Reflections on Politics, Gratitude, and Thanksgiving

This seems like a good time to write a post about gratitude. Sometimes I think that when we hear the word gratitude, we immediately groan and prepare ourselves to be told how we ought to be thankful. Or maybe that’s just me? I think the issue that I have with gratitude is that we’re often told we should be grateful for something in response to a negative emotion we’re having. If I’m having a bad day and I’m sad or anxious, the last thing I want is for someone to tell me that I should be more grateful.

I think it’s the way that gratitude is often held up as an obligation that really rubs me the wrong way. After all, it’s not a choice between being sad or being grateful. Gratitude does not and ought not to overrule your feelings. For example, while I am grateful for things like my Fiance, my dog, my family, and my friends, I am at the same time also fearful and sad about the state of politics in the United States at this moment. My reaction to Trump being the President-elect is not to think that at least I don’t live in Syria. So yes, I am grateful for my relative safety compared to those in Syria, but that does not negate my fears of living under a President Trump.

Gratitude has its place, certainly. However, I think that gratitude should come out of a sense of love for one’s blessings, rather than a sense of obligation. Gratitude should not be something that will negate righteous anger, or understandable sadness and anxiety. Even if you’re feeling sad for no reason at all, it’s very hurtful for someone to tell you that you ought to disregard that feeling and be grateful, when that’s the last thing you could imagine feeling.

I think what I’ve discovered this Thanksgiving is that gratitude can coexist with a range of feelings, and that we should be wary of those who tell us to accept unfair circumstances just because someone out there has it worse than us. Gratitude should not give way to complacency. I will remember my gratitude for my country, but this gratitude will not make me stand idle in the face of hatred.

 

How to Learn a New Hobby for Free

Lately, I’ve been feeling like I don’t have enough time to do all of the things I want to do. I wonder sometimes if I want too much. I’m the kind of person who always has two or three hobbies at a time. When I’m pursuing a new hobby, I read blog posts, borrow books, and watch online videos, all in the hopes of mastering the knowledge that I need to be successful. However, I often move on to the next thing when I meet the first obstacle or challenge in my way. Knowing this, my goal is to approach hobbies in a way that I’m not wasting my money, but making good use of free resources.

There are many ways to educate yourself about your new hobby for free. Here are a few ideas:


Check out your library’s resources
  • Even if you don’t go to the library very often, many libraries have electronic resources. For example, with a library card from the Cambridge Public Library and Boston Public Library, I have access to Lynda.com for free. I can borrow 10 eBooks, audiobooks, or TV/Movie selections per month from Hoopla and download them directly to my iPad. If your hobby involves science, history, or the arts, there are even more free resources available. Many libraries have extensive online academic journals that give you access to all kinds of research and studies.

Ask your friends/ acquaintances
  • Perhaps you have a close friend who is more knowledgeable than you about something you’d like to learn about. Or maybe they’re interested in learning more and want a buddy to help them be accountable. (This works really well for hobbies that involve activities, such as rock climbing, yoga, or some other new workout)

  • Chances are you probably have way more Facebook friends than friends you see on the regular. So why not post a status about your new hobby and ask for resources or advice? If you see some of your Facebook friends posting about a hobby you would like to learn more about, post a comment and give a compliment or ask a question. People love talking about their hobbies and would likely point you in the right direction for free or low cost resources.
The Internet

  • One of the wonders about the internet is being able to find information quickly and easily about pretty much any niche topic. Depending on your interest, those who pursue your desired hobby may be on different mediums. For example, photographers love posting things on Instagram as it’s a medium for photos. However, if your interest is in computer programming, you’re more likely to find them on a programming subreddit or on Stack Exchange.

One more tip. If you’re anything like me, remember that you don’t need to be perfect. It’s fine to enjoy singing even if you’re no Adele or Lady Gaga. Just because you want to take up soccer doesn’t mean you have to be some kind of pro. Do what you enjoy. When learning a new skill or hobby, the journey is half the fun.

At the end of the day, just go forth and learn and try new things.

Sunday Mornings

Do you ever feel like Sundays get a bad rap unnecessarily? People love Saturdays, and yet Sundays (at least for those who typically work Monday through Friday) seem to get the short stick.

This Sunday morning, I’m writing from  my laptop at the Harvard Square Starbucks. I’m sitting on the second floor, looking out and watching people walk by. Sometimes, I’m struck by the Sunday blues, worrying about what I should have gotten done before the end of the weekend, or wishing that I had just one more day left of free time. However, today I’m feeling pretty good. I find that it helps to do a few productive things on a Sunday, but spend Sunday morning doing something relaxing. For me, that’s hanging out with a nice cup of coffee.

Maybe you have a few chores you absolutely need to get done today. If so, then plan on when you can do them, but also make sure to fit in some time doing a fun activity that will leave you feeling relaxed and rejuvenated, ready to show up to work tomorrow and be productive.

Here are just a few ideas of how to spend a Sunday

  • Go for a walk
    • Walking is free! If you live near a park or a hiking trail, that’s ideal, but even if you live in the city, there are plenty of places you can go for a walk and see the sights.
  • Play with a pet
    • I think this is especially fun when you have a cuddly, furry animal, but if you have some other kind of pet, that can be fun too. If you can’t pet your fish or your tarantula, maybe take some new photos of them!
  • Catch up on reading
    • Whether you’re reading blogs, magazines, novels, or non-fiction books, reading is a great way to spend a Sunday morning. If you read a lot of books, you can also keep track of them on GoodReads. You can rate what books you like and it will even give you suggestions for what to read next

Hope you enjoy your Sunday!

Enjoying the Weekend

It’s the long weekend (Labor Day on Monday). I know it’s a while since I’ve posted, so I wanted to give a quick update.

Lately, I’ve been enjoying going to Spinning classes. I like to go to Turnstyle Cycle in Kendall Square. I’m debating about trying SoulCycle one day, but to be honest, I’m a bit intimidated by its cult following. Maybe that’s something I’ll have to wait to do until I’m more experienced at spinning. I also enjoy riding my bike outdoors, but I have a bit of anxiety when it comes to taking my bike off the trails and onto the city streets. My boyfriend suggested a phone mount so that I can put my phone up to use it as a GPS while biking, which I think is a pretty good idea. He got one for me on Amazon, and it should be coming in a few days or so.

Anyway, this is the long weekend, as you probably already know, and I’m enjoying every bit of it. This morning Tom and I went to a BBQ at our friend’s apartment in Porter Square. One of our friends made the most amazing Pork Butt roast. He used a sous-vide to cook it and then finished it on the grill. It was absolutely delicious.

We have another BBQ tomorrow at another friend’s family’s Labor Day weekend party. Her family lives on the coast, and since there’s a hurricane warning, I’m really hoping we don’t get hit too hard.

How are you spending Labor Day weekend? If you have a moment, leave me a comment! If you have a blog, be sure to let me know what it is so I can check it out as well!

XOXO

Caitlin

Go Ahead… Take a Bath

bath.jpeg

 

While some will argue for showers over baths, due to the amount of water saved, I think there’s something quite amazing about treating yourself to a nice warm bath. After I’ve taken a bath, I feel relaxed and safe. I highly recommend taking a bath right before you’re about to go to bed for the night, rather than in the morning, when you may be rushing to go to work or school.

If you haven’t created a bathing routine, here are some tips to get started:

Candles, and lots of ’em

Being able to bathe by candlelight helps get you into an almost meditative state. If you enjoy meditation, you can even do your favorite meditation while in the tub. Candles are a fun thing to get as a treat to yourself, because they’re relatively inexpensive, and there are so many different kinds. A lot of them have great aromas. Though if you’re using a bunch, make sure you don’t mix the scents too much.

If you’re not scent-sensitive, light some incense

I love lighting an incense stick. I like seeing the smoke rise above the water and swirl in the air around me. It also just smells amazing to me. However, my boyfriend abhors the smell, so I guess it’s not for everyone. If you’re not into strong smells, you should probably skip this.

Bath Salts

Salts are great for your skin and also for easing muscle aches. There are always cute containers of bath salts on sale at places like TJMaxx and JCPenney. If you want to support artisans/ small businesses, you can also purchase bath salts on Etsy.com. Or, if you want to save money or enjoy customizing the salts to your liking, you can DIY.

I recently made my own bath salts using ingredients I bought on Amazon.

Here’s my Recipe:

  • 1 cup Dead Sea Salts
  • 1 tbs. Sweet Almond Oil
  • 10-15 drops of your favorite essential oil (I like Lavender)

You mix it all up and you can store it in a plastic container. (I bought a set of like 12 small containers with lids for under 10 bucks).

Setting an Intention

Once you’ve set up your candles, incense, and put in the bath salts, step into the bathtub and close your eyes for a minute. Ask what your body/ mind/ spirit needs in this moment. From there, I will set an intention and focus on cultivating that intention while I soak in the tub.

Some examples of intentions could be:

  • I am calm and centered
  • I am beautiful and sexy
  • I’m focused on the present

Find What Works for You

At the end of the day, try some different things when it comes to your bathing ritual and make it your own. For example, if one day you don’t have the supplies I mentioned, you can always just take a simple bath with hot water. If setting intentions are not your thing, just focusing on breathing and relaxing can do the trick as well.

 

 

 

A Quick Meditation Guide

meditation

From scientific studies to women’s health magazines, it seems like everyone these days is talking about the benefits of meditation. However, when our lives are feeling insanely busy, it’s easy to say “I don’t have time for meditation.” But meditating for even 5 minutes can be hugely helpful. I’m not an expert in meditation, but here are some tips on what have helped me personally.

Quick Tips for Meditating on the Regular

  • Set a timer on your phone for 5 or 10 minutes, so you don’t need to worry about missing the next thing on your schedule.
    • Make sure the alarm has a nice sound and won’t bring you back to regular life with a jolt of panic
  • Don’t worry about having racing thoughts!
    • Just notice them, acknowledge them, and wave them goodbye
  • Sit or lay somewhere comfortable
    • It can be very frustrating to try to meditate if you’re uncomfortable
  • Try different ways of meditating
    • For example, you could focus on a mantra, focus on your breath, or even visualize a calming glowing light emanating from your body. (This last one sounds a bit woo woo, but it calms me down every time)

Are you a fan of meditation? What has your experience been like? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. 

 

Aspirational Spending

Last night I decided to upgrade my WordPress plan to WordPress Premium. I got my own domain name (www.envisionjoy.com) and started customizing my template. In many ways, I think that paying for something helps to motivate me. It’s something that I like to call Aspirational Spending. Aspirational Spending can be a positive motivator, but done incorrectly, it can be a detriment to your wallet and your psyche.

Aspirational Spending is what you do when you buy something because you desire to improve your life. So you buy a bike because you envision yourself as a super fit bicyclist, or a new kitchen appliance because you want to become a gourmet chef. The purchase is exhilarating precisely because it helps you to picture what you want your life to be.

However, you need to plan your budget wisely. I’ve learned this the hard way, when I was spending way too much on an unlimited yoga membership that I only occasionally used. In the tech world we have this idea of the Minimally Viable Product. Recently I’ve been thinking, what if we applied that idea to our personal lives as well?

For example, before spending a lot of money on a paint set, easel, brushes etc… if you’ve never been much of an artist, why not start out with sketching with pen/ pencil and paper?

Or if you’re looking to start reading books more frequently, rather than buying several expensive hardcovers, just go to the library and pick out a good book there.

Of course, if you’re anything like me, knowing how to spend money when it comes to Aspirational Purchases is a consistent battle.

Let me know in the comments what your thoughts are!