Understanding the Difference Between Self-Care & Self-Indulgence

Self-Care & Self-Indulgence
Self-Care & Self-Indulgence

As society becomes more open to discussing mental health issues and focusing on better mental health practices, the conversation about self-care has never been more prevalent. A quick magazine stand-scan will show dozens of titles encouraging you to focus on your self-care and mental well-being. But what exactly is self-care? Below, we examine the difference between self-care and self-indulgence.

What is Self-Care?

Self-care is defined as an intentional action taken to nourish your mental, physical, and emotional well-being. It’s a way to contribute to your growth. Without self-care, people can lose their identity. Practicing self-care heightens your self-awareness and offers you a deeper, richer connection to who it is you are. Self-care requires incredible discipline. You need an understanding of both yourself and your priorities. Without this intentionality behind your actions, self-care becomes indistinguishable from self-indulgence.

What is Self-Indulgence?

Self-indulgence is rooted in emotion. When you self-indulge, you might find that your actions end up being spontaneous, as you’re typically taking action based on how you feel in the moment. The decision-making satisfies your immediate needs rather than contributing to your overall personal growth.

Unfortunately, the media and market easily influence the public and portray their products or ideas as self-care rituals, when in fact they promote self-indulgence. Self-indulgent activities are usually easy, don’t require much physical activity, and are mind-numbing.

How Can You Tell The Difference?

In times of stress, it’s hard to tell the difference between self-care and self-indulgence. The best way to determine whether your actions are self-care-related or self-indulgence is to constantly increase your awareness of how the actions you take are impacting you.

For instance, if your self-care routine leaves you feeling lonely, sad, tired, or unworthy, there’s a good chance you’re self-indulging. For example, some people think a glass of wine at the end of the day is a well-deserved reward and treat it as self-care. Ask yourself how the activity nourishes you.

A visit to the spa can easily be viewed as self-care or self-indulgence, depending on the factors that influence the action. For example, spending $200 for a visit to the spa when you’re tight on cash might break your budget and increase anxiety in the long run. On the other hand, if you opted for a monthly spa box to break up payments over time and get self-care products directly to your door, this might be a more efficient method of self-care for you.

Your health and wellness should be growing positively from your self-care activities. If you find yourself feeling worse after drinking, focusing on your negative emotions, or indulging more than you said you would, chances are you’re self-indulging.

The positive feelings you get from self-indulgence won’t last nearly as long as self-care practices. Self-care practices should be built upon over time so that your physical and mental health improves consistently over time.

Successful Self-Care Ideas

Cook Your Favorite Meal

Cooking is a very therapeutic activity, even if you aren’t a renowned chef. Taking time away from your daily activities to prepare a meal for yourself can aid in your self-care routine. Think about cooking your favorite meal once or twice a month. Reserve a day on your calendar, get all the ingredients you need and have a night of it.

Practice Deep Breathing

Deep breathing has been proven to lower stress levels and help

Call People You Love

Connecting with the people you love in your life is an act of self-care. Schedule time to call your friends and family to catch up. So often people are too busy in their own lives to sit down and talk to one another. Make sure your call is dedicated to just that, talking.

Listen To Your Favorite Music

Music is proven to have many of the same benefits as other self-care practices. Listening to music decreases anxiety, increases your mindfulness, aids in self-awareness, and can be beneficial to your serotonin production by keeping you relaxed and upbeat. Incorporate music into your day, maybe that means you get your day started listening to some of your favorite tunes or winding down after work with music.

Take A Long Nature Walk

Nature-based self-care routines are associated with lower levels of depression and anxiety. Get out and take a walk in your surroundings. If you have a pet, you can incorporate their walking schedule into your self-care nature walk routine as well. Studies have shown that getting out into nature more often also helps to boost your immune system.


The internet and social media do not promote self-care. Scrolling through Instagram for hours comparing your life to those around you is doing a lot more harm than good, and there’s data to back it up. One of the best acts of self-care one can do for themselves is unplugging from the internet from time to time.

Leave your phone at home on your walks, or take a social media break. You could even make the bedroom a phone-free zone so you aren’t on it until the late hours of the night. Taking time to remember that the online world isn’t the real world, and removing yourself from that false reality is a beneficial act of self-care.

I'm NOT a doctor! I'm just passionate about health and healthy leaving. The information on this website, such as graphics, images, text and all other materials, is provided for reference and educational purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional. The content is not intended to be complete or exhaustive or to apply to any specific individual's medical condition.