As a tech founder, I often put myself last—if I'm even on the list at all. Sound familiar? For far too many of us, de-prioritizing our own well-being is a habit that's hard to break. We give to our jobs and to other people until we're drained, overwhelmed, and sometimes resentful. And—surprise!—this recipe burnout isn’t good for us. I've found that when I don’t focus on myself (even for five minutes a day!), I feel tired, irritable, and like I’m “failing.”
It doesn't have to be this way, though. I've learned that when I prioritize my body, my breath, and my brain, I feel like I'm becoming a new, refreshed person—in a good way. By supporting myself and filling my own cup, so to speak, I ultimately have much more to give.
Over the next month we will work toward shifting your mindset with the help of actionable, accessible, and centering self-care acts to help you achieve more peace and happiness.
To feel better about yourself, your life, and generally kick off the New Year with a renewed spirit, a great place to begin your focus is on yourself. In fact, you are your own foundation for creating joy and fulfillment not only for yourself, but also in your community and for your shared future. While you can take space-making steps to focus on yourself whenever you feel called to do so, the New Year represents new beginnings, so there’s no better time than right now to start.
Over the next month we will work toward shifting your mindset with the help of actionable, accessible, and centering self-care acts to help you achieve more peace and happiness and remove undue stress from your life. This first week is all about centering yourself and your body, restoring your energy, and finding time to just be.
Day 1: Try meditating
You don't need to create an elaborate, life-changing meditation routine in order to make a meaningful shift. Rather, adding just 10 minutes or less of meditation to any part of your day can be quite impactful. This can be in the morning, during a lunch break, between meetings, or before bed. Set a timer and try to focus inward.
Or, if the sitting-still-and-silently part is what’s throwing you, consider trying a walking meditation. Shine, one of my favorite meditation apps, offers several free walking meditations that require 10 minutes or less, allowing you to listen to them as you walk around your neighborhood or around your house. There are also a great many other meditation apps available for download, as well, to assist in your practice. In addition to Shine, Liberate is an option I love for sticking to a practice.
Day 2: Move your body
Focus on identifying a way to move your body that’s comfortable and feels enjoyable. The activity you choose might be dropping into a local dance class, or it might be something more playful and childlike, like going to a nearby park and going sledding. For an easy way to get your body moving, try this 20-minute yoga flow from BK Yoga Club; it melts away stress while bringing awareness to how your body feels. By the end, you'll be feeling centered.
Day 3: Breathe with intention
Most of us breathe without thinking about it, but bringing attention to your breath can lower stress and help you be present. (For more about the numerous benefits of breathing, check out Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art.)
Today, try this easy, do-anywhere breathing exercise, called the 4-7-8 technique (which also happens to be super-helpful for falling asleep). To do it, breathe in through the nose for four seconds, hold it in for seven seconds, then exhale for eight seconds. Quick practices like this can be added to your meditation practice to help you center yourself and lean into the sound of your body. Consider this your daily check-in with yourself.
Day 4: Create a dedicated comfort zone
By surrounding yourself with softness and coziness, you make it easier to lean inward and focus on meditating or generally feeling more introspective. Create this place to “fall into” by adding pillows and blankets to an area of your home. If you have the space and ability to make this area different from your bed, do so—designate it as a cozy nesting area on the floor surrounded by things you love. I like to have art books nearby, alongside a couple of plants and my favorite throw blanket, from Jungalow. Spending time each day in this space will help slow you down and give you the mental bandwidth to re-prioritize where you’re pouring your energy.
Day 5: Develop a sleep practice
Sleep hygiene is so important for helping us to be our best, most present, and healthy selves—and having a regular sleep practice can help. To create a sleep practice, write down ways in which you can hold yourself accountable to follow through on the routine, as a checklist of sorts.
Maybe you set a bedtime alarm each night to let you know it’s time to kick off your sleep practice, or you have a timer set to turn off lights; maybe you remove all device chargers from your sleep space to discourage sleep distractions; or maybe you have books or a journal on your nightstand for you to flip through or write in before drifting off. I like filling my brain with big ideas I can dream about, like the book Undrowned, which has meditative intentions at the end of each chapter.
Day 6: Spend time with a living thing
Spending intentional time playing with a pet or tending to a plant can remind us of the importance of dedicating energy to caring for things we love. Ask yourself how you can embed joy or spontaneity into that routine. This can look like teaching your pet a trick, choosing a different walking path, or doing research on one of your houseplants to better care for it.
Day 7: Sit with silence
The world can be noisy. Make it easy to intentionally center yourself and all those amazing thoughts. I find this is easiest by distancing myself from distractions like phones and TVs and spending alone time in a room with windows. My mind tends to slow down and wander more when I’m surrounded by sunlight and nature.
If this specific setup doesn’t resonate for you, consider where you feel most calm and open and spend time there. Resist the temptation to play music, and instead, just observe your thoughts and sensations as you rest in silence, even if it’s for just 10 minutes.
Looking to hit refresh on your healthy habits this January? Check out our full 2022 ReNew Year program for expert-led plans for sustainable eating, exercise, and self-care routines.
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