Disclosure: This post was created in partnership with Stonyfield and Tom’s of Maine.
Four ways to detox your life? You may be thinking that you don’t want to read this, that I’m going to suggest things for you to do that are too hard or too complicated.
Oh, don’t you worry, friends: this isn’t one of those posts. I will not suggest a list of impossible things you must do right now to make your life infinitely better. Nor I will recommend you adopt new habits that seem achievable only to vegan-macrobiotics who do yoga six hours a day and don’t drink caffeine.
I believe in small, easy steps—nothing that is out of grasp for normal folks like me who enjoy gooey cheese, watch too much TV, and never get enough sleep. People who want life to be a bit better—absolutely—but need baby steps to get there.
To that end, I’ve spent a fair bit of time this year thinking about the ways we muck up our lives with stuff that’s not healthy or important, things that distract or frustrate us.
How can we jettison those habits and attachments? I’ve come up with 4 ways.
- Say No
How many times have you looked at your calendar for the weekend and been disappointed? The two days each week your family has together, away from work and school, and it’s filled with sports commitments, kids birthday parties, and errands. Not always fun or relaxing, right?
Try something radical this weekend: decline some of those obligations and do something fun, something that makes you happy. Go for a family hike. Build a big pile of leaves in your backyard, and then jump in and out with your kids. Explore the national park nearest to your home. Ride the subway in your closest city from end to end. Introduce your kids to the movie that made you laugh until your stomach ached when you were their age. Call up a friend you haven’t spoken with in ages (I know, who uses the phone anymore?). Volunteer for a local food bank. Clean up a public space near your home. Bake brownies. Play basketball with your neighbors.
In other words: give yourself permission to let go of commitments and allow some more fun into your life. Make downtime a priority, saying no to too many obligations.
- Say Yes
Over the past several months, I’ve become increasingly concerned about the chemicals and preservatives my family is exposed to day in and day out. I read the labels on every thing we buy and put food and other items back on the shelf if the ingredients included therein are unhealthy or unidentifiable.
This interest began when my son was young; we bought organic baby food and then moved onto organic yogurts (that’s where we became fans of Stonyfield and we’ve been buying their products ever since). Over the last year, our commitment to organic eating expanded to include all fruits and vegetables, cereals, bread, baking supplies, butter, olive oil, and more. We buy our meat from a local farm that doesn’t use any antibiotics and encourages those in their meat share to visit the farm to see how they operate. I’ve moved us to organic milk and ice cream, and cleared all of the scary preservatives from our house. The step-by-step process of cleaning up our diet has been a thoughtful transition, with our family discussing each decision along the way. As a result, my kids are on board with saying good-bye to bad foods, and, in turn, I have been impressed with how they are aware of the connection between healthy foods and a more highly functioning body. My husband and I also have made the financial commitment that goes along with eating organic. These items are almost always more expensive than conventional options (at least in the grocery stores in our area), and we budget accordingly, as it’s a priority for our family.
Along with organic foods, I’ve been reading up on the ingredients in our cleaning supplies and body products, concluding “if I can’t pronounce it, it can’t possibly be good for us.” I’ve changed shampoos, gone out of my way to buy kids vitamins free of preservatives, and switched soaps.
Several months ago, I switched deodorants from the kind I had used since I was a teenager (and which is filled with chemicals with long, scary sounding names) to Tom’s of Maine antiperspirant. It’s marketed for men, but works just fine for women, too. The antiperspirant is 100% naturally derived from plants and minerals; has no artificial fragrances, color, preservatives, or petrochemicals; and comes in fully recyclable packaging. My family has been using Tom’s of Maine toothpaste, too (have you ever thought about what’s in toothpaste?), and they’ve made the switch to a product without artificial sweeteners, flavors, or colors without a misstep. I appreciate that the toothpaste containers are recyclable and that product isn’t tested on animals. Tom’s also gives 10% of its profits to charities that support the environment, among other causes.
My second strategy to detox your life is to say yes to products and foods that are healthy for you—really healthy, not only healthy sounding. Take the time to read about the companies you buy from, understanding their mission and corporate values. Read all of the ingredients in the food, body products, and cleaning supplies you put in your grocery cart, and avoid dangerous chemicals and preservatives. For more information on making these healthy choices, visit the Environmental Working Group’s website.
- Count to 3
When my kids drive me crazy—I’m not going to lie to you and say they don’t—instead of yelling, I take a deep breath and start counting.
“Mommy’s doing this because she’s frustrated,” my husband explains. My kids nod and get moving, though usually not until I reach 9 or 10. By that time, however, my initial flash of frustration is gone, and I’ve shown them about the need to slow down and take a moment before responding to difficult situations. It’s made a big difference in how I interact with my kids. I’m not saying this approach, which I learned this summer in a meditation class, is easy; it’s not—especially when we are running late for school and my kids are not cooperating. That’s when I really want to stretch my vocal cords! But when we have less yelling in our house and more taking a pause—to breathe and to count—we all do a lot better with getting through the day. We hear each other better, too. Plus, it’s a more respectful way to communicate.
I’ve used the “count to 3” method in other instances—for example, Target and Amazon Prime (counting to 3 curbs impulse buying)—and found that it saves me time (no more trips back to the store to return things I regret later) and stress (no more higher than expected credit card bills). Less stress + more time = a happier me.
I’ve counted to 3 when waiting in line at the post office (those lines are always long!), when stuck in traffic, and when dealing with cranky adults. One, two, three, and breathe is a good strategy for almost every time you’d rather yell or lose your cool. I suspect if we all tried this, our world might be much nicer.
- Let Go
I saved this one for last because, honestly, it’s the hardest.
Friends, it’s time to let go of your stuff.
Do you have a basement or attic jammed up with boxes of things? Old clothes, shoes, books, lamps, and household items? I do, I admit it. I’ve been dragging some of the things hanging around in my basement from home to home over the last dozen years. If I haven’t opened that box in more than a decade, do I still need it? I wonder this a lot as I stare at the piles of dusty cardboard boxes taking up space (and psychic energy) in my house.
Having all of that stuff is a pain (boxes everywhere!) and expensive. If things are messy, can you find what you need or do you buy another of the same thing? This has been a problem for me, and is why I have three (yes, three) irons in my house—and I hate ironing.
There are many charities that will take the items you are ready to part with (assuming they are in good shape), including Goodwill and Big Brothers and Big Sisters. You can even arrange for them to pick up at your house! There’s no excuse.
I’m working on getting rid of the stuff that’s taking up space in my home. My goal is one trip to the donation center each month, and I already feel lighter by clearing up our space. Bye bye clutter!
What do you think? If you say no to commitments that tie you up, say yes to healthy eating and body products free of harmful chemicals, count to 3 when facing a tough situation, and let go of the stuff you don’t need that’s filling up your physical space, will your life be detoxed? Will you be free to have more time for what and whom you love, will your stress be lessened, and will you have an overall happier outlook? I’m giving it a try!