5 Things That Seem Totally Selfish but Aren’t, According to Science

You love to self-care as much as the next person, but every now and again you’re wracked with an internal guilt trip: Am I being selfish? Good news. You’re definitely not—and we’ve got the scientific evidence to back it up.

25 Totally Free Ways to Practice Self-Care

woman on laptop sipping tea

1. When You Say No To—or, Worse, Cancel—Plans

In a perfect world, you have a secret superpower: The ability to squeeze everyone—and everything—into the limited hours in your day. Alas, that’s not the case, but simultaneously we beat ourselves up when we have to utter the word no. Not so fast, according to recent research published by Oxford University Press. The study argues that saying no to everything from daily distractions to after-work plans can help you achieve goals faster and grant yourself the space and recovery time you need, as long as you use an effective refusal strategy. Their recommendation? Say ‘I don’t’ versus ‘I can’t.’ (For example, ‘I don’t do sweets during the day’ puts you in control of the ‘no’ you’re putting out into the universe whereas ‘I can’t do sweets during the day’ sounds like you’re forcing yourself to do something you’re wishy washy on.)

woman on cell phone in the fall

2. When You Hit ‘Send to Voicemail’ On a Call

It’s not that you don’t love your sister (and your frequent catch-ups) the most, but just because you can be reached at all times doesn’t mean you should always answer your phone. A 2013 study from Kent University in Ohio found that those who are attached to their phone are likely to be less happy compared to those who can resist a ring or a text message alert. Permission to prioritize the present, granted.

woman giving presentation at work

3. When You Skip the Apology

Fun fact, courtesy of a study conducted by the University of Waterloo in Canada: Women apologize a heck of a lot more than men, often because they have a lower threshold than men for what they consider offensive. Other researchers explain that apologies can be “a de-facto way of communicating, a way of filling the silence and keeping the peace when interacting with others.” If that’s the case, unless you really do something wrong, shh. (It’s about mindfulness, not selfishness.)

woman on laptop in coffee shop

4. When You Don’t Reply Immediately to Every Email

Zero inbox, schmero inbox. Even though those unanswered messages in your Gmail gnaw away at your soul sometimes, it’s A-OK to let them sit, according to researchers at the University of British Columbia. A recent study found that intentionally ignoring your email whenever possible has huge psychological benefits including lowering tension and overall day-to-day stress.

woman taking a bubble bath

5. When You Prioritize a Bubble Bath

Sure, a shower is more efficient, but prioritizing a tub soak for as little as 20 minutes can help stabilize your blood pressure, increase your ability to fight off everyday infections like the common cold or flu, and help you get a better night’s sleep, all according to a variety of studies. Now if you’ll excuse us, it’s bathtime.

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Royal family expert, a cappella alum, mom

Rachel Bowie is Senior Director of Special Projects & Royals at PureWow, where she covers parenting, fashion, wellness and money in addition to overseeing initiatives within...