self improvement, yoga lesson

7 Ways To Become The Best Version Of Yourself This Year

Make 2014 your year with these 7 simple steps to become the healthiest and happiest version of yourself.

1. Love Your Morning Routine

Our mornings set the tone for the entire day. We should look forward to waking up and embracing the day, not the other way around. Not a morning person? Start setting your alarm for 30-60 minutes earlier than usual, eventually your internal clock adapts to this change and you will start waking up naturally at – dare I say it – 6 AM?! In those 30-60 minutes of you time, there are a number of healthy habits you can start.

Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurveda practice that strengthens your teeth and gums while being completely meditative. All you do is put a tablespoon of cold-pressed, unrefined oil (sesame, coconut or sunflower) and swish it around your mouth for 15-20 minutes. It may sound strange, but when you’re finished (and discard oil in toilet) your mouth has never felt cleaner. It’s a surprisingly relaxing practice that works every time. Another morning ritual that’s extremely beneficial is starting off with warm water and lemon. It helps alkalize the body by balancing pH, which aids in digestion, weight loss and glowing skin. Not to mention, lemons are high in Vitamin C that help boost our immune systems.

The most important tip to achieve morning glory is to stay away from computer and phone screens for 30-60 minutes upon your wake. It can’t be good for your eyes or your brain to have bright lights and information overload first thing. Whatever’s in your inbox can wait; in fact, your response will probably be 10x more intelligent and thought-out if you’re fully awake and relaxed!

2. An Apple A Day

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is a saying for reason, right? Keeping proper nutrition is essential to having a healthy life. It’s not about non-fat this, low-carb that – it’s about giving your body all of the nutrients it needs and eating mindfully in moderation. Incorporate lots of dark leafy greens, seasonal vegetables, fiber and protein to your diet. Try to eliminate processed foods, i.e. foods that are completely manipulated and prepared. Drink lots of fresh juices, tea and water to stay hydrated. If you are craving a brownie or French fries, don’t punish yourself! Have a small piece of dark chocolate, or ¼ the serving size of that brownie – roast potatoes in the oven instead of frying them. There is always a healthier option that isn’t restricting and totally satisfying. Eating healthy helps you maintain weight, increase energy and overall, feel amazing.

3. Incorporate Exercise

Exercise is essential; it doesn’t matter if your goal is to lose weight or simply be heart healthy. Our bodies need to move and sweat! If you hate exercising, you just haven’t found the right workout. It’s scientifically proven that our bodies produce endorphins in response to stress – which are released when we’re working out really hard. The after-math of a great workout is nothing short of complete achievement and gratification. Running, cycling, yoga, dance, pilates, swimming, group fitness, the list goes on. Think of exercise as the only time in the day that you can be completely selfish and think about nothing but your workout. Not enough hours in the day? Try an at-home video sequence that you can complete on your own time – even if you only have 20 minutes. Where there’s a will there’s a way!

4. Start Meditating

You might roll your eyes at the thought of meditating, but I’m not talking about starting out alone in your room – incense lit, lights dim, eyes closed – waiting 30 minutes with the hopes of reaching enlightenment. Meditation can be very challenging, start small. Go to your favorite grassy knoll, the beach, spot in your home, basically anywhere that’s comfortable for you. Eliminate all distractions, find a comfortable seated position and close your eyes. Maybe for only 5 minutes! In this day and age with the amount of driving and computer work we do, sitting upright with a straight spine is extremely hard. Set an intention you can repeat to yourself as your eyes are closed, for example: “Relax” or “I Am Strong”. After 5 minutes you might get bored and call it quits, but do it everyday – you’ll be amazed how your time span grows and maybe one day… you’ll reach enlightenment! But, if not, you’re relaxing all of the neurotransmitters in your brain and creating ultimate self-awareness. Listen to what comes up and after you’re finished, write it down. You could go to a led meditation class at your local yoga studio, too!

5. Try Something New Once per Month

2014 is your year – it’s time to try those activities you’ve always wanted to do. Do you daydream about break-dancing, kayaking, becoming a chef, painter, blogger?! Play like Nike and JUST DO IT. Look for local deals, friends to go with (or not), and then take the plunge. What’s stopping you but yourself? There are only two outcomes: A) you love it and become a professional break-dancer, or B) you hate it and try something new. So this year, resist habit and get moving!

6. Stop Should-ing

Shoulda, coulda, woulda. Forget regret. Stop thinking about what should have happened or what would have happened. The fact is, it didn’t happen and it’s in the past. It’s a new year and a new you. Live in the present moment, that’s the only way we can control the life we envision. That being said, stop should-ing yourself. Should I go to yoga tomorrow? Should I throw myself a birthday party? How about – I am going to yoga tomorrow. I am throwing myself a fabulous birthday party. Confidently steer yourself in a healthy and positive direction, it’s your life, after all.

7. Visualize Your Happiness

Visualize your happiness, manifest your destiny. It works, really! By following the six points above and carrying a healthy attitude, you have the power to do whatever you want with your life. You get what you give, so leave judgment and negativity at the door – bring positivity and an open mind inside. There will be bumps in the road, but what matters is how you handle them. At the risk of sounding completely cliché, be the best version of yourself; visualize what you want, work hard, and you will achieve!

Sam Negrin is an avid yogi (and RYT) in Los Angeles. She is also the Content Manager of LEAFtv – a fresh, easy to consume, how-to concept covering all things living, eating and fashion.