New Year, Better You

Studio shot of a young woman with confetti falling around her against a grey background

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 Evolve Yoga + Wellness (California), Live Out Loud Yoga (LaPlata), and Barefoot Wellness (Prince Frederick). Many of these studios also offer massage and facial services. Take a load off with licensed mental health professionals who specialize in women’s needs at Empowered Connections (offering locations in Leonardtown and Dunkirk), Bayside Therapy (North Beach), Healing Minds and Hearts Services (LaPlata), and Embracing Change Counseling & Mentoring Services (Waldorf).

2. Find a new best friend.
There’s no shortage of animals in need of love. Start at the pound and local rescue groups, e.g., 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). Need a nudge? Jessica Raley has been helping humans find new homes for almost 20 years; in 2019, she has resolved to help find furever homes for the neediest animals at the Tri-County Animal Shelter by paying their adoption fees. Look for her on Facebook or at JessHastheKey.com.

3. 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 Ebby’s Finishing Touches (Great Mills), Chesapeake Staging & Interiors (California) or

Amazing Spaces Home Staging (Waldorf) for ideas and pick up supplies at Dyson’s Building Center (Callaway). If you are ready for your dream kitchen or bath project call Michelle and Jimmy at Broad Creek Kitchens & Baths in Mechanicsville.

4. Become a day-tripper.
Washington, DC, Baltimore, MD, Philadelphia, PA, and Richmond, VA are easy jaunts from Southern Maryland. 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. Mary’s City or Sotterly Plantation for a dose of the region’s rich heritage.

5. 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, MD. Other non-subscription options include Scarborough Farm (Mechanicsville), Weavers Fresh Cut Flowers (Loveville). Ecoblossoms Farms in Upper Marlboro focuses on local, sustainable cut flower peonies.

6. 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 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 pick up groceries from The Good Earth Natural Food Store (Leonardtown), MOMS Organic Market (Waldorf), and Chesapeake’s Bounty (St. Leonard). Replace convenience snacks with healthier, fresh options to help you feel balanced and in control.

7. 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. The coffee is always on at Fenwick Street Used Books & Music (Leonardtown), where proprietor Joe Fenwick is more than happy to help you find your new favorite – if he doesn’t have it, he’ll get it. White Rabbit in Leonardtown has a stunning collection of children’s books and gifts, and Second Looks Books (Prince Frederick) offers something for everyone, from best-sellers to hard-to-find rarities. Check their schedules for guest speakers and readings – always a treat! Can’t get to a shop? Check out the local library (you can listen to audiobooks and music for free using their app).

8. Plant something and help it grow.
Check out the buzz at Two Hens Feed, Seed, and Bees, owned by two women entrepreneurs who offer 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. Meadows Farms (Leonardtown), and Wintergreen Nursery (Prince Frederick) are always stocked with the best gardening and landscaping supplies.

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. The College of Southern Maryland can help you earn a degree or college credits, start or enhance your career, take classes for personal enrichment, or 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 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 institutions also offer year-round events, lectures, concerts, and more.

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.

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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.