By now, I know enough about wellness—but I don’t always live the “wellness lifestyle”! Truth be told, my wellness habits are hardly picturesque, most of the time. I am not sitting here eating a rainbow-colored dragon bowl while listening to a mindfulness podcast! (Unpopular opinion alert: You know what I actually really don’t get? Most podcasts are so meandering and pointless. I have to listen to about 30 minutes of chitter chatter before I hear anything worth noting. Instead of relaxing me, it ends up making me feel anxious like I wasted a lot of time. Needless to say, my podcast experiments did not work out.)
I’m also not going to walk in a labyrinth garden, try an extreme detox regime, try the latest SkinTok trend or burn sage sticks or cast moon spells or bake pies from scratch to cool on my cottagecore windowsill or go on a Hot Girl Walk wearing an exercise skirt or do ice-cold plunges or become a digital nomad working in the world’s beautiful places. These can all work for some people! But I need something lower maintenance that blends well into professional, everyday life.
Instead, my wellness routine is functional and personal: I know what works to get me through the day (and the week). As a busy thirtysomething professional, I think it’s good to have these wellness tools that are tried and true, and just for you. Without further ado, here are my functional wellness habits.
Non-Negotiable, functional wellness habits
Get as much sleep as possible on a regular basis
While it’s a given that some life phases and occupations make a good night’s sleep impossible, I believe that prioritizing sleep has been the number one factor in my health and wellness. I used to live for years while chronically sleep-deprived. It made me susceptible to infections and ailments, and I frequently felt depressed for no other reason. My mental, physical, and spiritual health all changed dramatically once I started sleeping more. These days, I go to bed with a good book and don’t use an alarm clock unless I have to. This means that most mornings I wake up with the sun—earlier in the summer and later in the winter. When I feel sleepy and lethargic because I woke up too early (such as in mid-summer), I give myself permission to take a short nap later in the afternoon—which is proven to anti-age your brain.
Juice a day as much as possible
My favorite all-around wellness habit—and by far the most expensive one—is a daily juice. I’m low-plastic, so this means I walk over to a local vegan restaurant and sit down for a glass of fresh-pressed carrot-based or green juice—$10 including tip. I don’t do it all the time, but I turn to this if I have a trip or an important event approaching so I can be my best self. I find that this is the best immune, mood, and energy booster, and keeps me from getting sick even when flying too much. Given the amount of vegetables are required to make a glass of juice, I even think that $10 is a very fair price. Bonus: this habit lowers my sugar cravings like nothing else!
Another more affordable option is buying aloe juice from a health food store and mixing that with equal amount of cold filtered water for a hydration and immune boost. I absolutely love doing this before flights, and it helps maintain my skin.
Frequent connection with friends
Research shows that social relationships are keeping our brains sharp, our bodies healthy, and our mood happy. It’s no coincidence that in Blue Zone countries, people focus on their family and social relationships much more than people elsewhere. Loneliness, on the other hand, is an even greater health risk than obesity. Most days, I have a phone conversation with at least one friend or family member, plus texting with several people who are close to me to varying degrees. I have intentional quality time with my family and friends about a few times a week on average. This helps me stay uplifted throughout life’s ups and downs.
Make it a practice to step up the social interaction. We’ve all grown used to lower-level interaction like commenting on someone’s social media post. And we’re scared to do anything more than that. If you’re used to keeping in touch with friends on Instagram, try texting. If you’re usually texting, leave an audio message—or even better, do a voice or video call. Hopefully you’ll also be able to hang out in person.
While the doctor recommended amount is only three times a week of aerobic exercise plus one strength training, I feel my best when I workout five to six days a week, about 90 minutes to two hours each time. I notice that regular exercise is the one thing my healthy (in all senses of the word) friends all have to have for their wellness. For some friends it’s rock climbing, others run outside, and still others always go to the gym. I spend just $20 a month for my online class subscription, for priceless wellness effect.
So many of us get up, commute to work, and don’t step outside the office building until evening. And then it’s back to commuting home, where we eat dinner and try to rest. I used to be just like this, for many years. Now, I try to take a walk outside in the morning to take my mind off overthinking. I focus on my environment—bees, flowers, the sky, the grass, squirrels, birds—and that helps take the edge of anxiety like nothing else. Some days I might substitute cycling instead. As simple as it sounds, this intentional outdoor time was transformative.
Did you know that regular baths have a greater mood boosting effect than physical exercise? Taking baths just twice a week lifts your mood as much as working out, and can be an effective tool against mild to moderate depression. Studies have shown that baths activate the parasympathetic nervous system, lowering stress and lifting your mood. It also regulates your circadian rhythm, leading to a better night’s sleep. I’ve been taking every-other-day baths for about four years now, and I fully believe that it’s one of the best destressors and stabilizers. For the best effect, I add a little bit of Epsom salt (muscle recovery), light some candles, and listen to music.
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Photo: Victoria Alexandrovna via Unsplash