'Tis the season for resolutions and self empowerment. There are dozens of ways to find your happy place - but here are 10 of the best practices to get there, plus the how and why.
1. Spend 10
Meditation: A literal “brain wash”, it is a time to reflect on your physical and emotional sensations, and give your inner voice a chance to speak up. Just 10 minutes a day of stillness and breathing will help just about every other element of your life become more clear. Really though, even total skeptics (Dan Harris) and politicians (Tim Ryan) are touting the universal benefits of meditation. Not convinced? If you’re in NYC, check out a class at MNDFL, MediClub, The Path or join a mass meditation with The Big Quiet to catch the bug and meet like minded peers. For daily guidance, apps like Headspace or 1 Giant Mind offer great basics on getting started.
2. Balance Your Energy Input/Output
Are you constantly short on time? Barely keeping up with demands? Always exhausted? It may be time to re-evaluate where you’re spending your energy. Take notes each day for a week on how you spent your time. Then tally the number of hours of the week dedicated to each task, and categorize them as either INPUT: things that fuel you and make you feel great, and OUTPUT: things that drain you. Categories might include working, cleaning house, hanging with friends, watching TV, Instagram stalking etc. Then make a list of your goals, and how much time they would take, for example 10 minutes of meditation, 45 minutes of exercise, 30 minutes of screen-free relaxation before bed. Determine the value of each of these activities (are you really relaxing when you’re cruising online? Or would you be better served spending that time with a good book in the bathtub?) Seeing your time charted in this way will help you evaluate where there’s room to make change. Then balance the two lists until you’re able to merge them to allow time for the things that bring you joy and peace.
3. Develop a Personal Mantra
A personal mantra is a phrase or affirmation that you say to yourself, something to remind you of who you are and/or would like to be. It can be something you create yourself, or a quote or proverb that makes you feel grounded. It can change daily, or you can have several that you rely on whenever you need help getting back on track. Whatever you chose, the more you say or think it, the more it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.
4. Find Your Tribe
Humans are communal creatures; we need each other for support to thrive. Who we spend time with has a huge impact on how we spend that time, and can either help or hinder us in achieving our goals. If you feel like your friends don’t enjoy the same things you’re interested in, try forging or building upon relationships with those that do. That girl who’s always going to yoga after work? See if she may let you join, or would recommend her studio. Have a friend of a friend who’s an adventure junkie? Ask her for travel recommendations. Remember that couple you met at a party a while ago who was talking about having recently learned to meditate? Find them on Facebook and ask them how they got started. Chances are that if someone is really into something, they’ll be more than happy to share their excitement. Finding new friends doesn’t have to mean giving up old friends, it just means opening up your circle to new experiences.
5. Prioritize sleep
Speaking of mantras, mine used to be “sleep when you’re dead.” I said yes to everything in an effort to avoid FOMO and carpe diem. Then I got sick. My digestive system went haywire, my thyroid staged a coup, and I was so exhausted I felt like I was living in a fog. Was I really living it to the fullest if I could barely live? So I started giving myself one night a week to NOT go out, even for a casual meal with a friend. By giving sleep the priority that I used to give to socializing, attending functions and working, working, working; I realized that sometimes 1 night at home alone and 8 hours in bed is 10 times more rewarding than accepting that assignment or dinner invitation would have been.
6. Get Moving
Gym memberships soar during the month of January, and fitness classes are predictably packed (ugh!) with folks vowing to get in shape. But getting healthy doesn’t need to mean spin classes and burpees. There are tons of activities where physical activity might just be a side effect of having fun. Always wanted to try trapeze? Why not sign up for a class. Used to love rock climbing in college? Find a wall at gyms or rec centers in the city, or take a road trip to a mountain nearby. If you’re short on time (who isn’t?) combine other activities with fitness, like taking a yoga class or a long walk with your girlfriends rather than sitting for a long brunch. Or biking or walking to work. You’ll be surprised at how easy exercise becomes when it’s built into your routine and feels fun or even (gasp) relaxing!
7. Get Outside
Whether or not you crave nature, you need it. Being surrounded by living, organic matter isn’t just good for the soul, it’s great for your mental and physical being. Don’t believe me? Scientific studies have proven that the energizing effects from living things extend beyond just the benefits of being outside. So if you live in an urban jungle, make a point to get out to a park for a walk or a picnic once in a while, or better yet out to the country for a periodic recharge of your batteries.
8. Eat Whole
Paleo, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy free, organic, pescetarian… Everybody and every body is different, and so are our dietary needs. But no matter what diet you may or may not follow, there is one guiding principal that ALL of us should be doing, and that’s eating whole, unprocessed foods. So rather than reaching for a 100 Calorie pack of chips, a fat free cookie or a soy burger full of GMO’s and preservatives, try a snack with simple ingredients like a banana and almond butter, carrots and hummus, or homemade sweet potato chips. Whole fruits, veggies and proteins will benefit your body in ways that processed foods never will because Mother Nature is the best nutritionist on the planet. Literally. The more that food is chemically altered, the less our bodies know how to handle it, leading to nasty side effects like digestive issues, autoimmune diseases and even cancer. Ew.
9. Clean Up Your Cabinet(s)
If you read my post last week, you already know all about the dangers lurking in standard beauty products. But have you thought about your cleaning supplies? It sounds counter intuitive, but actually a lot of cleaning products whisk away good bacteria along with the bad, replacing it with toxic and often carcinogenic chemicals. As a general rule, small batch local products are usually pretty trustworthy because they’re not pressured by the demands of mass distribution. But there are plenty of easy to find brands like Mrs. Meyers and Seventh Generation that are affordable and available everywhere. Not to mention the Basil Mrs. Meyers dish soap literally makes me want to do the dishes.
10. Eliminate Extras
If you are one of the few people on the planet who has yet to explore The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I highly recommend changing that. Our consumerist society makes it easy to get hyped into buying and collecting a bunch of “stuff” that doesn’t necessarily make us happy. Ridding yourself of clutter is just one more way to physically clear the path towards your goals, and is a concept that binds most of the tips above. So go ahead and purge your closet, reduce time wasting activities, toxins and discouraging friends and I promise you’ll feel lighter, healthier and capable of true happiness!