Get your year off to a positive start.
Like with everything else in the past couple of years, wellness has been stripped back to basics. There’s a meaningful, grassroots, no-frills approach to people trying to physically unwind and mentally cope. In 2020, every aspect of our lives had a shake-up: exercise is no longer a fancy CrossFit session, fitness is where the mat is. A Bali retreat is not the only way to recharge, a rigorous trail run does the same trick. Beauty regimens have been reset – thanks to the “Zoom boom”, this year’s wellness goals are not about slathering on an expensive, questionable elixir to make you feel good, but it’s the comfort of seeing friends and colleagues without makeup or fancy hairdos.
So, what are the wellness practices and goals your whole family can dive into in 2021 to feel a collective sense of calm, healing and normalcy – even if the current situation is anything but? Here are seven ideas to get you off on the right foot.
Make Mental Health A Priority
I am a mum of two and somewhere in the chaos of last year, I truly started making my mental health a priority, because everyone deserves a chance at peace. 2020 was a test in patience and resilience like none other. Now’s the time that we really focus on how to be kind to ourselves.
A simple act of journaling everyday negative, self-doubting thoughts helped me to realise how mean I was to myself and my own potential. It’s not a big deal to write a diary, you might say. But reading the literal littering of my own mental health has been eye-opening. Reflecting is easy when you deal with written words and chronicling my feelings has put a lot into perspective.
I am no mental health expert but there are amazing professionals out there fully equipped to help you overcome your inner struggles. Wellness goal number one: it’s high time you connect with one of them in case a family member is struggling.
Check out Mind HK, a registered charity which provides information on mental health resources in the 852. Cool Minds, is targeted towards younger people and their mental health issues and COVID-19 Mental Health Relief Scheme is an awesome pro bono initiative by a group of therapists offering one-on-one services to those most in need of counselling. The Hong Kong College of Psychiatrists has the most updated list of private psychiatrists in the SAR.
If you’re lonely, hurting and not being heard is driving you to the edge, log on to to a reputable digital resource, like 7 Cups – an online emotional support service with trained, attentive, caring volunteers who will happily say, “we’re here for you” and guide you through a crisis.
Incorporate Meditation In Your Routine
“Quiet the mind and the soul will speak” — Ma Jaya Sati Bhagvati.
Meditation is a godsend for anyone with an overcharged mind and should definitely be one of your wellness goals. Did you know that you’re never too young to meditate? Kids as little as three or four years old can start learning breathing techniques that’ll help them clear their minds, focus, sleep better, cope with peer pressure and be more relaxed and “in the moment” – an art which some adults struggle to adapt.
There are myriad ways to go about meditating. Look around for specialised classes in the neighbourhood. From Fivelements Habitats to Igikai and Anahata Yoga, there are several mediation centres and yoga studios offering face-to-face as well as virtual classes to beginners or seasoned meditators. With the latest COVID-19 restrictions, always check directly with the studios to see if they are currently offering in-person sessions.
If meditating in a group setting is not your jam then download an app to help with your progress. Calm, Headspace and Insight Timers are all mindfulness apps worthy of your attention and allow for family sharing plans as well. Download an app that works for you and start practising with the whole family.
Don’t want to involve your wallet yet? We get it – there are hundreds and thousands of meditation videos and tutorials on YouTube, like this Mindfulness Bootcamp for families.
The wee hours of the morning are supposed to be the best to connect with the self but quite frankly, given our frantic lives, any time of the day you prioritise to meditate is the best time.
Wellness Goals: Detox From Devices
Now that Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, news scrolls, online shopping, Netflix, Minecraft are done, I’m ready to seize the day. Or whatever’s left of the day! Does this sound a lot like you or maybe your teenager?
The pandemic has been hard – in some way we’re all filing in gaps in our social life by living it up online. However, being constantly plugged-in comes with real health risks, like increased anxiety, depression, vision issues, to name just a few. If you have been binge-watching the entire season of The Crown in one go, or pulling an all-nighter for endless rounds of League of Legends, try these six steps to break up with your devices (for a little while at least):
- Recognise the problem: Download an app to see how many times you’re using your phone (or use the phone’s settings if it has this function). It might seem ironic to use your phone to find out how to use your phone less, but this is integral to track the use and abuse pattern. Most people will be flabbergasted to see their devices are gobbling up 4 to 6 hours of their precious day!
- Set limits for social media use: We mean practical, doable limits here. How about 90 minutes a day, no more than 15 minutes a sitting, for all your social apps? Start with a realistic target and cut it further with each week. Freedom and Moment are awesome iOS and Android apps which set app limits and literally help you disengage.
- Make a “To-Do” memo and don’t check personal emails/social media until it’s done: Sounds drastic but how else will you do something of substance which is really important to you.
- Unsubscribe from newsletters and kill the notifications: Are you confusing urgent with important? When you’re in the middle of your workflow, do you really want to know right away that someone commented “Wow, beautiful” on your Facebook picture? Nothing like push notifications to ruin productivity! Be ruthless – kill those prompts. All of them. Or at least the ones which you don’t need to hear from on a regular basis. The thing that I personally love about living the zero-notifications life is the kind of balance is creates. It makes me feel in control and gives me the choice when to check Twitter or Instagram instead of it being shoved in my face in the midst of a deadline.
- Take a weekly social media vow of silence: Start with one day a week and if all hell doesn’t break loose, gradually progress and make a habit out of it.
- Always carry a book or a magazine: Waiting at the dentist, in the bus queue, MTR ride or just plain bored – a book or a magazine at your disposal means you’ll not fiddle on your phone by default. Carry a book or two in your handbag, here’s a good reading list for your 2021 reading targets.
Failing these, how about putting devices in a cupboard for the evening. Out of sight, out of mind?
Plant Protein: Healthy Meals Preps Are All The Rage
Immunity is a sizzling, hot ticket item in the midst of a pandemic. If we could put it on a trendy superfoods list, it would be right above kale! From your neighbourhood cafes to the latest trending hashtags, the plant-based diet is popping up everywhere! (Hello wellness goal number 4!) Lentils, peas, black beans, nuts, seeds, quinoa and seitan are working their way up through Impossible Burger or Beyond Meat.
Packed with protein, similar to the real deal yet environmentally clean, these plant-based proteins are changing the meatless game. And if you look around at a supermarket aisle, from quinoa pasta, oats milk, non-dairy cheese or yoghurt, plant-based everything is booming and has become quite mainstream.
If a healthier lifestyle is your New Year’s resolution, remember that fitness is 20% exercise and 80% diet. As the wise gym folks say, you cannot outrun your fork! So, sticking to conscious eating involves a lot of planned meal preparations. Either batch-cooking, prepping ingredients in advance, or using dinner leftovers for brekkie – happiness is a fully meal-prepped fridge!
But if slogging with prep is not your jam, there’s always a kitchen in Hong Kong ready to cater to your healthy meal needs. It’s not hard to live a sustainable, plant-based life in Hong Kong and you’ll thank us later!
Make Recovery Centrestage
Top takeaway from this train wreck of a year? The need to slow down. Pause. Breathe in. Breathe out. Recover.
Forced to be shut indoors and work from home which saved all the commute hours and the unexpected shake-up of the world – all this was a hidden opportunity to break away from the “hustle culture”, to actively disengage and switch-off the monkey brain.
Recovery – be it sound sleep, a day off from logging miles or taking time from the nonstop, 24*7 grind – whatever helps you rest and recharge without guilt. Go for it!
Time Management And Family Planning
No matter how much we collectively (and globally) wish, COVID-19 can’t read a calendar. It won’t magically disappear in the new year! And neither will the working from home, home learning or the tiny, cramped apartment situation in the 852.
There will be times when we mamas will practically feel the walls closing on us. Our brains will hurt from trying to respond to work emails whilst getting the kids to sit still in zoom classes, screaming at the husband to lower his volume on calls while forcing the kids complete their assignments.
While some say we should feel grateful for all the extra time while homeschooling and working from home, in reality, it’s the perfect storm – a slippery slope to Meltdown Town unless you have some sort of a system in place. These tips should help with that:
- Have dedicated workspaces: We don’t live in mansions in Hong Kong so you need to reimagine your living space with the current pandemic in mind. Have study corners and worktables replete with stationary for every member who needs it.
- Adults get an early head start: Reset your sleep hours and try and squeeze in a couple of hours of work before the littles rise. You’d be surprised at your early morning productivity.
- Divide and conquer: If parents are fortunate enough to have some sort of flexibility on working hours, you can divide chunks of time each gets to spend minding the children whilst the other meets work deadlines without interruptions.
- Print schedules: And ask kids to strictly stick to them lest iPad time is taken away for doing chores.
- Take help from time management apps: Download an app or four! Managing a career and home, topped with home learning, is a lot to take care of – there’s not enough coffee or wine in the world for this pandemic problem but apps come in handy. Personally, I love Clockify – it creates a timesheet for individual tasks and tracks your productivity. There’s also Promodoro, RescueTime, Forest, Toggl, Timely and Timeular which are clean, time management apps designed to help you stay focused and get the maximum output from your busy day.
Take Unwinding Seriously
Hit a hike, get savage on the trampoline or just sit back and enjoy the laughs with the family at dinner – whatever it is you do to relax, take it seriously, do it unapologetically. In the era of being dramatically desk and homebound, take pride in doing nothing Pinterest-worthy for at least one day in a week.