7 Ways to Be the Best Version of Yourself

Make the most of yourself... for that is all there is of you
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Life can be really hard sometimes. With so many distractions and negativity in our personal environments, its hard to find peace and balance in every passing moment. It seems like we have to try really hard just to stay above water and not get swept up in the everyday grind. Aren't we all just looking for ways to enhance our lives? To live as better humans? To be the best versions of ourselves? I know I am. It's taken me years to create good habits in my everyday routine that have helped me grow, but thats because I simply didn't realize the impact they could have on my life. Once I opened myself up to practicing mindfulness and being intentional, I found that I started to live better. Happier. More balanced. I was more enjoyable to be around. And I started to like who I was. Through trial and error, I have found ways to better myself so that I can navigate my way through my life to the best of my ability. I want to share them with you. Of course there are a million other things out there that can benefit you as well, but this is what works for me. And maybe they will work for you. I like to call them "Daily's." Here are seven things that I have implemented into my life (most of them on a daily basis) to live as the best version of myself (most of the time). 

1. Be Grateful: Being grateful keeps us focused on what we do have, instead of focusing on what we lack. When we physically write down or take a few moments to actually think about what we are grateful for in our lives, we are consciously making an effort to see the bigger picture.It simply keeps our mind fixated on the positive. We can be grateful for anything in our lives, like people, material things, health, abilities, etc. Nothing is too small to be thankful for. Be specific. I usually start my day with gratefulness which allows me to combat the trials of the day more easily. I encourage you to try this on a daily basis and just see how it can increase your mood and your outlook on life. 

2. Meditate: A few years ago, I was very skeptical of meditation. It seemed so foreign to me, and I thought I could never do it. Sitting still was hard enough as it is, and shutting my mind off seemed impossible (I learned later that you actually don't shut your mind off in meditation). My husband had been trying to get me to meditate while we were dating and I refused. I didn't like doing things I wasn't good at, and I surely was an awful meditator. But then I hit a pretty low point in my life. I had just gotten seriously injured playing volleyball and my career was on the line. I already felt poorly about my performance on the court that season, and everything else in my life seemed to be going up into flames. So, in my hopelessness, I gave into learning about meditation, and what it truly could do. I learned that it really wasn't as complicated as I made it out to be, and once I implemented it into my life, the effects were immediate. Not only was my mood better, but I felt more in control of my emotions and less affected by the noise around me (mostly the noise of the voice inside my head). I read a ton of books, but the real game changer was being taught how to meditate. I learned from an online course by meditation teacher, Emily Fletcher. I was instantly hooked after the first training session and loved how Emily made it so simple and easy to understand. Meditation was actually a tool I could use to come back to my breath in tough moments and not allow my mind to wander so far down the rabbit hole like it had been doing. I finally found a way to quiet my negative self-talk and to see each thought for what it was; just a thought. Once I had this revelation, I bought into meditation 100% and starting doing it on a daily basis. It's helped me out a lot in every aspect of my life. I know there are many forms of meditation out there, but if you are interested I suggest reading up about it and learning the technique and benefits before starting your journey. I recommend Ziva Meditation, Headspace (app), or reading 10% Happier (there is an app too) by Dan Harris as a good start. 

3. Yoga: I have always been a fan of yoga, but I didn't really get into it fully until recently. As an athlete, I am always trying to find ways to bring my game to the next level, to better myself in every way possible. I knew stretching was beneficial but once I started doing yoga around five times a week, my life was changed. Not only did I see the effects in my body, but my mind benefitted as well. The connection between breath and movement is actually really powerful. I have been able to implement that part of the exercise onto the court, but also in life in general. What I knew about yoga is that I would become more flexible, possibly a little stronger and thats about it. But in actuality I get a lot more out of it. When I do yoga in the morning, the movements help to wake up my body and my mind. I feel more energetic and revitalized after my yoga sessions. The blood flow through the body actually helps to improve balance in the metabolism as well, which is important for almost every person I know. And my joints feel amazing! Since I travel so much, I always keep a yoga mat with me and do yoga wherever I'm at. I use Youtube (there are so many classes online), and my favorite youtube channel is Five Parks Yoga with Erin Sampson

4. Read: This one is the key to continuous learning and growing. Reading books about, or authored by people who are successful and happy in life can be helpful in understanding their process in getting there. Reading gives us insight on what kinds of things people we look up to are doing to be successful in their lives. It also makes us more intelligent. The more we read, the more we learn. I choose to read books that enhance my understanding of something I may be interested in; meditation and mindfulness, positive thinking, religion, science, etc. I try to read daily and replace it with television or movies as much as possible (although I do love my Netflix). I feel that it keeps me more productive and therefore puts me in a good position to better myself. 

5. Set Goals: Setting goals is a sure way to set yourself up for success. Both long-term and short-term goals are important. But I prefer focusing on the short-term goals so that I'm not always thinking about the future. I personally feel that setting short-term goals help orchestrate our days and better prepare us for the long-term goals we want to accomplish. I usually write down my short term goals for the week, and then daily goals that deal with practice, lifting, recovery and games. I also did this when I wrote and recorded my first EP (short album). I had a time limit on when I wanted to finish the project (long-term) and then focused on weekly and daily goals that helped me accomplish that goal. Writing things down like, "finish verse 1 and hook by the end of today" really helped me stay focused and I feel like I accomplished a lot in the process. 

6. Journal: Going along with the goal setting, journaling is something that can help elevate your life as well. I used to dislike journaling because I felt like I wasn't doing it right (perfectionist in me). I cringed when I would re-read something I wrote from 2002, and wanted nothing more than to burn all the journals I had ever written in. But over time, and with the encouragement of friends, I realized that there is no right way to journal (you probably already knew that, but it was a revelation to me). I think it's really neat to be able to write down whats going on inside your head to simply just get rid of it. Or it can be a way to capture an idea thats jumbled up inside your brain, and turn into something really powerful. Its been really beneficial to me. The more that I do it, the more I see how important it is. My journal entries vary greatly, and thats ok. I sometimes write about how I felt during the day, my interactions with people, my goals, what I want to do better tomorrow, etc. It's a great way to free your mind of thoughts that you don't need to keep there. 

7. Drink More Water: This is super important for me. Although it may seem simple, drinking more water will make you feel better. The more we drink, the more we flush out our bodies and rid it of the toxins we pick up from day to day. Whether it be eating too much sugar, the pollution in the air, or if we drank too much alcohol last night, its really important to drink water throughout the day to help these toxins exit the body. And this is not just for the athletes reading this. Its for everyone! The more you drink, the better you feel. And if you feel better, everything is better. Yes, and the more you will pee. But think of it as giving your insides a shower. Weird visual but you get it. I personally think drinking water often is the best way to rid your body of what it doesn't need. I guarantee you it's a game changer.

I hope that you can find benefits in at least one of these "Daily's". This pretty much sums up my day to day mindfulness routine, and helps me tremendously at my job. As a professional athlete, there are a ton of pressures that are coming at me (including from myself) and the surest way for me to remain relaxed is by doing these seven things daily. We all have our stressors and difficulties that come with working, balancing family life, social life and everything else in between, but if we can live as the best versions of ourselves, then everything else seems to fall into place. We can become better performers, better wives, fathers, sisters, friends, and just better human beings in general. Why not start now?