July 28, 2017

August Happiness Challenge


Sometimes it's hard to be happy. Life can suck sometimes and it's difficult to keep feeling good. While I'm a fairly hopeful person, there are plenty of days I end up in dark places.

This challenge is not about being chipper and denying hardship. It's about recognizing we can take actions to improve our happiness. In The Happiness Equation, Neil Pasricha explains how simple tasks can drastically affect our happiness. (FYI, this is not a sponsored post, I'm sharing this book simply because I love it and it helped me)



Neil gives seven steps at the beginning of his book to help jump start your happiness. For the August Challenge, I'm breaking these seven steps down weekly. You may join me by doing the weekly tasks; or choose the steps that interest you and focus on them. I'll be sharing my thoughts along the way and would love to hear how you're doing as well!

Here is the breakdown:

Week 1:
  • Three Walks: Simple as it sounds, take three different thirty minute walks throughout the week. It improves happiness and has even been shown to improve recovery of clinical depression.
Week 2:
  • The 20-Minute Replay: Write for twenty minutes about a positive experience you had. "It improves happiness because you relive the experience as you're writing it and then relieve it every time you read it."
Week 3:
  • Random Acts of Kindness: Do one random act of kindness each day. Buy someone a coffee, send unexpected flowers, organize a shelf or room. Professor Martin Seligman says that "we scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested."
  • A Complete Unplug: "The richest, happiest and most productive lives are characterized by the ability to fully engage in the challenge at hand, but also to disengage periodically and seek renewal," say Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz in the Power of the Full Engagement. Turn off your phone after dinner, don't use the internet on vacation; these types of things help us renew our mind and connect in new ways.
Week 4:
  • Hit Flow: Get in the groove. Be in the zone. Find your flow. However you characterize it, when you're completely absorbed with that you're doing, it means you're being challenged and demonstrating skill at the same time.
  • 2-Minute Meditations: Studies report that meditation can "permanently rewire" your brain to raise levels of happiness.
Week 5:
  • Five Gratitudes: If you can be happy with simple things, then it will be simple to be happy. Find a book or a journal, or start a website, and write down three to five things you're grateful for from the past week.
I may attempt to do all of these each week but I've broken them down weekly to keep expectations low in case August gets too crazy (which is highly likely).

Which steps of the challenge sound most intriguing to you?




July 26, 2017

30 Day Yoga Challenge Last Thoughts



After having an especially grumpy day, I sat down on my yoga mat to start the day's practice. I wasn't in a great mood and I didn't especially want to do it, but I knew it would help relax my shoulders and possibly lift my spirits. As I began moving through the motions, I could feel the weight of my irritation disappearing. Just the act of breathing and stretching while listening to the calm voice of Adriene took all the worries of the day away.

I haven't done this month's challenge perfectly, but it has been so good for my body and mind. I can tell my mood is lighter when I'm done with the yoga practice of the day. The kinks in my shoulders and neck evaporate.

Participating in this challenge has convinced me that this is a good practice to continue. I am going to continue doing the 30 day yoga practice this next month as well, even if I stumble along at it. I've seen improvement in my balance and flexibility. I'm able to bend forward and touch the floor with much more ease than when I began. I've used the breathing exercises in the middle of anxiety and it's helped to calm me down.

Overall I'm incredibly glad I did this. Every time I experiment with a new challenge, I fight against perfectionism and worrying that I'm not doing something "right"; but I'm learning to let go and enjoy the process.

I'll be revealing next month's challenge at the end of this week. Since last month's was focused on the body, this next month's will be focused on the mind. Starting back to school and all the stresses that come with that, I want to do something that will help me be more mindful and present.

Do you have any recommendations on good books that've helped you be more mindful and present?

July 19, 2017

My 30 Day Yoga Failure


My husband showed me a video of an engineer whose friends dared him to ride a bicycle they had re-made so when you turn the handle bars to the right, the wheels go left. He understood it in theory but couldn't ride the bike that way because his mind and body were wired for riding how he'd learned as a child. Many people tried but no one could do it. He shared how our brains have something like algorithms that take a long time to change. Even if our minds know something, it takes much longer to accept and it's often with practice. So he practiced riding the backward bike five minutes every day for eight months. Finally, it clicked and he was able to ride!

I started this challenge to do yoga for thirty days. Sidenote: I am not an A-type personality; I'm more of a Z-type. So naturally, I haven't done so well with my challenge. I started out strong logging my excitement through the first week:

Day 1:
Today I woke up with a stiff neck and sore right shoulder so jumping into yoga was exciting because I knew it would stretch them out. This first video seemed really gentle and slow. It wasn't completely what I expected but it was exactly what I needed! Felt so amazing at the end. The stiffness in my neck was almost gone and soreness in my shoulder had disappeared.

Day 2: 
I really enjoyed today's stretching video. It felt good on my shoulders and back. The low lunges were difficult for me and I found myself having to lower my knees to stay balanced even after adjusting my position. Hopefully I'll gain strength there. I enjoyed the routine of touching toes and stepping back though!

Day 3:
This lesson was more difficult for me. It focused on balancing and I really struggled to hold several of the poses. It just showed me that I really need to work on building balance. it was a tiny bit discouraging but I know over time I will gain strength.

Day 4:
Oh my, I loved this day's practice. It felt so good to my body and lower back! I was able to easily do all the practices so that helped boost confidence. I am wondering how to do the child's pose when I have a belly. Do you open the legs to make room? Keep your head higher? I need some adjustments in that. It's so relaxing to end in corpse pose.

Day 5:
This was a fairly easy practice and seemed short compared to the other ones.

Day 6:
I usually hate abdominal workouts, but I'll admit I liked this one. It was done with enough flow and change of activity that it didn't register as too difficult to my brain, even though my abs felt it!

Day 7: 
Worked up a sweat today! This one was a bit more active and used many of the moves she's been teaching. It was easier to follow along because I'm becoming more familiar with them. Only the side leg lift took me off-balance, everything else was doable.

Day 8:
More meditative and calming. This feel on a Saturday and was perfect for relaxation and resetting my mind.

Then I had a rough day and didn't fit yoga in. It snowballed into a bunch of days. 

Day 14:
This one was nice and stretching with legs and shoulders. I did have a pain shoot through my left knee during one of the forward lunges, so I turned my foot outward a bit more and that seemed to help.

Entered day fourteen, then nothing. Today's the eighteenth.

My inner critic started in with: "I knew you wouldn't do it", "You can't finish anything", and "You never do it right". Inner critics are so mean! I didn't want to blog about it. I felt silly and stupid for not being consistent with 30 days of yoga (especially since I was enjoying it). 

But then I thought of you and how you might feel alone in your struggle to do new things. How you might feel like you're the only one falling down, when you're certainly not. Maybe you have failures like me and need to see someone bite the dust to know we can stand back up. I thought about the bike rider and how we're all wired. New habits are not like a switch you flip and suddenly you're different. It takes time. It takes re-training and practice. Reaching goals is more like stumbling than walking a perfect line.

Fall down, get up again. Fall down, get up again. Fall down and sit for days, get up again.

We need time to change the algorithm.

So I'm getting up and I'm going to finish this challenge in an imperfect, falling-forward way. Maybe I won't get all the days in, but that's okay; some days are better than nothing. I'm shushing the inner critics, embracing imperfection and continuing on.


Do you struggle with this? Are you a stumbling goal-setter?


July 7, 2017

Flouncy

Flouncy


Sometimes a girl wants an extra dose of movement and this capsule is made for feeling flouncy! It's got a great mix of patterns, solids and tons of ruffles. No matter what outfit or mix of items you choose, your clothes will dance with you every step of the way.





Flouncy by thecatherinedenton featuring tie-dye skirts

MSGM short dress
net-a-porter.com


Print dress
$19 - yoins.com




Dorothy Perkins ruffle top
dorothyperkins.com


Mulberry silk skirt
$900 - mulberry.com


Chloé patterned shorts
$840 - harrods.com



Tailored pants
$220 - trouva.com


J Crew tie dye skirt
$130 - net-a-porter.com


Mabu pom pom shoes
nordstrom.com



Silk bag
$230 - hollygolightly.dk


Mar y Sol beige clutch
$97 - fashion-conscience.com


Tie choker
puma.com

July 5, 2017

You are a Writer


Since I was a child, I've loved reading and writing; two things that have remained constants in my life. But I don't call myself a writer. I tend to think writers are the ones who are published, who have large blogs, or whose articles make it into the New Yorker. But the truth is obvious. 

If you write, you are a writer.

Why is that statement so hard to accept? I love how Jeff Goins talks about the practice of writing. First, it must be a practice. He also encourages writing in public. Practicing your art in public ~ no matter the genre ~ has an impact on improving your craft. For the comedian, the audience helps him understand which bits will land and which ones will bomb. For the painter, the audience shows what they're drawn to in her work. For the writer, it sheds light on what topics impact others. If you haven't read his book, You Are A Writer (So Start Acting Like One), you should! It's incredibly inspiring.

I have been an on-again, off-again blogger for about eight years (I had a previous blog before this one). It's my favorite public platform and I always return after life pulls me away. I was cleaning up some of my old posts last week, and it surprised me how many essays I found among them. Granted some of those essays make me cringe now, but they also encourage me because I see improvement.

Writing on this site has given me a place to practice in front of others, no matter how many or how few. To speak my heart in written form.

I'm still learning how to do this. Probably will be saying that until the day I die. The beauty of creating something is that there's always room for improvement. The crafting of our art is beautiful because of the process. If we can view it that way, then there is no fear in claiming a name for what we're already doing. Although I could call myself a painter, a knitter, or a musician as well, because I do those things with semi-regularity; it's writing that has always pulled my heartstrings. And that's probably because . . .

I am a writer.



Are you a writer? What calls to you?