Four Simple Habits That Will Change Your Life

4min read

Photo credit: Kiley Shai

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.

5 Min Read

Judge Tanya Acker On Overcoming Racial Barriers And Her Rise To The Top

You may recognize Judge, Tanya Acker, from her political and legal commentary on different networks and shows like Good Morning America, The Talk, Wendy Williams, CNN Reports or The Insider. Acker is more than an experienced commentator. She is also a Judge on the fifth season of Emmy nominated CBS show, Hot Bench.

Acker's career has been built around key moments and professional experiences in her life.

The show, created by Judge Judy, is a new take on the court genre. Alongside Acker, are two other judges: Patricia DiMango and Michael Corriero. Together the three-panel judges take viewers inside the courtroom and into their chambers. “I feel like my responsibility on the show is, to be honest, fair, [and] to try and give people a just and equitable result," Acker says. She is accomplished, honest and especially passionate about her career. In fact, Acker likes the fact that she is able to help people solve problems. “I think that efficient ways of solving disputes are really at the core of modern life.

“We are a very diverse community [with] different values, backgrounds [and] beliefs. It's inevitable that we're going to find ourselves in some conflicts. I enjoy being a part of a process where you can help resolve the conflicts and diffuse them," she explains.

Acker's career has been built around key moments and professional experiences in her life. Particularly, her time working right after college impacted the type of legal work she takes on now.

Shaping Her Career

Acker didn't foresee doing this kind of work on television when she was in college at either Howard University or Yale Law. “I was really open in college about what would happen next," Acker comments. “In fact, I deliberately chose a major (English) that wouldn't lock me into anything [because] I wanted to keep all of my options open." Her inevitable success on the show and throughout her career is an example of that. In fact, after graduating from Yale, Acker served as a judicial law clerk to Judge Dorothy Nelson who sits on the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

It was not only her first job out of law school but also one of the formative experiences of her professional life. “[Judge Nelson is] certainly, if not my most important professional influence," Acker says. “She is really the living embodiment of justice, fairness, and believes in being faithful to the letter and the spirit of the law," she exclaims. “She delivers it all with a lot of love." Judge Nelson is still on the bench and is continuing to work through her Foundation: The Western Justice Center in Pasadena, California, where Acker serves on the board. The foundation helps people seeking alternative ways of resolving their disputes instead of going to court.

"I enjoy being a part of a process where you can help resolve the conflicts and diffuse them," she explains.

“It was important to her to try and create platforms for people to resolve conflict outside of court because court takes a long time," Acker explains. “I'm proud to be a part of that work and to sit on that board."

After her clerkship, she was awarded a Bristow Fellowship and continued building her career. Outside of the fellowship, Acker's legal work incorporated a broad variety of matters from civil litigation, constitutional cases, business counseling, and advising. One of her most memorable moments was representing a group of homeless people against the city. “They were being fought for vagrancy and our defense was, they had no place to go," she shares.

As part of her pro bono work, Acker was awarded the ACLU's First Amendment Award for her success with the case. Though, she has a hard time choosing from one of many memorable moments on Hot Bench. Acker does share a few of the things that matter to her. “Our show is really drawn from a cross-section of courtrooms across America and the chance to engage with such a diverse group of people really means a lot to me," she discusses.

How Did Acker Become A Judge?

In addition to Judge Nelson, Judge Judy is certainly among her top professional influences. “I think it's incredible [and] I feel very lucky that my professional career has been bookended by these incredible judges," she acclaims. “I've really learned a lot from Judy about this job, doing this kind of job on television." Before Acker was selected for Hot Bench, she hadn't been a judge. It was Judge Judy who recommended that she get some experience. Acker briefly comments on her first experience as a temporary judge on a volunteer basis in traffic court. “I was happy to be able to have the chance to kind of get a feel for it before we started doing the show," she comments. “Judy is a wonderful, kind, generous person [and] she's taught me quite a lot. I feel lucky."

Judge Acker in white pantsuit with her dog. Photo Courtesy of Annie Shak.

Acker's Time Away From Home

Outside of Hot Bench, Acker took recent trips to Haiti and Alabama. They were memorable and meaningful.

Haiti, in particular, was the first trip she excitedly talks about. She did some work there in an orphanage as part of LOVE Takes Root, an organization that is driven to help children around the world whether it's basic aid or education. “Haiti has a special place in my heart," she began. “As a person who's descended from enslaved people, I have a lot of honor and reverence for a country that threw off the shackles of slavery."

She was intrigued by the history of Haiti. Especially regarding the communities, corrupt government and natural disasters. “They really had to endure a lot, but I tell you this when I was there, I saw people who were more elegant, dignified, gracious and generous as any group of people I've ever met anywhere in the world," she goes on. “I think it left me with was a strong sense of how you can be graceful and elegant under fire." Acker is optimistic about the country's overall growth and success.

“[Judge Nelson is] certainly, if not my most important professional influence," Acker says. “She is really the living embodiment of justice, fairness, and believes in being faithful to the letter and the spirit of the law."

“There are certainly times when people treated me differently or made assumptions about me because I was a black woman," Acker says. “I've got it much better, but that doesn't mean it's perfect...it certainly isn't, but you just have to keep it moving."

Her other trip was different in more ways than one. She traveled there for the first time with her mother as part of a get out to vote effort, that Alabama's First black House Minority Leader, Anthony Daniels was organizing. “It was incredible to take that trip with her [and] I've got to tell you, the South of today is not the South of my mother's upbringing," she explains. Originally from Mississippi, Acker's mother hasn't been back in the South since 1952. “Every place has a ways to go, but it was a really exciting trip [and] it was nice for me to connect with that part of the country and that part of my history."

Overcoming Racial Barriers

As a black woman, Acker has certainly faced challenges based on her race and gender. But it doesn't define who she is or what she can accomplish. “There are certainly times when people treated me differently or made assumptions about me because I was a black woman," she says. “There's no sort of barrier that someone would attempt to impose upon me that they didn't attempt to impose on my mother, grandmother or great-grandmother." In a space where disparity is sometimes apparent, she recognizes that there is no barrier someone would try to impose on her that they didn't attempt to impose on her mother or grandmothers. “I've got it much better, but that doesn't mean it's perfect...it certainly isn't, but you just have to keep it moving," Acker states. The conversation continues truthfully and seriously. Acker shares what it can be like for black women, specifically. “I think we're underestimated and we can be disrespected, whereas other folks are allowed the freedom to enjoy a full range of emotions and feelings," she articulates.

At times black women are often restricted from expressing themselves. “If someone wants to make an assumption or jump to a conclusion about me because of my race or gender, that's on them, but their assumptions aren't going to define me," Acker declares. “If something makes me angry or happy I will express that and if someone wants to caricature me, that's their pigeonholing; that's not my problem." A lifelong lesson she learned and shared is to not let other people define who you are. It is one of three bits of wisdom.

Three Pieces Of Advice From Judge Acker

The Power Of Self-awareness

“It's really important that you have a really firm sense of what you want to do and be, and how you're moving in the world because when people try to sway you, judge you or steer you off course you've got to have some basis for getting back on track."

Know Your Support System

“Have a strong community of people who you trust, love and who love you," she advises. “But also learn to love and trust yourself because sometimes it's your own voice that can provide you the most comfort or solace in something."

Learn From Your Experiences

“Trust yourself. Take care of yourself. Don't be too hard on yourself. Be honest with yourself.

“There are times when it's not enough to say this is who I am. Take it or leave it. Sometimes we've got things that we need to work on, change or improve upon," she concludes.

Acker stands out not only because of her accomplishments, but the way she views certain aspects of her life. These days, she's comfortable accepting what makes her different. “I think there's a time when you're younger when conformity feels comfortable, [but] I'm comfortable these days not conforming," she laughs. She enjoys being a decision maker and helping people work through it on Hot Bench.

This article was originally published May 15, 2019.