Why Fall Is The Perfect Time To Prep For The New Year
Man, is autumn my favorite time of the year. Aside from when global warming decides to completely show out, the temperature is mild and the leaves turn into vibrant hues. When it comes to clothes, layering is always fun. I adore all of the signature scents of autumn (like cinnamon apple and pumpkin). On the emotional tip, my late father and fiancé both had birthdays in October, plus, my father used to love to bug me to death about the Cowboys on Sundays—so I have fond memories around all of that. And, because I am a Rosh Hashanah person (Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish new year) and it always falls during the autumn season, for me, the fall also marks a fresh start too.
Yet, whether autumn is your favorite time of year or not, I still encourage you to look at this season from a truly beneficial perspective in the sense that, with roughly 12 weeks left in the calendar year, what better time to get your life in order for the year that is to come? Just think about it—rather than waiting until New Year's Eve and then stressing yourself out by coming up with a New Year's resolution that probably isn't going to hold up anyway (because a whopping 80 percent of them don't), why not ease into January by preparing for it now? It's a lot easier, so much more realistic and, you might be surprised by how good you feel about stepping into a brand new year, if you put, at least a few of the following 10 suggestions, into practice.
1. Decide What Kind of Life You Want in the New Year
Let's begin here. A broadcaster by the name of Germany Kent once said, "Never underestimate the power you have to take your life in a new direction." She's exactly right. And here's one reason why now is a great time to prepare for the new year—if you are a procrastinator, you can quit telling yourself that you'll change your life on January 1; instead, you can change it right at this very moment. Listen, as a marriage life coach, something that truly tickles me is how so many engaged couples, whenever we discuss red flags that already exist in their relationship prior to marriage, shrug them off as if to say that strolling down the aisle—or in our culture, jumping a broom—will miraculously change those things.
Chile, please. Marriage amplifies what already exists. And you know what else?
There is absolutely nothing supernatural about January 1. It's just another day that happens to fall on another calendar year. So, if you want your personal or professional life to be different, try to avoid saying to yourself, "I'll get to it in the new year."
Cop yourself a fresh journal and figure out what you want your world to be like, three months from now. It'll give you time to really think long and hard and come up with a strategy to make your desires a reality—well before the stroke of midnight on New Year's Day.
2. Create A New Savings Goal
Yeeeeeah, this isn't good. Did you know that, reportedly, 69 percent of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings account? Shoot, for a lot of us, that reality means that if we lost our job today, we could barely pay one month's mortgage/rent, let alone anything else. So, while I know this is actually the time of year when a lot of us spend more money than we should (you know, due to the holiday season 'n all), try and put aside enough money to where you can go into the new year with at least $1,500 saved up. If you saved $125 a week, starting the first week of October, it would get you there. I know that might sound steep, but I'm just giving you an angle to work from.
If you already are a pretty good saver (and if that is indeed the case, Mazel Tov!), come up with something that you want to save up money for. A new car. Some money to do some investing. Maybe a travel account. If this is something you're interested in, there are cool savings apps that can help you to keep track of your coins or, if you're married, I'm all about couples having a sex jar. You can read more about that by checking out, "5 Reasons Why Every Married Couple Needs A Sex Jar".
3. Do a Health Detox
Detoxing your system is beneficial on a lot of different levels. Since it's literally about removing toxins from your body, it can give you more energy; reduce breakouts; boost your immune system; put you in a better mood; decrease body inflammation; help you to lose weight; improve your digestion, and help your liver to function better. Personally, I think that the early side of autumn is a good time to do some sort of a detox because one, you can cleanse out your system before the holiday season of food approaches and two, you can figure out what type of detox you like best.
On a semi-surface level, if you're not doing it already, it's a really good idea to detox your scalp and armpits. But when it comes to fully flushing out your system, spend a couple of weeks researching the approach that you wanna take. Articles like Gaiam's "10 Ways to Detox Your Body" and Max Living's "10 Natural Detox Strategies to Cleanse Your Body & Lose Weight With Your Diet" are both helpful when it comes to helping you to learn about different approaches to detoxing your system and which one will prove to be most beneficial to you in the long run.
4. Break A Bad Habit
Remember how it used to be a common saying that it takes around 21 days to break a habit? And so, we would try, but usually fail after a couple of weeks, all the while wondering what the hell was wrong with us? Well, more research has gone into this very topic and, come to find out, it actually takes more like—you ready for this?—18 to 254 days. Yep. In the time that it roughly takes to conceive and birth a child, that could be how long it takes to break a bad habit too.
While on one hand, that might seem self-defeating AF, I choose to look at it from a different perspective. Since some things really do require months to get past, you can actually offer yourself a little more mercy and grace by taking a more logical approach to habit breaking. Since it's not realistic to get over certain things in three weeks or less, try and take your journey one day at a time—and consider starting that journey now. That way, come January 1, you'll be at least three months in and…who knows? You might actually be stronger in your areas of weakness while everyone else is trying to figure out how to go a week without breaking their own resolution(s).
5. Get Clarity/Closure in Your “Questionable” Relationships
There's a quote from the movie The Life of Pi that says, "It's important in life to conclude things properly. Only then can you let go. Otherwise, you are left with words you should have said but never did and your heart is left with remorse." What this quote is basically speaking on is closure and yes, I am a fan of it; mostly because, to me, closure is a sign of profound respect. The thing that two people started together should be the thing that both people end, together, as well. While I know that sometimes we're not given the closure that we deserve, a Scripture in the Bible that I really like is, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." (Romans 12:18—NIV) In the context of this particular point, to me, it means that we should be as proactive as possible about getting clarity or closure in a relationship so that, if things do end, they can at least end…peacefully.
So, whether it's personal or professional, if there is a relationship that either isn't serving you well or you're super unclear about, why bring it into a new year?
Why not use these last several weeks to get the answers and/or do the grieving that needs to be done now, so that you can step into January from a more healed and positive space? I've shared, several times before, that one of my favorite quotes from the movie Love Jones is when Nina said to her ex-fiancé, "All we have or all these years." Life is too short and purposeful to be in relationships or situationships—again, whether they be personal or professional—that aren't really benefitting you. Figure that out now so that your heart can be open to something better once the new year rolls around.
6. Put Yourself on a Schedule
An author by the name of Matt Fox once said, "Time and effort can get you anything you want in the world. But nothing in the world can get you more time." On the time tip, he's exactly right. That's why, I'm a firm believer that, one of the worst things that someone could ever do (or we could ever do to someone), is waste our (or their) time. And yes, waste is exactly what can happen because waste means "to consume, spend, or employ uselessly or without adequate return". So yeah, this is definitely a good time to pause, ponder and reflect over if you feel like someone has you out here giving when you're not receiving anything adequate in return (Lawd!). It could be your employer. It could be the guy you're currently seeing. It could even be a friend.
And then, once you've got that figured out, ask yourself if YOU are the one who is wasting your own time. Maybe you spend too much time on social media. Maybe you let your emotions rule you when it should be the other way around, so that you can discipline your feelings and get stuff done. Maybe you're someone who puts things off until the last minute which prevents you from doing them in excellence. Maybe you complain too often. Maybe you gossip too much. Maybe you worry about things that are out of your control. Maybe you let things trigger you to the point where they leave you stagnant.
For all of these things, you know what can help? Putting together a schedule. Think about it. If you only have a certain amount of time set aside for Twitter, maybe less people will piss you off and you'll have less celebrity gossip to talk about. If you make sure to leave work when you're officially off, maybe you can put more time into building your own company so that you can leave that crazy boss of yours in six months or less. If you aren't watching so much television, you can read more. Or, if you're not always on the phone with your bestie who is always caught up in a cycle of toxicity, you can soak in the tub longer and get to bed earlier.
Oftentimes, when the topic of scheduling comes up, it's from the angle of figuring out what goes where on our to-do list. Yet I'm encouraging you to look at it from a bit of a broader perspective. A wise person once said, "The difference between success and failure depends on what we decide to do with the 24 hours in our day." Whether it's a calendar on your desk or a scheduling app on your phone, try and get into the habit of scheduling your time better as we get ready for another calendar year. By the way, please make sure that on your schedule, 6-8 hours of rest and quality time with yourself are on it. This one tip alone is a total game-changer if you take it seriously and literally.
7. Set Pampering Appointments
While I'm more an advocate of bucket lists or goal-setting instead of resolutions, if you are a resolutions kind of woman, please make sure that pampering is on the top of your list for the new year. While it took me getting well into my 30s before I embraced how essential pampering is, it's extremely important to do, just what the definition says—"to treat or gratify with extreme or excessive indulgence, kindness, or care". For the record, pampering IS NOT maintenance. What I mean by that is, if you're gonna pamper yourself in the bath, make sure there are rose petals, champagne and some milk in your water. If you're gonna get a pedicure, pay for the higher end kind. If you like wine, get it from somewhere other than the grocery store. If it's time for new panties, make sure a couple of pair are lace and in your favorite color.
Remember that the key words of pamper are "extreme" and "excessive". It's not about if it "makes sense" so much as it makes you feel very special and extremely adored. Every woman needs to feel that way, so every woman needs 1) a pampering budget and 2) to make pampering a monthly priority.
There's no time like the present to set aside some cash and to make some hair, nail and massage appointments for January. Get to it, sis.
8. Upgrade Each Room
OK. When it comes to this particular point, I'm not saying that you have to completely remodel each room because I'm pretty sure we all know that, in order to do that right, you've gotta have more than a couple of bucks in your bank account. But since the new year is all about being out with the old and in with the new, you can use the next couple of months to bring in some new and affordable additions. Maybe some new bedding in your bedroom. New throw pillows in your living room. A new set of dishes for your kitchen. A new shower curtain in your bathroom. Or, how about some new window treatments, some different art prints or a different chair in your office? Not too long ago, I purchased some of the coziest looking throw pillows for a corner of one of my rooms and it's amazing how that one upgrade has made my space look completely different. Hey, no one is saying you gotta be Bob Villa over there…but why not give yourself a little something new to look at? You've got time. Use it.
9. Nix Resolutions. Cultivate Goals Instead.
Resolutions typically don't bring forth the best results. But you know what does? Setting goals. The key to this particular recommendation is first that you create long- and short-term goals. Then, follow that up with prioritizing each goal, organizing how to execute them, setting aside time either every day or each week to work on your goal, and then celebrate your accomplishment once you actually reach it.
Say that one of your goals is to do more networking in the new year. This can be the time to research who you want to connect with and how to get in touch with them. Or perhaps your goal is to write your first book. If you want to have a publisher, this is a good time to find a reputable literary agent. If you'd prefer to publish it yourself, find out now how to go about that and get to working on/completing your manuscript. Maybe one of your goals is to become a more positive person. No time like the present to figure out what your "negative triggers" are so that you can remove them from your life.
The thing about waiting until January 1 to put some goals into place is you're basically setting yourself up to be overwhelmed. Planning your goals out now gives you the time and freedom to look at each one from a practical headspace so that you're able to increase your chances of actually reaching them.
10. Get Your Sleep Patterns Together
If you don't make any other plans for the year that is to come, please at least consider getting more rest. The reality that 1 in 3 Americans are walking around here moody, irritable, unable to concentrate, worn out and/or with a weak immune system and low libido and it's because they don't make getting 6-8 hours of sleep a top priority. If you know you could stand to get more zzzs in, use these last few weeks of the year to study your sleep patterns; to get the electronic devices out of your bedroom; to consume less stimulants (like sugar and caffeine) two hours before bedtime; to create a sleep ritual (like a soak in the tub and/or reading a book) and, if need be, to see your doctor so they can see if your lack of rest is tied into a hormonal imbalance or some underlying health concern.
Autumn has been the season when I've been super intentional about getting my world in order for several years now and it's been the absolute best decision. Go into the new year less worried, less preoccupied and less stressed by using this season to prepare for January. Then watch how much easier next year is for you. For real, for real.
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (firstname.lastname@example.org) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
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Better Off Braless: The Benefits Of Not Wearing A Bra More Often
Somewhere between the start of the pandemic and entering the late stages of my 20s, bras become less and less of a priority.
Within that span of time, I, like most of the world, spent my days inhabiting my small bubble, staying in the house with loose-fitting loungewear, and being on Zoom calls that only required me to be presentable from the neck up. So as the demand to have my breasts at their perkiest form, so did my commitment to wearing bras.
The relationship that most women have with their bras is… well, complicated. While society has led us to believe that they’re required for us to be deemed as “ladylike” and “neat,” many of us find the garment to be a bothersome (and optional) accessory at best.
From underwires that poke and dig at our sides to push-ups that spill over, the argument in support of bras has begun to wane over the last few decades, with women of all cup sizes asking themselves if it’s better to just go braless.
Courtesy of Harper Wilde
“Many years ago, I ditched wired bras and opted for going braless out of a desire for freedom and celebrating natural human form,” multi-hyphenate Alyson Stoner tells xoNecole. The movement activist best known for their fly dance moves with the likes of Missy Elliott and on Step Up 2: The Streets, shares that when it comes to their bra selection, comfort is key. “As someone who enjoys moving their body, I found that I do want an underlayer that provides some support without interfering with comfort and mobility.”
A source of concern when choosing to go braless is whether or not the lack of support from a bra will, in turn, affect the firmness of one’s breast, resulting in early sagging. However, Sabrina Sahni, M.D., an oncologist at Mayo Clinic in Florida, shares that breast sagging is a result of age, not whether you’ve ditched your bras.
“Sagging breasts – also called ptosis – generally occurs due to chronic aging,” she tells xoNecole. “The breast is made up of a combination of glandular and fibrous tissue and fat tissue. Over time, the glandular tissue may become replaced with fattier tissue, and that can lead to more sagging. Wearing a bra or not wearing a bra ultimately does not change that.”
"Wearing a bra or not wearing a bra ultimately does not change that."
Women with heavier breasts may find that going braless may have its set of drawbacks, but Dr. Sahni says that you should always pay attention to your comfort levels since bras are a garment designed to support your back and correct your posture. “Those with heavier or larger breasts who choose to go braless may actually have worsening back/neck/shoulder pain,” she says. “Wearing a bra may allow them to correct their posture and help alleviate tension on those muscle groups.”
“Women with larger breasts may benefit from wearing a well-fitted, supportive bra as it may alleviate things like upper back pain or neck pain,” she shares.
Listening to your body is key when choosing whether you want to toss out your bras forever or just for a day. The beauty in a woman’s body is that it will tell us what we need to know before we even have to ask. There are common misconceptions about tighter bras being linked to causing health issues like breast cancer.
And while studies do show that Black women are “twice as likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer early when compared with Caucasian women,” the manifestation of this disease is predetermined by other varying factors.
“There are a lot of myths out there about going braless being better for breast cancer risk. It is completely false,” Dr. Sahni explains. “Whether or not you wear a bra does not have any bearing on your overall breast cancer risk. Ultimately, your risk is dependent on a variety of factors, including family history, your breast density, your lifestyle, and your reproductive history.”
If you’re looking for classic, weightless comfort that’s close to going braless, Alyson Stoner recommends Harper Wilde, a body-inclusive intimates brand on a mission to create a more comfortable world for womankind. They currently have a capsule collection with the intimates brand in partnership with their company, Movement Genius.
“Harper Wilde has been my go-to for years now because the materials are truly soothing on my sensitive skin, the amount of support feels like you're being gently hugged (not squeezed), and the styles are flattering and beautiful enough to wear as shirts or visible layers,” they say.
Courtesy of Harper Wilde
The brand offers super soft, breathable cotton fabric in their Triangle and Scoop Bralettes ($40 each) that will put the bliss and comfort back in your bosom.
Dr. Sahni says that choosing to opt out of bras or keep them close to your chest “truly depends on the individual” but it should be understood that “wearing or not wearing a bra won't significantly impact your overall health.”
“Ultimately, it comes down to comfort. There are some women with chronic breast pain where perhaps changing their bras to something more supportive and well-fitted may help,” she says. “Alternatively, some women find that going bra-less will alleviate their breast pain. I tell women that they should choose a bra that is comfortable for them, feels supportive, and one that they can wear regularly.”
So whether you choose to free the tatas or wear a bra that feels like it’s barely there, remember to listen to your body because ultimately, the choice is yours.
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Featured image by Delmaine Donson/Getty Images