Life is freaking nuts. Between work and school, we are somehow expected to stay healthy, make time for friends, keep in touch with family, and maintain a (somewhat) clean and organized living space. In the process we are losing ourselves. We are losing our sense of who we are and where we stand in the world.
I have always been the girl who sleeps in past noon, has millions of excuses on hand for getting out of work, and who, at the end of the day, was extremely unhappy and self conscious. After my boyfriend and I broke up this past spring, I realized I had no idea who I was outside of being a girlfriend, a friend, a sister, a daughter. I got lost in the routine of my mundane life. So I decided to use my newfound freedom as an opportunity to reinvent myself.
I began taking myself on dates to my favorite coffeeshop in Adams Morgan where I took up writing while the thick aroma of coffee and croissants enveloped my every inhale. I would visit my favorite bookstore outside of Friendship Heights and read books about art and history. I rediscovered who I was outside from my relationship to other people and gained a sense of direction for the future.
I am a firm believer that if you start your day right you can live a decluttered and mindful life, while also making time for happy hour with your work friends on Friday and brunch with your girls on Sunday. Here’s how:
1. Wake up early (ish)
Morning people run the world. Don’t believe me? Study after study confirm that waking up early is highly correlated with proactiveness, productivity, and positivity. Bonus, the extra time in the morning will give you the opportunity to set some goals for the day.
You don’t need to start by waking up at 4:30 am to go for a jog in the dark. Start slowly by waking up 15 minutes earlier than you normally would and then cut back another 15 minutes in a few days once you are used to that.
2. Get your shit together and meditate
Think meditating is hard? Most of us already meditate without realizing it. The last time you spent an extra five minutes in the shower because it felt too good to get out? Meditating. The time you laid out tanning by yourself doing absolutely nothing but absorbing vitamin D? Meditating.
The western world has become enamoured with eastern practices, and for good reason. Studies have proven that meditation promotes happiness, and helps control anxiety and depression.
Start by setting a timer and making yourself sit for two minutes every day. Leave behind judgement and any inclination you have to overthink your practice. With time commit to 10 minutes, then 20. As you make meditation a part of your daily routine, you will learn to control your thoughts and emotions and gain perspective on the world outside of your day-to-day obligations.
3. Affirm your insecurities
I remember walking down the hair dye aisles of the drugstore as a little girl wishing I could dye my brown hair blonde and that there was some way I could make my tan skin lighter. Just two years ago, I vividly remember trying on my brand new Victoria’s Secret bathing suit (which I emptied my bank account to afford for spring break) and immediately bursting into tears upon looking at my body in the mirror.
I have come a long way since then and I owe it to affirmations. When you start each day by saying out loud. “I am confident,” “today will be amazing,” “I am happy,” you over time start to believe it and embody those mantras in the way you carry yourself and your outlook on life.
When I first started I had no idea where to begin and felt ridiculous speaking to myself. I began by listening to recordings while I put on makeup or while driving to work. My favorite ones are by Louise Hay, who is known as one of the founders of the modern self-help movement (I recommend “101 Power Thoughts”).
From there, you can tailor the affirmations to what is going on in your life at the moment. When I was feeling self conscious I would say things like “I love myself and my body,” and when I was going through a breakup (you’re talking to a serial monogamist) I would say things like “I am no longer tied down and can do whatever I want” or “I am happier without him” and believe it or not, I actually started to believe it.
4. Make yourself a power breakfast
Treat yourself to some instagram-worthy breakfasts. A protein-packed breakfast will help curb your appetite for the rest of the day and make you feel energized and satisfied. Get inspired and try out acai bowls, over easy eggs with avocado toast, green smoothies, chia pudding, or smoothie bowls. Or if you’re feeling fancy, try out these low calorie quinoa pancakes (I can testify to their yumminess). No one wants to go to work hangry.
5. Read the news
Smart is sexy. Not only will reading the news enhance your vocabulary and comprehension over time, but doing so will also help you form opinions on contentious issues from gun violence to global poverty.
If you get bored reading CNN, there are so many engaging news sources that cover every issue from public health to rape culture on college campuses. Vox has an amazing youtube channel that breaks down complex issues you never understood in a three to five minute video. Subscribe to theSkimm for a quick and dirty break down of the week’s major headlines so you’re well equipped to make small talk with your hard to please boss.
Ugh – trust me I know. I am no athlete. If you see me running, you might as well run too because there is probably something bad coming. But whether you spend 10 minutes doing sun salutations or spend $30+ on a SoulCycle class (guilty) starting your day moving your body will not only jumpstart your metabolism and fill your body with endorphins, but also make you feel productive and at least create the illusion that you have your life together.
If you’re really struggling, start by simply committing to put your yoga mat out or putting on your running shoes when you wake up every day. You are much more likely to follow through if you have already taken the first steps.
At the end of the day (or the beginning!) happiness is a choice. Many of us spend our days assuming we will be happier if our circumstances change, but a growing body of research in positive psychology exhibit that happiness is a choice that any of us can make. This is it. This is your life. Why not start living your best life today?