It’s Thanksgiving week which means we’re all thinking about one of two things – the food or what we’re thankful for (or perhaps the devastating effects of colonization, but I’ll leave it up to you). In any case, gratitude should be a part of this week, and some would argue that it should be a part of daily life. Gratitude is definitely having a moment in the self-care space with people spouting all kinds of practices surrounding it that promise to increase happiness and decrease stress. There are multiple different ways to integrate it into daily life that can be far more impactful than just spending a few days on it each year.
In my opinion, the thing people most often miss about gratitude is the feeling of intention, which can be applied to a much wider range of things than the big ideas. Of course, I’m enormously grateful for my loving family, my friends, my health, the fact that I have no problem affording all the basic necessities in life. But those are easy to think about – because they are so ever present. So I stop actively thinking about how much they do for me. They are huge facets of my life and I would sound insane if I said I wasn’t grateful for them but they aren’t the only things to be grateful for.
What about all the little things? I personally prefer spending a little time each day being grateful for little things. I spend maybe a minute every day thinking about three small things I’m grateful for and, I hate to sound cliche, it does improve my day.
For example, on Thursday of last week, I wrote down that I was grateful for having a good hair day, that my sister always picks up the phone when I need to cry, and I was grateful for that the sun had come out that day. These are random, the first things that came to mind as I started the exercise, nothing groundbreaking.
But the reason this works for me is that throughout the day I inevitably get stressed a little bit – I’m high strung what can I tell you – and thinking about these little things in the morning gives me something to come back to when I start to get angry or annoyed. Don’t get me wrong, I still let the negative emotions flow, but I don’t spiral because my gratitude practice produces this little nagging voice at the back of my mind that is actually positive. I’ll be frustrated at the slow response from a team member and the voice will say ‘yeah that sucks, but look outside. Look at how the sun sparkles off the lake’ and then I can’t really marinate in my misery quite as well with that little thought peeking through.
That is the power of gratitude. If you find new things to be grateful for every day then the feeling retains its impact. You don’t feel the need to roll your eyes at yourself for picking the same things. You’re allowed to be grateful for the same things all the time, but you’re also allowed to be grateful for things that only apply to you – the seemingly small things, the seemingly insignificant things. Because if you allow yourself to intentionally feel for them, you may end up with more positivity than you thought.
I love favorites videos on YouTube – they’re how I’ve discovered a lot of products, books, and apps that I consistently use and adore in my own life. As such, I’m going to try and post Seasonal favorites for awhile. These lists will always be varied as I don’t typically shop a lot for fashion or beauty items, but I am always trying new things.
Breakfast – recently I added a new breakfast recipe to my rotation. It goes like this: One large toasted piece of sourdough bread with salted butter, arugula, two pieces of bacon, a fried egg, and some grueyere cheese shaved on top. Takes about seven minutes to make and looks like a restaurant should’ve charged you $17 for it.
Jump Rope – There’s a standard speed rope in my apartment building’s gym complex that I picked up one day and have absolutely fallen in love with using jump rope for warm ups and as part of HIIT circuits. If I use it as a warm up – I do 40 sec on, 20 sec off for 5-10 min and I vary my jumps throughout the 40 seconds. If I use it in HIIT circuits, it’s usually 30 second intervals of speed jumping. It’s amazing at getting your heart rate up in a short period of time. I highly recommend it if you’re looking to get some cardio into your routine but hate the steady state of a treadmill, bike, or elliptical.
Olly Vitamins – These are gummy vitamins that exist for all sorts of purposes. I have the women’s multivitamin that comes in a berry flavor. Typically I don’t take any vitamins or supplements, but these are so fun I couldn’t resist. For women they also come with some extra vitamin D and biotin to cater especially to our body’s needs. I like them because they make vitamins fun. That’s literally it.
Kosas Weightless Lipstick (Fringe) – I am not a lipstick girl, precisely because I find lip products to be super high maintenance. Lip gloss? Gets stuck in my hair. Lip stains? Turn flakey too quickly. Lipstick? Fades unevenly as soon as I eat or drink anything. So when I discovered Kosas’s lipstick as recommended as one that is easy to stain lips but doesn’t try and fades evenly I was intrigued. I picked up Fringe which is halfway between a bright red and a brick red and I love it. I put it on over lip balm, blend it in with my finger to make it look less done and I don’t have to worry about it after that. Yes it does fade, but it fades EVENLY which is all I can ask for.
Ole Henrikson Truth Serum –This is one of the best vitamin C serums on the market and it’s probably one of the most affordable as well. I recently had some pretty bad breakouts and put this product back in my rotation to prevent any scarring and I had forgotten how much it helps my skin look brighter and more even consistently. As such I’ve added it back into my regular routine with the products I mentioned last month here.
Red Notice by Bill Browder (book): An incredible nonfiction story about one man and how he became the highest financier in Russia, to one of Russia’s biggest enemies, to a champion for international human rights. It’s all true but it reads like a thriller. I would describe very few non-fiction stories as true page-turners but this one qualifies. The stuff that happened to Browder is so unbelievable that the end of almost every chapter leaves you shocked yet ravenous to find out how he survives it.
One Punch Man – Season 2 (subbed) came out on Hulu and I was pumped! I love this show so much mostly because the main character is just so amazing. The show is basically about a hero who is so strong he can defeat any villain with one punch, easily, comically. As such, he faces an existential crisis because no one is strong enough to offer a real challenge. Season two focuses more on other characters and the infrastructure behind the world and there’s some pretty incredible action sequences.
Parasite (Bong Joon Ho) – the Korean film that stole the show at the Cannes film festival is out in theaters in the states right now and it is a banger. The movie is about a con artist family who preys on a wealthy family. It’s an edge of your seat type film with some amazing dissection of the class system baked in. The imagery is insane, the characters are charming to a fault and it keeps you guessing. This director also did Snowpiercer which is my favorite movie of all time.
Demon Slayer (subbed) – is another anime that is on Hulu. A girlfriend recommended it to me while I was in Spain with her and it is so good. The story revolves around a boy whose family is killed by a demon. His sister survives, but barely and he becomes a demon slayer to turn her back into a human. The art is absolutely beautiful and despite the simple description I just gave, the story is rich and keeps you clicking that next episode button.
Zojirushi Thermos – This is it. This is the thermos to end your thermos. I have been using this to take coffee to the office on days where I just CAN’T, and I have to literally leave the lid off the thermos in order for the coffee to cool down to a drinkable temperature. I didn’t do this one day and the coffee was still burning hot well into the afternoon. Also the lid fully seals and locks so spills are kept to a minimum. Worth the investment, especially as we move into colder weather. They also make a food jar which I also have to keep soup and stews warm. I heat up my soup in the morning and it’s still piping hot when I sit down to eat at lunch. This brand is no joke.
Dagne Dover Backpack – I hate company branded attire. Even though I like my company, I don’t want to be a walking ad for them. I had been on the hunt for a good work/multifunctional backpack to replace my company bag because I hated that my company provided backpack had the logo on it and also that it had a flap top which I find ridiculously annoying. I came across Dagne Dover and finally invested in their large Dakota backpack (I bought the color Siren), and it’s amazing. The thoughtfulness of all the pocket placements internally, the minimalist design, and the comfort of this bag all make it well worth the price.
Although my routine at home is pretty strict, when I go on vacation, I allow myself to go. On. vacation. I don’t work out. I don’t focus at all on my diet. I drink more alcohol. and I don’t sleep as much.
However, despite all this, I almost always lose weight on vacation. Not a lot – but I notice the slight change in how my clothes fit. My body feels better, I’m usually less bloated, and have more energy.
Why? Sounds fake right? Well, I’ve narrowed it down to a couple things that I always do on vacation that I have now been trying to incorporate into my normal life as much as possible.
Constant movement. Although I don’t do any formal workouts, I do a lot of walking. Like minimum 6 miles, all the way up to fifteen miles of walking sometimes. Additionally, I almost never spend more than two hours at a time seated. I walk after all my meals and start the morning off walking. This movement is energizing for my body but the low-stress nature of a huge amount of walking also allows my body to digest and function properly rather than struggling through a contorted seated position most of the day.
Real Food Only. I eat out a lot on vacation. Nearly every single one of my meals is eaten out rather than homecooked. And it’s not all healthy either. On this most recent trip, breakfast usually consists of a chocolate croissant and dinners were filled to the brim with meat, potatoes, and sangria, only to be washed down by churros or gelato afterward. The important thing to note is that all of this food was freshly made. I bought none of it pre-packaged. This means, even though I was eating chocolate pastries like they were going out of style, I bought them from the bakery which means my intake of chemicals and preservatives was minimal. Almost no prepackaged foods were consumed during vacation which really decreased bloating and improved my energy despite the fact that not all the restaurant food was healthy or even close to it.
Stress Management. When I go on vacation – I really go. I don’t look at my emails. I allow myself to completely detach from maintaining my routine and productivity. The only focus is the hour by hour decisions while in transit. This usually means my skin clears up and I’m able to be calmer for longer. I’ve allowed myself to abandon my normal decisions and worries and focus on something completely different. And since I usually am a low maintenance traveler, there are lots of little decisions and problems to figure out on a trip. For example, on this trip, our power blew out in the airbnb in Lisbon. Something as simple as finding the breaker box and successfully resetting the power was a problem I don’t encounter in daily life and even though it’s a tiny success, the feeling of accomplishment for figuring out something that was actually crucial to our stay was more rewarding than the problems I’d been facing at home lately.
Back Sleeping. One of the airbnb’s we stayed at, I stayed on the pull out couch and it was firm. I ended up falling asleep on my back and when I woke up the next morning, I felt incredible. I usually sleep on my side with my shoulders all scrunched together, but accidentally falling asleep on my back made me realize how important sleep position can be to the rest of your day. If you fall asleep on your back, your shoulders pull away from your chest and your spine can usually stay in alignment. I realize back sleeping isn’t for everyone, but I’ve been trying to fall asleep that way more and more in an effort to preserve that amazing posture I felt after that first night.
This can be hard to incorporate when at home in the routine of it all, but there are little things I try to do. I walk wherever I can. I really utilize my standing desk, especially after lunch. I try and home cook as much as possible and don’t purchase pre-packaged foods. I compartmentalize my stress and look for more rewarding problems to solve throughout the day.
I realize most of these things sound super tiny. And doing any one of them, or all of them, won’t make you a super fit/super healthy person. But that doesn’t have to be the goal. The goal can just be to feel good on a daily basis. It can be to incorporate a little bit of vacation living into the mundane of the everyday.
I’ve been privileged in the fact that I have never truly hated my body. Sure I’ve had bad days where I harp on my supposed physical flaws more than normal, but for the vast majority of my life (yes, even including puberty) I have maintained an above-average level of body confidence.
This can be attributed to a few things throughout my childhood, but perhaps the most important one was that I learned to not hate my body through example.
Growing up, my mom was the main female figure in my life. I have always thought my mom was tall, beautiful, and strong. And perhaps this can be attributed to a child’s reverence for their parent but here’s the thing – my mom has never, ever given me a reason to believe that she isn’t any of those things.
I can’t remember my mom ever saying she hated her own body – or even really expressing that much discontentment about it at all. Her body is her body and although she strives to take care of it, it doesn’t consume her life. She’s never acted ashamed of it and has appeared to embrace any scars or imperfections that it endured.
Hold on for a second and think about that. I was living in my mom’s house for eighteen years and in all of that time, I cannot think of ONE time where my mom seemed to be depressed about her body. Not ONE time where her insecurity seemed to get the better of her. Not ONE time where she tried to hide her body out of shame. That was a powerful message for me.
Furthermore, her attitude towards caring for her body was always rooted in feeling rather than aesthetics. My mom loves to run. And growing up, I remember her always coming back from a run saying something like “that felt good” or “I feel so much better now”. It was never about losing weight or shaping her body to fit some sort of ideal. She ran because it FELT good and she enjoyed it. Simple as that. This is HUGE to the way I approach fitness nowadays. The goal for me is never really to look a certain way, it’s to feel a certain way, and the way I look is merely a by-product of that feeling. This makes my fitness habit not only more sustainable, but it makes me look at my body positively no matter what it looks like on a given day, because I learned that the act of taking care of it is what actually improves my mood – not the mirror.
When it came to diet, my family always ate relatively healthy, but my mom has a huge sweet tooth. And if she ate a whole bunch of chocolate in one sitting – she never expressed any real guilt over it, she would enjoy the chocolate and move on with her life. This may seem small, but I realized that I, too, don’t have to feel guilty for enjoying sweets or anything supposedly ‘bad’ for me. I just enjoy it and move on.
Because my mom has always taken such good care of her body – she’s never been limited. When I was little she would be able to wrestle and do tickle fights with me and my sister. She was able to wipe the floor with us in basketball (this one is probably still true), and she could walk or hike for miles if a trip demanded it. Even now, she’s still able to participate in any and all activities our family encounters. Her body never limits her because she looks after it.
My mom is over fifty years old now (I hope she doesn’t kill me for exposing that) and she could still pass for being over a decade younger. She doesn’t work out like a maniac, doesn’t do any crazy diets, she’s had two kids, but she’s still able to be active and participate in pretty much anything that comes her way. So that’s the ideal I learned to strive towards. I don’t ever need to look a certain way, but should strive to feel a certain way and by doing so, I don’t ever have to limit myself in the process.
My mom’s birthday is this week and there is so much to thank her for, but a blog post is merely a blog post so I wanted to focus on something that she probably didn’t even realize she did for me, but that has made a huge impact on my self-confidence. Body image is something that so many women and men struggle with every day and I’m lucky enough to have a mom that protected me from most of the insecurity the media tells me I’m supposed to have.