5. I shop as organic as I can afford to.
As I became more knowledgeable about the importance of a whole foods diet, I often felt guilty about what I fed my children and what I couldn't afford to feed them. It was self-defeating, to say the least. While shopping 100 percent organic is not in my current budget, that doesn't mean I can't incorporate some organic items into my family's diet.
My son loves bananas and my daughter loves grape tomatoes, so I purchase those items organic. We also buy organic whenever it's on sale. As far as nutrition and a tight budget are concerned, my motto is "progress over perfection." (To learn more about how to make smart choices when buying organic, check out the Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen.)
6. I get DVDs from the library.
I'm by no means a yogi, but I believe in the importance of power and flexibility. I've enjoyed dabbling in yoga through DVDs. This way, I'm able to try different practices in my home for free. Staying active has been vital in increasing and maintaining my well-being. If yoga's not your jam, the public library has other fitness options you can check out.
7. I make vision boards. (Seriously!)
A few years ago, you couldn't have paid me to create a vision board. I thought they were just arts and crafts for overindulgent adults. But I couldn't have been more wrong!
I created my first vision board a year ago this month, and it hangs proudly in my room. The positive words and images remind me of who I am and who I want to be, which is particularly helpful on my worst days. With a few art supplies, anyone can change the trajectory of their thoughts and, subsequently, their lives. (Want to create your own vision board? Start here.)
Cost: about $3 (includes glue, poster board, scissors, and old magazines)
8. I open windows.
No matter the time of year, there's almost always at least one open window in my home for at least part of the day, even in the evenings. Fresh air always boost my mood. And hearing the sounds of the outdoors — whether it's the rustling of leaves, my neighbor's dog, or crickets — reminds me that I'm part of something greater than any given situation.
9. I hit the gym.
While I've done yoga, Insanity, Body Pump, and Jillian Michaels at home (and loved them all), I find I need to be around other people who are also pursuing health and wellness. I try to make it to the gym at least three times a week. I rarely take classes, as my current schedule is not set, but I benefit from the energy of the other mom on the treadmill or the grandfather on the elliptical. I found a membership deal at my gym (Planet Fitness) for just $9.99 per month.
10. I journal.
I've found that I've never been able to truly resolve a difficult experience or grieve a loss without writing about it. Journaling helps me to process the past and plan for the future. I also find that this practice allows me to validate my story without needing external approval. I've purchased many nice leather-bound journals from TJ Maxx, Ross, and Marshall's for as little as $5, but there's no reason you couldn't use an inexpensive coil-bound notebook instead.
11. I enjoy teatime.
When I realized my serious coffee addiction was not helping my anxiety, I decided to find a replacement beverage (with less caffeine). Once I settled on green tea (it has just enough caffeine), I made my daily tea an experience. When all of my children are off to school, I enjoy a cup of tea with either soothing music or silence. In those 10 minutes, I settle myself and calmly plan the day ahead.
12. I book it ... back to the library.
I try not to let a month go by without reading or listening to a text. I believe we're built for growth and development in our minds and spirits. One way to continually expand is through literature. I feel better when I learn to look at things through a different lens, and good books help me do that.
13. I say positive affirmations.
Earlier this year, I worked with a remarkable coach who encouraged me to say the following affirmation while I was nude, looking in the mirror:
I love you, I trust you, and I forgive you.
I was initially very uncomfortable in the presence of my own naked body. It was so hard to affirm myself, let alone a naked me. Years of body shaming (from others and myself) made this quite the task. Over time, I've moved from being repulsed to actually smiling at myself as I say the affirmations. I have a new appreciation and respect for my body.
14. I splurge on fresh flowers.
One of the most recent additions to my wellness practice is keeping fresh flowers in my room. I never spend more than $5, so I don't feel irresponsible. The beauty they bring to the space energizes and encourages me.
I also believe it sets a standard that I'm allowed to do nice and reasonable things for myself because I'm valuable. I think it's important that my children see me treat myself well so they model that behavior in their own lives. Beauty and kindness don't have to be expensive.
15. I give away what I can.
My mother often told me "give away what you need." After years of eye-rolling, I began to understand what she meant. We all have something to give. If I feel unattractive, I compliment someone else. If I feel discouraged, I encourage someone else.
Sending a card, text, or small gift to someone else is a gift to yourself. Every time I give, I'm reminded I have agency and value and something to offer. I keep blank cards in the house because I never know when someone will need a kind word.