Entering into the world of wellness can be very overwhelming.  It's something people are very passionate about, because often people have gone through a lot in order to share their stories and teach what they've learned.  Often the health gurus talk about real life or death situations that they've transformed out of.  It's no small thing.  So, how do we, in the face of absolutes, certainty, and fear of death and disease, can we find the flexibility we need to listen to our own bodies and dictate our own path? When I started this whole journey I was an easy convert.  I soaked up people's journeys and took their lessons to heart.  Gluten-free, good idea! Dairy-free, absolutely!  Raw food, sure! Veganism, definitely! Juicing fasting, sign me up!  Wheatgrass, yum! Cleanse, after cleanse, after cleanse, bring it on! Drinking your own urine, wait, what?! Back up a second here...

What I learned, in this world of infinite healing possibilities, is that there comes a time when you have to listen to yourself and not other people.  For those of you who are stepping into the wellness world and feel a little lost or overwhelmed, here is some sage advise from someone who has been experimenting and playing around in this world for a long time:

Stay open.

There's a lot of fun stuff out there, but make sure you don't get stuck in a box so that you have the freedom to continue to listen to your body.  I don't like to label myself as anything (Vegan, Vegetarian, Raw Foodist, etc.) because the second you embrace an identity you've created limitations for yourself.

Don't adopt someone else's philosophy before you've had a chance to discover if it's a fit for you.

There are a lot of AMAZING and INSPIRING people in the wellness community and it's easy to want to adopt the path they're on.  You need to remember that your journey is not their journey, so, no matter what, your path will have to be unique to you.  Yes, you can learn so much from other people, but you are the only person who can decide what works for you.

Don't judge. Don't judge others and especially don't judge yourself.

If there was one thing I could change about the wellness community, it would be to lessen the pressure people feel when embracing a lifestyle change.  Whether it's induced by society, the people around you, or yourself, it is way too common to be hard on ourselves through this process. Motivation and inspiration are great, but try to avoid guilt, shame, disappointment, and fear.  You will be happier and healthier if your positive lifestyle change is founded in self-love, acceptance, enjoyment, and inspiration.

Love is the answer.

The way we treat ourselves communicates a lot about how we feel about or see ourselves. Lots of times we get caught in negative patterns that fulfill some kind of insecurity or pain.  The answer to breaking that cycle is simple, not easy.  Love, love is the answer.  The more we tell ourselves that we love ourselves, through the words we use, the thoughts we think, and the actions we take, the more these insecurities that drive our negative habits will fade away.  It's harder than we think to let go of pain, especially when we aren't aware of the seed that planted it, but choosing self-love will shed light on these things and help you let them go.

Create a positive support group.

The best way to make healthy lifestyle shift is to have people that support you.  People you can share your journey with, that you can lean on when you hit a bump in the road, people who make it fun.  I wouldn't have made it this far without the support of my family and friends, a group of friends going through the same sh*t, and my mentors' constant guidance.  Set yourself up to succeed.

Always make the next right decision.

Don't get bogged down by the things you've struggled with or temptations you've succumbed to.  If you just focus on always doing the next best thing then, no matter what, you will always move forward. It is that simple; don't get discouraged and don't give up.  There is always something positive you can do for yourself to get yourself out of a rut.

Be your own experiment. 

This is the fun part.  There are so many healing modalities, tricks, and tips to experiment with.  Try them out and see how you feel.  Be in charge of your body and listen to how it feels to see if something works or doesn't.  My path has led me to favor acupuncture, eastern herbs, yoga and meditation, intense emotional exploration and healing, a special Angie-tailored diet, spiritual expression and connection, massage, etc.  These are the things I've tried that have worked, some might work for you and some might not.  You're the master of your own universe, so play around, have fun, and be open.

Stay positive.

Oh boy is it easy to let fear, judgment, and insecurities seep into our positive transformation.  Realistically, it's going to happen.  You will have moments when you aren't driven by joy, but by fear. Moments when someone else's lifestyle threatens your fragile, new way of being and so the only way you know how to hold on tight is to meet them with judgment. Be aware of these moments, so that you don't get lost in them.  Constantly make the choice to generate positivity.  In times when this is hard, be open about your struggles, be vulnerable, so that you can get help and support.  Acknowledge the tough times and they will pass quicker.  Gratitude is one of the best ways to turn a negative into a positive.  Find a way to be grateful for every hardship, roadblock, and challenge that comes your way, as these are the contrast that allows you to celebrate joy and happiness. These are the exercises that build up our metaphorical muscles that keep us strong.

The important thing is to continue to work towards better, happier, and healthier. Do what you can to free yourself from limitations and improve your quality of life. Remember to trust and love yourself! Good luck, lots of love to you, and have a blast! :)