New Year, Better You

10 Tips for Being Your Best Self in 2019

1. Resolve to refresh your body, mind, and spirit.
Do something just for you, no matter how small — you’ll feel better if you include some regular me-time in your to-do list. Start with a minute — you can do anything for one minute! — and work your way up. Check out the offerings at YogaToka (Alexandria), Dream Yoga Studio and Wellness Center (McLean), and Prana Vibe (Chantilly) for yoga and more, as many of these studios also offer other group fitness and meditation classes. For a full refresh, book spa services, including massage and infrared sauna, at Lofty Boutique Salon and Spa (Vienna). Take a load off with licensed mental health professionals who specialize in women’s needs at Sunstone Counseling (offering locations in Arlington, Alexandria, and Falls Church), Bayside Therapy (North Beach), Mindful Art (Annandale), and Thrive Therapy Center (Fairfax).

2. Find a new best friend.
Give your love to one of the many animals in need and it will undoubtedly return to you tenfold. Start your search with your local animal shelters, animal welfare leagues, and rescue groups, e.g., Dog World Rescue (Alexandria), Siamese Cat Rescue Center (Locust Dale), Collie Rescue (Chantilly), and Wolf Trap Animal Rescue (McLean).

3. Plant something and help it grow.
If you prefer roots to fur, explore your local nursery and gardening center for indoor and outdoor plants to cultivate. Merrifield Garden Center (Falls Church and Fairfax), Meadows Farms Nursery and Landscaping (several locations throughout Northern Virginia), and Silverbrook Nursery & Landscaping (Lorton) are always stocked with the best gardening and landscaping supplies. Most of these businesses can help you design and implement a makeover for your hardscape, too.

4. Give a room a new look.
Whether it’s a DIY fresh lick of paint or a full professional renovation, change the way your walls talk. Meet with the professionals at Dulles Kitchen & Bath in Fairfax, Total Home Design & Remodeling (Springfield) or Signature Design Interiors (Herndon) for ideas. Go treasure hunting or pick up DIY supplies at ReStore | Habitat for Humanity of Northern Virginia (Alexandria and Chantilly).

5. Become a day-tripper.
Washington DC, Baltimore, MD, Philadelphia, PA, and Richmond, VA are easy jaunts from Northern Virginia. Don’t want to drive? Take the train and relax. Each city offers entertainment, dining, and other experience options to help you turn time into memories. For small-town coziness with big-city perks, check out Fredericksburg, VA or downtown Annapolis, MD. Southern Maryland is packed with local history: drive down to Historic St. Marys City or Sotterly Plantation for a dose of the region’s rich heritage. As the weather warms up, head to southern Calvert County and enjoy a walk on the boardwalk in Solomons – while you are there check out Calvert Marine Museum, Carmen’s Gallery, Mermaid’s Cottage (Port Republic) and The Lighthouse Restaurant and Dock Bar for a crab cake and a cold one. One-day, or weekend sailing courses are also offered at Sail Solomons!

6. Pick up a weekly pick-me-up.
Give yourself the gift of 100% local, seasonal flowers with a bouquet or stroll through one of the regions many flower farms, including Hope Flower Farm (Waterford), Burnside Farms (Haymarket), Fields of Flowers (Purcellville), Wollam Gardens (Jeffersonton).

7. Cook and eat better.
Phase out comfort foods by learning a new signature dish or try your hand at a different cuisine at area cooking classes. Local options for group and private classes include Culinaria Cooking School (Vienna), Cooking Thyme with Stacie (Fairfax), Sur La Table (Alexandria), and Cookology Recreational Culinary School (Sterling). For the best flavor and nutrient density, use organic ingredients from Earth Fare (Fairfax), MOMS Organic Market (locations throughout Northern Virginia), and Natural Mercantile Store (Hamilton). Replace convenience snacks with healthier, fresh options to help you feel balanced and in control.

8. Relax with a good book or blog, magazine or podcast.
Read and listen voraciously to continue to learn and grow; subscribe to blogs and Facebook groups that interest you. At Bards Alley in Vienna, find books, a full cafe menu, and an evolving series of special events throughout the year. Hole In The Wall Books (Falls Church) offers something for everyone, from best-sellers to hard-to-find rarities and comic books. Can’t get to a shop? Check out the local library (you can listen to audiobooks and music for free using their Libby app).

9. Educate yourself and honor your independence.
Whether it’s a desire to know something new every day or even change your career, fill your new year with learning. Northern Virginia Community College and other schools can help you earn a degree or college credits, start or enhance your career, take classes for personal enrichment, or grow your business. Four-year institutions provide graduate and upper undergraduate academic and professional development opportunities as well as cultural events, lectures, concerts, and more. Finally ready to challenge your creativity by taking that jewelry making class or learning to water color, check out the classes at the Torpedo Factory Arts Center (Old Town), McLean Project for the Arts or ArtSpace Herndon.

10. Build or strengthen your financial plan.
Do you want to travel more? Donate more to your favorite charity? Start your own business? Putting your money in the spotlight will help you reach those goals. With a little focus, you can fund the financial life that you want. Apps like Mint and You Need a Budget (YNAB) help track spending so you can see where it’s going (and pinpoint problem areas. Weekly Target run, anyone?) Apps like ACORNS and STASH make it fun and easy to start small and grow your investment from your smartphone. Check out local banks and credit unions for local options, too.

Bonus tip: Although everyone has a different approach and wish list, we can all maximize results by making sure that our goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and exciting. What does that mean in practice? Instead of saying that you’d like to keep in touch to your friends more often, make a point to call or email someone on your Christmas card list every Wednesday, maybe during your commute or on your lunch break.

Crystal Brandt
Crystal Brandt is a freelance writer and contributor to WOMAN magazine. A Southern Maryland native, she lived in New York City for almost 8 years before returning to St. Mary’s County in 2007. She has taught writing and literature in Maryland and New York, including courses at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, Pratt Institute, and Brooklyn College. She earned a B.A. in English (2000) from the University of Maryland – College Park and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing (2006) from Brooklyn College. In addition to writing, her interests include making and talking about music, practicing yoga and meditation, and experimenting with her blender and bread machine.