Go Ahead… Take a Bath

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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

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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!

Forming New Habits for the New Year

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Alright everyone, how are you doing so far on those New Year’s Resolutions?

I’m actually still going strong on most of mine.  I’ve been working out regularly, writing in my journal, and eating pretty healthy meals. However, a lot of advice I’ve heard from others and read online goes contrary to my own experience.

For one thing, most people will recommend that you form habits slowly and only focus on one thing at a time. I’m not saying that this doesn’t work, but I don’t think it’s the only way to form a habit.

What I’ve found really helpful is to focus on how each of your habits supports your other habits and goals. When approaching my goal of losing weight and getting healthy, I recognized that I could reach that goal by forming habits of regular exercise, healthy eating, and stress management. I’m working on these habits by using ClassPass, doing WeightWatchers, and writing daily in my journal.

By working on any one of these habits, I’m able to motivate myself to work hard on the others. For example, completing a fitness class makes me feel really good about myself. When I’m feeling good about myself, it makes it easier for me to choose healthy foods like fruits, veggies, and lean proteins. In turn, the exercise and healthy diet help me to manage my stress.

These three habits combined are allowing me to start to see results, which, in turn, helps motivate me to continue working hard at my new habits. As you can see, good habits beget more good habits. So in my opinion, why limit yourself to focusing on only one small thing at a time?

Admittedly, this strategy doesn’t work for everyone. But, if you’ve tried changing one small habit at a time and are starting to feel unmotivated, I think that grouping several good habits together can give you the boost you need.

I think that this strategy works well for people who tend to think in all or nothing terms and struggle with moderation. I actually find it harder to have a small piece of chocolate than to just avoid chocolate entirely. Also, if I aim to work out every day, I work out much more often than if I tell myself I’m only going to work out on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, for example.

So tell me, how are your New Year’s Resolutions going? And what is your style of creating and sticking to good habits?

Let me know in the comments!

 

The New Year is Coming

Are you ready for 2016?

For me, the ending of the old year and the beginning of a new one signals a time for reflection and goal-making. Some treat the New Year like any other day, but why not use the New Year as an opportunity to remember that you have the power to start anew.

2015 was a pretty good year for me. I developed new relationships and strengthened old ones. This past June marked the first full year of my relationship with my boyfriend, Tom. I also was happily surprised when so many of my friends were able to make it to my birthday party. I remember thinking about how lucky I was to be surrounded by people who cared about me. The truth is, though, while I am grateful for my friends and loved ones, building and maintaining relationships is a skill that I focused on developing this year.

To develop new relationships, I challenged myself to go to social events, even if I was nervous about attending or didn’t know anybody. I went to many Reddit events, and that’s even where I met my boyfriend last year. We recently joined the Boston Athenaeum and I’ve enjoyed attending events there as well, and getting to know other members.

In addition to forming better relationships, I also formed a better relationship with myself. Cheesy as it is, it’s absolutely true. This year marked a big shift for me in the way that I think about myself. I realized that being harshly critical of myself or feeling negatively about my life doesn’t help me to change it for the better. Instead, it just makes me feel worse and lowers my motivation. If you want to make changes in your life, I encourage you to talk to yourself as you would a friend.

Ever heard of a “Compliment Sandwich”? Try telling yourself something like “You’re a very kind person,” (Compliment) “but you tend to be overly-critical of yourself.” (Constructive Criticism) “I know that you are a determined person and will be able to make changes in your life if you learn to be as loving as you are to others to yourself as well.” (Compliment).

What’s hard about being loving to yourself is that there are so many people out there who believe that ridiculing someone will get them to change. But if you’ve been critical of yourself over and over and wondering why you still can’t find the will power to change, perhaps it’s because you need to shift your way of “encouraging” yourself.

Aiming to improve your life is an amazing thing. However, I think we ought to treat ourselves with respect and dignity and acknowledge not only our shortcomings, but the strengths we have that will help us to overcome them.

Have a wonderful New Year! 

25 Journaling / Writing Prompts to Start Writing Now

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Do you keep a journal? Perhaps you’ve always meant to, but have several beautiful notebooks lying around, mostly empty, because you thought that buying a new journal would help get those creative juices flowing? While the excitement of a new tool can sometimes be the push you need to get into the habit of writing, sometimes it’s better just to say to yourself… “Today, I write” and then simply begin. So pick up a pen or open up a new Word Document or note in Evernote, and try your hands at one of these 50 prompts that I’ve decided to come up with today.

  1. What was the last dream you remember having? Describe it in great detail. Then, write about what you think it could mean.
  2. Who do you most admire? Are they a fictional character, or real? What qualities do you like the most about them? What about their flaws? How do you see yourself in comparison to this person?
  3. How would you describe color to someone who is blind? Or music to someone who is deaf?
  4. What surprises you most about your life, as it is today? What would 15 year old you think of the person you are today? What about 5 year old you?
  5. Imagine you suddenly became your favorite animal. How would your life change? Can you write about a typical day as this animal?
  6. Imagine that you have invented a time machine. What would you do with it first? Would you go back in time or visit the future? Would you refuse to use it at all?
  7. What do you imagine the after life might look like? If you don’t believe in the after life, what would the absence of an after life mean for human beings?
  8. The world is ending in 5 days. What do you do now? Perhaps you try to assemble a crew with a hodgepodge of skills to battle zombies, or make do without electricity. Or maybe you decide that you should just meditate on the meaning of life?
  9. If your life was a video game, what would be the obstacles that you need to get around or defeat?
  10. What is your most prized possession and why? If you had to give it away to someone, who would you give it to?
  11. What is something that you wish you could get off your chest? Write a letter to someone that expresses your feelings. (But you don’t have to send it!)
  12. What kind of technology do you think we will have in 10 years, 100 years, 1000 years? Will technology improve society or be harmful to us? What do you imagine will be the consequences of these new innovations?
  13. How much do believe that your circumstances affect who you are as a person? What kind of person do you think you would be if you were born in a different country? As a different race? As a different gender?
  14. Are babies born good or evil? Or do they become good or evil later in life? Are people mostly good or mostly evil, or, something in-between?
  15. How satisfied are you with your hobbies/interests? Do you get to spend enough time enjoying them? What more could you do to further your interests?
  16. Do you consider yourself an extraverted or an introverted person? Do you enjoy being around people in certain situations, but not others? Do you act differently among friends and family than among strangers?
  17. If you could magically have the answer to one of life’s greatest questions, what would you want to know? Would you tell anyone else, or keep it a secret?
  18. What is something that you enjoy that others don’t seem to enjoy as much? Why do you like it? Why do you think others dislike it?
  19. What would happen if you won the lottery? What would you want to do with the money? Would it change your life for the better, or the worse? Would it have a major impact on you, or not?
  20. What is your favorite memory? Describe it in detail. Why does it still have such a positive effect on you?
  21. If there’s one lesson you could teach the next generation, what would that be? How would you help them to understand the importance of what you’re teaching them? How would learning that lesson affect their futures?
  22. If you could snap your fingers and instantly be an expert in some skill, which skill would you choose? Would you want to pursue this skill in your real life, even if you may likely never become an expert? What’s stopping you from pursuing that skill?
  23. How often do you cry? Do you feel like you should cry more or cry less? What kinds of things make you cry? Do you only cry when you are sad, or do you also cry when happy, angry, or experiencing any other kind of emotion?
  24. What is your favorite holiday and why? What do you think the holiday symbolizes? Is it a religious holiday or a secular one? What traditions does your family have regarding that holiday? What new traditions would you like to create to honor that holiday?
  25. What is something that you wouldn’t want to change about yourself? Is it your kindness? Your intelligence? Your unique sense of humor?

Enjoy this prompts and good luck with your writing!

The Holiday Season and the Act of Giving

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It’s the beginning of December and I’m sure you’ve been hearing Christmas and Holiday music since just after Halloween. There’s a wide range of attitudes towards the holiday season, everything from Mistletoe Minions to Holiday Grinches. I tend to fall towards the end of the spectrum that absolutely adores the Holiday season. I enjoy watching the Nativity Play and hearing Christmas Carolers sing. Don’t even get me started about how much I love Gingerbread cookies.

However, one of my favorite traditions is the exchanging of gifts with close family and friends. Yes, I know that gifts shouldn’t be the focus of the Holiday season, but I just love seeing the look on my sister’s face when she opens my present and I can tell that she loves it. (She was never very good at pretending to like presents).

I find great joy out of giving presents, but I sometimes experience a bit of gift-giving regret when I look at my credit card bill. I am, indeed, an over-spender when it comes to purchasing gifts for my family. That is why, this year, I’m aiming to give gifts that are meaningful, but also easy on my wallet.

Here are some ideas that might get you inspired:

If you’re a Writer…

  • Write them a poem
  • Write them a letter
  • Write a list of the reasons why you love them

If you’re Crafty…

If you’re a Programmer…

  • Program a “Choose Your Own Adventure” game featuring your loved one
  • Create a random generator that gives names all of the great things about them

If you’re good at cooking…

If you’re not quite sure what your skills are…

  • Help out by doing extra chores
  • Tell them you love them and all the things about them that you appreciate
  • Make a gift basket with inexpensive items from a discount store (I like TJ Maxx)