As 2022 comes to a close, I know I’m not alone in taking end-of-year stock. If you’re a sagittarius like I am, you know the end of a calendar year holds a bit more significance as we welcome change and, ultimately, growth.
As I sat to reflect on year 28, I realized that this year’s (many) turbulent moments were (mostly) coupled with grounding ones—a pairing that’s relatively new to me, but one that’s already proved to be hugely beneficial.
After reflecting on the many wellness lessons I’ve learned in 2022—most willingly, some by force—I was able to see a clear picture of what the year has taught me. As it turns out, my short stint at Santorini’s Andronis Hotels was the catalyst for most of it. These are the wellness lessons I learned that are coming with me into the new year.
1. Don’t Sleep on Morning Movement
Before breakfast, before coffee, before anything, each morning at Andronis Concept began with dewy, early-morning yoga overlooking the Aegean Sea—an experience and sight I hope I’ll never forget (see below!). I listen to Andrew Huberman’s “Huberman Lab” podcast regularly, so I’ve known about the benefit of getting early-morning sunlight and movement in, but it’s not until visiting the Andronis properties where I experienced it for myself.
Carving this time out of my morning allowed me space to breathe, ground myself and get ready to tackle the day ahead (a stark contrast to my usual mornings) instead of immediately running to my laptop to check in with work. While my current mornings are a lot less picturesque and look more like taking the dog for a walk around the neighborhood, I notice a significant difference when I get into the fresh air and move first thing in the morning.
2. Don’t Discount What Water Can Do
I remember it clearly. Carla Sage, director of spa and wellness of Andronis Group, couldn’t hold back her excitement while sharing what was in store for us during that morning’s spa day: Andronis Arcadia’s Kneipp Pools, two waist-height pools, each “L” shaped and filled with water (one cold, one hot).
The “Water Path,” as Sage explained, is filled with hundreds of differently shaped stones that would trigger reflexology points as we walked barefoot through the cold plunge and into the hot. I quietly wondered how life-changing this practice could actually be.
And then I got to walking. On my sixth or so of many laps, I could feel the endorphins rising from my body. It was honestly similar to what I feel after walking out of an hour-long OrangeTheory class: I felt lighter, my worry-about and to-do lists had evaporated and I couldn’t help but smile, laugh even. I would never downplay the benefit of water therapy again—the exact hope Sage had for us.
I certainly don’t have a spa-grade cold-hot plunge in my backyard, but I do have a sauna blanket and a cold shower. Though extremely different and a lot more DIY, I’ve found that sitting in the blanket before running in the shower for a cold plunge ignites similar euphoric feelings I felt in Greece. While I need to be better about doing it more regularly, I do make sure to carve out time for the practice on days I feel particularly anxious.
3. Don’t Write Off Natural Remedies
Perhaps it’s my culture, maybe it’s actually closed-mindedness, but I’ve never been one to dive into Eastern medicine. Friends that rely on TCM and its life-changing remedies absolutely swear by it, but I never really incorporated it into my life. I suppose I didn’t see a need for it.
And then I had a session with celebrity acupuncturist Ross Barr, who not only made the often-intimidating world a bit more human, but rewrote the script in my mind—particularly about acupuncture—without even knowing it.
This was only my second-ever acupuncture session, but it was already different. Instead of asking what my physical ailments were off the bat, Barr asked me about my emotional state, what I had been through recently (sorry, Ross) and how I was feeling about it all. This in-depth conversation was a key pillar of Five Element Acupuncture, he would then tell me.
After a heart-to-heart chat, then came the actual acupuncture, where he would insert needles into my feet while asking me to flag when anything became painful. Through this practice alone, Barr was able to tell me that I have a “hot liver,” that I run anxious, that I wake up between 1 and 3 a.m. every day (aptly when the liver detoxifies itself) and that I generally have a very hard time sleeping. True, true, true, and, unfortunately, true.
All that from an hour-long session? I was impressed. But then I got to experience the lasting effects of the treatment and I was hooked. While Barr is (unfortunately) not on speed dial, he did arm me with a solid toolbox of practices (coffee only on the weekends has been tough, but doable) and products to keep me feeling my best, including two new mainstays: Adrenal Calm ($42) and Calm Patches ($19), which are discreet yet potent.
4. Practice Stillness
I mentioned the beauty of our early-morning yoga sessions, but I skipped over the challenging part. If staying present and calm through a 30-minute yoga flow was tough, I didn’t know what was coming as I laid down for my first-ever sound bath. Meditation is not my forte—I don’t do well with sitting with my thoughts—so I didn’t have the highest hopes for myself going in.
What began as a calming, relaxing experience evolved into one that’s tough to put into words. Whether I fell asleep or not is still under review, but when I sat up from the bath, everything was altered: things were brighter, I was calmer. It was the best possible scenario, like a Paris filter on life.
Along with my newfound love for a sound bath, I learned that focusing on breathing and, if needed, noise can help calm my system down significantly—something I used to only rely on CBD and melatonin supplements for.
5. Master Balance
I left Santorini with an overweight suitcase, immense gratitude and a long list of wellness practices I promised myself I would put to practice when I landed Stateside. And while I have, I’ve also realized that one of the largest takeaways from the trip hadn’t been listed yet.
I was fortunate to learn from some of the most respected names in wellness in one-on-one sessions and informative panels, but it was also at the oceanfront bar, the picturesque pools and the world-class restaurants where they taught me the invaluable lesson of balance.
For so long, I was all-or-nothing minded. You’re either healthy or you’re not. You’re either an athlete or you’re not. You’re either stressed or you’re not. Why can’t both be true? Why can’t your day be spent prioritizing your mind and body and your night be filled with celebration over a great time? Turns out you can, and you should. Balance is truly the key to everything.
If you’re yearning for some solid change, I can’t recommend a few days at the Andronis Wellness Properties enough. But if that’s not in the cards, I hope you can take a learning or two from what I’ve found to be helpful. Because while it certainly doesn’t hurt, sitting cliffside in Santorini isn’t the only way to put one foot in front of the other.