I started this blog as a way for myself and others to embrace the places we are at in life. Be it where you live, where you are in your career, education, mental state, physical health, this is a platform to examine the potential that comes from embracing the present circumstances under which you currently reside.

It can be difficult to face the facts of your current situation. When you live for the present and you aren’t particularly pleased with the place you are at, sometimes the bigger picture of what’s happening around you starts to blur. I know that I can get so caught up in the moment, thinking about how if only I could leave where I am then I could start fresh and solve all my problems. If I lived somewhere else then maybe I would like my house better, so I would keep it cleaner. If I lived somewhere warmer maybe I would be happier and accomplish more during days that I spend wrapped in blankets. If I was done with school I could be working at a job I enjoy, earning tons of money, and living my best life. But none of these day dreams are likely to be true. If in some parallel universe I was a wealthy entrepreneur that lived on an island, I don’t know if I’d be happy.

We can’t know how we will feel in a world of what ifs. All we can do is embrace where we are now. Ignoring your problems, pushing them off, or dreaming about starting over without any action won’t take you to where you want to be, and it won’t make your current situation better. Work to remove what makes you unhappy by focusing your energy on what does make you happy. If you fill your time with more things that bring you genuine joy, you will have less time to overthink the darkness. Fill your life as it is right now with more of what you see in your day dreams, and eventually they will look the same. Instead of getting lost in your day dreams, use them as your compass to lead the way to where you want to be.

We all feel down sometimes. And sometimes we feel really really down. And sometimes that feeling doesn’t go away for awhile. Sometimes we’re feeling okay, but we just need a little pick-me-up. This week, we have a list of a few ways to give yourself a little extra T.L.C. when you’re feeling like it’s all a little too much.

1. Rest: If you’re already feeling overwhelmed and overworked, rest. This can be napping, relaxing, reading, sleeping in, whatever it means to you to get more rest. Unwind your mind, and listen to your body when it’s telling you that you’ve taken on too much.

2. Dress for Success: This phrase is limitless. It means to dress for your success. What is going to make you feel most comfortable to get through the day? Maybe a power suit will boost your confidence and motivate you to get your work done. Maybe an over-sized tee and some cozy socks are what you need to feel free, and not think about your wardrobe, focusing more on what’s going on in your life. Put on your favorite top that inspires you to get creative. Clothing is a powerful form of self expression. Use it to your advantage when you’re feeling down.

3. Exfoliate your skin: If your skin is dry because it’s cold, or you haven’t been drinking enough, find a body scrub in a scent that you like and scrub away that stress. You will feel refreshed and will be able to appreciate the kindness you showed your skin. Taking care of your needs by removing dead skin is a great way to show yourself a little extra attention. Just be sure to moisturize afterwards!

4. Do Some Planning: This one isn’t as fun as the others, but it’s equally, if not more important. Carve out some time to plan out your upcoming week. See what needs to get done. Budget your time in advance, and see if there are things you can do now that will alleviate some stress for you later down the road. Self care is more than just reading and face masks. It’s about being intentional with your time. It’s about taking care of yourself in all areas of your life. It’s about finding your personal sense of balance.

5. Complete a Few Chores: On the topic of tough self care, do a few chores when you have the time. Your later self will thank you for taking the initiative to clean up a little now, and you’ll feel more at ease once you see your space put back in order.

6. Have a Snack: Grab your favorite snack and make it a treat day. It can be something you like because it makes you feel good or something you like because it’s so yummy. We can’t focus when we are hungry, so make it a moment and savor one of your favorites.

7. Hydrate: Make sure you take in enough fluids. This is not coffee, or soda, or even tea. We are talking water. (Those other drinks, while awesome would fall under the snack category). We need water to stay hydrated, alert, and feeling our best. Make sure you get enough water for your body everyday.

8. Stretch: Stretching is so important to get the blood flowing. Put on some of your favorite songs and take 15 minutes to loosen up. You will help relax your muscles and release any built up tension. You’re taking time for you and your mind to focus on you and you alone. Focus on the stretches while you perform them and how they make you feel. Notice the stress leave your body with every pull and release. A few minutes everyday makes all the difference.

9. Get Outside: Even if it’s freezing outside and you only go as far as the front porch, take in some fresh air. Fill your lungs with something new. Escape the stuffiness of indoor heat. If it’s nice enough, go for walk. Listen to the world around you, take in the sounds, the sights of the world. Let your mind wander. You are apart of this big wonderful place, and you are just as magical as the sights you take in.

10. Get Creative: Take time to do something that gets you feeling creative and excited. Whatever you like to do. This might be photography, or painting, or baking, or writing, or fashion designing. Whatever gets you feeling creative, with the sole purpose of being creative for yourself. It doesn’t matter if anyone else sees what you do or likes it. What matters is that you used your mind and your talents to bring to life something that was in existence before. That is beautiful. Get creative.

There are many forms of self care and things we can do everyday to keep ourselves feeling our best. When life gets busy, or stressful, or sad it’s hard to focus on your own needs. Sometimes you need to make a point to take care of yourself and put in the work to ensure you get what you need. Make a list if you need to of things that make you feel good. Keep it with you so you can refer to it when you’re feeling stressed. No matter where you’re at in life, we all need to make an effort to lift each other up and lift ourselves up. We’re all just trying to do the best we can, but it gets a little easier when you make a point to take care of yourself. Make sure you’re feeling safe, comfortable, and rested. Then go show the world how incredible you are.

View the world through a lens of love. Sounds hopelessly optimistic. To clarify, I’m not talking about the romantic implication we often place with the word. When I say view the world through a lens of love, I mean something much grander than that one statement can contain. Open your heart to compassion. See the highs of life for the wonder they are and the lows as lessons in progress. See people as complex creatures of creativity, capable of constructing starlight into spectacular accounts of science and history, all while admiring the purity of the night sky. People are complicated. We are complicated. Your life is complicated. Full of anguish and elation, emotions that present themselves so strongly in the soul, life requires us to feel one in order to feel the other. Sorrow comes after loss, because we were able to love to deeply. Anger comes because the broken bliss that came from peace was so powerful.

Feeling through emotions is vital to maintaining a balanced life. An article published by Psychology Today explains the 3 main reasons why processing emotions, especially ones we don’t like is so important. They elaborate on the contrast between happiness and sadness, and note that when we numb one side of the spectrum, the other side also begins to numb. The second reason is since emotions work as signals to indicate how we feel about a situation, negative emotions serve as indicators that an area of our life needs attention. Taking the time to think about what that area is, and why it’s making you feel a certain way will help you move forward instead of trapping those negative feelings for a long period of time. The final reason they offer, is the energy it takes to run from unwanted emotion drains the mind and body. It consumes you to the point that the balance of your life can become disrupted and you become unable to focus on what is most important. So take the time that you need to figure out the root cause of your stress, your anger, your frustration, your pain. Process it. Feel it. Then you can begin to move forward.

But how do we move forward when we feel so defeated by the world around us? What do you do when life hits you with one thing after the other until you can’t help but stay on the ground because the strength you had to keep standing back up is gone? Rest. Love. Rest.

When we are hurt, really hurt, we need to make a point to take time off. It can feel impossible at first with our busy schedules, and when the rest of the world looks like they’re doing just fine. You might feel like you need to keep pushing through the pain and just keep going. You do not. Take time off. Even if you can only carve out a few hours in your schedule to decompress, take it. Do nothing, sleep, read something that makes you feel good, bake some cookies, watch a movie. Make a point to give yourself rest and make a point to show yourself love. If you do not take the time now, your mind and body will force you to later, as your emotions continue to build, you will reach a point where you can’t deal with suppression anymore.

Then remember love. Remember to show yourself love through the process of healing, and remember to show others love. While a few of the people close to you might understand how you feel during a difficult period of your life, most people won’t understand the layers of your situation. Similarly you won’t understand their’s. People are not one dimensional, and our problems rarely are too. They result from a series of decisions and actions which all leads to where you’re at right now. Remember to love. Remember to love those who try to understand but can’t. Remember to love those who appear unkind, because they are probably also enduring their own personal battles. We just see a glimpse of most people’s lives. A few seconds, a few hours, a few conversations. Meet them with love. Remember they had an entire existence up until the moment your paths intersected, an entire story, layered with love, and loss, and light. Just like you. Meet them with love.

Meet your anger with love. Process your feelings, then show them love. Show them you will work to resolve whatever the trigger of their release. See the world as the magnificent collection of star dust and chaos that it is. Accept what must be accepted. Overcome what you know must be challenged. Believe in yourself, for you have won so many battles already. Believe in everyone else too. Your neighbor is a beautiful creature of hope. Hope that the elements of the universe can meet and bind as a complicated person full of complicated problems, and those same elements make up flowers, and stars, and trees, and you.

View the world through a lens of love. Soften your anger with compassion. Level your head with understanding. Ease your pain through facing it head on. Most of us on this tiny blue planet are just doing the best we can to be the best we can be. You can find peace again, no matter where you’re at, through love.

For the third installment of the “Conscientious Consumerism” series, we will explore how the process of incorporating sustainable practices can and should serve as tools to help you find more peace in a fast-paced, stuff-centric world. It shouldn’t be an overwhelming experience, but rather a journey of self discovery about what you value in life and more importantly, what you don’t. If you haven’t checked out the first and second installments, they are full of tips for sustainable swaps to help you get started.

In the wake of growing climate crisis, it’s more important than ever to be conscious of how we consume products and media. Every decision you make has an impact, and the collective power of more and more people demanding sustainable options is changing the present market. Many mainstream grocery stores now carry more varieties of plant based milks, cheeses, and meat substitutes than ever before. New and old brands alike are developing biodegradable packaging. The rising popularity of thrift stores and upcycling is creating new markets and diversifying our styles and economy. Your choices add to the collective whole and they do have the power to make an impact. You make an impact.

Madeleine Olivia is a YouTuber, activist, and expert when it comes to the process of learning how to lead a life that is more sustainable, but still functional for your unique needs. Her new book, Minimal: How To Simplify Your Life And Live Sustainably, launched on January 9, 2020. The book is a complete beginner’s guide to living a life more mindful of the how your daily choices impact the planet, and how they impact your own wellness. The 8 chapters cover topics from how to declutter your wardrobe, to the eco-impacts of food industry, to becoming a mindful traveler, to sustainable self care. Chock-full of information to help you understand the current state of the planet, and explanations for how your everyday actions really do make a difference, Madeleine answers almost every question you might have about how to start a journey into minimalism- even including worksheets and graphics to guide you along. She also writes her story through the lens of someone who has been through process, keeping the content relatable and understanding. She is consistent in reminding readers that while it is not practical for everyone to commit to everything she writes about, everyone can and should do something. Doing what you can, with what you have, until you are in a position to do better.

Minimal is a wonderful guide to understand how the process of becoming a conscientious consumer can help you bring more peace into your own life while having a more positive impact on the planet. Today, we will delve into how including mindful practices can help you to feel more connected with yourself in a world that is pushing us to move faster and faster to the next new thing.

5 ways living more mindfully of the planet also serves your best interest:

  1. More Personalization: The best part about switching to reusable products is the ability to personalize them TO THE MAX. Have fun with your sustainable swaps. Investing in some reusable bags to take shopping with you? There are so many options to find some that can serve as an expression of your personality. Get some in your favorite color. Get some with your favorite characters on them (I definitely have a Spider-Man grocery bag). Get ones with plant prints or as souvenirs after concerts. Same goes for reusable cups, straws, silverware, lunch bags, etc. When you rid yourself of the bland single use plastic, covered in branding, you can pick fun items that are one time investments. They will save you money in the long run, and allow you to have in little fun in the process of helping the planet.
  2. Taking Back Your Time: Time is the most valuable asset we have. We all have a limited amount of it to spend, but we don’t know how much that is. Life is so short. We live in a world that is pushing us to keep up with an impossible rate of change. New clothes, new food, new makeup, new movies, new books, new classes, new jobs, new, new, new. Reinvent yourself. New you, means a better you. No. It doesn’t. You are wonderful just as you are. We are, at our core, all so diverse and beautiful in our own light. You don’t need to reinvent yourself, or feel the pressure to keep up with a world that releases a new product every few seconds. Personal growth should be focused on how you feel and what actually makes you happy. Focus your energy on experiences, not things. Focus your time on what really brings you joy. The timeline society has created for us to follow is not real. Everyone’s journey through life is unique to their own stories. Very few people follow the “mainstream story” where they graduate college in 4 years, get a job, get married with 2 kids by 30, have a house, then retire at 65 after working with the same company for 40 years. Very, very few. But that is what makes life beautiful. Your life is yours to live, and eliminating the mindset that you need to keep up with the latest fads, or that buying things is what will get you to where you want to be will not only reduce your carbon footprint, but free you to enjoy your life for what it is. The beautiful story that is yours, and yours alone. Take back your time, and say no to anyone or anything that makes you feel like you are “not keeping up.” There is nothing to keep up with. There is only following your heart towards what you love.
  3. Healthier Finances: Slowing down in a world constantly pushing and shoving those to the side who don’t play their game of “keep up” can seem like a daunting task. What you will find in the long run, is that your ability to navigate what actually makes you happy as opposed to what makes big corporations happy, is quite a bit of money saved over the long term. Not only are take-out meals, new clothes, new decor, and consistent habits of purchasing detrimental to the environment, they keep us stuck in a pattern of spending money. Stuff does not fill the emptiness within us. Exploring our own feelings, experiences, and spending time with those who are important to us will. That is what matters. As you learn to question what products you actually like, and what you actually need, you will find yourself spending less money. These savings can be spent on experiences with your friends, checking something off your bucket list you couldn’t afford before, or just as some breathing room in case things get tough financially. Purchases you do make, should be viewed as investments. Asking questions like, “Will this last a long time? What kind of quality is it? Does it serve a purpose?” are all great places to start when deciding if a purchase is an investment in your future or something that will be tossed out in a year. Changing your consumption perspective from buyer to investor will help you save the planet while saving your wallet.
  4. Connecting With New People: As you delve further into your journey of conscientious consumerism, you’ll notice that there are more people than you might have thought who also care deeply about the welfare of the planet. Attending meetups for vegans, local climate protests, or shopping small can help you to meet incredible people in your area who you might have never met before. Shopping small is one way to support your local economy, and small businesses tend to have a lower carbon footprint than big business. Go into your local stores. See what they have. Talk to local artists. Follow them on social media. Get inspired by the people around you, and you might find that there is so much more wonder in your community than you could have ever dreamed. Even shopping for plant based proteins (which impact the environment significantly less than animal protein) at the regular grocery store has lead to some interesting conversations with people that turned out to become the highlight of my day. Connect with people. Come together and talk about the climate crisis. Learn about their favorite sustainable tips or brands or second hand shops nearby.
  5. Developing A More Balanced Mindset: When we start caring about the planet, the animals, plants, and other people who inhabit it, it becomes easier to care a little more about our own health. You are worthy of a space that is comfortable. A space that is clean, and safe, and brings you peace. You are worthy of being taken care of. To take care of yourself is an act of rebellion in a time that values working past the point of exhaustion. The earth is a valuable, living, interconnected web of wonders. That web includes you too. You are wonderful. The act of slowing down to take care of the planet is a radical step, but one that will help you see that you are also worthy of radical love. Leaving an extra two minutes early to give the baristas at the coffee shop time to fill your refill cup with your favorite coffee is a seemingly small, but powerful act. You have defied the rush of the day to carve out time for yourself. You’ve saved money by getting a refill price. You’ve eliminated the waste of a cup. You’ve taken the time to balance your needs and your wants. Balance. Knowing that the smallest acts add up to a greater impact on the planet, especially when done collectively, is powerful knowledge. In the same vein, small acts of self-kindness add up too. Forgive yourself more. Take back your time. See that you are a part of this planet, and therefore also worth the time and energy to develop.

The planet is in dire need of attention. While massive systemic change will be necessary for long lasting improvements, the choices we as consumers make everyday influence the decisions those who have the power to make those decisions. No act of sustainability is too small. Every item that is reused, every single use plastic avoided, every meatless Monday makes a difference.

Not everyone can walk to work. Living in a more rural area, it would be impossible for me to walk anywhere that wasn’t for the sole purpose of going for a walk. There are people who do live in places where walking or public transit is a viable option, and they can include that as part of their sustainability practices. Some people cannot go entirely plant based due to other dietary restrictions, cultural reasons, or limited access to food. Many people can limit their meat consumption to once per day, or to a few times per week. It’s all about finding the right balance for you and your life. It’s about rejecting a society that tells you your worth is based on the stuff in your home. Your worth is not defined by how you look, what you wear, or where you are. You are defined by the love that is in your heart. By the actions you take everyday. By the words you speak and the wonder you create. You are enough, just as you are.

No matter where you’re at on your sustainability journey- whether just starting today, or a 50 year enthusiast- trying your best to be your best is what matters most. Your actions matter. You matter. Every choice impacts this planet, and your power to make a difference is beyond measure.

Be sure to check out our previous articles on Conscientious Consumerism for sustainability tips and tricks.

For plant-based recipes and sustainable-living hacks head over to Madeleine Olivia’s YouTube Channel, and pick up her book Minimal: How To Simplify Your Life And Live Sustainably, for a full guide on the life and planet changing power of minimalism.

Life gets tough. “To-do” lists get long, tragedies happen, life changes, you change. Our ability to deal with change changes. That’s okay. We often see the quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” floating through Instagram and Pinterest boards. When we consider those words, we tend to think about them in the context of comparing ourselves to others. It serves as an important reminder to ground our mindset regarding where we feel we are in our lives compared to where others are in theirs. Personal success has an intimate definition that is unique to everyone, and focusing on what brings you love, and light, and joy will help you to manifest your dreams in a much more positive way than through spite or harnessing disappointment, because you don’t resemble someone else. The flip side to that quote, which is equally important to keep in mind, is to not compare your present abilities to those of your past or future self.

What do we mean by resisting the urge to compare your present abilities to your past and future self? You can only do the best to your abilities in this present moment with the resources, knowledge, and time you have to work with. Those key factors play a large role in the outcome of a situation. When reflecting on your past self, you might feel that you were able to accomplish more at a different part of your life. Maybe you were faster at reading, or juggled more activities, or read more books, or woke up earlier, or cooked from scratch everyday, or went out with your friends more, or were more involved in your community than you are now. If any of these, or whatever it is that you feel you did better in the past than you do now, is weighing down on you, let it go. Your life circumstances have also probably changed immensely since then. Have you had financial troubles? Personal traumas? Health issues? Changes in daily routines? Moved? Expanded your family? You are at a different place in your life, and because things are different now, does not make you less of a person, and does not make the work that you do accomplish any less worthy of celebration.

When you think of your future self in relation to your present self, approach it with a similar mindset. It can become overwhelming and discouraging to constantly stay in a mindset of escaping your present life for the dream of a new one. Thoughts like, “Once I get this promotion it will all be better,” “Once I finish this project I can finally be happy,” “Once I finish school everything will be okay,” “Once I move to this place I will finally be happy,” are all examples of extreme cases of comparing your present self to your future self. These types of thoughts place a heavy emphasis on your happiness relying on the outcome of a future external event. When your personal peace does not originate from an internal source, it becomes unstable. If things don’t work out or get prolonged, then the emotional consequences can be devastating. Overarching peace stems from within you, and from your ability to appreciate the wonderful love you have to share everyday. Thoughts that place your happiness largely on the outcome of how future events turn out, also limit your ability to appreciate what is good in your life right now.

This does not mean you shouldn’t plan for the future. Plan. Create goals. Dream big. Dream so big that the entire world can’t contain those dreams. You can do anything you set your mind to. However, it is important to not put off working on those dreams, because you are waiting to get to where you want to be to start working on them. Start working on them today. Start with the resources you have. Do not think that your present self is incapable of greatness, and that your future self will be the one who will take you to your dream destination. Begin today. For more details on how to get started on that project that is burning in your heart, even if you don’t feel ready, check out our article “Begin The Climb, Even If You Don’t Have The Gear.”

You have so many beautiful and wondrous thoughts and ideas every single day. Even if you feel that your thoughts don’t matter or won’t get you very far because you won’t be able to make extensive progress on your goals at this present time, that does not mean you shouldn’t start. Do what you can with what you have to work with. Then when you can do better, do. Don’t beat yourself up because you’re not in the position you want to be yet. Don’t put off starting something altogether because you don’t have all the tools you need to execute it in the exact way you want yet. If you wait until you are ready, the ideas might slip, the right time might pass, or the window of opportunity might fade.

This brings us to the main point of the week. It is okay to work on somethings at your situational best. If you have a vision in your mind of what you want your life to look like, or how you want a specific project to turn out, it is okay to work on it, even if you can not make it look like the final image you are trying to achieve yet. Starting somewhere is better than not starting at all. Challenging self imposed perfectionism is an extremely difficult battle. What’s important to remember is that you are doing the best you can do given the resources at your disposal, the time frame you have to work with, and the knowledge you have about the situation at hand. Maybe your past self would have done something “better.” However, you can’t know that. Your past self hasn’t seen what you’ve seen or felt what you’ve felt. Your past self might have frozen in the face of some challenges your present self is dealing with. Maybe your future self would be able to handle this more efficiently. However, if your future self hadn’t learned how to be resourceful through making the best of tough situations, they wouldn’t know how to act so efficiently either.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” You can only do what is possible in the now, but make the absolute best of your now. Learn from your mistakes. Forgive yourself for setbacks. Allow yourself time to rest. Enjoy the present. The present is your experience of life. It is your feelings, it is your thoughts, it is your place in the world. It is where you’re at. You are here, and what you are doing is wonderful, because it comes from inside you.

In our spare time it can be nice to unwind and watch a movie, t.v. show, or catch up with what your friends are doing on social media. Down time is essential to decompressing throughout the week. These activities can also enrich our lives through enhancing our social bonds. Watching the same show as your friends can give you all something to discuss together. Social media offers various platforms to connect with people who you might otherwise lose touch with, and to learn and grow in ways that would not be possible with out that technology.

It is also crucial to have other activities that bring joy to your life. Things that are not your work, but that do engage your mind on a higher level than passively consuming media. Hobbies allow you to express yourself, learn about new facets of the world, connect with new people on deep levels, and enhance your skills at something you love. We often see that people who practice a hobby tend to feel better, but why?

Researchers have found that engaging frequently in enjoyable leisure activities leads to overall better psychological and physical health. In their study, psychologists found participants who regularly practiced their hobbies had lower blood pressure, lower cortisol levels, lower BMIs, and overall better physical functions than those who did not, even after accounting for standard demographic differences. Why this happens could be for several reasons. A possible explanation could be found in a study published by BMC Psychiatry, which discovered that the sense of “mastery” over a skill that develops when taking on a hobby improves overall mental health and sense of accomplishment. An additional study published in the American Journal of Public Health explored the healing effects of artistic expression regarding mental health when practiced as a hobby, and found that activities such as creative writing, music, dance, and drawing aided in coping with stress.

The bottom line: exploring a hobby you enjoy can help you to improve your physical and mental well-being. If you already have activities that you like to do, keep up with them, and make sure you set up time in your schedule specifically for yourself to practice what makes you feel good. If you want to explore new hobbies or don’t have anything you like to do yet, below is a list of suggestions to begin your journey into making the most of your free time. Get creative, meet new people, get really into what you like. But, also remember it’s okay if you don’t like something you try and want to try something else. It’s also okay if you like something, but aren’t good at it when you start out (no one is perfect when they first try something). It’s also okay if you like something and don’t love it. Not everything you do has to be your favorite thing. If it brings you joy, do it. If it doesn’t bring you joy, then stop.

10 Unique Hobbies To Explore:

  1. Learn an instrument: There are a ton of YouTube tutorials on how to play almost every instrument under the sun. If you have a certain one you’ve been wanting to try, check it out! Although lessons can be pricey, if you have the funds, why not go all in, or see if there are group lessons at a discounted rate to start out. (Also I can not confirm this, but I have been told by many people the easiest instrument to learn is the ukulele. You can often find these and guitars super cheap at garage sales to start out and see if you like it before investing a ton of money.)
  2. Creative Writing: There are so many types of creative writing to explore, not just fiction writing. Try poetry. Or write a play. Or write non-fiction. Research your hero, and write a biography. You can write about whatever you want, and that is the freedom of creative writing. If you want a platform to share your work, start a blog, or create a goal of a finished product to try and get published. Or self publish. Or join a writing group in your community.
  3. Hiking: Get outside and explore nature. Start with walks at your local parks. Then a quick Google search will show you trails near and far from where you live. There are also groups that get together and organize hikes if you want to meet new people. Check out the American Hiking Society for more information.
  4. Community Theater: Wish you could go back to your drama club days? Check out your local theater groups! Attend a show, see who holds open auditions, and get involved. Whether you like set building, acting, directing, stage crew, or any part of the theatrical process, community theater is a great place to meet new people and explore your creative side.
  5. Upcycling: Turn old furniture or clothes into something completely your own. Get crafty and give new life to old goods. You can keep your finished products, give them to your friends as gifts, or sell them. There is an entire community of upcyclers who share ideas, and hacks to get you started. Even hobbies that you might not think of as social activities, can help you to meet new people- if that is what you are looking for out of your activity. Upcycling is also great for improving your carbon footprint!
  6. Baking: Trying to stick to a health plan that makes you feel good, but miss those sweets? Explore the world of food with alternative baking methods and get down and dirty, experimenting in the kitchen to see which recipes compare to your traditional favorites. Or go all out on the sugar and learn to create delectable delights that will wow your friends. The kitchen can serve as quite the therapeutic place, and you can sign up for cooking classes, donate your goods to local bake sales, or host your own treat swaps to get more involved in the community.
  7. SFX Makeup: If Halloween or makeup is your thing, try out special effects makeup. You’ll get creative with sculpting your own prosthetic pieces, shading the details of your characters, and bringing to life your art. With the beauty industry booming, and spooky season a favorite time of year for many, there are 1000s of resources and tutorials to get your creative juices flowing. Get those make up brushes blending! Check out SFX make up artist Glam&Gore, for some fun looks, and how to’s to get started.
  8. Sports Leagues: Did you love sports when you were in school? Do you miss the sense of belonging to a team and the energy of the game. Check out your local sports and athletic centers for adult leagues. Many areas offer a wide range of recreational teams you can join to get active and meet some new people who also have a shared interest as you. Whether it’s basketball, ultimate frisbee, dance, football, volleyball, or whatever your sport, check out what’s around you and get playing.
  9. Star gazing: Is most of your free time at night? Learn about the sky, track the stars, and planets, and enjoy the beauty of our place in the solar system. NASA even has a tool to help you connect with other star gazers in your area, so you can meet up and share your findings together.
  10. Embroidery: Sewing a straight line might seem like a daunting task to most in modern times, but cross stitch and embroidery are making a comeback. Try your hand at creating intricate designs, and soon you’ll be able to deck out all of your favorite clothes to become a local fashion icon. To get you started, here is a beginner’s guide.

No matter what you choose to do with your free time, be sure to spend it doing what you love, with who you love. Your hobby doesn’t need to consume your life, but if it does drive you to get up in the morning that is also okay too. Make time to take care of yourself. Make time to decompress. Make time to do the things that are important to you. Regardless of where you’re at in life, you are deserving of time that makes you feel good and important.

Hobbies can take you to so many wonderful places you could have never dreamed of going before. Maybe you’ll find yourself on stage performing one day in front of an audience. Maybe you’ll be booking your next vacation to tackle the world’s craziest rock climbing adventure. Maybe you’ll meet the most wonderful people who will become extensions of your family. You never know where you will end up, but when you follow your heart you’ll end up exactly where you’re supposed to be.

*Disclaimer: This article is purely addressing the “self-help” industry, NOT advice/counsel provided by licensed medical professionals, psychiatrists, counselors, etc. If you have concerns about your current course of treatment or what has been discussed in sessions, please have a detailed discussion with your provider. Professionals have been trained, certified, and have the time to manage cases one-on-one. This article discusses the open access to advice given by anyone, through a variety of formats, regardless of credentials. I am NOT a licensed mental health professional. I am just someone trying to make the best of tough situations, and share those thoughts as a way to help others who might be in similar positions not feel so alone.

Think about how many times you’ve ever said, “I need to get my life together.” Do you binge watch self-improvement videos, reread self-help books, or share 300 quotes on Pinterest to get you ready to “get it together”? Do you rearrange your furniture? Do you buy a planner and fill out the next few days full of productive activity? What’s your go to method for getting it all together? Why don’t you feel better after a few days into your self-improvement journey?

Self-improvement, self-care, self-love, self-acceptance, self-help, all trending topics over the last few years, and especially in the first month of the new year. We are taught from a young age, that life is a journey of continual growth. There is something new to learn everyday. Someway to improve your work. It can always be better. Nothing is perfect. Anyone ever have a teacher who never gave 100% because, “There is always room for improvement”? This mindset while beneficial in some cases is also damaging in others.

This is becoming a little existential, so let’s start breaking it down. Too much strive is toxic. No drive at all, and then what? Never work towards anything? Simply seek contentment? This is a strange topic to discuss on a website that’s all about the power of positivity and personal growth. We’ve put forth a lot of questions, so let’s dive into the research.

In the US alone, the “self-improvement” market is worth an estimated $11 billion. This includes products, retreats, events, books, CDs, apps, etc., that try and motivate people mentally, spiritually, physically, or in any way want to influence people to improve in an area of their life. This statistic can be seen as both a positive and negative reflection on where our society is at. Since I prefer to think positively, let’s dissect this figure with our rose-colored glasses on first. Clearly, a lot of Americans are looking to improve in some way or another, and this number illustrates that they are finding answers to whatever questions they might have. This number also shows that there is hope for a society often seen as lost. People looking to improve, wanting to do better, is crucial to actually doing better. It shows that we are not content with the troubled state of where we are, and that we know there is so much more we can give. Sometimes we just need help to figure out how to get to the next level, and that’s okay.

Time to take off those rosy glasses. To quote the iconic modern poet Atticus, “I worry there is something broken in our generation; there are so many sad eyes on happy faces.” Are we a generation eternally trapped under the pressure of never being “enough”? Why are we seeking $11 billion worth of self-improvement? And here’s the not so nice reality of analyzing that enormous number. With that much content out for consumption, how can we guarantee that what is for sale is quality, accurate, and helpful? The truth is, we can’t. However, people are smart, and can determine what sources of media best serve their needs and their unique situations. (With that much content comes plenty of variety.) Trouble arises when people who are experiencing pain, who feel lost, get taken advantage of by companies trying to profit off people who are in a place of hurt, rather than provide genuine help. Research the media you consume. Self-help doesn’t always come from a kind place.

Here are some key questions you can ask to determine if a source is something you should continue to follow as a place of inspiration:

  • Where is it coming from?
  • Who is creating this?
  • Why are they producing this content?
  • What do I have to gain from consuming it?
  • What do they have to gain from me consuming it?
  • Is this worth incorporating into my life?
  • How can I use this information in my life?
  • Does this make me feel better or worse about myself?

These questions can help you to filter what content will actually serve you, and what content will harm you, or is eating up your time unnecessarily. Follow and consume content that genuinely inspires you to do good, and makes you feel good about yourself. Unfollow and get rid of anything that isn’t genuinely fueling your soul, makes you feel worse about yourself, makes you jealous, anxious, or feel like you aren’t enough. Balance is the key. Don’t write off self-help, because the self-improvement community is full of some incredible and genuine people, striving to create a real impact. This community has broken down barriers to discussing topics like burnout, depression, anxiety, positive self-talk, body positivity, the list goes on and on. So much good comes out of exploring your own potential. As with anything in life, just be mindful of the time you spend on it, and where you get your information from.

Why is too much self-help toxic? If anything, the constant mindset of growth and development should keep us in a place of balance and positive thinking. When we constantly strive for something more, we forget to enjoy what we have. In times of darkness, there are still small things to be grateful for. In times of prosperity, even more to be grateful for. Sometimes, we still don’t find it to be enough and keep looking for the next best thing. That’s when the cycle begins to get dangerous. When we find ourselves, never content with what we have, and always focusing our energy on what’s coming next. Take time to enjoy what you have worked for. You set goals, you achieved them. Take in that moment, and just feel that for a while before going on to the next project. The mindset that you always need to be creating, and working, and moving to the next phase takes away from fully embracing where you are at right now. Balance. Working towards your goals while living for the present.

In his article, “The Disease of More,” Mark Manson (best-selling author of The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach To Living A Good Life), discusses the notion that in the early stages of life, our own personal growth is somewhat linear. As we learn how to take care of ourselves, learn to read, master skills, obtain a job, the trajectory of our growth feels as if we are on an upward path. Then at a certain point, life is no longer about growth, but “trade-offs.” Essentially, once you become a fully functional human, and establish yourself in a field, you don’t grow anymore, you simply trade time. If you learn something new then you give up time that could have been spent advancing in an area you already excel at, or vice versa.

This theory, while interesting, failed to get to give up on the self- help industry altogether. The main point of contention I have with the argument is that growth begins as linear. Life is full of ups, downs, and twists, and everyone’s path is always different. Life never has been linear. Life can be seen as a series of trade-offs, as perpetual growth, as a circle, a spiral, whatever metaphor you choose, but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter how we define the path of our actions. What matters is the actions or the inaction we take. What matters is if what you do everyday makes you feel good. If you are being true to your authentic self. If you are kind to others. If you are doing the best you can with what you have to work with.

There is nothing wrong with wanting more from your life. Wanting to become the vision of what you know in your heart you can become. You should want to achieve those goals, create those goals, chase those goals. There is also nothing wrong in seeking guidance from others when you need it. Surround yourself with positive light. Take in the ideas of people who share their thoughts and experiences. Digest them. If there are resources or programs that help you to feel good about yourself, and help to inspire you to become the best version of yourself take full advantage of them. Keep working towards your dreams, but don’t forget that where you’re at is also just as beautiful as where you are going.

Inspiration is all around us. It’s hidden in moments of the everyday. The golden color that glows around the flowers at sunset, the smell of rain in the city, the early morning conversations about the day to come, the view of the valley sliced in half with a set of never ending train tracks, all hidden inspiration. What inspires you is a personal and intimate experience. Sometimes elaborate works of art, complex problems of war, or stories of triumph inspire us to create. Other times, the tiniest details ignite the soul and set the mind ablaze.

While the world flourishes with lovely moments everyday, when our own lives become clouded, or we experience difficult times of pain, disinterest, or frustration, it can become near impossible to see that the tools we need to escape these ruts are scattered all around us. Whether you are looking for creative inspiration, the motivation to get work done, or to just feel inspired to embrace the warmth of life again, there are ways to seek out what you need to feel re-energized and excited about what’s to come again.

This week we examine a list of methods to find inspiration when you feel lost:

  1. Free Write: Utilize writing as a tool for catharsis. Get down what you’re feeling on paper. All of what you are feeling. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, format, just write. You can write your thoughts as a list, a stream of consciousness, an essay, however you write is okay, just do it. Write about what you’re feeling in this moment. Talk about how you are feeling stuck, why you are feeling trapped, what is it you want to overcome, and why you think you can not. Then write about how you see yourself once you are out of the rut. Where do you want to be? Visualize it. See that image in your mind and describe it in such vivid detail that if you didn’t know it hadn’t happened yet, you’d think it already had. Now you have down on paper where you are, and where you want to go. One place, one writing session, one document holding your vision and reality. Research shows that expressive writing can help to reduce stress and promote clearer thinking. Why this happens is at the moment unclear, but scientists currently think a combination of factors contribute to the freedom felt after writing your current story on paper. One of those reasons is that in writing down what’s going on that is troubling you, your brain is automatically stimulated- forced into the creative process, because you need to reconstruct the details of your life into a story format. Writing is stimulating and gets the brain working, while allowing you to express the feelings and events of your life free of judgement. You are forcing yourself to process what is happening to you, while engaging in the creative process. Free writing might just be the perfect first step you need to clarify your situation and find inspiration once again.
  2. Create a Mood Board: Another tactic to try is creating a mood board. You can do this during times when you are inspired, so it’s ready to go with ideas and feelings that evoke a sense of wonder on days when your interest dwindles. You can also create one on days when you don’t feel your best. It can be a visual method of laying out how you feel and what you want to feel when you don’t know what your next move is going to be. You can create a physical mood board if you have the time and resources to do so. Things to think about when piecing it together include: color story, texture, images, and layout. Select images that speak to you, but don’t over think anything. Look through photos you’ve taken as well as other sources for inspiration. While looking through your old photographs you might remember times that brought you joy, or peace, or love, or sadness, or hope, and inspiration might start flowing through the process of creating the board. You might find more inspiration from searching for images and pieces to include from other sources as well. You can also create a digital mood board with tools such as Canva or Pinterest. Whatever your medium, mood boards are creative tools for visual expression of where you’re at.
  3. Get Out: If you feel caught up in your head, change your physical location to help clear your mind. Go somewhere new, somewhere you don’t normally go. Change your physical routine, to change the routine of your thoughts. Find a place to walk outside that isn’t your usual spot. Or if you don’t go outside often, spend sometime outdoors. Breathe in the fresh air. Take in the landscape. Embrace a brief change of scenery. Try a new restaurant, go to a store you’ve never been in before, see a different part of town that you don’t often pass through. You don’t need to buy anything, or even like what you see, but experiencing something different from the norm of your everyday will awaken your senses.
  4. Talk it Out: Reach out to your friends and family when you are feeling unmotivated. You can ask them for help, or just talk to them about anything at all. Ask them how they are doing, how they are feeling. Find out what is new in their life. It will take your mind off whatever is weighing on you, and will help you to focus your attention onto something new. It will break your fixation from the task at hand and focus you onto something new. The break might be what you need to see how to solve your problem later on. If you end up discussing your own feelings of frustration, they might be able to offer a solution. If their ideas don’t help, at least you’ve begun the brainstorming process with a fresh set of eyes. Your friends care about you, just like you care about them. If they were feeling stuck and trapped, you would want to help them too. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
  5. Do Something Unrelated to What You Want to Accomplish: Similar to distracting your mind with conversation, distract it with another project entirely. Do something you enjoy, unrelated to what you want to accomplish and focus your attention completely on that project. You can draw, read, watch a movie, clean, listen to a podcast, ride a bike, paint your nails, play with your dog, bake a cake, anything that isn’t what you are already trying to do. When you give your mind a break from thinking about the solutions to your problems, you give it a chance to just take in what’s happening. To experience those everyday moments that are inspiring. You might think of the answer to your questions, during this time and you might not. Either way, you will feel better after taking time away to do something for yourself. You don’t have to figure everything out right now to still enjoy life. This exercise will help you to see that it’s okay to move on from something and come back to it later.
  6. Track Your Progress: Keep documentation of your progress on your projects. This can be as detailed as a fully flushed journal entry every day about what you did and how you feel about it, or as simple as a bullet list of what you accomplished to achieve your long term goal. This will help you to monitor your progress over time, examine where you have been, and determine if you are on track to get to where you want to be. It is also encouraging to see how far you have come on days you feel you have nothing to offer. You have armed yourself with a record of your work, and reassurance that you will eventually rebound to keep making progress. If today you are uninspired and don’t already have a log of your journey, start now. Think about all you’ve done to get to where you are, at write it down to look at. Then from here on out, continuously update the list. Reflection is a powerful tool to help you remember your purpose for your project, take pride in your accomplishments, and rekindle the fire in your heart.

Some days a simple “motivational quote” is enough to get us going. Some days, a few words someone said when they were having a good day isn’t enough to get us through. And that’s okay. You, and your problems, and your life, and your passions are so much more complex than a few sentences or a list of feel-good ideas. What’s important to remember when you are feeling uninspired by the world, is that emotions (good and bad) are temporary. You will get through this period of uncertainty, this deeply dug rut. Inspiration is all around us. You are an inspiration. The work you do is important. The words you speak matter. The life you are living has beauty. Even on days you feel empty, you are so full of life. The periods of darkness will end. You will find your spirit again. You can do anything, right where you’re at.

Resolving to improve. This year is going to be better. I will be better. Kinder, healthier, grander, more present, more aware, more lovable, just more. Happier. That’s what we all hope every night on December 31st. Then January drags, we lose course, and next December we’re back where we started. Hoping that next year will be our year. It’s got to be.

Stop. It’s time to end this cycle of regretting the year before, with grand visions of the year to come. Life happens, and it’s never what you plan. But does that mean we shouldn’t plan anything at all? Of course not. How do we balance our dreams for a future that “could be,” without neglecting to appreciate the past that gave those dreams life? How do we make resolutions that we can stick to? How do we make it, so that come December, 2020 we can look back and smile, knowing we did our absolute best, and 2021 will be a continuation of dedication instead of a start over?

This week on Where You’re At, we are going to dive in deep, reflect, brain storm, and set up a beautiful vision of where you can take yourself on your journey in the new year.

  1. Begin With Reflection: Before you start listing off everything you want to change about your life, reflect on where you’re at right now. When you reflect on your past, start small and specific, then work your way back to the bigger picture. (This is the opposite of goal setting which we will discuss in #3.) Key questions to ask yourself include: What have I done today I am proud of? What was I hoping to get done today that I was unable to accomplish? Why didn’t those things get done? You can then replace the word “today” in each of those questions with “this week,” “this month,” and “this year.” These questions will help you lay out your strengths and weaknesses, and help you to map your progress over time. When you reflect through your past year, think about your favorite memories too. Where did you go? What did you see? Who did you meet?- How much of that was planned? Probably not much of it. You can do your best to plan, but much of life (both beautiful and tragic) happens organically. Life is a balance of planning and going with whatever comes your way. As you close your time of reflection pick out the moments you are most grateful for. Then thank yourself for a year of perseverance, patience, and experience.
  2. Visualization: Next begin the process of developing plans for where you want your next year to take you. Visualize. The process of goal setting begins broad and imaginative. This is not the time to be “realistic” or doubtful about what you can manage. Think even beyond the year to come. Where do you want to be in 2 years? 5? 10? What kind of life do you want? How do you want to wake up feeling everyday? What do you see yourself surrounded with? What do you want your daily routine to be like at the end of next year? These big questions will help you to open your heart to the potential you have within you. Brainstorm big. This time is all about the “big-picture.”
  3. Get Specific With Goals: After you’ve thought about where you have been and where you want to go, it’s time to figure out how to get there. This is done through setting goals. Breaking down dreams into steps. Then breaking down those steps into smaller steps. Soon you’ll have a staircase leading you to your destination. When we reflect, we map where we have been by working from small and specific to larger and more broad. Goal setting is the opposite. Take your vision for the future, and write down what it will take to get there. Then break it down again, and again, and again, and again. Soon you’ll see how you can create daily habits that will lead you to tackling bigger projects. Those projects will lead you to conquering more complex steps which require more time, connections, homework, and effort. Your daily habits build the steps you climb through life. It all begins at the micro level. It’s okay if your long-term goals take a long time to accomplish. That’s why they’re called long-term. Move at a pace that is comfortable and manageable for you. If you push too much you’ll end up burnt out and giving up. If your long-term goal is to become more clean, start with making your bed everyday and vacuuming once a week. If your goal is to start performing your music live, begin by committing to your practice everyday, attending more local shows, and marketing once a week. If your goal is to write a book, write a little everyday-even if ‘s not for your book (keep up with the practice), talk about your intentions with others to grow your ideas, and create a tentative schedule for yourself. Start small. Then build from there. It begins with daily practice. Daily habits form life long changes. It won’t happen overnight, but when you come back to reflect again on how far you have come, you will be so proud of how you expanded the map of your life. For more information on setting daily-level goals check out the SMART goal system, which poses questions to help you keep the goals you set at attainable levels. When you use smaller goals as a means to accomplish your dreams, the steps you climb become a manageable hike rather than impossible leaps.
  4. Gratitude: After you reflect on where you have been, envisioned where you want to go, and determined how you will get there, take a few moments to be grateful for where you are at. Gratitude is a powerful tool that will keep you grounded on your journey of change. It is also important to recognize that your current situation whether difficult, painful, or one of the best times of your life is a piece of who you are and who you will be. Periods of our life don’t define us, but they can drive us to where we go next. Everyday has something in it to be grateful for. As the new year progresses, and you check off the goals on your list, pause after you tick off each one. Take a moment to thank yourself and anyone who helped you along the way to get to that next step. On days you fall behind, instead of beating yourself up, thank yourself for trying your best and know that you will keep trying again until you get it next time. More information on overcoming difficult set backs and breaking down the process of gratitude can be found in our article “A Field Guide To Finding The Silver Lining.” Gratitude will serve as your life boat when you’ve been tossed out into rough water. Cling to it. Gratitude will also keep you focused as you keep moving along your list of goals and chasing your vision. It will help you to see your journey is just as beautiful as the dream.

New Years Resolutions are often seen as the beginning of a new chapter in the story of life. However, they don’t mean you have to burn the beginning of your book. You can choose to change your life on New Year’s Day, you can choose to change your life any day of year if you like. Or you don’t have to change it all. But if you’re looking to overcome the obstacles that have held you back from realizing the picture of what you see your life could be, be strategic in your attack. You can build the life you dream. You can overcome the pains in your past. You can learn how to grow in the future. It all begins with today. It begins with you deciding to take advantage of what you have, right now, right where you’re at.

On December 26th, 2019, British Chef and vegan YouTube sensation Gaz Oakley (aka avantgardevegan) released his first full length documentary, titled, “Salt of the Earth.” In the film, Gaz explores his home country of Wales, combining elements of travel, food, and human interest all in an eye-opening, awe-inspiring piece. Without giving too much away, the documentary takes you around the country to see where your food comes from, visit the breath-taking (adventure-packed) sites Wales has to offer, and showcases the charm of the Welsh people.

Visiting the UK has always been on my bucket list, but Wales was never at the top of places I felt obligated to see. I never knew how stunning the country was, or how much there was to do in the Welsh countryside. Opening your eyes to the beauty of a new place that you may have over looked as an adventure hub, full of rich culture, and a diverse ecosystem is an inspirational experience. Exploring the wonders of a world far away from your own, through the lens of a personality so passionate about the journey of discovery, you can’t help but become encouraged to explore your own home.

Seek adventure in the most unlikely of places. It is all up to you what you will find on your journey. Appreciate the unique offerings of your hometown, your home state, your home country. Seek out beauty. Seek out joy. Seek out opportunity.

Try new things. Don’t be afraid to try something new, talk to someone new, be someone new. It is never to late to start learning, because everyday is a chance to learn that there is magic all around you. There are people in your community who know so many details of where to find the most incredible views, the coolest shops, the most interesting ways to spend a day- you just need to talk to them.

Gaz’s documentary embodied the wondrous possibilities that stem from embracing where you’re at. Explore. Enjoy. Live everyday in a mindset of gratitude for what you have. Be eager to to learn, and always ask questions. Always remember, you can do amazing things, right where you’re at.

*Gaz Oakley aka avantgardevegan’s documentary was linked in the first paragraph but is also linked here to watch. He also has a book and website full of more plant based recipes.