Confessions Of A Self-Help Enthusiast: 10 Practices That Actually Changed My Life
As a natural beauty blogger obsessed with all things wellness, I’ve spent the last decade on what I best describe as a self-help bender, studying every spiritual and healing experience that I could get my hands on.
I’ve had my palms read, chakras realigned, and future predicted. I’ve been detoxified, hypnotized, and organized. I’ve saged my house, slept in a silk cocoon, and seen my past lives (maybe we met when I was a cowgirl in the 15th century?). I’ve done crystal therapy, equine therapy, and plenty of traditional therapy, too. My nightstand looks like the "Live Your Best Life" section of the bookstore.
At first, self-help was part of my job as a beauty and wellness writer. But in the process, my life completely changed. Decades of depression—gone. A chronic autoimmune disease—dormant.
I found love. I found peace. I found myself.
The following are the practices that I continue to call upon when I get stuck in my head, when I feel disconnected from my truth, or when I know I’m operating from a place of fear. They’re not the answer to all of your problems, but they will help you find the inner peace that’s the center of all self-help:
1. Watch your monkey mind.
The more you pay attention to it, the more you’ll realize that your mind has a mind of its own, and it doesn’t always have your best interests at heart. I have watched that voice in my head beat me up for years—I’m not good enough, smart enough, thin enough, successful enough, and on and on. If I listen to it, those thoughts inevitably lead to anxiety, fear, and even depression. But here’s the thing: Just because your thoughts are real doesn’t make them true. When you observe the thoughts without getting taken in by them, it’s much easier to maintain a positive, peaceful state no matter what is going on in your life.
2. Embrace breakdowns.
We are programmed to avoid painful emotions and difficult situations. But turning away from the truth or trying to "manage" a situation or relationship always, always leads to a breakdown. And that’s a good thing! The sooner you allow yourself to have a breakdown, the sooner you get to the breakthrough. I practically look forward to the hard stuff coming to a head because by now I know that on the other side is freedom from whatever fear was causing me to suffer in the first place.
3. Sober up.
I know, I know! No one likes this one—least of all, me. But you don’t have to stop drinking forever. Try it for a week or ideally a month (you can always go longer if you choose) and watch what happens when you take away your go-to numbing agent. You’ll have to feel all of the feelings. The stuff you’ve been too afraid to look at will surface so you can begin to work through what was causing you to drink in the first place. Bonus: You’ll probably lose weight, your skin will be clearer, and you’ll sleep better.
4. Ask the Universe for help.
Call it Source, God, Angels, Divine Energy, or the Universe—whatever higher power you feel connected to wants to support you on your earthly journey. You simply have to ask. One way to do this is journaling or asking out loud for an answer to a dilemma to come while you sleep. You can also seek guidance before going into a meditation. Trust whatever answers you hear back—they’re your higher self or your guides coming through. Finally, water is an incredibly powerful place to pray. When I’m taking a shower or bath, I’ll send out gratitude and ask for my next steps—usually on a career-related matter—and within minutes of slipping on my robe, a text or email will arrive, or a song will come on the radio, in response. It’s wild, but it works!
5. Follow the signs. They’re everywhere.
One way the Universe tries to get our attention is by leaving a trail of "breadcrumbs." What we write off as coincidence or crazy is often a sign. Running into an old boss out of the blue when you’ve been thinking about a career change? Gift from the Universe. Saw the same shape, symbol, or animal several times in one week? Look up the spiritual meaning! I had never even listened to a podcast let alone considered launching one until I got smacked with a series of podcast-related signs. My fiancé and I knew we had found our condo after spotting a throw pillow with our initials in the real estate listing. Once you start paying attention to the signs and follow them, you’ll start to trust them. That’s when the magic really happens.
6. See a psychic.
Try it at least once. After doing it myself, I found that seeing an intuitive is less about what your future holds and more about validating your own intuitions. When someone who isn’t your mom or your spouse or BFF really sees you, it can be liberating. You can finally be yourself! A gifted intuitive will remind you of who you are, that you are on this planet for a reason, and that your only job is to uncover it by honoring your higher self. I’ve worked with psychics for nearly a decade, and the biggest gift they’ve given me isn’t a winning lottery number or knowing exactly when I was going to fall in love (though several did predict that…)—it was simply how to trust myself.
7. Honor your heart space.
Talk to any healer, and they will tell you that for most of us, our head gets in the way of our heart. Our heart gets so blocked with painful memories, trauma, or anxiety that we can’t feel what we need, what we want, or who we are. There are many ways to get into your heart space, from breathing into it during meditation, to heart-expanding yoga sequences, to having your heart chakra realigned by an energy worker. One of the simplest yet most powerful practices is to notice how your body responds to specific situations or topics. Do you tense up or get tight in the chest when talking about money, your job, the past, a particular relationship, or yet another volunteer committee you’ve been asked to join? That’s your heart responding before your head starts weighing in. This exercise has helped me make a lot of difficult decisions over the years and empowered me to respectfully say no to things I didn’t really want to do. The heart never lies.
8. Pay attention to moon cycles.
Yep, this is about as woo-woo as it gets. It's said that moon cycles heighten our energetic state and make us more sensitive. In other words, everything becomes more intense. Every month has one or two full moons and a new moon. A full moon represents a culmination of something, like a big goal or an ongoing issue, while a new moon signals a fresh start, making it the perfect time to set an intention or unburden yourself of something (or someone) that no longer serves you. Once you start tuning into moon cycles, it’s easier to work with them and harness those emotional reverberations versus being swept up by their intensity.
9. Adopt a grounding ritual.
Meditation and yoga are wonderful, but you don’t have to sit on a tuffet or slip on Lululemon to come home to yourself. "Grounding," as it’s often referred to in the spiritual world, can be as simple as touching a tree for a few moments (don’t knock it till you try it!), sipping a cup of herbal tea, or holding a crystal in your hand. The key is to return to your ritual whenever you feel disconnected or shaky. For me, it’s taking an Epsom salt bath. Baths not only detoxify the body but also purify whatever emotional baggage or heartbreak I’ve been carrying around with me.
Michael Singer’s book, The Surrender Experiment, is my spiritual bible. It introduced me to a radical way of being: surrendering to the Universe and trusting that it has your back. All these years, I thought I was in charge. I thought everything happened because I made it happen. And if it didn’t, it’s because I failed or took a wrong turn. Singer, on the other hand, spent most of his adult life living in a state of surrender. This decades-long experiment yielded the most jaw-dropping stories of synchronicities and success that I won’t spoil here. Every time Singer trusted the Universe to provide his next step or the solution to a problem (and there were some doozies), it came through with something better than he could have come up with himself. Since reading this book, I have experienced the most liberating sense of relief. I don’t have to control everything, or do it all on my own! Surrendering doesn’t mean lying in bed all day eating bonbons, of course, but trusting in the flow. As a result, I stress less about the future and am more at peace about life, meeting it with presence rather than resistance.
Ready to put it into practice? Here are seven self-care techniques to boost your mood today.