As a holistic wellness expert, meditation teacher, and nutritionist, I’ve spent my career seeking the answers to two questions: What is wellness? And how do we know if we are truly well? In over a decade of working with clients on all areas of their health, I’ve found one thing to be true: If we focus on only one part of ourselves, we’re not experiencing real wellness. How you tend to the emotional and spiritual parts of who you are, for example, is as important to your well-being as the way you treat and fuel your body physically. And determining the right way to do all of the above starts with bringing your awareness to how you feel at present.
Developing this sense of self-connection is central to practicing actual self care—and not just escaping into a bath every once in a while (although that's great, too). In order to help my clients learn how to feel more present with all aspects of their beings, I’ve developed a holistic approach to wellness based on what I call the Four Cornerstones. These include: Food (what you’re eating and your perspective on nourishment), Body (the way you move and care for yourself physically), Emotional Well-Being (how you process emotions and feelings), and Spiritual Growth (how you tend to the energy inside of you and the voice of your intuition).
Over the course of the month, we’ll learn to practice a kind of self care that addresses mind, body, and soul through small daily actions.
When you nurture all these sides of yourself, you can move toward true wellness—because, ultimately, our power to achieve wellness lies in embracing our wholeness. When we treat ourselves as fractured, we get fractured energy and results. But when we live from a place of wholeness, we feel centered, empowered, and clear.
While you can take steps toward caring for your (whole) self any time of the year, the New Year is symbolic of new beginnings, so there’s no better time to start than right now. Over the course of the month, we’ll learn to practice a kind of self care that addresses mind, body, and soul through small daily actions. Up first? A week’s worth of tips designed to help you feel more present with all the elements of yourself and build a foundation for the personal growth to come.
Day 1: Drink hot water with lemon
Without a moment of pause, it’s easy to lose your morning in the blur of getting ready and getting out the door (or signing on to your job remotely). That’s why I suggest carving out a few mindful minutes in the a.m. by making yourself a mug of hot water with a few slices of lemon. Starting the day with something hot in the belly can help you feel more present.
While you might normally reach for coffee—and that’s certainly not off the table—experts don't recommend drinking it first thing upon waking up (due to its diuretic effect and the way it quickly spikes your cortisol levels). That’s where the lemon water comes into play. The water is hydrating, and the lemons are symbolic of pure sun energy, aligning us with nature and with the abundant energy of the sun.
Day 2: Meditate for 7 minutes
If you already have a meditation practice, this is a great day to re-up it. If not, know that embracing even just a few minutes of meditation can have a powerful grounding effect. Meditation encourages you to create union between the peripheral—your five senses that constantly engage with the external world—and your inner self, reflected by your central nervous system. Over time, this is a pathway to achieving self-connection and inner peace.
I’ve created a library of guided meditations inspired by the techniques of Paramahansa Yogananda, an Indian monk and yogi who’s known for bringing yoga and meditation to the western hemisphere. To get started, try the Peace Meditation, which includes a mantra designed to reconnect you with the natural calmness and stillness you have within.
Day 3: Practice a positive affirmation
Your words shape your reality and the energy you experience on any given day. As a result, part of self care is re-evaluating your relationship with words and statements to ensure the words that you feed yourself are actually nourishing the experience you hope to live.
One way to use words to your advantage is to practice positive affirmations—which are simply short phrases denoting a positive reality, spoken in the first person and present tense. A few examples that I love are, “I am peaceful and calm,” and “I get all my needs met.” But the phrase you choose can be whatever you like, so long as it’s short enough to remember and repeat, and it reflects a supportive truth.
Day 4: Eat a meal in silence
Eating is already a part of your daily schedule, so why not use a meal as an opportunity to practice mindfulness, too? When we eat in silence, we have a chance to reconnect with a sense of gratitude for our ability to take in energy every day—rather than allowing our focus to be pulled away by something external, like work or social media. It’s also an opportunity to slow down and to remember that food is sacred, while forming a meaningful connection between yourself and the nourishment you’re using to fuel your body.
Day 5: Let go of one aversion and one attachment
Yoga teaches us that the more neutral we can be—the more we can let go of our likes and preferences, as well as our strong aversions—the more we can transcend moods and limitations and become peaceful and intuitive. These aversions and attachments can entangle us in unnecessary stress, whereas letting go can help us take our power back and be fully present. In other words, letting go will allow you to move into a space of personal neutrality where you can experience the ups and downs of life without getting sucked under the wave.
To get started, choose just one like and one dislike to consciously let go of today. These things certainly don’t have to be huge. For example, if you feel like you always have to listen to a certain playlist or podcast on your way to work, make the choice to not have to do that and to embrace silence instead. On the flip side, if you feel a strong aversion to, say, practicing yoga near the front of the studio, perhaps you choose to let go of that for the day. These kinds of choices can teach you your own strength. After all, a part of self care is knowing you’re stronger than the external forces that might sometimes dictate your decisions.
Day 6: Make space for your feelings to surface
In the go-go-go of everyday life, it’s easy to keep big feelings suppressed by default. Maybe you feel like you don’t have the time or the mental bandwidth to address them. Or you just weren’t ever taught to make space for yourself to feel big feelings, so they make you uncomfortable—compelling you to distract yourself from them instead.
Whatever the resistance may be, today, choose to release it. Notice what you feel without judgment, and identify the actual sensations in your body. You don’t have to name the feelings if that doesn’t serve you (e.g., identifying that you’re feeling, for example, anger, rage, or sadness). Instead, sit with whatever is in you at that moment, and make the choice to be okay with it, rather than trying to intellectualize it, push it away, or change it. Breathe into whatever feelings may surface, and let them move through you, staying with them until they pass (which usually takes a few minutes).
Day 7: Journal for 5 to 10 minutes
By putting your emotions and feelings on paper, you’ll naturally turn your own attention to them, which can help you to feel more present with them and to understand where they might be coming from. Use these questions to get started with journaling:
- What did I learn today?
- What feelings are present in me right now?
- What can I let go of?
- What am I grateful for?
The process of journaling alone can also alleviate stress by allowing you to get out of your own head (and leave your emotions on the page instead). Not to mention, it creates a written record of your feelings for you to reference in the future, allowing you to witness your own emotional growth in real time.
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