To some, it may be cliché and idealistic but the New Year can be the most opportune time to kick start new healthy habits. It should give us cause to sit and reflect on the past year, celebrate our achievements. It can be magical in allowing us to set clear intentions for the months to come. It can give us a chance to learn from our setbacks from the year prior, and readjust – and also to recognize what works, and continue to carve out a space for that to exist in our lives.
In my case, 2017 has been a teacher in the importance of self-care and awareness. Read on to see how I intend on maintaining and improving healthy habits in 2018.
The benefits of meditation are well-known and far-reaching. In addition to helping promote self-awareness and happiness, its consistent practice can also improve your focus and concentration. It has been shown to improve your overall health and help you regulate your stress.
Contrarily to what I originally believed, there is no “wrong” way to meditate. The practice of settling your mind to focus was, at first, incredibly difficult. However, Andy from Headspace’s soothing voice consistently reminded me that it was OK and totally normal to veer off track a little bit: to simply return to my practice and not criticize myself too harshly for not yet reaching guru likeness. Calgary’s Modern + Mindful mobile studio may also be a good place to start or to improve your practice if you’re already a seasoned meditator.
TIP: Don’t try it right before bed. It’ll make you fall asleep. Or, DO! But just add another (awake) meditation earlier in the day to fully reap its benefits.
2. Health and fitness
Keeping a regular exercise routine is key to maintaining a healthy heart and body, and promotes improved mental health with the increased production of endorphins. Even so, making time for a consistent exercise routine has been a challenge for me since the dawn of my existence. I used to partake in a vigorous 30-minute workout and then lift my shirt to look for abs. At finding that they did not spontaneously appear after my singular fitness effort, I would decide that exercise maybe just wasn’t for me. Memberships at the gym worked only my credit card with monthly fees that would consistently be paid uselessly.
Enter group fitness classes that require sign-ups and charge for a late cancel – a rather simple, but effective way of keeping me accountable to classes in my schedule. A membership at Union Athletica allows me to try a variety of classes, ensuring I do not tire of my workout routine. Spin, strength, barre and yoga – all are beneficial to my physical and mental health. Even more inviting is the sense of community that soon develops after getting to know fellow classmates and instructors. Group fitness classes can encourage a motivation that may be completely non-existent via treadmill and solo weight lifting.
TIP: Find a routine and place that works for you. Try early morning classes, even if you don’t consider yourself to be a morning person. You may surprise yourself – you’ll love starting the day this way and having your evenings to yourself.
As my spiritual mother Oprah says: “the most valuable gift you can give yourself is time”. Find a sense of accomplishment by learning a new skill or language. Network with a group of inspiring people who can help you on your path. Take the time to immerse yourself in readings or podcasts that inform you or help you expand your worldview. There are a variety of affordable ways to enhance your knowledge and know-how.
Here are some of my current favourite ways to feed my brain and soul:
I would be remiss to not give a shoutout to the aforementioned Oprah, deity of my spiritual growth. Her SuperSoul Sunday podcasts often feature compelling guests and leave listeners with a sense of empowerment about the fate of their own lives and journeys. Personal highlights include episodes featuring Mitch Albom, David Brooks and Dr. Michael Bernard Beckwith.
We Learn Nothing: Tim Kreider. – Hilarious. One of the only books that has incited genuine LOLs whilst reading. Kreider, a satirical cartoonist, imparts his nuggets of life wisdom through his collection of essays. From our society’s push for our need to constantly be “busy”, to his opinion on love, read his essays for deep life truths presented in a highly entertaining fashion – stories that will, at the very least, give you pause for reflection, good conversation pieces and a good laugh.
When Things Fall Apart: Pema Chödrön – Read this Tibetan Buddhist nun’s collection of teachings to help you break a negative habit, or to help you gain strength and wisdom through challenging times. Her teachings will show you how to make your heart and your mind work together and will encourage you to find peace in the present moment.
TIP: Listen to your favourite podcast or audiobook on your commute to work. Carve time in your schedule to learn something you believe will enrich your life, and stick to it.
Here’s to a 2018 filled with self-care, happiness and growth. Comment below with your favorite tools to foster healthy habits.