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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Toronto MU chapter.

After all the chaos of 2020, I think I speak for everyone when I say that I really want 2021 to be a fresh start. For me, starting fresh means making a big change. And yes, for most of my life this has meant a quick trip to Sally’s Beauty to get whichever cruelty-free hair dye called out to me the most. I was one of many people who shaved their head out of boredom early on in quarantine. As my hair has slowly grown in, I’ve thought about more genuine ways of starting fresh (at least while the beauty supply shops are closed). But even more than I see people dyeing their hair in their bathrooms, I see posts for scam miracle diet products. Social media ads bombard users with the promise of a fresh start through a pricey, non-FDA approved skinny tea. 

It’s easy to see why: memes about gaining weight during quarantine have been going viral since day one. But as studies show the pandemic is negatively impacting people’s mental health, losing weight as fast as possible is not a healthy response to the pressures of staying at home. Instagram is notorious for showing celebrity-endorsed diet products, promising massive amounts of weight loss in 30 short days. As of 2019, these products are getting into severe legal trouble due to the lack of scientific evidence that prove these diet teas actually help. In fact, these so-called miracle diet products are nothing more than aesthetically-pleasing laxatives and abusing them can lead to serious problems like rectal bleeding and the destruction of your colon.

 There are other ways to practice healthy living and mindfulness. Here are a few ways to care for yourself and feel good without subjecting yourself to dangerous diet scams. 


Swap a bad habit for a good one

A great way to start off the year is to focus on self-improvement. Of course, self-improvement can be a vague term which doesn’t mean much on it’s own without proper action but a great way to help yourself is to change your habits. Self-help experts say that replacing your habits is the best way to get new ones to stick. Take smoking for example. If you’d like to successfully quit smoking this year, what positive thing can you do for yourself whenever you crave a smoke? According to experts, swapping your habits is a great way to learn about what triggers you to go towards these bad habits while building a new, healthy change that your body can learn to appreciate instead.

Be more eco-conscious

According to the UN, climate change had devastating effects in 2020. 2020 also marked the end of the hottest decade on record. As we move into the new year, we should all practice mindfulness when it comes to our ecological footprint. Setting a goal to be more eco-friendly this year doesn’t have to be hard. It can be small changes, like buying seasonal produce, shopping local when possible, avoiding single-use plastics and recycling materials regularly. If you’ve ever wanted to start your own backyard compost, try it with your own food scraps and some soil! Caring for the environment doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing mindset. It’s okay to start small and work within your means.

Move within your means

COVID-19 has kept many of us stuck at home and for good reason. As quarantine began, our social media feeds were suddenly filled with strict quarantine workouts that the majority of us didn’t stick with. Exercising and working on your personal health makes sense in the midst of this international health crisis but therapists are urging people to be cautious: the sudden use of aggressive fitness routines can be a way for our brains to cope with a lack of motivation in our “new normal.” Instead of chastising yourself for not being able to lift as much weight as someone on Instagram, focus on moving your body because it feels good for you. This can mean doing stretches, practicing yoga, or exercising steadily within your means. If you have a genuine goal of being fit, there aren’t any social media shortcuts and going from 0 to 100 overnight is dangerous.

Take a free course

For the vast majority of us right now, money is pretty tight. If you’re bored at home and want to challenge yourself, consider taking a free online course. Websites like edX and Coursera have hundreds of free courses from reputable schools all over the world in a wide variety of subjects. In some cases, these classes can even count towards your degree. If you’ve been itching to head abroad after travel restrictions are lifted, you can learn a new language for free with Duolingo. If you’re curious about Indigenous linguistics and history, 7000 Languages is a nonprofit which allows anyone to learn from dozens of First Nations languages for free or through a donation.

Learn recipes that make you feel good

According to the CDC, only 1 in 10 adults get enough fruits and vegetables. It’s not hard to see why: life is exhausting and there’s a McDonald’s on every street corner. Overall, I’m a firm believer that life is too short to feel guilty about foods you enjoy but considering over 90 percent of Americans have a vitamin deficiency (some of which have symptoms that increase feelings of exhaustion and depression), adding some extra fruit and veggies into your diet can really help. A great way to increase the amount of healthy foods you eat is to push yourself into learning new recipes that feature foods you already like. Plus, there’s something so mentally satisfying about creating a great new dish. I’m a big fan of Lauren Toyota’s cookbook, Vegan Comfort Classics, which brings a vegan spin on great dishes like burgers and ramen. It’s definitely not rabbit food but I do feel a little healthier knowing the dishes are coming from plants.

Goal-oriented journaling

If you’d like to start journaling but aren’t sure where to begin, consider a goal-oriented method. Journaling with intention in mind can really help the habit stick, as well as creating mindfulness towards a new routine. Recently, I began logging all the movies I watch in a film journal. You can log your favourite actors, soundtracks, notable performances, overall thoughts, or anything that comes to mind when watching a movie. If you’re anything like me, your mind goes blank when someone asks what your favourite movies are. Keeping a film journal helps keep your memory fresh but this is only one idea. There’s also gratitude journals, nature/plant journals, bird-watching journals, food journals, dream journals, anxiety journals, letter journals, faith journals, or really anything you can think of! I’m also a huge fan of bullet journals for keeping track of all schoolwork/daily life.

Read more

Did anyone else go through middle school devouring a new book every weekend, only to forget how to read for fun by the time high school rolled around? Reading for pleasure is a task that many of us (including myself) have struggled with after reading one too many unsavoury novels for class. But it doesn’t have to be this way. If you’re having a hard time focusing on a novel, try getting the audiobook through a subscription like Libro.fm, where each audiobook purchased comes from an independent bookstore near you. If you have a library card, check out OverDrive, which uses your city’s local library to provide ebooks and audiobooks. Listening to an audiobook is an accessible way to bring a love of reading back into your life.

Asha Swann

Toronto MU '22

Asha Swann is a Journalism student at Ryerson University in Toronto. She enjoys writing about travel, veganism, women's issues, ethics, climate change, and anything that makes her brain tick. You can read more of her writing at ashaswann.com
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