Dosti दोस्ती, pronounced 'dostee': Friendship
Meet Anu Bhandal, a mental health and wellness advocate with a zest for life, love, laughter and everything in between. When she's not being a grad student or working as a meditation and grief facilitator, self-love coach and traveller, she is a daughter, sister, niece, cousin and partner to the love of her life. She's made a point of always actively participating in her life and existing in her feelings. And she does this with courage. After all, living with your heart on your sleeve is the bravest thing you can do.
At your core, who are you?
At my core, I would say that I'm a highly sensitive and empathetic being. I felt the impact of not being as mindful as I would have liked to be over the last couple of years. So I think mindfulness is something that is a part of me. I'm also deeply family-oriented and rooted in my culture. Growing up, my parents really wanted us to have an understanding of our roots.
What did that look like?
We actually went back home every summer. We went to Gurmat camp every summer to learn more about our culture, history, and language. And on Sundays, we went to classes to learn about Sikhism and read and write Punjabi. It kind of recently hit me that I love my culture. I've spent the past few years embracing it all.
How do you spend your time now?
I spend a lot of my time with my mom - we hang out often, and I spend a lot of time with my partner; he's my safe and happy space. I love to cook, especially for other people, like my parents, brother, and boyfriend. And I LOVE to travel.
And when it comes to solo time, I love to read. I've been reading a lot about psychology and mental health recently, which makes sense since I'm in school for psychotherapy. I'm a big believer in self-care and rest, so naps are life. I also make a lot of time putting myself together and stepping out. It makes me feel good to take care of myself, put together looks, do my hair and makeup and more.
So what is your current skincare routine?
Honestly, my routine is so basic and lowkey. I use face wash, toner, and a simple moisturizer. I started incorporating retinol into my routine, and though it didn't start out the greatest, I see the difference it's making now. Taking care of my body directly impacts my skin, so I prioritize that.
What does wellness look like for you?
Wellness wasn't a consistent journey for me because I travel a lot. But I've been dedicating more time to that part of my life whenever possible. I wake up and commit to a 15-20 minute guided meditation. I used to be able to meditate for upwards of an hour, so I want to get back to that space. I go to the gym often; it's a must for me. And I do hot yoga with my mom.
When I don't feel too well, I journal more than usual. I keep a few books stacked on my bedside table where I write out my thoughts, goals, dreams, feelings...anything. I recently got into painting therapeutically. Colour and texture can be healing. And I always go for walks with my mom as the weather gets warmer.
You spend a lot of time with your family. They seem to be a key pillar in almost every element of your life. Would you say that they are a source of inspiration for you?
My mom is my bestie. If there's something I want to be like, it's her. She's such a hippie at heart. I would describe her as cheerful, optimistic, and almost always smiling. And when she's not feeling amazing, her aura is still so bright and light. She's genuinely the kindest person I know in every way. The way she navigates being a wife, a mother, a sister, and a daughter is incredible. I look up to her and the way she exists.
I really love spending time with the rest of my family as well, especially my aunts. I'm always present whether we're shopping or dancing—my mom loves to dance, and it brings me so much joy when my boyfriend dances with her—singing on road trips or going to Tim's for coffee dates.
What cultural rituals around skin, hair, and body did you grow up with?
My grandma lived with us, so she was at the core of my childhood experience with cultural rituals. She'd put a lot of oil in my hair and put it into braids, and this honestly made me so upset at the time. I was made fun of because of my hair oil in the fifth grade and cut my hair. But I decided to start growing it out sometime during my university days, and I honestly think that the blessing of her hands is why my hair is as healthy and thick as it is today. I don't use hair oil as often as I should now, but I always sleep with it in a braid.
And play, that was a ritual in and of itself for me. I would run around and play outside all day as a child. We'd play all summer with no inhibitions. Though my skin is more sensitive to the sun these days, I still love being outside.
What rituals did you introduce to yourself and your life during the pandemic?
I really started meditating during the pandemic. I learned so much about myself and the power of mindfulness through this practice. I started school during the pandemic, so learning about the theory of mindfulness alongside my practice was amazing. Around this time, I also became a grief facilitator for South Asian families, and in meditating and reaching inwards, I learned more about life, death, grief, and growth.
Thank you for sharing. I have to ask before we conclude: What's your first memory of ghee?
I love this question. Ghee reminds me of my grandfather. He was such a holistic and Ayurveda-focused person. I remember there was a time when he got knee surgery, and his doctor's approach was "it is what it is," but he took things into his own hands, and it worked. He'd rub ghee on it all the time, and he'd always have his ginger turmeric shots. He would glow, and he always had this zest for life. Now, I use ghee every day in my cooking and topically with Ghlee. I love it.
Follow along Anu's journey here!