Hello September

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And goodbye August! It seems that along with the beginning of September and all it usually brings; school, back to more regular schedules, and the like, Fall has come along as well. Not totally out of the norm, but the sudden switch from bright and sunny and hot, hot heat filled days to rain, chills and dark grey has seemed quick. Quick and perhaps far too early. Yet this year unlike previous recent years I am looking forward to the rain, the leaves, the cool weather. Maybe it was actually getting my fill of summer, of being overly warm often enough to feel satisfied. Maybe it’s because now my apartment will be bearable or I’ll be able to sleep under multiple layers of blankets (my favourite!). Maybe I’m looking forward to turning on my oven without fears of overbearing heat filling my apartment. I’m not sure, but I do know I’m not saddened by the onset of Fall like I sometimes am.

September also brings with it the feeling of a new year. As someone who spent many many years in school, September was always the beginning of a bright new year. New classes, new books, new friends, new roommates, new chances and new possibilities. I always find myself drawn to goals at this time of year unlike any other. This year I’m finishing up my 365 photo a day project (in just about 50 days or so), and getting ready to find myself a new year long project. Will it be writing for 30 minutes a day? Will it be to complete a craft/art/diy project a week? I don’t know. And I’d like to have a decision soon, so that I can maybe do a little organizing before I begin, so who knows where it will take me?

The anticipation of starting goals is one of my favourite things. In the past years I’ve avoided goals after I achieved some very sought after goals and, well, found them to leave me feeling slightly underwhelmed and disappointed. In the last few years though I’ve done some digging, and really unearthed what I want my life to look like; and this means I stay away from goals that won’t bring that into being. I have issues with even the concept of SMART goals, which I don’t think it helps people really dig into the why of their goal, which is ultimately more important than making sure it’s “time sensitive” or “measurable”. In the past my small amount of perfectionism, combined with surface level SMART goals, and no real sense what exactly I wanted from my life, left me with achieved goals that left a sense of hollowness.

Yet this year, just as I’m looking forward to September, I’m looking forward to goals, to seeing what I can achieve.

So maybe for today I shall leave it at that. Maybe some of my goals will reflect a need to write on here more, to get digging into health, nutrition and more. We shall see.

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273.75 (and a little bit more)

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Well here it is, the final quarter of my 365 photo project. I’ve recapped the first two quarters, and now I’ll recap and reflect on the third as I move ever closer to the end (and my 29th birthday).

I am not going to lie: taking a photo a day is getting a bit old now. While it mostly feels like a habit (what will I do when I no longer need to consider what to photograph in my day?!), it is also a tedious habit.

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Don’t get me wrong, I love that I am noticing and paying attention to what is going on in my day. I love finding bits of beauty in the every day, but there is still the occasional evening where it’s 10pm and I’m like crap what am I going to post!? This is often solved by going back to older photos from previous days. So does this make it not count? I made the decision early on that I could use photos from other days, and while I try to not do it very often I’m glad that was a “loophole” I agreed to. Mostly because some days I can’t find the beauty, but I can look back at photos I took even the day before and suddenly like a photo I passed by while going “meh”. This is the amazing thing about reflecting: sometimes we can find beauty where we didn’t see any the day before.

So many of my photos reflect nature, either beautiful views, flowers or just general outdoor scenes. I’ve also realized how much adventure there is in my life. I think I shared when I started this project that I always had a feeling that 28 would be awesome and that I always looked forward to entering the later stages of my twenties, and this year has not disappointed. I can’t say it has necessarily been more adventuresome than other years in my life, but I’ve certainly enjoyed all the adventures a lot, and finding and reflecting on the beautiful parts has left me with more of the happy-moment memories than the sad/bad/that-didn’t-workout-as-planned-moment memories.

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I’ll be honest I worried a lot that friends would be annoyed by the traffic jam of my photos filling up their Facebook feeds, but for the most part people have been really supportive. Friends who don’t comment directly on the photos will often say in person how much they enjoy my photos, which I really appreciate. I don’t know if this is everyone’s default but I often assume that people have mean and judgemental thoughts towards others and their creative projects so I’m always happy when people are  supportive and say nice things. I know writing that out loud sounds terrible, and I honestly don’t know where it comes from because no one has ever actually fulfilled that dark prophecy of human behaviour.

Looking forward (I am now on day 295) I can honestly say I’m very excited for this project to be done. Yet I’m sure it will feel like something is missing once I’m finished. I’ll also be honest and say I feel like I’ve spent far too much time on Instagram and Facebook with this project and I’m sure whatever goal or project I think of following this one will not involve social media in any way, in fact maybe the goal will be to truly start consuming less and spend more time on what really matters (or other things I actually enjoy that don’t involve a screen). At the same time doing this through social media provided a means and frame (ie I must choose one and filter it through Instagram) and has kept me accountable. I’m excited to see what unfolds over the last 70 or so days of my project and my time as a 28-year-old.

2016

Let’s begin with a peak at what I wrote about last year at this time. At that time I was more into theme words and living a year with intention. I said my theme word was “action”. I didn’t explain it very well on the blog – but to elaborate I can be a total thinker and procrastinator and spend a lot of time thinking about doing something without really actually getting around to doing it (I’ve heard this is a perfectionist tendency, and that rings true for me). Still my word, or theme, was a little vague, and kind of fell to the wayside as the progressed.

This year I want to make my goals a little more tangible. I’ve said in the past I take some issue with S.M.A.R.T goal setting – having spent the better part of my teen years and early twenties doing these types of goals and while they got achieved they didn’t really fulfill me how I thought they would. Having done a lot of reflecting over the last year (no joke, critical reflection is a major component to my master’s degree.) I know that some of the lack of fulfillment from goal achievement is that I haven’t really been considering “why” I do things. Yes I think forever about a choice, decision or goal, but then I just kinda jump in with both feet. Thinking more about where I want to be in 1, 5, 10 years or what I’d like my life to look like in my old age are helping me narrow the scope of what I’d like to work on now.

So today I will share some of my “new years resolutions” (and really they’re goals that are continuing forward from 2015) with you.

1. Practice More Creativity

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In my time in Port McNeill I began watercolour painting again. It wasn’t something I expected to get back into, it just sort of happened. I really enjoy it and have had a decently steady practice with it since then. I’ve also been thinking about taking a painting class or two this year to get new skills and learn more tricks. Classes also sometimes keep me more accountable – as intrinsically motivated as I am sometimes a little kick from the outside really makes things a habit.

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Just after my birthday I also began a 365 photo project. It’s on instagram, you can check it out. Yes there’s a lot of photos of my cat (mostly because she’s so adorable). The photo project has been forcing me to get out more during the work day, because I enjoy photos of landscapes/nature the most, and there’s limited light before and after work still. Hopefully I can practice more skills around using my camera and my phone. I know there’s some little 30 day photo challenges that pop up here and there so I might join those for added motivation.

A few other creative areas: get in the kitchen try/create more recipes. Keep up with writing (with my masters and the added amount of writing I’ve had to do I feel like more ideas for this blog and writing in general have started to flow, which corroborates the idea that the more you consistently practice the easier it gets.)

2. Continuing Incorporating Mindfulness

In the later part of 2014 I wrote about a gratitude challenge and a meditation challenge I’d done. The gratitude challenge was amazing, the meditation was challenging. I feel like I’ve kept some of the gratitude pieces going, but not so much the meditation. My big goal would be to have a regular meditation practice – but we will see how that goes.  In some ways the photo challenge has helped me with the gratitude, because I have to look for the little beautiful and wonderful things in my day to day life.

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Keeping a personal journal, exercising and small daily living habits are all ways I’ve been trying to keep mindful in my life.

3. Career

I  love being a dietitian and love my job (you know other than the usual ups and downs any career has). I know I’d like to figure out where I’m going next (like when I finish my masters) and what steps I need to take in the now to make it happen eventually. I’ve always dreamed of a private practice of some kind, so that’s been heavily on my mind as 2016 has started.

4. Master’s Degree

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I really want to stick with my timeline – as a self-directed program we are totally in charge of how long each step in the program will take. Working part time gives me ample time to get work done, so I know I can really do well if I use my time wisely.

I hope so far everyone has had some good times in 2016 and that it carries forward. Hopefully you’ve found a resolution/intention/goal that really works for you (or having none at all which is absolutely fine).

2015

Happy First Monday of the New Year!

Is everyone starting on their New Year’s resolution today? Because it’s Monday, and we always wait until Monday….

I have a confession.

I love New Years Resolutions. In all their cheesy, it’s a new start, glory. I don’t think resolutions have to occur at new years specifically, but there is something about the new year, or the new  school year or the changing of the season that always feels like a good time for a fresh start.

I used to make very traditional goals; lose weight, get in better shape, just make myself “a better person” (though my goals weren’t often focused on being more compassionate, listen more or things that really might improve humanity – go figure). The goals I used to make on New Years would make any S.M.A.R.T goal planner proud; they’d always be specific, measurable, achievable (in my mind), realistic and timely. Of course they were always very outcome oriented; to lose ten pounds, to run a sub 1:50 half marathon. And if I never quite reached that exact outcome it would mean I failed, and the feeling I’d hoped to have with that goal would never surface, instead I’d be left feeling angry, and disappointed in myself. (this is my perfectionist shining through, being a couple pounds from a goal or being a couple minutes off your goal time should not be reasons to feel like a failure) This is the kind of goal making I broke up with a while ago, you can read about why in this post. In fact, those outcome oriented goals seem to be what a lot of experts are telling us to stop resolving to do. Here’s an interesting article on a similar idea.

For the last couple years as I avoided goal making in general, which I needed, I began to have a more balanced approach to what it really means to succeed or fail. So moving forward into this year I’ve come to accept that I have to make some specific tangible, action oriented goals. Having done my share of soul searching in the past year I’ve realized certain areas of my life aren’t satisfying in general. And no amount of wishing for them to improve will. So while I’m avoiding getting attached to the outcome, I am trying to take action in those areas of my life, to hopefully lead to long term changes, without sacrificing happiness in the short term. After all goals can be very motivating, and actually a great source of happiness in and of themselves.

So this year I have some goals again, and I can say that if I had a theme it would probably be “action”.

What are your new years resolutions, if any?

The Next Challenge

Last week I finished up my Gratitude Challenge. It was amazing. When all was said in done over the course of 31 days I wrote down 496 things I was grateful for. There were a few accidental repeats, but otherwise I kept to my rules quite well.

After a few days I knew I was ready for another challenge. And I’d already decided a while back what it would .be.

Meditation

OooHooo.

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(Calm waters make me think of meditating.)

Like Gratitude, meditation has been shown to have lots of benefits. Things such as increased focus and concentration, less anxiety and depression, and more mindfulness. It might also improve things like high blood pressure (related to stress often), pains such as headaches/muscle pain etc. Basically meditation has all sorts of benefits for anyone.

The only way I’ve done meditation before is through yoga. And frankly I thought I sucked at it. Those few minutes where the teachers asks you to sit and focus on your breath usually just had me running through my to-do list or whatever worry was on my mind that.

“No,” I’d say to myself as my mind again drifted to that upcoming test or that bad thing I’d done, “FOCUS ON YOUR BREATH!”

Of course as I’ve started reading about mindfulness, living in the present, and that sort of thing I’ve come to realize that actually no one has a perfectly thoughtless experience during meditation, at least not at first. The real idea behind meditation is mindfulness.

In my last post I wrote about not really knowing how to have fun in this very minute. What I was really trying to get at was my tendency to never live in the present moment. I’m often worrying about something I did, or feeling anxious about the future. Two emotional states and thought processes that really don’t serve me.

My goal with meditation is to increase my mindfulness and my ability to live in the present. (One way I’ve worked to increase my mindfulness in a totally dietitian related way is to have  a silent-distraction-free meal a day. This was something I’d been trying to do FOREVER and somehow just naturally came to be after I finished reading Women, Food and God)

So without further ado, here is my meditation challenge.

31 Day Meditation Challenge (started October 27)

1. Meditate for 5-10 minutes (minimum) at least once a day.
(currently I’m starting in the evenings, before bed – it’s always good to have a “trigger” and this seemed like the best time to me)
2. Use free meditation guides or silence or meditative sounds/music if I find any I like, whatever I prefer.
(I googled for free meditation and found this lady here, and I’m currently using a couple of her ~10 minute guided meditations)
3. Build up to longer and/or multiple times per day
(I would love to be meditating for 20 minutes a day, possibly twice a day – I’m not forcing this though, it if this happens great! If I only ever manage to meditate for 10 minutes once a day then so be it!)

I had my first session last night, and honestly it was a struggle. I kept thinking about stupid little things, like how I have a knot in my shoulder from hockey on the weekend or how dry my lips were, or how I need to stop picking at my cuticles! But there was a small moment where a lot of that stuff disappeared and that was worth the other nine minutes of over thinking, so I’m excited to see if this gets easier or if it remains as difficult from beginning to end. It would also be cool if I gain some of the mental and physical benefits of meditation.

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(totally just posing. I’ve been meditating in the dark so photos won’t work)

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(even marina wants in on the fun)

Leave a comment: Have you ever tried meditating? Or could you recommend any free but awesome meditation guides (I like to have options!)?

I also really enjoyed this illustrated guide from WikiHow on how to meditate.

March Goals

Before I get into my March Goals, let me share a tip. It’s called the Confidence Rating. It comes out of Stages of Change models, and Cognitive-Behaviour Theory. When you decide on a goal, ask yourself the following question: On a scale of 1 to 10, how confident am I that I can achieve this goal?  1 = no confidence, it ain’t gonna happen! And 10 = oh it’s done! If you rate yourself lower than 7, you’re unlikely to achieve the goal. (You must have 70% or more confidence that you will achieve your goal…)

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Anyway, with that tidbit, I’d like to talk about my March Goals. I talked about at the beginning of the year not creating goals, but instead setting an intention (which seemed to be the cool thing to do, and really I’m not very good at being cool, never have been).

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And mostly I’ve been okay goal-free for the past couple months (and even the fall before that). But as I’ve settled into working, and living in the “real world” I’ve started to itch for some goals.

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They’re pretty simple, and they are as follows:

1. Mindful March: I read about a really interesting project on this blog. She kept a journal for 100 Days, recording eating, workouts, other important life aspects, and her moods on those days. Seeing if there was a trend. I’d like to do the same, I’m starting with March, but maybe it will go further, who knows?

2. Cardio: My workouts for the past 2-3 months have been hitting the gym for some weight lifting. As March is here, along with some awesome sunny weather, I can feel an itch to get out and run/bike/go fast. Where I live is a lot of small towns all about 50 kilometers apart, a long term goal of mine is to bike to all the respective communities by the end of the summer. Obviously this means I need to get into some serious cardio fitness. So my goal is to get out on my bike 3x per week, in the morning before work (yay Spring Forward). This week I’ve simply started getting up earlier, and next week with the sunrise being an hour earlier, I’ll get out on my bike Mon/Wed/Fri.

So those are my two goals. I’m definitely 90% confident on goal #1, but closer to 70% on goal two. This is mainly because I haven’t really had the discipline in the last couple years to follow through on cardio workouts (no idea why), but I’m hopeful I can make it happen now.