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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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?

Fall Sensations: Scents

Autumn is the season of sense-based mindfulness. Okay, that may just be my opinion, but I intend to argue it fanatically. Everything, five senses-wise, is improved in the Fall. It’s the perfect time of year to really take some time to stop and just enjoy the now and pay special attention to the world and it’s beauty that’s all around you.

Oh hey, that sounds like a great topic for a series of five blog posts, one for each sense!

Let’s start with our olfactory faculties. The sense of smell is most associated with memory and nostalgia. Ergo, you can walk into some random building and BAM! you’re transported back to your kindergarten cafeteria. But Autumn has the best scents associated with it. Just go to the candle section of Walmart to prove this to yourself. Mulled cider, Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake, Cranberry compote – The smells that make a dwelling smell like a cozy, loving home.

The air itself smells different. While not an all together pleasant smell, go outside and into the woods. Take a big ol’ sniff and inhale the aroma of early fall decay. It’s a unique smell, a bit tangy, but oddly welcoming. It signals sunny, but cool days.

The dried leaves themselves have a earthy smell to them. This scent gets stirred up especially when you rake or blow the leaves. (And then promptly jump into the piles you make).

I love the smell of a freshly cut jack-o-lantern.

The smell of a pumpkin as you carve it.

The scent of mulling spices and apple cider warming on the stove.

The incense of a nearby campfire or the smell of burning leaves permeating the air.

The acrid odor of dust burning the first time you turn the heat pump on.

The smell of hay, whether in bales for feed or decoration, or spread on a freshly seeded lawn, or providing cushion in a large wagon pulled by a tractor through a field of pumpkins.

And so much more.

The scents of fall are so comforting, like a warm hug for your nose hairs.

The foods of Fall give some of the best aromas of all. Chili, stew, and other warm savory flavors floating in the air…

What a great segue into the next post on taste! Stay tuned for more.

On Meditation: Part One

Meditation is the art of reaching a state where you are free from thoughts, emotions, and stresses —

Yeah, right.

That, my friends, is not meditation. That is nirvana, enlightenment, or whatever you want to call the ultimate phase of the human soul. Very few have ever reached this state.

No, meditation is a journey or an exercise. Meditation is simply acknowledging that for a few moments, you can let go of all the stressors in your life. You can detach yourself, and in doing so, can allow yourself to observe the now. We spend so much of our lives worrying about the future or ruminating about the past, that we don’t allow ourselves to feel the present.

Meditation has great benefits, both mental and physical, that I won’t go into here. Just know that every once in a while, you need to stop and just be. It’s kind of like when you work out–you don’t actually build muscle until you allow yourself to rest. It’s the healing of those torn muscle fibers that allow your to gain form and strength. The same is true for your emotional well-being. We can’t learn or grow as a person unless we give ourselves time to rest and and heal from the little tears that happen everyday to our non-physical being.

Even if it’s just for five minutes a day. Stop, take a few moments to observe your breath, observe how your body feels right now. Allow yourself to be quiet. And if your brain or your heart starts screwing with you, tell those pesky organs to calm down. Label the intrusions as thoughts or emotions – or be more descriptive. The more specific you can be with your labeling, the easier it is to push those interruptions aside and you can refocus on the here and now.

My meditation hammock

You can meditate anywhere at anytime. There’s no strict rules. Personally, my favorite time to meditate is in the evenings around dusk. I love to go outside and listen to the sounds of nature – crickets, treefrogs, the distant ducks and geese. I meditate in my hammock, on my porch swing (which is where I am now), or on the deck adjoining my bedroom while I sit on a pillow. I meditation anywhere from 5-15 minutes usually. From the time I close my eyes until I take that last deep breath and reopen them, the change in the sky and my surroundings is drastic and inspiring.

So I encourage you, find a place where you are peaceful and comfortable – a room in your house, on the bus on your commute, on a cushy bed of moss under a willow tree (beware of chiggers!)-and give meditation a shot.

Fighting an Unknown Enemy

Sneaky, awkward selfie while sitting in the waiting room.

I’m currently sitting in the waiting room at my doctor’s office. It’s a familiar site for me. This is my fifth visit here over the past month, in addition to a sojourn to the emergency room for heart palpitations.

There’s some off in my body.

Now I sit here, waiting to be called back for an ultrasound sound on my gallbladder, and I know how strange it may sound, but I sincerely hope they find something.

The pains, the fatigue, the shortness of breath, the foggy mind–I thought I had beaten this last year–The illness that threw me for a loop for three months. Three months where I, a decently active individual, had my life disrupted. I stopped working out, I stopped hiking, I stopped eating right (frozen meals take less energy to make).

When my symptoms finally disappeared, it was a still struggle to get back on the wellness horse,  but I did it.

Now here, 15 months later, I’m smacked down with similar symptoms once again, but this time  I have a renewed resilience. I’m attacking with vigor, trying to find the truth of what’s going on inside my body.

And if it is my gallbladder then finally I can put a face to my enemy, so to speak. I can fight to take my body back,  and restore my best life. I can plan, I can treat, and I can cure myself.

I am strong.

I am wise.

I know my body.

I will overcome.

I will persevere.

And I will be better for it.