What makes you happy?
This question is at the heart of Joyce Chang’s new wellness start-up From the Get Go, which is focused on helping women find their happiness. The concept was created by Chang, a former editor-in-chief of Self magazine, who spent her career covering what women want and found that “happiness is what everyone is really after, ultimately.”
“Women are accomplishing more and doing more than they ever imagined, but happiness was something that was more and more elusive,” Chang tells PEOPLE. “They are getting everything they wanted and then asking themselves: Why aren’t I happier?”
On her site and Instagram, Chang explores topics like food, fashion, health and beauty in the hopes of unlocking the key to happiness, but says happiness is always a work in progress. “Being a happiness expert doesn’t mean that you have all the answers to happiness, you’re learning about it all the time,” she says. “I share my own experiences, so you can think about your experiences and find your own compass.”
So, in the spirit of the season, we asked Chang for her tips on how to best live a happy and healthy summer.
“I think the most important thing when it comes to having your happiest, healthiest summer is to change your mind — not your body — because summer comes with a lot of expectations,” says Chang. “Everyone wants to have the best summer ever — it’s about vacation and romance and beach bodies, but what’s a beach body? If you have a body and go to the beach, you’ve got it down. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that.”
Instead she suggests not putting pressure on yourself. “It’s easier to enjoy the beach if you’re not thinking about how your body looks, and it’s easier to have fun a barbecue when you’re not counting calories. Summer is the season to get out of your head and into the things that make you happy. Think less about changing your body, which a lot of people do, because they think, ‘Oh my God, it’s [beach] time, I have to get bathing suit ready.’ You are ready. It’s a mind shift.”
Step out of your comfort zone.
“Summer is the time to shake things up and take some risks,” says Chang, who suggests trying new things, from an adventurous vacation to a spur-of-the-moment day trip to a hip happy hour spot. “You can get out of your ordinary life, because summer sort of emboldens you. I think people are more willing to experiment and be open to surprise.”
Chang also recommends bringing that vacation spirit home. “When you’re on vacation all bets are off. You [try new foods], you discover, you talk to strangers, you ask for recommendations. You’re just so open — why should you only do that when you’re in a foreign place? Why wouldn’t you do that with your summer — or with your life [in general]?”
Make exercise fun, make it an experience, and make it social.
Just don’t make it solely about losing weight. “Working out shouldn’t be a chore or something you do just to get that summer body,” says Chang. “A bathing suit is a horrible goal. It’s not going to make you feel good.” Instead, she suggests grabbing a friend and getting outdoors. (Yoga on the beach, anyone?) “Make a pact to try a new activity with a friend once a week,” she says. “Sharing that time with your friend is going to feel way more supportive and be way more fun.”
Pay less attention to numbers.
“Size, weight, calories, age, likes, followers. I think numbers can be very limiting and experience is expansive, so if we can let go of these arbitrary measurements, we can actually be more comfortable with ourselves,” says Chang.
Cultivate quiet moments.
“As much as summer is a social time, the slower pace is a great time to reflect, to daydream and to imagine what you really want to be. I think some of the best ideas come when you’re on vacation or walking the beach because you’re more open to letting things happen,” says Chang, who used her own summer break to hatch the idea for her site. “I never thought of myself as an entrepreneur, but there was something about the summer that opened me up to it and once I started thinking about it, I had the time to be creative and to let the idea develop.”
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