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    How I’m Learning to Live a More Authentic Life

    I love a romantic comedy. The predictability of the storyline and the inevitable happy ending sucks me in every time. I watch them on rainy days, I watch them on days when I have cramps, and I watch them on days when I’m feeling down. I’ve seen hundreds of romantic comedies, yet I’ve never seen one that is a true reflection of my authentic life. There’s no romantic story that features a Black bohemian femme who goes to college three times to figure out that the career she’s best suited for doesn’t actually need a degree at all. They have not written my story because my life doesn’t fit the typical mold. I’m a 37-year-old world-traveling free-spirit, living my most authentic life. My life wasn’t always this way, but today I can say that I love my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

    There’s no romantic story that features a Black bohemian femme who goes to college three times to figure out that the career she’s best suited for doesn’t actually need a degree at all.

    From a young age, I realized that I wasn’t your typical child. My interests were different from my friends, the way I wanted to dress was different from my sisters, and my Christmas lists for Santa were filled with non-traditional items. I remember one year I asked for a hot stone massager and essential oils—and this was the ‘90s, so the term “self-care” as we know it now wasn’t even invented yet.
    I struggled through high school because everyone was so excited to go to college. My friends wanted to be nurses and teachers and seemed like they had it all figured out at the age of 18. I didn’t want to go to college. I asked my mom if I could rent a van and travel the country (#vanlife) when I graduated instead of going to college, and she turned me down faster than the speed of light. 
    I was frustrated because I wasn’t given options to explore what I wanted and what was important to me. It didn’t’ feel like college was the right next step, and I wanted time to explore what felt right for my journey. I grew up in a small town, and the lifestyle that was available to me in my hometown was not the lifestyle that I wanted for myself. I had no idea how to mentally and physically get out, yet I was screaming on the inside for somebody to let me go. I was craving freedom and wanted permission to explore all the options that were available to me.
    Instead, I was pushed into following the same steps that everyone else was following, but those choices never made sense to me. I went to college and followed the rules, and if I look back on it now, college was a giant waste of time. Yes, I had fun, but that fun cost me $30,000 in student loans. 

    I was pushed into following the same steps that everyone else was following, but those choices never made sense to me.

    After I graduated from college, I was still trying to figure out how to lead a “normal” life. I got a 9-5 job, a one-bedroom apartment, and moved to Philadelphia to try my hand at adulting. I remember going shopping to get professional clothes (of which I had none). Everyone was so excited as I came out of the dressing room in different versions of dress pants, blouses, and black flats. I’ve never felt like crawling out of my skin more than I did on that day. 
    I believe that moving to Philadelphia (even though corporate life wasn’t for me) was the turning point in my life. Living in a big city on my own gave me the adult playground I craved for in highschool. In Philly,  I was able to encounter different cultures, lifestyles, foods, and careers that I wouldn’t have had access to in my hometown. I remember the first time I tasted Indian food. Wow! I fell instantly in love. The flavors and spices that I experienced that night were completely new to me. I was never exposed to Indian food growing and my mind was blown. If a simple dining experience could open up my mind in this way, I was excited to see what other new experiences were ahead of me. 
    It felt as if I was getting a second education, and this knowledge proved to be more beneficial to me than my geometry class ever was. Because I was able to interact with so many different people I felt confident to show who I truly was. Seeing different lifestyles exist and thrive allowed me to take that first steps to uncover my truth. I went from an unfulfilled, suit-wearing, meat-eating 22-year-old to a happy, thriving, afro-wearing, free-spirit 37-year-old! That transition didn’t happen overnight.  I knew what it felt like to live someone else’s life and I wasn’t willing to do it anymore, so I slowly began making changes that honored who I was. I wanted to celebrate what I loved about myself and stop hiding who I was from the rest of the world. It was time for me to step out as my full self, and I was ready to take that journey. 

    Seeing different lifestyles exist and thrive allowed me to take that first steps to uncover my truth.

    I spent 20+ years being someone I thought I was “supposed to be.” It wasn’t until I started paying attention and honoring who I truly was and what I needed that I began to lead my most authentic life.

    If you want to start living your life on your own terms, ask yourself these three questions:

    What do I love about myself?
    This was not a question that was posed to me growing up, so it wasn’t something I focused on until I was in my 20s. When you ask, “What do I love about myself?” you begin to unlock clues and truths that are meant to be seen. I discovered that I loved my creativity and that creativity was meant to be celebrated. As a child, I was always creating. I sang, danced, cooked, and came up with “science experiments” out of thin air. My thoughts bounce around and don’t necessarily follow a linear pattern. I think my creative mind frustrated the adults in my life, so I was never pushed to use it. Realizing that my creative mind pushed me to brainstorm and innovate allowed me to strengthen this muscle and has become one of my most valuable assets.
    Answer honestly. Let whatever answers come up to be the start of something new. Once you have your list, see if you can use that information to make some small changes. Did you realize that you love your funky fashion sense? Head out to the thrift stores and buy a few favorite items. Not everything on your list will change your life dramatically, but starting small can begin to build the confidence to continue living life on your own terms. Remember, the things you love about yourself may just be your most valuable asset too!

    What and how am I hiding?
    It was easier for me to hide in corporate work clothes than walk into a room rocking a tie-dyed kaftan with a full afro. Hiding who I was and what was important to me was a coping mechanism I created. In the ‘90s where I grew up, the kaftan version of me would have been too much for people to handle. It felt safer to hide that piece of me from the rest of the world instead of walking in my full truth. In hindsight, if I would have continued to stay hidden, I would have never allowed my creativity to help me build the successful business that I have today. That business has allowed me to help so many people, and I never would have gotten there if I continued to hide who I was. 

    It was easier for me to hide in corporate work clothes than walk into a room rocking a tie-dyed kaftan with a full afro.

    Are you hiding? Why? When you hide, who you are you limit yourself from experiencing your full life? You were created in your unique way, and the world needs to see you fully. Stop hiding and walk in your truth one step at a time. 
    In 2005, I decided that I wanted to do the big chop and begin to wear my hair completely natural. I gathered all of my courage and headed to the only Black salon in Philadelphia doing natural hair at the time and cut my shoulder-length hair down to one inch. When I walked out of that salon, it was undeniable that I looked fly. From that point on, I could no longer hide. 
    Discovering how and why you are hiding could require you to make some uncomfortable decisions. There is a reason why you have been hiding, and walking out as your full self may take some time. Be patient with yourself and take it slowly. Ask yourself, “Where do I feel safe as the real me?” Maybe spend some time there and see how it feels. It may just be five minutes, and that’s OK. Know that every day won’t feel like a party, but the work you are doing is important and necessary. 

    Where can I begin to walk in my truth?
    Living an authentic life takes time. It’s unlikely that you will be able to go from 0-100 in 24 hours (although if you do, I will be your biggest cheerleader), so find a place to start. The first unveiling of my truth came when I went cold turkey and became a vegetarian. I was no longer at home having to eat whatever was cooked for dinner. I could make my own choices, and vegetarianism made sense for me. Could I have quit my job, packed my car, cut my hair, and traveled the world? No. That wasn’t an option for me, so I started small. 
    You don’t have to make giant life-altering decisions to live your truth. Why not explore your love of writing by journaling for five minutes each day? There is much satisfaction from small changes that ultimately honor the real you. Take your time and discover the real you at your own pace; even one thing a week can lead to big changes! Every step forward unveils something new. Have fun and enjoy the process. 
    Living my most authentic life is non-negotiable. Our individuality is what makes us special, and we need to honor that uniqueness time and time again. Standing in your truth might be scary, but it’s what we are called here to do. Explore the freedom in being unapologetically you 365 days a year. Celebrate what you love about yourself, step into the light, and one step at a time, you will get closer and closer to living your most authentic life. More

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    After Years of Painful Periods, I Finally Got a Diagnosis Explaining Why

    As I age, I’m finding comfort in unlearning things I thought were the gospel. From the moment aunt flow said, “Hey girl, I’m here to make your life miserable for one week a month” as a teen, I thought heavy, painful periods were normal. I’ve spent most of my life thinking that my experience was just a part of being a woman. I was lucky to have a doctor in my youth give me some tools to help with my pain. She recommended taking Motrin a few days before my period was set to appear, but on my toughest days, a hot water bottle was her only other piece of advice.She kept a watchful eye on things until I aged off of my parents’ health insurance at 26. It almost seemed like as soon as I got the boot off of my parent’s health insurance, I started to experience heavier cycles and cramps that lasted the full seven days of my period. Truthfully, I’d taken my ability to see a doctor for granted because it was something that was a natural part of my upbringing. Taking my healthcare access for granted caused me to delay sharing these abnormalities with my doctor while I had the chance. 
    Three years went by where I had no healthcare. One day I woke up and finally saw paying for my healthcare out of pocket via the marketplace as an adult action idea that couldn’t wait. After enrolling, I made an appointment at the same Kaiser location I’d visited as a child. Before my appointment, I researched fibroids. I knew that all of the women in my family had them. So, I went into my appointment, hoping for confirmation—at least then I’d know what was wrong. 
    I told my doctor about my concerns. I first asked if fibroids were hereditary, to which he said no. Once he said no, I took the rest of his commentary at face value. His disregard for my pain and overall health shouldn’t have been a surprise given the history of Black women and the healthcare system. The statistics don’t lie. Black women experience discrimination and bias within the healthcare system. This implicit bias didn’t just start in the days of Jim Crow. Black women were used for inhumane experiments by the “father of modern gynecology” during slavery and endured forced sterilization throughout much of the 20th century. 
    So a white male doctor writing me off is expected, not the exception. The healthcare system wasn’t made with me in mind. My ER visit in Los Angeles because of his negligence, just three months after moving to the city of sunshine and celebrities, confirmed that.

    Getting Diagnosed
    I knew then that it was my job to advocate for myself. Because of my negative experience with this doctor, I make it my mission to share my experience with women I speak to one-on-one and emphasize the importance of taking your reproductive health seriously. Everyone’s experience with fibroids will be different. For me, my symptoms were hard to miss: large blot clots, severe pain, sharp back pain, and even a pudge in my stomach. For others, there are no symptoms. However, the generally benign tumors can affect some women during pregnancy and as they age. If you want a more detailed list of symptoms, I found that The Fibroid Foundation was a valuable tool in my own research.

    Here are a few things I’ve learned on my road to being diagnosed with fibroids.

    When something feels even a little off, see a doctor.
    Whenever someone asks me about my experience with fibroids, that first thing I say is I should have gone to see a doctor sooner. Well, I actually should have gotten a second opinion. The idea that painful and heavy periods are normal is an outdated norm. No one should have to spend days in their bed popping 1600mg of painkillers and bleeding through ultra tampons in minutes because we have been conditioned to think this is “normal.” 
    There are holes in our healthcare system, and because of this, all Americans don’t have access to healthcare. Not to mention, those who do can’t always afford the additional testing, co-pays, or the surgeries that might be a necessity. My laparoscopic myomectomy was $8,000 with health insurance. 
    I don’t have the answers to fixing our broken system, but for those with access to healthcare: stop putting off scheduling that appointment. For those without health coverage, Planned Parenthood is an excellent resource for pap smears and pelvic exams that can help detect fibroids, and they offer financial assistance. Fibroids, aside from causing pain and heavy bleeding, can cause severe anemia and sometimes impact fertility.  

    Have a list of questions 
    The time you have scheduled with your doctor is your time. Use it. If you’ve gone down the Google search rabbit hole or a question pops into your head before your appointment, write all of that down. Having a list of questions ensures you don’t forget any of your concerns or that a doctor who may be trying to rush you out the door can’t steer the conversation. I asked questions like, “What are fibroids? What helps them grow? What are the benefits of surgery? Can I have children even with fibroids?”
    When I got my second opinion, my doctor encouraged me to ask questions. She even asked me questions about my family planning goals to get a better idea of what was best for me at the time. You are the driver of your health. Own that seat and make sure the person on the passenger side cares about your health too. 

    Get a second opinion
    I can still visualize the doctor dismissing me while I sat in a backless gown on the plush table with loud white paper under me. I was 30 at the time of that appointment. I still had a somewhat authoritative point of view of doctors. I’d always been taught that doctors are the experts. After my experience with him, I finally understood why people distrust doctors. Finding a practitioner that will care for you with compassion can be a challenge. For that reason, I encourage you to seek a second opinion if you know something isn’t right. My ER visit wasn’t ideal. However, that experience is how I was matched with a Black female doctor specializing in helping women with fibroids. 
    When looking for a new doctor, I recommend starting with your inner circle if they’re in the same location. If that’s not an option, think about what you want in a doctor and reach out to your insurance company to get a list of doctors that are currently accepting new patients, then Google and look at reviews before scheduling an appointment. At your first appointment, you will get a feel for if the person is right for you. Your gut won’t lead you astray as long as you’re willing to listen to it. Learning to advocate for yourself doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a muscle you have to build. Give yourself some grace. 

    Do what’s best for you
    I wrote my first story about dealing with fibroids in 2017 just as I was processing what my new diagnosis meant for me. I was inundated with the DMs and unsolicited advice from outsiders who had no idea what my health specifics were at the time. I had women telling me not to get surgery; I had others telling me they’d wholly gotten rid of their fibroids with special diets and supplements. 
    They were coming from a good place; however, their advice felt like judgment. The laparoscopic myomectomy was best for me at the time. One of my largest fibroids was sitting smack dab in the middle of my uterus, along with a polyp that helped make my bleeding worse. $8,000 later, I don’t regret it. I still have fibroids, and the fibroid causing all the trouble may just grow back. That is just the nature of the tumors. 
    Bleeding through my clothes and bedding is still a thing. I also still have painful days. You may be thinking, “You went through all of that for minimal change.” I think it’s all about perspective. For me, the little changes have made a significant difference. I don’t have to take iron pills that make me nauseous because I’m no longer anemic. I have shorter cycles (five days instead of seven), even if I still have heavy, painful days. I’m no longer bleeding through an ultra tampon in minutes. These are all pros. Going into my surgery, I thought it would “cure” me. There is no cure for fibroids. However, there are things you can choose to make life better. 
    My doctor and I came up with a comprehensive step-by-step plan that was best for me. This plan included birth control. I know that some people don’t like birth control. I don’t particularly appreciate having to take a synthetic hormone every day, but I will continue to take it if that means a better quality of life. Without my birth control, I’d be anemic and dangerously close to a blood transfusion. 
    If you want to change your diet, do it. If you want to try natural supplements, give them a try. If you want to lean into hormone therapy recommended by your doctor, give it a try. Your choices are just that: yours. 

    Please consult a doctor before beginning any treatments. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical or mental health condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article. More

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    50 Positive Affirmations You Should Tell Yourself

    Every now and then, there are days when you just need a little pick-me-up. You can blame it on the weather, on the wrong side of the bed, that horrible thing that your co-worker said, or That Time of The Month. However, this doesn’t mean you should talk down to yourself and allow those negative thoughts to marinate. To combat those not-so-great feels, we curated a healthy list of positive affirmations you should tell yourself and bookmark so you can always come back to remind yourself just how awesome you are.
    1. I’m allowed to take up space.
    2. My past is not a reflection of my future.
    3. I am smart enough to make my own decisions.
    4. I’m in control of how I react to others.
    5. I choose peace.

    6. I’m courageous and stand up for myself.
    7. I will succeed today.
    8. I deserve to have joy in my life.
    9. I’m worthy of love.
    10. I approve of myself and love myself deeply.
    11. My body is healthy, and I’m grateful.
    12. I’m more at ease every day.
    13. I’m calm, happy, and content.
    14. My life is a gift and I appreciate everything I have.
    15. I’ll surround myself with positive people who will help bring out the best in me.
    16. I don’t need someone else to feel happiness.
    17. I’m allowed to take the time to heal.
    18. My imperfections make me unique.
    19. I’m allowed to make mistakes; they don’t make up my whole story.
    20. I choose not to criticize myself or others around me.
    21. My potential to succeed is limitless.

    22. Difficult times are part of my journey and allow me to appreciate the good.
    23. I forgive those who have hurt me.
    24. I’m in charge of my life and no one will dictate my path besides me.
    25. I’m doing my best and that is enough.
    26. I have the power to create change.
    27. I know exactly what to do to achieve success.
    28. I choose to be proud of myself and the things I choose to do.
    29. I will not compare myself to strangers on the Internet.
    30. I am enough.
    31. I let go of all that no longer serves me.
    32. I love myself fully, including the way I look.
    33. My life becomes richer as I get older.
    34. I can absolutely do anything I put my mind to.
    35. I’m worthy of respect and acceptance.
    36. My contributions to the world are valuable.

    37. My needs and wants are important.
    38. I make a significant difference to the lives of people around me.
    39. I am blessed with an amazing family and friends.
    40. I attract money easily into my life.
    41. My life is full of amazing opportunities that are ready for me to step into.
    42. I’m free to create the life I desire.
    43. I’m open to new adventures in my life.
    44. I’m bold, beautiful, and brilliant.
    45. My body shape is perfect in the way it’s intended to be.
    46. When I allow my light to shine, I unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
    47. No amount of guilt can change the past, and no amount of worrying can change the future.
    48. To make small steps toward big goals is progress.
    49. Negative thoughts only have the power I allow them.
    50. I can choose to make my curses my blessings.

    This article was originally published on April 22, 2018. More

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    My Daily Routine in Quarantine That Has Made a Huge Difference in My Health

    We all have daily routines. Big or small, healthy or unhealthy, our routines become habits that shape who we become. Sounds heavy, right? My daily routines sometimes look like Epsom salt baths, jade rolling while meditating, and checking every item off my to-do list while having enough time to add the exact adaptogen blend that’s best for my current energy state into my matcha latte. Other days look more like shoveling an entire box of Annie’s White Cheddar Mac n’ Cheese (the best kind. You can @ me on it) while working through lunch and bingeing Selling Sunset after dinner until I realize it’s 1am.Typically though, my days alternate between varying degrees of both examples. Routines don’t have to be total transformations or all-or-nothing, as if getting to bed too late or eating a candy bar after dinner cancels out the healthy rituals you kept up with all day. I’ve recently adopted a few specific habits while in quarantine that has made a huge difference in my overall health and wellbeing, and might improve yours too. Remember that it doesn’t have to be a major transformation for any of these routines to make an impact; even just one minor change can crowd out an unhealthy habit or make a huge difference on its own. Here are the daily routines that have made the biggest difference for me: 

    I keep technology away from the bedroom
    A relevant preface: I live in a studio apartment. The “bedroom” is also my workspace, eating space, sleep space, and living space, so I never thought the “no-technology-in-the-bedroom” rule could apply to me and the 650 square-feet that I call home. I used to charge my laptop in an outlet next to my bedside table, work while sitting in bed at night, and kept my phone next to me overnight. A couple of months ago, I designated a “tech space” at the kitchen table and left devices there to charge, use, and work on.
    Not only did this minor shift in geography transform my evening routine (no more working in bed!), but it transformed my morning routine. I no longer lay in bed, scrolling through Instagram until the last second possible. Instead, I get out of bed right away (since I have nothing else to do) and go through my brief morning routine. Not only does it help me sleep better when technology no longer takes over my life, but getting out of bed immediately makes me feel more awake and energized throughout the entire day. Not to mention that I have a better work-life balance as a byproduct, but more on that below. 

    I wake up 10 minutes before I need to
    Speaking of waking up easier, I need you to know that my workday starts at 6:30am. A couple of years ago, my move to southern California was all sunshine and rainbows (literally) besides the fact that my office is on central time. I actually work way better in the early mornings than in the evenings (so I enjoy the earlier end to my day), and I thrive on getting sh*t done before it feels like the rest of the world has woken up, but I’m not going to say that the wake-up part is always easy. Full confession: I used to groggily roll out of bed at 6:15am to quickly brush my teeth and make a cup of lemon water before the workday starts. 
    When quarantine hit and I realized I had to prioritize my mental health even more (though we should be prioritizing ourselves as much as possible, pandemic or not), I knew I had to find more time for myself in the mornings. I challenged myself to get up just 10 minutes before I absolutely need to. I spend those 10 extra minutes doing a meditation, stretching on my yoga mat, going through a full skincare routine, or lighting a candle and getting my day ready. No matter your work start time or when you wake up, getting up 10 minutes earlier than you have to allows you to take your time, keep your mornings calm, and help keep stress down for the rest of the day. 

    I eat fruit for breakfast 
    I get it; I used to do the whole omelet-or-protein-powder-smoothie thing, because my focus was getting in more protein than any other macronutrient or nutrient. When I transformed my nutrition mindset to be about adding more plants, I started eating more fruit in the mornings. After a while, I realized fruit filled me up without making me lethargic or painfully bloated like I usually felt by noon. So now, every morning, I’ll either dress up berries and pears with tahini, cacao nibs, and goji berries (I like to be #extra), and other days, I’ll cut up whatever apples or peaches are in the fridge.
    I have since let go of the idea that I need a protein-heavy breakfast to be healthy and, instead, opt for what makes my body feel its best: fruit. I’ve never felt so energized, had less digestive issues, and even have fewer cravings throughout the day. The lesson to take from this daily routine is not that you should eat fruit for breakfast too. Instead, the lesson is to listen to your body to identify what’s best for it. 

    I make the most of my lunch break
    Confession: pre-quarantine Josie used lunch breaks to watch 30 minutes of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (and I would fall asleep for 25 of those minutes) or work through lunch with a salad at my desk (I’ve had to force myself into better work-life balance). I still do love the occasional reality TV to turn off the brain while I cook and eat (nothing quite like fights between Denise and Rinna to help me temporarily forget about work woes and to-do lists), but I feel so much better when I check in with my body to identify the kind of break it really needs. Sometimes that looks like foam rolling, sometimes that’s getting other errands and chores done, and sometimes I go for a walk to get outside. Since making the most of my lunch breaks, I’m more energetic, productive, and happier.  

    I force myself to have a work cut-off time
    So your office hours “end at 5pm,” but 5pm turns into 8pm and you find yourself responding to emails, finishing projects, or putting out fires well into the night? Take it from someone who has been trying to perfect the work-from-home routine for years now: you need a non-negotiable cut-off time. I give myself a reasonable daily cut-off time (typically with an extra hour in case I do need some more time to wrap up), and then make sure that’s it for the rest of the night. Work-life balance starts with leaving work exactly where it belongs: at the office (or at your designated kitchen-table-turned-desk).
    I also transition out of the workday with closing rituals like changing into a(nother) loungewear set, shutting my laptop, tidying up my apartment, and physically crossing off the last item on my to-do list (so satisfying, right?). No matter when your workday ends, turn the last step into a ritual that signals to your brain that it’s no longer work time. (Pssst… a closing ritual is especially a hot tip if you find yourself checking emails throughout the night or can’t fall asleep because you’re worried about your to-do’s for the next day.)

    I make time for social connection
    I’ve previously talked a lot about the social mistakes that pre-quarantine Josie made (besides calling a teacher “mom” in high school and accidentally liking a post from 2015 when stalking a potential love interest, but those wounds aren’t healed enough to talk about yet). To paint you a picture, I used to think I had my shit together because I would go home early on Fridays to avoid being too hungover to make my Saturday morning workout, and would typically skip out on Taco Tuesdays and Wine Wednesdays because I had too much to do during the week.
    Responsible, yes, but I also didn’t acknowledge that social connection is just as important for our health as eating veggies and regularly exercising. Now, I prioritize social connection like I eat leafy greens with two meals a day and consistently move my body. Eating dinner with my boyfriend, Facetiming my college friends, or calling my mom for at least a few minutes every day has made me feel more motivated, fulfilled, happy, and healthy.  

    I drink a cup of tea before bed
    Since quarantine started, I have become all about the rituals. I’ve learned that while it’s hard to do the same thing every single day, there’s a reason children go through an entire nighttime routine to be able to fall asleep (anyone else miss bedtime stories?): rituals become habits that tell our bodies when it’s time for sleep. If some nights we read before bed, some nights we stay out late with friends, and some nights we work until midnight with no consistent rituals, our brains struggle to figure out when it’s time to sleep. Since bedtime is not always as consistent as I’d like it to be, I find consistency in rituals like having a cup of tea after dinner. Not only does a cup of tea get more nutrients into my body (I love peppermint tea, which can help digestion), but I’ve had it so consistently that all it takes to put me to bed is a warm, cozy cup of tea.

    I end my day with yoga or stretches
    In addition to a traditional workout earlier in the day, I’ve started doing yoga or some stretches right before bed, and it has potentially made the biggest difference to my health in the shortest amount of time. The purpose of yoga or stretches before bed is not to exercise my body or burn calories (like what I used to think was the only reason to move). Instead, I see nighttime yoga as 5-10 minutes of screen-free mental stillness. I feel such a drastic difference in my body when I get out of bed in the morning (if I say I typically feel stiff when I wake up, will it make me sound old?), but I also feel a lot more peaceful, calm, and content at night. I fall asleep quicker and stay in a deeper sleep than on days when I don’t fit in any stretching at all. Go through a few stretches tonight and get ready to sleep like a baby (your mind and body can thank me later).

    What daily routine has made the biggest difference in your health? Which of these rituals would you try? More

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    10 Ways to Get Back Into a Healthy Routine for the Colder Seasons

    Whether you took on summer with a margarita in hand and a permanent seat on a lawn chair or went on daily jogs in the warm weather after sipping on green juices, summer isn’t the only chance you have to form healthy routines throughout the year. If 2020 has left you with extra unhealthy habits or you’re still in laid-back summer mode, don’t worry: it’s not too late to get back into a healthy routine. Back-to-school season can feel like a fresh start (even for adults), making it an ideal time to revive habits that will get you through the colder months as healthy and happy as possible. Here are 10 ways to eat better, move your body more, and achieve your health goals through fall and winter. 
    1. Set easy-to-reach goals
    Your inclination may be to set higher goals to push yourself so you achieve more. While lofty goals can challenge you to be your best, hard-to-reach goals can actually prevent you from making progress when you’re trying to get back into a healthy routine. Lofty milestones can feel overwhelming, so start small with goals you know you will be easy and enjoyable to reach (like going on a walk every day or doing yoga for 10 minutes in the morning), and then work your way up. The point of making and hitting milestones is that every achievement builds motivation to achieve even more. Instead of running five miles, losing 10lbs, or eating 100 percent clean by the end of the season, set weekly or daily goals. Try eating leafy greens with two meals a day, drinking eight glasses of water by dinner, or moving your body for 30 minutes for five days a week. 

     
    2. Don’t deprive yourself
    When we want to get back into a healthy routine, it’s tempting to start with the “don’ts:” don’t eat sugar, don’t have processed foods, don’t skip a workout, etc. But depending on rules to get your body to make changes sets up for failure. First of all, we always want what we can’t have, so you’re going to be craving Halloween candy or an apple pie more than you would’ve been if it wasn’t off-limits. More importantly, external rules prevent you from listening to what your body really needs. Maybe your body needs grounding foods or to take a break in order to be healthier, so listen to what your body is telling you. DIY whatever you’re craving with more nourishing options, rest when you need to, and prioritize what brings you joy. True health comes from a place of freedom, intuition, and abundance, not deprivation. 

    3. Get more sleep
    If you couldn’t tell by the shorter days and longer nights, your body is craving more sleep. Don’t push through the tired feeling; use daylight savings as an opportunity to set an earlier bedtime. When you get enough sleep at night, you wake up feeling great, stay energized throughout the day, and are able to make the best choices for your mind and body. Sleep can be the most crucial ingredient for a healthy routine, so prioritize it above anything else. If you have to choose between 7-9 hours of sleep and an early workout or late work night? Choose sleep every time. 

    4. Set support methods along with goals
    You could set the most motivating goals with the best intentions, but they may be too difficult to reach if you’re not looking at the big picture. If your goals are fitness-related, think about the food and lifestyle choices you can make to support that goal, like getting enough sleep and eating whole, energizing foods, so you have the energy to keep up with the exercise routine you want. And if you want to eat cleaner, think of how you can set yourself up for success with meal prepping, healthy snacks, or strategic grocery shopping. No matter what healthy habits you hope to adopt, you have to look at every area of your life to see how you make changes to support those healthy habits. 

    5. Make small tweaks to your diet
    Good news: you don’t have to transform your diet to be healthier (yes, even if you’ve enjoyed too many glasses of rosé over the summer or one too many frozen pizzas in 2020). The most sustainable and effective way to eat healthy (without hating your life)? Make small tweaks to your diet. For example, if pasta is your go-to for dinner, add some kale to the sauce, or order a side salad whenever you order out. You can also try having a smoothie instead of a breakfast sandwich or eating carrots and hummus instead of your usual chips and salsa snack in the afternoon. No matter what tweaks you make, the point is to make one small change at a time, rather than to transform your entire diet at once. In terms of what to change, think of adding more fruit and vegetables rather than taking away any foods that are a part of your routine.

    6. Start with stretching
    Even an athlete doesn’t get back into a fitness routine by running a 10k; don’t expect your strength and endurance to be the same as it was the last time you had a consistent exercise routine. Whether you were a gym rat pre-virus, work out here and there, or have never cared much about exercise before, start with stretching. Stretching will likely feel less daunting than weight training or cardio, so it’s a good way to start moving your body again. Also, stretching keeps muscles flexible, strong, and healthy. Without stretching, the muscles shorten and become tight, so any strenuous activity meant to strengthen them could cause joint pain, muscle damage, or strains. There’s also a wide variety of other benefits to stretching, including mental health; try these stretches to help anxiety or these to get a better night’s sleep. 

    7. Enjoy the season
    Just because the days of jogging on the beach and swimming in the pool are over, it doesn’t mean the rest of the seasons can’t help you be active and healthy too. Instead of staying inside on your couch 24/7 (although we’ll definitely be doing a lot of that), enjoy all that autumn has to offer to achieve your healthiest self. Take a walk to look at the changing leaves, rake leaf piles, go apple picking, and enjoy all the fresh seasonal foods like apples, sweet potatoes, kale, butternut squash, and pumpkin. Sure, a PSL and Harry Potter movie marathon are not necessarily fall essentials that were invented with our health goals in mind, but there are so many ways to enjoy the season that will help establish a healthy routine. Enjoying the crisp air will help get you moving, and eating the delicious seasonal produce will not only result in killer pumpkin recipes, but will be giving your body more nutrients.  

    8. Be kind to yourself
    Forming a new routine or habit is not easy; our bodies are conditioned to crave what’s comfortable. If you find it’s difficult to adopt healthier routines, know that it’s not because you’re lazy, weak, or have something inherently wrong with you; it means you’re normal. To get through the tough transitions that come with forming new habits, remind yourself why you want a healthier routine. Is it because you love your body enough to treat it as well as possible? Is it so you can feel more confident, vivacious, or happy? Remember that self-judgment, criticism, or shame are not going to get you to that end goal any more than your unhealthy habits. Lead with self-compassion, and I promise you’ll get to your goals quicker and easier. 

    9. Cook at home more often
    Fall and winter are the perfect time to hone your cooking skills. The weather’s colder, you’re staying in more, and you’re craving grounding foods that can easily be made with an instant pot or in the oven. Cooking at home typically means healthier meals, more accurate portions for what your body needs, and satisfying your cravings with as much nutritional value as possible. Cooking newbie? Stock your fridge at the beginning of the week with seasonal produce and healthy basics like leafy greens, grains like quinoa or brown rice, and a few organic proteins to prepare grounding, warm, satisfying meals throughout the week. Check out easy recipes like here, here, and here. If prepping meals in advance feels overwhelming, try making a little extra dinner and save as leftovers for lunch the next day. 

    10. Strive for consistency
    We often look at healthy routines with all-or-nothing thinking: we either eat perfectly or binge on junk food because indulging in one bag of chips made the day “no longer count” (I hear that one a lot!). But the key to any routine is exactly that: routine. Unlike friends or clothing items, strive for quantity over quality when it comes to healthy habits. For example, if you’ve had a busy and exhausting day, fit in five minutes of some movement, even if it’s not the intense HIIT workout you had hoped for. Likewise, keep up healthy eating goals by eating as healthy as you can every day, rather than eating perfectly. If your friends go to a fast-food restaurant, keep up consistency by ordering a side salad with your meal or extra veggies on the side, instead of telling yourself you’ll start tomorrow. After all, a healthy routine is just consistent decisions that snowball into habits to make us feel our very best. 

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    8 Wellness Products I Never Knew I Needed Until They Totally Changed My Health

    Truth be told, I am the target consumer when it comes to buying products I don’t need. I’m a sucker for anything on sale, hoard knickknacks like nobody’s business, and always find at least one thing I have to have in the “As Seen on TV” aisle. However, when it comes to wellness, I like to think I’m pretty good at deciphering what’s a worthy investment of my time and money and what’s a passing fad. I’ve spent way too much time geeking out over nutrition studies and ancient medical practices to be wooed by the latest diet or workout class. But I do try a lot of products, and sometimes I don’t expect a product to be as good as it is. Here are eight products that, frankly, seemed silly or unnecessary to me until they totally transformed my health (and might transform yours too). 
    1. Tongue Scraper
    Honestly, I never thought I’d be here, swearing that scraping sh*t off my tongue has transformed my life, but here we are. Tongue scraping means using designated tools to remove extra particles and bacteria from the surface of the tongue. While it has been #trending on social media the past couple of years, it’s nothing new. It’s actually really, really old. Tongue scraping is a practice from Ayurveda, which teaches that we can learn a lot from our tongues.
    Besides just reducing bad breath, according to Ayurveda, tongue scraping can stimulate digestion by activating the salivary glands and can even improve immunity because it prevents toxins from being reabsorbed into the body. Call it placebo or call it coincidence, but I swear I’ve gotten sick less often since starting tongue scraping a couple of years ago. Even if that doesn’t sell you on the idea, once you scrape your tongue once and see the ~gunk~ that comes off, you’ll never be able to go a day without scraping again. 

    2. Ice Roller
    Since I’m highly basic, I’ll try just about anything that influencers, aestheticians, and beauty experts recommend on their Instagrams, but this is one of the few things that has made a lasting impact on my life. A couple of years ago, it seems like everyone was rolling their face with an ice roller, which promised a reduction in puffiness, smaller pores, and less inflammation. While I do believe that all of these things are true, the benefits for me didn’t stop at a glowy complexion. It is one of my go-to hangover cures to decrease overall puffiness and soothes headaches when I roll on my temples (soothing AF!). Also, you know those days when you decide to do an inner thigh workout after not lifting a weight for months? An ice roller helps soothe even the sorest muscles and feels so satisfying. 

    3. Blue-Light Glasses
    Like most of the workforce in the 21st century, I stare at a screen from morning to night. 2020 didn’t help screen usage, now that meetings are over Zoom and happy hours are over Facetime. I used to get consistent headaches and chalked it up to tension or allergies. When blue-light glasses (or lenses that block the blue light exposure from screens) became popular, I obviously had to get them for myself (read: basic). After just a few days, I immediately noticed my headaches had gone away, as well as eye dryness and strain. Now, my blue-light glasses are as essential to my workday as a cup of coffee and a killer playlist to keep spirits high, stress low, and headaches at bay. 

    4. Facial Massage Tools
    Facial massage has become such a part of my life that I literally crave it and find myself randomly rubbing out my cheeks and jawline without even noticing. Everyone has their weird ticks, right? The practice has made my skin glowier, reduced inflammation, and even prevented/healed breakouts when I’m really consistent. I used to go to town with my Gua Sha in the mornings so my face is de-puffed and sculpted for the entire day, but I started Gua Sha-ing at nighttime instead as a relaxation technique.
    I used to think facial massage meant under the eyes, along the cheekbones, etc., to sculpt the face. But I’ve learned the neck and shoulders are just as important, if not more important. I Gua Sha my shoulders and neck at night because it makes me feel like all the tension in my body is immediately released. Try jade rolling, gua sha, or self-massage to reap the physical (and mental) benefits for yourself. 

    5. Resistance Bands
    I’ve never been a big home workout person. In fact, the only reason I started working out years ago was for the lavender-scented cloths, fun music, and the limitless opportunities for chic mirror selfies (barre studios have the ideal I-work-out-but-can-still-look-cute vibe). Also, I live in a studio apartment, so any hopes for an at-home gym are completely unrealistic. I want to fill my tiny space with fuzzy blankets and candles, not dumbbell sets. However, I purchased a set of resistance bands since my trendy gyms closed back in March to revive my at-home workout routine, and I have no idea why it’s taken me this long to get on board. They’re good for any exercise, can work any muscle group or body part, and are perfect for traveling because they take up very little space. 

    6. An “Easy” Blender
    Listen, I would love to be the girl with the huge blender. You know the type: the girl who makes her own green juices every morning and blends things like soups or sauces instead of just smoothies. Maybe I  just need to step up my soup game or put a little more effort into juicing, but as hard as I try, I  swear I just don’t have big blender energy (BBE). I know if I were to get a complicated, legit blender, it would just sit there unused. I need something small enough to fit in my tiny kitchen, easy to clean so I don’t have to think about using it multiple times a day, and that doesn’t feel overly complicated to use.
    Enter: a single-serving blender or hand-held blender. My Nutribullet has rocked my world because I can blend a smoothie in the same cup I’ll use to drink it (yay for fewer dishes!) and is small enough to froth up a cup of coffee and almond milk. The lesson here is to find the kitchen tools that work for your lifestyle, preferences, and needs. 

    7. Superfood Coffee Alternatives
    Speaking of coffee, I have a confession: coffee does not make me feel good. Rather than energized, any amount of caffeine makes me feel jittery, weak, and nauseous, but I desperately crave coffee for the ritual and taste. Is there anything more satisfying than a warm cup of coffee in the morning? Thank goodness for the modern wellness world that offers a plethora of “coffee alternatives” that are not only better for you than the high-caffeine and overly-processed coffees of latte past, but are full of superfoods and adaptogens that can bring extra health benefits to your body. I’m all about maximizing health and fitting in as many nutrients as possible, so these alternatives have become delicious replacements to my morning cup of coffee. 

    8. Foam Roller
    I’ve always had tight hip flexors that hurt after every ab exercise or uphill walk (which is an extra bummer because I currently live on a steep hill). My doctor recommended I try foam rolling (a wellness practice I always thought seemed stupid), and my whole body felt better after just a couple days. It came at a good time because my back and hips have felt tighter than ever before, probably because of either: A. I’m getting old, or B. I’ve been doing nothing for seven months except sit on the couch and rewatch Riverdale). It’s one of the few practices that has helped my hip flexors feel better, but my posture gets better the more I roll out my back and shoulders, and overall, I feel lighter and healthier. File “foam roller” under things I was wrong about.

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    The Stay-At-Home Habits That Have Actually Made Me Healthier

    Yes, there are those stay-at-home habits many of us have picked up throughout 2020 that might not be the healthiest, like eating frozen pizzas every other night or staying on the couch until we’ve binged all three seasons of Selling Sunset (no, just me?). You might have given up on a workout routine the second your gym closed and stopped prioritizing healthy eating because you’ve been dealing with a dangerous combination of high-stress, lack of normalcy, and the Doritos bag on top of the fridge staring at you 24/7. You probably picked up the mentality way back in March that normal life is on pause, so who cares if you forego healthy habits?But the reality is that life is not “on pause.” It’s happening right now, every day and every minute, pandemic or not. We can either adopt healthy habits to help us work through the stress of this time, or use it as an excuse to be unhealthy. The good news is that becoming healthier might be easier than you realize. Personally, I’ve recently learned how many stay-at-home habits are actually good for me. I realized a lot about my body, habits, and overall health that I wouldn’t have learned had I not been stuck in my studio apartment for months on end. Here are eight habits I’ve picked up in 2020 that I’ll keep up even long after the pandemic is over. 

    1. Prioritizing sleep over everything else
    What I thought was “healthiest” for me always came first. Back during the office days (anyone remember what was that like?) I would wake up extra early to go to a workout class beforehand. Even after I switched to working remote full-time over a year ago (before the rest of the world went work-from-home), I would stay up late getting work done instead of calling it quits by 10pm to get in a full eight hours of sleep before my early start time. When the pandemic did hit, workout classes were no longer an option, and I had enough time to check every item off my to-do list and still go through a leisurely nighttime routine.
    After months of sleeping more than I have since I was an infant (if only we could have multiple naps a day as adults), I realized how much better I felt. My work was higher quality, exercise felt more enjoyable, and, most importantly, I just felt so much better. I’m not going to lie to you: getting enough sleep is still tough when I have such an early start time to my day. But these days, if I have to choose between a workout or checking items off my to-do list and getting 7-8 hours of sleep, you know what I choose? Sleep. Every time. 

    2. Getting outside more
    Although I live in Southern California, I am not a beach person. In fact, I notoriously avoid going outside at all costs (I burn instead of tan, and there’s nothing I despise more than feeling hot and sweaty); an air-conditioned indoor space has always been more enticing. Looking back, I didn’t see the outdoors as the crucial part of wellness that it is, and was lazy about getting fresh air and sunshine. Like, check-my-phone-to-find-out-the-weather-instead-of-walking-the-five-steps-to-my-balcony kind of lazy. 
    I humbly acknowledge what an idiot I was not to take advantage of the outside world while I had full access to it. After being stuck indoors 24/7, I crave the outdoors and nature. I started going on more hikes, fitting in walks around the block when I have a 10-minute work break, and having more meals out on the balcony instead of at the kitchen table. Getting outside more often (SPF-protected, of course) has been life-changing for me. Even just small changes like drinking your morning coffee on the patio or taking a walk instead of running on the treadmill can have a wide variety of health benefits. 

    Source: @mylittlebooktique

    3. Spending free time wisely
    If you work a 9-5 job and sleep for the recommended eight hours, that means you still have eight hours of free time a day. You’ll have 40 hours of free time by the end of this work week, and don’t even get me started on the free time you have on weekends. Before the stay-at-home order, I didn’t think about that free time very much. I relaxed on the couch, went to workout classes, hung out with friends, and took naps more often than I’d like to admit. After staying at home all day every day, I had so much free time that I was forced to think about it.
    Not to get all deep on you, but having extra hours that I didn’t know what to do with made me reconsider what truly makes me feel fulfilled. Now, I don’t look at free time as something to spend; I think of it as something to invest. And yes, somedays that does mean that aforementioned nap or bingeing Gossip Girl with my boyfriend (I’m very proud to say I got him into it recently), because my wellbeing is worth an investment too (see #1). 

    4. Leaving my laptop out of the bedroom
    To preface, I live in a studio apartment. My “bedroom” is basically my workspace, eating space, and sleep space. So I never thought the “no-tech-in-the-bedroom” rule could apply to me. Without thinking about it, I charged my laptop in an outlet next to my bedside table and would do work sitting in bed at night. My laptop even lived next to my bed when I slept (don’t ask me why I mindlessly started that habit).
    Without any escape from my home at all, my studio apartment was no longer just my workspace, eating space, and sleep space. It also became my 24/7 reality, and I knew I had to make some changes with how technology was a part of every minute of my day. Since I didn’t have a separate room for work, I planned to keep technology away from my sleeping space. Now, my laptop charges overnight across the apartment instead of next to my bed, and I can’t climb under the covers in the evening until work is finished. Call it the placebo effect, but I swear I sleep better, wake up easier, and am less burned out overall. 

    Source: @gimmesomeoven

    5. Examining my relationship with food
    Yes, I’m obsessed with wellness and eat mostly plant-based. But I can also lick a plate of Fettuccine Alfredo clean and never say no to sushi takeout or cheeseboards. I love food and will always let myself enjoy it (food should never be “off-limits”), but staying at home helped me see where I was mindlessly eating and not even enjoying it. When I’m craving, sometimes it’s my body telling me that it needs nourishment in the form of laughter, a break, or stress-relief, not food. I also identified where I had unconscious food rules that kept me from having a positive relationship with food and with my body. 
    To rewrite your food narrative, you must first identify what it is. If you find yourself saying, “I can’t have this pasta dish because I’m on a diet,” or “I can’t eat this cookie because there are too many calories,” your food narrative is one of deprivation. No matter what weight you reach or what diet you perfect, you will never feel satisfied. Instead, change your thoughts to feeling excited about trying a new plant-based recipe or how leafy greens will nourish, energize, and revitalize your body. Healthy eating will become a reward. 

    6. Exercising at home (and outside of a routine)
    Pre-global crisis, my workout routine went like this: sign up in advance for trendy studio classes with expensive cancellation fees, so I had to debate whether the $20 cancellation fee was worth it to lay in bed a while longer (it never was). On the days I didn’t have time to make it to a 60-minute class, I didn’t exercise at all since anything less didn’t feel worth it. But as soon as my studio closed down, I had to rely on pure motivation to get my butt to move after a long workday, and if I didn’t fit in smaller movements (like a walk around the block and 15-minute Pilates video), I knew I wouldn’t exercise at all.
    Even just a few weeks into my new workout norm, I realized something. For the first time, I was listening to my body–not only about when to workout, but how (does my body need to burn some energy and dance around the living room, or does it need a relaxing yoga session?). While I’m still counting down the days until my trendy LA studios can open (what can I say, I’m a sucker for dim lighting and lavender towels), I will never forget to listen to my body instead of mindlessly signing up for a class to check another thing off my to-do list. Plus, I changed what exercise means to me. Instead of fitting in a 60-minute class, I focus on living less sedentary in whatever way that looks like each day.

    Source: @ceceolisa

    7. Regularly breaking out of my wellness routines
    I’m a creature of habit: I like to have the same thing for breakfast every morning (berries, tahini, and cacao nibs, please!), do the same workout every day, and do not like trying new things (just ask my mom how I refused to go to sleepaway camp every summer). But it wasn’t until I broke out of some of my wellness routines that I truly felt healthy. Don’t get me wrong: routine is crucial because it helps build beneficial habits. Because of routine, I crave fruit in the morning instead of sugary cereal, and I don’t even have to think about regularly exercising because it’s already a part of my daily schedule. 
    But here’s another important factor of wellness that I learned when my beloved workout studios and juice bars closed: while routine is important for building habits, breaking out of routine is also important for enjoying your healthy habits. Trying new things can not only introduce you to new practices to add to your routine, but breaking out of the norm can build confidence and feel exciting (instead of feeling bored or complacent). Take a different route on your walk, cook with a vegetable you’ve never tried before, and take an online Zumba class if you’ve always sworn you have no rhythm. 

    8. Socializing more (and smarter)
    Pre-pandemic Josie thought she had her shit together. I wouldn’t stay out too late on Friday nights so I could wake up well-rested for a Saturday morning workout, and I could not be tempted by even the most persuasive friend to come to Wine Wednesday if I had a lot to get done that day. Sounds like a very adult thing to do, right? I’ll give myself an A+ for responsibility, but you know what I’m thinking now that my favorite bars are closed and I’m quarantining away from many of my friends? I would give anything for more Wine Wednesdays and late Friday nights.
    Perhaps the biggest lesson we can all take from 2020 is that humans don’t just want to be social; we need it. Since March, a weekly Zoom date with my college best friends is non-negotiable. I call my mom more often, say yes to plans on weeknights, and prioritize seeing people I love over checking items off my to-do list. We can work out every day and eat only the healthiest foods on the planet, but we can’t truly be healthy if we’re not surrounded by a strong support system of people who make us happy. After all, what’s the point of wellness? Being healthy is not the end goal; it’s simply the tool that gives us more time (and better time) with the people we love.

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    8 Ways to Measure Your Health That Have Nothing to Do With Weight

    Some people count calories and some people count steps, but there is one measurement that’s constantly obsessed over when it comes to health: weight. Because of the emphasis our culture puts on the number on a scale, you might think it’s the only way to measure your health. The truth is that your wellbeing comes down to multiple important factors, many of which have absolutely nothing to do with the physical space you take up. Genetics and lifestyle factors are different for every body, so of course weight doesn’t paint an accurate picture of health (duh!). Instead of hopping on a scale and dealing with the guilt, shame, and embarrassment that often comes with it, try these eight ways to identify how healthy you are instead. 
    1. Glasses of water
    Staying hydrated is a tale as old as time, but there’s a reason just about every expert on the planet recommends it. Your body uses water to maintain the functions of cells, organs, tissues, etc. As with everything else, the amount of water the body needs for optimal health varies from person to person because of factors like lifestyle, activity level, and bio-individuality, but it’s a good rule of thumb to be drinking as much water as possible.
    If you’re regularly sipping throughout the day, drinking a big glass before your first cup of coffee, eating water-rich fruits and veggies, and bringing a water bottle whenever you’re on the go, you’re probably drinking enough to keep your body functioning at its best. If you do want to improve your health with hydration, try tracking the glasses of water you drink in a day and drink one more glass the next day. 

    2. Hours spent sleeping
    It’s true: falling asleep while watching Selling Sunset at 8:30pm can help boost your health. The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get 7-9 hours of sleep to reap the benefits of “powering the mind, restoring the body, and fortifying virtually every system in the body.” Getting your beauty rest is critical for the health of your body, so tracking how many hours of sleep you’re really getting can help determine if your sleep is restoring or if you could use a little improvement. Try an app like SleepCycle that will not only track how many hours you’re sleeping, but will identify how quality your sleep is. Even if you’re getting nine hours but your sleep cycles are poor quality, you won’t feel well-rested. 

    3. Nutrients
    Reality check: counting calories doesn’t really tell us much about our health. Every body needs a different caloric intake, and every calorie looks different in the body (for example, 1,000 calories of soda would be very different than 1,000 calories of spinach). But when we’re aware of the nutrients (like vitamins, macros, antioxidants, phytochemicals, etc.) and what they do for the body (like give energy, boost skin glow, or reduce inflammation), we’re able to use food as a tool to achieve peak wellness. Focusing on more nutrients can also subconsciously crowd out processed and sugary foods (totally guilt-free). Think of adding more whole foods into your diet (like adding kale to a pasta dish or eating berries with breakfast) to get more healing nutrients. 

    4. Energy levels
    Another reality check coming at you: you shouldn’t be OK with just feeling OK. Afternoon slumps and necessary nap times are normalized in our society, but brain fog, a lack of energy, and general exhaustion is your body’s way of telling you that something might be off. Everything from difficulty waking up in the mornings to needing a coffee at 3pm might mean you have some room for improvement. Fatigue is not a way of life; it’s a symptom. Getting better sleep at night, moving more, eating different foods, or just taking more breaks might help fix energy levels so you feel your very best and be as healthy as possible. On the flip side, if you do wake up refreshed, have consistent energy throughout the day, and feel relaxed at night, it’s a good sign of how healthy your body and lifestyle are. 

    5. Bowel movements
    You know how they say eyes are the window to the soul? Well, poop is the window to your health. Sure, it’s not a great dinner table topic, but your bowel movements are an important measurement to identify what’s going on in the body. The gut microbiome affects the immune system, the brain, hormone levels, and pretty much every other function and system in the body, so it’s crucial to keep the gut healthy. The frequency, appearance, or changes in bowel movements can give us some insight into how healthy the gut actually is. Talk to your doctor if you think your stool is abnormal or changes, and consider tracking how often you’re going to the bathroom or how certain foods and lifestyle changes affect movements.

    6. How many push-ups you can do
    Last year, a study made headlines for finding that push-up ability could predict heart disease in active adult men. Even if you’re not an active adult man and haven’t done a push-up since middle school PE, the point is that physical strength and endurance are huge indicators of how healthy the body is overall. Whether it’s how many push-ups you can do, how much weight you lift, how many miles you can hike, or how long you can kickbox, your physical limits tell you a lot about your body. If you are motivated by external factors, don’t stare at a number on a scale. Instead, push yourself to do one more rep, move up in weight, or do one more push-up to improve your health. 

    7. Mood
    The mind-body connection is real, people! Moods can actually clue us in to what’s going on in the body. Food can affect your mood (which is why “nutritional psychiatry” is a thing), so if you could use a few little tweaks in your stress levels or happiness (who doesn’t in 2020?), try eating foods like nuts, berries, or dark chocolate, which may help boost your mood. Likewise, my favorite reason to exercise is that it serves as a major mood booster. Bottom line: eat whole foods that are good for the gut and fit in regular exercise to improve your overall health and boost your mood. The mind-body connection is a never-ending cycle you can use as a tool for checking in with the body.

    8. How you physically feel
    OK, let me rant for a sec. I’m thankful for technology like Fitbits that track our steps, apps that record the nutrients we’re eating, and yes, even scales, which help our doctors keep us healthy. With that being said, I also think that focusing on external numbers, counting, and tracking is preventing us from being truly intuitive with our bodies. The truth is that we can understand our health simply based on how good we feel, rather than depending on a number on a screen or scale. The most powerful, accurate, and sustainable method to measure your health? Take notice when you feel great, when you feel OK, and when you don’t feel good. Your body is constantly communicating with you, whether it’s through a symptom like acne, upset stomachs, or fatigue, or through feeling energized, vivacious, and happy. All we have to do is listen and adjust to achieve our healthiest selves. 

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