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Let's face it, we rarely stick to our New Year resolutions, but it's a great way to start the year with a new focus, a new perspective, a new goal. And usually resolutions are positive and while they may not stick they usually are done long enough to change us somewhat in a positive manner. Below a few resolutions I've had or have this year that is the type that both last and makes a lasting positive effect:
Better Dental Care
I hope you at least brush your teeth twice a day. If not, let's start there. But find ways to up your dental game. It gives you fresher breath, whiter teeth, and prevents some of the worst body pain one can experience. It's a fancy GOOP-approved pack or some biodegradable flossers, make flossing a daily habit. As we get older, our teeth get even worse for holding little bits of food causing cavities and funk-ass breath. My daughter got braces this year and we just invested in a WaterPik which is great for those of us with hardware in our mouths and anyone who wants cleaner teeth without a lot of work. Replace your toothbrush every three months at a minimum and consider upgrading your toothbrush. I have this one which beeps to let me know when to switch places in my mouth and turns off when I've finished brushing for three minutes.
One of the things I used to do, stopped doing, and am considering again is oil pulling. I used to put a spoonful of coconut oil in my mouth in the morning before I brushed my teeth. I'd then put on my sneakers and head out the door for a quick walk around the block. As I walked, I listened to an audiobook or podcast and would swish the oil around my mouth, between my teeth. At the end of my walk (or when I couldn't take it any longer), I'd spit out the oil (do not spit in a toilet or down a drain as it can clog pipes). I'd then brush as usual. This helps clean the teeth and mouth and I think really helped with my allergies.
This brush is less than $12, it's the same one I own so I can attest to it being a good one. Each morning before you get dressed or even start functioning, whip it out. Gently swipe it up your legs and arms toward your heart. Swirl it over your tummy, your chest, your butt cheeks. Swipe your back, swipe down your neck. As you get used to it, go with more force. If you do this daily, your skin will love you. It reduces K.P., supposedly reduces cellulite, helps moisturizers absorb better, wakes you up, helps with lymphatic drainage, and makes you glow. Read more about dry brushing in this post about the benefits of dry brushing.
Drink More Water
There aren't any negative results from drinking more water, and too many benefits to count. We all know we need to drink more water, but it seems difficult, unpleasant, and easy to forget. A few ways to help incorporate more water into your diet:
Buy a water bottle you love. Do you do better chugging from a bottle, or sipping from a straw? Do you prefer icy cold water or don't care about the temperature? Do you often find your bottle is empty and it's too much of a pain to get up and refill it, or do you find the walk to the water dispenser in the office a necessary break from your desk? Spend the remainder of this week noting your water drinking habits and find a container that will work with it. I know when I worked at a desk I loved my Camelbak with a straw; it was the height where I could sip while typing and was a size where I didn't have to keep refilling it through the day. Also, Camelbak will replace any parts that go bad; I had the same bottle for years and just replaced the sippy portion when it stretched out.
Feel you're spending all your time in the bathroom because you drink so much? Know that if you keep up with this amount of fluid your body will adjust and usually those urgent needs will subside. Also, practice makes perfect. I've been drinking so much water for so long I can take care of business faster than a man and still fit in a lipstick touch-up. And honestly, would you rather have to pee every hour or have a kidney stone?
Nope, I'm not expecting you to join a gym or start a whole new exercise routine. Just finding ways to move a bit more each day. The whole “park farther away” idea is cliche… but it works. If you have to take the elevator several times a day, one visit use the stairs. Carry up the laundry in two trips instead of one. Walk to the mailbox instead of leaving it in your box with the red flag up. If you work from home, every hour get up from the computer and walk to the other end of the house, or up and down the stairs once. My personal trainer gave me an ab roller for a holiday gift; I'd love to say I use it daily but at least a couple times a week it gets me off the couch and onto the floor. And occasionally I'll do more than 10 ab rolls but always it gets me off my tush and gets me stretching or moving in some manner. My husband has a foam roller that ends up accomplishing the same for him; there's nothing wrong with a device that encourages movement, even if it's not used for the purpose it was created. If it's not a gadget, sometimes just investing in new sneakers or finding a new podcast can inspire you to get up and about.
A Smaller, Smarter Closet
A good closet cleaning can take days and often requires a bottle of wine or a massage or a therapist. We don't all have that kind of time or mental strength. But small closet edits are better than nothing and can be less painful. Next time you get dressed, if you pass over something think of why. Is it because it doesn't fit anymore? has a stain you can't get out? Needs to have a button replaced? Reminds you of something you'd rather not remember? Really think about it, maybe write it down and revisit it on your commute or your lunch hour or when you get home that day. If it's a not-quite-right fit or a missing button, add that task to your week's schedule. Schedule it like a doctor's appointment and visit the tailor or whip out the sewing kit. If it's too small or damaged or brings bad feelings get it GONE. There's no excuse. The more things in your closet, the harder it is to get dressed. It's better to wear the same black pants three times in a week than have a closet full of things that you keep passing by (or worse, wear and feel awful while wearing them).
The less in your closet, the better you can see and understand your needs and your personal style aesthetic. Also with fewer items, you're less likely to buy more crap. It's easy to wedge a clearance blouse into a packed closet than to justify it in a small collection of hardworking pieces. It's also easier to see what you truly need when your closet isn't stuffed to the gills with mediocrity.
Reduce One Element of Stress
Between Christmas and New Year's I unsubscribed from over 50 different emails. Each morning, I'd grab my phone, open my email and highlight dozens of emails from retailers, charities, motivational speakers, and e-newsletters and delete without reading them. This was a daily routine I did without even thinking. Throughout the day I would check my email and again highlight highlight highlight and delete without reading. No more. Most emails make it easy to unsubscribe; it takes only a few more seconds than it does to delete without reading. Doing this is minor, but it makes my life a little bit easier and more pleasant.
Another thing I did recently was remove the little red icons that let me know when I have a new email, a new DM on Instagram, or a new message on Facebook Messenger. I realized if it's urgent, it will come by text. If it's an urgent email I'm likely ready for it, sitting by the computer or with my email app already open constantly being refreshed. So many times I'd open my phone to Google something or check my calendar and be sucked in for ten minutes replying to emails and DMs that weren't really urgent. Now I can schedule my times to reply and have a bit more control over my day.
A big way for me to reduce stress is clean something small but significant.
- While watching your favorite TV show, dump your purse on your coffee table and clean it out. Gather all the receipts, scan and record those necessary for taxes or work, trash the ones you don't need. Vacuum out all the crumbs, stick all the coins in the coin pocket of your wallet. Go through the 25 lip balms and lipsticks and only keep the ones you actually need. Consider a pouch organizing system – I have one pouch for beauty and health (everything from flossers to Immodium AD to lip gloss), one for technology (chargers and cords and earbuds), one for paperwork (receipts and business cards and things I need to review, document, process), and then my wallet. This way, I can transfer items from one bag to another with ease, everything has a place, and each pouch has a different texture so I can find it at the bottom of a cavernous tote without even looking.
- Take one drawer or cabinet in your home and organize it. Maybe it's wiping out the spice rack and organizing bottles in alphabetical order; matching all the socks in your lingerie drawer and tossing the underwear that you'd be embarrassed to be wearing if you were in a car accident; wiping down the shelves of your medicine cabinet and replacing all the bottles and tubes facing front and removing that which you no longer use. Don't try to do the whole room, one aspect can be done in a reasonable amount of time and can provide plenty of benefit.
- Create a home for something that is homeless. I didn't have a proper place to store cords so this year, I cleaned out a portion of a credenza in our dining room to dedicate it just to that. It's a cabinet with two shelves inside; I spent a Sunday afternoon collecting all the cords all over the home, tossed any that I didn't know what they went to, wrapped up the cords so they weren't tangled. I used random boxes around the house cut down to a good height to store them – one box for camera-related equipment, one for iPhones, one full of headphones and earbuds. I even have a Ziploc baggy in there with a lot of instruction manuals for these items that need cords. Now every so often I go in and clean it up and now the whole family knows if they can't find a cord it's in there and if they have a new cord, that's it's new home.
- Fix something that is broken. Maybe it's the blouse in your closet that has needed a button for six months. Possibly it's that dining chair that wobbles. It could be where you nicked off the paint at the top of your stairs or how your bedroom door squeaks. Don't try to fix all the things, just fix one thing. It makes a huge difference.
Find Moments of Calm
This isn't easy, though it sure looks like it on Instagram. You have a job, a family, pets, a crazy commute, a laundry pile up to your chin, an empty fridge, a parent to care for, and a dwindling bank account. To take a bath requires scrubbing the bathtub, and honestly, those sheet masks feel a bit slimy. But you don't need a bath full of essential oils or a sheet mask to care for yourself. You just need a quick moment of calm.
There are many ways to do this, and this is more personal than any of the other suggestions on this list. For me, it's meditating 20 minutes first thing in the morning. I wake up 20 minutes early to do this, I don't have some fancy meditation space, I sit on my living room couch. And sometimes I get in “the zone” but sometimes I just sit for 20 minutes with my eyes closed in relative silence. Both are beneficial and help me handle the day ahead of me.
A few other suggestions:
- Try driving without the radio or any streaming audio. No podcast, no Audible, no playlist, just you and your thoughts. Get past the moment when you feel like you're bored or anxious or wasting time to where you are just a person driving down the street. It's surprising how hard it can be to get to that moment but once you do it's pretty wonderful.
- Use the Do Not Disturb Feature on your Phone. For me, from 9pm to 7am all calls and notifications are silenced except for calls from a very specific list that may call in case of an emergency. This way, I'm not distracted by a text while getting ready for bed, or end up late text chatting with a friend while brushing my teeth.
- How to Use: On an iPhone, go to Settings, then Do Not Disturb (purple icon with a moon). Toggle Scheduled to “on” and then choose your times, and toggle on Bedtime. You can choose if this works always or only when your phone is locked (essentially, it's turned off when you're using the phone even if it's during bedtime hours). Scroll down and you can choose to allow calls from Favorites (who you have under Contacts' Favorites) and repeated calls (good if it's an emergency and a loved one is calling from an unknown number like a hospital).
- Use the Night Shift Feature Too. The Night Shift feature will turn your screen an amber shade which helps your circadian rhythms, which will help you sleep. I also find using Night Shift makes surfing the internet and scrolling through apps less appealing. I have it go on at 6 pm and turn off at 8 am to get my body ready for sleep and also use my phone less during those hours.
- How to Use: On an iPhone, go to Settings, then Display & Brightness (blue icon with two white As on it). From there choose Night Shift and then toggle on Scheduled. You can then choose the time; studies say you should reduce blue light at least two hours before bedtime so I recommend that as a minimum. Then you can choose your color temperature; choose the warmest to reduce the most blue light.
- Schedule it Like an Appointment. I remember when I was a kid, my dad would come home from work around the same time every evening. He'd go upstairs to change out of his suit, come down to the living room to read and eat an apple. This was part of his daily schedule and we all respected it. Why don't we all have such routines these days? He only took as much time as was necessary to finish a chapter and an apple, it didn't create chaos in the home, no one felt neglected, and it likely made him a better parent and partner. Self-care isn't selfish, it can be the necessary thing to make you a better caregiver.