Updated: May 22
Here we are. The second Sunday of 2022. We are all coming down from the highs of New Year's Day and settling into the year to come. If you are like me, you still have some enthusiasm about all the wonderful changes you will make this year. Am I right?
Reflecting on the previous year, heck the previous two years, the centerpiece has been COVID-19. This pandemic has changed how we do absolutely everything. Quarantines. Masks. Pandemic. Hand washing. Sanitizing. Stay home. Toilet paper. Zoom meetings. Stimulus checks. Isolation. Student loans. Stress. Anxiety. Depression. Vaccines. Hope. Mandates. Controversy. These are all words that come to my mind when I review the past two years of my life. Admittedly, I fell off with my wellness routine. I the therapist and coach had times where it just felt safer to crawl under a rock (often times my bedcovers) and ponder existence and how I got here. How did we get here to this place? Not earth. But unease. This overwhelming sense of unease.
This unease has shown up differently for different people. Most commonly I hear variations of finding difficulty in making decisions, feeling mental exhaustion, or feeling like their brain has gone on vacation leaving the shell of a human behind. Others report being unfocused and feeling like their emotions are in control of them rather than them being in control of their emotions. To get back on track and reestablish balance, we must all rebuild our foundations by believing in ourselves and our abilities to keep ourselves as safe as possible. We cannot control the COVID pandemic, but we can control how we focus our attention.
For 2022, we are rebuilding the foundations of our wellness routine to help us be the optimal version of us possible. Below are my 7 hacks to establish a wellness routine for yourself this year (in 7 minutes or less).
1. Drink Water (Time: 1-2 minutes)
Water helps our blood circulate nutrients to our cells and helps remove waste from our cells. If you are getting anywhere between 5-8 hours of sleep each night, that equals 5-8 hours of no hydration for your body and dehydration is linked to decrease in mental performance. Drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning will help rehydrate your body, give your brain a boost to help you feel mentally sharp, helps skin, helps with weight loss by decreasing cravings, improves metabolism, increases shine and hair texture, relieves heartburn, and strengthens the immune system.
2. Add a Probiotic (Time varies but a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar is definitely under 7)
I have a gut feeling that I am going to lose you here. But hear me out. The gut is often times thought of as our second brain. Don't laugh, I'm serious. You may have used the idiom, "butterflies in my stomach" or "gut feeling" or "gut instinct." Each of these are a nod to what science has been discovering about the connection between our gut and our emotions. A good way to help our gut stay healthy, bacteria.
One of the few times we have good things to say about bacteria. A probiotic is a special type of bacteria that some research is showing may give your health and wellbeing a major boost. An article by Harvard Health, "How Probiotics Can Supercharge Your Health," reveals that "probiotics can be a powerful ally in the fight against a range of health challenges including: allergies, arthritis, asthma, cancer, depression, heart disease, and gastrointestinal (GI) problems."
Choose any from this list by Dr. Axe of 17 probiotic foods to improve your gut health. Some of my favorites were yogurt, raw cheese, apple cider vinegar, and miso soup.
3. Vitamin D Please (Time 1-2 minutes)
I first learned about the importance of Vitamin D in 2019 when I found myself extremely fatigued (literally falling asleep at the wheel while driving fatigued) and in my doctor's office trying to discover the why. A CBC (complete blood count) blood test determined that I was vitamin D deficient which may have been fueling the host of autoimmune issues that was also found lurking (Rheumatoid Arthritis, Sjögren's, and Raynaud's). Vitamin D is important in bone health, protecting against many kinds of cancers, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, influenza, and other diseases. There is also growing research on connection between vitamin D and brain health and emotional well-being.
The most important source of Vitamin D is sunlight. However, in some locales, winter months make obtaining vitamin D from sunlight difficult. Based on recent research, Dr. Andrew Weil recommends 2,000 IU of vitamin D per day. His article, "Vitamin D Supplements & Food" states the following: "Look for supplements that provide D3 (cholecalciferol) rather than D2 (ergocalciferol). Anyone with vitamin D deficiencies should discuss intake levels with his or her physician."
Taking a vitamin D supplement takes less than a minute and can help provide a boost in supply needed to help you on your wellness journey. Talk to your physician about it to see recommendations based on your medical profile.
4. Smile (Time 1 minute or less)
Tapping into societal cliches, who hasn't heard that it takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile? Annoying isn't it. Especially when you are stressed out, frazzled, and mentally exhausted. "Just smile," is one of the last things we want to hear.
Stress can pull you down, and quick. What if I told you that science is showing that smiling can lift your mood and lower stress. How is that? It's all in the brain. Smiling helps with chemical release of dopamine (which increases our feelings of happiness) and serotonin (which helps relieve stress).
Smiling can actually reduce stress so the thought here is simple. Trick your brain into happiness. Make a conscious effort to smile every day. Smile. It's contagious.
5. Daily Mantra (Time 1-2 minutes)
In the past, a mantra was a short sound or word spoken in Sanskrit and used for meditation purposes. In today's time, a mantra is any uplifting word or phrase utilized to help you think positive about you and life in general. Using a mantra has been shown to raise your level of joy and happiness.
It isn't easy to stay positive and when you feel really stressed, anxious, or even exhausted mentally, using a mantra will be the furthest thing from your mind. However, this is the time most ideal to use them. Mantras do not have to be overly complicated. Here are a few of my favorites:
I am enough.
I am in control of my emotions.
My positive thoughts create positive feelings.
It is okay to make mistakes.
I've got this.
I have inner strength.
The more I let it go, the better I will feel.
6. Stretch (Time 5-7 minutes)
Stretching helps keep our bodies young, flexible. Stress causes muscle tension and which stretching can help to reduce. Stretching also increases your energy and blood circulation. Increased blood flow to your brain can boost your energy, your mood, and your mental clarity.
Add stretching as a part of your daily routine. As you stretch, focus on your breathing. This helps give your mind a mental break while you simply breath, focus on the feeling of the stretch, and release any pent-up emotions.
7. Gratitude (Time 5 minutes)
Getting caught up in the daily demands of life, we sometimes forget to stop and smell the flowers. Being trapped in our own minds with our own self-recriminating thoughts, we often don't recognize the gifts in life until they are gone.
Every night before I go to bed, I try to identify at least 3 things I am grateful for and then write it down in my gratitude journal. It could be a family member. A friend. My job. My home. Green grass. Blue skies. The sounds of birds chirping or children's laughter.
What about you? What brings you the most joy? What made your day just a bit easier? Who made you smile?
In my debut article "New Year, New Me: All Starts with Time," my intention was to assist my readers with becoming more efficient with managing time. This article challenges you to shift to adding into your time logs time for, you. Beginning a wellness journey does not have to be a long-drawn-out time consuming process nor does it have to be a complicated one. Little changes here and there in your daily life can make all the difference in the world; yes even 7 minutes can get you on the path to improved well-being.
"There are two ways of meeting difficulties. You alter the difficulties or you alter yourself to meet them." ~Phyllis Bottome
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