Journaling

Dear diary, today I…

No, no, no. Not that type of journaling. Not that there’s anything wrong with keeping a diary, it’s just not what I’m  focusing on for the purposes of this discussion.

I want to talk about journaling as a means for focus and intent, and even for productivity and momentum. Journaling is daily planning and reflecting. It sets a purpose, a list of goals and tasks, and it should be meaningful to you, personally.

It’s December. The end of the year. January is just around the corner. A new year signals a new awakening, a new purpose,  a new you! So of course I’m being inundated with advertisements for specialized daily planners. Fitbook, Evo Flow, Panda Planner – just to name a few. These are companies who are jumping on the journaling bandwagon, each with their own unique, but similar approaches to daily planning and goal setting. And I’m definitely encouraging these marketing algorithms to show me more. Each time one of these planners shows up in my Instagram or Facebook feeds, I click on them  interested to see what their methodology is, and to see if I get inspired to change up my own journal formatting at all.

I also hate to disappoint these these companies,  but I’m not going to shell out $40 for their product – at least not anymore. I have bought a Panda Planner in the past, and really liked it. It helped shape what I do now. The prebuilt, structured planners are a great starting point if you don’t know what you need to do to get into a daily journaling ritual.

My journaling method isn’t a secret, and it isn’t anything fancy. It’s just what I do to put myself in the right mindset for the day, to organize and focus, and to help me be as productive and accomplished as I can be.

First, I write down the date, because I’m such a rebel. Actually, this forces you to acknowledge what say it is, so that when you inevitably have to tell someone else the date, you look like you’re on top of it.

Next line is my mantra for the day. Currently, my mantra is “I will be productive. I will make good choices. I am awesome.”

Then, I write down three things that I am grateful for. This helps set yourself in a positive mindset. Gratitude rituals have been shown to make people’s baseline happiness increase, and the happier you are, the more focused and productive you can be (not necessarily a scientific fact, but more anecdotal). I physically write “Today. I am grateful for…” and I list three things.

After that, I write out three things that I love about myself. This may be awkward for some. I find myself struggling with this one as well as it wars with my ideals of not being a snob. But self love isn’t conceit. It’s about recognizing the awesome in you and about you. This can be a physical feature. It’s okay to be proud of your derrière.

For the last part of my first section (there’s four, bear with me, the others are shorter), I write down three things that I am looking forward to. Going to the movies, a party, completing that big assignment, a weekend hike — the whole future awaits you!

This is where I draw some pretty little divider and move to the next section. Section two has only one part. I list the tasks I want to accomplish that day, usually in an abbreviated form ( ie, I write “bed” instead of “make your bed”). Sometimes I organize them into categories, sometimes I don’t. I do, however, typically break it down into four columns.

My third section is optional. I put an hourly breakdown. A list of when I’m going to do what (this is where the list categories comes in handy).

An example of my daily journal.

Last section is the one that I skip over way too much, but I know I shouldn’t. At the end of the day, I list three things I could improve on from the day, and three things that I did awesomely and can be proud of.

This type of journaling is a great habit to get into and I implore everyone to find a technique that works for them.

I do suggest that you invest in a pen/pens you like to make journaling more enjoyable. I use three different colored pens for my daily entries, because I love making my life a bit more colorful.

Do you already have a journaling routine? What does yours involve?

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Leisure Time vs. Lazy Time

Everyone should afford themselves some leisure time, but be careful not to fall into a lazy trap. But April, aren’t they the same thing? No, there is a huge difference between spending your time leisurely and spending your time lazily.

Leisure has purpose. When you are allowing yourself leisure time, you are focused on your enjoyment, whether that’s reading, fishing, hiking, doing whatever you need to do to give you some purposeful downtime. Laziness is nothing. It’s idleness that doesn’t do anything for you.

Another difference is reward. Leisure is something that you earn. Laziness is more related to procrastination or boredom.

Life’s too short for boredom. Be intentional with your time. Spend it wisely. Your off time should be spent doing something you actually enjoy, something that gives you a positive boost. And be mindful during your leisure time. Get the most out of it!

Some of my favorite leisurely activities are hiking, kayaking, reading, writing, and coloring. What do you do in your leisure time?

Combining two of my favorite leisurely activities – Kayaking and reading!

Another Day, Another Test

Today I had an endoscopic procedure where they put a camera down my throat and looked around in my upper GI tract for anything untoward.  (It was supposed to be yesterday but due to insurance stuff, got moved to today).

There was nothing obvious to be found.

I still have to wait on the results of the couple of things they biopsied, but things look to be on the up and up. Several major illnesses have been ruled out, so that’s good.

And, yet, I still sit here with these mystery pains.

Onward.

 

 

 

 

Privilege

I’ve been pondering lately on privilege. I am grateful for the level of needs I have met on Maslow’s hierarchy in order to be free enough to explore things like mindfulness and contentment.

That’s the one big problem that I see with so many of the self-help and mindfulness gurus that are out there. They spout their beliefs and say that ANYONE can be happy with what they have and where they are. They just have to chose to be happy.

But that simply isn’t true.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

There are other, more basic needs that must be met before we can stop and truly focus on our happiness. Who wants to be mindful of the sensations of their body, when their body is starving and in desperate need of food? Or when their body is shivering from wont of proper clothing and shelter? Should I person who must live in an environment of violence and hate be content with not being hurt or killed everyday?

Can you tell these people who are homeless, sick, famished, or fearful that they should look at all they have to be grateful for? Sure, they have things in their lives that I’m sure that give them some source of pleasure, but their focus must be on fulfilling those more basic needs of food, shelter, and safety before they can start fathoming a journey towards love, belonging, and esteem? not to mention gaining the privilege that is mindfulness.

Some people can check off those basic needs so easily, and for others it’s a constant struggle. Through struggle, there is growth, of course, but it’s never as simple as “stop to smell the roses” or “meditate daily.”

And my argument here doesn’t even begin to brush the surface of serious mental health issues like depression.

So yes, I do encourage folks to be mindful and focus on their self-care as much as possible, but I also understand that not everyone can accomplish that at any given time in their lives. I am white, financially stable, and relatively healthy (… relatively). I come at the practice of mindfulness with all that my upbringing and environment allows me, and I strive for more growth all the time. But that’s just it. It’s a journey, and people start at so many different beginnings and there is no set destination. You just keep moving forward, fulfulling each level of need until your time on this earth ends.

So take care of yourselves, my friends, whatever that means to you, wherever you’re starting from. Never stop striving for better.

On Meditation and Corgis

I often change up my meditation routine so that the act itself doesn’t become a mindless routine. During warmer days, I particularly enjoy meditating outside. I’ll do my routine sitting on a pillow on my 3rd story back porch, overlooking the forest in the shadow of Mount Yonah, or I’ll curl up on our newly restored porch swing, surrounded by a string of decorative firefly lights, or I’ll be in one of my favorite places–lying back in my hammock.

But alas, the days have turned much too cool to comfortably sit outside with little to no movement. So my meditations have returned to the indoor world. For the past few days, I’ve been sitting cross-legged on the living room love seat with a square throw pillow in my lap.

And everyday, Beans, my corgi puppy, has been jumping on the couch and then crawling on top the pillow in my lap and falling asleep.

The first time she did this, I was unsure of the outcome–she is an energetic puppy, to be sure, lots of little piranha teeth.  But, I gave her the benefit of the doubt, and I truly believe that she’s significantly improved my meditating experience.

You see, I’ve been focusing on compassion, gratitude, and goals during my meditation ritual lately. When I take a couple of minutes to center on compassion, I have a tactile link I can explore. All of my pups illict deep feelings of love and compassion for me. So when I need to bring those emotions to the surface, I place my hands on her and those feelings are brought forth easily.

The warmth of her body. Even though the pillow is soothing, and the rhythmic motions of petting her keep my attentions on the here and now.

Of course, right now, Beans is only 10lbs. Let’s see how I feel about this habit when she 25-30lbs!

My meditation partners–Scotch beside me and Beans on the pillow in my lap (with the sock she brought with her)

 

Taking It Easy

I’ve had a tough, strange week. Aside from experiencing mild to moderate ongoin energy issues — which were not helped by the time change AT ALL — I’ve also been dealing with a resurgence of stomach-ish pains. AND my jaw decided to randomly misalign itself, so I’ve been dealing with a super sore jaw that messes with my eating. It’s been a struggle to stay awake and stay focused.

My productivity has been sorely lacking.

But, I’ve allowed myself to take it easy. Pushing won’t help, but I have to be careful to distinguish between relaxation and laziness.

Today, I improved a bit. I had energy. My abdominalnpain abated for the mist part. My jaw still hurts like the dickens, but that’s more easily dealt with. So today, the cabin got a much needed cleaning and the cupboards are once again filled with food. I not only meditated, but I also exercised for 45 minutes on my recumbant bike — taking it relatively easy, of course.

Time to reset and get back on the horse.

I Failed Today

Keeping to my routine, after dinner (and a little extra time for digestion), I donned my workout gear and headed to the basement for a solid sweat session.

Well balls

One set of squats later, I’m doubled over, out of breath and my heart going insane in my chest. I took a short break, gathered my breath and regained normal heart function and went into the next exercise. I managed to struggle through a single a set of seven moves, taking breaks betweem each to regain my composure, but I had to l listen to my body.  A long, cardio and muscle strengthening session was out of the question without causing myself undue pain. Enough was enough. So I stopped.

With my short cool down, I did a total of 15 minutes. That’s not a lot, but something is better than nothing. Tomorrow is another day and I will try again.

So while I may have “failed” my exercise goal today, I did what was best for my health, and I will be better for it. A minor setback will not define me.

I am strong.

I am wise.

I know my body.

I will overcome.

I will persevere.

And I will be better for it.