6 Things I Do Everyday for My Mental and Physical Health
Who says that resolutions have to wait until January 1st? Is there a special fairy dust that we get sprinkled with at the stroke of midnight that helps us achieve our goals any quicker than the rest of the year?
Look, I’m all for celebrating New Years by reflecting on the year prior and setting appropriate action items to improve your life moving forward. But, I don’t believe that this gives us any excuse to feel stagnant, or to wait until January to make changes if we feel drawn to do so.
In my eyes, every single day I wake up is a fresh start (and a reason to be thankful).
Once we settled into our new life here in VA, I noticed an unconscious pattern of activities that I began practicing every day that truly makes me feel my best. Each one of these has made its’ way into my life and my daily to-do list over time (note: it wasn’t an overnight shift).
Today, I am sharing the 6 things that I do (and you can, too) to feel more connected, grateful, energized, kinder, and happier overall. I notice that when I skip these things or give priority to something else going on, I’m a little more anxious and impatient, I get flustered easily, and I feel bloated and groggy throughout my day.
Without further ado, I hope that you feel inspired to try 1 (or 6) of these out and see if they create a positive impact in your life as well!
1. Gratitude Journal
This may be my favorite addition to my daily routine because journaling is something I had struggled to do consistently for years. I tried a few different methods before I stumbled upon this journal, but each of them felt more like a chore or a waste of time (that I could have been using to write a blog post).
It wasn't until our wedding anniversary trip in August that I decided to try something new. Enter: The Five-Minute Journal. Each day is 1 short page with an inspirational quote (or a weekly challenge) at the top, and prompts/questions following that.
This form of journaling has been extremely useful for me because it helps challenge my mind. Rather than staring at a blank page and basically just wanting to write out my to-do list for the day, now I am consciously searching for specific moments or feelings that have more of a long-lasting effect.
Here is how each page is laid out:
Inspirational quote - ex. today’s is “I don’t associate with people who blame the world for their problems. You are your problem. You are also your solution. - Melissa McCarthy“
Weekly challenge - ex. this week’s is “Identify 3 things to appreciate about your adversity.”
I am grateful for…
What would make today great?
Daily affirmations. I am…
3 Amazing things that happened today…
How could I have made today even better?
Even when I’m not actively writing in it, I’ve found that my gratitude journal has a way of sticking with me throughout my day. Oftentimes if something uniquely positive or negative comes up, a prompt will immediately pop into my head (my mantra from the day/what amazing things have happened so far/how I can reframe this).
2. 10 minute Meditation
Similar to journaling, meditating has been something that I have tried on and off for years now. At one point last year, I remember thinking, “this probably just isn’t for me”. At the time, I was using an app that would guide me through a 3-4 minute meditation with either a story or some type of inspiration. I found that I was only beginning to relax once the meditation was about to end.
If you can relate to this, I highly recommend experimenting with a longer, quieter meditation practice (whether that is complete silence, calming music, or an app). I simply believe that 3-4 minutes isn’t enough time to allow you to fully relax and crowd out your conscious voice.
I am currently using a cycle-tracking app called Glow that has free 10-minute meditations built in (there are only 4 available, so I generally listen to the same one everyday). I try to make this a top priority in the middle of my day no matter how busy it is. It gives me a boost of energy, helps me be present rather than allowing my day to fly by, and improves my interactions with people going forward (my coworkers, Sam, on social media, etc.) - especially if it is a particularly busy or stressful day.
During these 10 minutes, I sit in a crosslegged position with my palms open facing up on my knees. I don’t force my mind to be quiet, I just try to focus on my breath and positive messages rather than my to-do list or unhelpful distractions. The most life-changing thing I started doing is visualizing giving myself a hug and providing encouraging words, and grace/permission/forgiveness/compassion just like I would if I were talking to one of my sisters or best friends. I know it sounds super “woo-woo”, but it has definitely made my inner voice a lot kinder.
Other tips: Take deep, 4-second breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Let go of any tension in your neck, shoulders, and mouth/teeth. Don’t judge yourself for “meditating wrong”, or for your body and/or mind feeling restless. Everyday is going to look and feel different in your meditation practice; all that matters is that you continue to show up for yourself and prioritize those 10 minutes.
3. Walk Outside
If there was ever an ideal time to adopt this practice, it is now. The crisp, Fall air is so refreshing and noticing the colors change from day to day in my neighborhood is incredibly rewarding. It feels like I’m actually witnessing the change in seasons, rather than looking up in November and thinking “how is Fall almost over already?”
Since Oliver’s health has been steadily improving again, we have been taking slow, 30 minute walks in the morning before I start work. Then, in the afternoon if time allows, I love taking a longer, quicker walk alone (sometimes with added ankle weights). I find that stepping outside of the house, even if it’s only for 10-15 minutes to get my body moving, gives me a boost of energy and joy.
My biggest tip for this activity is to use a backpack (I have this one) or belt bag so you can stash away your phone and any other distractions. Be present with the sounds of nature (I literally felt my body cringe while writing that because it sounds so corny, but it’s true!!), feel the breeze of the air and the changing temperatures, and listen to your thoughts.
It’s no secret that our generation (and the younger generation) tend to be “plugged in” 24/7. The majority of us are constantly using something to distract us from our thoughts and feelings - whether that is social media, music, podcasts, the news, etc. There are so many incredible resources and outlets for entertainment available to us, so I can’t blame us. But, even more important than learning and connecting with others is taking time for ourselves.
Personally, this alone time on my walks and during meditation help me think creatively and come up with new ideas, evaluate goals and next steps I want to take, and deal with any conflict or unpleasant emotions.
4. Intermittent Fasting
Hands down the biggest change in my mental and physical health over the past year has been (clean) intermittent fasting. I won’t get into the whole breakdown here, but I wrote an in-depth blog post on the what, why, and how (link here).
To simplify why I love IF so much, it’s because it has changed my entire mindset around eating and living. As a serial dieter from the age of 13, this has been the first time in my life that I feel like food doesn’t control my thoughts and emotions. I used to have so much baggage surrounding food; whether I saw it as a reward, a restriction, or a coping mechanism. I was constantly thinking about how I could eat less or better, and shaming myself when I didn’t live up to the unrealistic expectations I set.
Not only has IF helped with my emotions surrounding food and my constant yo-yo dieting and weight gain/loss, it has improved my mental clarity significantly. I never realized until I had become adapted to this lifestyle just how sluggish and cloudy my brain and body felt when eating constantly. I was one of those people that thought I would “literally die” if I didn’t eat something in the morning or for lunch. Oftentimes, I wasn’t even hungry, I just thought that was what I was supposed to do to keep my metabolism and energy up.
Intermittent Fasting has allowed me to adopt the mentality of “delay, don’t deny”. I now have 0 food restrictions for the first time in my life. Of course, I am still intolerant to wheat, eggs, carrots, lentils, and pork, so I try to avoid these foods in order to feel my best. That being said, once I break my fast each day, I eat whatever I want to satiety. IF has helped tremendously with noticing what foods and nutrients my body is craving, and listening to my satiety signals so I no longer feel the urge to overeat or binge.
I currently follow a 18/6 (18 hours of clean fasting, 6 hours of eating) or a 20/4 (20 hours of clean fasting, 4 hours of eating) pattern, depending on the day and how I’m feeling.
Read more about clean fasting and the science behind this lifestyle here.
5. 10 minute Yoga session
This is generally done after I complete my 10 minute meditation so that I am relaxed and can focus on moving my body. Let me preface this by saying that my yoga practice is nowhere near perfect. I don’t believe you have to be an expert to practice yoga. I’ve been to plenty of yoga classes over the years so I just do whatever comes to mind when I’m in the moment or however I feel like I need to move that day (ex. if my back is super tight or I feel like focusing on my balance or flexibility).
I don’t do anything super fancy; honestly, I don’t even use a yoga mat. I just sit on an open space next to my desk on the carpeted floor and practice in whatever I’m wearing. I’m still surprised by how quickly the 10 minutes goes by and how easy this is to fit into my day.
I have learned over the years after forcing myself to attend high-intensity workout classes like spin and Krav Maga, that my body craves slow, restful workouts. I still use my elliptical if I’m not walking outside that day, but even that isn’t high-intensity. Yoga is an exercise that I actually look forward to rather than dread, and it feels like just the thing my body needs during this season in my life.
If you are a beginner in yoga or want a quick guide on poses to try, this pin is a great resource (link here).
To round out my workout, sometimes I’ll follow my meditation and yoga practices with 10 minutes of simple exercises with 3 lb. arm weights.
6. Green kombucha
I have personally never seen someone do this, but it has been working for me and I enjoy the combo, so I figured I’d share with you as well! This is the concoction that I like to break my fast with. Sometimes I juice some fresh celery and have that first, but most days I don’t have much time, so I just grab my Ginger Lemon Health-Ade Kombucha out of the fridge (I buy the giant bottle to save $), add a giant ice cube and my metal straw and mix in 1 scoop of Amazing Grass Green Superfood Powder.
I personally can’t stomach the superfood powder on it’s own, and I’m not interested in making smoothies or shakes every day, so this is the only way I found that I can weasel it into my diet.
The Amazing Grass Green Superfood contains 3+ servings of greens, fruits, and veggies. It has more organic greens than any other blend I’ve found on the market and it is gluten free, plant-based, and has no sugar added.
In addition to the Superfood blend, Kombucha on its own has enormous beneficial probiotics to assist with gut health. Needless to say, this combo helps me get in all of the nutrients that my body needs without overeating during my “window”.
I would say that the green kombucha concoction is an acquired taste, but after your first few days I’ve found that you get used to it (and you may even find yourself craving it).
p.s. I’ve shared this many times on IG stories, but sometimes with dinner if I’m craving something other than water, I’ll add another serving of just plain kombucha to a pretty wine or cocktail glass with a giant ice cube. I very rarely drink alcohol right now (simply a personal choice), so the kombucha kind of makes me feel fancy like I’m having a cocktail.
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What is your favorite way to take care of your health on a daily basis? Comment on my latest Instagram post and let me know!
Want more lifestyle inspiration? Read 5 Tips for Thriving in Your First Year of Marriage + Our Wedding Video and The First 5 Items We Purchased for Our New Home..
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xo Anna Elizabeth