When we feel stuck, we usually crave huge changes. We want to make radical shifts to turn our lives upside down because we believe that’s the only way to move forward.
Yet, in reality, those massive shifts rarely lead to sustainable changes. Instead, we often feel overwhelmed and readopt our old patterns very soon, which only leads to more frustration.
The good news is, we can rely on small yet consistent changes to help us regain our power over time. This might take a little longer, but it’ll lead to a more fulfilled and peaceful life in the long run.
Stick to the 80% rule for better health
According to the World Health Organization, more than one billion people worldwide are obese.
The main reasons for that shocking number are obvious: We spend most of our days seated and consume much more calories than needed.
And most of the time, we overeat because we’re so used to processed foods and huge portions — especially when eating outside.
In Okinawa, one of the five Blue Zones where people often live up to 100 years or even more, the population follows the 80% rule: They only eat until they’re about 80% full.
This is powerful because research proves it takes 15–20 minutes for our brains to realize we’re full. So if you stop when you feel like you’ve reached 80%, you’ll likely feel 100% full after a few minutes anyway.
However, you’ll avoid overeating and feeling tired after each meal.
Log out of apps you should be using less
If you want to spend less time on your phone but don’t want to delete certain apps altogether, log out.
Next time you want to use the app, you’ll be reminded of your good intentions and can consciously decide whether you really want to use it.
Don’t leave empty-handed
Whenever you leave a room, take something that doesn’t belong there with you.
E.g., When leaving the bedroom, take empty cups, bottles, or dirty laundry with you and put them in the right place. This will help keep your home tidy and organized at all times with minimal extra effort.
Keep a virtual shopping list on your phone
I started to use a virtual shopping list called Hngrya few years ago.
This simple habit has helped me save so much time: Whenever I realize we’re about to run out of something, I immediately add it to the list: soap, toothpaste, toilet paper, candles, pasta — whatever.
Next time I go shopping, I know exactly what I need to buy.
Since using the app, I’ve never run out of anything.
Plus, using a virtual shopping list has many more benefits: You have a better overview of what you need and make fewer unnecessary purchases, which helps reduce waste and save money.
By knowing what you need, you’re also less tempted to buy sweets and highly processed foods. And most importantly, it makes your shopping experience a lot easier because you spend less time thinking about what you need.
The #1 time and energy saver
While talking about groceries, let me share two more habits that helped me make a profound change: Meal planning and prepping.
Every Sunday, I create a weekly meal plan and write down what I’ll eat next week. I’m not a talented chef and don’t enjoy cooking, so I purchased meal plans full of simple and healthy recipes I like.
As I don’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen, I always cook bigger batches, so I can eat the same meal at least twice.
Without meal plans, I easily opt for processed, unhealthy foods — especially if I need to make choices when I’m already hungry.
But if I’m well prepared, I can easily stick to a healthy, nutritious, and simple plan.
By eating healthily, I feel better, have more mental clarity, and am more energized overall.
Be kind (even if the other person isn’t)
Instead of taking other people and their work for granted, try to show kindness and compassion.
This isn’t always easy, but most of the time, it’ll help you engage in genuine conversations and solve problems much quicker.
Just because someone reacts rudely doesn’t mean you did anything wrong. They might be having a bad day or might’ve received bad news just recently.
Train your “kindness muscle” by reminding yourself that someone else’s behavior is barely a reaction to you but just a reflection of how they feel deep inside.
If you can get it done within 2 minutes, do it
Whenever you have an annoying task to complete that won’t take you more than 1–2 minutes, do it right away.
By procrastinating and whining about it, you’ll only get even more annoyed and waste mental energy. Once it’s done, you can happily get it out of your mind and focus on more important tasks.
Stick to water as your go-to drink
You can save loads of calories and money by drinking water instead of pretty much anything else.
There’s no harm in drinking a cup of coke or orange juice occasionally when you really crave it, but make sure you don’t pour those immense volumes of sugar into your body regularly.
Water is simple, cheap, and healthy, so train yourself to choose it more often.
Get used to complimenting other people
Cheering for others and highlighting their positive traits is a superpower.
Most people are stuck with a scarcity mindset and believe they must compete with others. Yet, the truth is, life is abundant, and we can all get what we want while being nice to each other.
Instead of looking at others with jealousy, try to share your genuine thoughts with them.
If you like how someone looks, tell them. They might’ve spent years losing weight and working out, so your compliment might make their day.
If you realize someone’s making an effort at work, tell her. She might’ve been up all night to finish a presentation, and you might be the only one to acknowledge her hard work.
Life could be much more beautiful if we all supported each other and shared more compliments instead of hate.
Sleep can be the solution to most of your problems
According to CDC, almost 40% of adult Americans don’t get enough sleep.
And while most people don’t even take sleep seriously, the truth is that we can eliminate many of our daily problems just by sleeping better and longer.
If we’re sleep-deprived, we’re more prone to gaining weight but also more irritable, anxious, and mentally exhausted.
To ensure you get a good rest, go to bed at the same time every night. In the long run, this will help you fall asleep easily because your body will get used to a specific schedule.
Also, ensure to sleep in a dark room (or use a sleep mask), avoid eating big meals at least 1–2 hours before going to bed, and don’t take your phone to the bedroom.
Also, allow yourself to slow down at least an hour before bedtime so your body can adjust.
If possible, take the stairs
As someone who’s working from home, I move very little during an average workday. So when I do get outside, I try to make the most of my time by walking most distances and taking the stairs whenever possible.
For me, it’s a simple way to get some extra steps in without much extra effort.
If you’re struggling with money, track your expenses
Most people widely underestimate how much money they spend on luxuries like eating out or new clothes every month.
They work hard for their money but don’t pay much attention to how they spend it.
If you ever feel like you have no idea where your money went, start to religiously track your expenses for at least 2 to 3 months.
I used an app called Toshl to keep track of every penny for two years. This helped me realize that eating out and making random impulse purchases were the two major expenses I could control if I wanted to save money.
Your insights might be totally different: You might be paying for subscriptions you don’t even use or spending lots of money to replace broken items in your home every month.
The problem is, you won’t know unless you document your expenses. And the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll be able to make changes.
Keep a tiny diary
A few years ago, I came across a “One Line A Day Journal,” which is a tiny notebook to summarize your day in just a few lines.
Each page represents a day of the year: the first page is January 1st, the second is January 2nd, and so on.
In my journal, each page is divided into five sections, which means I’ll be able to use it for five years.
I started in 2021, so next year, when I open the page for January 1st, I’ll see my entries from 2021 and 2022 and then put my 2023 thoughts on the same page.
This is a great way to keep track of your life without a huge time commitment.
It literally takes you one minute to sum up how you feel and what you did on a particular day. Yet, it’s a fantastic way to reflect on the previous years and the progress you’ve made over time.
Each year, the journal reminds you of wonderful memories you’ve made and challenges you’ve overcome.
Take full control of what you see online
On average, we spend 3 to 4 hours per day staring at our phones.
And the truth is, most people allow their phones to make them feel worse instead of better.
Here’s a mantra I wish more people would be aware of: Nobody has the right to stress you out on your own phone.
If I see a post I don’t like, I’ll unfollow the author, so they don’t show up on my feed again.
If someone leaves a disrespectful comment on anything I publish, I won’t even waste a second before I block them.
I wouldn’t let a person enter my home and act rudely, so I also don’t let them do the same online.
If you think you have the right to piss me off, I’ll use my right to ensure you can’t do it in the future.
Your phone can be a powerful tool and help you live a better life, but you need to control how you use it.
What’s the point of constantly seeing posts you fundamentally disagree with?
If we spend so much time scrolling through news feeds, we can at least ensure the content we see makes us feel good instead of bad.
If you’ve ever felt like your emotions were “too intense” or “out of control” you’re not alone. Many people experience emotional intensity that seems excessive or disproportionate.
But the reason emotions feel out of control often has less to do with your emotions themselves and more to do with habits that magnify them…
The habit of worry magnifies normal fear into anxiety and panic.
The habit of self-criticism magnifies normal sadness into shame and hopelessness.
The habit of rumination magnifies normal frustration into anger and rage.
Mental habits take normal levels of emotion and make them far more intense and long-lasting. Which means…
If you want to feel more in control of your emotions, you must take control of the habits that govern them.
Learn to identify and eliminate these habits and you will discover that your emotions are far more manageable than you ever thought possible.
1. Relying on other people for comfort
Nothing could be more natural than to go to other people for comfort when you’re upset or in distress.
In fact, this is how most of us learn to deal with life’s difficulties — we have a supportive parent or caregiver in our life who is empathetic and comforting when we’re upset. The way they handle our painful emotions becomes a model for how we can deal with them as we mature.
Unfortunately, sometimes this process sometimes goes awry.
For all sorts of reasons, learning to self-soothe and effectively manage our own emotional struggles can get disrupted:
Some people, for example, have early traumatic events in their lives that sabotage this process of learning to self-soothe.
For others, they might learn at a young age that they can get relief faster and more easily by simply going to other people, and as a result, their capacity to self-soothe becomes underdeveloped as they age.
In any case, the core problem is this:
While it’s good to have other people as a source of comfort, it’s risky to rely on them.
When other people become your sole means of managing your emotional distress, it erodes your self-confidence.
This means difficult emotions will be themselves painful. But more than that, you’ll also have the fear of being inadequate to handle them yourself, which effectively multiplies the intensity of every painful emotion you experience. Being afraid of feeling sad, for example, will only make you feel worse.
The solution is to practice managing difficult feelings on your own even if you could get relief and comfort from someone else. Ideally, you would start with small things and gradually work your way up.
But regardless, you must strengthen your capacity to comfort yourself.
Your emotions will always feel out of control until you develop some confidence in your own ability to manage them well.
“As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
2. Being judgmental of your own emotions
Just because your emotions feel bad doesn’t mean they are bad.
Unfortunately, most of us are raised to believe that this is true. We grow up being taught that painful emotions are problems — like germs we need to be rid off or problems that need to be solved:
That we’re weak if we feel sad and discouraged.
That we’re broken or malfunctioning if we get anxious and worry “too much.”
That we’re sinful or morally deficient if we feel angry toward people.
But there’s the thing:
Emotions aren’t good or bad any more than rain or snow is good or bad.
You may not like certain emotions. Some may be uncomfortable or painful. Some may make it hard to do certain things. But to place a value judgment on an emotion doesn’t make any sense.
And the reason? Because you can’t control your emotions. Not directly, anyway.
You can’t just decide to turn up your happiness meter any more than you can decide to turn down your anxiety dial.
Emotions don’t work that way!
But aside from not being realistic, there’s another problem with judging yourself for how you feel:
When you criticize yourself for feeling anxious, will you end up feeling guilty for feeling anxious.
When you worry about feeling sad, you will end up feeling anxious about feeling sad.
When you put yourself down for feeling angry, you will end up feeling angry about being angry!
When you get judgmental about your emotions, you only compound their intensity and duration.
Think about this: No one goes to jail for feeling really angry. You only get sent to jail for acting aggressively.
As a society, we don’t judge people by their emotions, only their actions.
If you want to start feeling less emotionally volatile, stop criticizing yourself for the way you feel.
“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.”
— Joseph Campell
3. Believing your thoughts unconditionally
It’s a funny thing that we’re so trusting of our own thoughts.
Perhaps because our culture tends to glorify our capacity for thinking and problem-solving, we make the mistake of assuming our thoughts are always true and helpful.
This is especially the case when it comes to thoughts about ourselves or how we feel:
After a coworker makes a rude comment about you during a meeting, the first thought that pops into mind is “Great, now everyone thinks I’m an idiot…”
As you drive to your daughter’s soccer game, the thought pops into mind that with a single movement you could swerve off the side of the road and your whole family would die. Then you immediately think to yourself, “Oh my God, what’s wrong with me?” The assumption being that your thought about swerving off the road was somehow true or meaningful.
But here’s the thing:
Just because you have a thought doesn’t mean it’s true.
Many people’s emotions quickly start to feel out of control because they insist that everything in their mind is meaningful. As a result, they end up thinking endlessly about every little thought, feeling, mood, desire, memory, and emotion that pops into consciousness.
But for all its wonders, the human mind produces a lot of junk too.
Often a particular thought is just random mental noise. But if you insist on telling yourself a story about it and what it may or may not mean, you’re inviting in wave after wave of emotion — and often not the fun kind.
If you want to feel more in control of your emotions, practice being skeptical of your own thoughts.
If a thought seems obviously absurd or ridiculous, remind yourself that it could just be random noise — as meaningless and unworthy of your attention as an unexpected gust of wind.
“The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts.”
― Marcus Aurelius
4. Not taking care of your body
Ever since Descartes, we’ve been fixated on the idea that it’s brain and body, or worse, brain vs body. Think of the common sayings “mind over matter” or “it’s all in your head.”
Of course, this is ridiculous…
Your brain is part of your body. And your mind doesn’t work all that well without a functioning body.
Of course, this is obvious in the extreme case — deprive the brain of oxygen via a heart attack or stroke and your mind dies along with the rest of your body. But it’s also true on a much smaller scale….
The future is being built now with robotics, artificial intelligence, and all kinds of automation that will take over many of the skills we perform today. But there are some skills that we will need for the future, skills that can’t be automated. If you want to excel in the years to come, make sure you’re up to speed in these areas:
Communication. If you’re in leadership, how you communicate, what you communicate and—most of all—how you listen are all supremely important. In communication, it’s the tone that inspires and the spirit that motivates. No robot or machine could ever have the same effect as a leader with great communication skills. Knowing how to communicate is all about creating and clarifying expectations. It’s important to communicate not just what you want someone to do and (without micromanaging) how they should do it but also why you want it to be done and why the person you’re asking is the best person for the job. People want meaning, so communication will always be a crucial leadership skill.
Engagement. Gone are the days of a leader sitting at their desk with the door closed. That doesn’t work (and really, it never did). For any enterprise to excel and achieve its goals leaders need to value engagement, because great leadership begins with connection. When we understand that despite the ways in which we differ we’re all alike in our desire for acceptance and connection, we can recognize those needs in ourselves—and in others. That’s when we can truly make a difference, and it requires human connection.
Influence. Many sources contribute influence in our lives. Parents, other family members, teachers, friends, books we’ve read, discussions we’ve had, life experiences—all of these influences merge together to form our core values and build our character. In the years to come it’s predicted that our biggest commodity will be ourselves—that people will follow others because of who they are and what their character represents. That’s not something you could ever get from a machine, robot or automation.
Heart. Automation can never substitute for heart, care and love. When a leader demonstrates caring, it makes a difference in everyone they touch. The world is full of people who need to be exposed to a caring heart. Great leaders care about the people they lead above their own leadership; they are close enough to show they care but far enough ahead to also motivate. The future relies on this wisdom: leadership is not about being in charge but about taking care of those in your charge.
There are doubtless numerous skills you’ll need to build a successful future, but it’s these core skills that matter most.
Filling management holes that get created when the company gets bigger is important. Use these four principles to develop the leaders in your organization.
For a company to be successful, it must find a way to develop talent. It isn’t always possible to hire leadership from the outside. Being able to develop leaders within the ranks will help the company to grow and fill future needs that come about organically.
When I worked for a company that was growing, we knew we had to spend time with our staff to help them grow into the leaders we needed. I created a training format that we used over and over to coach up emerging leaders and prepare them to take on more responsibility.
This training was ongoing. We instilled four principles in their work. This translated the core values of the company into their daily actions. It gave them a foundation to build their individual leadership style.
It didn’t mean that everyone could take on a leadership role. Some people naturally make better leaders. Some people enjoyed keeping their technical focus and didn’t want to change. Others wanted the additional money but not the extra work.
To be able to take on more, the individual also had to show that they could handle their current responsibilities. The example I would use is that the third string punter on a football team wouldn’t be voted captain. While talent isn’t the only requirement, there had to be enough ability to do their job at a high level. If someone isn’t at the top of their game, they would not be viewed as a leader.
We were able to go from a staff that wanted the extra benefits of leadership (more money, promotions, authority to make decisions, etc.), to a staff willing to do what was necessary to improve as leaders. Instead of just showing up and checking off a box, they put in the work to get better.
But for those with leadership potential and the drive to grow their skills, we could provide them foundational knowledge they can rely on to be successful. Here are those four principles:
Principle 1: Take ownership
The first principle was to take ownership. They needed to own their tasks. They had to own the processes and procedures. They had to own the outcomes and the production output.
This is different than being in charge. If they are in charge but don’t own it, they will always find others to blame when things go wrong. They won’t step up to do the extra work necessary when something gets fouled up.
The reality is that there are always going to be outside factors to blame. It is easy to find a scapegoat, because today’s business processes are complex and interconnect with other areas. This gives us plenty of places to point the finger when mistakes happen.
Instead, leaders need to make it their job to keep pushing things forward. They don’t sit back and wait for tasks to be given out to them. They search for ways to improve the team and catch mistakes early to prevent them from turning into major problems.
We emphasized that this was the antithesis to the “us versus them” attitude. We broke down silos by having leaders willing to step beyond their area to work with other teams to solve problems and improve efficiencies.
When everyone takes ownership, people are willing to do what is needed without finding ways to skirt responsibility. By taking ownership, this also meant consistency. It was more than one-time effort. It was exemplified in the habits, routines and patterns, not just in the one-off.
Our leaders started to have more follow-through. They would finish what they started. They knew that a failed outcome meant we didn’t do a good enough job. They didn’t expect praise for their part while pointing to others as the problem. They owned it.
Principle 2: Use next-level thinking
How do you know you did something right? Most people look at their task. Did you accomplish the task or not? Did they do what they had to do?
For leadership, we needed to shift our thinking. Each task is important, and we constantly measured individual production versus our key performance indicators. But next-level leadership required a shift in perspective.
We taught that most people rely on linear thinking. They see a problem and want to point it back to one factor. Linear thinking follows quick, snap decisions without much analysis.
Instead, we needed to use systems thinking. We had to see the interconnection between various parts of the system. We had to see that the decision for our team to increase production caused a problem downstream. Our shortcut caused ramifications to the quality control team. Or our boost in sales by cutting prices meant we had to pay overtime to make up for the additional work, further hurting the bottom line.
Systems thinking helps see the full business systems, not just the individual parts. Solutions had to account for the full system. This would help them develop higher-level thinking. They started to see the forest and the trees instead of getting stuck in the weeds.
Next-level thinking also meant that they had to be excellent problem solvers. We didn’t want problem finders or problem magnifiers. We wanted people who would see the problem and work out a solution.
Related: How to Think About the Systems in Your Business
When they explained the problem to their boss, they presented the research showing how it happened, along with options for solving the problem and their recommendation. We taught them that without this, they weren’t helping us, they were hurting us.
Anyone can point out problems and make them worse. True leaders can see problems and find solutions. Next-level thinking translated to honesty. They stopped throwing each other under the bus. They didn’t lie when they didn’t know something. They would go find out the answer. They learned the rules so that when they had to break them, they had good reason to do so.
Principle 3: Respect time (your time and others’ time)
The third principle revolved around time management. Leaders needed to respect their time enough to have efficient time-management systems in place. They couldn’t let others drag them down. They needed the ability to work with others to be efficient, so the work got done.
Part of this training involved learning to prioritize. We taught them how to look at tasks on a grid, comparing urgency and importance to determine what to tackle first. We talked about hitting low-hanging fruit or tackling the big tasks to knock them out of the way first. We taught them how to see nice-to-have items versus must-have items.
Related: 3 Reasons Entrepreneurs Struggle When Building Business Systems
We presented numerous ways to look at their mountain of work and slice it up, so it becomes manageable. If they didn’t get everything done, at least we knew they hit the high-priority items and didn’t get stuck diving down a rabbit hole.
By respecting their time and others’ time, they were able to be more efficient. It didn’t mean everything suddenly got done instantly, but it gave them a framework, which gave us confidence in them. We didn’t need to micromanage their day. Instead, we trusted their ability to decide what to focus on.
Principle 4: Focus on progress not perfection
Nobody is perfect. Chasing perfection means that we forego experimenting or trying new things, because we don’t want to mess up. Trial and error, by definition, means there will be errors.
We had to, instead, keep making progress. This meant continuous improvement. It didn’t mean people were afraid to try. It meant we addressed flaws and obstacles and kept moving forward. We changed the measuring stick. We didn’t look for the small mistake to criticize. We looked at the patterns to see if we were getting better over time.
Being able to develop leadership within an organization can be the difference between scaling a business and plateauing. Organic growth means there will be new needs in the future. Filling holes quickly with emerging leaders is more optimal than looking to hire from the outside.
We used these four principles of next-level leadership to develop the talent within our company, so that as the company’s revenue grew, so did the number of people stepping up to help.
The great part of it is that these are universal. They weren’t specific to our industry or our product line. They are principles that can be applied to almost any business team to improve and develop leadership. Use these if you find that your company’s growth is creating a void in next-level leadership.
Think about the last time you had a really productive day—when you made a number of important decisions, crossed off key to-dos, and reached out to a few new connections. That felt good, right? Now think about a day when you felt as if you got nothing meaningful done. Maybe you sent out next steps after a series of back-to-back meetings, spent half a day listening to your coworkers vent, or researched Slack icebreakers instead of industry trends. At the end of that day, you weren’t sure what you’d accomplished, but you certainly felt very busy doing it.
You had the same amount of hours on both of those days, but in one scenario, you were in control and crossed off tasks that had a bigger impact on your company or career. In the other, unexpected distractions and assignments that don’t clearly ladder up to larger goals took up much of your attention. The latter are what I call distractors and fillers: the extraneous tasks and time sucks that prevent you from doing work that matters.
There are three phases to taking back control of your time: assessing how you’re spending it, deciding what you should keep doing, and learning to say no to everything else while still being a team player. The last part is often the trickiest because being helpful at work and nurturing relationships with your coworkers are both vital to your career growth. The key is to be mindful and kind about the choices you make.
Here’s a simple roadmap to help you reprioritize your time while still being a good colleague:
Phase 1: Assess your time.
Before you do anything else, you’ll need to take notice of your distractors and identify your most common time fillers.
Distractors are tasks indirectly related to your work that prevent you from focusing on your priorities. They’re inevitable but not always proportionate. Women, for example, are often loaded with the additional roles of emotional therapist, culture builder, and conflict resolver. And distractors tend to revolve around people and culture—like getting stuck in never-ending conversations or recognizing that an employee needs a pick-me-up. In a silo, these tasks can serve an important purpose in helping people feel connected, but they become a problem when they take over your to-do list. Write your distractors down.
Fillers are tasks that are directly related to work but often aren’t highly valued and don’t help you advance your career. In other words, they’re not the kinds of projects that lead to recognition, raises, or promotions. Instead, they include “office housework” items like scheduling the follow-up meeting, taking the notes, or otherwise being the memory keeper, organizer, or person who keeps the trains on track but goes unnoticed. List these fillers out, too.
Phase 2: Decide what to keep doing and what to stop.
Look at your list of fillers and distractors and start to evaluate how essential these items are to realizing your career goals. As you look at each task, ask yourself these questions:
Does this support one of my personal or professional goals?
Is this a fundamental part of my job description?
Does this give me access to a valuable connection or a different part of the business?
Does it bring me joy?
If you answer “yes” to at least one of the questions, then there’s room for that item on your to-do list and it’s worth making time for it. If not, add it to your “to-don’t” list.
Now, I wish you could just add stuff to your to-don’t list and—poof!—it disappears. Some things you might be able to just stop doing. Others may require buy-in from your manager or delegation to someone else. For each item on your to-don’t list, add the first thing you need to do to get it off your plate. For instance, next steps could include: call the head of a task force to discuss stepping down from a committee role or set up a conversation with your manager to discuss your goals and priorities.
Phase 3: Get comfortable with saying no—and learn to do it kindly.
Saying no—and doing it with kindness—is the most important skill you can learn to keep time sucks like the ones you identified in the previous steps off your plate in the future.
When one of those distractors or fillers pops ups, decline with confidence. Start with, “Thank you,” instead of, “I’m sorry,” because you don’t need to apologize for turning down a request. Say, “Thank you for the opportunity,” or, “Thank you for thinking of me,” and then add that you’re at full capacity right now.
If the request is coming from a client or your boss, you might not be able to say no outright, but you can still be intentional about your workload and say, “Yes, I can do that, but it will take the place of X. Are you OK with that?” If this is coming from a close colleague, you may want to be specific about why you can’t do it. If you’re feeling generous, you can always offer a different timeline (“I will be free in July”) or a smaller assist, such as sharing research on a smaller piece of a project that needs to be done. This keeps you focused on your goals while still coming across as a team player.
It’s too easy for last-minute requests, distractions, and fillers to take control of your time and to-do list, leaving little room for high-impact work. But when you start to pay attention to these hidden time sucks, you can prioritize the things that matter most to you and your career.
England is an incredible country to explore. We’ve got some stunning history, beautiful villages and gorgeous national parks that dotted all across the lands. That being said, sometimes, the best places in the north of England are forgotten in lieu of amazing cities like London or the pretty spots in the south of England.
That being said, the north of England is pretty vast, with a whole heap of beautiful places to explore. This is exactly why I wanted to share some of my favorite and best places in the north of England to visit on your next trip.
Now, for clarity, there’s no real defining line of what constitutes, north and south England, it seems like everyone has their own cutoffs of where this border exists. To make things simpler, I’m going on the notion that anything lower than the Peak District National Park is south.
With that in mind, take a look below at the best places in the north of England to see. Have the best trip around England, we really have a beautiful country.
1.) The Lake District
One of the UNESCO protected national parks, the Lake District is one of the best places in the north of England to visit if you love the countryside. Consisting of around sixteen lakes, the Lake District is filled with stunning mountains, rolling hills and a heap of lakes that are nestled within the countryside.
Now, with the Lake District, you do have ‘popular’ lakes and some that are much quieter. For me, I prefer the quiet ones like Ullswater Lake that is totally pristine.
Here, you can head out paddle boarding, hiking and even take the historic Ullswater Steamer that crosses the lake itself.
That being said, don’t forget Windermere Lake, too. It’s probably the most famous lake in the Lake District with plenty of little places to explore around the shores.
Perched on the north-east coast of England, Whitby is a pretty historic fishing town to visit.
The town’s skyline is overlooked by the historical ruins of Whitby Abbey, a gothic structure which inspired Bram Stoker to write his classic horror masterpiece, Dracula. They’re incredible to see and easily one of the best places in the north of England to see if you love history.
Afterwards, pop over some classic fish and chips from the Magpie Cafe. For dinner, don’t forget the Star Inn (the harbour) for some yummy fresh seafood and local treats.
Finally, if you fancy a little jaunt from the town itself, head over to Robin Hood’s Bay, it’s a stunning little smugglers village that is so beautiful to see.
3.)The Holy Island of Lindisfarne
Nestled on a small tidal island off the coast of Northumberland, the holy island of Lindisfarne is beautiful to see.
First off, to get here, you have to pay attention to the tides, each day, the island gets cut off from the mainland when the sea washes over the road. Only ever attempt to travel this road when it is safe to do so as your car can get washed away.
Once you’ve got over to the island, make sure to spend some time exploring the historic abbey, head to the Lindisfarne Castle and have a tipple of Lindisfarne Mead that has been made on the island for centuries. The island itself is steeped in history and is considered the starting point for the Viking Age in northern Europe.
It really is one of the best places in the north of England to explore ancient beauty and history.
York is one of the oldest cities in England and easily one of the best places in the north of England to visit whilst you’re here. Honestly, York itself is absolutely teeming with history and dates way back over a thousand years.
Once you arrive, make sure to visit and explore York Minster, a cathedral that dates back to the 13th century. Here, you can even climb the stairs to the roof, with a lovely view across York itself.
Also, don’t forget Clifford’s Tower and the Castle museum nearby. Afterwards, rent your own little red boat and charter the river that runs through the city. Afterwards, take a little road down the medieval street called the Shambles and explore the totally quaint side of York.
Finally, for some amazing food, head over to Skosh or Roots that both have some of the tastiest grub in the city. You won’t be disappointed with either of them.
Oh yeah, and if you fancy a little jaunt from the city, head across to Castle Howard that is about 25-minutes in the car from the center. It’s huge and totally magnificent to see.
Nestled on the pristine coastline of Northumberland, Bamburgh is a tiny little place that has some of the best coastline and castle around. Only about 60-minutes from the Holy Island, it’s quite easy to partner a trip to Bamburgh with a wider trip across Northumberland.
As soon as you arrive, make sure to wander around the little town and make reservations for dinner at the Potted Lobster. It’s so yummy and they serve the best local seafood. Afterwards, head on over to Bamburgh Castle itself and explore the ancient history of this gorgeous place. Finally, take some time to enjoy the stunning beaches around the castle, too. They’re totally pristine and offer some gorgeous views over the castle itself.
Finally, if you fancy going on a little adventure, pop over to the uninhabited Farne Islands on a boat. You might even see whales or puffins during your trip.
Honestly, if you love castles, you’ll easily find Bamburgh one of the best places in the north of England to visit.
6.) Peak District
The Peak District National Park is the oldest national park in the UK and one of the best places in the north of England to explore.
Once here, make sure to explore Winnats Pass and discover the underground river on a tiny boat. Afterwards, head across to the plague village of Eyam and learn about this isolated community during the plague.
Afterwards, check into your own safari-style lodge that is just so cozy with the wood burner roaring.
Nestled on the coast of the North Sea, Scarborough is a gorgeous town to visit for a weekend trip.
Once here, head on through Peasholm Park and also explore the historic harbour that makes this spot so picturesque. Also, make sure to explore Scarborough Castle and visit St Mary’s Church where you can also see Anne Bronte’s final resting place.
Finally, for a good spot of lunch, head over to the Green Room Brasserie which has some of the freshest dishes around. If it’s a traditional fish and chips you’re after, pop into the Lifeboat Fishbar – they serve some of the best on all the east coast. Scarborough really is one of the best places in the north of England to visit.
Leeds is a pretty cool city to visit in the north of England and an easy spot to explore when heading further north.
Once here, make sure to explore the city Centre and head to explore the Corn Exchange with all their little eateries and shops. Afterwards, head across to the arcades which are totally beautiful and really gorgeous to see.
If that’s not your thing, head to Kirkstall Abbey (one of the largest in England) or even Harewood House (out of the Centre) that was built in the 1700s. Finally, for some tasty grub, head across to The Swine That Dines for a gorgeous dinner.
That being said, if you want something quick and easy, pop into the Station House Café for some of the best Italian food in the city. It really is one of the best places in the north of England to visit if you like a little city break.
The Market town of Malton is not too far from York and pretty easy to visit on your trip around this area.
Now, one of the things that makes Malton so special is its foodie heritage. It might be a relatively small town but it’s got some of the best independent food spots in Yorkshire. Once here, head over to Roost for some of the best coffee in town and find McMillans for a tasty bottle to take home.
Afterwards, head to Florian Poirot (near Roost) for an incredible french bakery. They make the most delicious sweet treats. Malton is certainly one of the best places in the north of England to visit if you’re a foodie.
10.) Hebden Bridge
A whimsical little market town, Hebden Bridge’s Rochdale Canal is nothing a totally gorgeous spot to visit.
While, like most of northern England, the weather can be a little unpredictable (take your umbrella), Hebden Bridge is easily one of the best places in the north of England to explore.
Once here, head out on the 15-miles of footpaths and walkways around the Hardcastle Crags. That being said, if you’re feeling a little lazier, head to the Heptonstall Museum which has far less walking.
After strolling the canal, pop over to Sowerby Bridge and gorge at Engine. The tapas-style plates are just so yummy.
Being one of the larger cities in England, there’s a whole heap of amazing things to see and do whilst in Manchester. Plus, it’s one of the best places in the north of England to explore if you want a vibrant city.
You see, Manchester has a long history, which makes for some totally gorgeous places to explore. Once here, make sure to explore the Science and Industry Museum, see Old Trafford (if you’re a footie fan), or check out the Manchester Art Gallery. The latter is totally stunning and a great thing to do if the weather takes a turn for the worst.
Oh yeah, and if you fancy some nightlife, Canal Street is famous for being one of the oldest LGBT+ neighbourhoods in Europe, while the Northern Quarter has loads of trendy bars to explore. Also, for a tasty and juicy steak, pop into Fazenda Rodizio Bar which is totally gorge-worthy. You’ll leave stuffed.
Also, for a great place to stay, check into Hotel Gotham that is totally unique.
An absolute must-visit for any literary lover, Haworth is home to the longtime home of the Bronte sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Ann.
While the girls worked under pen names, they released some tremendous successes which continue to resonate with readers today, including the classics Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. You can visit the gravesite of the majority of the Bronte family at the Haworth Parish Church as well.
Although Haworth is pretty small, it’s a great place to spend a pit stop on your way further north (or south) for an hour or two.
Of course, most people know Liverpool as the hometown of the Beatles, right? Liverpool is certainly one of the best places in the north of England to visit if you love the Beatles! That being said, there’s so much more to this city to experience.
After arriving, make sure to explore the waterfront (marked by a trio of buildings popularly known as the Three Graces). If that doesn’t float your boat, the Liverpool Cathedral is worth visiting for its stunning Gothic architecture, too. Finally, head across to the Royal Albert Dock, visit the Beatles Story and visit the Walker Art Gallery, too.
Oh yeah, there’s also a shed load of yummy spots to grab a bite to eat, too! From high-end spots to a pint and some fish and chips at the local pub, Liverpool has a spot for everyone.
Now, for a tasty dinner, head across to the London Carriage Works. Once you arrive, make sure to try their incredible cocktails and seasonal menu. Their salted cod with clams is so good.
Originally constructed as a Roman fortress (almost two-thousand years ago), Chester still maintains some of its Roman past in what remains of the city’s walls. Now, with a city that’s so steeped in history, it’s easily become of the best places in the north of England to see. Plus, it’s really easy to get to from the likes of Manchester or Liverpool.
Once here, make sure to explore Chester’s gothic cathedral and stroll along the Groves that are totally lovely. Oh yeah, the Old Town is worth a visit to gaze upon the black and white Tudor-style homes that line the streets too.
Afterwards, head across to visit the Grovesnor Museum or walk the city walls themselves. It’s the perfect thing to do before gorging at The Yard for their tasty seabass.
Based just west of Newcastle, Durham is pretty easy to get to from most places in the UK, especially by train. Now, although Durham is a relatively small city (as cities go), it’s still got a shed load of history and gorgeous things to do.
After stepping off the train, head across to explore Durham Cathedral in all its glory. It’s so imposing and can’t be missed when visiting the city. Afterwards, stop over to Durham Castle and learn more about the ancient history of this place. Oh, and don’t forget to visit the quaint Palace Green and see Finchale Priory (that sits outside the centre).
If you aren’t jumping out of bed Monday morning, there is a problem.
“Living for the weekend” is not a long-term strategy
You cannot go through life accepting that 5 out of every 7 days are going to be spent doing some undesirable to you.
If you are reading this right now in an environment that is not stimulating you, why are you even there to begin with? Because it’s easy? Because it’s comfortable? Because it pays well? If your answer is Yes, then you aren’t just doing a disservice to the company you’re working for (simply along for the ride), but you are doing a disservice to yourself.
And there is no clearer answer to that than how you feel first thing Monday morning.
If you feel any of the following, you need to question whether you’re in the right place or not.
1. You got a full night’s sleep and yet you still feel tired
This is a very clear indicator that sleep is not the problem.
The problem is you’re not emotionally invested in what you’re doing. Have you ever gone on a vacation or a trip where you’re doing stuff all day, going to bed late, and still waking up early with tons of energy because you’re excited to do more exploring?
That’s how you should feel every day, in some way, shape, or form.
2. You did not prepare yesterday for today
People despise feeling overwhelmed, and yet so many fail to realize they do it to themselves.
Failing to prepare means you are preparing to fail.
Mondays are only overwhelming if you did not take Sunday to get all your ducks in a row. And the reason why most people choose not to do this is because whatever it is they’re doing isn’t enjoyable to them.
3. Everyone else hates Mondays too
It’s easy to hate things other people hate too.
“Misery loves company.”
It’s impossible (or very, very difficult) to stay positive when your company culture is, “Hey Bob, how was your weekend?” / “Too short. Can’t believe it’s Monday. I hate Mondays.”
4. You aren’t doing something you love
You are not going to wake up feeling excited to go to a job you don’t genuinely enjoy.
It’s astounding how many people choose things out of comfort, or fear of the unknown, and bite the bullet on years upon years of dissatisfaction.
5. Social media either hates Mondays or crushes Mondays
Browse through Instagram on a Monday morning and you’ll see half a dozen coffee cup quote graphics either sharing the pains of waking up on a Monday, or the relentless ambition one must possess in order to crush Mondays goals.
What’s more important is, what do YOU want?
How do YOU want to be spending your Monday?
And then what can you do in order to bring that to fruition?
6. You don’t enjoy the people you work with
Most of the time, it’s the people around you that define how long you stay in any given situation.
Regardless of how you feel about the work, it can be very difficult to take satisfaction in doing something with people who don’t bring you positive energy — and vice versa.
7. Mondays mark the end of one life and the beginning of the next
When you “live for the weekend,” a Monday is the door shutting on your 48 hours of freedom — and that’s a pretty strong indicator you are living double lives.
One life is how you “pay the bills,” and the other life is what you do for personal enjoyment. In some capacity, you want to find a way to merge the two.
Otherwise, you will never find your work all that fulfilling.
8. Because Monday means doing it “all over again”
This speaks directly to our culture of chasing rewards as “means to an end.”
If you see every week as a sprint, and you endure it with the hopes that one day you’ll be “done” and you can finally “enjoy it and relax,” you’re doing it wrong. You’re missing the entire journey. You are aiming for something that doesn’t actually exist.
Fulfillment is found along the way, not in a treasure chest at the end of the rainbow.
The daily maintenance of a relationship is so much easier when you employ even a few of these twelve phrases.
There are things that your partner needs to hear you say on a consistent basis in order to feel deeply loved.
Some of which they know about, and some of them, they don’t.
Communication is key in intimate relationships and it helps to be intentional about telling your partner what they need to hear from you.
Behold! A concise reminder of things that your partner would love to hear, and hear often.
Focus on bringing these tips into your relationship and see your partner open up like never before.
1. That You Want To Make Their Life Easier
I am a firm believer in the concept that a thriving relationship occurs when two independent, emotionally stable people decide that they want to help each other live the most fulfilling lives possible.
One way to communicate that is by saying any variation of “I want to help you in any way that I can.”
“Please don’t hesitate to let me know if you feel like I could make your life easier in any way.”
“I want to always be a positive influence in your life. Is there anything I could do today that would take some pressure off of you?”
Even something as simple as picking up their dry cleaning could have a measurable impact on their stress level on a certain day… so keep your ears out for things that you can do to help them.
I’m not suggesting that you need to take on their responsibilities or moods as your own, but being willing to help them out (and communicating that mindset) is always appreciated.
2. That You Want To Keep Dating Them
Just because you’re in a relationship with them doesn’t mean you get to stop dating them.
Whether it’s pre-planned or (better yet) a surprise, taking your partner out on dates will keep your connection growing over time.
Not sure what to do on your big night out?
Try an activity date like bowling, rock climbing, or taking a cooking class. Want something a bit more romantic and intimate? Turn off your phones, remove any technology from your evening (except for the music), light some candles, and have some dedicated connection time in your bedroom.
Whether you engage in a dedicated sex date or just want to discuss your lives, ambitions, and relationship, actively dating your partner will make them feel loved and appreciated.
3. That You Like Having Them Around
Many people assume that just because they are in a relationship with someone, their partner knows that they must enjoy their company.
While this is often the case, a simple “I love having you around. Just seeing your beautiful face makes my heart warm” can go a LONG way with certain people.
Try it out. Your partner might respond better than you thought possible.
4. That You Want To Know About Their Day
One cornerstone of communication is the daily catch up.
While these don’t necessarily need to happen on a daily basis, showing that you genuinely care about what is going on in your partner’s life is a nice gesture.
The key to making this work? Asking “How was your day?” and then listening all the way through.
Listen attentively, give positive reinforcement (“That’s so great that you finished that project on time. I’m not surprised at all because you’re so hard working, but still… well done!”), and help them solve their problems if they ask you to.
5. What They Bring To Your Life
Presumably you are in a relationship with your partner because you like them and they bring value to your life in some way. So tell them about it!
A basic script could play out like “Because you are so (character trait), I constantly feel (what you feel) in our relationship. And I thank you for that.”
“Because you’re so generous with your loving energy, I constantly feel taken care of and loved in our relationship.”
“Because you’re so driven and hard working, I constantly feel pushed forward and motivated in my own life.”
If what they bring to your life isn’t immediately apparent, take the time to write down a few ideas, and then commit to telling them about what you came up with in the next few days.
6. That You Support Them And Their Decisions
Your partner wants to feel like you’re on their side (at least the majority of the time).
Sprinkling hints of “You were right/allowed to do that/totally in the right in that situation” throughout your conversations shows them that you’re on their team.
She asks if you can do her a favour? You answer “I can do you two favours.”
She says “I felt like I had been good all week so I had a cupcake with lunch”? You reply with “Good for you. You could have had ten if you wanted.”
Be on their side. Support them in their decisions.
7. That You Find Them Attractive
You find your partner attractive on multiple levels.
You can compliment their physical appearance (You look mesmerizing/beautiful/fantastic/stunning/ridiculously cute. I love your hair/outfit/legs/hips/nose so much.)
Or you can compliment their character and personality (I love how caring/nurturing/open minded/communicative you are.)
8. That You Find Their Choices Attractive
Your partner’s choices tie back to who they are at a deeper level. By noticing those choices and verbalizing your appreciation, they will feel seen and loved.
Examples of physical appearance compliments: “Your hair/outfit/dress/lips look/looks really sexy right now. Seriously, I love it.”
Examples of lifestyle/character compliments: “I love that you were able to get yourself up out of bed and going for a run/workout/exercise so early in the morning. I find that incredibly sexy that you take care of yourself like that.”
9. That They Are A Priority
It’s easy to let your partner become less of a priority on your list when you slip from a “wanting” mindset to a “having” mindset.
Tell them “I will always put you first, and if I ever forget please give me a nudge to wake me up to reality. You are the most important person in my life and I want to make sure you always feel like you are.”
10. That You Still Appreciate Them
Don’t take your partner for granted.
Tell them “I’m so glad you’re my girlfriend/wife/partner. Sometimes I see you from a distance and I’m like ‘Wow, that is one ridiculously beautiful and classy looking woman.’ And then I realize that I’m already dating you and I feel like the luckiest person in the world.”
11. “I’m Sorry”
It’s inevitable that you are going to mess up. Make sure you are clearing the air with them when you do.
12. “I Love You”
I left the most obvious (and most important) for last. This little phrase can’t be said enough. Say it upon waking, before they leave for their day, via text while you’re apart, after you kiss, and before you go to sleep.
Say it like you mean it. Don’t just go through the motions. Tell them you love them… don’t just verbalize it.
Say It Loud, Say It Proud
You know what to do, now it’s time to do it.
Commit to saying at least one of these things to your partner in the next 48 hours. The sooner you take action, the better.
I don’t know about you, but I often find advice to release stress and pressure to be great on paper but incredibly difficult to apply.
Just say no more often! Sounds good, but my twenty-month-old son still needs constant care and I need to earn money, so there’s a lot I can’t just not do.
Get out in nature! I do try, but it’s been cold and grey, and often I don’t get time to myself until night—when it’s even more frigid.
Exercise more! I have the best of intentions, but I’m pregnant, frequently exhausted, and there’s that whole time thing again. I just can’t seem to create more of it, try as I may.
I suppose this is true of most good advice: It’s far easier to make a list of great ideas than it is to actually apply them. And it’s hard not to resist all those well-intentioned suggestions as overly simplified and maybe even unrealistic.
That, I’ve realized, is my biggest problem—one that you can perhaps relate to as well: While my circumstances can be challenging and limiting, most of the stress and pressure I feel originates with some form of internal resistance. Resistance to what was, what is, what might be, what I’m doing, what I could be doing, who I am… the list goes on.
And it might look like this:
Rehashing the past (and pressuring myself to somehow fix my mistakes)
Dwelling on worst-case scenarios (and pressuring myself to find ways to avoid them)
Fighting my current reality (and pressuring myself to change it)
Worrying about what I have to do (and pressuring myself to do it perfectly)
Obsessing about what I should be doing (and pressuring myself to figure it out)
Fixating on what I can’t do right now (and pressuring myself to get around my limitations)
Wishing I had more time for myself (and pressuring myself to somehow create it)
Judging myself in comparison to others (and pressuring myself to be better than I am)
Agonizing about what people think of me (and pressuring myself to meet their expectations)
If you’ve done any of these things yourself, I’m sure you know they’re exhausting.
That’s not say we are the sole cause of our stress. Sometimes life demands that we do more and deal with external challenges beyond our control—job loss, health issues, financial troubles, divorce…
And it’s true that there are lots of little things we can do to relieve some of the tension. But the first thing we need to do is relieve the pressure where it’s generally the most intense: within our own minds.
How to Relieve the Mental Pressure
There are two things I’ve found to be highly effective in quieting my inner voice of resistance.
1. Allow yourself to feel the feelings under your thoughts so that you can calm and release them.
All too often we get caught in a thought loop as a way to avoid feeling our feelings, because stressful as it may be, thinking about our circumstances allows us to avoid facing our deepest wounds. But we have to face them to heal them. As they say, the only way out is through.
I’ve found that underneath my varying forms of internal resistance, there’s usually:
About things I think I’ve done wrong, about who I am (when I mistakenly assume my poor choices define me), about expectations I failed to meet or might fail to meet (my own and other people’s). And this triggers my core childhood wounds that led me to believe I’m fundamentally bad.
When I feel it:
When I’m rehashing the past, judging myself in comparison to others, and agonizing about what people think of me.
Of the unknown, failing, succeeding then somehow ruining it, losing control, not doing enough with my life/making the most of my time, not living up to my potential, hurting or disappointing other people. Once again, this triggers my childhood wounds that led me to believe I’m not good enough, and never will be.
When I feel it:
When I’m dwelling on worst-case scenarios, worrying about what I have to do, and obsessing about what I should be doing.
Toward myself for what I think I did wrong, toward other people for how I think they did me wrong, toward for myself for maybe causing them to do me wrong (because I often find a way to blame myself), toward life for being unfair. This triggers my core belief that life should be fair, formed, you guessed it, in childhood, when life felt very unfair.
When I feel it:
When I’m rehashing the past and fighting my current reality.
Because I’m not connecting with myself, others, my passions, the world at large, or anything that would fulfill me.
When I feel it:
When I’m fixating on what I can’t do right now and wishing I had more time for myself.
When I can get below the thoughts and identify one of these feelings, I can sit with it. I can cry it out—the ultimate release!
I can empathize with myself and tell myself what I need to hear—that I’m a good person who’s always done her best, that I will do my best in the future and can handle what’s coming, that everyone else is doing their best, and we all deserve understanding and forgiveness.
And I can also do what I really need to do to feel better:
Maybe take a warm bath if I’m feeling ashamed to remind myself that I deserve comfort even when I think I’ve messed up.
Maybe do something fun and childlike if I’m feeling afraid of the future to help me find joy in the present moment.
Maybe write a forgiveness letter if I’m feeling angry to help me empathize, accept, and let go.
Maybe call someone I love, journal, or do something creative if I’m feeling empty, to meet my need for connection.
The point is, after we feel our feelings, we can do something to address the specific root cause of our stress in a moment instead of arbitrarily choosing an activity from a one-size-fits-all list of stress-relievers.
So ask yourself: What am I thinking that’s stressing me out? What’s the feeling underneath it? What does that feeling have to teach me? What does it need to hear? And what can I do to help ease that pain?
2. Get out of your head (and perhaps into your body or a state of flow).
It’s ironic but true that two pieces of seemingly contradictory advice can be equally helpful and powerful, and such is the case when it comes to relieving stress. Or at least it has been for me.
On the one hand, it can benefit us to look closely at what’s going in our minds so we can understand it, challenge it if necessary, and calm the feelings underneath our thoughts.
On the other hand, sometimes we simply need to disengage from our mind’s stories—about our unfulfilling work, our mounting bills, our insensitive relatives, and so on. To recognize we’re getting caught up in a mental maze from which we may never escape unless we consciously choose to get out—and then make that choice.
Our brain’s default mode network (DMN), which is designed to protect us, tends toward negativity, often focused on the past, the future, and the intentions behind others’ behavior. Research has shown a link between a disproportionately active DMN and depression and anxiety—and has also shown that meditation can help influence the default network.
That’s why it’s so important that we learn to get out of our heads, either through traditional meditation or by getting into our bodies or a state of flow (when you’re so consumed in a task that you forget about everything else and lose track of time).
It’s not just about temporarily quieting our thoughts. Mindfulness can actually change patterns of brain activity over time, enabling us to more frequently get out of the default mode network—where we inevitably feel stressed!
How do we get out of our heads and into our bodies or a state of flow?
Here are a few ways to practice mindfulness through movement:
As you sync your breathing with your movements and focus your attention on the subtle muscle shifts required to get into and hold each pose, you’ll find your mind naturally quieting. There are lots of different styles of yoga. My favorites are vinyasa and Bikram, since I find the heat particularly soothing.
You can find all kinds of yoga videos on YouTube, and odds are, when life gets closer to normal again, you can find a free or donation-based class near you. I personally find it easier to practice in a class than on my own, since the presence of other people holds me accountable, and there are fewer cookies and TVs nearby to distract me!
I have less experience with Tai Chi, but I did practice for a while in college, as part of an acting class. Acting requires you to get out of your judging mind, and Tai Chi is a perfect practice to facilitate that, since it’s all about integrating mind and body through slow, low-impact, controlled movements and breathing.
Tai chi is less physically taxing than most yoga practices (aside from restorative yoga, which is incredibly relaxing), which makes it perfect for anyone who’s more physically limited. It’s particularly popular among the senior crowd, since it’s easy on the joints, but it’s a powerful and effective mindfulness practice for anyone, of any age!
Mindful hiking or walking
Any form of movement can be meditative if you focus your attention on the sensations in your body, and hiking and walking outside bring the added benefit of immersing you in nature—a natural stress-reliever!
Studies have shown that just twenty minutes in nature can significantly lower your stress hormones. And it can also stimulate all the body’s senses, as we tune in to the sound of running water trickling nearby, the scent of pine (known to lower depression and anxiety), the colors in a picturesque sunrise, the feeling of leaves crunching beneath our feet, and the taste of a freshly picked piece of fruit.
Here are a few ways to get into a mindful state of flow (suggested by flow researcher Steven Kolter):
Through social triggers
We often think of flow as something we achieve individually, but group activities bring the added benefit of facilitating deep connection as we move in sync or work toward team goals. This might mean getting into a collective state of flow as part of a sports team, dance troupe, or through synchronized swimming.
I remember one particular piece of choreography from a community theater show I did as a kid. There were at least twenty of us, seated, doing clapping motions with each other’s hands, tapping our own and each other’s legs. We all needed to move perfectly in sync to get it just right, which required intense focus, and I have to say it was deeply gratifying to move as part of a whole—to lose myself in the group and become immersed in something bigger than myself.
Through creative triggers
Any creative activity can get us into a state of flow if we enjoy it and lose ourselves in the task. Painting, playing an instrument, dancing, jewelry making, even doodling—pick whatever calls to you so deeply you can’t help but concentrate on the present, losing your sense of self-consciousness because the act itself is so fun and rewarding.
Through environmental triggers
Rock climbing is a perfect example, since you need to be fully absorbed in the moment to safely navigate the rock formation. As you push yourself to your physical limit, balancing and adapting to the changing terrain, you’ll find yourself going deeper and deeper into a state of flow.
Though I’ve never done outdoor rock climbing—which I imagine is all the more thrilling, since it’s riskier and you’re totally immersed in nature—I participated in a climbing course as an experiential therapy treatment for bulimia in my early twenties. I remember all my worries falling away as I focused on not falling off the beam, and I recall appreciating my body for what it could do instead of judging myself for everything I thought I was doing wrong.
The beauty of most of these practices is that we can adapt them to our needs and available time. You can take an hour class or just practice for ten minutes. You can work on a painting for two hours or sketch for a brief window before bed.
Easier said than done? Of course! It’s far easier to watch Netflix in our one free hour of time or mindlessly scroll in that brief window before bed. (Guilty as charged.) When I do that, all my heavy unfelt feelings fester, settling deep into my brain and my bones and suffocating me like an invisible straitjacket.
But I know when I do something that’s good for me, I feel it—and I want more of it. And my resistance to doing it naturally fades away, along with my stress.
So really, we just need to show up once—really show up. Be so present that we allow ourselves to fully live that moment so we can love that moment, and that love will bring us back. Back to the practice, back to our bodies, back to ourselves. Our deepest selves, underneath the stress and pressure. The true self who knows we don’t need to be more, we don’t have to do more, we just have to let ourselves enjoy more. Because within that enjoyment there’s peace and healing. And no matter what our negatively biased brains tell us, we absolutely deserve it.