The end of October is a strange month to discuss habits, I know. Yet what I hope to encourage is that shifting a lifestyle pattern can happen at any point in the year, with the simplest goal, the smallest choice. It doesn’t need to happen all at once either, beginning every change at the same time, bombarding your new year with new rhythms and routines. But when the impulse or longing for change hits, it’s best not to wait but to simply begin right then, regardless of your original agenda. Here are five wellness habits I established this year for my body, mind, and spirit, all beginning at different points, in different months, based simply by a need I noticed in my lifestyle. Some of them are merely tweaking something I had already been doing, some of it is based on consistency, some was beginning something new altogether.
Screen-free Days | Although our family began this practice before this year, my attitude changed at the onset of 2018. Instead of screen-free days feeling like a discipline and restraint, it became a day I looked forward to, a liberating, unapologetic practice of self-care for myself and our home. My phone can be the slipperiest part on my end, for sure, so I often turn it off and set it aside for the day. Yes, I miss texts. Yes, I miss important updates and news. Yes, I miss phone calls from friends or family members. But only for that day. The personal and social updates are always waiting for me when I return the following day, and I find myself more grounded in the midst of the noise and information. Plus, as a family, we enjoy one full day each week with quiet, with the simplicity of only the relationships and activities we’re enjoying right that minute. It’s somewhat like stepping out of a crowded bar or restaurant into the quiet night. In one environment you can hear; in the other, you can listen. The contrast is inviting. Helpful resources: Garden City (more about work and rest than screens, but so good!), Screen-Free Fun (for ideas with kids), The Big Disconnect, The Tech-Wise Family, Simplicity Parenting, and so many more.
Reading, Meditation, + Reflection for Spiritual Growth | It can be difficult to discern the strength of my soul or spirit, but I knew at the beginning of the year, my own felt weak. I was distracted and pre-occupied with what was happening in culture, with popular opinion, and with my own image in the midst of it all. What is true of our bodies is also true of our spirits, if we want to grow in any endeavor, we must rearrange our life for growth. In February, I began rearranging my life for spiritual transformation. I began reading and studying the Scriptures again several days a week, most intentionally on my screen-free day. There was no set agenda other than creating space to hear what God wanted to speak. Sometimes it felt inspiring and revelatory; sometimes it didn’t. Other days, I began meditating on passages, perhaps a Psalm or a few verses from the Sermon on the Mount or verses I had read the day before. I generally take a small passage of Scripture (no more than 10-12 verses), and read the passage three times, slowly and intentionally. Ideally, I do this aloud, but that’s not always possible. The aim is to allow God’s sacred words to soak into me without expectation of what I need to do with them. I read aloud and repeat, listening. This practice led to forming a group of women to read the Scriptures aloud with each week, and also to recovering this practice with my children in the mornings. I began journaling more consistently again, thoughts, reflections, ideas I was learning in studies. It’s been such a life-giving practice this year, strengthening my foundations, rooting my heart in purpose. Tools and books that have been helpful this year: my journal Bible, journal, Garden of Truth, She Reads Truth books, Cultivate Journal, Sacred Rhythms, Freedom of Simplicity.
Clean Personal Care Products | I’ve mentioned my journey to clean out toxins from our home and bathrooms here before, so clearly, this isn’t entirely new either. Yet the more I learn about the effects product ingredients can have on our hormones, emotions, mental and physical health, the more I pay closer attention to what we use in our home. This past spring, I emptied my bathroom drawer of any remaining personal care products––makeup, deodorant, toothpaste–– that include harmful ingredients and swapped them for safer alternatives. I’ve still been using Beautycounter for skincare and makeup and really appreciate their attention to quality and performance as much as safety. Their products keep getting better, as do their standards. For daily makeup, I stick with a few basics that can be applied in just a few minutes, like this custom makeup collection (which saves about $50 when purchased as a collection). I often add this neutral eye palette and keep my favorite Twig lipstick in my bag for quick application, too. This new limited-edition skincare collection includes my very favorite products and is such a steal for a starting point. I often share more favorites on my wellness page. As for other products, I’ve been loving this deodorant, and although I’ve been experimenting with safe solutions for my sensitive teeth, I think this toothpaste or this one are my favorites. If you’re curious to learn about the safety of some of the products in your home, the Environmental Working Group is a wonderful free resource! Their Skin Deep database has info on thousands of products, and it’s best to aim for the lowest number rating (I try to stick with ones and twos).
Daily Exercise | At the beginning of April, something clicked. I noticed the soft, undefined nature of my entire body, the way my clothes had steadily increased in size, yet still felt uncomfortable. I was a busy work-from-home, homeschooling mother. I had accepted it, telling myself I was growing older and this was normal. I wanted to be gentle with myself, understanding the context for doing so many things. And I have been gentle and permissive. But this was not simply about body image or lofty expectations, this was about strength and long-term health. I was tired of feeling tired and out-of-shape. I wanted to feel strong again, to feel energy and stamina in my days again. Knowing I had to use all this thinking for positive momentum, I immediately pulled my dusty 4-year-old running shoes from the closet, pulled on my snug running shorts, downloaded the Sweat app, and texted my sister to ask if she wanted to join me. We began the BBG workouts the next morning, the first Monday in April, walking for cardio days and doing my best to finish the resistance days. It was hard. And good. Almost seven months later, I’m still at it and growing stronger and faster! I don’t have a sensational weight loss or health story, but I’ve established a simple 30-minute daily habit. My clothes feel better. I am definitely stronger. My energy feels more consistent. When considering workouts in the beginning, it was important to do something I could manage consistently at home or from home for 30 minutes or so a day, without gyms or expensive equipment. Over the months, I have used whatever I had nearby or in our shed for resistance: the steps on our front stoop, picnic benches, chairs, gallon paint cans, planters. I’m beginning to add pieces of real equipment now as a reward for all the hard work. But most importantly, exercise is a part of my daily habit again. Even on rest days, it is a mindful rest and time for stretching and decompressing and meditation. // Helpful Tools // Sweat App (They have different programs within it for different goals. I’ve been using the BBG plan.) Yoga mat (any will do, but this one is new on my wishlist), jump rope, hand weights, weighted ball. Begin small with weights and check Craigslist and FB Marketplace for gently used equipment.
Cleaner Eating + Drinking | Those terms can be so vague and slippery, can’t they? There are so many opinions on what is best diet-wise, and I am not about to toss another one at you. Although I began regular exercise in the Spring, by the early Autumn, I knew I needed to rest some of my eating habits for a time, too. I love a bold, dry red wine in the evening and a dark, pour-over coffee first thing in the morning. I love crusty bread, soft cheeses, and dark chocolate––especially when pulled from the hot oven or melted into a ganache. Beginning the day with a cup of coffee and ending with a wine pour during the dinner hour is a part of my daily rhythm of beginnings and endings, and yet, sometimes, I feel the need to test my life without some of these affections, to re-discover my mental, emotional, and physical health apart from them. The aim is not deprivation; the aim is wholeness and well-being. Health that provides stamina for true living. Next month I will turn forty, so this month seemed like a fitting time to clear and re-start my eating and drinking habits, before a new decade, before the holidays. A few friends and I joined together for meal planning and support to do a 26-day plant-based detox loaded with smoothies, juices, herbal tea, and high-nutrient meals, and without caffeine, alcohol, meat, salt, or spicy foods. As you can imagine, the first week was the hardest, with headaches and lethargy, yet by the second week, my energy felt intense and steady. I felt stronger in my workouts and runs, and clearer minded in my days. I felt better in my clothing and noticed more tone again. It has been so good. The hardest parts, as expected, were the cocktail parties or social gatherings and family meals, as I was eating something different from my family, which was weird. But it sparked so many conversations about freedom and choice, the ways in which we use our freedom to make hard decisions. Such a good lesson and so many applications. I have finished the detox now and am creating my own meal plans again, but this time with more intention toward vegetables and fruits. I am delaying introducing coffee and meat again, although I did enjoy a small glass of natural organic wine over the weekend. Right now, I don’t know where I am heading, but I am excited to protect some new boundaries, to search out economical ways to enjoy whole foods and play with new flavors and recipes. // Helpful Tools // A detox partner or group.