Wellness can mean many things, from hitting the Peloton for 45 minutes a day to finding five minutes for some mindful meditation. In between, there are hundreds—at least—of dietary choices, exercise classes, and self-care routines.
“Each of us has our own individual needs and desires along our wellness journey,” says Kristen Bedrick, director of health and wellness at Lahey Hospital and Medical Center.
Because the options can be overwhelming, we’ve collected a list of 25 small ideas for starting,
or reinvigorating, your own wellness experience on the North Shore.
Get ready, get set
The little picture
At the beginning, it can be easy to become daunted and give up. Start small: Set specific goals, like exercising 15 minutes a day, three days a week, and slowly add more changes. “Choose smaller, more actionable goals,” says Julie Bokat, co-owner of Fuel Training Studio in Newburyport.
For the best chance at success, skip the negative self-talk. “Accepting where you are without judgment is the best step someone can take to then move forward,” Bedrick says.
Patience is a virtue
Take your time as you adopt a new exercise routine. “It’s very important to listen to your body, and if it’s asking for a rest day don’t be afraid to give it one,” says Wes Lassen, manager of the New England Running Co. in Beverly.
Invest in the clothes, shoes, and equipment you need to be comfortable and safe. Talk to the professionals to find the right fit for your best chances of avoiding injuries.
Don’t think of exercise or healthy eating as hardships. “It should be a celebration of your body, of what it can do,” says Jeanne Carter, co-owner of Fuel Training Studio.
Hike far and wide
Join the Hike Trustees, the challenge offered by the Trustees of Reservations, as motivation to explore new natural places across the state. “The benefits from being outside are so essential to mental health and well-being,” says Aaron Gouveia, the Trustees’ director of public relations.
Gyms across the region now offer aquatic treadmills, spin classes, and even Zumba in addition to standard water fitness classes, for a fun and low-impact workout. “Water is a real equalizer,” says Gerald McKillop, chief operating officer for YMCA of the North Shore.
“Biking is a great way to get to know the North Shore at a relaxed and human pace,” says Jim Goldberg, a board member of North Shore Cyclists. Find a new destination at coastaltrails.org or biketothesea.org.
Get off the beaten track
Lassen advises trail running to reduce stress on your joints and enjoy the beauty of the region. “Living on the North Shore offers us some amazing access to hundreds of miles of trails, and there’s really no better place to run,” he says.
Or take it slow
If you’re new to exercise or have physical restrictions, you can still reap the benefits of moving your body. Start with small, gentle exercises. Go for a walk around the block, take a restorative yoga class (most studios offer them), or simply try a few stretches and sit-ups in your living room.
Eat the rainbow
If you strive for a range of colors in your daily diet, you will naturally get the vitamins, minerals, and fiber you need. “it’s an easy way to think about getting everything your body needs to thrive,” says Anna Tou, director of marketing for plant-based restaurant chain Life Alive.
Snack on cashews, toss pecans on your salad, and sprinkle almonds on your yogurt, says Life Alive CEO Bryan Timko. Nuts are a tasty way to load up on the good fats that cut the risk of heart disease and help your body absorb vitamins.
Add flavorful sauces to your steamed veggies and whole grains to perk up your palate and keep your eating exciting. Play with vinegars, oils, soy sauce, miso, and other flavors, or pick up a bottled sauce from a trusted source (Life Alive sells its most popular dressings in bottles, for example).
Make sleep a priority
Getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night is essential for almost every aspect of your health, from immune function to mood regulation, says Kendea Oliver, a sleep expert with Beth Israel Lahey Health. Give yourself enough time to get the sleep your body needs.
Take time before bed to slow down your brain and body. Create a routine much like you would for a child. Put away screens, do something relaxing, dim the lights—whatever it takes to get yourself in a sleepy state of mind.
Do your best to use your bed only for sleep (and sex), Oliver says. This practice will help your brain associate the bed with sleep and make it easier to sleep well in the long run. If you are awake in bed after 20 minutes, get up and do something calming – and a bit boring – until you get sleepy, then return to bed.
Mind and body
Listen to the symphony
Think of the mind and body as inseparable parts of a greater system, says Dawn Tardif, founder of BodiScience Wellness Center and Spa in Beverly. Imagine a delicate balance of your physical, emotional, and spiritual systems as players in an orchestra, she says. When one organ or system is out of balance it shows up like a violin in a symphony being out of tune.
Time for the mind
To cultivate mind-body wellness, give yourself permission to take time in your busy schedule for nurturing that connection, says Joan Amaral, founder of the Zen Center of the North Shore, which offers several options for in-person and online meditation practice each week. “It’s not a self-indulgence—it’s a vital activity for all of us,” she says.
Tune in to nature
Notice the grass and the flowers and the dirt and the breeze, whether you’re on a walk or sitting on the beach. “Paying attention to nature enhances our connections to ourselves and others,” Bedrick says.
Maximize your meditation
Apps can be a great way to get started with mindfulness, but to get the most out of meditation, look for opportunities to practice in a group. “There’s a lot of energy in group practice,” Amaral says.
Keep it going
Listen to your body
Pay attention to what your body is telling you about what kind of movement it wants. “What feels good on Sunday morning may be totally different from what feels good on Wednesday night, so just honor what is going on within you,” says Erin McKay, owner of Treetop Yoga in Gloucester.
Join the club
Finding a community can help keep you motivated and accountable, whether it’s an in-person club like North Shore Cyclists, a regular group exercise class at the Y, or a Facebook group about plant-based cooking. Plus, having friends along for the journey just makes it more fun.
Try something new
Feeling stuck? Mix it up. Runners, for example, can set themselves a challenge, like trying to run every street in town. Or buy a new cookbook to get inspired by healthy recipes.
Or try something old
McKay notes that even experienced yoga practitioners can find something new in revisiting a basics class. “It’s great to break the practice down and revisit the poses in your present body,” she says.
Call in a coach
If you can afford to hire a personal trainer or health coach, do it, advises Bokat. “Everyone needs to check in with somebody to keep the rhythm and the accountability going,” she says.