Team Moneyish shares the biggest lifestyle changes we’ve made leading up to Global Wellness Day, like forest bathing, getting enough sleep and volunteering.
Taking care of yourself takes one step at a time.
We’d all love to wake up one morning with everything figured out: Getting the right amount of sleep; working out every morning; eating a balanced diet; and finding time to unplug — while also still juggling the responsibilities of work, finances and family.
But it’s unrealistic to fix everything at once. So in honor of Global Wellness Day on Saturday, the Moneyish team looked back at the biggest lifestyle change we’ve each made over the past few months that has made the greatest impact on our mental and physical well-being. Here’s what we’ve learned, and how these habits can help you, too.
I spend at least one weekend a month ‘forest bathing’
Two kids, a full-time job, a two-hour-a-day commute: With all that going on, there are days when I have to scarf my kids’ leftovers — standing up, no less — just so I can get them to bed on time and finish work before 10 p.m. And the weekends — with their flurry of playdates, activities and errands — aren’t exactly the easiest time to unwind. Often my idea of relaxing includes zoning out to Netflix, glass of wine in hand, as I’m too tired to hit up a yoga class or go for a run. Not exactly the healthiest of coping strategies …
But recently, my husband and I decided to reign in the hectic pace of our lives. We committed to getting out into nature for an entire weekend at least once a month. Now we head about two-and-a-half hours north of New York City, to a place near Hunter Mountain, to unplug from the frantic pace of our lives. We go hiking, horseback riding, play in the snow or out on the lawn. Yes, there is internet, but it’s dial-up speed, so you can’t do much with it — and we try to stay off our phones for most of the time that we’re there.
We both feel it’s slashed our stress levels (especially when we go more than one weekend a month!) and put us in a better frame of mind to deal with our hectic lives. And research backs that up: A study published in the journal Environmental Health and Preventative Medicine found that people who walked through a forest had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol than those who walked through the city (added bonus: their blood pressure was lower, too). Another study found that being out in nature boosts your mood and cuts anxiety, depression and stress.
So is it any wonder that when Hillary lost the election, she was spotted hiking all the time?
— Catey Hill
Setting deadlines for myself at work gives me more time to do ME!
We commit to things every day: meetings, deadlines, catching up with friends and paying bills. And we show up because other people are holding us accountable. So why is it so easy for us to bail on ourselves? I can’t tell you how many gym classes I’ve missed, or dinners I’ve flaked out on, because I was either too tired from working late, or just missed out on them completely.
I realized that if I wanted to get out of the office at a reasonable hour, setting strict deadlines for myself had to be a priority (less thinking, more doing!) Signing up for a late afternoon yoga or spin class in the morning motivates me to finish work in time to make that sweat session. And I’ve learned that It’s easier to postpone something — or not show up at all — when nothing is on the line. So locking myself into a gym class that I can’t get refunded for has helped a lot.
Plus, booking a class in advance means there’s something fun to look forward to at the end of the day. Nothing feels better than getting my vinyasa flow on to Cardi B after sitting at the office all day. It’s a way to sweat out the stress from the day, and tap into mindfulness. I feel better, and walk out glowing (literally — my skin has been looking great).
Making time for myself forces me to snap out of “work” mode, and tap back into “life” mode (which I’m getting REALLY good at). Carving out time for yourself during the week to do something you love can actually boost your performance at work, too. A study from the University of Warwick reported that “happiness led to a 12% spike in productivity, while unhappy workers provided 10% less productive.” So stop blowing yourself off, and make “you” a priority.
— Jeanette Settembre
When you’re running on empty — sit the race out.
That’s hard for a nine-time marathoner like myself to admit. But even though I’ve pushed through dozens of races since I picked up the sport in 2011, from 5Ks to full marathons, this spring I hit a wall in my training: I just didn’t want to run anymore.
And as the starting line of the Popular Brooklyn Half Marathon crept closer in May, the thought of pounding the pavement for 13.1 miles stressed me out. And that’s not what running is supposed to be about.
So … I didn’t. I withdrew from the race. And the overwhelming relief I felt after reaching that decision assured me that I’d made the right choice. And the New York Road Runners rep Christine Burke, a co-organizer of the race I skipped, agreed. “During a race, if your heart and mind are motivated, often you can get your body to follow. But if your heart and mind are not inspired and energized, even the most well-trained body won’t want to push through the inevitable pain,” she said. “Sometimes the best choice is to not fight through, and to conserve your body and energy for another race in the future.”
I’m not alone. And I’m not lazy. Runner’s World reports that burnout (aka plateauing, getting in a rut or suffering a slump) is quite common, especially for athletes who have overtrained or registered for too many races.
“Taking a break from running offers both physical and psychological benefits,” Molly Ritterbeck, the Runner’s World Training, Fitness & Health Director, told me. “Many runners are worried about losing their fitness levels, but participating in other activities you find joy in, or different sports that maintain your cardio fitness such as cycling and swimming, are great ways to step away from running, remain active and potentially rediscover the joy you may have lost. Plus, consistent competitive racing puts a lot of pressure on an athlete, which can quickly make something you used to love feel like a chore.”
Just make sure that your “break” doesn’t turn into a permanent “break up.” Do a different activity, and set goals to get back on track. So I slowed down and started taking long walks, which has been a low-impact way to stay active that doubles as a mindfulness exercise. And I’ve signed up for a couple of short races early this summer to get psyched for running the New York City Marathon this fall — including the Women’s MIni 10K (6.2 miles) this weekend, and the Pride Run 5-miler later this month; two races with great atmosphere that remind me why I fell in love with running in the first place — because it’s fun.
And who knows? Maybe the time off will push me toward a personal record in the long run. After all, Shalane Flanagan won the New York City Marathon last fall, and Desi Linden won the Boston Marathon in April, after taking time off from running.
— Nicole Lyn Pesce
Better late than never
2018 has been all about tackling the wellness goals I’d been pushing off for years. For starters, I ran my first 5K — the 3.5-mile J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Central Park — at the urging of my seasoned runner colleagues. Far too lazy to use my long-dormant gym membership, I trained outside for about two weeks before developing knee pain, which prompted me to essentially table my athletic aspirations until race day. I really, really wanted to bail, but forced myself to follow through.
I’m so glad I did. Despite my lack of preparation, the race turned out fine — fun, even! — and I proved to myself that I could do something healthy without overexerting. You don’t have to spend hours running tons of miles to enjoy the health benefits of running. In fact, research suggests that running in moderation, like the training involved for a 5K (3.1 miles), can be beneficial: “Many studies, including ours, support that a small amount of running, even below the current minimum guidelines (<75 min/wk), can substantially reduce mortality risk and extend life,” wrote the authors of a 2016 Mayo Clinic Proceedings study. The relative ease of my first 5K, meanwhile, has created momentum to sign up for more in the future.
I had also longed to volunteer in some substantial way, aside from one-off professional mentoring opportunities through work. So I signed up with New York Cares, the massive network that connects 63,000 New Yorkers with volunteer opportunities, and completed the mandatory training last month. My first project is next week, and I’m psyched. And though my priority is obviously to help others, studies show I’ll also be helping myself: Volunteering can help reduce stress and depression, survey research suggests, and has been linked with lower blood pressure.
It’s never too late to make a difference — for yourself or for others.
— Meera Jagannathan
The Happiest Hour
After I had my daughter, a friend told me, “The days are long, but the years are short.” It was the sort of thing I rolled my eyes at, better left for an inspirational Instagram feed. Because as far as I’m concerned, there has never been enough hours in a day. Ever.
Between editing Moneyish, running, reading, serving on the board of the Tomorrows Children’s Fund and being a mom to a precocious 4-year-old, let’s just say I would happily upgrade to a 30-hour day if anyone was offering.
So in 2017, tired of complaining that I never had enough time for the things I really wanted to do, I overhauled my sleep schedule — and, well, my life. I had been longing to integrate daily exercise into my routine, as well as finally get that book out of my heart and onto the page, but none of that was happening after a day at the office.
So the experiment was simple: Be asleep by 10 p.m., and up at 5 a.m.
The new sleep schedule forced me to be ruthless with my calendar: late nights are few and far between. Instead, I wake up, go to the gym, and take the endorphin-fueled 15-minute walk home after class – with a cup of coffee, of course – to think about the day, set my intentions and decide who and what really needs my attention, and what can wait. The days that I don’t go and work out, I wake up and write. Sometimes I write letters to my daughter, little snippets of life for her to read when she grows up. Other times I write essays I’ve been thinking about. I’ve started my YA manuscript. And so far I’ve written two children’s books; my first one is out this fall.
And, as much as I love a good happy hour, I say “no” to most after work requests for a drink. Instead, I choose what I called “The Happiest Hour” — the extra one I found at the beginning of the day, that I spend with myself.
— Raakhee Mirchandani
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