12 (Local) Tips for Being Your Best Self in 2021

With 2020 (finally!) in the rearview mirror, it is time to look toward the future with a renewed focus on finding inspiration, peace, and joy. Here are a few things to try in the New Year.

Resolve to refresh your body, mind, and spirit. Do something just for you. It doesn’t matter how small, you’ll feel better if you include some regular me-time on your to-do list. Start with a minute. You can do anything for one minute! Work your way up. If you’re looking for exercise, check out the offerings at root SUP & Fitness (Leonardtown), Live Out Loud Yoga / Pole Prodigy (La Plata), and Barefoot Wellness (Prince Frederick). Take a load off with licensed mental health professionals who specialize in women’s needs at Empowered Connections (Leonardtown and Dunkirk), Bayside Therapy (North Beach), Healing Minds and Hearts Services (La Plata), and Embracing Change Counseling & Mentoring Services (Waldorf).

Find a new best friend. There’s no shortage of animals in need of love. Start with the pound and local rescue groups like the Animal Relief Fund (Lexington Park), St. Mary’s Animal Welfare League (Mechanicsville), Tri-County Animal Shelter (Hughesville), Cat Castle (Callaway), and Sugar Faces Senior Dog Rescue (Lexington Park).

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 Baldwin Design Group (California), A Woman of Design (Waldorf), Chesapeake Staging & Interiors (California) or Amazing Spaces Home Staging (Waldorf) for ideas. You can pick up supplies at Dyson’s Building Center (Callaway), St. Mary’s Lighting (Lexington Park), and Dean Lumber (Hollywood).

Become a day-tripper. Hit the road for excursions in Washington D.C.; Baltimore, Maryland; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Richmond, Virginia — all easy trips from Southern Maryland. 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, Virginia or downtown Annapolis. Southern Maryland is packed with local history, too. Drive down to Historic St. Mary’s City or Sotterley Plantation for a dose of the region’s rich heritage.

Pick up a weekly pick-me-up. Give yourself the gift of 100% local, seasonal flowers with a bouquet subscription from Anchored Roots Farm in Hollywood, Maryland. Other non-subscription options include Scarborough Farm (Mechanicsville), Weavers Fresh Cut Flowers (Loveville), and Ecoblossoms Farms (Upper Marlboro), which focuses on local, sustainable cut flower peonies.

Cook and eat, better. Phase-out comfort foods by learning a new signature dish or try your hand at a different cuisine by participating in area cooking classes. Local options for group and private classes include No Thyme to Cook (Solomons) and Quality Street Kitchen (Leonardtown). For the best flavor and nutrient density, use organic ingredients from Sassafras Creek (Leonardtown), Even’ Star Farm (Lexington Park) or grab groceries from The Good Earth Natural Food Store (Leonardtown), MOM’s Organic Market (Waldorf), and Chesapeake’s Bounty (St. Leonard). Replace convenience snacks with healthier, fresh options to help you feel balanced and in control. Another way to do that is by trying a recipe from Flavored With Love, a new cookbook by local author and wellness coach, Shaniqua Cousins.

Get inspired with a good book, blog, magazine, or podcast. Read and listen voraciously to learn and grow. If you enjoy social media, I suggest subscribing to blogs and Facebook groups that interest you. The coffee is always on at Fenwick Street Used Books & Music (Leonardtown), where the mother and daughter team are more than happy to help you find your new favorite. White Rabbit Books and Gifts in California also has a stunning collection of children’s books and gifts – something for everyone! Of course, don’t forget to check out the local library. You can even listen to audiobooks and music for free using the Libby app.

Plant something and help it grow. Check out the buzz at Two Hens Feed, Seed, and Bees. Owned by two women entrepreneurs, the business offers year-round plants as well as live birds and gifts (and everything in bee-tween) to help brighten your green thumb. The Loveville Produce Auction offers in-season vegetable and flowering plants, too. For more landscaping options, Meadows Farms (Leonardtown) and Wintergreen Nursery (Prince Frederick) are always stocked with the best gardening and landscaping supplies.

Educate yourself and honor your independence. Whether it’s a desire to learn something new every day or even change your career, fill your new year with education. The College of Southern Maryland can help you earn a degree or additional college credits. You can also enhance your career by taking classes for personal enrichment or to grow your business. St. Mary’s College of Maryland – The National Public Honors College – offers four-year liberal arts degrees in an idyllic waterfront setting. The Southern Maryland Higher Education Center (California) provides graduate and upper-undergraduate academic and professional development opportunities offered through partnerships with the University of Maryland, Bowie State, Florida Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins, Notre Dame of Maryland, Salisbury University, Towson University, and Webster University.  All of these local institutions also offer year-round events, lectures, and concerts for more casual learning experiences.

Build or strengthen your financial plan. Do you want to travel more, donate to your favorite charity, or 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 you want. Apps like Mint and You Need a Budget (YNAB) help track spending so you can see exactly where your money is going and pinpoint problem areas. For those looking to grow their capital, apps like Acorns and Stash offer a fun and easy way to start small and invest directly from your smartphone. Check out local banks and credit unions for other options, too.

Open yourself up to love. This year, open your heart to new opportunities with online dating options like match.com and eharmony.com. Prefer someone your own age? Give silversingles.com or ourtime.com a try. Ready to up the ante? It may be time to consider a matchmaker. Dcmatchmaking.com, a discreet, upscale matchmaking company for commitment-minded singles in the Maryland, Virginia, and DC region is a click away. The pandemic pressed paused on a number of socializing options, so if you’re looking for love, now could be the best time to really get to know someone. Not into using a “dating headhunter”? There are always the classic apps you can lean on like Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge when you would rather take playing cupid into your own hands.

Explore your inner artist. 2020 was the perfect year to pick up new hobbies and this year is no exception to stop looking. Find your inner Picasso by taking art classes at Yellow Door Art Studios (Leonardtown) or at Carsley Art Studio (Port Republic). The AR Workshop in La Plata also offers tons of DIY to-go kits, group events, and classes. If you are the kind of person who prefers to admire from afar, the Maryland State Arts Council can connect you with artists and events all throughout the state, just visit msca.org to learn more!

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 just saying you’d like to keep in touch with your friends more often, make a point to call or email someone on your holiday card list every Wednesday, maybe during your commute or on your lunch break.

Cheers to a Wonderful 2021!

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.