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Now that masks are optional in most places around the valley, perhaps I’m not the only one smiling more. Or maybe it’s the spring-like weather.

Regardless, there’s an underlying essence of freedom has been restored (Smiles! Faces! Choices!), but I’m cautious about being overly hopeful, because while walking around mask-free feels carefree, freedom lies within our own hands. Or, perhaps, our own health.

It’s in our refrigerators, panties, medicine cabinets. It’s in roots, leaves, stems, moss, fungi. It’s in hydration, sleep, movement, connection, beliefs, love. It’s in tradition.

The virus is doing what viruses do—adapting—and we’ve done a dang good job adapting as well. We’re designed to, because humans coexist with nature. While we also adapt to the man-made environment around us (including regulations, mandates and more), maintaining our own mental, physical and emotional wellness will, in turn, positively affect our outer environment. Like the ripples of smiling.

Darwinism aside, I’d love to see us return to a community-supportive life without fear. I’d love to see us replace it with trust in each other’s ability to be resilient, and prioritize our personal and family health above all else. That will ripple out, too.

Instead of letting loose too quickly, let’s return to some good habits many of us adopted two years ago: cooking at home, sleeping more, resting more, tuning in, walking thoughtfully around town. Let’s be diligent about daily rituals that elevate our thoughts and nourish our bodies, like eating nutrient-dense food, finding stillness, exercising daily, interacting socially—you know, the completely natural stuff you’ve been hearing about for years.

Longer, lighter days beckon us to play—go outside! Cold nights bring us back home—come back in. Ebb and flow. When we embrace life cycles with intentional rhythms inspired by seasons, we live more harmoniously with the earth—and with other humans. That is resilience.

We’re a few days into Lent, a period that traditionally honors the 40 days Jesus spent fasting, praying, and giving. For me, it’s a reset and an invitation for letting go of what’s not serving me, and inviting what will. I grew up thinking Lent was about self-flagellation. I’d give up chocolate or pastries. Many people give up meat, fish, eggs (even dairy), originally because animals and plants also are preparing for new birth. Some fast, limiting meals to once per day. Others give money, food, or commit to daily acts of kindness.

Lent invites me to reflect on the inherent nature of humankind—trust, discipline, and focus on what truly matters.

So, I spring to my pantry: What does my body need? What will serve me and keep me well? I look forward to strawberries and baby lettuce soon, while preparing tofu, kale, and garlic over pantry staples like quinoa, topped with kraut. At night, I retire by 9:00 to wake restful eight-ish hours later. My friends get me outside during work days.

Time to re-examine your own life habits, meals and beverages? Which are supporting you? Which are not? What might you let perish in exchange for revitalization? And does that choice harmonize with late winter/early spring?

But keep it simple. A smile is worth a thousand more.

Jamie Truppi, MSN, is an integrative nutritionist focusing on functional foods and family wellness.

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