It’s a new year. That small voice in your head has been nudging you to make a change. You realize you have the potential to feel better. The possibility of more energy excites you. And having a bit more clarity on why you act and feel the way you do would be nice too. Only problem is you aren’t exactly sure where to start. With all the information out there it can get a little overwhelming, and a complete lifestyle overhaul seems a little daunting.
This past weekend, I was talking with new friends I met while spending some time in the mountains. After explaining to them that I was a Spiritual Success & Wellness Coach and what that entailed, I was asked a really great question. One of the guys in the group let me know he had tried cutting out sugar cold turkey last January and that it had ended in disaster, but he really wanted to feel better. He asked me to tell him my top 5 small changes to get started on creating healthy change. He wasn’t looking for anything drastic, just 5 subtle shifts he could implement right away. Read on to get my 5 small steps for creating big change for a physical and mental up-level in your life.
- Start a mediation practice.
Anytime anyone asks me what they can start doing today to create a healthy shift in their life, my first answer is always mediation. Mediation is proven to reduce stress, anxiety and blood pressure. Beyond that though, it is a powerful tool that helps you to connect to your creative source. It’s the place where you receive inspiration, answers, solace and peace. Mediation is my most cherished time because I am able to connect with myself and sort through what really matters. It’s where I align and gather inner strength.
Your mediation doesn’t have to be a big, intimidating production. You can simply wake up 10 minutes earlier than normal and sit on the couch while you pay attention to your breath. Seriously, it’s that simple.
My 3 favorite types of meditation for beginners are:
- Breathwork: Get quiet, close your eyes if that’s comfortable, and begin taking deep breaths. Simply pay attention to your breath. If thoughts come up, that’s fine. Acknowledge them, and let them pass. Set a timer so you aren’t worrying about how long you’ve been at it the whole time., The less distractions the better.
- Guided Meditation: There are lots of great apps and podcasts out there with really lovely guided meditations. A guided meditation is typically pre-recorded and set to peaceful background music. The voice on the other end is leading you with prompts and thoughts to shape your experience. This is great for those who have monkey mind and racing thoughts. They are also great if you want to focus on a specific topic…simply scroll through and find one with a title that appeals to you and have at it.
- Mantra Meditation: Close your eyes and breathe deeply. With your eyes closed repeat a simple mantra for whatever amount of time you want. 3 minutes is a great amount of time to start with. Use the mantra to pull your thoughts back in. Use whatever word resonates with you, some options could be “One, Ohm, Love, Peace, I Am, Thank you”.
Remember it’s called a practice for a reason. Keep at it with the intention of growing and developing your practice. Be gentle with yourself. Start small and build up time the more comfortable you get.
- Implement a stress response tool or two.
Start to become aware of how you respond to a stressful situation, person, conversation, etc. I always remind my clients to use the phrase, “The world is happening around me, not to me.” Have you ever said something like, “Ugh, the roads were nuts today. Everyone was driving like a jerk trying to hit me!”. The world isn’t out to get you, but if you take every situation as a personal attack, then it will start to feel like that. Start to think about what you do when a stressful situation arises. Do you get all worked up, stressed out and overwhelmed? What’s your initial reaction? Do you get pissed off, call a friend to mull over the situation, gossip, look for someone to blame, retreat inwardly? Before you reach for one of those negative responses, try implementing a tool to help you manage (and maybe even diffuse) the situation. Start finding tools to put into your stress management tool-box. A few of my favorites:
- 5 Cycles of Belly Breathing. Belly breathing, otherwise known as diaphragmatic breathing, is when you fill your belly with air on the inhale, then push all of the air out on the exhale. It’s easiest when you start on an exhale, pushing all of your breath out making space for the new air to come in. Inhale slowly, let your belly expand as if you swallowed a beach ball then push the air out, When you do this you are triggering your vegus nerve which activates a physical response helping you to relax. Try this one out next time a seemingly difficult situation arises before you react.
- Become the observer of your thoughts. Before you react in a negative way, take a few moments to ask yourself why you feel upset and if there’s a way you can reframe the situation. Put a name to your feelings (I feel sad, angry, confused, neglected), then ask yourself why you feel that way. I’m not asking you to solve the whole problem, but by simply putting a name to your emotion and observing it, you are taking power away from the situation and giving power to your inner guidance system to drive your response.
- Ask yourself: “Would I rather be right or happy?”. This is such a powerful question that can quickly derail your anger or negative emotions. Ask yourself the question, take a few breaths and align with what you would rather. If happiness and peace is your answer simply let go of your negative emotion and allow the situation to unfold around you.
- Start to notice how much sugar your are consuming
Cutting out sugar cold-turkey can be really tough. It’s more addictive than cocaine and also has nasty withdrawal symptoms. The first step to significantly reducing your intake is by simply noticing how much you are consuming. Start looking at the labels and ingredients of the foods you are eating, when you go to eat them. Just start to take note of how many grams of sugar you are having. This also includes artificial sweeteners (which will show up as zero grams so look at the ingredient list). For a week or two just notice and be aware and start thinking about real foods you like that you could reach for instead, like fruit or nuts and seeds, or flavored sparkling water instead of sodas. I’m not asking you to make the swaps right away, just let the thoughts of potential swaps start to rise to the surface.
4.Notice how much you are sitting vs. moving your body.
Our bodies are made to move. Over the next week or two simply take note of how much you are sitting down versus the amount you are moving. Keep note of it so you can look back over the day and get a grasp on it. Just jot down the time when you sat down and when you got up. It can be as simple as that. Start to think about ways you like to move your body (walking, cycling, dancing, hula-hooping, swimming, yoga, doing the hokey pokey…it doesn’t matter! Whatever you enjoy). Take those things you like and start to think about how and when you could infuse more of those actions into your day.
- Start a gratitude practice.
The power of being thankful for what you have is strong. The power for being thankful for that which you desire (and acting like it’s already coming your way) is even more powerful! Gratitude cultivates happiness, appreciation and joy. The great paradox here is that the more you give thanks, the more those things start to come into your life. It’s the Law of Attraction. The effects of appreciation and gratitude can literally be felt physically and have the power to impact your heart waves.. Your heart waves literally change when you are in a state of gratitude. And those heartwaves can be felt as far as 3 feet away! So when you are in a space of gratitude your presence is felt and infuses your space with a calming effect. 2 ways to start a gratitude practice:
- Before you even get out of bed name three things you are grateful for. This could be as simple as your pillow and the fact that you had heat to keep you warm that night.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Pick a time of day and write 3, 5, 10 (or whatever number strikes your fancy) things that you are thankful for. Do it every day.
- Keep a large mason jar in your house. At the end of the day write something you are thankful for on a small piece of paper and throw it in the jar. Having the jar out is a visual reminder that you have something to be thankful for. It’s also a great practice kids can participate in too!
So there you have it. 5 simple activities you can implement right away to get started on your wellness journey. Mediate, Healthy responses to stress, notice sugar, notice movement, and be thankful. Easy enough right?! Have you tried any of those out? If so, I’d love to hear from you! What’s one shift that helped you kick of you journey into wellness?
Meg Sylvester is a Spiritual Success and Wellness Coach whose mission is to guide client’s to a life that lights them up. Combining principles in positive psychology, nutrition, and functional medicine with spiritual principles and mind-body techniques like mediation, Meg makes a lifestyle shift into health and wellness a beautiful, inspiring journey that creates lasting change. To learn more on how you can work with Meg, click here.