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How to renew your mind, spirit -- and yes, your body -- in the 2019 New Year
RedEye - 1/2/2019
Jan. 02--New year, new you. The phrase might be a cliche, but the beginning of a new year truly presents an opportunity to reset and refocus on whatever you want to accomplish.
Resolutions are hard to keep -- statistics show the majority of people fail to keep them for more than six weeks into the new year -- and about 55 percent of resolutions are related to health. While there's nothing wrong with signing up for a brand new gym membership, there's a difference between striving to be thin and striving to be well.
With varying bodies, backgrounds and lifestyles, "healthy" looks different for us all. Want a six-pack in 2019? That's cool, but don't neglect your emotional and mental health during the quest for abs of steel.
We talked to four experts in mental, physical and spiritual wellness for tips on nurturing your whole self in the new year.
Jacob Goldsmith is a licensed clinical psychologist and coordinator of the Emerging Adult Program at the Family Institute at Northwestern University.
C. Vaile Wright is a licensed clinical psychologist and director of research and special projects at the American Psychological Association.
You're ready -- maybe for the first time in a while or first time, period -- to address your mental health. One question always helps start the process, said Jacob Goldsmith.
"Before doing any self-help thing, no matter what, if you can ask yourself, 'What do I know about myself, my strengths and my weaknesses, that will help me formulate a plan that works for me?' you can save yourself some enormous headache," he said. "Because there is plenty of advice that only applies in certain conditions."
Wright encouraged folks to think about mental wellness as "building resilience."
"(Mental health) doesn't make the problems go away -- we can just better control our emotions," she said.
So, how do we do that?
Distinguish or re-frame self-focus versus selfishness.
Emerging adulthood between the ages of 20 and 32 is inherently a self-focused time. You need to spend time in self-focus to figure out what you want. That's not selfish. -- Goldsmith
When a plane crew talks about the emergency air masks, they always say 'Put the air mask on yourself first before your child,' and that's not a selfish move. We can be the most effective employee, the most effective friend, the most effective whatever, by first taking care of ourselves. -- Wright
Keep a balance with your social life. Relationships are central to mental health.
Calming yourself down takes a lot of energy. Calming yourself down with the help of someone you trust takes a lot less energy. We exist in relation to other people. Without talking about relationships, we miss one wall that's holding the roof up. Emerging adults spend more time alone than anyone else but the elderly. If you want to be mentally healthy, you should have some good friends. -- Goldsmith
Discover a single skill to master, but take baby steps.
When we master a new skill, that's a feeling of accomplishment. A more incremental-step process to learning a new skill can have both mental health rewards and keep you from being overwhelmed. -- Wright
If you attach something like a mindfulness exercise to a habit you already have -- like brushing your teeth -- it can be easier to build the new habit. -- Goldsmith
Don't rely solely on willpower. Find a system that works for you.
You want to have more effective sleep, so you make an external adjustment like putting your phone in a different room. You're not relying on willpower and are creating actual physical distance. That could also be check-ins with your friends -- the two of you can hold each other accountable for your goals. -- Wright
Your system should help you feel in control without overwhelming you. If you are forgetful, a lot of reminders might help, but if you're anxious, so many reminders could make it worse. -- Goldsmith
Focus on sleep, eating healthy and being active.
When we can do those three things, we really build the foundation to be able to manage any sort of adversity that comes our way. -- Wright
APA Families & Patients glossary
This thorough list includes symptoms, risk factors and treatment options for common mental disorders, plus answers from leading psychiatrists to submitted questions, testimony from people living with mental illness and additional resources. psychiatry.org/patients-families
APA Find a Psychiatrist
This self-explanatory tool allows you to search by all kinds of demographics and location, as well as private insurance, Medicare and Medicaid. finder.psychiatry.org
Therapy services from Family Institute at Northwestern University
Learn about standard therapy services available on their How to Get Started page.
Sliding scale fees in the Bette D. Harris Family & Child Clinic start at $5 and go to $75. The scale is based on annual household income, and sliding-scale clients see therapists-in-training, which are Family Institute's graduate students.
While he said apps are not for everyone, Goldsmith enjoys the Headspace app, which is available on the App Store and Google Play.
Seobia Rivers is the fitness director and a trainer at Healthy Hood Chicago, a fitness and dance studio in Pilsen that provides low-cost classes meant to "exercise the body, educate the mind and awaken the conscience." With a background in corporate wellness as well as commercial fitness, Rivers' philosophy is to teach her clients how to "maintain a healthy lifestyle, execute proper form, and how to strengthen their mental muscles, too."
Just start, but start slow.
I don't think that from the couch you've got to get up and work out five times in the week. You can do that, but you're going to find burnout very quickly and it's going to negatively affect your mentality on working out. Look up some workouts online or do your own research first and then get started, or start with getting a personal trainer or a class so you have some guidance if you need it.
Find your fitness community.
It's very trendy now to be building community in the fitness industry, whether that be with all women or prior athletes.
Say no to fad dieting.
If you choose to create a healthy lifestyle, that's something you can maintain over your entire lifespan instead of just going to get a waist trainer and then your stomach looks smaller, but then in two weeks it's back to how it was. Or going on a fad diet for two weeks and you lose that 20-30 pounds but then you get back to real life and it comes back. If somebody is being taught how to maintain a healthy lifestyle, they're going to see results that last and stick. I believe it's so important to realize that you are your own hero. You're your own savior. You have to take those matters into your own hands. You can reach out for help, but you have to have those tools to keep going.
Healthy Hood Chicago
2242 S. Damen Ave., 773-876-0317
All classes are $5 and feature options such as cardio kickboxing, intro to choreography and yoga, including a Yoga en Español class on Sundays. Check the website for details. Healthyhoodchi.com
Aya-Nikole Cook has taught yoga for the past 10 years and owns Haji Healing Salon, a "healing sanctuary" in Chatham that makes "healing a lifestyle and thriving our resistance." After being diagnosed with fibroid tumors, Cook turned to yoga and acupuncture to help ease her anxiety and control her symptoms. The salon provides affordable wellness treatments on the South Side, with a focus on healing the black community in that underserved area.
Ease into meditation and mindfulness.
I was born and raised in a Buddhist family, so I had a pretty early understanding of my spiritual self, which I'm grateful for. As I grew into adulthood and started to step out on my own and explore different spiritual traditions, I learned that there were so many ways to connect with your spiritual self. I really began to learn the importance of kind of silent meditation. It really is just about listening, pausing and being willing to be in the receptive mode so that you can hear your own inner asking and also hear communications that might be coming from the universe you could call it, or the all.
It can be much more simple than we think. Even just asking ourselves to pause first thing in the morning before we start engaging in all our daily activities just to go into the receptive mode. That five minutes can really be transformative.
Create your own ritual.
Chanting mantras, affirmations and different powerful spiritual sounds is a very beautiful way to come into your center.
The practice of affirmations is interesting because you can't just say the words and expect change to happen. You have to put some emotion and feeling behind the statement, and it's a statement that you repeat over and over again. The more you repeat it, the more feeling you put into it and eventually you really feel like what you're saying is true. I say, "Every day and every way, my life gets better and better." And that for me is a really powerful practice. You can change it: You can say, "Every day and every way, my health gets better. Every day and every way, my finances get better."
Another affirmation I've been using lately in Savasana at the end of a yoga practice is, "Breathing in divine love, breathing out forgiveness." That's something I can say to myself with every breath and it feels very comforting. Forgiveness is so necessary, and self-forgiveness has to be first before you can start to heal.
Seek support from people on similar paths.
Part of why I came up with the concept for Haji Healing Salon had to do with the kind of isolation that sometimes comes from being ill and endeavoring to heal yourself. I've been living at what I call a healing lifestyle for over 20 years now, and one of the things that has made me feel more successful in staying on the path is having people around me who are also committed to the lifestyle. When you place yoga, acupuncture and massage and reiki and healing practices at the center of your life, you're creating an alternative reality for yourself -- an alternative to the way the mainstream culture is moving. When you have a community of people who are committed to the building of this lifestyle, it makes it much easier to remain committed yourself.
Haji Healing Salon
746 E. 79th St., 312-375-7445
Go for yoga classes ($10), meditation, community acupuncture and many more specialized workshops.
The above interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
firstname.lastname@example.org -- @SadeMichelle
email@example.com -- @lucheezy
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