A new year is approaching, which means so are New Year’s resolutions. But why wait for a new year to put your well-being first when you have the opportunity to make a change every new day?
Outward Bound was founded on the belief that a person is positively influenced physically, mentally and emotionally through challenging peak experiences and by leaning into teamwork and compassion.
So, whether you’ve been on an outdoor trip with Outward Bound or not, here are 10 ways to invest in your physical, mental and emotional health this new year.
1. Seek Balance in All Things
When I first moved to New Orleans, I kept hearing this saying:
“Everything in moderation. Including moderation.”
If you’re so focused on the past or future, you can’t enjoy the present. If you’re so focused on efficiency and productivity, your ability to relax and have fun may take a back seat. By avoiding discomfort at all times, you could avoid the experiences that make life truly worth living. Recognize when your priorities are off-kilter and find a new balance.
2. Set Boundaries With Your Devices
How do we begin setting healthy boundaries with our devices this new year? Gradual moments without them. Next time you go to the park or over to someone’s house, try leaving your phone in the car. Instead of pulling out your phone the next time someone asks you a question to which you don’t know the answer, say those three words we seem to have forgotten how to say: “I don’t know.”
3. Get In and Out of Bed the Right Way
I doubt there is any perfect bedtime or morning routine. However, I can confidently say that having a routine is more beneficial than not having one.
What you do before getting into bed for the night determines the quality of your sleep. What you do upon waking determines the quality of your upcoming day.
Try putting your phone away an hour before going to bed. Let that hour be a sanctuary for restorative practices that help you feel your best: yoga, reading, writing, meditating or any other experience that you find calming.
In the morning, keep your phone put away for the first hour. The morning is when our minds are clear and primed for our best work, but if you are responding to other distractions, the rest of your day will follow suit.
4. Sit Still
I’m a huge proponent of doing nothing. In a society that emphasizes productivity and profit above most everything else, our collective communities would benefit mightily from not being afraid to sit still.
5. Listen for Your Personal Legend
In Paulo Coelho’s book The Alchemist, Coelho explains his philosophy of a personal legend:
“Your Personal Legend is what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their personal legend is, at that point in their lives everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to dream and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives.
But as time passes a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their personal legend.
To realize one’s personal legend is one’s only real obligation. When you really want something all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.”
What have you always wanted to do?
What are you passionate about? Is there anything that holds you back? We all have distinct and different answers to these questions. Even if you are just discovering your passions, try taking time to work towards them or your goals just a little each day.
6. Get Outside
Why does Outward Bound always harp on the outdoors?
The outdoors requires nothing and yet, everything from us. Nature does not care what you look like, how much money you have or where you come from. But once there, it demands our attention. It demands thought and vulnerability. To successfully navigate the wilderness, we must focus only on what is important, think clearly, take risks, love our companions and be fully rooted in the present moment. The outdoors retrains us to practice these foundational elements of excellent living.
7. Cultivate a Beginner’s Mind
Do something that scares you. Step outside of your comfort zone regularly. Start a new hobby, course, or practice and become a beginner again. Approach the same old things you always do as a beginner would, with curiosity and excitement. Listen and consider, instead of merely waiting for your turn to speak. Consider every experience as something novel that may offer you a fresh new way to see the world.
8. Find Your Community
Each day is a new opportunity to meet a new friend or collaborator. Why not talk to the random stranger on the bus or in the line at the coffee shop? Practice the art of friendship.
Find the people that you need or the people who need you. Whether it’s someone that will offer you a listening ear or someone who needs an encourager to share in their dreams, they exist. Go find them.
9. Choose Excellence in Everything You Do
What if you put your heart and intention into each and everything you do? The ancient Stoics used to perceive every experience, especially the undesirable ones, as an opportunity to practice virtue.
Imagine if we lived with that mindset. The office meeting would no longer be a pain but a practice in patience, active listening and speaking your mind. A homeless man approaching your window at a stoplight is no longer a bother but a fellow human in need. The meeting in which you feel unprepared and inadequate is an opportunity to practice courage and humility.
Pay attention to what you are doing and choose to find and practice excellence in all things.
10. Spend More Time in Cemeteries
When I was 15, my father died in front of me. I learned early that our existence is finite. There is a difference between knowing and understanding that you will die.
Death is truly the uniting factor for all humans. When you examine what you’re doing through the lens of knowing that you have an expiration date, everything that you do becomes important.
Martin Heidegger philosophized that one antidote to recognizing our mortality on a more regular basis was to spend more time in cemeteries. How many worries that have prevented you from doing something are, in reality, petty and nonsensical? Perhaps a walk in the cemetery can help you see clearly.
With the new year just around the corner, what self-care practices are you integrating into your life? For more guidance in setting and reaching goals, check out the blog: The Power of Accountability in Reaching Your Goals.
About the Author
Christian Vogelgesang has been instructing for the North Carolina Outward Bound School for over two years. His favorite part about the job is watching a crew rise to meet a challenge. When he isn’t instructing, he can be found playing music or playing pranks.