I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that ‘achieve wellness’ or some iteration of those two words are on most people’s list of resolutions. But where the heck do you start? There’s more advice than one could ever hope to road test in a lifetime, and like isn’t ‘doing all the things to find out which one will make me the more ‘well’ version of myself’ kind of defeating the purpose?
I’ve been you. I didn’t know where to start, and somedays, I’m not even sure what’s gonna put me on the illusive Path To Wellness, but I do know what helps steer the ship in the right direction.
Whenever I’m feeling bleh, anxious, stressed, over it, tired – you know the drill, I head back to the same tried and tested tips that are generally the recipe to turning Em back into Pleasant and Reasonable Human Being. (Feel free to try them so I can expand my sample size to more than one – apparently that’s not ‘statistically significant’. Science is such a bitch.)
One | Sleep. Get plenty of sleep. Get some more. And even more.
Remember when we used to be in uni and we’d roll home from a night drinking $2 shots, take a sneaky 45 minute power nap, have a shower, and then go about our day, aided by 32,894 mg of caffeine? Don’t you wish you had the stamina to do that now?
*cue buzzer sound*. WRONG.
How little sleep you’re currently functioning on isn’t – and shouldn’t be – a badge of honour. Most of us don’t get enough, me included, and it’s probably the one thing I can count on more than any other to turn my frown upside down. Try it. For me, it’s a cure-all for pretty much everything that ails me – feeling crabby – get more sleep. Anxious? More sleep. Stressed? More sleep. Run down? …you get the drill.
Plus, sleep is kind of the gate keeper to everything else. It doesn’t matter how dedicated you are to you exercise regime or how much kale you’re eating – if you’re not getting 8 hours on the reg, you’re basically just putting glitter on a garbage bin. (Which sounds like a fabulous idea, actually – the analogy, not the non-sleeping part, just so we’re clear…)
And finally, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I mean – why wouldn’t you want to get more sleep, because sleep is the best, amiright?
Two | Let go of the idea of a meal plan.
Let’s be real, yeah? Eating healthy, in a way that nourishes your body, is fecking hard work. And when most of us finally twig that ‘ok, we should probs take more care with what we shove in our gob’ and stop eating Doritos as dinner, we generally start with one of those glossy, Instagram influencer meal plans – bonus points if there is a beautifully designed coffee table book to go with it.
I mean, it’s easy right? They have the 7-day meal plan all mapped out! WHAT COULD GO WRONG?!
(Correct answer: a lot). Here’s the thing about those 7-day meal plans. They are full of 3 different meals, across 7 different days – that’s 21 meals you legit have to prepare and cook with a wide variety of ingredients that you’ve probably never heard of and will never use again. By Wednesday night when you’re driving home late from work and can’t be fagged figuring out how to use tamari/dukka/nutritional yeast you’ll find yourself swinging past the supermarket for something heat and eat, because exhausted.
It’s not real life. And food is not supposed to be stressful. So simplify it, friends. Pick a hero protein, build your life around it for the week – and the best part is that you only need to technically ‘cook’ once – the rest of the time you’re just ‘accessorising’ your previous hard work.
Last week I bought a massive leg of lamb and slow cooked it. That became a couple of nights’ roast dinner, a few lamb salad lunches and finally ended up as a ragout for pasta. This week, it’s a roast chicken that then went into salads for lunch and is now becoming chicken and vegetable soup. All you need to do is have a couple of low maintenance meals to fill in the blanks (think fritatas, or even ol’ faithful avo on toast), and you have a whole week of great food, without losing the will to live/eating the whole packet of corn chips.
Three | Stretch it out, babes
I’m not gonna bang on about exercise because I think we all well and truly get it. It’s important, we know we should do it, blah blah, etal, tl;dr. But it’s utterly baffling how many fit folk I speak to who happily admit that ‘no body got time for stretching’ – a notion that’s supported in the wild in my F45 classes, as I watch two thirds of the class exit en masse without taking five bloody minutes to give their muscles a little bit o’ love.
Repeat after me. When you don’t stretch, your muscles shorten and everything tightens up and your range of motion is limited. It’s also an amazing way to release stress, and increase your blood flow – like, I shouldn’t have to sell this in exercise homies.
I can literally feel the difference in just a week if I start neglecting the cool down stretch. It’s like my whole body is just this big ball of stress. Even just five measly little minutes during an ad break. Non negotiable.
Four | Outdoors is your friend.
Wanna feel like a new person? Turn off Netflix and go outside.
If you’re anything like me, harbouring hermit tendencies, office job and a partake-er of hobbies that can largely be done indoors, you’ll find it’s not too hard to get to the end of the day and realise that besides the dash either way from the car, you literally haven’t been outside all damn day.
Beside the lack of Vitamin D, it just feels bloody good to breathe in real air and have actual sun on your face instead of that horrendous fluorescent lighting and sometimes you even get to see a dog having THE BEST DAY OF HIS LIFE out on a walk.
It doesn’t have to be a big deal, just take 10 and walk around the block and try not to take your phone, because did you know it’s not actually surgically attached to your hand??
Five | Read a book. Turns out, they’re way better than TV.
When the heck did we all stop reading, y’all? I mean, I spent my childhood with a constant book in hand, but I literally can’t remember when I put the book down and decided that I was done with that life.
What a fool. Books are back, you heard it here first, friends. (So are scrunchies if Vogue is to be believed, and I’m basically reliving Grade Five all over again, except I have to pay for my own electricity now.)
A few weeks ago, I read a book – cover to cover – in the one day, and it was so damn wonderful. I forgot how amazing it is to lose yourself in a story that’s not overwhelming you with it’s Dolby Digital surround sound and HD colours and then the commercials that somehow are 70% louder than the actual thing you’re watching.
In short books > TV shows. I now try and read every night before bed – sometimes it’s only a few pages, sometimes I go to bed as soon as I’ve eaten dinner because I’m at the good part – and it’s such an incredible way to wind down.
Six | No is a really great word. Use it often.
We are overscheduled little petals. Truth. There’s this need to do all the things, stay away from FOMO, say yes to every invitation and go to the opening of an envelope and sweet jesus it’s exhausting. I turn into that person every once in awhile – and every time I do, I can’t remember why I keep glorifying busy.
I mean, there’s a reason why there’s so many memes around how good it feels when your friends cancel plans you didn’t want to go to in the first place.
So say no. If you’re really not feeling it, if it feels more obligatory than celebratory, if you just need a night in your track pants – politely decline and go and get some down time. I’ll proudly admit that sometimes (only sometimes, I promise to everyone who invites me anywhere) I’ll decline an invite due to ‘plans’ and those ‘plans’ are a bath and a glass of red wine. It feels a bit odd, but I promise people will still invite you places and there’s something so indulgent about a whole day
Seven | Savour the little things.
It’s pretty easy to get sucked into the mundane routine of life. And then you see all the glossy highlights of those folks on Instagram who are LIVING IT UP on a super yacht in the Greek Islands, and you’re still there sitting on the couch with your dog in track pants. #dull
But it’s not. Curling up with my ridiculously snuggly pooch, glass of red wine in hand is actually pretty satisfying. And it’s so easy to get caught up in all the things you don’t have, that you forget to look at what you do have. The grass is always greener and all that jazz.
It’s a discipline – seeing the bright and shiny in the every day – and not something I’m particularly good at, but even starting small, just looking at one small part of your life with a different lens is such a mindset shift…for the better.
Eight | Make your bed.
Sweet lord, this simple little one was LIFE CHANGING. I get it. When you’re in a hurry to get out the door in the AM, making your bed is something that can easily be skipped, because unlike your outfit, no-one’s gonna see it, amiright?? (#truth)
But there’s something so instantly calming about coming home to a clean, inviting room. No matter how big a day you had, how ruined your shoes got by the Melbourne weather, no matter how annoying that email your boss sent you – knowing that there is something in your life that is ‘together’ is instantly settling.
Plus who else sleeps better when they’ve slipped into a ‘made’ bed? I mean, I know that technically it’s the same thing, either way, but crinkle free sheets just somehow feel better…
Nine | The queen is not coming to dinner. Use your expensive shit.
Put your hand up if you have that candle. You know the one I’m talking about. The one that worth the GDP of a small African nation and is your favourite Instagram prop that you probably got as a gift anyway, and you’ve done the math and it’s gonna cost more per hour to burn than you make in a day.
So many of us save our indulgent things for a special occasion, but there’s really wonderful about that special occasion being ‘just because I want to’. It’s somewhat of a game changer to treat yo self to something that you consider special for the sheer hell of it, and why actually aren’t you worthy of special on the reg anyway?
I know we’re all worried that the Queen will drop by unannounced and we won’t be able to wow her with our amazing taste in candles, but let’s be real, she has no single grandson’s left anyway, and on the off chance you still want to impress her, Myer is open late pretty much everywhere and stocks Jo Malone.
Ten | Stop using blog posts such as this as a magic formula for happy.
Here’s the most important point of all. (Finally, says an audience who bared with my babble for nine fecking less important points.)
There is no instruction manual for wellness. In fact, wellness is barely a word, just some sort of vague intersection of healthy, happy and in a good mood.
I used to read posts like this all the time and stress myself into next Tuesday trying to Follow. All. The. Points. Exactly. In. Order. Doing. It. Every. Day, and that’s kind of not the point. Don’t force your overall wellbeing into someone else’s definition, because much like that cut out jumpsuit in Zara, it’s not gonna look the same on everyone.
The above are things that work for me, and you are so very welcome to borrow them, because we’re mates. But you’ll find some work, others don’t, and there’s a whole host of other things that I didn’t even think of that will make your soul smile.
So go find them. Wellness isn’t an indulgence, it’s essential.