A large majority of people assume being healthy means being a socially acceptable physical size. Before you read further, know that’s not what I mean at all. Good health doesn’t mean being skinny. True essence of wellness doesn’t condone sleeping for 3 hours, running 10 miles, drinking 2 bottles of wine, and eating salad for lunch. A balanced lifestyle and holistic wellness implore us to focus on mental, emotional, and physical well-being. It urges us to look closely at what motivates our self-care.
According to the World Health Organization, “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” In Ayurveda, health is order and disease is disorder. Ayurveda also teaches us that our mind and body are deeply connected. What we eat impacts how we think, feel, and behave.
Here are five simple ways to jumpstart your well-being in the New Year and put being “healthy” at the center:
Create me-time: Whether you are spending the holidays by yourself or with friends-family, the anxiety and stress are inevitable. Throw Omicron into the mix, and everything becomes even more complicated. Don’t wait for angst and burnout to surface before you devote time to YOU. Create pockets in your day, so you can allocate some time daily for YOU. Use it intentionally to pursue what you need at the moment. On some days, it might be quietude or stillness; other days, it might be a chai with a friend or dinner with your partner or a time to read.
Exercise with devotion: You know that gym sign-ups are at their peak in January? The reason most people don’t stick with their fitness goals is because they aren’t sustainable. Pick an activity or workout that interests and inspires you. Again, you don’t have to sign up for a half-marathon or spend 2.5 hours lifting weights. My friend and yoga teacher Zoe Isaacson reminds us, “Keep a consistent yoga practice to anchor you during the emotional ups and downs that come with the season. Whether you have five minutes or 60 minutes, any amount of time taken daily for breathing, stretching, or repeating a mantra can shift your perspective.”
Do something for another person: It’s easy to get caught up with what’s not working in our lives. The Omicron has brought back the trauma from spring 2020. Holidays can bring sadness and anxiety in a lot of people that isn’t the healthy way to spend that time. Acts of kindness have the potential to make the world a happier place. An act of kindness can boost feelings of confidence, being in control, happiness, and optimism. They may also encourage others to repeat the good deeds they’ve experienced themselves – contributing to a more positive community.
Keep time for self-reflection: Most people lean towards the excessive side of things during the holidays or when life feels out of control. But all that excessive talking, traveling, eating, and drinking can imbalance your vata dosha, which can lead to anxiety and nervousness. Similarly, if you are feeling lonely and depressed, it might be a sign of Kapha dosha viitiation. Every night, before you go to sleep, make the time to reflect on your day. Be sure to not judge or criticize your thoughts… merely observe them. One can learn depths about our personality, inner struggles, and behavior if we devote just a little time everyday reflecting on our day.
Approach food with kindness: Everyone has a different relationship with food. 30 million Americans struggle with eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating. For some, food is a source of comfort, indulgence, or sustenance. Others can have a negative and even damaging association with food. Use the New Year to manifest new relationships with how you eat, what you eat, when you eat. Remember that food can be the best medicine for the body. Eating disorders are serious mental health problems, signifying a person’s unhealthy relationship with food. Don’t use food as a tool to cope with loneliness or difficult company. Just remember, your body is like a garden. What you sow is what you reap.
I am not from the school of thought that we need to reinvent ourselves every year. But I do believe that we can all use help to work on what holds us back in living a balanced lifestyle. Because if you don’t have wellness on your side, nothing else sticks.
“Keeping your body healthy is an expression of gratitude to the whole cosmos- the trees, the clouds, everything.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh