Happy New Year! Welcome to 2021!

Whether you had the best year of your life, or the worst in 2020, setting New Year’s resolutions can feel like a positive way to set goals and start fresh in 2021. Many people set fitness goals, career objectives, or financial targets as New Year’s resolutions. However, this year, I challenge you to drop all New Year’s resolutions from your mind and focus on self-care intentions instead.

Living a balanced, happy life starts with taking care of yourself. Think about it. Without self-love, can you genuinely enjoy hitting your target weight or your raise? What do these accomplishments mean to you if you feel burned out and stressed deep down? By setting an intention of self-care for 2021, you’ll shift your focus from external desires to authentic, internal joy. Plus, when you prioritize your individual needs, I bet you’ll feel even more grateful when abundance comes your way!

In today’s demanding, distracting, sometimes chaotic world, many people feel pulled from one direction to the next. We live in a digital age where our brains continuously receive and process new messages: texts, social media feeds, emails, in-person conversations, nonstop notifications and reminders, the list goes on. Plus, what about meeting deadlines, taking care of children, caring for pets, and tending to relationships? In a world where we feel the need to always be “on,” how can we slow our roll and remind ourselves to pause? By practicing a lot of self-care.

No matter how busy you are, there is always time to show yourself some love. Here are some easy ways that you can practice self-care to feel your best and shine your way through 2021!

As someone who needs a lot of alone time (anyone else relate?), one of my personal favorite ways to practice self-care is to slow down. When I press pause, I give myself the space I need to process, reflect on, and restore my thoughts and experiences. Then, I’m able to move forward with more energy, liveliness, and engagement.

Imagine yourself as a cup that continuously pours out its liquid contents; eventually, it’s going to become empty. Pouring from an empty cup is exhausting! That’s why it’s necessary to take time to slow down and restore your mind and body. When you feel balanced, you give to others from a place of love and feel more present. So, how can you slow down? Stillness, meditation, deep breathing, taking your time, staying in, and simply doing less can all help you slow down, which leads me to another fabulous self-care practice, saying no.

2. SAY NO.
Saying no is hard. It’s natural to want to please your social circle, but sometimes you have to put yourself first. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or just want some alone time, you shouldn’t feel guilty about it!

Think about saying no from this perspective. How have you felt when you’ve been told no? Maybe a friend couldn’t go to a concert with you, or your significant other didn’t feel up to date night. Were you devastated, hurt, or super upset? Chances are that you were understanding because you want the best for the people you love. So, show yourself the same care and say no to plans and obligations when you’re not feeling up for them.

One of the ultimate ways to practice self-care is by taking care of your body – you only have one! Nourishing yourself with healthy food, lots of water, plenty of exercise, and the right amount of sleep sets the foundation for self-care. When your basic needs aren’t being met, doing just about anything can feel draining. Listen to your body and do what you need to do to feel your best.

Knowing what irks you can help you avoid anxiety-inducing situations. So, once you’re aware of your stressors, you can learn how to keep it from happening in the first place. Whether you go bonkers from a lack of sleep, spending too much time on social media, or not getting enough exercise, try your best not to let your stressors take control.

Do you have any relationships that make you feel more negative than positive? If so, there’s no need to keep toxic relationships around. It’s crucial to fill your life with supportive, caring, positive people who make you feel good. Your personal relationships play a critical role in your quality of life, so surrounding yourself with healthy ones is a must. Also, keep in mind that toxic people can come in many forms and even show up in your social media feeds. If you follow any Instagram handles, Facebook friends or Twitter feeds that make you feel bad about yourself, hit that unfollow button and say, “Bye Felicia!”

The average American spends over four hours on their smartphone per day. That’s a lot of time. According to research, mental wellness, like self-esteem, happiness, and life satisfaction, have decreased while mental health conditions, like anxiety, depression, and loneliness, have increased since the rise of the smartphone.

So, what can you do? Stop the scroll and spend more time connecting with real humans. Too much screen takes away from real-world experiences and interactions that promote better mental health. People are feeling lonelier than ever, so try taking a digital detox here and there to boost your self-care in the new year.

Now that we’ve talked about what to remove from your life, let’s discuss what to add in! Filling your life with what makes you happy may seem like a no-brainer, but how often do you put others’ needs before your own? It’s important to be a caring friend, sibling, or partner, but not in place of your own happiness. So, ask yourself what experiences make you feel the most like yourself. Then, do them more often! Whether it’s making more time to play with your pet, going to your favorite yoga class, or reading a new book, schedule time in your life to do the things that you love.

Your senses can play a significant role in self-care. Did you know that engaging them helps you self-soothe during stressful times? Your hearing, touch, smell, taste, and sight are all (free) tools that you can utilize to ease stress and anxiety. There are lots of ways to activate your senses for self-care. Here are a few:

Hearing: Soothing sounds can calm your mind. Listen to relaxing music (piano, classical, instruments), a sound machine, or immerse yourself in nature to soak up the sounds of birds chirping, streams flowing, leaves crunching, and the wind blowing.
Touch: Stimulating your sense of touch can help you shift your focus. If you’re feeling anxious, notice your feet touching the floor, how your back feels against your chair, or feel the textures of your clothing. Also, try creating art with your hands or running your hands through some sand to activate your sense of touch.
Smell: Your sense of smell has a super powerful effect on your mood. For example, diffusing essential oils is a proven self-care method that can serve various purposes. Whether you want to feel more energized, less stressed, more grounded, or totally relaxed, there are lots of essential oils to choose from to give your body what it needs. Also, get outside! Take some deep inhales and exhales to fill your body with nature scents, like fresh air, flowers, and moss.
Sight: Various shades of blue and green can remind you of nature and have a calming effect on your body. Furthermore, looking at clouds, sunrises, sunsets, plants, starry nights, or even watching your pets sleep are all great ways to stimulate your sense of sight.
Taste: Mindful eating is a calming method to ease your busy mind. Try eating and drinking slowly as you notice the flavors and textures inside of your mouth. Fruits, vegetables, teas, and anything else with more complex notes and textures are best for this.

Setting mindfulness as a self-care intention for the new year is a must! If you’re new to mindfulness or you’ve been at it for years, there are endless ways to be more mindful. Did you know you can be mindful when doing just about anything: listening, driving, meditating, working, eating, exercising, and so on? The Merriam-Webster definition of mindfulness is “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.” Therefore, mindfulness and presence go hand in hand. When you fully soak your experiences, you’ll feel more engaged, connected, and alive.

Also, take note of that (super important) “nonjudgmental” piece. How often do you judge yourself or your thoughts? A lot? If so, try to acknowledge your thoughts as they pass by without getting too caught up in them. You’ll stay more present and mindful throughout your day. You are not your thoughts! Being hard on yourself is not self-care, so give yourself a break and let those thoughts go!

The number one thing to remember when it comes to self-care is to do what works for you. If you try some of these methods and don’t like them, that’s completely okay! Self-care is never a competition, so take what works and leave the rest. Self-care is all about making your livelihood a priority so you can live your best life. Cheers to that!