room. "Anytime we are in the moment and have our attention on something—a sound, a sensation, the breath, a conversation—we are moving into places of presence," Njaka says.

And while summer travel plans may be completely shut down by COVID-19, the act of being in the moment with pages upon pages of beautiful travel photos can tap into sweet memories and evoke a pleasant feeling. Even better, it's been scientifically proven that, upon looking at something beautiful that you currently crave—and we all crave a getaway right now—results in positive, soothing emotions. For a true aesthetic trip, pick one of the recent releases by Assouline—the Palm Beach, St. Tropez Soleil and Athens Riviera tomes are favorites—and lose yourself in sunny beaches, shady terraces and epic seaside meals.

Give your face some tough love.

Massages have been a distant dream during COVID-19, but you shouldn't be above massaging your own face. Boosting circulation and allowing for that delicious "me time" vibe, this is self-care in an instant. "Massaging our face, there's a very physical thing happening and massage releases tension; there is presence with that," Njaka approves.

Short on technique? This YouTube classic from facialist Abigail James, with over 3 million views, offers a five-minute-long road to a naturally lifted, glowing face at best, and some quality time at the very least. Totally optional: stock up on some serum (like this one from Amazon, $27) to give your face a lit-from-within glow.

Listen to a record, not Spotify.

"Listening to music is always a form of self-care for me ... and dancing," says Njaka. While what you listen to is completely up to your personal taste, how you listen may matter. Research has shown that the sound of vinyl tends to cause heightened emotional arousal, as well evoke a rosy-glasses nostalgia for childhood (assuming you grew up with a record player). Listening to a record, according to some scholars, is an almost-tangible experience, with the sound perceived as layered and nuanced. So, for the next five-minute dance sesh, putting on a record promises additional well-being benefits. (You can snag a record player on Amazon for $46).

Catch up with friends, distantly and meaningfully.

"Mindfulness is a way for us to manage our stress and therefore support both our nervous system and our immunity," says Njaka. Approaching everyday activities mindfully—with intention and consciously—is a safe path to self-care, and one such activity can be catching up with friends.

The pandemic has made social interaction challenging, to stay the least, to the point of even the closest friends often remaining without words. That's what LongWalks is for. It's a new women-founded app that allows you and your loved ones to journal together, by answering daily prompts such as "Things I love about our family." Filling out each prompt doesn't take more than a couple of minutes; focusing on a tiny fragment of life and being able to share it with friends or family is easily achievable daily self-care.

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