New Year, New You articles can be disheartening with their over-the-top promises and features of unrealistic standards of beauty so is there a way of making 2018 a year of achievable goals? At the dawn of this new year I asked myself, what are reasonable goals for the average person (a.k.a. Me)? By average I’m referring to those of us who might feel a tad lethargic, are possibly suffering with: SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) from short days and long nights, intermittent depression and anxiety, weight and hormonal issues, poor sleep habits and lack of exercise.
I can say “us” because I have struggled with all of those issues at various points in my life, especially while parenting small children. I experienced postpartum depression, I twice gained 50 pounds during pregnancy (i’ve had three babies) and my hormones are on a continuous roller coaster ride. I fought tooth and nails and continue to fight the battle to reach a place of daily joy and create habits that promote optimal physical and spiritual health. I’ve crawled out of deep pits and I hope what I share here will encourage you that there are simple steps for making 2018 a year of achievable goals. This list contains the rungs on the ladder that helped me to climb upward and onward with the business of living!
Step 1 – Face the Sun
Literally, face the sun. Several years ago when I was suffering with severe postpartum depression I went for a late winter walk. The sun was just breaking through the clouds for the first time in weeks and I trudged up the road to try to shake off the blues with a bit of exercise. As I came to an intersection where the trees faded out and the sun was dazzling the pavement I saw a woman standing in the light with her face turned up to the sun. Her eyes were closed with a look of bliss on her face. She was standing as still as a statue taking pleasure in the fleeting warmth. I vowed in that moment that if the sun came out in the winter and early spring I would deliberately seek it out. We all know that Vitamin D is good for our overall health and while we might not get enough from just a brief moment with our face turned to the sun, there’s no denying the emotional benefits of even the smallest amount. Wrap yourself in a blanket, drag a lawn chair into that one corner of the yard with a bit of sunshine and lift your chin to the light; it’s going to be okay.
Step 2 – A Short Walk
What are the chances you’re going to go from zero exercise to training for a marathon or hitting the gym every day? I’ve been stuck in a rut because of illness (I have a migraine condition) where I didn’t know how to get moving again. Everything seemed impossible for my sore, tired body. As a kid, after a migraine my mom would encourage me to walk with her to shake off the fog and pain that I had been dwelling in; any where from hours to days. I would walk slow and stiff but the fresh air and movement always brought life back into my body and spirit. The challenge is always in taking the first couple steps but I promise you, start going for short walks on a daily basis (or even three times a week) and it will increase your sense of well-being and/or kick-start more rigorous exercise habits.
Step 3 – Eat More Vegetables and Fruit
We all know we should eat more vegetables and fruit but fancy recipes and counting portions can be a big deterrent. When I decided I needed to eat healthier I did two simple things: I made half my plate, at lunch and dinner, vegetables whether that be a store-bought salad, chopped raw veggies or left-over veggies from last-nights roast. Secondly, I substituted one snack between meals with fruit (usually an apple). These two steps were a simple boost towards healthier living and didn’t require overthinking how and when to get my servings of fruits and vegetables. I use this simple dressing recipe for dips and salads if I want to pack a punch of flavour to my vegetables.
Simple Salad Dressing and Vegetable Dip Recipe-Vegan, Gluten-Free:
1/2 cup Veganaise (Available at Whole Foods and other organic, natural grocers. For those in the Lower Mainland-Choices, Pomme and Donald’s Market carry Veganaise.)
1 Tbsn of Dijon Mustard
1 Clove of Garlic (minced)
Tbsn of Olive Oil
Juice of half a fresh lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
If the mixture is too thick, add a tsp of water.
Whisk all ingredients to gather with a fork until thoroughly mixed.
Step 4 -Create a Simple Body-Care Routine
I’ve sat through many seminars with dermatologists and skin-care scientists, listening to them toot the benefits of their line of skin-care products. Even a walk through a drug-store can convince us that we need to try a gazillion products to improve our outward appearance but also our overall sense of well-being. It is time-consuming to weed through the information on what products provide measurable results and so as a guinea pig of the beauty industry, here is my simple body-care routine that provides a bit of me-time and helps me buy products with purpose.
I am a huge fan of Juice Beauty products and their Anti-Wrinkle Solutions Kit. This particular kit includes a serum with a proprietary blend of fruit stem cells and Vitamin C infused into an organic resveratrol-rich grapeseed base. My skin looks smoother and brighter when I apply this simple 3-step regime on a daily basis.
Another aspect of my daily routine is dry-brushing. Go here to read more about the benefits of dry-brushing. I find dry-brushing not only exfoliates my entire body but leaves me feeling invigorated.
Nothing beats a hot bath with epsom salts at the end of the day. Epsom salts can be easily purchased and are soothing for sore muscles and joints. When dissolved in warm water, Epsom salt is absorbed through the skin and replenishes the level of magnesium in the body. The magnesium helps to produce serotonin, a mood-elevating chemical within the brain that creates a feeling of calm and relaxation. Even just having that alone time in the bath can be the mood-boost you need to make other positive changes in your life.
Step 5-Recognize More Stuff Will Not Make You Happy
It is engrained in our psyche in Western culture that happiness is predicated on having more things. We are inundated with thousands of images through clever advertising trying to sell us stuff we don’t need. Our stuff becomes a disappointment, a burden, and toxic waste both literally and spiritually. This is the area where I feel the most push-and-pull. I have to actively fight the belief that new products, looks and books will make me happier. Although I mentioned a few self-care products above, narrowing down a list to what actually works for me prevents me from mindless spending. I’m not saying it is always bad to buy things, but it is if you think they will elevate your self-worth and happiness. Discerning want vs. need and then need vs. actually need to survive and thrive in 2018 is one of my biggest resolutions for the new year.
Step 6-Don’t Ignore Your Spiritual Life
Much like physical exercise, spiritual exercise reaps incredible benefits. What I’ve realized is that I don’t have to have a life-changing, deeply meditative and focussed spiritual experience everyday. If we can learn our multiplication tables by rote we can discover spiritual truths by rote. Rote means mechanical or habitual repetition of something to be learned. I read from the Bible everyday and go into that time without expectation but if I can glean one thing, develop one prayer to utter, or verse to memorize, I count that time is a success. If I don’t feel moved to any sort of action and spiritual growth on one day, I know I will be at it the next and over time this builds up into a vibrant spiritual life with a deep connection to God, the ability to live life without a sense of entitlement and an awareness that every person is beautifully created with an eternal purpose.
This is in no way meant as an “I’ve got it all figured out,” post. What I hope is that it encourages you that even the simplest of New Year’s resolutions can be the catalyst into living life more fully, abundantly and with purpose. You don’t have to buy a bunch of stuff and overhaul every aspect of your life. Start with baby steps and gently teach yourself to run the race of life well.
*If you have any health issues, always consult your medical doctor before beginning new physical exercise or applying topical creams.