Tag Archives: mental health

Using essential oils to promote wellness

First published in print.

From as early as 2000 B.C. to modern day, essential oils have been used for their natural healing properties. 

Photo by Olivia Beene

These fragrant oils have been used to serve culinary, therapeutic, and medicinal purposes. Today, their healing properties are most often used in the practice of Aromatherapy. During this practice, plant and fruit fragrance oils are inhaled for therapeutic use. 

Essential oils stimulate the limbic system in your brain, an area that controls sense of smell, emotions, and even other physical aspects such as breathing, heart rate and blood pressure. In the practice of Aromatherapy,  essential oils can promote relaxation, improve mood behaviors, and even relieve physical signs of stress on the body. 

Individuals who rely on essential oils for their therapeutic and medical purposes have studied the benefits of each oil and different ways to purpose them throughout daily practices. 

Oils and Their Uses

  1. Lavender

Lavender is one of the most popular essential oils on the market, and is most commonly seen in soaps, candles and various other bath products. One of the primary uses of lavender is to aid in deeper sleep. 

According to a 2005 study, participants who placed lavender essential oil on the center of their wrists engaged in deeper and longer sleep patterns. Lavender has also helped individuals diagnosed with insomnia.

2. Sandalwood

Although not as well known as lavender, sandalwood is another oil that is commonly used to calm and soothe. Research shows sandalwood can help mitigate individual cases of anxiety. 

A 2006 pilot study by Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice concluded that sandalwood oil relieved more stress and anxiety from participants that other complementary oils. 

3. Bergamot

The essential oil bergamot is another oil that can be used as a mood enhancer. 

A 2011 study measured the use of bergamot and its effect on the participants emotionally and physically. The participants rubbed bergamot oil on their abdominal area and results showed a decrease in  pulse rate, and systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Participants also described their moods as “more calm” and “more relaxed.”

4. Chamomile

Chamomile is a plant most commonly used in herbal teas, but research shows that there are benefits of the essential oil as well.

A 2009 study conducted by University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine founded that participants who placed chamomile essential oil on various points of their body showed reduced signs of anxiety and depression than people who used the placebo oil. 

How to Use Oils

There are many different ways you can feel the benefits of essential oils.

  1. Essential Oil Diffuser
Courtesy of Unsplash

 One of the most common ways to use oils is by an essential oil diffuser. An oil diffuser will mist out a combination of water and oil over an extended amount of time. Diffusers also add humidity to the air making your environment more calming and comfortable. 

2. Shower Steaming

Another way to diffuse oils is in your bathroom. When taking a shower, place a few drops of essential oil by the shower drain. As shower heats up, the oils will begin to steam with the hot water, making your shower a luxury experience.

3 .Adding Oils to your Skin

Many people’s preferred use of oils is to apply them directly to the skin. The important thing to remember when using this practice is to dilute your oils with a secondary unscented oil such as caster oil or sweet almond oil. Some key places to rub the oil are wrists, temples, behind the ears and the bottom of your feet. 

Courtesy of Unsplash

Essential oils have helped individuals re-center, relax and rehabilitate. However, essential oils do not work for every person and cannot replace modern medicine or doctor visits. Mental wellness is a unique journey for each individual and it is important to practice what feels right for you.

What To Do About Holiday Blues

Ah, Christmas; the most wonderful (chaotic) time of the year. We blast carols the whole month of December as the days grow shorter, consumerism skyrockets, and the pressure of social gatherings thickens. On top of that, for students, finals loom over the horizon. Term papers, group projects, and that honors thesis are all due in less than a week. By the time Christmas rolls around, most of us haven’t even caught our breath in time to appreciate the holiday. 

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. This time of year can also pain us for a variety of other reasons. Perhaps we just lost someone dear to us, or we struggle with a mental illness. Some of us may be international students separated from our families for the holidays, or we might be dealing with a tough financial situation. Whatever the case may be, although we’re dreaming of white Christmas, we may be experiencing a blue one. 

So, what do we do?

Maybe we should practice some self care; take a small break from all the commotion, a quick pause from the endless rush of life. But this time around, a cup of tea and a hot bath don’t seem like they’re going to cut it.

Kathryn Redd, an associate director at the University of Texas at Austin’s Counseling and Mental Health Center (CMHC), has a different perspective on self care. She debunks the generalization of self care as a cure-all and offers an alternate perspective.

“There’s times when going to the gym and eating enough fruits and vegetables is not going to help if I get the flu; it’s not going to help if I break a bone,” Redd said. “I think the same is true for mental health. Putting in place a practice to keep ourselves mentally well is fantastic. And then there are times when that’s not enough or it’s not the right thing in that moment. So like taking a bath is not going to cure depression.”

If self care is just a supplementary practice, then what should we do if our situation becomes more severe? Redd suggests visiting a therapist or a psychiatrist, but the solution isn’t the same for everyone. Sometimes, it’s enough to simply be mindful of what changes we may need to make in our lives. 

“Not everyone needs to see a therapist… it’s not the cure for everything,” Redd said. “Reflect on yourself and your life experience and recognize when you need to switch routes.”

Maybe we need to have an honest conversation with ourselves before we gear up for the holidays. The pressure to plaster on a smile can make it difficult to face the truth of our situation; we want to put on a happy face for the benefit of those around us. The expectation that Christmas has to be a happy time, however, is extremely toxic.

“The holidays can be really hard for people because I think there’s this pressure to be happy and jolly and jovial but that’s not always the reality,” Redd said.

It’s important to accept other emotions that may arise during the holidays, whether they be grief, sadness, frustration, anger, etc. By giving ourselves permission to feel these emotions, rather than suppressing them, we have the opportunity to find closure, experience catharsis, or simply gain self acceptance. After all, there’s nothing wrong with feeling these emotions.

“It’s not the emotions that are bad, in themselves they are neutral, it’s what we do with those emotions,” Redd explains. 

So what if we channel these emotions in a more constructive way?

“I tend to think one of the things that embodies the Christmas spirit is giving, like sharing time with others and giving of yourself,” Redd said. “One of the things we know that is actually also beneficial for mental health is volunteering. You don’t have to feel it- Maybe the goal isn’t to get into the holiday spirit; maybe the goal is to use yourself in a way that benefits others.”

Zoe Sugg, one of my favorite YouTubers, encompasses this giving spirit through her annual VlogMas series. Unlike previous years, on December 1st, Zoe did not put out a video to kickstart her daily vlogs in December leading up to Christmas Day. On December 2nd, she decided to record a precursor to her Vlogmas series explaining why.

“Recently I’ve just not been feeling great mental health wise, and what’s annoying is that I didn’t really want to say that,” Sugg explained.

As a YouTuber who so passionately represents holiday cheer as an integrated part of her brand, Sugg felt ashamed of her struggle during the holidays.

“Everyone knows how much I love Christmas; I can’t start a Vlogmas crying into the abyss,” she said.

However, instead of shoving these emotions under the rug, she took the opportunity to advocate for mental health and express some truths that are consistent with Redd’s advice.

“It’s far more common than you think; 1 in 4 people have mental health issues. Vlogmas isn’t always going to be twinkly lights and smiley, happy faces. It might be, sometimes… but this is my real life and I didn’t start Vlogmas yesterday because I just had a really awful day. I needed that day to do nothing and cry a bit,” Sugg said.

As Redd suggested, what helped Sugg feel better is to give some of her time for others.

“I know how much Vlogmas means to a lot of people, and I know for the people that are having a crappy day, whatever I upload is what makes you feel better. I think filming will make me feel better… sometimes filming makes me feel better.”

For some people, the theme of giving is an effective way to navigate the holiday blues. But the solution is different for everyone.

“What helps me cut through the chaos is to say what’s important about this time? For me it’s important to spend time with my family and it’s important to have experiences together,” Redd said. “What is the theme for you of the holiday season? What’s the word or the theme that you can really rally around? That’s what you hold on to; just let all the other stuff fade away.”

If you are feeling stressed this holiday season, here are a few resources:

UT Counseling & Mental Health Center: https://cmhc.utexas.edu/

24/7 Crisis Hotline (UT Students Only): 512-471-2255

Navigating the Holidays and Mental Health (our article & guide): http://www.burntx.com/2019/12/06/navigating-the-holidays-and-mental-health/

Image by Annie Spratt from Pixabay

Navigating the Holidays and Mental Health

The holidays are supposed to be a time of joy, family, friends, and giving. Although everyone has their own unique traditions, one common theme in most all celebrations involves food. Food is essential to nourishing our bodies- something we all know- but it is easier said than done to pick and enjoy foods for those who struggle with body image, eating disorders, exercise compulsions, anxiety, depression, and other mental health diagnoses. The following guide is designed to help those who personally struggle with the things listed above or for their loved ones seeking to support them.

First, Debunking the Myths

There is an abundance of myths that are associated with food and/or mental illness. These misunderstandings are often highlighted by our culture. Winter break barely begins before gyms are advertising their New Year’s resolution discounted plans and new diets are springing up on social media. Myths surrounding food, exercise, body image, and mental health are not always commonly known and can be detrimental to your or your loved one’s health when navigating the holidays. The following are a few common myths and the truth behind them.

#1: Carbohydrates are Bad

Each macronutrient does something important for our bodies. This includes carbs! Carbohydrates are converted to glucose in our bodies. Glucose is the main fuel! Without carbs, you aren’t fueling your brain. Carbs are often depicted as the enemy, whether it’s a Keto diet ad on Pinterest or a weight loss video on Youtube. Low-carb diets are even changing our restaurants, with most now being able to swap out buns for either low-carb or carb-free options. As an individual ages and/or with certain medical conditions, the body may need more/less carbs for optimal function. That being said, for the average young adult carbs are not the bad guy and are no different on Christmas or Hanukkah than any other day of the year.

#2: Exercising Should be Everyone’s New Year’s Resolution

This myth comes in many forms. Whether you personally jump on the diet train every year only to “fail” or “give up” a few weeks in, notice the constant gym advertisements during the holidays, or believe that everyone would be better off if they started working out- it’s important for you to hear this. Exercising when done in a balanced way isn’t an issue, but not everyone needs to be picking up a membership come January. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), 90-95% of college students that are diagnosed with an eating disorder have a gym facility they belong to. Additionally, there is a major link between exercise compulsion and various forms of eating disorders. The fact is, exercising is not helpful for all people to do at all points in their life. Even if you are someone who does not have an eating disorder, if the gym is not mentally helpful for you, seek help and pair down the workout sessions. No weight goal is worth being mentally unfit. 

#3: The Holidays are Joyous to All

While I hope everyone who reads this loves the holidays and has an amazing time celebrating, the fact is that the holidays simply aren’t amazing for everyone. Individuals who have anxiety, depression, PTSD, eating disorders, and other mental health diagnoses can struggle during this time. Also, the holidays can bring up memories and loss for those who have lost loved ones. It’s important to spread kindness and empathy during this time. If someone seems more bummed out, stressed, or just not themselves- reach out or lend an ear without judgement. It can go a long way to be understanding. 

#4: People Should Always be Able to Help Themselves

In an ideal world, we would all be perfectly healthy and happy. This isn’t an ideal world! Helping others is a part of being human and, although you may not know everything about what someone is going through, trying to be empathetic and helpful goes a long way. If you are struggling and feel guilty for not being able to do it on your own, here is your sign that you don’t have to. Therapists, friends, family, doctors, and even online resources all are here to help you. Feelings of sadness, guilt, pain, and anxiety shouldn’t be dealt with alone just as joy is rarely celebrated solo. We don’t get to choose every experience or emotion that comes our way. People cannot always “sleep it off” or “just go get help” because our minds and feelings are much more complex. Knowing that you deserve help and/or people can’t always fly solo will help you help others and yourself.

Coping Skills & Advice

Set Boundaries Ahead of Time

No matter what or who you’re worried about, setting boundaries ahead of time can help you speak up without feeling awkward or guilty in the moment. Know that you have the right to be treated with respect and the right to not feel guilty for asking for it. If you need to set a boundary with someone you’re close to, ask to talk in person and make sure to have an idea of what to say beforehand so you can keep the communication open and not one sided. If the person on the receiving end feels attacked or off guard, they may not be as receptive. Here’s an example of what you can do if you were setting a boundary about body comments with a family member:

“Hey (insert name), I wanted to talk to you about something. I’m excited to be off of school and home with you for the holidays and wanted to let you know that I’d rather not hear any comments regarding by body the next few weeks. They just aren’t helpful to me and, even when they’re well intended, I get anxious because of them. I just want to enjoy the break and spend quality time with everyone without worrying about my appearance or what others are thinking. Thank you for being understanding.”

The example above is a simple example that can be altered and/or used as a guide for setting a boundary with someone close to you. Keeping it focused on “I” statements allows the other person to not feel as though you’re attacking them but also clearly expresses how you feel. Mentioning the good things you’re excited for, happy about, and okay with are all ways to bring positivity into the conversation. Maybe a parent, sibling, aunt, uncle, or grandparent has a history of saying and bringing up things that aren’t helpful to your mental health. Whether it is about a past event, food, appearance, or even a huge exam right around the corner- it is okay to set a boundary ahead of time. If it is someone you do not know as well, even creating some distance (i.e. not sitting next to them at holiday dinner) is a less involved way to set a boundary, Chances are you’ll feel better for doing it. 

Have a Plan

Depending on the severity of the trigger or thing that is bothering you, it is a good idea to have a plan written down before you anticipate exposure to the unpleasant experience. While a handwritten plan is helpful because it gives you something tangible in that moment, it is also okay to use your phone notes. Include things that are specific to you such as what emotions and events usually lead to your needing of a plan (warning signs), list of five things that make you happy or are enjoyable that you can either do or think about, a place you can go to (if applicable, ex: Lucky Lab) that makes you relaxed, two to three people you can talk to, and one thing that is worth living for or your greatest value. Having a plan in advance to look back on during a troubling time can be helpful in pulling yourself out of it. It can also be a good tool to share with family/support system if you are comfortable. If you have a therapist, dietitian, psychiatrist, or other professional you can ring, write their number down as well.

Self-Care Before, During, and After

Self-care should be a part of your daily life, even if it is in small ways! Especially if the holidays are a challenging time for you, try and incorporate self-care before, during, and after a hard days or events. Taking care of yourself doesn’t have to be extravagant- listening to your favorite song, petting your dog, calling a long-distance friend, taking a bath, and even taking a nap are all examples of self-care. Find things that work for you and do them regularly. If you need something a little more or want to break your self-care cycle, invite your mom to get mani-pedis or go see a movie by yourself or with your closest friend. Write down a few of your go-to ideas so they can be easily remembered if you’re having a rough day.

For Support Systems: Being Understanding

Support systems for those with mental illness or going through a particularly hard time are extremely important, but it isn’t always easy to know what to do or say. Slipping up can be embarrassing and do more harm than good, but saying nothing at all can also be hurtful. As a supporter you may also feel some of their pain, too. Here is some advice.

Not Sure? Ask.

You can’t help if you don’t know how to help. Asking your loved one ahead of time what best supports them, what they need from you, or what does not help are all topics to get you started. Talking about it ahead of time is the easiest way and chances are anxiety/tension will not be as high, but asking in the moment is also okay. Don’t expect yourself to know everything or do everything perfectly, but also be sure to ask. Here’s an example:

“Hey (insert name), I wanted to ask you what I can do to help your anxiety this week. Let me know if there are things I can do or say ahead of time or in the moment to support you.”

Depending on your relationship, you might be doing better or know more than you think you do.

Get Educated

If your loved one has a mental illness, get educated about it! If your only exposure and education has been by them or pop culture, chances are you still have a ways to go. Movies, fictional books, and television often sensationalize issues and miss out on key details and if you only know about things through your loved one, chances are you’re still missing out on valuable information. Look up trustworthy websites, articles, books, and podcasts. Learning about someone’s mental illness not only shows that you care but it can also help you just by learning more about it. Here are a few resources to get you started:

Eating Disorders: www.nationaleatingdisorders.org, Life Without Ed and/or Goodbye Ed, Hello Me by Jenni Schaeffer, and @laurathomasphd on Instagram.

Anxiety: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtmlAnxiety Happens by John P. Forsyth, PhD and Georg H. Eifert, PhD, and @anxiety_wellbeing on Instagram.

Depression: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtmlhttps://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/helping-someone-with-depression.htm

PTSD: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtmlhttps://www.helpguide.org/articles/ptsd-trauma/helping-someone-with-ptsd.htm

Listen Without Judgement

Although it can be hard to not have your own opinions and judgements, it is a critical part of being in someone’s support system. You may want to practically shake someone who is insistent that their body isn’t beautiful or who doesn’t want to get out of bed, but they are having their own experiences in their own life/body. Listening without judgement does not mean you cannot offer them help or advice- and you should always intervene when you think they may harm themselves- but being empathetic is an important skill to being a good listener. Instead of “Just get out of bed! You can’t be that miserable,” try something like, “Is there anything I can do or anything you would like to talk about? If you would like to be alone, maybe you could help me make cookies/run an errand/etc. later. I’d love to have you.” If they aren’t in the mood to talk you can always sit next to them and read a book or bring them their favorite beverage and exit the room. Showing you care is usually not forcing your opinions and judgements onto someone else- even when it is difficult. When talking to them about how they are feeling, ask questions and show support. Ask for clarification, what they need from you, and if your responses are helpful to them. Don’t be offended if they aren’t! It is a learning process and some days are different than others. Being a good listener is a key to being a good supporter, but even this skill may take time. 

Final Thoughts

The holidays can be the best of times and the worst of times. Understanding and having plans, boundaries, and empathy for yourself is vital to ensuring that your time off goes as smooth as possible. For loved ones, non-judgmental communication and education are essential to making sure you are the best supporter you can be. Still, no matter who you are in the relationship at any given time, self-care should be a part of your life so you can keep taking care of yourself. These tips are by no means a comprehensive list but should be a step in the right direction. Here’s to taking care of ourselves and those we love this holiday season.

Featured Image Art Courtesy of Courtney Smith.

A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation

When we think of health today, we often think of physical health. We tend to believe that someone who holds a balanced diet and exercises regularly is in perfect health. While both of these things do lead to a healthier body they don’t always lead to a healthier mind.

Mental health is also a huge component to the overall health of an individual, although it tends to be treated as secondary to physical fitness. Being mindful about what you are feeding your body is vital, but you should also consider what you are feeding your mind and soul. You might be adequately exercising your physical strength but under exercising your mental strength. The training of the mind is arguably just as important as training of the physical form.

Unfortunately, there is a lack of teaching when it comes to how to provide for yourself mentally. We tend to be adequately informed on how to eat healthier and how to engage in physical activity, but we often don’t know how to calm our racing minds or treat our souls with kindness. For many individuals, meditation is the most beneficial way to prioritize their mental health and practice training of the mind.

What is meditation?

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Meditation can have various definitions and spiritual meanings. In essence. meditation is the practice of centering the mind in order to clear your head and refocus your thoughts. While meditation has previously been used for spiritual and religious reasons only, it is now common for individuals to practice meditation in their private and professional lives outside of their spirituality.

A common term used alongside meditation is mindfulness. Mindfulness is all about bringing your thoughts to the present and releasing your thoughts about the moments to come. Engaging in the present is what meditations seeks to achieve as it allows you to disconnect from stress, anxiety, and fear.

What are the benefits of meditation?

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Meditation is much like physical activity in the sense that not every participant will share the same experiences or reap the same benefits. Although, meditation has been known to not only provide mental benefits but physical benefits as well.

According to The Art of Living, the physical benefits of meditation can include:

  • A decrease in high blood pressure
  • An improved immune system
  • Increase in positive mood and behavior
  • Higher energy levels

The mental benefits of meditation are:

  • Decrease in feelings of anxiety
  • Increase in happiness
  • Creativity boosts
  • A sharper and clearer mind
  • The ability to better handle and cope with feelings such as anger frustration, and sadness.
Courtesy of Unsplash

As busy college students some weeks we find ourselves stressed with course work, low on energy, and sick from the germs swarming in our community bathrooms. Although, meditation is not the solution to every problem you might face its benefits serve to show that a mind practicing meditation is a mind that can better handle the obstacles set in its path.

Tips for beginning meditation

By now I hope you are at least the slightest bit interested in engaging in meditation. Due to the numerous benefits and the simplicity of the practice, meditation is a very rewarding and achievable experience to be had. If you are thinking about giving it a try, here are some helpful tips.

  1. Don’t set any any expectations for yourself

It is all too often that individuals treat meditation as a task to complete on their checklist. With this attitude meditation becomes more of a challenge or conquest than it does an experience. To reap the full benefits of meditation approach the practice with an open mind. Don’t expect yourself to be skilled at mindfulness upon your first try. It is very challenging to not let your mind wander and to stay focused and calm. Meditation is a practice because it takes time to develop skills and become successful;. Remember to always have grace with yourself and that providing yourself the time to meditation is already an achievement into bettering your mental health

     2. Don’t be afraid of guided meditation

One of the great things about the practice of non-spiritual meditation is the creation of apps and websites that provide guided meditations. A guided meditation instructs you on how to practice the centering of thoughts and encourages you to fall into a deep state of relaxation. Although some might argue that meditation needs to occur in a place separate from all technology and distractions, guided meditations are a great way to begin your journey and gain knowledge on what techniques benefit you the most. There are a plethora of services, and apps that provide these walkthroughs so just experiment with a few and find what makes meditation the most enjoyable and rewarding for you specifically.

      3. Make the most out of your experience

Customizing meditation to your needs and wants is acceptable and vital. Maybe you schedule doesn’t allow for a 30 minute deep relaxation. This is okay, and in no way does this mean meditation is not for you. Meditation can be whatever you make of it. Take a few moments in between classes to breath and recenter yourself. Practice for a few seconds before turning on your car while traveling to work. Meditation is portable and can be practiced anywhere an at anytime.

Remember, meditation might not be for all individuals and this is okay. Prioritizing your mental health can look like many different activities and practices not just meditation alone. Whatever you do, I encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone and engage in something that beneficial to your mind, body and soul.

10 Ways to enhance your spirituality

As college students, there’s still a lot about ourselves that we need to figure out. We’re at a point in our lives where we’re trying to develop our unique personalities while juggling the stress of school, friendships, and relationships. And while our looks seem to be everything right now – especially considering that you can achieve fame and fortune with a few viral tweets – it’s extremely important to remember to nourish the inner you. It’s the spiritual side of you that maybe not everyone will see, but it is the version that will matter most in the long run.

Some people may know who they are already, and they’re set on not changing for the rest of their lives. For others, though, there are so many parts of ourselves we have yet to unlock. That’s why spirituality is so important; to unlock your full potential, you need to understand yourself and your limitations or shortcomings. But I understand that spirituality isn’t the same for everyone and everyone has their own ways of expressing themselves, so the tips I am about to give on how to practice developing your spirituality may not be for everyone.

  1. Practice patience with yourself

This is the thing I have struggled with the most, so it’s at the top of my list. You may not be where you want to be right now, but that’s okay. Life isn’t a race, it’s a process. Everyone is experiencing things at their own pace, and you shouldn’t let that discourage you from your path or allow it to deter you from your own goals. Recognizing this is the first step to becoming more spiritual because you can acknowledge things aren’t going to go your way all the time, and you may fail sometimes, but if you continue to do what you need to do you will get there eventually.

2. Recognize your own negative qualities and unlearn them

A lot of us forget that we can be toxic, too. It’s important to be kind to yourself and have patience with yourself, but don’t ignore the ways you may be negatively affecting others. Over sympathizing with yourself is possible!

3. Find something you are really passionate about

In finding something I could truly devote my time to studying and growing through, I have felt myself grow immensely. This could truly be anything as long as it is positively affecting your lifestyle and aiding in your growth rather than taking away from it.

4. Do something new – but make sure you’re comfortable

Yes, getting out of your comfort zone is important, but what is also important is that you’re safe. Entering your spiritual development take a certain level of vulnerability with yourself and the world, and while I support the idea of adding something new to your life, I also suggest that you do this in a way where you aren’t putting your health – whether physical or mental – in jeopardy.

5. Create both short and long term goals for yourself

Unpopular opinion: short-term goals are just as important as long-term goals. Short-term goals can help you propel yourself forward because they should be realistic and achievable in a shorter time frame. This doesn’t mean long-term goals aren’t essential though, because they are. I suggest writing down what you want to accomplish, or creating a vision board.

6. Cut the bad things out of your life

This doesn’t just mean people (but definitely cut out toxic people too). Yes, I know I said your physical appearance isn’t everything, but make sure you’re taking care of your physical health too. I definitely still struggle with making time for this, but know your limitations. This doesn’t mean to hit the gym every day or go carb-free, because it could mean the exact opposite. Your body is your temple, so figure out what it needs. Find a balance that helps you feel energized and happy.

7. Be kind

Do something nice for a stranger! Apologize to someone you may have hurt! Forgive yourself! There are tons of ways you can be kind not only to yourself, but to others. Just don’t overextend yourself – know when you need to make time for you and only you. Give yourself space and room to grow. But I want to point out that you don’t have to be kind to or give your energy to people who have hurt you! You are under no obligation to these people – even if they are your family.

8. Practice emotional intelligence and restraint

It’s easy to get swept up by your emotions, but make sure what you are going to say or do to someone isn’t unjustified. This is why I make sure to say intelligence and restraint. It’s important that you can empathize with someone while valuing your own emotions in the process. Just don’t let your own emotions run wild, you might do things you regret, and karma is very real.

9. Call someone you love

It’s easy to neglect those we love when we know they are going to be there for us – but please, don’t. Cherish the time you have with those you care about most, and check up on them, too. Even if they may not always see what you’re trying to do and show their gratitude for it, you should feel satisfied knowing you did what you can to be a decent person in their lives.

10. Worry about you first

That being said, don’t let people walk all over you! Use your voice, you have one for a reason. Some people may take advantage of your kindness, but respect yourself enough to know where to draw a boundary. Always put your needs first when you know it’s the right thing to do. Don’t let friendships or relationships stop you from taking care of these needs because if they do, they probably aren’t worth it. And don’t worry about comparing your actions to others’ – they aren’t you.

There’s a lot of ways you can start practicing your spiritual development, and these are only a few. Positive growth is the ultimate goal, so take whatever steps you may need to achieve it. Learn yourself, work with yourself, and see the results in your changing perspectives on life and yourself.