In an increasingly mercurial world, self-care is more important than ever. Hopefully, you have a self-care day incorporated into your week, but after a summer spent predominantly indoors, you deserve a whole month. Luckily, September is Self-Improvement Month: 30 days dedicated to the betterment of your mental, emotional, and physical health. There are countless enriching ways to work toward this goal, like adopting an exercise routine, exploring therapy, or—our personal favorite—getting comfy on the couch and binging some healthy programming. We’re talking about shows and docs that encourage self-love, explore exciting health developments, and spotlight individuals who are overcoming relatable struggles. Here are 12 titles perfect for adding to your self-care regimen.
He may be a false prophet, but he’s been known to teach true enlightenment. In his film, Kumare, Sri Kumare pretended to be a guru and ended up making real change in the lives of his followers. Now he’s back with a series that focuses even more on helping people. From lessons on self-love (it starts with changing the narrative about ourselves) to tips for mitigating loneliness (don’t hold it in or you might get an emotional UTI) and recipes for joy-inducing treats (no one has ever felt less happy after a mimosa), Sri Kumare is here for you.
Hey! You’re awesome! That’s the essential message of this short animated film. More specifically, you’re good at choosing donuts, trying on sunglasses, tossing babies, fan placement, and stealthily spying on people’s phones. OK, so they may not be the most useful things, but you’re good at them all the same. Anytime you’re feeling a little insecure, just put this on for a quick affirmation.
The higher you get, the closer you are to God? Once associated with the extreme counterculture of the ‘60s, psychedelic drugs are piquing the interest of more and more mainstream health and wellness brands. But what about religious organizations? In this documentary, host Mawaan Rizwan visits two religious movements to see how their believers use powerful hallucinogenics to connect to God. In Utah, he visits the Oklevueha Native American Church, who uses peyote to achieve enlightenment. In Rio de Janeiro, he joins the congregations who use the ancient Amazonian brew ayahuasca in their services. Given how potent and mind-altering these substances are, it might truly be the most effective way to reach the same plane as God. The doc gives new meaning to “church trip.”
Too much of anything can be bad for you, and that goes for self-care methods too. This exposé-like documentary examines the state of America’s prescription-happy healthcare culture. Doctors seem quick to prescribe pills for every issue, and sometimes they’re mixed together in pharmaceutical cocktails that lead to addiction, abuse, and negative side effects. Sometimes patients are prescribed meds that don’t even treat what they’re diagnosed with, a reference to the title. In the film, we meet various drug testing subjects and others impacted by Big Pharma, some of whom have lost loved ones to pharmaceuticals. It’s a revealing, and sometimes heartbreaking, portrait of a healthcare system that has an entire country misdiagnosed, over-medicated, and under-treated.
Sometimes all you need for self-care is to be around others. In this four-part docuseries, we meet four very different communities that are like second homes, and chosen families, for their members. From a salon where customers go to get invaluable life advice while getting their hair braided to a voguing house that finds support, solace, and self-expression on the dance floor, this series proves that home is where your people are.
Watch gender norms and toxic masculinity get shattered to pieces in this moving documentary. Over the course of a four-day group therapy session at Folsom Prison, a group of level-four convicts will go through life-changing transformations. They’re asked to reach down to the deepest darkness of the men they are in order to find a different path and become the men they want to be. It’s clear that some of these men have never felt this vulnerable before, and witnessing them open up with such emotional honesty feels like watching them being released in a sense.
Therapy comes in different forms, and for one woman it comes in the form of connecting racket to ball. In this episode of “On-Topic Shorts,” a tennis instructor who’s grief-stricken in her personal life finds meditation, focus, and peace on the court. Through practicing her serve, she transforms into a formidable force, proving that sometimes you just need to lose yourself in a passion in order to find your inner strength.
It’s OK to talk about mental health, and no one does it better than comedian Maria Bamford. Watch as she meets fellow comedians, actors, and mental health experts to discuss depression, anxiety, and other ailments. Through funny, moving, and brutally honest conversations with the likes of Tom Arnold, Baron Vaughn, and Tig Notaro, Bamford aims to destigmatize the subject of mental health and show that, honestly, everyone has experienced an ailment or two at some point in their lives, even the funniest people on earth.
Whatever your age, you do you. If that’s not self-care, I don’t know what is. In “Choosing Youth,” three elderly individuals hold on to the passions and hobbies of their youth, undeterred by societal expectations and age limitations. With a closet full of the wing-tipped shoes he wore on the dance floor 50 years ago, 79-year-old Bernard says, “I will always be dancing.” Then there’s Danuta, who works at a punk club in Brooklyn and dons glittery bodysuits to inline figure skate. She’s 73. Badass, right?
If being cured of your biggest fear meant having to come face to face with it, would you do it? Neuroscientist Dr. Merel Kindt has discovered a radical treatment that has been proven to completely cure phobias ranging from arachnophobia to PTSD. The only catch is that her patients must have a brief, but intense encounter with the thing they fear the most. This documentary examines her seemingly miraculous treatment, along with the ethical complexities of treating phobias. Are you ready to face your fear?
Virtual reality limbs, facial recognition mobility, AI-driven exoskeletons. These read like themes in a sci-fi story, but they’re just a few of the cutting-edge technological advancements in the health industry. Meet five individuals who are giving them a test spin. Seeing how this groundbreaking tech has changed their lives will give you a good sense of how they’ll revolutionize the future of health.
Sometimes self-care entails caring for your loved ones. Filmmaker Nathan Silver has been featuring his mother in his films since 2012, but when he cuts all of her scenes from his latest movie, she’s devastated. The docuseries follows the pair as they try to repair their relationship, culminating in Silver’s courageous decision to give his mother the ultimate power.