I’ve spent the past decade resolving to do better each year: Eat more vegetables; work out more often; stress less. These resolutions often failed, chiefly because they were hard to measure (how many servings constitute more vegetables?). Often, a complete life overhaul just isn’t realistic, and we end up feeling like failures for not becoming that person who wakes up at 5 a.m. to hit the gym or mastering the art of holistic vegan cooking. Thankfully, I’m not the only one who is saying “Enough with the perfectionism!” Yoga Girl, a.k.a. the Insta-famousRachel Brathen, wants to get that point across. “What I’m trying to say is that you’re perfect the way you already are,” says Brathen of her book,Yoga Girl (available for pre order on amazon.com), which counters the countless diet and fitness tips out there that advocate changing oneself. “You can feel really good about who you are, without having to change all these things. So you feel motivated to make healthier choices and more loving choices for yourself, as opposed to starting off saying ‘I’m not good enough.’ Begin by loving yourself—that’s where health and balance come from.”
On my own path to be OK with who I am already (that means resisting cleanses and unsustainable fitness programs), I’ve come up with some quick things we can all do to boost our productivity and well-being:
Meditate for 10 minutes:
One of the best things we can add to our life—in the New Year, sure, but even for one day—is meditating. It doesn’t have to take long and you don’t have to be a devout yogi to do it. I’ve always struggled with the idea of sitting still and letting my worries invade my thoughts, but apps with guided meditations work wonders. Try: Stop, Breathe & Think or Headspace (the former is free to download and offers free and paid meditations; the latter is free for the first 10 days). Both offer short meditations for beginners. I’ve started looking forward to it—really! Know that you don’t need to eliminate thoughts and feel comfortable; just sitting, breathing and letting your thoughts be there is enough.
Exercise for 20 minutes:
Last year I tried to exercise for 30 minutes a day, for 30 days. I succeeded in most of the workouts that month, but afterward? The “easy” plan didn’t seem so easy. A 30-minute sweat sesh becomes more like an hour once you stretch and shower, and, quite frankly, it’s really hard to fit it in at the end of the day. What I’ve learned is that if something seems impossible (i.e. working out every day), don’t do nothing. Just sneak in a few 20-minute—or even 10-minute—workouts. Here are my go-tos: a treadmill run (five-minute warm up, 15 minutes of intervals); a circuit of kettlebell swings, burpees, squats and lunges; and a Nike Training Club workout (download the app). The simplest at-home workout is the 7-Minute workout. Easy does it.
Eat fermented foods:
Why? Because it’s so good for you. So many healthy foods and vegetables take a bit of time to prep, which makes it difficult to whip up a salad before you run out the door. If you keep a jar of kimchi and sauerkraut in your fridge, you can add a bit to any meal in seconds and feel good about boosting its nutritional value. Cabbage is chock-full of antioxidants, and when it’s fermented, it makes your gut happy, improving your digestion and even your skin.
I’m pasta obsessed and often crave a heaping plate of noodles when I get home from work. One of the most amusing tools to enter my kitchen is a spiralizer, which transforms vegetables—from zucchini to sweet potato to carrots—into spaghetti-like strands. It only takes a few minutes to turn a so-so bolognese into a powerhouse, nutritious meal: Just pour your sauce over a bed of curly veggies.