So often the answer to what we're looking for are simpler than we'd ever expect. Don't you think?
Whether you want to decrease your anxiety, gain more free time, lose weight, save money, improve your skin, feel more present, or otherwise – of course the list goes on and on – more often than not the best you can do for yourself is less than what you're doing now.
Nowhere is this more true than when it comes to health and self care.
Allow me to explain.
Most of us go through a similar pattern when it comes to self care, I think that's pretty safe to say. We graduate high school and head off either to college or straight into the real world. Thanks to that super sweet, new-found freedom we immediately begin filling our bodies with booze and burgers and packaged any-and-everything. When I was in my early 20s and living in New York, for dinner I used to order two Five Guys burgers rather than one. I'd eat one, and put the second in the fridge for the next night. It wasn't that I wanted food poisoning or that I was planning dinner for the week. On the contrary, I actually had an order minimum to meet and was just saving myself the walk to Five Guys. Which was at the very most a two-minute walk away.
Now that that story is out, based on my experience I would say that there's a rite of passage when it comes to self care. Spend a few years ordering in Five Guys on a weekly basis, eat more bagels than you should, and go out for drinks very regularly and after a while, you start to tire of it.
You learn to simplify, and your body exhales a sigh of relief.
Here's the trick – I'm going to blow the lid right off the whole "how to be healthy" thing. It's the exact same stuff you've heard over and over your entire life.
If you want to be in shape, you need to eat well. (Michael Pollan said it best.) If you want to look good on the outside, you need to improve your body on the inside. If you want to lose weight or gain muscle or just plain be healthy, you need to exercise. (Sorry.)
The thing is, it doesn't have to be painful. Let's go back to using myself as a shining example of someone who made desperately poor self care habits and later improved upon them hugely.
Fast forward to age 25 and I'd started a post-Five Guys life. I paid attention to what I ate. I stopped eating meat (though this is absolutely not an argument for vegetarianism), and I started eating real food. Not just fruits and vegetables, but foods with ingredient lists with words I could pronounce. I also began to develop tense shoulders from sitting at a computer for, you know, 10+ hours a day, so I began doing yoga. Nothing crazy – just some basic stretches in my room. Once I became comfortable with that, I would take the occassional class and otherwise just keep up the practice in my Brooklyn bedroom.
Not only did I lose weight (and not in a scary way), but I gained some muscle and felt better mentally, emotionally, and physically. It was awesome.
The same thing happened with my skincare routine.
I've never been overly concerned with makeup and skincare. Blame it on laziness, but generally I prefer a low maitenance skincare and beauty routine. Before I became interested in the natural beauty world, I was always looking to add more to my skincare routine. I washed my face in the mornings with a special "morning cleanser", followed-up with toner and "daytime" moisturizer. I'd wear primer, concealer, and maybe some tinted moisturizer as the cherry on the cake.
In the evenings, I'd wash my face again, apply more toner, then a nighttime moisturizer, eye cream, and an expensive facial mist.
Then I read Skin Cleanse and decided to give the method a try. Long story short, the book basically champions simple skincare routines that incorporate natural ingredients. I read it and picked and chose what I wanted to try from the book's wealth of advice. Two months after radically decreasing my skincare routine and my skin is now legitimately better. It's clearer and overall just feels a lot more self reliant. Walden-esque, even.
Now, I splash my face in the mornings a few times with water – and that's it for a morning routine. In the evenings, I wash my face with castile soap, use this toner, this balm and I'm set. Once a week I'll do a face mask with some local honey, because I'm a total hippie and because it genuinally makes my skin feel soft and awesome. Plus, it gives me an excuse to eat honey.
The point is that it's worked amazingly, and all I had to do was less than I was already doing. That principle? It really and truly applies in a lot of ways:
Stop excess spending and you'll increase your savings. Lessen your added-sugar intake and you'll both feel better and lose weight. Stop making excuses and do ten minutes of stretching, planking, and downward dogs before bed. Say no to social engagements when you need to and gain free time. Decrease the number of products you use on your skin and you might feel happier with the way it looks.
It's odd that we look for things to add on to fix our problems, rather than take off. But I've found that by cutting the crap on a regular basis you end up adding a whole lot more to your life.
And believe me when I say that it's a whole lot simpler than you think.