How to Prioritize your Wellness in 2021

Realistic tips for improving your physical, mental, and emotional wellness in the new year

A new year is a reminder that there is always an opportunity to start fresh and think differently about how to live your life. The holidays (when not filled with family chaos) give us time to reflect and think about how we can improve going into the new year.

This year, like many people, my work has shifted to work-from-home and I have been spending much more time at home. Therefore, prioritizing my wellness has required a shift in approach with this increasingly integrated lifestyle. It has been challenging to adapt new wellness practices and work them into my days. However, I feel much better when I adapt and then stick to the practices that really optimize my physical, mental, and emotional wellness.

Since the at-home and remote work lifestyle will continue into 2021, I’d like to share some of my learnings and suggestions for putting your wellness first, which is important for yourself and others! Based on my experience this year, here are 5 powerful and realistic ways to prioritize your wellness in 2021.

1. Make time for daily exercise (at least 30 minutes each day) and keep it fresh.

Before the pandemic, I took a walk and/or did my yoga practice every day. There were also built-in opportunities to walk on the way to work or in the office, hike or ski on longer trips, or take yoga classes in person.

Since lockdowns have become a regular way of life — limiting access to yoga studios, gyms, and longer destination trips for hiking or skiing, I have found it important to intentionally exercise daily in new, fresh ways. For me, this has meant doing my own yoga practice, taking virtual yoga classes with teachers from all over the world, taking (redundant) walks near my home while listening to new music or podcasts, and even trying fitness videos on Youtube.

I always feel so much better after moving daily. My favorite time to get moving is early in the morning (when work permits) or especially at the end of the workday, around 4:30 or 5pm to transition from work to personal time.

How can you build in 30-minute or 1-hour movement session into your daily schedule next year and keep it fresh?

2. Eat clean AND eat deliciously.

This year, food has become a central focus of my days. What else is there to do but get better at cooking and baking at home? I have definitely honed my skills in different kinds of cooking and baking this year, which has been awesome.

I have been studying and practicing yoga for over 10 years. Yoga is about a lot of things but one important teaching of yoga is to find balance, even in your diet. Though it’s often tempting to go on an extreme diet at the start of a new year, I have found that true balance with eating is about starting cooking habits that keep your diet consistently healthy and delicious at the same time. Don’t deprive yourself (ever) but also be mindful about the habits you have when cooking.

How does this translate to specific tips for your new year? I suggest cooking more for yourself so you know what is in your food. When cooking, eliminate things like butter, excess salt, and cheese from your everyday meals. I always feel better when I cook with olive oil instead of butter. It’s amazing how the habits you have when cooking can affect your everyday mood and long-term wellness. Instead of periodic dieting, cultivate regular, sustainable cooking and eating boundaries that make you feel good.

What can you learn to cook yourself next year and what unhealthy ingredients can you eliminate or reduce when cooking for yourself?

3. Don’t eat or snack between meals. Instead, eat 3 satisfying meals each day.

When spending a lot of time at home working remotely without frequent opportunities to walk or exercise, it’s tempting to snack! This year, I have found it important to not snack between meals. It’s better for your body to eat satisfying meals at specific meal times (3 times per day, for me) and simply allow yourself to digest in between. Snacks are usually not as nutritious as your main meals and they make your meals less satisfying since you are not as hungry.

If you must snack, I suggest planning healthy snacks into your week ahead of time. Limit your snack to a certain time like 2pm, or whenever your energy dips. Be mindful of your snacking. Put your snack in a bowl and don’t bring it to your desk. Never eat out of the bag or the container - this is just asking for endless, unconscious snacking. Enjoy your snack mindfully and try to plan for healthier snacks like tea, crackers with almond butter, fruit, or pretzels.

Ultimately, I recommend that you do not snack between meals (but I know some days snacks are lifeline). Challenge yourself to make your actual meals more awesome and satisfying so that they hold you over until the next meal. You’ll find that when you don’t snack, your meals will be more satisfying because you’ll actually be hungry and you’ll feel more energetic between meals when not held back by heavy digestion.

How can you design your meals so that they are more nutritious and satisfying, and hold you over until the next meal?

4. Get to know yourself and your voice with daily journaling or writing sessions.

Transitioning from physical tips to the mental and emotional, I also suggest preparing a journal to start your 2021 with intention and motivation. As a leadership strategist and yoga teacher, I always find journaling and writing rewarding both personally and professionally.

Journaling is a personal practice of writing down your thoughts in free flow. For me, journaling is a personal practice for preparation, setting intentions and goals, and finding my voice and point of view. When I journal, I feel more prepared and confident. I use journaling in the morning to clear my head, organize my thoughts, and work through challenging decisions and situations. I show up for others in a more prepared and level-headed way when I journal regularly.

To start journaling, purchase a journal for 2021. Start by setting your goals and intentions for the new year. Then, set aside 20 minutes daily to celebrate your recent wins, document your learnings, work through decisions and though situations, and set new goals.

Writing often stems from journaling sessions. I see writing as a practice for sharing your thoughts with others in an organized way (somewhat like this article). Writing is also a great practice for sharing your wisdom with others. Start a blog with a specific theme in 2021 to commit to writing, shape your point of view, and connect with others!

5. Think about work-life integration.

As I mentioned earlier, this year has prompted closer, simultaneous management of work and personal lives. Many of us work in our personal home space. We tackle personal tasks and responsibilities during working hours.

Before the pandemic, work and life were largely separated by the boundary between office and home. E-mail was one of the only bridges between work and home life, accessible anywhere and anytime. Now, work happens at home and home often happens during work. This has prompted me to adopt a work-life integration lifestyle rather than a work-life balance lifestyle.

Work-life integration is about building personal practices into your work day that support the quality of your work and your overall day. How often have you felt that a break for a personal walk or a quick trip to the store would clear your head after an exhausting Zoom meeting? Work-life integration is about finding work that supports your personal lifestyle — your schedule, wellness, and social needs. Are your work schedule and personal schedule intertwined in a way that they support each other? It takes intentional planning and preparation to design a better work-life schedule. Work-life integration is also about understanding why you do the work you do and the real-life impacts.

Do you have a work-life balance approach or a work-life integration approach? Reflect on your approach and find more prompts in my book, Awake Apprentice.

Happy New Year! Thanks for reading.

I hope these tips provide some realistic and refreshing ways to prioritize your health in the new year! These 5 tips are things that you can do to make 2021 a better year for yourself and others.

Systems engineer, leadership strategist, writer, and yogi. Founder of Awake Leadership Solutions. Author of the Awake Leadership and Awake Ethics guidebooks.

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