Lean on the expertise of local professionals to start (and keep!) your New Year’s resolutions in 2022
By Amber Watson | Photography by John Michael Simpson
New Year’s resolutions for many of us these past two years were understated and overshadowed by the pandemic – trying to maintain physical and emotional health, balance family obligations and keep motivated in general was enough. But this is the year to get those resolutions back on track, whether you’re looking to eat healthier and reintroduce an exercise routine, hone a new hobby and start taking some in-person classes once again, or seeking creative ways to spend time together as a family now that school’s back in session. There are plenty of local businesses and professionals to help you achieve 2022 goals.
Alternatives to Alcohol
Practicing dry January, or just looking for a lifestyle change? Try expertly crafted mocktails and alcoholic alternatives provided by businesses and bars alike. Dashi recently introduced a special mocktail menu featuring creative concotions and housemade highball soda in rotating flavors. Grab a seat at the bar and order “Too Many Captains” – featuring Slingshot Coffee Co. cold brew, pineapple cordial and coconut syrup – or ask for the “Volcano Sacrifice” with housemade grenadine, orgeat and lemon. Look out for seasonal offerings as well. “The addition of our Vestels & Tonics menu brings an inclusive, welcoming drinking experience for all of our guests,” says co-owner Rochelle Johnson.
If you’re looking for another non-alcoholic pick-me-up, consider Da Kine’s Kava. Kava is a plant that grows in the South Pacific (the root is the part that’s made into a drink and consumed as an alternative to alcohol). “Kava’s compounds naturally relieve stress and anxiety, so it ‘takes the edge off ’ in a similar way to alcohol, but without the negative side effects, such as a hangover, dehydration … and no dancing on tables!” explains co-owner Zoey Best.
Dive right into the experience with Da Kine’s “Grab The Bull,” the bar’s strongest drink in terms of taste and potency, which produces the relaxing effects of kava quickly. Or start out subtly with Da Kine’s kava winter cocktails that are perfect for sipping, such as the “Mo’a Pear Mule” with its cinnamon, pear and ginger flavors, or “Kupua’s Pearl” with butterscotch, caramel and cream flavors.
Heal Tree CBD’s Delta 8 and CBD drinks also offer an enjoyable alternative to alcohol. While CBD doesn’t create the same intoxicating sensations, it does help reduce anxiety, especially in social settings. “Alcohol does damage to your liver and causes inflammation as it passes through your system,” explains owner Davit Melikian. “CBD is known to protect the liver while helping reduce inflammation.” Heal Tree also sells pre-mixed seltzers and Delta 8-flavored drinks that make excellent base ingredients for CBD mocktails, like a refreshing and light Delta 8 mimosa with club soda and orange juice.
Nutritious New Beginnings
We often crave heavy meals in these colder months. At the same time, it’s harder to get outside and exercise. We asked Kara Mitchell, clinical dietitian and wellness manager at Duke Health & Fitness Center, for advice on setting achievable and attainable nutrition goals for 2022.
First, she encourages everyone to set a goal that brings a smile to their face – we are much more likely to succeed at something we enjoy. And the good news is that all foods can fit into a healthy nutrition plan if managed properly. Diversity among what we eat is key. “The more variety in our diet, the healthier it is,” Kara says. “Try new foods, new recipes and new spice combinations to maximize joy.” Variety also provides us with the balance of nutrients our bodies need for optimal health.
Kara offers two more important and easy tips. No. 1: Let hunger and fullness guide your eating. “Listen to the whisper of hunger and honor that feeling by allowing yourself to eat, then listen to the whisper of fullness, and allow yourself to stop,” she advises. “If we intuitively eat with this awareness, our portions will be right for our body’s needs, and there won’t be a need to track calories.”
No. 2: Eat more foods without food labels, such as fruits, veggies and nuts. Paying attention to our grocery cart when we check out helps put into perspective how many boxes we have versus food that comes straight from the Earth.
Perhaps one of your goals this January is to consume less red meat or try a plant-based diet. A few Durham restaurants specialize in vegan comfort food and can help with that transition. One important thing to note is that you don’t have to give up your favorite foods to go vegan. Earth to Us near Walltown is known for its approachable and familiar American/Latin vegan comfort foods like loaded nachos, cauliflower wings, arepas, and mac and cheese served with barbecue soy chicken. They also serve a special vegan brunch on Sundays.
Pure Soul, located in the South Square shopping plaza, opened last spring. Co-owner Nikolas Spaulding, a vegan chef who has been eating and cooking this way for more than 20 years, felt that local communities were in dire need of healthier dining options that supported the comfort and convenience of food to which people were accustomed. Customers are often shocked that the fried chicken sandwich isn’t real chicken, and the shrimp (which is soy- and gluten-free) looks and tastes like popcorn shrimp.
Find Your Fitness Groove
Eating healthy and staying active go hand in hand. Yoga is a fantastic way to both work your body and calm your mind. Midtown Yoga, which has a location in Raleigh and a brand-new studio at University Hill in Durham, has a variety of vinyasa yoga classes to keep you energized and relaxed all winter, such as its signature Midtown Yoga (MY) hot flow and MY warm flow (a slightly cooler temperature than the MY hot flow). There is also MY core flow and MY strength – an intense, music-driven experience that blends vinyasa yoga with strength-based movements to up the ante. A fan favorite is MY unwind, which begins with long, slow stretches to prepare your body for breathwork and guided meditation.
Each MY class is adaptable to all levels. Studio Manager Rachel Burns suggests that new students try out different classes to see what suits them best. You can also take the same class multiple times, since teachers often keep a sequence for two to three weeks before creating a new one, which keeps things fresh for everyone.
Neighborhood Barre is planning a grand opening for January 2022 at the Woodcroft Shopping Center, just in time for your New Year’s fitness goals. This new studio focuses on a unique workout that combines the elements of dance conditioning, Pilates and weight training to sculpt arm, leg, seat and ab muscles. All movements are low impact and meant to improve posture and balance. You can tack a barre workout onto an existing exercise routine or use it as your primary fitness program, and no two classes are the same.
“When done consistently, muscles will become toned and lifted, and overall energy and metabolic levels will improve,” says Neighborhood Barre owner and certified instructor Savannah Hopps. “Our studio in Durham will offer a welcoming environment for all bodies to find a safe space and a challenge.”
First-time students should give themselves grace during the first few classes. Barre builds endurance over time, so don’t expect to get through all the exercises during the first class. Savannah recommends starting with the signature Barre50 class: 50 minutes that begins with a full-body warmup, thigh exercises, seat exercises, abs and a cool down. You can purchase drop-in classes, class packs or unlimited memberships, which includes in-studio and livestreamed class options.
Durham Parks & Recreation is also a great place to get started if you’re looking for local, affordable and easy-to-access fitness and health programs for all levels. Check out DPR’s fitness facilities/wellness centers, fitness classes and wellness passes here. DPR provides a variety of programs (both in person and virtual) – regular offerings include Zumba, yoga, spinning and more – as well as special events that allow the community to experience safe, exciting and organized recreational activities. Healthy hobbies and sports like indoor walking, basketball and swimming are available to groups of all ages.
Perfect Your Pastimes
Master the art of cooking, learn how to knit or achieve a new skill – talented local instructors can show you how!
Season to Taste, a “culinary school for home cooks,” serves up its cornerstone “Essential Series” that teaches all the fundamental skills, knowledge and ideologies to anyone, from novices to great home cooks, on how to feel comfortable, confident and efficient in their kitchen. “It’s a year and a half of culinary education in just 12 hours!” says John Eisensmith, chef/owner and lead culinary instructor.
John also teaches monthly online cooking classes where you can learn how to build composed salads; make gnocchi or pasta; or bake galettes, tarts and more. He also holds private classes (all in-person classes require proof of vaccination and masks until further notice). In 2022, he plans to introduce “Dinner Party Classes” where he teaches small groups (up to six people) cooking skills and how to throw a delicious dinner party with ease that include optional wine pairings in partnership with LouElla: Wine, Beer & Beverage.
And we can’t think of a more appropriate winter hobby than learning to knit and sew. Freeman’s Creative gives beginner’s classes on both, as well as machine sewing. Most of Freeman’s knitting and sewing lessons are project-based and offered in a series – specific classes include sweater knitting, knitted colorwork hats, two-color brioche cowls and sewing your own blazer. They also host the occasional block printing or hoop art embroidery class as well. Owner Amelia Freeman-Lynde recommends signing up for the monthly newsletter to learn more about upcoming classes.
Creative reuse center The Scrap Exchange provides several online creative programs, too, such as beginner card making; thrift flip series: sweater repair; beginning sewing: tote bags; and intro to watercolor painting. They also hold a DIY art class for all ages in their “Make-N-Take” room, which is open during store hours (cost is $5 per person for 90 minutes of crafting, and the room is always stocked with fun items for makers of all ages). This would make a fun family-friendly activity for the winter!
If you’re looking to expand your knowledge of a skill or learn something entirely new, Durham Technical Community College is an affordable option for continuing education and skills-based classes that are in person, online or in a hybrid format. The college offers more than 100 associate degrees and certificates for students seeking university transfer or immediate employment and has opportunities for high school students, international students, veterans and adults looking to further their schooling. Popular programs include courses in esthetics, nursing, Bio-Agricultural Program Readiness Opportunity, construction trades, electrical line technician training and culinary arts. The best way to find out more is to attend one of the college’s regular informational sessions.
“Durham Tech remains ready to support our community through the Back-to-Work initiative,” says Micara Sessoms, assistant dean of business and entrepreneurship programs and coordinator of work-based education. “These short-term course offerings focus on enhancing skills to prepare for the diverse and growing industries in Durham and surrounding areas. Additionally, Durham Tech offers financial (including scholarships), academic and career development support to guide students’ success in these courses.”
Free Up Family Time
Finding family-friendly indoor activities in the colder months can be a challenge, but the Museum of Life and Science is a hit with kids of all ages (and those of us who are young at heart!) and features interactive exhibits and outdoor play spaces for temperate North Carolina days.
Notasium is part music school, part music-based play space where kids can take part in open play hours in its 3,000-square-foot space or take a class or individual lesson on instruments like piano, guitar, drums, and various woodwinds and brass instruments. Let your kiddos play the notes on the fretboard of a giant guitar as they climb up to an adjoining slide that makes a guitar slide sound as they go down; press organ pedal keys with their feet and watch their notes light up on the grand staff in front of them; sing their hearts out in the sound-proofed karaoke/ mixing booths; and many more interactive musical activities.
The Carolina Theatre’s “Family Saturday Series” runs through May and is an affordable, family-based curated program that introduces young audiences to the joys of live performances, including music, storytelling and magic from local artists. The theater typically hosts eight or nine shows throughout the series – one Saturday a month – geared toward elementary-aged kids (though families with small children and babies are also encouraged to attend). Upcoming shows include award-winning storyteller Donna Washington on Jan. 15 and “ChamberSoul” cellist, singer-songwriter and teaching artist Shana Tucker on Feb. 5.
“What’s great about our Saturday Series is that the entire family can enjoy a shared experience viewing a live performance in a comfortable setting,” explains Noel James, senior director of education and community engagement. Carolina Theatre also provides a livestream option this year for families who would prefer to watch from home.
Make the best of the new year by exploring these local resources, organizations and businesses that are ready to help you set enjoyable, attainable and long-lasting resolutions!
Keep It Simple, Go Easy
By Perri Kersh
Perri Kersh works with individuals, families, small business owners and students to help them get and stay organized through her company Neat Freak Professional Organizing. She is the immediate past president of the North Carolina chapter of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals. Learn more about her here.
The new year signals a fresh start, and boy, do we need one! After 20-plus months of pandemic times, we’re all feeling frazzled, burned out, exhausted, grumpy and downright sad. You might have suffered real loss, or you struggled to maintain anything that felt relatively normal since early 2020. Whatever the case, it feels unrealistic to imagine overly ambitious resolutions. If ever there was a year that called for gentle, stress-free baby steps toward self-improvement, it’s this year! I’ll share below a few of my favorite tiny tasks to bring about order and calm in 2022:
Keep It Small
If getting organized is on your to-do list, start super small. Consider a junk drawer that makes you nuts. Or one drawer in your bedroom. You can also organize a single category, such as receipts or school supplies. When life is overwhelming, creating one tiny little corner of calm can be all you need to experience welcomed order in the world.
Add a New Habit
So often New Year’s resolutions are about breaking a bad habit. Instead, try to set a new habit. Just changing the way you think about this can take the pressure off. Your new habit could include five minutes of meditation each morning, adding a spinach smoothie to your breakfast routine or simply taking 10 deep breaths before you leave for work.
Let Go of Expectations
Crazy busy is so 2019! This year is all about doing the things that matter most. If your family used to feel compelled to do all. the. things., perhaps it’s time to let go of that expectation and only have one activity per person. Figure out what you really love and dedicate your time and attention to that task rather than feeling the need to glorify busyness.
Select a Word of the Year
I’m a big fan of having a mantra – just having a word or phrase that reminds you of what’s important. Figure out that word or phrase that has meaning, keeps you grounded and focused, and regularly brings you back to your center. One of my favorite mantras is, “I’m living in the present, I’m not living in the past.” This reminds me to be here now and not lose time worrying about things I can no longer change. It’s also a great reminder to only hang on to things that serve me right now in the life I’m currently leading.
Delete an Annoyance
Identify one thing that annoys you whenever you see it. Perhaps it’s a wasteful catalog you keep getting but never look at. Or maybe it’s a paper bill you know you could convert to digital but never make the time. Life is too short to let things from the outside world annoy us regularly … take five minutes (or fewer!) to rid yourself of that irritation once and for all!
Let’s pledge to keep things simple in 2022, to look for peace and calm, and care for ourselves in everyday ways. As you reach new goals, take the time to bask in your success. The world is overwhelming these days … small wins each day can add up over time. Be kind to yourself and to others.