As we embark on our journey toward creating and leading a more fulfilling life, we must first focus on taking care of ourselves, to feel good – mentally, physically and emotionally. With more and more people attributing their happiness and success to following a certain set of “wellness” practices and habits, we tend to wonder if their recipe is the key to a fulfilling life for us. There’s no doubt that waking up early to journal, practicing yoga and meditation, following a healthy diet or a strict exercise program are all wonderful additions to our lives, but only when we view them as the supportive healthy habits that they are, rather than the ultimate goal of living.
We might find ourselves struggling with the anxiety of following these “wellness recipes”, even feeling guilty when we “fail” to make some of these habits stick. Wouldn’t that just defeat the purpose of taking care of ourselves if these prescriptions make us feel anything less than amazing, to the point of turning into unhealthy obsessions over wellness? Before I found a mix that truly worked for me, I struggled with the anxiety and pressure of following other people’s wellness recipes, until I questioned the true purpose of incorporating these practices into my routine.
As we strive for “wellness”, let’s take a moment to assess how we approach and can incorporate some of these popular practices, specifically meditation, yoga and journaling, into our lives in a way that works for us so we truly feel good (and not burdened at all).
“I can’t meditate, I have too much on my mind”. Yes, I’ve also uttered these words when I first attempted to meditate about 8 years ago following the advice of a fortune teller in Greenwich Village in New York. I felt relieved to find out that we don’t do meditation, we “practice” meditation, and that there could be no right or wrong way of practicing something. It’s about finding a technique that feels more natural to us, one that aligns with our unique preferences, because I believe there’s a meditation practice that works for each one of us.
In addition to mindfulness and breath awareness meditations that you might be more familiar with, there’s visualization, movement, loving-kindness, sound healing, zen, mantra and transcendental meditation techniques as well. Before you start exploring, I’d like to share some of the ways in which meditation helps us take care of ourselves, so you might have a sense of what might feel good for you.
The mindfulness practice of sitting down, closing your eyes, focusing on your breathing, and what you are experiencing through your senses, is a way for us to become more present, more aware, and feel more connected. In a world where we try to make the most of every minute, we may find ourselves rushing from one place to another, one experience to the next, one interaction to another, without even realizing how much we miss out on simply by not being present. If taking time for this meditation practice feels challenging right now, you can try to incorporate this sense of connectedness and mindfulness throughout the day, by paying closer attention to what you are experiencing in the moment, what you hear, smell, taste, see, how you feel, what you are sharing with others and become more explicit about your experiences. As we widen our experiences and connections, this mindfulness practice will enable us to deepen them as well.
Personally, I turn to guided visualization meditations to find the space to unburden my distressing thoughts, to put things into perspective, to become more intentional about my path and to dream of endless possibilities. These guided meditations (usually by The Honest Guys) give my cluttered mind a structure to follow so I can stay aware of my thoughts and achieve greater clarity as I’m not burdened by the distracting thoughts in the process.
Reflect on the deeper feelings that challenge you (e.g. anxiety, anger, loneliness, doubt, uncertainty, disconnect) and explore how meditation might help you accept, explore, and handle these feelings. Some of us turn to meditation to gain insights, some to find deeper relaxation, and to sleep more peacefully, some prefer groups and some prefer to practice individually. Explore the systems that work for you, try simple mindfulness practices and breathing exercises throughout the day, and check out a comprehensive meditation app like Meditopia.
Meditation is a practice that offers wonderful benefits by increasing the levels of your physical and emotional awareness, helping you feel more centered, grounded and connected with the world and with those around you. Once you find the techniques that work for you, it feels so rewarding to practice meditation on a regular basis.
The moment I get out of bed, I pull out my mat and practice yoga, some days for 5 minutes some days for a whole hour, but every day nonetheless. Of course, sometimes, I wake up feeling tired, rushed, bitter, or simply “not in the mood” to practice yoga, and I tell myself to just go to my mat even for a brief moment. I remember the feeling of relief, peace, and hope that washes over me the moment I sit on my mat and take a deep breath.
I believe yoga to be a practice that my body and soul not only need but also deserve. For some people, yoga is a form of exercise, for others it’s part of a spiritual ritual, or it’s both. I don’t intend to convince you to pick up yoga or practice it on a daily basis but I’d like you to consider the benefits yoga offers for your mind, body and soul, for you to make up your mind about it.
Yoga is both a physical activity, improving strength and mobility, and a mental practice boosting clarity and focus. Practicing yoga serves as a mental reminder of how everything in life is transient, how both good and bad experiences exist only in the moment. During a yoga practice, whether you’re trying to breathe into a hip opener or a backbend that challenges you, or relaxing and sinking into a child’s pose or corpse pose (savasana), you are aware that it’s not going to last forever. Yoga shows us that we have the mental and physical capacity to endure the challenges of the practice, that we can access and unleash this power through a deliberate, focused and mindful practice. The more we practice yoga, the more we internalize this mindset and start to apply it to our lives, truly believing that we have the strength, patience and the mental capacity to persevere through adversities.
Whether it’s a Sunday evening group practice to stretch physically and reset mentally or an individual practice to feel more centered and to get stronger, you can practice yoga and take advantage of its amazing benefits. For at-home sessions, check out apps like Yoga Studio, Glo, and Alo Moves, but I’d encourage you to find dedicated teachers to guide you through both the physical exercise ensuring your safety, and through the mental process to share the teachings of yoga with you.
I love the fact that as complicated and powerful as our brains may be, they are so easily manipulated. That’s why journaling to set intentions and as a gratitude practice works like magic to make us feel happier and more purposeful.
Before I go to bed, I take my little notebook and write down a few things I feel grateful for, and a few amazing things that happened that day. Nothing is too big or too small to capture, and my snippets comprise of a wide range including “spending a nice day with my niece and nephews”, “a random person smiling at Hendrix (my dog) in the park”, “a curly fry in my regular fries”, “having a supportive family”, “the nice breeze from the window”. This practice causes my brain to apply a selective perception process throughout the day where I unconsciously focus on positive experiences and things to be grateful for as I know I will have to write them down at night.
Similar to that, I take a couple of minutes in the morning to set intentions for the day, writing down a few words to both anchor me and guide me throughout the day. When you plant the seeds in the morning of how you want to be and to act that day, you become more receptive to opportunities to live by your intentions or to recalibrate when you feel out of sync with them. Intentions could be simple and still powerful: be kind, be present, listen carefully, be ready to contribute, have fun or be open to receiving help.
Journaling is a powerful practice to help you gain clarity, to deal with your emotions, to increase self-awareness, to envision your future, and to capture and organize your thoughts. I believe that we’d all benefit from a little journaling, whether it’s to capture random thoughts in a little notebook or to incorporate this practice into our daily routine with the “5-Minute Journal” in a more structured way.
“As our ability to know and heal ourselves deepens, we will be better equipped to examine the world more carefully and heal it more effectively.”– Yung Pueblo
Wellness might seem like a luxury, though it’s one that we can all afford and we certainly deserve. It doesn’t matter whether you are leading a team, taking care of your family, supporting your community, or building your business, you have to be at your best to offer the most to these people and the world you live in. When we incorporate these practices with the sole purpose of really taking care of ourselves we benefit greatly from them, becoming healthier, happier, and stronger, truly feeling our best. We definitely owe it to ourselves, to feel our best, so we can perform at our best, making better contributions to our world, ultimately leading a more meaningful and fulfilling life.
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GG is a personal and professional development coach, and an organizational consultant focused on culture and leadership development. Her passion and talent in empowering individuals to discover their skills, strengths, and passions enables her to assist them in creating and leading fulfilling lives. Based on her cross-disciplinary background and experience, GG's unique approach incorporates resources, insights, and tools from a wide range of fields, including entrepreneurship, organizational behavior, psychology, design, mindfulness, and sustainability. Her coaching approach focuses on areas of motivation, engagement, and inspiration to amplify and build on the individual’s strengths so they can create a better environment toward their ideal future. Her company Mercury Change offers training, workshops, and leadership development programs for organizations.