30 Ways to Become Your Best Self
You don’t want to be somebody else. You want to be you — only better. We asked 30 local pros — doctors, nutritionists, therapists, trainers, and others — to each share one tip to help you become your best self. Here’s what they had to say.
1. Tumble and Stretch
If you’ve ever daydreamed of joining the circus, or just want to work out and ease tension, consider acroyoga, which combines acrobatics and yoga. For starters, you’ll get a fantastic workout. In addition, “It creates a culture of trust, commitment, and mindfulness,” says Patricia Fischer Donohue, owner of Riverstone Yoga in Tarrytown, which offers acroyoga. “It’s a different vehicle to get out of your comfort zone.” It’s also fun, social, and challenging, and, with the proper guidance and supervision, will push your yoga or fitness regimen to new heights.
2. Spend Time With Animals
There are “so many different benefits” — emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual — of interacting with animals, says Dana Rocco, shelter manager at the Humane Society of Westchester. And there are just as many ways to reap those rewards. Walking a dog burns calories, and just petting or cuddling an animal can help with depression and anxiety. Studies by the CDC and NIH have shown that pet owners have lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. For many, including the homebound, “cats are a great comfort,” says Rocco. Can’t adopt? Volunteer at a shelter — it’ll do your heart (and soul) good.
3. De-Stress Your Heart
Wanna keep the cardiologist away? Spend at least five minutes a day de-stressing. “It is impossible to overstate the potential effects of stress on cardiovascular health,” warns Alon Gitig, MD, FACC, cardiologist at St. John’s Riverside Hospital in Yonkers. How can you de-stress? “You can find video tutorials online for many different relaxation techniques,” says Gitig. “Practice one at a time until you find a technique that feels right. Then, build in 5-15 minutes a day — on your drive to work, on the train ride home, seated at your desk. Your body will thank you for it.”
4. Prevent Runner’s Knee
Jennifer Lung, co-owner of COR Sports Physical Therapy and Performance Training in Armonk has seen her share of runners’ knees, and she maintains that strengthening the hips may help relieve this painful condition. “In general, people have decreased hip flexibility and piriformis [the small muscle behind the glutes that assists in hip rotation],” she says. “Roll out those muscles with a tennis ball or lacrosse ball.” Lung also recommends training for symmetry. “If you are one-side dominant, the stresses will be concentrated on one side. Instead of training to make the dominance worse, training should be geared toward creating as much symmetry as possible.” And, regardless of your sport, Lung recommends that everyone do more core training.
5. Transform Your Body
Have you ever watched someone you know go from flabby to fit and wondered how they did it? Sam Langer, owner of GYMGUYZ Westchester, who routinely helps his clients transform their bodies, has this advice:
1. Be consistent in integrating the three most powerful training methods: interval training, functional strength training, and core conditioning — with a weekly regimen of 60 minutes each.
2. Make working out and healthy eating part of your everyday life.
3. Stay focused on your goals.
6. Kill It With Kindness
Got the blues? Be nice to someone — you’ll feel better, says psychiatrist Amy Silverman, MD. In fact, while it’s been alleged in numerous articles that being “too nice” (in the people-pleasing-for-approval sense) can contribute to depression, recent studies show that random acts of kindness may help prevent mild depression, by making you feel better about yourself. Of course, being kind is just one of the many small lifestyle and behavioral changes we can make to get out of a funk, says Silverman, who also suggests setting goals, following a routine, spending time with friends, and generally taking care of your physical and mental health.
7. Perfect Your Pout
Want luscious lips? Rough ’em up. That’s the advice we got from makeup artist Aurelia DiLeo, who says you'll always be lipstick-ready if you follow this easy trick: “Use a baby toothbrush to exfoliate your lips before applying lipstick. If you really want to get the job done, you can make a homemade lip exfoliate with two tablespoons of brown sugar, one tablespoon of honey, and one tablespoon of coconut oil.” Or, if you're feeling too lazy to make your own, simply apply lip balm or petroleum jelly before scrubbing.
8. Balance Your Hormones for a More Youthful You
As we age, our hormonal shifts can cause weight gain, hair loss, depression, and even cognitive problems. Bio-identical hormone therapy can help, says Tania T. Dempsey, MD, of Armonk Integrative Medicine, but the protocol starts with balancing all other hormones first. Consider this:
Probiotics: Help with the metabolism and balance of hormones.
Hormones: Should be balanced in a specific order: “Insulin first [controlling sugar, weight]; then adrenals; then thyroid; and last, the sex hormones [estrogen, progesterone, testosterone].”
Hot flashes: Aren’t just about menopause. They can occur from too little estrogen, fluctuating estrogen, or stressed adrenal glands.
9. Skip the Synthetic Supplements
A recent study by the US Department of Agriculture found that many Americans aren’t getting enough calcium, potassium, and vitamins A, C, and E. But, according to Dr. Scott Cohen, DC, owner of Tommy K’s Supplements in Mamaroneck, if you’re taking a synthetic vitamin, you’re wasting your time. Cohen contends that virtually “every bit of current research has shown that synthetic multivitamins are useless.” But don’t skip your daily multivitamin. Cohen recommends choosing a green drink or whole-food-based supplement whose vitamin content is derived completely from food sources, with no synthetic vitamins added.
10. Do a Digital Detox
Does Facebook make you sick? No, not just the pics of your friends’ half-eaten food or humble-brags about their kids getting into “only” three Ivy Leagues, but the massive time-suck and, of course, the digital devices themselves.
Overstimulation from too much time on our devices can contribute to high blood pressure, inflammation, anxiety, nervousness, and frustration, says Lawrence Edwards, PhD, an Armonk-based board-certified neurotherapist. There’s an easy remedy: Just unplug.
Start small, cutting screen time in the mornings, at meals, or at bedtime, then try longer stretches. “It’s going to have an immense impact,” Edwards says, stressing that consistency is key. “It will feel good.”
11. Heighten Your Awareness
If you’re walking around with your head in the clouds and your nose in your iPhone, consider learning Krav Maga, an Israeli self-defense practice that, according to KI Martial Arts instructor Sensei Vladimir Zolottev, teaches students to be constantly aware of their surroundings. “Confident awareness of your surroundings reduces stress, calms your spirit, and allows you to perceive and appreciate genuine moments,” Zolottev says. But a Krav Maga studio isn’t the only place you can work on improving situational awareness — there are plenty of day-to-day opportunities for that, Zolottev says. “Stop distracting yourself and be present in the world. Don't text while walking or driving. Be aware of where you are, not only for your own protection, but for the experiences that you may miss along the way.”
12. Upgrade Your Sunscreen
Forget that familiar brown bottle you’ve been using since the ’70s. Athena G. Kaporis, MD, of Westchester Dermatology & Mohs Surgery, says there are a number of new ways for you to protect your skin from the damaging effects of the sun. In fact, some next-generation sunscreens can actually reverse clinical damage. Kaporis cites Eryfotona Actinica, which protects and prevents signs of sun damage with DNA repairsomes (DNA-repair enzymes that may help repair some of the sun damage), and zinc oxide and vitamin E, to help neutralize free radicals that form and damage skin-cell membranes. Of course, Kaporis points out that avoiding the sun and using SPF at least 15 minutes prior to sun will always be the gold standard in preventing sun damage.
13. Go Om Again
The Beatles were clearly on to something when they studied with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi — who developed Transcendental Meditation — in 1967, introducing the concept to the mainstream. “It has such positive effects because it’s so easy to do,” says Sam Katz, who has taught the practice to thousands of students at TM Westchester since 1974. Unlike “regular” mindfulness meditation, which comes from the Buddhist tradition and requires concentration to train the mind to be in the present, TM, its proponents say, is effortless, using a mantra to help liberate the mind. Studies have shown that TM offers many benefits, including helping to lower blood pressure and ease anxiety.
14. Throw It All Away
If want to clear your head, clear your space — and improve your mental, spiritual, and physical wellbeing.
“Your surroundings affect your mindset,” says Westchester-based professional organizer Leigh Wilder, owner of Declutter Me, Leigh. Purging is “self-care, like eating healthy and exercising.”
De-cluttering has always been a good thing, but a minimalist movement is gaining momentum as people rethink the overabundance of “stuff” in their lives. Start purging by asking yourself: Do I really need this? Does it bring me joy? Will I ever choose it over something else? If your answer is “no,” toss it — or, better yet, donate it.
15. Chill Out
Want a cool way to look great and feel even better? You might want to try cryotherapy. It’s so cool, it’s downright freezing.
Just three minutes of ultra-frigid temperatures — from -200 to -256 degrees — in a cryosauna can burn hundreds of calories, rev up your metabolism, improve your skin, improve sleep, and reduce muscle inflammation. “I think it’s going to be all over the place,” says Marie O’Connor, an RN with a doctorate in nursing practice who owns NORDIC Cryotherapy in Eastchester. “You’re kick-starting your body to heal itself.”
Cryotherapy, developed in Japan in the 1970s, delivers an adrenaline rush, gets your endorphins going, and sends rich, oxygenated blood to your organs, according to O’Connor. That’s why it is growing in popularity and has become a go-to treatment for elite athletes, celebrities, and others trying to look and feel their best.
16. Snack During the Day
Want to shed a few pounds? Have a snack! According to Amy G. Peck, MS, RD, CPT, nutrition therapist and personal trainer, snacking during the day can keep hunger at bay. “Most people under-fuel during their busy day,” she contends, then make up for it — and then some — at night, when, generally speaking, most of us are less active (i.e., less likely to burn calories). Peck makes it clear that she’s not suggesting hitting the fast-food drive-thru for fries and a shake. Instead, she recommends noshing on a healthy snack, like an ounce of nuts. “The 170 to 200 calories you’ll spend on nuts will help you avoid nibbling while cooking dinner or overeating.” Hunger, she says, “is the enemy of weight loss!”
17. Roll With It, Baby!
You may not have heard of Yamuna Body Rolling, but it’s definitely something to check out. The practice, in which balls of various sizes and densities are used to knead-out body tension, is a massage, a workout, injury rehab, and realignment therapy rolled into one. According to Susan Moyer, a certified body-rolling instructor based in North Salem, rolling on the balls provides direct bone stimulation, which promotes bone growth, increased muscle length and strength, and joint mobility. Take a class, then, once you get the hang of it, start doing it regularly on your own. “It can be done anywhere or anytime,” says Moyer. “Just sitting on the balls creates immediate and dramatic results.”
18. Take a Shot
Not keen on swallowing vitamin supplements? IV vitamin treatments can offer a boost for people who don’t want to take supplements or who aren’t getting enough nutrients from food, says Susan Blum, MD, MPH, founder of the Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook.
“Vitamin drips are a great way to support wellness and get nutrients into your body that you might not be absorbing on your own, especially if you have digestive issues,” says Blum, adding that most providers “will also offer testing to see if you have hidden or unknown nutritional deficiencies and give you a drip customized for you.”
19. Move It!
If you want to get in better shape but are pressed for time, consider Tabata, a high-intensity interval-training workout that can be done in as little as four minutes.
With Tabata, you work out for 20 seconds straight — doing pushups, squats, or burpees, for example — then rest for 10 seconds. Repeat it eight times, and you’ll feel the burn. Add a few cycles for different muscle groups; 20 minutes is the equivalent of twice as much moderate exercise, says Katrina Cook, personal training manager at Equinox in Scarsdale. “It saves a lot of time and it offers a lot of benefits.” What’s more, Tabata can be done just about anywhere. Download a Tabata app and get moving.
20. Detox Your Hair
You buy only organic, chemical-free food — but you color your hair with toxic chemicals. See the disconnect? “What’s going onto your hair and scalp is going directly into your bloodstream,” says Maureen Toohey, owner of Fresh Organic Salon Solutions in Bedford Hills, who opened her shop after watching too many fellow stylists plagued with health issues from spending a lifetime of handling the chemicals found in mainstream hair products. “It’s time,” Toohey says, “to make the switch!” How? “Eliminate the toxins from your hair- and skincare regimens today, and notice how much healthier your head and scalp will feel in just a few short weeks.” Your hair, she says, will be healthier and stronger, and your color will last longer without fading.
21. Kick the Habit With Self-Hypnosis
Imagine you could brainwash yourself into quitting your worst habit. Now… do it! Reprogramming your brain with hypnosis is widely recognized by many in the medical community as a tool for smoking cessation. Think you’re not “susceptible” to hypnosis? “Everyone can be hypnotized, because we all go into trance states organically when we go into and emerge from sleep,” explains Bob Pargament, certified hypnotist and owner of the Westchester Hypnosis Center. To try self-hypnosis, Pargament suggests the following:
• Set one, clear, positive, goal, framed in the present tense (such as, “I am not a smoker”).
• Close your eyes, and do some relaxing breathing techniques.
• Repeat your goal in your mind or play a recording of yourself stating your goal.
22. Brighten Your Eyes
“Bright eyes are always in style, and one of my favorite tips is to use a liner underneath the lash line in a color other than black or brown,” says makeup artist Daniela Baldor-Soto of Beauty by Daniela, LLC in Larchmont.
“To really make blue eyes pop, use a copper shade of liner,” she suggests. “To make green eyes pop, use a purple eyeliner. For brown eyes, navy blue looks beautiful — it actually makes the whites of the eyes appear brighter.”
23. Come On, Get Happy!
According to Donna Campanelli of Vajra Light Buddhist Center in Hartsdale, most people’s minds are “distracted, busy, and often negative.” Luckily, there’s a simple remedy: meditation.
“Meditation is happiness training,” she says, “and we all have a source of peace and happiness within.”
For meditation beginners, she suggests training the mind with a simple exercise, like focusing on your breath. “You can’t stop your thoughts,” she concedes. “However, in meditation, we choose to pay attention to the breath, not the thoughts.” Campanelli suggests taking 5 to 10 minutes first thing in the morning to connect to this inner source of peace and happiness.
24. Build Bone Mass and Balance With Pilates
Ceres Opanowski, owner of Rivertown Pilates in Tarrytown, says the benefits of Pilates extend beyond achieving a ballerina’s physique.
How does Pilates promote good balance?
“Having a strong, supportive core and better posture help keep your center of gravity well balanced.”
How does Pilates strengthen your bones?
“By increasing bone density, as well as strength and muscle mass, Pilates allows the body to better support bones made brittle by osteoporosis. It improves balance, which can help prevent falls and fractures. By improving flexibility and posture, it can prevent painful, pinched nerves and back spasms.”
25. Try a Hot Trend: “No Makeup” Makeup
Break out the bell-bottoms, because, according to Ashley Cermele of Ashley Lauren Beauty Lounge in Tuckahoe, “the ’70s are making a comeback in a big way.”
Cermele says,“You’ll want to go with the no-makeup look for the summer.” Clean skin, peachy lips, and “products like highlighters and illuminators can make the transformation from your beach day to summer nights seamless.”
26. Form & Maintain Friendships
“Our brains are hard-wired to connect,” says Scarsdale-based psychiatrist Ilana Rosenberg, PhD. “Friendships are crucial to our physical and mental health, and they also promote emotional well-being.”
According to Rosenberg, however, not all social interactions are created equal.
She recommends carving out time to connect with friends by phone rather than Facebook, “to hear their inflections and tones of voice.”
Better yet, meet in person, suggests Rosenberg, so “your nervous systems can interact with each other,” through shared voice and visual cues. “Studies show that we experience less stress in stressful situations when we are with friends.”
27. Refresh Your Skin’s Appearance With DermaPen
Traditional microneedling, which helps stimulate the production of collagen, has been greatly improved with DermaPen, says Joseph Sozio, MD, of SkinCenter in Hartsdale.
How it works: “By creating tiny channels in the skin, this technology causes the body to initiate a natural healing process and stimulation of the body’s own natural collagen.”
Results: Marked improvement in skin texture and significant reduction of fine lines, acne scars, sun damage, stretch marks, and pigmentation issues.
What to expect: Generally, more than one treatment is needed. “However, even after the first session, your skin may look smooth, clear, refreshed, and youthful.”
28. Exercise Smarter, Not Harder
Hastings-based nutritionist and author of The Metabolism Plan, Lyn-Genet Recitas says that excessive exercise can actually trigger systemic inflammation and weight gain. Here are Recitas’ tips for achieving balance.
Remember: Eating Doesn’t Make You Fat.
If the scale isn’t budging, though you’re eating healthy foods and exercising frequently, over-exercise may be the culprit.
Start (or restart) small.
“Try short, 8- to 10-minute workouts in the morning or a 30-minute lunchtime walk during the week. Save the bigger workouts for weekends.”
Don’t lose sleep over it.
“Waking up early to work out can increase your cortisol level,” says Recitas, and can inadvertently slow weight loss.
29. Stay Radiant With Antioxidants
“Oral and topical antioxidants and sunscreen are musts in the summer,” says Harrison-based dermatologist Dr. Debbie M. Palmer, DO, FAOCD, author of Beyond Beauty.
How do antioxidants help?
“They neutralize destructive free radicals, which are caused by pollution, ultraviolet rays, stress, and processed foods. Research has shown that antioxidants can slow the visible signs of skin aging. They can also be photo-protective, antibacterial, antiviral, and even anti-carcinogenic.”
How do you apply them?
“Apply an antioxidant under a moisturizer nightly before bed to repair damage from the day. Many sunscreens don’t contain antioxidants, so always apply an antioxidant under sunscreen before going out in the sun,” Palmer says.
30. Eat for Focus
Does your mind wander in meetings, in class, or at work, causing you to miss important information or give a sub-par performance on the job? Mount Kisco-based nutritionist Geri Brewster offers some tips for choosing foods that can help you focus.
Eat protein-rich foods and those with healthy fats, such as avocados, nuts and seeds, and high-antioxidant foods, like berries and dark-green leafy vegetables.
Stay hydrated: Adequate hydration aids focus.
Moderate caffeine helps: Try green tea, coffee, and chocolate.
Omega-3 fatty acids found in egg yolks and cold-water fatty fish “are necessary for attention and neuronal regulation.”
Avoid artificial colors and preservatives, MSG, and high-glycemic foods.