Everybody wants their lives to have less stress and more joy.

Buuuttt, I’m pretty sure it’s impossible to get to April without dropping at least half of your new year’s resolutions, Habits are easy to think up, but why, oh why, are they so difficult to keep? This is where Tonya Papanikolov comes in. As a nutrition and wellness expert and writer of the blog, The Well Woman, she knows a thing or two about creating meaningful change. Here, we chat with her about how her space affects her energy, how to create a lasting habit and where to start when you want to change your life but don’t know how.

Your work often focuses on mornings—what about morning time do you find the most inspiring?

The morning is when I feel the most connected and clear headed and it’s usually the time of day that I carve out for meditation, breath-work and a nourishing elixir. It’s a work in progress. I always have to be flexible depending on what my day requires. Lately, on mornings when I’m with my boyfriend (which are the best ones), I don’t immediately meditate or do my breathing exercises. Instead, those sacred morning hours are spent in closeness and connection and I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

In general, mornings have always been sacred to me. It’s the transition period from subconscious to conscious. I listen for messages, dream-time communication, clarity. I’ve had some really good stuff land in the mornings: idea’s, the name ‘The Well Woman’, inspiration and various other pings from the Universe.

A few years ago I was in a period of very high anxiety. I was looking for answers and help, and was thankfully led to various people I looked up to, all of whom had a strong morning practice. Part of my self-therapy during this period was making mornings untouchable and solely mine; self-care, meditating, breathing, taking time to eat and chew, not looking at my phone first thing. As it changed my life, I became curious of other women’s rituals and through all of this I have become a big proponent of morning time, ritual and self-care.

Where do you go in your home to feel the most in-touch with yourself?

Probably my bed. It’s a sacred place filled with many curiosities. For example right now amongst the pillow shams and sheets are: crystals, lavender, a salt pipe, a high frequency laser, white gloves (?), raw cacao…ha!

My white shaggy sheepskin kundalini rug is also a place I reside to connect with myself. I have a little altar set up next to it; another supremely special place in my room.

How does your space affect your emotions?

It affects my emotions energetically and physically. I have Feng Shui crystals in my window that emit rays of rainbow shi energy (positive) while deflecting negative chi. They also positively impact the geopathic stress which is all around us. In Feng Shui these crystals are used to restore balance and health in the home. The sight also visually enhances my spirit with a sense of magic when I wake up to it. It really never gets old.

What has been the ritual that has changed your life the most?

I’d have to say yoga, as it is all encompassing. Within yoga, as I have learned, we have asana, meditation, breathwork and so on. I could not choose between the three and really, they are interdependent. It’s about the union of our physical bodies with our true divine essence. My physical asana-based practice, which I began at 22, definitely stands out as having the greatest impact on the trajectory of my life.

For those who want to bring more intention into their life, but don’t know where to start, what is the simplest, but most essential thing they can begin with?

I love this question. At the beginning of the year, I made a conscious choice for intention to be the guiding principle that I operate my life from and to let it guide all action.

I would suggest to become more self-aware of your actions and current situation—are there scenarios and dynamics you wish to change? Are there actions you take to people-please? Are your actions based on a need for approval/control/security? By simply shining light on some dark areas of the subconscious, we make them conscious. We can expose our true motivation behind most of the decisions and choices from there.

Once you are aware of those motivations, you can begin to restructure and replace it with the true intention that you wish to live and act by. You then will figure out what that intention is.

With all the women you’ve interviewed, what ritual comes up most often?

  • Choosing to eat healthy food
  • Meditation
  • Prioritizing self-care
  • Learning to say no

How do you think serving your inner beauty affects your outer beauty or perception of it?

The other week I woke up from a dream where I had found a letter I’d written myself, I opened the letter and read it, “in good health, life is vivid and you are vibrant.” I woke up with these bold and powerful words ringing in my ear and haven’t been able to shake them since. The way we serve the inner body becomes the basis of our outer beauty, health, radiance and aura.

Think: positive self-talk, nutritive foods, raw foods, digestive enzymes, herbs and plant remedies, meditation, self-care products without chemicals, probiotics to bolster a healthy micro-biome which is going to directly impact mood, brain health via the gut-brain barrier.

Now consider: negative self-talk, lack of confidence, lack of self-acceptance, processed foods, sugar, brown and beige food, heavy meals, stress, bad bacteria out-numbering the good, lack of antioxidants, lack of vegetables, conventional meat and dairy loaded with pharmaceuticals, hormones…

I mean, the jury is in on this one and there is a lot of scientific data to support it. It doesn’t matter what genes you have, if you fill your mind, spirit and body with low vibration you become a magnet for disease and disharmony.

This is what I mean when I talk about beauty. You might have even had a visceral response by reading the two above opposite scenarios. One is light, abundant and truly reflects our birth right to express vibrant health, and the other is heavy, dark, in a place of lack, fogginess and trapped low vibration. We know that there can still be physical exterior beauty, even if the framework isn’t supportive, but that’s not the beauty I am referring to. That is not everlasting beauty.

Give us 3 tips on how to create a lasting ritual:

Ask yourself three questions: 

What is my intention for creating this new set of habits or rituals?

How do I want these rituals to serve me? What feelings or experiences do I wish to gain?

What is the action required of me to feel this way consistently?

Photos by Angela Lewis

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