Are you looking to improve your wellness this year? As a therapist, I often hear this as the most common goal for a new year’s resolution. I wanted to hear from an expert for some tips on how to improve our general wellness in 2021.
I spoke with Katie Mason who is a Licensed Professional Counselor, a 200-hour Registered Yoga Teacher, and a Holistic Health Practitioner. She provides integrative wellness services into therapy to help clients learn the benefits of mindfulness, meditation, and to deepen the mind/body connection.
Yoga and Wellness
Source: Benjamin Balazs/Pixabay
When I asked Katie why she was so passionate about wellness, she told me “I first began my personal journey in yoga while I was navigating early sobriety from alcohol. I had reached a point in my life where my anxiety was beginning to affect my physical health and I was suffering from more frequent panic attacks and an overall sense of unease. I began practicing yoga regularly at a local gym and then transitioned into a home practice as well. After a few months of consistent practice, my anxiety symptoms were more manageable, and I had developed a deeper sense of self-awareness, so I felt like I had more control over my anxious thoughts. I give my yoga practice full credit for helping me navigate this transitional period in my life and it inspired me to redesign my private practice so I could share its life-changing benefits with my clients.”
Katie then shared she became a Holistic Health Practitioner shortly after finishing her Yoga Teacher Training. She stated “I wanted to be able to offer my clients a more individualized approach to their treatment. I offer a comprehensive holistic wellness plan that is completed at the beginning of the client’s therapy journey. Unlike a standard mental health intake assessment, the holistic wellness plan dives deeper into the client’s views on the concept of wellness and what it looks like specifically for them.”
Katie shared she likes to implement therapeutic yoga techniques, to help the client become familiar with how to connect with their feelings, recognizing them when they show up, and moving through specific postures and breathing techniques that help regulate difficult or uncomfortable sensations. “This teaches the client a hands-on approach to cultivating the skill of mindfulness and helps them connect the mind and body together to create a deeper state of personal awareness.”
The following includes some questions I asked to get her input on how to set goals for the new year to improve one’s wellness.
What kind of things do you look at when assessing someone’s wellness?
The holistic wellness plan reviews the client’s exercise habits, dietary choices, lifestyle factors, environmental factors, physical health problems, personal beliefs about the self, interpersonal relationships, spirituality, and trauma history.
What are some simple things people can work on to improve health and wellness?
- Do a quick self-assessment: ask yourself how you are spending your time, what sorts of things are getting your energy and attention, and if this is benefiting you in a positive or negative way.
- Consider implementing a morning and/or evening routine: building new, healthy habits takes structure and motivation, and sometimes we tend to dive in too quickly without first building a foundation. By changing the way you prepare for sleep or focusing on how you want to wake up and start your day, you can easily alter your energy levels, motivation, and drive for implementing new wellness goals into your day.
- Things to consider: no phones/TV/social media 30 minutes before bed. Establish a consistent bedtime where you will mindfully decompress, read, journal, meditate, stretch, drink herbal tea, etc. For morning routines: set a consistent wake time, consider avoiding media for the first 30-60 minutes of your day and give yourself plenty of time to wake up, exercise, journal, read, meditate, etc. Map out a plan for how you intend to spend your day, create 1 or 2 daily goals that you intend to accomplish, and hold yourself accountable for completing them.
- Practice mindful eating: learning to eat when you are hungry and listening to what your body needs can be a great way to bring awareness into your dietary habits. Try adding in healthy fruits, vegetables and grains instead of focusing on what you need to stay away from or restricting yourself too much. Drink plenty of water.
- Strive for at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day. Even if you can’t get to the gym, mindfully setting aside some time to do some light housework, take an evening walk, or finish a task that you’ve been putting off. It is important to redefine your relationship with “exercise.” By being mindful about how you are moving your body, you can take some of the pressure off of yourself that exercise only means cardio or lifting weights…movement is movement, and it’s all valid.
How can people set realistic wellness goals for the new year?
Start small. Pick one or two wellness goals that can be accomplished in a 1-3 month time frame. The idea of New Year’s Resolutions typically don’t work because we have a tendency to put our long term visions ahead of the short term tasks that we need to complete to get there. Consider creating “30 day challenges” for yourself. If you find that you aren’t getting the desired results from your goal after 30 days, change it! Find what works for you. Wellness is individual, and it sometimes takes some exploration to find what will and won’t work for you specifically.
What can help you maintain and achieve those goals?
Patience is key! Sometimes we tend to look at the big picture and immediately feel frustrated and overwhelmed that we will never get there. Consider mapping out your big picture/long term goals. Identify what it’s going to take, step by step, to get there. Learn to mindfully enter into each step of the journey, recognizing that it is a crucial and important component to getting you where you want to be. Some steps take longer to complete than others, and that’s okay. By developing daily mindful practices, you will find that you can be content exactly where you are in each step.
How can yoga improve your wellness and mental health?
The benefits of yoga extend far past physical benefits; a regular yoga practice can calm the anxious mind, help the trauma survivor reclaim their sense of identity and purpose, and teach you tangible ways to become aware of exactly what you need when you need it. Yoga can be a therapeutic tool to help the client reconnect with themselves, physically and mentally. Learning to be more flexible doesn’t have to just be a physical thing!
What are some yoga resources people should try if they are interested in getting more into yoga?
- Youtube offers a great selection of videos for those who are interested in trying out yoga. Yoga with Adriene is a great place to start (www.yogawithadriene.com)
- Down Dog App
- Alo Moves App
- While practicing with videos can be great for a home based practice, consider finding a local studio and attending a class. Most studios offer beginner classes, and your teacher can easily modify postures that might be inaccessible or challenging.
What are things people can do at home and online while social distancing for their 2021 wellness goals?
- Map out your goals: consider only trying to conquer one goal at a time instead of overloading yourself with too many ideas at once.
- Many wellness and yoga apps offer online communities through Facebook, Instagram, and their websites. This is a great way to get to know other like minded individuals who can hold you accountable for your goals.
- Switch it up: sometimes our routines get a little stagnant, so find ways to be creative if you start to lose your motivation. Change the location of your daily walk. Try an exercise program you haven’t tried before. Take a new route to work. Give yourself permission to rest if you’re tired.
- Make lists, and check things off as you go. This is a great way to hold yourself accountable while also seeing your personal progress.
- Keep a daily journal. Instead of focusing on the negatives in your writing, consider keeping a journal just for the things that are positive or the things you are grateful for. Some days it’s hard to not get sucked into negative thinking patterns. By mindfully encouraging the mind to see the good in every situation, you’re creating new brain pathways that will help you become more optimistic, energetic, and happier in the long run.
Many thanks to Katie for sharing her tips for creating wellness goals for the new year. As always counseling can be such an important part of wellness so make sure you reach out for professional help when needed.