There’s a reason we’re ending our 30-day journey with a week on mindfulness—we believe our overall wellness depends on it, but it doesn’t always get the attention it deserves! When it comes to holistic health, it’s good to have ways to process our emotions, deal with stress, and boost our happiness one little habit at a time.
24. Start with mini meditation.
Meditation is definitely having a moment when it comes to public health–the long-time practice is finally getting more scientific backup that shows it can help reduce stress and support our cardiovascular health. Meditation helps us feel more present and focused in our everyday lives, and it doesn’t take long to notice the benefits of doing just a little bit every day. If you haven’t tried it before, don’t feel intimidated, it’s good to start small. Mindfulness is like a muscle—you wouldn’t run a marathon without training and the same goes for meditation. There are lots of apps that provide guided meditations, including Headspace, which starts with 30 days of introductory guided meditations to lay down the basics for you.
MINI CHALLENGE: Meditate every day for a week at the same time for 3-5 minutes. We recommend doing it when you first wake up to set intentions for the day or before bed to help you wind down.
25. Develop an aptitude for gratitude.
When life gets hectic, it can take a little reflection to remember the things that we’re thankful for, but the practice of daily gratitude is good for us: Just like meditation, there’s research that shows gratitude journaling as a means of lowering stress and boosting mental health. (Lots more info on that here.) Focusing your attention on the things you feel good about will train your brain to find them more easily.
MINI CHALLENGE: When you wake up or before bed, write down 3 things that you’re thankful for, big or small, every day for a week. Keep a journal by your bed or use an app so the habit is as easy as possible. For a planner-journal hybrid, our Head Nutritionist Brooke recommends this one to help you keep up the habit while documenting other little wins and lessons learned along the way.
26. Commit to acts of kindness and volunteering.
While giving is good for giving’s sake and helps us feel connected to the community around us, the act of giving is pleasurable and good for us personally, too—wins all around. When it comes to volunteering, try finding an organization you feel passionate about, maybe something local. If it’s one that doesn’t get a ton of attention or resources, don’t be afraid to ask what kind of help they need, their answer might surprise you. Maybe you’re able to spend time and not money or vice versa—do what you’re able to do. When it comes to giving, little acts of kindness can also be really impactful. Think about how good it feels to get an unexpected compliment or thank-you note. Add that same energy to the world, it’s worth it.
MINI CHALLENGE: Whether it’s buying a coffee for the person behind you or telling someone you appreciate them, do one thing each day for 30 days to make someone feel good while expecting nothing in return. Get creative!
27. 1, 2, 3, breathe.
Meditation often focuses on the breath, so starting that practice up (tip #24) will help you recognize how our breath helps ground and calm us. But practicing breathing exercises can be a good reset button at any time. When you feel yourself getting stressed, stop and breathe: inhale through your nose for 4 seconds, hold that breath for 7 seconds, and then exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds. Repeat 3 times. You can also be proactive and set times for quick breathing exercises throughout your workday that can help chill you out before a big meeting or after a hard task.
28. Squash negative thoughts.
When it comes to negative thoughts, it’s definitely a “fake it ’til you make it” situation. Like other thought exercises, it takes practice—for every negative thought that creeps in, acknowledge it and shut it down. We grow so used to the negative loop in our head that we don’t even realize when we’re doing it at first. Start to pay attention to your self-talk especially. For every negative thing you say to yourself, start to replace it with a positive. You’ll be surprised how this shift in perspective impacts other areas of your life—being kind and understanding with yourself will only help you in your goals. It doesn’t mean letting yourself off the hook, it just means treating yourself with the same honesty and grace you’d expect from others. (Tip #25—practicing gratitude—can help this habit along, too.)
MINI CHALLENGE: If you’re noticing the same negative theme over and over, find a mantra to replace it that you can use any time the theme pops up. If you’re a visual person, tie this mantra with a calming visual. (Example: “I’m failing” becomes “I have everything under control” while imagining yourself sipping a mojito on the beach.)
29. Find a calming outlet.
There have been quite a few tips over the past 4 weeks where we’ve suggested writing down and documenting your thoughts and habits to help solidify them. Writing helps us process emotions and information, but there are lots of ways to find outlets for your energy. Find a meditative activity that works for you: if you like being creative, take a pottery class, plan a monthly paint-and-sip with your friends, or give adult coloring books a try. If you’re a city dweller, try connecting with nature however you can: it can help reduce anxiety, improve mood and focus, and even reduce the risk of chronic illnesses. So put your feet in the grass at a local park, visit a botanical garden, or find a local hiking spot if you can.
30. Take it slow and practice patience (especially with yourself).
If your immediate thought when reading some of the tips above is that you don’t have time to sit still or chill out, then you’re the perfect candidate! The goal is to calm your mind and appreciate your present moments for exactly what they are. This means pressing pause once in a while or making conscious efforts to slow down. As you start to do work on yourself, from changing your eating habits to upping your exercise to building relationships, mindfulness is the piece that brings everything together and helps you realize the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The more aware you are in your own holistic health, the more you become a participant in change, both internally and externally—you begin to find more time to focus on your wellness, you start to take notice of things you may have missed before, and you experience (and inspire!) growth. It doesn’t happen overnight so be patient with yourself as you take these little habits and bring them together as building blocks to a better you.
FINAL CHALLENGE: Go back to our 30-day pre-challenge (writing down some past failed resolutions). Are your goals the same now? If so, how can you accomplish them differently? If not, write down your new goals and do a thought exercise: when it comes to these goals, where do you plan to be in another 30 days? How about 30 months? (Maybe even 30 years!) Good—now one day at a time.