It’s no secret that the pandemic has been tough on everyone in a lot of different ways, from financial hardships to physical and mental health struggles. But with vaccination rates rising, COVID-19 cases falling, and mask orders being rolled back, this spring and summer could be the perfect time for many Americans to get out and indulge themselves with a little self-care. 

After all, it may be sorely needed: Although Americans’ reported feelings of joy are slowly starting to return to pre-pandemic levels, ongoing CivicScience surveying shows that U.S. adults are still feeling substantially less joyful than they were in late 2019.

But how exactly are Americans practicing self-care in 2021? And how have these habits changed since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic one year ago? According to CivicScience surveys of thousands of U.S. adults this year, big experiences like shopping sprees and special events have taken a backseat to dining out and physical pampering at salons and spas — and self-care practices like yoga and meditation remain prevalent.

Splurging as Self-Care

So far in 2021, nearly 7 in 10 U.S. adults (69%) have said they splurge on themselves to some extent. And thus far this year, treating oneself to an expensive meal remains the most popular way of splurging, beating out “clothing shopping spree” for the second year running. In fact, over the past seven-plus years, shopping sprees have fallen out of favor as Americans’ go-to splurge, while alternatives like nice meals and physical pampering have grown more popular.

Event tickets have also nose-dived as a splurging option over the past year, though it remains to be seen whether live events will rebound as the nation emerges from the pandemic. And expensive liquors took off in a big way over the past year, becoming the fourth-most popular splurge.

Despite its growing overall popularity, physical pampering remains an overwhelmingly female phenomenon in 2021, with 87% of those who prefer to splurge on spas and salons being female. Men tend to be in the majority among those who prefer to treat themselves to a nice dinner or bottle of alcohol.

Among those who do like to visit spas and salons, 7 in 10 said they would be comfortable receiving a massage or facial within the next month. Even more (78%) said they would be comfortable with going into an establishment to have their nails done within a month, and a full 84% of Americans who get haircuts said they would be comfortable getting their hair cut or colored within a month.

But being comfortable with the idea of getting a massage doesn’t necessarily mean a person will go out and have it done. In a May CivicScience survey, about 1 in 8 Americans said they had “recently” been to a spa or gotten a massage, with most of that group saying they planned to go again “soon.” One-quarter of Americans overall said they would go to a spa or get a massage “soon.”

Those who’ve recently gotten a massage or plan to do so soon tend to be female, but not as much as you might think. Members of this group also tend to be wealthier, and are more likely to be parents.

People who are either getting massages or planning to get them soon are more likely than others to be frequent Instagram and TikTok users, and more likely to say that social media — and social media influencers — affect the things they buy.

Physical Wellness as Self-Care

But going out and splurging on a massage isn’t the only way to practice self-care. Americans also turn to practices like yoga and meditation to improve their overall well-being.

According to CivicScience polling in April and May, 37% of U.S. adults have tried meditation, with about two-thirds of that group enjoying the experience.

Somewhat surprisingly, fewer Americans (31%) have given yoga a try, with a majority enjoying it.

But who exactly is practicing meditation and yoga? In short, younger, wealthier women in urban areas are the most likely to meditate.

Those who meditate are more likely than others to seek out brands that are socially conscious.

In the same vein, those who’ve tried meditation express the highest levels of concern over the potential for cryptocurrency mining to harm the environment. But those who’ve tried meditation or are interested in trying it are also more likely than others to be open to the possibility of cryptocurrency helping those who don’t have access to traditional banking services.

The portion of the population that practices yoga looks quite similar to those that practice meditation — tending to be young, wealthier, female, and urban. In fact, there is a lot of overlap between the two groups.

Both groups tended to be diverse. For example, those who said they’ve “tried [yoga] and liked it” were less likely to be white than those who intended to try it, didn’t like it, or were uninterested in it.

And those who practice yoga are more likely to take alternative approaches to health and wellness than others, being much more likely to use holistic medicines and cannabis than those who don’t practice yoga.

For those who prefer to practice yoga in a studio or fitness center, the coronavirus pandemic has complicated matters. In the past 30 days, only about half of Americans said they would be comfortable going to a gym within the next month.

As overall feelings of joy remain low in the U.S. in 2021, self-care – whether in the form of splurging on oneself or practicing meditation and yoga – will be an important component of Americans’ emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic.