Gwyneth Paltrow and I have a lot in common. Sure, I’ve never won an Oscar or founded a company, but listen: We both have two kids, we’re both amicably divorced, we’ve both dated guys named Brad (she married one of her two Brads—thankfully, I did not marry mine), and we’re both Gen X babies (I’m three years younger though, sorry to point it out Gwynnie). We’re also both big on health and wellness (it’s like, my actual job). Sadly, only one of us can afford to shell out big bucks for things like an infrared sauna and a cold plunge pool. (My entire NYC apartment is probably smaller than her in-home spa.) So when she shared her favorite wellness tips on a budget via her Instagram stories recently, I was eager to try them for myself. Read on to find out what they are and how it went.
“Honestly, the best wellness tips that I can give you are all free,” Paltrow, resplendent in no makeup, pulled-back hair, chunky black glasses, and a plush white bathrobe, starts out by saying. She then reveals her first one: sleep. She calls it “super important” and advises “not tons of screen time” before bed, avoiding things that provoke anxiety, like social media. “Let the body really start to rest,” she says, suggesting a bath to help unwind before hitting the hay.
I already know about avoiding screens at night and try to practice it—but wait, does a TV count as a screen? I put my phone in the kitchen in the evenings, far away from my bed (well, not that far—see aforementioned tiny apartment), but I often watch a show with my daughter before turning in. The Yellowjackets season finale was definitely anxiety-provoking, yet somehow, I still managed to fall asleep during the last 15 minutes. I can’t take a bath right now because my bathtub drain is broken and I keep forgetting to ask my super to fix it. (Paltrow probably cannot relate to this problem.) Putting your phone in another room so you can sleep better is a tip I heartily endorse, however.
“Meditation is so helpful on so many levels,” Paltrow says. “There’s research on it, you can read all about it.” She suggests going online to learn how to meditate for free, which is totally valid, but I happen to have read in Vogue that she herself practices Transcendental Meditation (TM), which is decidedly not free to learn.
Again, I’m already hip to the benefits of meditation, though it had been a while since I’d actually done it. But at Paltrow’s suggestion, I have renewed my commitment to the practice and have been trying to carve out a few minutes each day to close my eyes and let my thoughts drift through my mind like clouds. I’ve been reminded that when I actually make time to meditate, it does make me feel slightly more at peace with the world. Why is it so hard to do, though? Between cats meowing at me to be fed and children texting me about school forms that need to be filled out, life just feels like too much sometimes. Meditating doesn’t make my to-do list any shorter.
I’m all over Paltrow’s third wellness-on-a-budget tip: exercise. She suggests “moving your body, walking, stretching, doing yoga.” These are all part of my routine already, and they do, in fact, help keep me sane. A few mornings a week I meet my friends to run in the park, and on the days we don’t run, I do Yoga with Adriene in my living room. (When the bad air quality in NYC kept me inside last week, my friends and I had to skip our scheduled run and I found myself crying at my desk in the afternoon. Exercise is important!)
While running shoes aren’t cheap, I already have them, and YouTube videos are obviously free. I also got a free yoga mat when I attended a sunrise yoga class last summer. (Like Paltrow, I am sometimes invited to events and given swag.) If you don’t have a yoga mat, though, I bet you can snag one on your local Buy Nothing group. I recently earned a “top contributor” badge on mine and highly recommend them. (Do you think Paltrow knows about Buy Nothing groups?)
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Paltrow says breathwork “is incredibly helpful in terms of oxygenating the body,” and helps alleviate stress and anxiety. “It’s one of my favorite wellness tools,” she says earnestly. Didn’t I tell you that Paltrow and I have tons in common? I have been doing box breathing for years. If I could only do one wellness practice for the rest my life, that might be it.
All you have to do is breathe in slowly for a count of four, hold that breath and count to four again, exhale 1-2-3-4, hold at the bottom for four, and repeat until you calm down. When I’m having a panic attack, or feel one coming on, I do box breathing and I can feel my pulse slow and my body start to relax. It’s like magic, truly, and you can do it anywhere, anytime, for free. The Cleveland Clinic experts can give you the full scoop on why it works.
Paltrow’s last tip, staying well-hydrated, is another one that all of us probably already know about. “Drink tons of water,” she says, and I do! You know what happens? I have to pee approximately 37 times a day. (Six times just while writing this article.)
Still, she’s right. Drinking enough water is linked with longevity and a slew of other health benefits, including more energy, clearer skin, and fewer headaches. And again, it’s free! Not only did I spend less than $5 putting Paltrow’s wellness tips into practice, I spent nothing at all. So while I don’t have my own spa, my ex-husband is not a rock star, and I am not the CEO of anything except my tiny cat-and-child-filled apartment, I can still live like a celebrity—and so can you.
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