Have you ever edged towards a new year thinking, this is going to be my year, with the same amount of passion you felt knowing your braces would soon be coming off and you would instantly transform into the hottest middle school version of yourself after that long-awaited visit to the orthodontist? Or have you ever ended a year thinking, well… that was NOT my year.I’ve been at both extremes of the spectrum, and I am sure you have, too.
After over two intensive years of self-work—through meditation, modifying my diet to heal my gut, practicing yoga, actively healing my inner child, giving up social media and alcohol, and exploring different forms of self-care and finding what works for me—I’ve finally come to the place of knowing that whatever challenges future years bring me, I can meet them all with a sense of emotional and mental balance that I have spent time and energy cultivating.
From this place of self-understanding and self-compassion, I offer my top 10 tips for finding emotional and mental balance in 2020.
1. Meditate everyday
I know, I know, everyone tells you to do it. It’s annoying, why don’t they just stop already? Spoiler alert: “they” don’t stop because it works. I had friends (and a therapist) trying to convince me to meditate for years, and I was sure I would never give into that hippie-dippie-ish. But a couple of years back, I had reached a point of desperation and spent an entire month meditating for 30 minutes every day. The results were so tangible, meditation became a drug I never wanted to stop.
I found myself happier and less stressed, which ultimately allowed me to enter a place where I could respond to conflict with others in a healthier way, but I could also begin to meet myself and my own shortcomings from a place of kindness rather than self-criticism.
You don’t have to start out with 20 minutes, starting with as little as 5 minutes a day can reveal benefits. Try pairing meditation with an activity you do every day, like after brushing your teeth or before your daily shower, to help ensure you stick to it daily.
2. Take social media breaks
Social media is designed to addict us, so it’s natural to react to this piece of advice with a “NO WAY” or a meeker, “I’d like to, but I have no idea how.” I’ve been there, it took me a year to fully wean myself off of social media platforms. (The only one I still have is LinkedIn, because a girl has to eat).
Try starting by just taking a break for a day. Sounds easy enough, right? It’ll probably still be challenging. Then try staying off of ALL platforms for two days, then three, then an entire week, and then a month (and then a lifetime if you’re brave enough).
Since quitting social media, I’ve genuinely been happier and give less thought to the people and marketing ploys that are not meant for me. And remember you won’t be left out or friendless. The friends who matter will still stay in touch with you, which brings me to my next point.
3. Weed out friends who don’t meet you halfway
I spent too many years giving my energy to others in friendships and not having that energy reciprocated. Over time, I felt completely depleted, and often disappointed by certain friends and how little they were willing to meet me halfway when I needed a friendly ear or a helpful favor.
It’s really hard at the beginning, but if a friend leaves you with an achy feeling in your chest one too many times, it may be time to cut the cord and create a space for a new, equally as thoughtful friend to enter the picture.
4. Spend time alone
Four years ago this piece of advice would have subconsciously terrified me, even during car rides or walks home from work I would try to distract myself by calling someone so I wouldn’t have to be alone with my own mind.
Though we are tribal at our core, and require the support of our communities and fellow humans, learning how to spend time alone can strengthen our mental resilience, spark creativity, and give you the opportunity to truly know yourself and know what you want whether it be on a given day or in life.
5. Start a gratitude journal
I practice gratitude every day. I start every morning with 10 deep breaths, and then I name three things I am grateful for. (To be honest, sometimes I forget the deep breaths, but I always remember the three things I am grateful for.) There are so many small things to be grateful for every day: our families, the sun rising, good friends, a bed to sleep in, food on the table, or the person in bed next to us.
Practicing gratitude actually rewires the brain to be happier. Try keeping a daily gratitude journal and writing a list of three things you’re grateful for every night before you head to bed. Over time you’ll notice a greater appreciation of life.
6. Stop listening to what other people want you to do
Jump off the proverbial ledge and give those around you the proverbial finger. Live the life you have always dreamed of. You can do it, I know you can.
Often self-doubt creeps in because we spend time listening to others’ criticisms and opinions on what we should be doing, and why we should not be doing what we want to be doing. They’ll say it’s risky, or financially laughable, or plain stupid. Our self-esteem is actually tied to what others think of us, because at the end of the day we are pack animals and just want to fit in and be liked.
It’s easier said than done, but begin to immunize yourself to the opinions of others, knowing the doubts they articulate about you are most likely coming from a place of their own self-doubt or fear.
7. Take yourself out on dates… with just you
Over the past two years, I’ve actively dressed up for myself, to take myself out to dinner. Writing this now, it may sound a bit pitiful if read in a certain way, but I can promise you it’s felt absolutely liberating.
Now I enjoy going on dates with myself, equally as much as I enjoy going on dates with promising partners. That wasn’t always the case, initially it felt awkward, and kind of silly. But I order whatever I want, stay however long I want, laugh at the people around me, and find that taking time alone to myself in this way sparks creativity and cultivates a sense of appreciation and self-love.
8. Practice Yin Yoga
Yin yoga may seem easier than traditional Western yoga classes, perhaps because it is a slower-paced, less-workout intensive type of yoga. But the restorative practice aims for longer holds and forces you to slow down and sit with yourself, which is often the last thing we want to do in this fast-paced world.
Yin also provides a space to just sit with ourselves and meet our emotions wherever they may be. So when you feel like you don’t have the time to practice yin, make the time to slow down the mind and the body so they can recharge through a yin session.
9. Surround yourself with people who live the way you want to
You’ve probably heard the statistic that you are the sum of the 5 people you spend the most time with. As I’ve become more self-aware through my own meditation practice I’ve come to realize how true this statistic really is.
If I am spending a few days with someone who is grumpy, I find myself beginning to feel a bit grumpy too. Or if I am lucky enough to be spending time with someone who is compassionate and has a good heart, I begin to see these qualities reflecting in my own actions and thoughts.
So choose wisely who you spend your time with in 2020.
10. Join Mother Yin to learn more about your cycle and natural ways to heal
After years of my own struggles and witnessing those of my girlfriends, I’ve come to learn that life is not always easy for the millennial woman.
This is due to a multitude of reasons, but I think one of the hardest things to reckon with is our society has actively worked to disconnect woman from her womanhood. Education surrounding women’s issues from postpartum to fertility to the mental health effects of birth control are purposefully limited. Many of us truly don’t know how each part of the menstrual cycle affects our mental health and even our bodies, because today’s society failed in creating the space for it to be okay for us to connect with our blood cycle (though this is changing). But nonetheless, today cultures around the world shame women for menstruating, a natural and beautiful part of who we are that used to be celebrated during ancient times.
So I am creating Mother Yin, a free online resource launching in January 2020, to help women find balance in their bodies, minds, and lives through education, self-healing meditations, and connecting women to holistic female healers all over the world. You can subscribe here to receive a free educational newsletter delivered to your inbox twice a month.
Let’s find balance in 2020 together, by empowering each other and celebrating our womanhood.