Photo credit: Kiley Shai

Four Simple Habits That Will Change Your Life

4min read

Changing your life doesn't require changing who you are, adopting demanding regimens, or forking out hundreds of dollars. Believe it or not, it's the small, daily habits that have the ability to transform your life into what you've always dreamed it could be! Taking on too much, too fast can halt our progress. Studies have shown that drastic overhauls and overly ambitious resolutions can result in overwhelm, and may even result in our abandoning our goals. A healthier option for body, mind and spirit, is to take small steps to see truly lasting change. So instead of loading on too much pressure and setting yourself up for failure, I recommend focusing on a few daily habits that form the foundation of wellness and success.

1. Speak Nicely To Yourself

Everyone deals with some level of negative self-talk, whether it be triggered by a specific incident, stress at work, feeling overwhelmed, or a lifetime of small hits that make you feel "less than." We would never dream of speaking as harshly to others as we do to ourselves. The good news is that negative self-talk can only have a negative impact if you actually believe it. But, why do we do this? First of all, let yourself off the hook (radical self-acceptance is at the core of more positive self-talk.). According to therapist, Lea Seigen Shinraku, MFT, speaking harshly to yourself is something we humans are wired to do. Why would there be any evolutionary advantage to being a "mean girl" to ourselves? Back when "fight or flight" was more about outrunning a tiger than whether or not to apply for our dream job, doubt and negative self-talk prevented us from doing something dangerous. Telling ourselves "I can't do it" helped us know when we shouldn't do it. In modern times, negative self-talk can be our default to help us feel in control about something that scares us, or to avoid rejection. We don't want to talk ourselves out of realizing our dreams and doing something truly great, so listen closely to the way you speak to yourself.

When your inner critic starts creeping in, here are four ways to help push it away:

a) Take a deep breath.

b) Write down three things for which you are grateful TODAY, followed by three areas in your life where you feel you truly shine.

c) Write your daily to-do list and ask yourself, "Does this support the life I am trying to create?" If it doesn't, cross it out. Then, circle three items to focus on today.

d) Be mindful when working on eliminating self-doubt. Trust your core. There's a reason why they call it a gut feeling, and it's why I believe that the core is the center of radiant health and happiness.

Jessica Schatz photographed by Kiley Shai

2. Do Nice Things For Yourself

With everything happening all the time, it's easy to forget to take care of yourself. How can we focus on ourselves when there is so much going on around us, not to mention worrying about careers, families, money, stress, and everything else that comes with modern life? But it doesn't have to be as difficult as it seems. If you're talking to yourself more as an ally than a foe, you'll begin to make more choices that are truly aligned with your purpose and best interests. You are your own best friend. So, what would you do for your own best friend? You'd treat them like the lovable, beautiful human they are. What do you wish someone would do for you? Shortcut: Do it for yourself. When we fail to pay attention to our own feelings or needs, we end up looking for feel-good substitutes like alcohol or junk food that deplete our minds and bodies.

Self-care is more than facials and bubble baths (although those are great.) At its core, self-care is about living your truth and being your authentic self. Pamper your body rather than punishing it. Whether it's getting a massage, taking a walk, having coffee with a friend, or dancing to a motivational song, the list is yours to design. Self-care rituals are a great way to reignite our energy and motivation by giving us the space we need to breathe, be present, be honest (with ourselves), and reflect.

3. Create A Conscious Morning Ritual

One of the best ways to develop a healthy mindset is to establish and prioritize a morning ritual that will set the tone for your entire day. My favorite morning practice is starting my day with mindfulness of breath and body. This includes a gratitude list, a short, guided meditation (I personally love Insight Timer), and a mindful movement practice (usually a combination of yoga and Pilates-based movement, but you can move and stretch your body however feels best for you). Morning meditation offers you the tools to take on anything. Rather than becoming frustrated by the actions of someone else or any inconvenience that may occur, the calm in your mind puts you in a state of flow and allows you to respond to these experiences with ease and grace. You are also better able to filter out any internal noise from your mind, making it easier to deepen your focus and clarity on what matters most.

Mindful movement synchronizes your body with a combination of movement, breath, and stillness. It promotes healing, increases energy and awareness, and sets the tone for the day. In addition to its multiple other benefits, mindful morning movement warms up the spine, which relieves any tension accumulated during sleep. By mindfully tuning into my body and breath first thing in the morning, I ease into my day with more clarity and vitality. Start with anywhere between 10 - 15 minutes. Remember that you deserve to feel good, even if you're busy. I'm always looking for creative ways to help people work this beneficial practice into their lives.

4. Get outside

Our bodies need sunlight just as much as they need food and water. We now know that in addition to providing us with vitamin D, sunlight raises the body's levels of nitric oxide – a vital molecule that increases blood flow, optimizes the immune system, and acts as a signaling molecule for the brain. This is why depriving your body of sunlight can leave you unhealthy and unhappy, contributing to burnout and/or depression. In addition to craving sunlight, our minds and bodies crave nature. More and more studies are showing that simply being out in nature can profoundly affect our mood. Whether it is a full exercise session in the form of a run, swim, or hike, or simply taking a walk, going to watch the sunset, or even simply creating a container garden on your balcony, treat your body to a small dose of nature every day.

What I've learned through my journey is that so much of this is about self-love. It's about taking care of ourselves because we deserve it. I encourage you to implement these four simple habits to bring about greater joy and well-being in your life. You have the power, outside the bounds of circumstance, to create the life you love. Remember, we are all special and amazing! So from now on, let's be kind to our amazing selves. Your core is speaking to you. Be sure to listen, like you would to your own best friend.

3 Min Read

7 Must-have Tips to Keep You Healthy and Fit for the Unpredictable COVID Future

With a lack of certainty surrounding the future, being and feeling healthy may help bring the security that you need during these unpredictable times.

When it comes to your health, there is a direct relationship between nutrition and physical activity that play an enormous part in physical, mental, and social well-being. As COVID-19 continues to impact almost every aspect of our lives, the uncertainty of the future may seem looming. Sometimes improvisation is necessary, and understanding how to stay healthy and fit can significantly help you manage your well-being during these times.

Tip 1: Communicate with your current wellness providers and set a plan

Gyms, group fitness studios, trainers, and professionals can help you to lay out a plan that will either keep you on track through all of the changes and restrictions or help you to get back on the ball so that all of your health objectives are met.

Most facilities and providers are setting plans to provide for their clients and customers to accommodate the unpredictable future. The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C. An enormous amount is on the table for this coming fall and winter; if your gym closes again, what is your plan? If outdoor exercising is not an option due to the weather, what is your plan? Leaving things to chance will significantly increase your chances of falling off of your regimen and will make consistency a big problem.

The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C.

Tip 2: Stay active for both mental and physical health benefits

The rise of stress and anxiety as a result of the uncertainty around COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way. Staying active by exercising helps alleviate stress by releasing chemicals like serotonin and endorphins in your brain. In turn, these released chemicals can help improve your mood and even reduce risk of depression and cognitive decline. Additionally, physical activity can help boost your immune system and provide long term health benefits.

With the new work-from-home norm, it can be easy to bypass how much time you are spending sedentary. Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity. Struggling to find ways to stay active? Start simple with activities like going for a walk outside, doing a few reps in exchange for extra Netflix time, or even setting an alarm to move during your workday.

Tip 3: Start slow and strong

If you, like many others during the pandemic shift, have taken some time off of your normal fitness routine, don't push yourself to dive in head first, as this may lead to burnout, injury, and soreness. Plan to start at 50 percent of the volume and intensity of prior workouts when you return to the gym. Inactivity eats away at muscle mass, so rather than focusing on cardio, head to the weights or resistance bands and work on rebuilding your strength.

Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity.

Tip 4: If your gym is open, prepare to sanitize

In a study published earlier this year, researchers found drug-resistant bacteria, the flu virus, and other pathogens on about 25 percent of the surfaces they tested in multiple athletic training facilities. Even with heightened gym cleaning procedures in place for many facilities, if you are returning to the gym, ensuring that you disinfect any surfaces before and after using them is key.

When spraying disinfectant, wait a few minutes to kill the germs before wiping down the equipment. Also, don't forget to wash your hands frequently. In an enclosed space where many people are breathing heavier than usual, this can allow for a possible increase in virus droplets, so make sure to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Staying in the know and preparing for new gym policies will make it easy to return to these types of facilities as protocols and mutual respect can be agreed upon.

Tip 5: Have a good routine that extends outside of just your fitness

From work to working out, many routines have faltered during the COVID pandemic. If getting back into the routine seems daunting, investing in a new exercise machine, trainer, or small gadget can help to motivate you. Whether it's a larger investment such as a Peloton, a smaller device such as a Fitbit, or simply a great trainer, something new and fresh is always a great stimulus and motivator.

Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine.

Just because you are working from home with a computer available 24/7 doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your entire day to work. Setting work hours, just as you would in the office, can help you to stay focused and productive.

A good night's sleep is also integral to obtaining and maintaining a healthy and effective routine. Adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night for their best health and wellbeing, so prioritizing your sleep schedule can drastically improve your day and is an important factor to staying healthy. Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine. This can help the rest of your day feel normal while the uncertainty of working from home continues.

Tip 6: Focus on food and nutrition

In addition to having a well-rounded daily routine, eating at scheduled times throughout the day can help decrease poor food choices and unhealthy cravings. Understanding the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy can help you stay more alert, but they do vary from person to person. If you are unsure of your suggested nutritional intake, check out a nutrition calculator.

If you are someone that prefers smaller meals and more snacks throughout the day, make sure you have plenty of healthy options, like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins available (an apple a day keeps the hospital away). While you may spend most of your time from home, meal prepping and planning can make your day flow easier without having to take a break to make an entire meal in the middle of your work day. Most importantly, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

Tip 7: Don't forget about your mental health

While focusing on daily habits and routines to improve your physical health is important, it is also a great time to turn inward and check in with yourself. Perhaps your anxiety has increased and it's impacting your work or day-to-day life. Determining the cause and taking proactive steps toward mitigating these occurrences are important.

For example, with the increase in handwashing, this can also be a great time to practice mini meditation sessions by focusing on taking deep breaths. This can reduce anxiety and even lower your blood pressure. Keeping a journal and writing out your daily thoughts or worries can also help manage stress during unpredictable times, too.

While the future of COVI9-19 and our lives may be unpredictable, you can manage your personal uncertainties by focusing on improving the lifestyle factors you can control—from staying active to having a routine and focusing on your mental health—to make sure that you emerge from this pandemic as your same old self or maybe even better.