Too often, the way we approach health and wellness is by making rules. Never skip a workout, never eat junk food, never stray from your goals.
Such a rigid approach doesn't leave much freedom to follow what feels right for you — a philosophy that sisters and wellness coaches Manda and Meleah Manning embrace fully. They encourage forming intuitive, sustainable habits rather than chasing extreme goals. "Focusing on your health and wellness is for you and only you," they explained. "If you go from one extreme to another, you'll burn out and then you'll start shaming yourself."
Still, that's easier said than done — especially if you're just starting to live a healthier lifestyle. Manda and Meleah's advice? "Start slowing down. Listen to what really feels good in your body and what doesn't." Get started with these four practices that will help you bring balance — not strict rules — into every part of your wellness routine.
Start a Morning Routine
First, Manda and Meleah recommend creating a morning routine that helps you start each day feeling relaxed and refreshed. Carve out 15 minutes in the morning to do something that makes you feel good. You might sit quietly with a cup of tea and reflect on your goals for the day or take a morning walk around your neighborhood.
"It's important to do this in the morning because this is when we are at our freshest," they said. "We want to give ourselves the best of ourselves, not what's left over at the end of our day." Try it for a week, then see if you notice a difference in the way you feel.
Make Time to Meditate
Meditation can also be a powerful tool, but Manda and Meleah acknowledged that it can be intimidating for beginners. Ease yourself into it by starting with just five minutes of meditation a day, then increasing the time by two minutes each week. You can opt for a guided meditation or simply set a timer on your phone and focus on your breath.
If you find yourself getting distracted or fidgety, you might want to try another of Manda and Meleah's favorite practices: embodiment. "This practice is about dropping out of the busyness of the mind and down into the safety of the body," they said. "Set aside some private time and space, and breathe deeply into the belly, in through the nose, and exhale slowly, out through the mouth. Shake your hands and your arms for a few seconds, and then come back to stillness and feel what sensations or emotions are arising within you." It might feel silly, but feeling the sensations of your body in the moment can help you connect to the present.
Like meditation, journaling is another of those good habits that can be tough to get the hang of. Still, Manda and Meleah said the simple act of writing down what's on your mind can be very powerful. "This is one of our favorite mindfulness practices as it really allows you to process your thoughts and emotions in a tangible way," they said.
Rather than expecting yourself to write pages and pages of insightful notes each day, start small. "Start by writing down three things you're grateful for," Manda and Meleah said. "Then ask yourself, 'How am I feeling, how can I honor how I'm feeling, and how can I give myself what I need today?'" Write as little or as much as you want; the key is simply taking time to sit with your thoughts.
Try Energy Cleansing
Another meditative technique Manda and Meleah often recommend is energy cleansing. Begin the day by "visualizing yourself safe and protected within a golden egg of light, almost like a forcefield," they said. At the end of the day, think about releasing anything you don't need anymore. "You can do this by visualizing yourself standing underneath a waterfall and feeling the cleansing water wash over you, cleansing your energy from the crown of your head out through the soles of your feet."
With any wellness practice, Manda and Meleah said consistency is key — but if you get off track, don't beat yourself up. "Make it a daily practice that's fully dedicated to yourself," they said. "It's about connecting you back to you. You deserve to feel good."
Illustrations: Evelyn Kandin Geler