4 Ways to Use Mindfulness to Tend to Your Mental Health in 2021

By: Caroline L. Young, MS, RDN, LD, RYT

“I just can’t wait until 2020 is over.”

Did you hear those words or say them towards the end of 2020? I certainly did!

And it makes sense. 2020 was a doozy, and that’s an understatement. Now, we’re in the early stages of vaccination, which is obviously very promising and hopeful.

Like several of you, I love the feeling of a clean slate and a fresh start. But we are still (collectively, as well as personally on varying levels) experiencing uncertainty, grief and anxiety in the midst of a pandemic.

That’s why I’m excited to share some mindfulness techniques to help you continue to ride the waves of our evolving situation:

1)        Practice gratitude. Even when it feels hard to be grateful, there is always something (a pet, your breakfast, the sun, etc.). Choose at least a couple of things and jot them down in a journal or notepad each morning when you rise.

2)        Use your breath. As long as you are here, your breath is too. It can be an amazing tool to help you when you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious. Take at least a couple of minutes to simply put your awareness on your inhales and your exhales. If you have a hard time staying focused on the breath, welcome to the club! Be kind and try repeating to yourself, “I am breathing in” as you inhale and “I am breathing out” as you exhale.

3)        Move your body. Pick something you truly enjoy doing and commit to doing it regularly. When you’re looking to soothe your anxiety (and what I called the “monkey mind”), I recommend trying out some gentle yoga to help you engage your parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest mode).

4)        Get out in nature. This could mean taking a hike or simply standing in your backyard. And if your mind stays busy even in nature (like mine), pick a sense (like sound) and engage it as much as you can (for example, “I hear birds, I hear running water, I hear wind, etc.”). This gets you out of your head and into your body.

Mindfulness is an umbrella term that covers a vast range of concepts. At the heart of it, mindfulness is about being present with yourself (your thoughts and your body) compassionately. Nourishing your body fits right in there.

On that note, I’ll leave you with some of my favorite simple and delicious snacks - they are certainly part of my non-negotiable self-care!

•     Graham cracker and peanut butter “sandwiches”

•     Sliced banana with spoonful of peanut butter and dark chocolate chips

•     Apple slices with Greek yogurt and peanut powder



Andrews RC, Herlihy O, Livingstone DEW, Andrew R, Walker BR. Abnormal cortisol metabolism and tissue sensitivity to cortisol in patients with glucose intolerance. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2002;87(12):5587-5593.



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