Holiday Blues

It’s that time of year: family visits, twinkling lights, coffee & cocoa, and all sorts of schedule disruptions.

I’ve been feeling a little scrooge-y this holiday season, as you may have guessed by my absence recently. Trying to wrap up (heh, Christmas pun) the year, figure out presents (since for the first time ever, we won’t be present) and keep a regular daily work schedule has worn me out.

Holiday BluesFor anyone else out there who’s trying to keep it simple and finding it difficult: I am too. Trying to fight the commercial holiday stress brings its own stresses.

So, today’s post is as much for me as it is for you.

Keeping the holidays merry and bright

These can be applied year-round, but are always my must-haves in times of stress. Here is what I’m going to be focusing on this next month, since I’ve overlooked these for the past few weeks.

Eliminate the nonessential

Are there things you think you need to do, but that you really don’t want to do? Consider each commitment carefully and respect your time enough to say no when you feel that’s the best option.

Going with the flow can turn into getting carried away in the current, and Christmas isn’t about trying to avoid rapids and sharp rocks. Keep the holidays on your terms.

Eat, drink and be healthy

Hangovers in college were terrible. Hangovers after college are the worst – every emotion comes flooding out and piles on top of an unproductive day. Add in the holidays and…well, it’s not pretty.

If this applies to you, find the least emotionally-wrecking booze for you and drink moderately. Me + wine = sadness, so I try to steer clear of it.

But this doesn’t just apply to alcohol – eat your veggies any chance you get. I toss back a veggie-heavy smoothie or two every day to make sure I get my greens.

Progress, not perfection

This is something I see shared around the fitness community, and I find it powerfully relevant in all aspects of life. Especially as this year comes to an end.

A dear friend of mine understands the workings of my mind, and advised me to take a moment and write down all the things I have accomplished or improved upon this year. If you try this too, be generous with yourself and note that any progress is positive.

This helps me put 2015 into perspective and encourages a positive attitude for the start of 2016.

And a note on perfection: don’t let the stress of creating a perfect holiday or finding the perfect gift ruin your time with family and friends.

Kindness is key

Being kind to others goes without saying, but especially remember to be kind to yourself.

Be patient with yourself when you stray from the path you wanted to follow. Be kind to yourself so you can flourish. Allow yourself a few moments of solitude, or extra minutes of sleeping in, or skip a chore and go for a walk instead.

Or, if you’re in an area that has Stumptown Coffee, grab a little Winter Cheer. You won’t regret it.

Holiday Blues Coffee

Winter Cheer cold brew from Stumptown is actually all I want for Christmas.

So take a moment to check in on yourself: how are you doing?

If you’re struggling, pay attention to where the balance has shifted. What can you do to restore your joy this holiday season?

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Celebrating the Day

Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement. ….get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually.
― Abraham Joshua Heschel

In light of all the tragedies around the world, “celebrate” might be a strange word to use, but I feel it might be the right one.

There are still so many opportunities to celebrate life as the phenomenal miracle that it is. I’m not talking about toasting to our yesterdays for a hangover tomorrow – I’m zooming in at the mini-celebrations that don’t cost a dime.

Mini-celebrations that can offer some sort of balance to each person’s unique and vast grief.

Some of these celebrations focus outward, but many focus inward on ourselves. Because the first step to being compassionate towards others is knowing how to be compassionate to ourselves. I see a lot of my peers, especially women, who fail to treat themselves with kindness.

Be kind, be gentle. And celebrate whenever you can in whatever way is best for you.

10 ways to celebrate today

Image from Minimography

Ten ways to celebrate today

  1. Share your money, resources or time. Give blood or find a charity that’s close to your heart to donate to. Volunteer – the holidays are a great time to share yourself with others.
  2. Take a walk. Walk for any reason – to boost your creative thinking, to lift your mood or just to get a few extra steps on the pedometer. This is a great time to build a mental gratitude list or to just let your thoughts work themselves out.
  3. Call a friend. And don’t just call to say hello or casually ask how they are. Ask them: how is your heart? Dive under the surface of things to make a real connection and check-in with them on a deeper level.
  4. Make a gratitude list. Thinking about what you are grateful for (without denying hardships or negative life events) impacts you more than you would think. I jot down three quick things I’m grateful for each day, and it is has become such a happy and rewarding morning exercise.
  5. Sit in silence, prayer or meditation. Whichever one of these floats your boat – just take a few moments of quiet time to recharge your heart and your mind.
  6. Do your favorite thing. What’s your favorite show? Or do you prefer cozying up with coffee or tea? Find some time in your day to do what you love doing so you can get that spark back.
  7. Spread joy. Play with your children or your pets, or say something kind to a stranger. Hug your partner like you mean it.
  8. Dance or sing. Not everyone will love this, but it helps me when I’m feeling down. I sing along to the radio or sing and dance with my rabbits at home (actually, it’s just me dancing like a fool while they look at me with judging eyes). Let your child-like, goofy self come out for a while.
  9. Tell someone you love them. This one isn’t difficult if you’ve already told them. But I challenge you to text or call a friend that you haven’t told this to. Start small by saying you appreciate them, but work your way up to regularly telling your friends you love them.
  10. Care for yourself. I’ve been on a self-care and self-compassion kick lately, and for good reason: I’m no fun when I haven’t taken care of myself. So eat some vegetables, do some yoga, take a shower or even take a nap. Be good to yourself so you can be good to others.

Why celebrate now?

This year is almost over. We’ll never get these last days of 2015 back once they’re gone, so why not celebrate?

And if you’re reading this six months from now, remember that each day is incredible and worth celebrating, even a little bit. Even in the darkest of times.

There are 43 days left in 2015. How are you going to celebrate?

Crazy Happy…or Just Crazy?

I’ve recently set a new intention – to pursue crazy happiness.

Note that I didn’t say “to be crazy happy” – I don’t want the denial or stress that can come with setting that particular intention. But the pursuit of it is on my mind.

Basically, I don’t ever want to stop pursuing a happier life. I don’t believe there is a final destination of happiness.

Does that make me crazy?

Do more of what makes you happy.

The “good enough” mindset

It’s easy to find yourself in a day-to-day, good-enough mindset. I know I do it.

The kitchen is clean enough, my writing is polished enough. The trouble comes in when there’s still work to do and the results actually change your life. I’m not going to feel more fulfilled as a person by rinsing off one more plate or finding one more spelling error.

But, if I’m only “happy enough”, then that means I could be happier.

When I was “happy enough”

I was “happy enough” just less than a year ago. When my husband and I lived in Indianapolis, we were stuck in a routine that was just getting us by. We weren’t crazy happy. We were happy enough.

We both were in an environment that just felt like we were passing time. That could really be a depressing story if that’s just where it ended.

But we made a change.

We prepared to move to Los Angeles for months (we had talked about it for years actually), but I couldn’t have prepared for the change it actually brought. It’s been such an adventure!

Los Angeles may not be our final destination, but we are happy here and happy that we decided to take action in our lives. We saw something that needed to change, and we changed it. We talk often and openly about ways we can increase our happiness.

It’s something I want to pursue for the rest of my life.

Am I crazy?

One of the biggest thoughts I’ve had since setting this intention is that maybe I’m just crazy. We’ve traditionally been surrounded by messages that encourage settling and not taking risks.

Maybe the pursuit of crazy happiness isn’t worth it. Maybe the effort I have to put in isn’t worth the happiness I get in return.

But then I think, isn’t any happiness worth working for? And isn’t there happiness even more so with the work?

How to pursue crazy happiness

I am not a happiness expert. But I am currently pursuing it, so I guess I have a little to say about my experience.

You don’t have to move across the country to pursue your own crazy happiness. It may just be a matter of driving a different way to work or taking a walk in the morning.

But what’s important is that you don’t stop and say “that’s it, this is the end. I can’t possibly get any happier than this.”

What’s important is that you’re open to happiness.

Real Real Simple

I’ve always been fascinated by magazines. Something about the editorials alongside brilliantly colorful ads and the smell of the perfume samples really gets to me.

But of course, the temptation to buy is there, and it’s strong. And a few years I realized the ultimate irony: Real Simple is filled with tempting products that claim to offer a more simple life. But there’s so rarely a case for more when it comes to our quest for less.

Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy the magazine, but take a moment to flip through the pages or webpages and you’ll see ads and product recommendations – quite the opposite of what it takes to really live a simplified life.

So I’ve been brainstorming what that might actually look like.

Real Real Simple: Tips for living a truly simplified life

My tips for a real, real simple life

  • Work. If you love it, stay. If you don’t, get out of there. I’ve seen too many Millennials (and older) hang on to jobs with excuses about money and the job search is hard…if you really want to make a change, then change. If you’re miserable and unwilling to try to make a change, then that lies on you. Complaining will get you nowhere, but some research and effort might take you further than you’d ever think.
  • Food. Forget learning how to read labels. Learn how to shop for (and cook!) meals made from things without packaging: fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans. A diet like that isn’t terribly expensive or time consuming – in fact, the extra love you put in now will save you health care costs in the future. The closer you get to the natural state of the food, the better. (Also, I don’t really subscribe to one particular diet, but I’ve found that veggie-heavy and very few animal products works well for me).
  • Relationships. Put your people into three buckets based on the energy they bring to your life: positive, neutral, and negative. Start spending more time with the positives and spend less with the negative and neutral people. Being aware of how they impact your life is a strong first step in curating your relationships – and more meaningful relationships will benefit everyone, not just you.
  • Stuff. Declutter before organizing every time. If you’re overwhelmed with your stuff, getting new storage bins is just a temporary solution to a larger, more permanent problem. You don’t have to get rid of it all at once, but edit when you can. Keep your stuff only if it’s useful or beautiful to you.
  • Exercise. You don’t need a plan – just get outside and take a walk. Switch out coffee dates for walking dates. Bike to work. Do pushups or situps while you’re watching Netflix. I think, for me especially, it’s easy to get in our heads about doing something good for our bodies. We can’t expect to run a marathon on our first day, and we can’t even expect to feel like working out everyday. But what is most important is making the time to do one thing for your body every day. I love this advice: make it a goal to get your shoes on and get out the door. What comes next is up to you, but at least you’ve accomplished that first step.
  • Finances. Track your spending, then make a budget. Awareness is the first step! This ties in with almost every other point I’ve mentioned. Stick with whole, healthy bulk foods, find free ways to get fit and socialize, and don’t buy it if you don’t need it. If you really love something and want to get it – give it some time, research it, and think about where it fits in to your life. I usually give myself at least a month to really know that it’s something important to me before taking the plunge.

My golden rule of simplicity

The most simple, real thing I believe we can do that has a lasting impact is this: be kind to yourself.

I know this sounds a little cliche and/or silly, but I really believe that finding the right balance of motivation and self-care has profound effects on our lives and the lives of those around us. Are you any good when you’ve neglected your most basic needs (like a good night’s sleep or a healthy meal)?

In the real simple world of managing time, clutter, relationships and more, that’s the big factor that we’re missing. If we’re not meeting our basic needs, everything else gets a lot more complicated.

What’s your golden rule for simplicity?

Standing on the Ledge

I’ve been standing on the ledge of a pool for the past year.

It’s a lively pool party – people are laughing and having fun together and everything points to one thing: the water’s fine. I’ve even dipped my toes in a few times and it feels perfect.

So why can’t I just jump in?

It's just a matter of jumping in to the life you want to live.

The pool

The pool I want to dive into is the simple living, minimalist blogging group that I’ve become familiar with over the past two years.

The pool includes a daily writing habit, a weekly posting schedule and intentionally consuming information. It includes larger project ideas like eBooks and real books and the opportunity to someday, somehow get paid for what I love doing most.

To me, it sounds lovely.

The ledge

The ledge is where I’ve been at a standstill for the past several months. I’ve kept an erratic blogging schedule, lost my way on nearly every mindfulness practice I’ve set out for myself and honestly, failed every “good writer” habit I’ve tried to develop.

I’ve been beating myself up about not always holding up the “practice what you preach” principle.

But today I realized that holding on to those missteps and failures is a stupid idea.

An almost comically stupid idea.

Can you relate?

The jump

So here it is! It’s time to decide whether to leave the pool party or jump in. And there are a lot of cool people at this pool party, so how would I look and feel if I just left now?

I’ve decided to take the jump into prioritizing my blog and my interaction with the community, both online and off.

I’m going to jump into personal and professional development and start doing what I love.

Heck, I may even cut down on my “real life” work commitments so that I can add more non-monetary value to my life, and hopefully to yours.

No worries though, my blog will always remain ad-free and sponsored post-free.

The bigger picture

One thing I promised myself when I started this blog was that I wouldn’t make it all about me. I wanted to be able to reach out to readers and random internet strangers about how this stuff affects them too.

So in writing this post, I realized we all have pools that we’re just dying to jump into.

You may have been standing at your ledge for 30 minutes or 30 years, but what matters most is how soon you take that next step. Will it be another 30 minutes? Or another 30 years?

I didn’t realize how much I was holding myself back until just today when I, quite randomly, decided to free write for a few minutes. (I used 750 Words if you’d like to try it out.)

I got all my negative thoughts out and then my writing started to shape from whining and excuses to actually encouraging myself to jump in. I was channeling my inner cheerleader (which I never was in real life). It was fun and revelatory.

So here’s my challenge to you: find your ledge, but more importantly find your pool.

What have you been putting off? You can take a little time to explore the “why not” that’s been holding you back, but I recommend not dwelling too long on it. Dwelling on the “why nots” creates a breeding ground for more “why nots”.

And “why nots” are embarrassing and cumbersome to have to carry around at a pool party.

So here’s your permission: spend some time free writing, brainstorming or – here’s a novel idea – sit quietly and think about what pool you’ve been meaning to jump into. Find out what’s been hiding below the surface and realize that you’ve already been invited to the party. All you need to do now is show up and get to that ledge.

And then jump.

Facebook and FOFOMO

I pulled the plug on my Facebook a couple months ago, and haven’t looked back.

I’ve talked about how much of a time-waster Facebook is in the past, but my usage was getting out of control.

I wasn’t using it because I was homesick. I wasn’t using it because I had nothing better to do. I wasn’t using it to even communicate.

Instead of using it to add value to my life, I let it do the opposite: I was using it to compare myself to the Facebook-version of my friends and acquaintances.

I always felt worse after visiting Facebook.

Why did it take so long to deactivate?

The excitement of Facebook really started wearing off after college three years ago. I realized that 90% of my Facebook friends were people I had no need to keep in touch with, personally or professionally.

I started unfriending and unfollowing people left and right. But did that stop me from stalking old crushes wedding photos? Nope.

It didn’t stop me from reading aggravating statuses (on purpose) and seeking out successful acquaintances, both which always made me feel bad. I was addicted to comparing myself with people on the internet.

We’ve all heard of FOMO, right? In hindsight, what was stopping me from deactivating my Facebook was actually FOFOMO.

What is FOFOMO?

The Fear of “The Fear of Missing Out” is what I’ve been calling my hesitation to quit Facebook.

I know it’s silly, but I was more afraid of how FOMO would affect me than I actually turned out to be afraid of missing out. I was anxious about how future me would deal with the anxiety of missing out on social updates.

Our generation has now been using “FOMO” as a new form of guilt or peer pressure. If you’re not where everyone else is, you should be afraid that they’re all hanging out without you.

If you’re not on Facebook, then how will you know your friends got engaged or started new jobs? If you subscribe to FOMO and let it consume you, you should be ashamed to have to ask.

For our generation, it’s unacceptable to purposely opt-out of what’s going on. It’s not “normal”.

I was afraid of the guilt and embarrassment that would come with ignoring my FOMO.

What has changed without Facebook?

My fear of FOMO turned out to be unwarranted. It turns out that I haven’t been afraid of missing out. I haven’t even missed out on anything important.

In fact, I’ve gained so much more now that I’m Facebook-free:

  • I (literally) have added hours of valuable time to each week. This positive change happened immediately.
  • I have fewer digital people/distractions in my life now, and my time online feels a lot less complicated.
  • I feel kinder towards people in general. What ever happened to that girl who made fun of me in second grade? I can’t go to her profile anymore and see if she’s complaining or doing well for herself (both of which could frustrate me). Instead, I send a silent good wish her way and move on with my day.

You can quit too

The most difficult part is finally deciding to just do it. There are a few steps that can help you get there!

  1. Start unfollowing and unfriending people. Ask yourself these questions to decide what to do with each friend: Does this person need to read my updates or see my pictures? If they don’t, unfriend them. Do you need to read this person’s updates or see their pictures (but you still want to keep an online relationship with them)? If you don’t, unfollow them.
  2. Download all the information and pictures from your profile. It makes it easier to shut it all down.
  3. Try deactivating your account temporarily – you can set it to auto-reactivate after a certain number of days, which might help you decide if it’s the right choice for you.
  4. Open up new avenues with new purposes. I’ve started texting and calling my friends more, and I’m inching back in to Twitter. I’m interested in meeting like-minded simple living people , so say hello!
  5. Don’t announce it. I wanted to share my email or my Twitter profile with a little “seeya” announcement, but I realized that allowing myself to engage with people before leaving Facebook was as dangerous as having just one more drink. It’s best to tell your closest friends personally and then deactivate your account without posting a word about it.

How do you use Facebook? Is it a positive or negative tool in your life?

Give Yourself Permission

I’ve been traveling and taking on new work projects this month, which means something has had to give. And that something, unfortunately, is something I love: writing.

I’ve been considering writing this post for some time now, but it’s hard to write about this topic when I know I’m a big offender of not giving myself the permission I need to do things I enjoy.

What do I mean by giving yourself permission?

Things to give yourself permission for

I mean allowing yourself to do something positive when you might normally say no. I’m not saying it has to be something big or life-changing. Here are some things I like to (and need to) give myself permission to do:

  • Sit and read
  • Drink a cup of coffee (not while working)
  • Pick up my favorite foods at the grocery store
  • Take a walk without my phone
  • Invest in a high quality item (like a purse) that will be a suitable replacement for several items I own
  • Read someone else’s blog and leave them a comment
  • Spend time with my rabbits
  • Take a nap
  • Go out for coffee
  • Pausing work to write a blog post

Ultimately, it’s about allowing myself to stop being caught up in housework and regular work to enjoy my day a little bit more.

It’s about being nice enough to yourself to take opportunities when they are available.

Be childish

When I was a kid, I had to ask for permission to have a Mountain Dew (which, looking back, was probably not a good idea to begin with). I had to ask permission to go to friends’ houses for the night.

I was so excited, as I’m sure most of you were, to become an adult and be able to do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it.

But then came the responsibilities and the stress. Self-denial came along too.

I find myself denying a cup of coffee when I really want to sit, sip and relax. I deny myself short walks outside because there’s work to be done.

I realized that my “childish” desires (to write, to play with my rabbits, to indulge in a tasty beverage) are still there. They’re just waiting for permission to happen – my permission.

Take a moment to consider what you find difficult to give yourself permission to do. Is it something that would be positive and fulfilling? Is it healthy? Then say yes.

Permission

So say yes

Once you’ve evaluated what it is that you’d really like to be doing, learn to say yes.

I know this comes as common sense to some people, but the more tightly-wound will understand what I mean. It’s so hard to break away from housework, real work and other obligations even when the alternative is a positive one.

Say yes to peeling your eyes off of this computer screen and stepping outside for a moment. Say yes to cooking something amazing. Say yes to writing that blog post you’ve been meaning to write.

Say yes to being self-compassionate. This TEDx talk explores self-compassion and self-esteem and has helped me realized I need to be kind to myself and say yes more often:

…and sometimes say no

There’s so much about minimalism and simple living that is about saying no to things. Say no to excess, say no to clutter, say no to the advertised “norm.”

So what do you say no to and what do you say yes to? I’ve started setting some goals and building principles for myself to help me choose the right balance between the two.

Some questions to consider when building your guiding principles:

  • What do I want most for myself?
  • What do I want most for my home and possessions?
  • What do I want most for my loved ones?

If saying yes takes you closer to that goal, then say yes. If saying no takes you closer to the goal, then say no. Always do what moves you closer to your goals.

Sometimes, that means taking a break and drinking coffee while reading a book you can get lost in.

I’m still working it all out. But one thing’s for sure – this blog has helped me to hone in on what makes me feel most alive. It’s helped me to say yes a little more often. As I write this, I’m sipping tea in a cafe, which took a lot of permission for me to get out of the house and stop working for a while.

What do you find difficult to say no to? What should you start saying yes to more often?