7 Ways to Make a Healthy Fresh Start

mental health

No matter your age or the season, it’s never too late to add healthy habits to your daily routine.

Whether it’s the start of a new year, a birthday, spiritual new beginning, or just the changing seasons, we humans tend to look for opportunities to wipe the proverbial slate clean and start again.

For some, that may mean jump-starting an exercise regimen or eating well. For others, it may mean a commitment to spending more quality time with family and friends.

Here are seven ways you might choose to live more fully and healthily all year long.

1. Adopt a meditation practice.

Real talk: I’ve taken meditation courses, meditated once a day for over a year (I got to a point where I could even meditate while in a car!) and even contemplated taking a trip to Sadona for a super serious silent meditation retreat. I like meditation and how it makes me feel. However, it’s like a muscle – if you don’t use it, you lose it! And I’ve kind of lost it. (The routine, that is. Not my sanity. Although I may have lost a bit of that too…)

There are dozens if not hundreds of different ways to integrate meditation into your daily life. Some of my favorite easy methods:

  • The Calm app. Calm is a fantastic resource for beginning meditators or those looking to reintegrate meditation into their daily routine. It’s free to start and only $4.99/month for unlimited access to all of their tools and meditation practices if you decide to upgrade. The app is a great way to tap into some peace and quiet and re-center yourself when you’re out and about – just add headphones and you’ve got your own little sanctuary!
  • Attend a meditation class or group. Many are completely free! Here’s one I’m thinking about trying out in the new year in New York City (where I live). A quick Google search will likely pull up some meditation groups or classes near you too. Take a look around and see what’s available.
  • Teach yourself to meditate! (It’s easier than you think.) And contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to sit in silence for an hour with zero thoughts in your head in order to reap the benefits of meditation. It’s so easy to get started, and requires nothing but a willingness to try!

2. Start your mornings offline.

This is one of my biggest 2021 goals! I’m absolutely terrible at doing this right now and my morning routine needs a lot of work. My current “morning routine” is to wake up a few minutes before work, roll over when my alarm goes off, instantly check my email and socials, respond to texts with eyes half-open…all before even getting out of bed. Not exactly relaxing.

My ideal morning routine includes time to wake up slowly, a workout of some sort, a delicious healthy breakfast, a half hour to read a book (gasp!), and finally, time to work on my blog or social media tasks before diving into my “real” workday. Sounds like I’ll be getting up at 4am from now on, doesn’t it? In all seriousness, I’d love to figure out a way to fit in as many of these things as possible (and in a sane fashion), so I’ll be working on that this year.

I have a bunch of other habits I’d like to adopt in my quest to become a less-angsty morning person, and I’m sure you do too! I find that reading through other peoples’ (sometimes insane-sounding) morning routines inspires me.

3. Practice gratitude.

I know, I know. I wasn’t going to go there, but I can’t emphasize enough just how much pausing my thoughts (which often veer towards cynical or negative, if I’m honest) and redirecting my brain towards gratefulness has helped me turn my attitude and perspective around lately. I’ve been consciously trying to be more grateful, and want to carry this with me into the new year and beyond.

I just started using the Five Minute Journal app ($4.99), which is an app designed to get you both practicing gratitude and reflecting on each day, for a quick and easy log you can look back on and hopefully learn from. I have only been using it for a few days, but I already look forward to each morning and evening when I pause and think about what is ahead for the day or assess how the day went. It is so helpful for reminding you to take inventory of the little things in each day as well as encouraging gratitude! Side note: $4.99 feels a little steep for an app like this, which is why I put off buying it for so long, but so far, it’s worth it because it makes things simple. And that’s priceless.

Choosing your thoughts is such an internal, quiet form of self care, but so very important. When your insides are happy, your outsides usually are too! Other people notice and benefit from your positive attitude and it creates a ripple effect. Taking just a moment, no matter where you are or what you’re doing, to stop and shift your thoughts from frustration/fear/anger/sadness to gratitude makes such a big difference. Okay, I promise I’ll stop now with the airy fairy gratitude stuff!

4. Eat well.

This one is easier said than done, and definitely the self care item that challenges me the most. Most of us know what foods make us feel good, and which foods don’t. We choose to feed ourselves junk and then wonder why our bodies feel like they’re an inch from falling apart at the seams. (Just me?)

I’ve done the Whole30 on two separate occasions in the past few years, and have found it to be a really valuable process for getting in touch with my body and getting back to basics, in terms of what I’m eating. I’m doing another (modified) round of Whole30 this month, and am looking forward to jump-starting my year with this program! Side note: Whole30 sometimes gets a bad rap for being so restrictive, but I’ve found genuine value in stripping things down and only eating whole foods for awhile. It’s not for everyone, and there are plenty of personal reasons it may not work for you. So this is by no means a blanket endorsement of Whole30 or a you should do this too kind of thing. Do what feels right to you!

In 2021, I want to treat my body better and take care of myself in every form, and eating well is a huge part of that. Does that mean I’ll never eat a drop of sugar again or ignore the croissants in Paris when I see them staring back at me from the bakery window? Heck to the no. But I know I need to do better. This year has been a really difficult one for me health-wise, and I want to do everything I can to make things easier on my body in the new year.

I also want to try out this new cookbook by A Beautiful Mess called Weekday Weekend! It has tons of delicious-looking plant-based recipes and yummy treats to try that are genuinely good for you. I love how colorful and inviting each page is – can’t wait to try some of these dishes out!

5. Get out of your own head.

It’s so easy to get stuck in a loop of worry and anxiety (about the future, your job, your family, health, everything!) but there are some activities that simply force you to stop that endless loop and shift your focus to something else. For me, reading has always been one of those activities. I used to be a voracious reader as a child and teenager, and sadly, once I hit college, I stopped reading (basically at all). It’s something I’ve been wanting to reverse for years, and I’m not exactly sure what’s been holding me back, but I know I want to get back to books in 2021.

Reading is like escaping into another world. It forces you out of your own head and encourages you to use your imagination to create the world that’s being presented on the page. There is no better way to let go of whatever is going on in your life and dive into another world entirely. I’m starting small with a goal of reading five books this year, and if I make it beyond that, awesome! I’d love to hear what’s on your reading list in the comments.

6. Take care of your mental health.

This is a topic that has been getting more attention in recent years. Mental health is so vital to living a healthy, happy life. (And being able to even attempt any of the things above!) Because unless your brain is in good working order, it’s hard to do anything else.

Like much of the population, I have personally struggled with stress, anxiety, and depression at various times throughout my life. I may write a more in-depth post here on the blog at some point about all of that. For now, trust me when I say that I get it. I get how hard it is to want to get out of bed or go out and see people or just take care of your basic needs some days.

Mental health is just as important (if not more important) than physical health in my opinion. We don’t do nearly enough to support ourselves and each other in this area. Being open with friends or family, finding someone you can trust to talk about the hard stuff. Acknowledging when you need to ask for help are all vital, even if you’re a person who doesn’t struggle with any specific mental health issues. Life can be tough, y’all. Never hesitate to ask for help or support.

7. Stop “glorifying” busy!

This is something that many of us struggle with. The idea that the busier and more overwhelmed you are, the more important or productive or awesome you are. The truth is that being busy isn’t an enviable state of being. Sure, we all have seasons of life that are chock full of things to do, places to go, people and tasks to keep up with. But feeling like you have to stay constantly busy in order to live a validated, worthwhile life? Kick that thought right out of your head.

Making the time and space to be UN-busy is way cooler than rushing around like a chicken 24/7. For example, reading or meditating each day, taking the time to exercise, cook a nice meal for yourself, call a friend for an hour, or whatever helps ground you are all totally valid and worthwhile uses of your time. You don’t have to be constantly doing in order to feel good about yourself. Being quiet and contemplative, taking time for yourself, spending time alone…these are all such great ways to practice self care and enrich your life. Don’t be afraid to slow down!

What are your favorite methods of self care?

My hope is that some of these ideas have been helpful or useful in some way! I’d love to hear how you are taking care of yourself in the new year. What works best for you? This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I’m sure I’ve missed some awesome ideas. So don’t be shy – drop your favorites in the comments down below.

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