Monday, January 19, 2015

In the World of Wellness: 2015 - 12 Opportunities to Enhance Your Well-Being

Wellness is a term widely used that has multiple meanings around health and positive life style changes leading to well-being. Here we will use the term "wellness" in those ways and also as a means of defining a life free from disease as well as a way to explore alternative medicines, what they offer, and what this could mean for you.

Every month I'll do a post on a health and wellness related topic. This will give you a chance to explore other options, become informed, and make the best overall decision for your own well-being.

In the World of Wellness: Change your life, one month at a time

Every time the calendar flips over from December 31 to January 1, millions of people all over the world set out on new goals they've set for themselves to accomplish in the near year. This can feel overwhelming, though. Just because the day has changed, doesn't mean you suddenly have extra time in your schedule or extra energy to tackle all 474 things you want to work on. So, let's try a new approach.

One new thing every month.


Just one. 

We all know it takes roughly 30 days to form a habit. Giving yourself one full month to work on one thing in a dedicated fashion - every single day - will help you achieve your goals. By the time the month is over you will have either A) Made this new thing second nature in your schedule or B) Found out you don't really care about doing it any more. Either way, now you know yourself better and you tried something you've wanted to work on. Win-win.

Here are some suggestions to focus on over the course of the year, one month at a time. Remember, wellness is about taking care of yourself. Approach these with kindness toward yourself and compassion in those moments when you fall short of your goal. Remember that it's OK if you aren't perfect at these. Perfect isn't real. You are.

Get Sleep 

We may be halfway through the month, but that doesn't mean it's too late to work on something that is always, always, always important - sleep. For the rest of the month, go to bed 1 hour earlier each night. Forget the laundry, the dishes, the TV shows - Go. To. Bed.

Rest. Dream. Give your mind and your body a chance to recharge themselves. If you have a hard time remembering to do this, set an alarm on your phone. Help yourself fall asleep faster by dimming the lights in your house and turning off electronics at least a half hour before bed. This helps your body realize it's time to sleep. Maybe even consider keeping a sleep diary to track how you feel over the course of the time you do this. You can track your mental thoughts, how your body actually feels (more energy/less, tired, rested, yucky, good, etc.), and even how your skin looks. That's right - beauty sleep is a real thing. Try it out, my sleeping beauties and beasts.

Get Kind 

If you are a fan of Breaking Bad, then you're probably a fan of Aaron Paul, and you should also definitely be a fan of his wife, Lauren. She is the co-founder of the Kind Campaign. A non-profit that works against bullying and focuses on being kind. You can check out their website on how to get active in this movement or work on getting kind in your own way. Maybe you start waving at your neighbors, or complimenting strangers, or heck, complimenting yourself! This is the month you get kind with everyone, every day.

There are a million ways to approach this, but some of my favorites are ones that I'd never have thought of myself. One idea would be to buy someone else's lunch when you're dining out. Make it a surprise for them so when their meal is over it's all taken care of. I guarantee you this will make their day. I also recently heard a story about someone who worked at a Godiva store. A woman came in, browsed around, and asked this person what their favorite chocolate was. They proceed to tell her and the customer buys it. After she'd paid for it, she handed it to the store employee and wished them a Merry Christmas. This store employee had been thinking of committing suicide. This stranger saved them with this one act of kindness.

Be the kindness in the world. Find your own ways of giving kindness this month.

Get Cooking

Have you wanted to improve your cooking skills? Want to lose a little weight or be healthier in general when it comes to eating? Now's your chance. Take this month to find new recipes, try them out, and eat your meals at home. That's right, friends- March is all about cooking and eating at home.

We all know eating out can sabotage your healthiest-health plans. It's hard to know the exact ingredients and just how much salt/sugar/strangeness goes into your food. Even at the healthiest places, you're probably still ingesting more calories and more stuff than you would with a home cooked meal. Time to address that.

Give yourself a couple of hours to search the Internet for recipes you'd love making and eating. Then make a list for the month, week by week, of groceries you'll need to buy and days that you'll make each item. Then, get to cooking. Personally, I like planning my meals and shopping on Sunday. It makes me feel like I'm kicking my week off right.

Now, I know eating at home every single day will be a challenge, but it will be worth it. You save money, you expand your food/cooking/health knowledge, and you may even discover that you're a pretty awesome cook. Or not...but hey, you have to try before you really, really know. So try. Give it your best. Get to cooking!

Get Active

This is your month to move. Every. Single. Day.

Many of us sit on our behinds all day long at work. Take this month to correct all that sitting. Go for a walk, a bike ride, a hike. Hit up a yoga class, a weight class, the gym. Go jump on a trampoline, hula-hoop, roller skate. Try things you've been wanting to try. Be adventurous!

I know trying to exercise every single day can seem overwhelming. But think of it like this - maybe one morning you way up and do some stretches for 15 minutes. Done. You've gotten active in a way you probably don't always do. The next day, maybe you go to the gym. The next, maybe you take your dog on a long walk. There are ways to be active every day when you think about all the options of how you can be active.

The key is planning.

Every Thursday I have a calendar reminder set that reminds me to "Plan Hours for the Following Week." For me, this is the time I set aside to look over the upcoming weeks schedule and truly break it down day by day. I figure out what each day will look like, when I'll walk the dogs, what workouts I'll do, etc. It's one of my favorite tasks to complete because it leaves me feeling prepared in advance for everything. Give this a shot when you plan your active-ities and get yo'self moving.

Get Organized

Yes, May is for spring cleaning, but you have to clean all the time anyway. Take this month to get organized. Seriously, deeply organized.

Those thousands of pictures you have stored on your computer? Go through them! Your overflowing closet? Clean it out! Garage overfilled with boxes? Sort through them!

There are a ton of ways you can get yourself organized. I suggest finding 4 main things you want to work on and tackle one new one each week. Closet - Week 1, Files - Week on and so forth. You will feel like you've conquered the world when this month if over. The key is doing a little every day. Remember, you form habits when you repeat them daily. These few things you tackle will set you up with the successful habit of focusing on organization, which will aid you greatly in all things to come.

Get Rejuvenated

This month is All. About. You.

If you take no other month seriously, please do so with this one. There is nothing more important than your own wellness.

Every day, find a new way to do something for yourself. Maybe one day you take a nap on your lunch break. Maybe the next, you take a bath. Maybe you make tea and read a good book for 15 minutes or set a lunch date with a friend or go to a yoga class or sit outside admiring the beautiful summer weather. Whatever your "you thing" is, make it a priority. DO NOT be derailed by everything else in your life. Give yourself this gift. Give yourself time to do things that are good for your soul.

Get Grateful

We generally focus on being grateful in November far more than any other month. Let's try being grateful all the time, shall we? Or at least every day in July.

Every night before bed, think of 5 things you're grateful for. Yes, every single night. You might think you'll run out of things, but you won't. You'll find that you're grateful for things you've probably been taking for granted. Like dishwashers that wash the dishes for you - how awesome is it that we have something that does that for us?!

See what I mean? You'll find so many things you're grateful for that (and I guarantee this) you will become a far happier, mentally and emotionally healthier, and kinder person.

Get Mindful

This month I challenge you to put awareness into everything you do, every day. Do you feel angry, sad, happy? OK, why? Are you rushing through things, being lazy, avoiding a situation...why? Approach your life, your own thoughts, your own actions with mindfulness. Ask yourself the hard questions. Work toward fulling understanding why you think/feel/do the things you think/feel/do. This won't be easy, so let's lay that out on the table now. But it will be worth it. Who better to understand you than yourself?

Get Educated

This month I challenge you to learn something new. Maybe you sign up for a class at the local community college. Maybe you join the choir at your church and learn some new singing skills. Maybe you take a Zumba class or read French cooking book or learn Spanish using the Duolingo app on your phone. Whatever you choose, make it something you're really, genuinely curious about. That curiosity will help drive you the rest of the month...and maybe even beyond. Who knows? You might be fluent in a new language by this time next year or find a new interest that leads to a new career. Give yourself this chance to explore, to be informed, to get educated.

Get Brave

This is it, friends. Time to tackle those fears.

No, you don't have to adopt a pet spider if you're afraid of them. I could never do that and I would never ask that of you.

But you can find a braveness inside of yourself that you previously lacked. For example, maybe you join the Human Rights Campaign and support the very important work being done there. Maybe the next time someone makes a racial slur, instead of letting it slide you say something. Maybe you stand up for a friend/co-worker/family member when they're unable to stand up for themselves.

Being brave doesn't necessarily mean facing your fears of goblins and ghosts. It means finding strength inside yourself to do something you've never done before. Bravery comes in many forms and shows it's strength in many places.

For you, this may even be something like leaving a bad relationship or bad job. Maybe even dealing with anxiety that holds you down every day.

This one can be challenging to do every day. Start first by building bravery in your mind. Think of a scenario (real or imagined) in which you wish you had the courage to do something different. Then work through doing whatever it is you want to do in that scenario, in your mind. Do this over and over, every day. Do this until you genuinely feel that bravery, all way in to your bones.

If, and only if, the opportunity presents itself, act on that bravery. Maybe it doesn't happen this month. That's OK. This can be the month you build that internal courage, that internal strength, to make it happen in the future.

You can do it. You can and you will. Believe in yourself.

Get Slow

I like to think of November as Slowvember...the air is crisp, the leaves are changing, everything is settling down for the cold and moving a little slower, a little softer.

Except us crazy, turkey wielding, Black Friday shopping humans.

We rush-rush-rush around trying to buy the Christmas presents and cook the food and get ready for the company and get the best deals and...

I'm tired just writing this.

Stop the insanity.

Start this month by reading this other post I wrote, which has an incredibly amazing article in it about all the benefits of going slow. Then put slowness to work for you. Find your inner snail. Embrace the tortoise who, we already know, still wins the race. Find calm in the tornado of chaos that surrounds you. Find slow. Be slow. Go slow.

Get Prepared

Oh, December. You cold, beautiful, busy thing, you.

This month, take time every day to look back on your year and plan for the year to come. Look at the wonderful/bad/good/sad things of 2015. What lessons did you learn? What would you do differently/the same/never again? What do you wish you'd done more of/less of?

Now, write all of this down in a little journal. Stay with me, friends, I'm not asking you to write a novel.

 Every day write:
 - 1 lesson learned
 - 1 thing you want to try in 2016
 - 1 thing you never want to do again

Then, when you begin to make your plans for the year to come, look back on these and plan accordingly. Give yourself this gift of well thought out plans. No rushing to decide your resolutions. No rushing your life.

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