September 1 - Sugar-Free Month

This month I'm planning on being sugar-free. I better define that. My intent is to cut back on the added sweeteners in my life. So I'm still going to eat fruit, I'm not going to worry about a little sugar in my packaged meats or cooked in with my food at a restaurant. My focus is to cut out sweetened drinks, like sodas, and cut out sweets, like candy and cookies.

Study after study has shown that sugar consumption is a major health issue in this country. And our diets are exploding with sugar. It's actually surprising how much sugar appears in our food. I don't want to stress myself out by trying to cut out all sweeteners. That's a herculean task in today food complex. So I'm just going to focus on the drinks and food that are made up mostly of sugar. It might not be all that I can do, but it is a good healthy step towards taking better care of my body.

August 31 - Rewarding Myself

I'm treating this post as a wishlist of things that I want as special prizes for accomplishing my goals:

1. Steven Universe DVDs - I love Steven Universe and I want to be able to watch it all the time

2. A laptop tray for working in bed - so I don't have to keep my laptop on my lap

3. Noise-cancelling headphones - because my office is noisy

4. "Loving Kindness in Plain English" by Bhante Gunaratana

5. "Miracle Morning" by Hal Elrod

6. "The Book of Joy" by Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu

7. Smartwool Socks - because nice socks make me happy

8. Trivia Pursuit Master Edition

9. A Lamp for my Happy Place

10. Amazon Girt Cards - for more books

August 30 - Random Acts of Kindness

Honestly, I'm not sure what this prompt is supposed to be about. I guess it's more along the lines of thinking up a list of ideas for doing nice acts of self-kindness for no reason. So some of the things that I can just do for my self from time to time to just be nice to myself. I am definitely too hard on myself. Here's a list of some nice things I like:

1. Buy my favorite candies

2. Say nice things to myself in the mirror

3. Buy flowers for the house

4. light a candle

5. take a photo walk


August 29 - Physical Self-Care Ideas

As I've talked about before, I'm interpreting self-care as doing the things that are good for you even if their hard. Or like my core value of Discipline says "Do the thing, especially when it's hard." Here is a list of self-care ideas for your physical body:

1) Exercise - I know this is on everyone's list. Just do it. It can be dancing, running, zuma,rock climbing, swimming, walking, yoga, or weightlifting. Find something you love that uses your body and just do it.

2) Eat more Fruits and Vegetables - Americans are severely malnourished. I try to just have a piece of fruit and some vegetables every day with my lunch. Is that the best way? Probably not. Am I getting enough fruits and vegetables? Probably not. But the important thing is I'm trying, and I'm actively adding fruits and veggies into my diet.

3) Drink Water - Constantly. Just drink water. Get a big water bottle and just keep it with you at all times. 

4) Keep up with your Hygiene - Depression can make it difficult to do the basics. Take a shower, brush your teeth, wash your face, and clip your nails. Feeling clean is an important part of self-care. It's good for you mentally and physically.

5) Get a Physical - Set up a Primary Care Physician. Set up an annual appointment to get your baselines. Go see a doctor at least once a year. While you're setting up that first doctors appointment, why don't you set up a dentist and optometrist appointment too.

6) Get enough Sleep - More research they do, the more they show you need your sleep. Just do it. You'll be more productive and happier.


August 28 - Positive Affirmations

I'm new to the positive affirmation train. In the past, I used to think that they were a little hippy-dippy and I would scoff when something online would tell me to use positive affirmations to improve my mental health or shape my future. I now realize that they can be helpful. Our brains have so much control over how we see ourselves and our world that repeating positive sentiments to ourselves will often change how we see the world. One of the podcasts that I listen to on occasion is Affirmation Pod with Josie Ong. I find her voice especially calming and the affirmations she writes to be very helpful. Each episode has a title that hints at what that affirmation is discussing, so you can hone in on what you want to work on. The one I use the most from her podcast is "I Love Myself". It's a sentiment that I struggle with. As for personal affirmations or mantras that I use on the regular:

Adventure, Impermanence, Unity, Discipline, Simplicity, Efficiency

(My life values)

August 27 - Giving Back

I put a lot of time and energy in figuring out how I can give back and try to better the world. I believe that we should all be trying to make the world a better place. But where do we start? How can we help? The following are the things I think about when I try to "give back".

1. Pick What to Focus On 

There is so much in the world that needs to be improved. If you tried to help all of it, you'd just be overwhelmed and you'd end up not really helping anyone. You need to think about where you want to direct your efforts. Personally, my focus is helping people in my local community and children. So my major charities are my local food bank and UNICEF. But some people focus on medical causes like Cancer Research. Some people focus on Animal/Environmental issues. Some People focus on a specific social need like LGBTQ+ rights. Figure out what speaks to you, and try to focus your efforts there where you can have the biggest impact. 

2. Vet Your Charities

There are a lot of resources online to check how non-profits use the funding they get to help people. Look for charities that spend no more than 10% of their income on marketing and administrative tasks. I also just do a quick Google search "Charity Name + scandal" and just skim what that pulls up. Just because a charity has had a scandal, doesn't mean it's a bad charity, but I like to check to make sure I'm not donating to someplace that consistently has questionable conduct.

3.  Give What you Can

Straight Talk - Most Charities really just need money. They often have good deals with suppliers and other organizations so they can get more for each dollar they spend. For example, my local food bank advertises, that they can get about $10 worth of food for every $1 they spend. That said, if you don't have the money, give what you can. Donate Blood. Donate Hair. Donate Food. When you get a BOGO coupon for soap or shampoo, donate the other bottle to your local homeless or woman's shelter. And most importantly, donate your time. Run a fundraiser. Volunteer to help at the charity's events. Spend time putting letters together. Charities know that not everyone can donate money. They often have sections that talk about other things you can do to help. 

August 26 - Things I'm Grateful For

Things I'm Grateful For:

1. My husband, and everything he does for me to support me and my dreams.

2. My family, and how I know they will love me and always be there for me.

3. My friends. I'm so lucky to have found a large group of good people who love me for who I am.

4. My cat for sitting next to me (when it's convenient for her)

5. Living in this beautiful area. 

6. Living in one of the best times in history to be alive.

7. Having a job that is stable, flexible, and supports my growth.

8. Having enough resources to focus on my self-improvement.

9. The internet for bringing the world together and giving me access to all human knowlege.

10. Being Alive!

August 25 - Just Because It Makes Me Happy

I was chatting with my mother about self-care, and specifically incorporating "play" into my life. My mom brought up the point that whatever I decide to do for "play" I can't stress about it and try to become the "BEST" at it. This is a difficult task for me. I put so much energy and effort into self-improvement and trying to grow or be better all the time. Taking a step back and making sure that I am doing something "just because it makes me happy" and not just for self-improvement, I think will be a big step in helping me with my self-care. 

In addition to the hobbies I talked about earlier this month (writing, reading, and painting), I am also trying to schedule at least one social hang out a week. I'm an extrovert, so keeping socially connected to my friends and loved ones is one of the best things I can do to keep my mental health in check. It makes me happy. 

August 24 - My Favorite Podcasts

I have just started listening to a few Podcasts, and I'm still exploring and looking for my favorites. But my top podcasts right now are the following:

1) NPR Politics Podcast - This is a weekly+ podcast that goes over the most recent events in American politics and provides analysis and historical context. 

2) The Productivity Podcast - By Asian Efficiency, this podcast goes over a lot of self-improvement and productivity ideas. It as a lot of interviews with life coaches and productivity guru in the industry.

3) FiveThirtyEight Politics -  This is the political podcast hosted by the people at FiveThirtyEight. I really enjoy their meta analysis of the days news and the polls in the American Political sphere.

4) NPR Money Matters - This podcast does some current events, but often does deep dives into subjects related to money and the economy. It does some analysis and puts the current economics into an historic perspective. 

5) Secular Buddhism - By Noah Rasheta is a calm, sometimes meditative, podcast regarding different concepts and life questions from a secular Buddhist perspective.

6) Buddhist Geeks -  More conversational and less meditative than Secular Buddhism, this podcast discusses more subjects around the Buddhist scriptures and modern day life. 

August 23 - Decluttering

I have been trying to declutter my home for the last few years. I've tried lots of different methods and I'm finally starting to feel like my space is usable now. When things get a little messy, it normally doesn't take more than twenty minutes to straighten up. The method that really helped me was the KonMari method based on the book "The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo. I typically use her method to clean out my closet every few months. I try to bring new items into my wardrobe and mix it up regularly so it doesn't get stale. I'll often buy a few things in a style I want to try out, and then after a few months, I'll KonMari my closet and purge things that don't bring me joy. 

Why I love the KonMari method is the focus for decluttering is positive.  The goal is to find the things that make you happy and bring you joy. Then you are letting the other things go where they can fulfill their purpose and find someone else that they bring joy to. I find this method makes it much easier to let go of things you might have a sentimental attachment to, but aren't really important to you.

August 22 - Creating a New Habit

This is the month of creating new habits to try to get out of my depressive slump. I am trying to make a new morning and evening routine, as well as, ensure that I am doing regular self-care. You can read my earlier post about my morning routine, but suffice to say that I try to write, exercise, and read before my husband wakes up for the day. I feel like making a habit of starting my day off with a little bit of creative outlet, physical exercise, and self-improvement will be good for my health. Generally, I handle my mental issues better when I've been working out recently. I think the endorphins from the work out and the physical benefits make me feel and act less stressed. As for writing, I think just trying to create daily - even if it's just some ramblings - will help me incorporate the "Play" into my life that Brene Brown talks about in her books. Finally, I know that I am happiest when I am learning new things. Dedicating time to read and learn everyday helps keep my mind sharp and my conversations with others interesting. 

Making a new habit can be a bit of a struggle. I think the most important part is to start small. Currently my goals are to 1) write 15 minutes, 2) read 15 minutes, and 3) exercise. These are all pretty small and easily accomplishable goals. One of the big issues people make when they are trying to make changes to their lives, is they over commit. Over-commitment often results in failure. And failure reinforces negative voices that tell you you can't accomplish anything. This makes future goals more difficult. So the secret to making lasting change and accomplishing goals is actually scheduling what you want to do and starting with something reasonable (or even easy). Give yourself a low bar. You deserve it.

August 21 - Screen-free Time

Screen-free time is one of the white whales of the modern era. We all basically agree that being constantly "On" isn't good for our stress levels, our work-life balance, or our productivity. But the interconnection of the world is so pervasive that I don't know if we could really live without it. Social media and being constantly connected amplifies my depression. So I've done a lot to reduce my exposure to social media over the last year, but I'm still connected to my phone. We try to have phone-free meals together.  Recently I've started taking phone-free walks around the block with my husband. It combines exercise, screen-free time, and open communication. We have nice indepth converations about life, philosophy, and current events. It's is really nice to spend a simple and quiet amount of time regularly engaged with each other. 

August 19 - Enjoying the Outdoor

I am so lucky that I live in one of the nicest regions of California. The weather here is sunny and clear basically everyday of the year. It makes it really easy to do outdoor activities. When I was younger I lived in the extreme northern edge of California, which was cool and rainy most of the year. So I realize that many people can't just walk outside everyday. If you live somewhere where the weather is not optimal for going outside year around, I would recommend bringing a little of the outside into your home -  plants. You can have a few potted plants, bring home fresh cut flowers, or even just nice fake plants. Other than keeping plants around, the outdoor activities I enjoy doing are running and hiking. I'm lucky their are many beautiful trails and safe places to run around my home. There is also many campground and hiking trails within a quick drive from my house. Finally, I like to try to eat picnics in parks on occasion. 

August 18 - My Favorite Hobbies

Recently, I was listening to Brene Brown discussing the importance of Play in living a whole-hearted life. She defines Play as doing something that you find enjoyable and serves no real purpose. This sent me down a spiral. "What do I do for Play?" I asked myself in vain. I scoured my calendar. "When was the last time I did something for no purpose?" I fretted. Too long ago, was the answer. Especially with how stressful and overwhelming my last few months have been, it's not surprise things without purpose had been pushed out. As is typical for this type of revelation, I started asking friends and loved ones about their "play" and hobbies. I started trying to figure out how to force "play" back into my life and stressing myself out over it. 

My Mom, always the insightful one, made the observation that any activity I did to accomplish this mystical "Play" requirement must be something that I would not try to become the best at. And she followed this up with how, maybe, I should try to find the amusement in the activities I am already doing in my life as opposed to adding something new into my already overflowing calendar. 

So for now, I'm going to limit my "play" the activities I am already doing: my writing, my reading, and my painting. I am just going to write these ramblings every day just for fun. I'm going to only read books I find interesting or enjoyable. and I am going to finish at least one painting a month. Are these my "favorite hobbies"? They are for right now. 

August 17 - Creative Time

Creativity is one of the areas in my life that I feel like I've been lacking in recently. I did spend a week compulsively painting a few months back. I think it was part of my attempt to distract myself from my anxiety. I also consider my writing a creative outlet, even though I write non-fiction and self-improvement posts for this website. The issue in both cases, is I have a tendency to work compulsively on painting or writing for several weeks and then I stop. I believe this might be because I start to have trouble figuring out what to do next or a depressive episode makes the initiation cost of the activity so high, I start to feel overwhelmed.  

My plan to sneak around these issues is to write daily. I am hoping that just sitting down at the same time and writing, regardless of what I write, will help me solidify the habit of writing. As for painting, I made a goal to finish one painting this month. I already have the idea in mind, so I'm just going to put it on my calendar for one night this month. I believe that starting with small, obtainable goals will help me succed in making the changes I want to make.

August 16 - My Morning Routine

I actually talked about my morning routine back in February on my blog, but my current morning routine has shifted over the last six months. And I've also made some dramatic changes this month to try to help with my self-care. First of all, I was struggling getting out of bed to go for a run in the mornings. My alarm would go off and I'd just curl back up and watch Youtube on my phone until I had to get up for work. For a while I was really stressed, so I had started watching Youtube as a self-care mechanism to relax with humor, but in combination with a depressive episode, it became unhealthy and obsessive. So here's my new morning routine:

1) Immediately pull out my laptop, and start writing. Doesn't matter what. It could be a daily ramble like this. It could be a new blog post. It could be just the words "I am writing" repeated over and over again. The important part is I wake up by writing.

2) Go for a run. Now that my brain has turned on, I get up and get out of the house. Worst case, I'll just walk for the half hour. The important thing is I get up and move.

3) Shower and Brush my teeth - self explainatory

4) Read until my husband's alarm goes off.  

If you compare this list to my previous "Morning Routine", you'll see some pretty dramatic differences. My previous morning routine started with a Mantra and Visualization of my ideal life. Although I think these are good things to do to help you work towards your goals and be productive, my current goal is to focus on motivating myself out of bed in the morning. Reducing the number of things I need to do to the few core things I want to do everyday makes it more easy to form new habits. Hopefully, once I form these new habits, I will be able to start adding visualization back into my life. 

August 15 - Saying "No"

I have always struggled with saying "no". I love to help people and I always try to be a good friend. I also like self-improvement, and I get caught up trying to learn new things and better myself. This combination can lead me to filling my time with activities that I want to or feel obligated to do. My recent blog post touched on the fact that I have recently been working on scheduling more down time and keeping room in my schedule for the people I care about and my own self-care. I have been more selective with my time, and I don't go to activities that I don't feel up for. I can't really think of any specifics that I need to say "no" to, but I am actively working on not saying "Yes" if I don't really want to. 

August 14 - Favorite Self-care quote

I honestly didn't have a favorite self-care quote. I have lots of favorite quotes, but they all focus on self-improvement and world-view. I did a quick Google search for "self-care quotes" and read through a bunch of lists. Below are my favorites so far:

"And now that you don't have to be perfect, you can be good." - John Steinbeck

I know it is difficult to remember that perfect is the enemy of done. I definitely have a tendency to strive for perfection. Self-care is definitely reminding myself that I am only human, and I don't need to strive for perfection.

"You can't pour from an empty cup." -unknown (or at least I couldn't find with a Google search)

This quote is a good reminder that you need to take care of yourself first. If you burn yourself out you won't be able to help others. 

"Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love. " Brene Brown

This is something that I really struggle with. My intrusive thoughts tend to be very abusive, and it is difficult to separate the intrusive thoughts from myself. Recognizing that I wouldn't accept that abuse from another person, or I wouldn't accept the abuse if someone was saying that to my friend can help me push back against the negativity. 




August 13 - Sitting in Silence

People always talk about how important it is to incorporate silence into your day. And I understand a lot of the research into mindful meditation that show mental and emotional improvement from focused quiet time. From really intentionally being in the moment. But with my intrusive thoughts and anxiety, generic meditation, where you sit quietly for an amount of time, can send me into a spiral of anxiety and depression. And I know the idea is I observe my intrusive thought and I choose to let it go, but that's not how it plays out. When I try to release an intrusive thought, it is joined in a cacophony of other voices that loop and fixate. I find that every part of my body starts to itch or ache and the sensations become overwhelming. And worst of all, when I end the meditation session early because I'm so overwhelmed and over-stimulated, I feel like a failure. 

So recently I've been listening to guided meditations while I fall asleep. Just something that my brain can listen to that is outside of my head. And I just flop around to get comfortable whenever I feel like it. It's not quite the same as meditation, but I feel like that is where I am right now. Silence is tourtuous, and maybe one day with a lot of therapy I'll be able the sit mindfully, but right now, I need a little something less ridgid. 

August 12 - 10 Minute Self-care Breaks

There are lots of resources on the internet for quick self-care fixes. I've found that a lot of them just focus on relaxing or just treating yourself. I understand that we often struggle to refresh and taking dedicated time is important. I also understand that many people just need to relax a little, but what I really want to focus these self-care breaks on is taking care of you physical, mental, and emotional needs. Anna Akana said in one of her videos "Treat your body like it was your child's." And that encapsulates how I feel about self-care, it is doing the things that you should do, even though you don't want to. That said, here's my list of 10 minute (or less) self-care breaks:

1) Drink some water - dehydration is really bad for you, and it's a simple fix that can have significant affects on your mood and physical health.

2) Walk around the block - it doesn't have to be long or arduous. Just get outside, move your body, and breathe. 

3) Stretch - whether you are taking a yoga class or just stretching at home, maintaining flexibility not only feels good, but it helps relieve pain points and keeps you more young and agile.

4) Take some deep breaths - breath in for a 5 count, hold for a 5 count, and breath out for a 5 count. When you start to feel stressed or anxious, just do this a few times. 

5) Take a cold shower - This one is definitely not for everyone, but I find cold showers to be a great example of my concept of self-care. It doesn't sound fun. It's hard to even force your body to do it. But when you are finished, you feel invigorated and refreshed. It's almost like going through a trial first thing in the morning, when you get out, you feel like you can take on the whole world. (It is also great for your hair)

6) See a friend - Invite someone to Coffee or Lunch. Catch up and spend some quality time with someone you care about. Or just call them on the phone and chat.