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!

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.

Fall Hike: Or “Let’s go this way”

Sometimes you have to stare at Google maps and try to find a new and interesting place to go hiking. Follow the Appalachian trail north of your normal treks and you may discover a new section that has a road and approach trail that leads right to it.

That’s how we discovered the Appalachian Trail at Addis Gap. The plan was to head to the trail head at the end of Wild Cat Road and hike up to the A.T. and then go for distance.

The drive there was bordering on magical. Peak color, an undisturbed dirt road covered in yellow leaves, and even a water fall along the way. It took a solid 30 minutes to drive down the long, narrow gravel road known as West Wild Cat Rd, and it was certainly a beautiful adventure.

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After being on approach trail (the old end portion of Wild Cat Road) for about 15 minutes, we were met by a couple of cyclists, which meant we had to scramble and get the pups out of the way (we had Scotch and Beans with us). The second dude who road by let us know that more folks on bikes were coming down the mountain.

There was a race going on.

Our secluded hike was going to be interrupted by a lot of people in tight shorts, and our nerves were going to be shot by trying not to have a corgi vs. bike accident.

But we trudged on, luckily being able to see a relatively good distance along the path.

But behold! a fork in the trail. To the left, the continuation of Wild Cat Road/approach trail. To the right, though, was another old forest road, showing up on Google Maps as “Deep Gap Road.”

When we got to the fork, our decision was basically made for us. A large group of cyclists were speedily coming down the mountain from the approach trail. We took the road less traveled, and honey, that made all the difference.

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The rest of the hike was peaceful, and while we were constantly climbing the mountain, the grade was easy. So while we didn’t exactly get to the A.T. this time, we found a place where we can come back to later.

In total, we hiked five miles (2.5 in, 2.5 out). We enjoyed it immensely, and the pups did as well.

Fall Sensations: Sight

This week is peak color-change week in the North Georgia Mountains. I know this, because I read it about five times in the fifteen minutes I perused Facebook this afternoon. That means that one of the most glorious sites of Autumn has arrived – the leaf change, bringing with it my favorite color palette.

But there’s so much more to see and take in during Fall. It’s not all about the leaves!  Just last week, we were entreated to the glow of jack-o-lanterns. Kids and pets (and adults) took to the streets in the greatest of costumes, and I love looking at those pictures and seeing the creativity.

Mums of many varieties are blooming! I have a patch of white ones in my back yard, and then two other types potted around my property. They make for beautiful late-year color.

And with the cooling weather, comes a rare sighting in these parts – the migration of the Monarch Butterflies as they lopingly make their way South, only occasionally making pit stops here in the North Georgia Mountains.  I’ve seen three so far this year, and they’ve been a treat to behold!

Autumn brings the return of crackling outdoor fires, lighting up the darkness of an early dusk.

And don’t forget that Thanksgiving spread! The food not only smells and tastes delicious, it looks so very inviting and comforting.

And of course, as the color fades from the forests and the leaves slowly flutter to the ground, a new vista emerges. The mountains, hidden for most of the year, become visible once more.

Take a moment and visualize your perfect fall day. What sorts of things do you see and take comfort in?

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.

Fall Sensations: Tastes

I love food.

And as the temperatures start falling, the varieties and hardiness of food explodes into a veritable cornucopia of potential feasts. So closely entwined with your sense of smell is your ability to taste. Food and drinks are amazing in autumn!

Some people say that fall officially begins when the pumpkin spice latte becomes available in Starbucks. Personally, I prefer a caramel mocha frappachino, or my homemade mulled apple cider, but I digress. There are a few things out there that are pumpkin spicy that I do enjoy (my co-worker’s gluten-free pumpkin cheesecake balls are divine!), but I tend to enjoy the other flavors of fall.

It all starts with the candy. Everyone knows that pumpkin-shaped Reese’s are far superior to the everyday Reese’s, and every small piece of candy brings back memories of trick-or-treating and tummy aches. When you see the halloween-branded candy in stores, you know, in your heart, that that candy is the best.

But as we get older, our dessert palettes become more sophisticated. We crave the richness of pies – apple, pumpkin, pecan, oh my! A nice hot piece of pie, all topped with a scoop of quickly melting vanilla ice cream.

Admit it, your mouth is watering at the thought of it. Remember the last time you had a delicious piece of pie? Visualize the experience. Enjoy the memory, savor it!

Pie is a special treat in my household. We typically only have it three or four times a year, with Thanksgiving usually being the most pie-intense day. But dessert is not the only taste of the aptly named Turkey day, there’s a whole feast involved!

Old picture of me chowing down on the leg of some fowl – can’t remember if this is turkey, goose, or duck. We kinda experimented a lot with Thanksgiving several years ago.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls, dressing, gravy, creamed corn, casseroles galore, and so much more! Not to mention the leftovers and the inventive meals that you come up with to use those last remaining bits of turkey.

Oh, so good!

And think of all the other wonderful foods that don our cupboards and shelves during Autumn: Apples, nuts, oranges, cloves – things that not only taste great, but leave a lasting, comforting aroma.

And stews! Soups! and Chili! all those warm comfort foods that seem too hot to enjoy when it’s 90 degrees outside hit the spot when the thermometer drops below 60.

What’s your favorite fall food and drinks?