In 2021, I quit my $200,000-a-year job as a corporate lawyer. I was depressed and completely burned out. I needed to take a step back and take care of myself.
Since then, I've been prioritizing healthy routines. I also started my own small law firm in 2022, and became an advocate for mental health awareness on social media.
I've created a community of over 300,000 people across TikTok, LinkedIn and Instagram who, like me, are putting their well-being before their careers. Recently, I asked them: "What small, non-negotiable habit has changed your life the most?"
Here were the four most popular answers:
I've always thought that going with the flow and being flexible was an asset. But saying "yes" all the time — to more work, social activities, favors — can easily turn into sacrificing your own needs and wants for others.
Since I've started saying "no," my life has become richer, and I've had more time to focus on things that matter to me.
Start by only taking on additional projects that excite you. Challenge yourself to decline at least one opportunity a week.
A huge amount of responses involved focusing on the positives rather than dwelling on the negatives.
I keep a gratitude journal, and whenever I'm feeling down, I'll answer these prompts:
- What is one thing that went better than expected recently?
- What is one goal that I've accomplished, and how has it made my life different?
- What is one thing that I am thankful for today?
When I'm done, I feel more grounded, grateful, and focused on what I have instead of what I wish I had.
Somatic exercise is physical activity that is done gently, with a focus on your internal experience.
Several respondents said they incorporate yoga into their wellness routine. When I'm stressed, doing yoga poses helps me relax.
Here are my two go-to poses:
- Cat-cow pose: Begin on your hands and knees in table pose, with your hands under your shoulders and your legs under your hips. Maintain a neutral spine. Deeply inhale as you curl your spine, tilting your pelvis up in "cow" position. Then deeply exhale as you arch your spine, tilting your pelvis down in "cat."
- Child's pose: Kneel, then sit on your feet. Bend forward, keeping your seat on your feet, and slowly place your forehead on the floor. Place your arms next to your legs, palms facing up, or extend them out alongside your head, palms facing down.
Yoga is just one option. Some said they hike as a way to exercise and connect with nature. Even a short walk outside makes a difference.
Many people told me that doing a "phone detox" improved their mental health. You can turn off phone notifications for at least an hour a day to be more present, or set screen time limits on your most-used apps.
Others said they cut down on unhealthy substances, such as smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol. I can relate to this. I've used marijuana regularly over the last four years, but I am most productive and in touch with my emotions when I take a break from it.
Julian Sarafian is a graduate of University of California, Berkeley and Harvard Law School. He is a lawyer, mental health advocate and content creator. Julian has been an active voice in the mental health community, and has more than 300,000 followers across social media, including TikTok and Instagram. Email him at email@example.com.