It's January! That time of the year when entertaining and baking books are taken away from the main display at Barnes and Noble; and diet, cleanse, and wellness books take heir place. Magazine covers switch from fudge, Hawaiian salt spiked single origin-chocolate cookies to kale-pomegranate-turmeric "DETOX YOURSELF NOW" recipes. Talk shows, FaceBook adds and your Instagram feed vomit through the screen the three million best kept secrets on how to get rid of all the indulgence they encouraged you to experience throughout December. Your emails generously list all the links where you can get the coolest workout outfits, how to ask your stylist for the latest hairdo for bare class, and of course, the 3 new super expensive super foods to make you thiner, smarter, fitter, stronger, prettier and healthier (and obviously keep you from wrinkling), all concocted by a model that found the potent botanicals in the middle of the Amazon jungle, because turmeric-is-so-last-year!
"I see how wellness has become another way to display wealth... I see how it thrives on inventing new ailments, creating social pressure to cure them, and selling snake oil for how to do it. I see how, by embracing the idea that well-being must be bought, we’re becoming more and more distant from ourselves—our bodies, our minds, and our health." Writes Rachelle Robinett in this great Healthish article about how the fashion world is mostly responsible for the current luxury wellness movement.
Countless times I've had clients ask me to give them The Diet Plan. The one that will fix them once and for all. They want exact amounts, exact recipes. They need The Key Superfoods, The Magical Essential Oils that will heal them. We keep wanting an external purchase and a foreign authority to make it all better once and for all. The wellness industry has been created and grown out of that desire, that need and our preference to pay for an illusion than to carve ourselves the time, and awaken our curiosity to take care of ourselves in order to get ourselves to take care of us (aka to be healthy).
True wellness is about making a commitment with ourselves. It's about being open to listen to our body, our needs, our feelings, our stresses and embark in a process that will last for the rest of our lives. It won't always bring us happiness, nor make us instantaneously lose weight, and it might never be about instant gratification. It will be about trial and error, small successes, some setbacks, but deep wellbeing.
Don't get me wrong, I love super foods, recipes and essential oils, but if we think our health will thrive without us making a conscious effort, no super food in the planet will help us. Not that long ago a dear client and friend of mine texted me "this business of taking care of myself is a full-time job!" Yes it is, but not working on that job keeps us from enjoying life. The minute we were born, without realizing, we signed the contract in which we take care of our bodies and our bodies will be the vehicle that will take us through the road of life for all its duration.
"When I work with clients directly, it’s striking how often the same issues arise from imbalances in our relationships between mind and body; society and self; control, love, and fear" says Robinett.
So...where do we start in taking care of our selves?
Let's begin with things that have been integrated into our human hardware since the very beginning, with NO purchase necessary:
Deep breathing switches our body from stressed into relaxed response. If you take the time to breathe deeply a few times a day, your heart, hormones, brain, immune system and even your gut microbes will thank you. I personally do this 3 times a day and encourage pretty much all my clients to do so.
4-7-8 RELAXING BREATHING EXERCISE by Andrew Weil, MD
Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there throughout the entire exercise. Do all the counts mentally. Exhale completely through your mouth.
1. Close your mouth and inhale through your nose as you count to FOUR.
2. Hold your breath while you count to SEVEN.
3. Exhale completely through your mouth, as you count to EIGHT.
This is one cycle. Now inhale again and repeat 3 more times until you complete a total of four cycles.
New Year's Resolution: Start breathing deeply once a day.
A proper deep hug, where the hearts are pressing together, can be extremely effective at healing sickness, disease, loneliness, depression, anxiety and stress. When we embrace someone, we release oxytocin, and serotonin promoting bonding, elevating mood and happiness, while decreasing cortisol. Hugging boosts self esteem. Virginia Satir, a family therapist, said “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.” New Year's Resolution: aim to at least 4 hugs a day.
Few things are more pleasurable than a bout of laughter, and laughing doesn’t only feel good, but stress hormones tend to decrease while we laugh, and feel-good endorphins increase, which can strengthen the immune system and turn on a relaxation response. Laughter also decreases blood pressure, increases vascular blood flow, unclogs airways, increases oxygen intake and has been suggested to have positive effects in heart health and digestion. Laughing 100 times equals exercising 10 minutes in a rowing machine or 15 min in stationary bike! Some research indicates that laughing may positively affect blood glucose levels. Laughter is a natural pain reliever and eases fear and anger. New Year's Resolution: make sure you crack up once a day, even if you fake it!
While we sleep, our body relaxes, detoxifies, rebuilds and repairs. Most adults need about 8 hours a night. Inadequate sleep weakens our ability to handle stress and maintain a healthy immune system. It increases the risk of heart disease, affects fertility and prevents us from moderating our emotions and thinking clearly. Lack of sleep affects our appetite and has shown to contribute to obesity. New Year's Resolution: Go to bed 10 minutes earlier every night for 1 week. By then end of the week, you'll have an extra hour of sleep!
DRAW, PAINT, WRITE, GARDEN, COLOR, COOK.....
Just do something creative for 10 to 15 minutes every day. Whatever you like!!! You can journal, garden, sing, play music, paint, cook a new recipe, color as if you were a pre-schooler. Honor the creativity that you were born with (all human beings are naturally creative). It doesn't have to be in the arts. Creativity is the tendency to generate or recognize IDEAS, VALUES, ALTERNATIVES, or POSSIBILITIES that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, and stimulating or entertaining ourselves or others. So solve a problem that awakens your curiosity, communicate with someone else in whatever way you desire, or just find a fun way to entertain yourself, your children, your significant other, your pet or a large audience. Creativity feeds the soul, and nurturing the soul is one of the highest ways of self-care. New Year's Resolution: doodle, dance, create a new salad dressing, do a puppet show, take photographs, solve a new math problem.....it's up to you. Just get creative!