Forming New Habits for the New Year

Yoga on cliffside

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)

How To Be Motivated

Motivation is something we all want to have. With motivation, we can tackle tough goals and achieve dreams that we may have never thought possible. Motivation makes going to the gym a fun and rewarding experience, while lacking motivation seems to bring our energy level down to the point where even watching a favorite television show seems like too much effort.

Over the years, here are a few insights that I’ve learned regarding my own personal motivation. While you may not feel the same way about it that I do, I hope that some of these ideas may click with you and provide some insight to your own motivations.

Motivation versus Will Power

When I speak about motivation, I’m also speaking about something that some people call will power. However, the reason that I prefer the word motivation is that will power has the connotation of being innate to your character, while motivation is a kind of powerful energy that I believe people can cultivate.

I used to worry about whether I had enough will power to achieve my goals. However, by doubting whether I already possessed enough will power, I was sabotaging my ability to motivate myself.

Motivation ebbs and flows

If you’re like me and many others that I’ve spoken to, your motivation ebbs and flows throughout the year, the month, and even the day. For example, many people find the New Year to be a motivating catalyst. In the days leading up to the New Year, people make New Year’s Resolutions and goals that they hope to achieve in the upcoming year. This is the reason that so many people are going back to the gym for the first time in a while come January 1st. However, many people’s motivation tends to peter out in a few weeks or months.

You may find, as I did, that my motivation is higher at certain times of the day. I tend to be most productive during the afternoon, when the sun is shining and I’ve already had a cup (or two) of coffee.

My boyfriend, on the other hand, loves to wake up early and go to the gym. If he gets up early, he is able to accomplish a lot in the morning before even going to work.

So, think about your energy levels throughout the day. When are you most inspired? When are you most creative or focused? By answering these questions, you can tailor your hardest tasks to the times when are most motivated to do them.

Getting things done when you’re not motivated

Although you may be a morning person or a night owl, sometimes you have responsibilities that require you to be productive outside of your comfort zone. If you have an important meeting first thing in the morning, you better make sure that you show up on time, even if you tend to be more productive in the late evening.

If what you’re working on is important to you, but doesn’t have an urgent deadline, one way to build up your motivation is to start with a small, but somewhat related task. For example, if you want to improve your blog and increase your readership, you know that you need to write frequent blog posts. But, if you’re not feeling motivated to write the blog post, try starting off by brainstorming some ideas to help get the creative juices flowing.

Another technique is to put on a timer and work on the task for 5 minutes. If you’re still stuck after 5 minutes, you can allow yourself to do something else for a while. 9/10 times though, once you start on that task, you’ll get into a flow that helps to motivate you. This is momentum at work.

Ask yourself why a task is important to you

You can’t be motivated to do something if you don’t believe that it’s an important thing to do. If you believe that cleaning your apartment is a waste of time, then guess what? Your apartment is going to end up being a mess. To motivate yourself to accomplish a task like cleaning the dishes or decluttering your closet, imagine the benefits of having a clean kitchen and a spacious closet. What does it feel like? I would imagine the sense of calm that I would have once my apartment was cleaner and more organized. If you can visualize the end result, then you can remind yourself of why the tasks you don’t want to do are so important to you.

 

I’d love to hear your comments about motivation. What motivates you? What do you have a hard time motivating yourself to do? 

 

Sometimes You Just Get Stuck

This is one of those moments for me. I’ve been scanning a coding project that I’ve been working on in Codecademy’s Javascript course, and I have been unable to debug it. In fact, I keep getting the same error. Maybe you have a similar problem. Maybe you’re stuck on how to write the next chapter of your novel, or on what your next priority should be at work. It’s easy to get frustrated, but wouldn’t you rather do something productive?

What to do first: 

  • First thing’s first, before you switch to another task, write down a question that sums up the problem that you are having. You don’t want to forget what it is you were thinking about!

Next… 

  • Think about what resources are available to you. If you have an internet connection you have a vast resource of information to you online. You can even think about a friend, family member, or coworker, who either has experience with what you are working on, or would be a good person from whom to get feedback.
  • Plan to use these resources after a short break from your current task.

How long have you been working on the problem? And how urgent is it?

  • The answer to these two questions can help you to determine whether you should switch to doing something else, and how long you ought to spend time away from the problem at hand.
  • If you’ve been working on a task that should only take 30 minutes for an hour, then you need to give your brain some time to rest. If you switch tasks and then come back to the problem, you will be able to see it with new eyes, and will likely be able to find the solution that you weren’t able to see before.
  • If something is urgent and must be done within the next few hours or so, then you should give your mind a quick 5 or 10 minute break. Don’t stray from your project for too long, or you will find yourself struggling to meet your deadline.

What should you do instead? 

  • The type of thing you do is probably a personality preference. For me, I like to do an easy task that I can do quickly. Being able to check something off of my list makes me feel productive and more confident.
  • You may also want to take a break and watch a funny video, but set a limit for how many videos or how long you will watch them. You don’t want to let a short break turn into procrastination.

Anyway, after writing this blog post, I now feel ready to approach my coding project with a fresh look. Hope this post was helpful to you!

Scrambled Eggs with Sour Cream

Scrambled Eggs

I tried something new this morning, scrambled eggs made with light sour cream. I topped it with chopped onions and some parsley.
The sour cream really bulks up the eggs but keeps them light and fluffy. I only used two eggs in this recipe and two tablespoons of light sour cream.
On the side, I had a slice of whole wheat toast with pear butter and a bit of real butter. (Land o’ Lakes salted is my favorite). I continue to use real butter even though I’m on Weight Watchers because I find that even a small amount of it will help me stay fuller longer.