I Need a Major Wellness Revamp–These Easy Rituals Make the Biggest Difference

I’ve been going through some major life changes over the last year: I lost my job, moved across the country, started a new job, and moved in with my boyfriend. While most of these changes were exciting and positive, they brought on a lot more stress and anxiety than I had anticipated, and the stress brought up some old bad habits I thought I had kicked. I was staying up until 2 a.m., doom-scrolling for hours, avoiding my workouts, and reaching for not-so-healthy foods. I felt out of control and not like myself; I was in a rut and lost focus on my health and wellness. I was over feeling constantly tired, sluggish, and inflamed because of it. I was ready—nay, needed—to focus on my health again. But where do I start? What changes would feel manageable and sustainable so I wouldn’t get overwhelmed or go through the same pattern again?

After doing some research, I picked out a handful of wellness habits that seemed doable and not too overwhelming. While I did not like or keep up with every ritual, the ones that I did like completely transformed my body, how I felt, and my motivation. Keep reading for the wellness rituals that actually made a difference—the routines that helped me get out of my slump and back to feeling like my best self. Plus, if you’re at a similar place as me in your wellness journey, I included the wellness habits I want to try next.

The rituals that actually made a big difference

Caffeine After Food and Water

The benefits: What happens to your body when you have caffeine on an empty stomach? Potential blood sugar crashes, upset stomach, suppressed appetite, and less energy. Abigail Hueber, RD, LDN, a functional dietitian and digestive health expert, told Well+Good that having coffee on an empty stomach may activate the release of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which can mess with your adrenal glands (a collection of glands that produce hormones that help regulate your metabolism, immune system, blood pressure, and response to stress) and energy. Heather Davis, MS, RDN, LDN, a registered dietician nutritionist who specializes in neuroendocrinology, agreed: “What I’ve consistently seen in my clinical experience is that almost everyone does better when they avoid drinking coffee on an empty stomach, and many people do better eating a protein-rich meal at least 30 minutes before they have their coffee/caffeine.”

My experience: I’ve never been a breakfast person; I rarely eat before 10:30 a.m. I love having coffee at the start of the morning, and I got into a routine of having a cold brew hours before eating anything. This often left me feeling jittery, anxious, and scatterbrained. Having food and water before caffeine was something that made an immediate impact on me on day one. I’ll admit it: I still don’t always have a big breakfast before my coffee, but even having a bottle of water and a protein bar before taking my first sip of coffee makes a major difference. I feel less anxious, and my usual coffee jitters are gone. My stomach is also much happier with me, and I can stay much more focused throughout the day. The only downside? Since I’m not a breakfast person, sometimes I really have to encourage myself to eat when all I want is that first taste of cold brew. But I now know it’s worth the effort.

Intermittent Fasting

The benefits: Most diets focus on what to eat (or what not to eat), but intermittent fasting centers around when you eat. It’s an approach to eating that switches between consistent periods of eating and fasting, and it’s supposed to have many benefits. Studies have found that intermittent fasting can help with weight loss, reducing inflammation, brain health, and longevity, and there are different ways to follow it. There’s the 16/8 method, which involves eating within an 8-hour window (such as 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.) and fasting the remaining 16 hours of the day. Or, you could opt for the 12/12 method, where you eat within a 12-hour window (such as 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.) and fast for 12 hours of the day.

Whatever the method, the goal is to be intentional about giving your body a break from digesting, not to limit food. With fasting comes feasting—your body needs nutrients, so make sure you’re getting enough nutrients during your feasting window, and always talk to your doctor before trying for yourself. Reminder: It’s best to listen to your body. If you’re experiencing fatigue, brain fog, or hunger cues, eat a nourishing meal or snack. 

My experience: Since I love to snack, I was apprehensive about intermittent fasting. But I was eating late at night, which caused indigestion and sleep issues, so I decided to try it out. I decided to go the 16/8 route, and my intermittent fasting schedule of choice was eating between 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and then fasting from 7 p.m. to 11 a.m. While I was intentional with the method, I was never strict or hard on myself if I needed to start eating earlier—if I felt sick, dizzy, or low energy, I would immediately break my fast and eat. After trying intermittent fasting for a few weeks, I noticed a significant reduction in bloating and indigestion. I also felt sharper and more productive during the workday, which was an unexpected (but welcomed) perk.

Sunlight First Thing in the Morning

The benefits: According to Dr. Jesse Bracamonte, a Mayo Clinic family medicine physician, taking the time to go outside and get sunlight exposure soon after waking can help regulate the body’s internal clock and sleep-wake cycle by affecting various hormones. Sunlight helps you feel more energized and signals the body to release serotonin, which is linked to lower anxiety and increased feelings of happiness and calm. According to neurologist and biohacker Dr. Andrew Huberman, you need about 5-10 minutes of exposure in the morning to reap the benefits. That can look like taking a walk or sipping coffee on your balcony (just make sure to wear your SPF!). For more info on the benefits of morning sunlight, click here.

My experience: I’m not a morning person. I’m slowly working on becoming one (emphasis on slowly) by starting my day with a walk. I pick up a coffee at a local coffee shop and walk through a park by my home, and I always listen to what my body needs. If 20 minutes feels like enough, I’ll head home. If I have the energy to keep going, I may walk for up to an hour. Getting sunshine and movement first thing in the morning makes me feel so much more energized and prepared for my work day, and I swear I fall asleep easier at night, too. I’ve noticed I don’t feel as stressed throughout the workday. The perks have been both immediate and ongoing for me; I feel noticeably better after each morning I get my sun-filled walk in. A free, easy, and enjoyable wellness hack? Check, check, and check. This is a foolproof habit that I not only want to stick with for how it makes me feel, but I look forward to it because it’s enjoyable.

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Source: Cora Pursley | Dupe

Cold Showers

The benefits: Taking cold showers is another free game-changer for your well-being, boasting many health benefits, such as boosted mood and energy, better immunity, reduced muscle soreness, and improved skin and hair health. Cold water activates the body’s sympathetic nervous system, which releases endorphins for better mood and increases circulation, which helps with recovery and immunity.

My experience: I love a warm, steamy shower, but after learning about the benefits, I had to try it myself. The first time was miserable. After my everything shower, I turned the temperature as low as I could tolerate and stood there for what felt like 20 minutes (it was more like 15 seconds). But I kept trying the ritual and slowly built up my tolerance to the cold water. After a few times, I noticed a difference immediately. I felt more energized and alert and was able to start my mornings off on a more energized and productive foot. The downside? After trying it daily for three to four weeks, I still dread it. I’m going to continue since the benefits I feel are worth it, but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to keep it up come winter.

Collagen Powder

The benefits: Collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies and is responsible for the structure, elasticity, and rejuvenation of skin, tendons, ligaments, and muscles. The body naturally produces collagen on its own using the amino acids from protein-rich or collagen-rich foods like bone broth, meat, and fish, but aging, sun damage, smoking, and alcohol consumption can decrease production. In these cases, getting collagen from supplements and foods can fill in the gaps. 

My experience: I’ve heard all the positive buzz about collagen powder (it’s life-changing, it transformed my skin, it gave me the most luscious hair ever) and thought it must be too good to be true. I gave in and ordered some after noticing my nails were brittle (curse you, gel manicures!) and my skin was feeling lackluster (probably because I was skimping on my skincare routine). After taking collagen daily for six weeks, my skin looked clearer and brighter, and my nails were breaking less. I also had less hair shedding in the shower and my hair was growing faster than ever.

The texture or taste didn’t bother me (some people say it’s chalky), but you can mask it in a smoothie instead of plain water. Also, make sure to use one that is from a high-quality source (from grass-fed, pasture-raised animals or wild-caught fish) without additives like artificial flavors or sweeteners [The Everygirl’s Wellness Editor recommends this one from Truvani]. Because collagen can be pricey, I no longer take it every day but have it a few times a week to maintain hair growth and skin health.

The rituals I’m trying next

Red Light Therapy

I have a close friend who swears by red light therapy, which involves exposing your skin to low levels of red or near-infrared light through masks, beds, lasers, or LED panels. My friend says that he feels noticeably less anxious after a 20-minute session and claims he no longer needs Botox because of its effect on the skin. The non-invasive light sends red wavelengths through the skin, your cells absorb it, and then convert it to energy. The benefits are many: It can help boost collagen production, reduce inflammation, promote acne scar healing, support muscle recovery, and improve mood.

According to Vanessa Coppola, FNP-BC, a board-certified nurse practitioner and owner of Bare Aesthetic Medical Spa, it’s safe for most people, as it doesn’t use any UV rays like we experience with the sun (but always talk to your doc before trying!). I’m saving this trend for the fall and winter months when it’s cold and gray outside. For more info on red light therapy and how to get it at home, click here.

The Blue Zone Diet

ICYMI, the Blue Zones are unique communities around the world with the longest-living populations. While there are many factors that research has found contribute to their health (such as spirituality, community, and walkability), one of the key factors is diet. The diets vary across regions, but each Blue Zone does have some factors in common, such as an emphasis on plant-based foods like vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and healthy fats. Every Blue Zone consumes meat or dairy only a few times a month and is void of processed foods and added sugars. It’s not just about what they eat, but how they eat; meals are typically a social gathering, and they don’t overeat (stopping at about 80 percent fullness) to avoid overeating and digestive discomfort. I like that this “diet” takes a holistic and enjoyable approach, focusing on overall well-being rather than just losing weight. Plus, these Blue Zone recipes look so delicious. 

Reducing Sugar

I always need a little sweet treat after dinner and only like sweet coffee, but according to basically everyone on my FYP, limiting sugar and being mindful of sugar intake is crucial for health. Since it seems like everything contains sugar these days (including salad dressings and bread), this trend seems overwhelming, but I’m excited to see if it’s the key to limiting symptoms and feeling my best. “Women should be consuming six teaspoons or less of sugar daily, but American adults consume approximately 17 teaspoons of sugar per day on average,” said Jamie Koll, an ingredient expert and founder of Girls Who Eat. I am undoubtedly consuming more than six teaspoons of sugar per day, so I’m interested in cutting my number down to improve gut health, boost energy, and help skin health.

I won’t be going cold turkey. Rather than eliminating sugar from my diet altogether, I’ll likely be prioritizing adding more whole foods in my diet to crowd out sugar so that I don’t feel restricted, which could lead to binge cycles (such as DIYing salad dressings with olive oil and apple cider vinegar and buying whole-grain bread without added sugar). And when that sweet tooth kicks in, I’ll try opting for a piece of fruit and dark chocolate that have a lower sugar content and are high in fiber and antioxidants. 

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