One of my major personal goals as I plan my new year intentions is to develop a daily healing routine. As someone who has both a professional life that includes multiple freelance gigs and a natural affinity for chaos (for better or worse), I have slim to no semblance of a "routine" in my life compared to most of the semi-functioning adults in my peer group. But creating your own daily routine can help you reduce stress levels and live an overall healthier lifestyle, so there are many reasons to try to develop your own version of this practice.
An old and very wise mentor and friend of mine once told me that his morning rituals were the most important part of his day. "If you don't have a morning ritual, you'll be lost for the rest of the day," he'd say. Years later, his words still ring through my mind — and on days when I don't have an editor expecting me to be online and writing at a certain time, sometimes I do feel lost for the whole day.
"Having a daily wellness routine is essential for good health and happiness," explains healing-focused author, director, and producer Kelly Noonan Gores, creator of the award-winning documentary film HEAL and the companion book of the same name. "If we aren’t consciously making space for self care and just being rather than doing, we will eventually feel burnt out, sick, anxious and depressed," she tells Bustle. "The more conscious we are in facing the day, the more tools we have to weather life’s storms and stay centered in positivity and faith — and grounded and connected to the Earth's natural rhythms — the better and happier our experience of life will be."
With our busy schedules, it's hard to imagine making time for more daily routines than we already have to abide by, but Gores stresses the feasibility (and importance!) of prioritizing holistic wellness. "Just like we make room for daily physical hygiene, we must also make time for our wellness/self care rituals," she shares with Bustle. "The more you 'practice' carving out time for your daily wellness routines, the more you find that you can’t really thrive without them." Our spiritual, emotional, and mental health should be prioritized in the same way we give energy and time to our expected daily hygiene rituals or work responsibilities.
And as far as the benefits she's experienced through her own daily wellness practices, there are many: "My ability to deal with life’s challenges as well as get through my to-do lists, checking off the mundane tasks of the week, has improved significantly," she shares. "My stress levels are a fraction of what they used to be — and if a crisis arises I don't get swept away in the fear and reactivity as easily."
That said, everyone has their own path to healing and stability, and you should create a unique daily routine or set of rituals that works for you. For example, my personal morning routine goals are pretty lofty, and include journaling, stretching, pulling daily tarot cards, making lemon water, checking in on the day's astrology, and adding to my gratitude list — and that's all in addition the requisite washing up/getting dressed/ingesting caffeine routine that I currently cram into a rushed 10-minute window before starting work. I'm sure the morning rituals I aspire to adhere to look a lot different than the next person's, as they should — your daily wellness rituals should be tailored to things that make you feel happy, healthy, and grounded.
If you need some ideas when it comes to making new, healthy habits and focusing on a more wellness-based daily routine, here are some of Gores' favorite daily self-care rituals that you might want to consider when creating your own healing daily routine. See if any of these daily practices resonate for you — then come up with your own list of things that could positively add a boost of mindfulness and self-care to your day-to-day life, and watch as the magic unfolds.
Making Gratitude Lists
All hail the power of a gratitude list — a tool Gores refers to lovingly as her "special sauce." "Our brains naturally want to go to the worst case scenario," she explains to Bustle. "Gratitude journaling not only keeps you in a positive frequency, releasing positive healing chemistry in your body, but it is also a way to train your mind and heart to feel into the best case scenario."
I can personally attest to the power of daily gratitude lists. My former therapist was the first person who convinced me to try this practice, and I reluctantly agreed, despite thinking it was cheesy and embarrassing. I began writing down a few things I felt grateful for each day, and at first, it felt so forced and silly that I could barely stand it. But after a while, I started actually looking forward to jotting down the little moments of my day that reminded of my life's sweetness. And an amazing thing started happening: I found myself naturally focusing on the positive thoughts, interactions, and occurrences that took place throughout the day. The more you shift your focus toward gratitude, the more you'll feel you have to be grateful for.
Incorporating A Few Minutes Of Meditation
"A lot of people say they don’t have time for meditation," explains Gores, "but really, meditation is like mental hygiene and is as essential for our mental health as showering and brushing our teeth are for our physical health." And that reminds me of a famous zen proverb that says: "You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour." While it can be hard to justify sitting quietly and turning off your brain when you have so much to do, this practice can potentially help you accomplish more.
"Meditation allows us to release the stress on the mind so that our emotional stress doesn’t accumulate and lead to anxiety, depression, exhaustion, irritability, rage, etc.," explains Gores. " ... When we practice quieting the mind, we begin to hear our intuition, the guidance of our higher self."
Getting In Some Physical Movement
Physical movement is obviously helpful when it comes to keeping our bodies strong, but it's also known to be massively helpful in improving our cognition and mental health. "Movement is a crucial element when trying to move through anxiety and depression," explains Gores. "It may seem like the hardest thing to do in the world, but if you just get up and move a little, the cascade of positive chemistry that is released in the brain is game-changing." But fellow non-athletes, have no fear: Physical movement doesn't have to sporty or even sweaty. Try taking quick afternoon walks while you listen to your favorite songs, or grab a friend to try a hot yoga, dance, or spin class. Even dancing by yourself in your room can be a great way to get that endorphin rush and connect with your physical body.
There's certainly no one-size-fits-all way of eating, but paying attention to how your body feels when you eat certain foods can help guide you toward more intuitive, healthful eating habits. "Food and life are meant to be enjoyed [and] food should not instill fear or stress as you eat it," explains Gores. "Follow what feels good to you. Pay attention to how different foods make you feel. ... Discover what foods and way of eating feels good, gives you energy, and makes you happy, and follow that." We eat to fuel our minds and bodies, feel pleasure, and take part in fun rituals (like lunch with coworkers, brunch with a friend, or dinner with a loved one), so being mindful as we're eating can help us build a positive relationship with food.
Connecting With Nature
"Earthing is SO good for our nervous systems," explains Gores. Earthing, which essentially means making direct contact with the Earth and its elements (such as grass, plants, dirt, trees, sunshine, and fresh air) with your body, is believed to have a slough of health benefits. "Disconnect from technology and reconnect with the earth, the breeze, and the sunshine," advises Gores. It's true: Many of us spend a whole lot of time indoors, in front of screens, and away from the natural elements. Consciously incorporating some nature time in your day — whether through a quick lunchtime walk or a full-blown outdoor meditation — can serve as a major mood-booster, so try to make at least a few minutes each day to disconnect from the unnatural bits of your life to connect with the healing power of nature.
Prioritize Your Sleep
Gores' policy on sleep is to get as much as possible — and I couldn't agree more. "Sleep gives us a mandatory daily healing period. It’s during sleep when our whole system repairs and regenerates and resets itself," she explains. "If we deny ourselves these crucial 7-8 hours of sleep, our body isn’t able to heal as it’s designed." By creating a nighttime ritual, you can make sleep a sacred time and allow yourself to honor the night as a time for rest. "Try to connect to your natural circadian rhythms, and disconnect from tech at least an hour before going to bed," suggests Gores. You might also try working with stress-relieving crystals before bed, using them in a sleep or relaxation ritual.
Do Things That Make You Happy Every Day
We're all busy, and there's no way around that — but if you find ways to include little snippets of the things that bring you joy into your daily routine, your life will start feeling so much more fulfilling. "My research for HEAL has shown me that positive emotions are incredibly healing. They elicit real healing effects within the body," explains Gores. "Human beings have an incredible ability to generate their own joy. We are creative beings. We are meant to play." For example, if you love art but work a full-time job in an unrelated field and feel you don't have time to be creative, make it your morning or evening practice to doodle for just five or 10 minutes. It may not seem like much, but it'll add up and become an important ritual in your day-to-day life.