I recently had a bout of vertigo, which kept me out of the kitchen for a while. When I started cooking again, I realized that I had been pushing myself too hard and doing some things the hard way for no good reason.
I often made pretty elaborate meals before, but since my energy levels were still pretty low, I substituted simplified versions of some favorites. And I discovered these simpler versions were great.
This little, unexpected life lesson can be applied in other areas as well.
1. Keep It Simple in the Kitchen
While there are days that call for fancy meals with 10 or more ingredients, a delicious, nutritious dinner can come together in 20 minutes. Try a fresh and flavorful pasta dish the next time you need inspiration.
Here’s another trick I started using to make meal planning easier: Keep a running list of favorite meals and only trying one or two new dishes each week. If it’s a hit, I add it to the list.
I also started embracing shortcuts. One task I especially dread is peeling garlic, but I discovered pre-peeled garlic in my grocery store. Maybe you find peeling garlic relaxing, but if there’s a solution for something else you dislike, why not try it?
2. Focus on Progress
Whether we’re trying to adopt a new habit or stop using harmful chemicals, sometimes it can seem overwhelming to try to change everything at once. It’s easier to focus on taking small steps and adding to them.
When I went vegetarian, I phased out red meat and poultry first, and then seafood later. It’s important to remember no one is keeping score, and to just do what makes sense for you and your family.
A simple way to begin the transition to a more natural lifestyle is to print off a list of ingredients to avoid (and look out for on product labels) and bring it with you while you’re shopping.
3. Consider Your Space
It can be hard to simplify if the space around us is cluttered. I use the mantra of, if I don’t love it or use it, do I really want it in my home? It can be a big task to go through everything all at once, so every day I try to find three things that don’t “spark joy” in me.
Set a specific amount of time each day—even just five minutes will make a difference—and focus on simplifying one area of your home until it feels right. Then move to the next area. Check out “Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up” by Japanese writer Marie Kondo for more tips.
4. Practice Simple Self-Care
Self-care doesn’t need to be time consuming. You only need a few minutes in the morning and the evening for a natural beauty routine that will leave you feeling better inside and out.
A common kitchen item like Barlean’s organic coconut oil can pull double duty as a hair and skin moisturizer (its antibacterial properties are great for acne as well). Cleansing can take seconds with face wipes (we recommend all natural and organic). Add a cup of tea to your routine to relax your mind.
The best kind of exercise is the one we keep going back to. I used to think all exercise was done out of obligation and tried so many classes that just weren’t for me. Then I found two things I love: spinning and yoga. It’s even better that my gym offers those classes at lunch, because no matter how many studies say I should work out in the morning, it just doesn’t work for me. The important thing is to find something that fits.
Exercise has so many benefits, from helping with depression, to boosting creativity, to lowering stress. So ditch the complicated routines and do what feels right and makes you feel good.
The key to keeping things simple is to have fun and just do what you can, where you can. We’re all in this together.
Steph Davidson is a writer and editor who grew up under the impression that most meals came out of a box and had to contain some sort of animal protein. When an interest in a more environmentally friendly way of living led her to vegetarianism in 2012, she decided to teach herself how to cook. This article was originally published on NaturallySavvy.com