70 in February

February is typically the coldest month we suffer here in North Georgia. It’s when we have the best chance of our yearly snowfall, and it’s when we have the biggest heating bills.

The polar vortex thing that was happening touched us only a little bit. While certain places up north were experiencing wind chills of -60, we were balmy down here in the teens and 20s.

But that took a dramatic turn this past weekend and even through today. It’s been an early spring, with temperatures in the mid-60s and even hitting the 70s yesterday.

Holy crap, it’s been amazing.

And it is most definitely fleeting.

And so while it’s decently warm and sunny (for the most part), I’ve been enjoying the time outside as much as possible. We went for a hike on Saturday (write-up to come), and on both Saturday and Sunday, I did my meditation outside. Yesterday, we even had the windows open at work, letting the fresh air and warmth in the building.

My meditation set-up on my porch

And though by next week, the temperatures will return to a more frigid normal,  and I will remember this refreshing sneak peak of spring, and know that warmer days are on the horizon.

I am grateful for these glorious 70 degree days in February.

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Growth

Each morning, pretty soon after waking up, I set my intention for the day. Typically, this intention is just one or two words that I hope will guide me to  a meaningful day.

Productivity, focus, health, happiness, contentment, momentum, minimize — these are all words I’ve used to set the tone for my day.

But what about long term? This year, I’m trying something new. I’m setting a renewing intention for the year. I’ll still have my varying daily focuses, but all relate back to my overarching theme for this year – Growth.

I want to grow.

No not taller, y’all. I don’t wish I were a baller. I mean, I AM short, and could use an extra inch or two to my stature, but that’s beside the point.

I mean that I want to grow as a person. I want to focus on growth in multiple facets of my life. I want to grow my intellect. I want to increase my muscle mass. I want to improve my physical health and go deeper with my emotional and mental well-being. I want to grow to be a warmer, more compassionate person.

I never want to stop improving.

And so this year, I resolve to grow.

What intention have you set for 2019?

Daily Journal: Free Download!

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the daily journaling technique that I use to make the most of my days. Everything I did was handwritten, and doing so, would take me anywhere from ten minutes up to an hour to complete. Okay, the days it took an hour were due to other things distracting me, but still, writing every little thing out, while incredibly helpful for focusing my day, cost extra precious time I could actually be accomplishing something else.

So I took the time and dedicated my personal project time to developing a PDF version of my journal that I hope meshes together the best of both worlds. I save a little bit of time with writing out the repetitive stuff, but I still get the benefit of hand-writing out the important stuff, thus continuing to support my intention-setting and productivity goals each day.

The new and improved daily journal.

I’ve decided to share this pdf with the world, no strings attached. Seriously, here’s the link: daily journal

Simply download and print. You can print on two pages, on front and back, or both pages on a single, front side in landscape mode, or whatever works for you – you just have to finagle your print settings.

If you need any extra guidance on how to fill this out, I suggest you read the original post on journaling.

Reflection and New Year Reset

Good bye, 2018 and an enthusiastic hello to 2019 – a fresh new year. It’s time to reflect on last year and reset your mindset for this year. It’s been a whole 365 days of growth and setbacks and rebounds and losses and wins and forward momentum and stumbles and epic moments. There’s a lot that’s happened in the past year. So take a few minutes to not only check in with yourself, but to really focus on what has happened this past year to encourage your own personal growth.

What lessons were learned? What were your wins? What were your low points? What were your high points?

Below, I reflect on several different areas in my life and how I hope to reset these areas and work on them in the upcoming year.

Worklife

Reflection: One huge thing that I’m proud of is being a part of my workplace getting ranked number six on Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work for Small to Medium Business. I firmly believe that this award was the result of our efforts to help the employees of our company to become happy individuals through things like our thoughtful team-building events, our mindset training, our wellness challenges and more. Most of which I had at least a small part of. I love my co workers and I love my job.

Reset: I want to focus even more on encouraging the personal growth of my coworkers. More ways, more options for them to find their own paths to happiness or enlightenment or stability or whatever it is they seek. I will curate a learning library for them. I will lead more wellness challenges or activities. I will continue to be a coach and enthusiast for mindfulness and mindset training.

My Body

Reflection: I got ill again this year. But this time, I didn’t break down in a bathtub. Because of my first battle with this mystery sickness, I was better prepared and armed. I chose to fight harder. And as a result, me and my team of doctors were able to eliminate a few more possible causes. I also bounced back a lot quicker this time, even though I’m still having a few lingering, albeit relatively minor, symptoms.

Before I experienced my illness this year, I was on the journey to becoming a fitter person. I faced a set back, but I’ve reset already and am making the choice to jump back on the fitness wagon.

Reset: I am now better prepared for the struggle. New insurance means newer, lower deductible and out of pocket max. This year, I will strive to get my body in even better shape so I not only feel and look better, but I’ll also be better prepared to fight if illness strikes me down again.

Mindset

Reflection: This year is the first year that I’ve really focused on being mindful. I’ve always enjoyed the simple pleasures in life – food, honest work, nature – but now I’m taking even more pleasure in it. Not only living in the moment, but really taking it all in.

Reset: Keep on keeping on. I’ve made great strides and I plan on continuing with this mindful momentum. I’ll continue journaling, meditating, practicing gratitude rituals, doing yoga, and consuming growth content to become a more well-rounded person.

Overall and Miscellaneous

Reflection: This year has had its ups and downs. We lost Waffles, our beloved first dog who fought her own battle with illness (Degenerative Myelopethy) for three years, and taught me so much about love, companionship, and patience. We got a new puppy, Beans, who has brought so much joy and compassion (and bite marks) into our lives.

I hiked less, but took up kayaking and love the new variety we’ve found in our outdoor activities. I got a tan this year for the first time in decades!

I made major strides towards my health and wellness, and then I became ill again.

I ate better.

I gave up alcohol.

I found mindful living and shifted my mindset. I became a happier, more patient human being.

Reset: This year I will strive to focus more on

-my personal growth and happiness;
-becoming a coach and resource for others;
-decreasing my body fat percentage to more optimal levels;
-saving more money by budgeting better, making better choices, and making my money work harder;
-making an effort to be warmer to all those around me.

Hello 2019

I do have fears for 2019. I’m afraid I can’t maintain consistency, or that I will lose forward momentum. Really, my biggest fear is that I will get sick or worse again, or that the lingering symptoms won’t go away.

But I am so excited for all the possibilities of this upcoming year. I want to feel fit and well once more. I want to be a guide and help others realize their own goals. And I just want to continue living my fulfilling, Hobbit life.

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?

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.

Sunset Drive

On Monday, Greg and I grabbed some Taco Bell (What? I can’t be super healthy all the time. Beside, I love me some Fiery Doritos Locos Tacos with Diablo sauce. I live for the SPICE), and then we took a drive up Richard B. Russell Scenic highway and stopped at a couple of the roadside pull-offs. It was very chilly and the wind was not helping that fact at all. We did manage to grab a couple of self-indulgent selfies and a few photos of the splendor of the beginnings of the leave change in North Georgia.

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I love mountain views. Being up high and taking deep breaths of cool, fresh air fills me with joy. I visualize these memories when I need to calm and recenter my focus.

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That rock-faced mountain is Yonah Mountain. It’s the same mountain that I can see from my back porch, but from the other side. It’s one of my favorite places.

This quick drive, in addition to the hike the day before, was exactly what my spirits needed to feel revitalized and normal. My mood has been boosted, and I’m feeling almost human again.

I am grateful for the forests and the mountains of North Georgia.