Rebirth and Renewal

rainbow fountain cow

There’s really no correlation between this picture and this post

Surprise! I’m still alive!

So, that went well.

Despite the fact that several of the last couple of posts published on this blog discuss re-starts and a need for increased consistency in posting, you may have noticed that I’ve failed spectacularly in doing just that. Whilst I did indeed have several very good weeks following on from my last post in regards to improving my diet, exercise, sleep schedule etc… I quickly fell into the same problem that so many people have with the end of the year, when I let December and the Christmas holidays completely derail my progress.

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New Season, Fresh Start

Autumn LeavesOctober. Fall. It’s the start of the dying of the year, when it gets colder and darker and everything draws to an end. It is also, I have decided, a time to appreciate fresh starts – although I realise we’re currently heading into the latter part of the month. Plants are dying and turning to mulch so that new plants can grow in their place next year. Leaves fall from the trees so that those trees can survive the winter and then continue to grow, fresh and anew in the spring.

So whilst some people are starting to hunker down for the winter, their summer plans and fitness routines and optimism for the year starting to fade, I’ve decided to use the start of the season as a fresh start for myself.

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So We Push Through It

Sitting here on this sunny Sunday afternoon, salted caramel brownie (one of Batch Bakery’s) and coffee (from Aroamaah!) at hand, this is the best time I’m going to have to get back into the swing of this. It has not escaped my notice that just under two months ago I talked about the need to write and post more regularly, then wrote just one more blog post and vanished from the face of the earth (or at least here and most of my social media) for an embarrassingly long time.

I don’t have reasons, I have excuses. They’re not particularly good ones: I got really busy in the couple of weeks before I went on holiday, and then I was really busy during my holiday and afterwards I was stuck getting back into the swing of things and trying to find a routine and my sister came to stay and it was a heatwave and I went on day trips with friends and….

And etc.

None of these are good reasons to just stop writing. But I found myself getting into a bit of a funk, for lack of a better word. I had a wonderful time throughout most of the things I was doing, but there was lots of the day-to-day that was up in the air. So for the last 6-8 weeks I’ve been eating less healthily than I would like, not doing regular exercise, my sleep schedule has been all over the place and I have had no routine to speak of.

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It’s a New Dawn, It’s a New Day, It’s a New Life for Me…

New Day

…And I’m feeling good.

Today, ladies and gentlemen, we are going to be talking about fresh starts.

I originally planned to have this written and uploaded last week, straight after Easter. Like Christmas and New Year, Easter for many of us is another time of overindulgence, and my weekend was no exception. Whilst I didn’t eat all my chocolate eggs in one go, my usually balanced diet flew out of the window in the face of cheeses, pâté, pizza, roast dinners, chocolates – to name but a few. To be fair – as I had to remind myself on the third day – I wasn’t completely overeating. The quantities of all of the above were much larger than my usual intake of them, but the portions were nowhere near as big as they might have been a few years ago.

It just made me feel generally like crap. I was genuinely sad when I realised this, and annoyed my family trying to demand sympathy:

“You want us to feel sorry for you because eating this stuff makes you feel bad? Just don’t eat it then!”
“You don’t understaaaaaand!”

My diet when I’m away from my family is completely different – my own fault entirely because when I’m around them I have no self-control and tend to think “I’m on holiday”, not because they force junk down my throat. I generally feel good and very comfortable when eating the way I do at home, but that changes when my eating habits change during visits to my parents.

I have actual restraint in my own home, this lasted for weeks

I have actual restraint in my own home, this lasted for weeks

But far from feeling happy that I had been right all along, in thinking I’d found a diet and lifestyle that worked a lot better for me over the last few years, I just felt sad. A tiny part of me was hoping that I’d kind of just been being a “pretentious foodie” when professing my love for date, cashew and cacao “chocolates” over regular chocolate, or that my aubergine and mince bake sits better with me than regular lasagne, even if the latter holds a fond place in my memories.

I do still occasionally want to binge on all those now-oft-deemed “unhealthy” foods! I just don’t want to feel terrible afterwards. But I did, and I was also feeling a bit down in the dumps about life in general (it happens sometimes).

I needed a fresh start.

The thing about fresh starts is that people often decide they should coincide with an important day of the year – New Year’s Resolutions, for example, or a significant birthday. And if it’s not one of those times, often you just start feeling a bit miserable about the way things are heading and hope that they’ll change at some unspecified point in the future.

But in the immortalised words of Nina Simone – it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me.

You have the ability to start over any day you like, you can feel good, and to help here are five small things you can do to shake yourself up and feel fresher:

1. Eat something green

Vegan 'cheesy' broccoli soupOk, it doesn’t have to be green. But make yourself a much healthier meal than usual (we can all do it), and one that makes you feel fairly refreshed or ‘lighter’ afterwards. There are plenty of delicious and easy healthy recipes out there that can give us a bit of a boost and still feel fairly indulgent. Personally I made the above vegan ‘cheesy’ broccoli soup, and felt better than I had in days afterwards.

2. Sweat

SweatOr if you don’t sweat, just move in some way! Literally shake the cobwebs off. I’ve been doing Jillian Michael’s Shred It With Weights workout recently, it takes just 25 minutes and gets my heart rate up far more than a 25 min jog does (mainly because I’m unable to jog for 25 minutes, and so alternate with walking). If I don’t really want to work out one day but make myself start and finish, I feel so good and proud of myself afterwards. But if you don’t want to do anything that strenuous, go for a walk and take in some fresh air! Do some yoga! Do anything to get the blood flowing and your muscles stretched out a bit. Shaking things up physically will help you de-shake (that’s clearly a word) things mentally at the same time.

3. Shower

IMG_20150328_180630Or take a bath – use some of those left-over secret-Santa gifts from the last few years or the bath bomb/bath salts you’ve been saving for a special occasion. Take longer than usual – do the whole routine. The cleaning and the exfoliating and the conditioning and the moisturising afterwards. Feel cleaner and fresher and more pampered than you have done in a long time.

I should probably point out that this list isn’t in any sort of order. If it were, shower would probably come last. But as it isn’t, we can continue.

4. Clean

CleanTidy up your environment a little. It doesn’t have to be a lot for it to make a huge difference to how you feel. Make your bed. Wash the dishes. Throw a load of laundry into the washing machine. Wipe down the kitchen surfaces. Put away those clean clothes that have been lying on the sofa for about a week now. As much as I liked to claim that it wasn’t true when I was younger and that “I understand this mess, it’s organised chaos – this way I know where everything is!”, whoever said ‘tidy house, tidy mind’ was onto something. Buy yourself a cheap bunch of daffodils for your kitchen table. If your environment feels fresher, you’ll feel fresher.

5. Do something different

Do something different

Do absolutely anything that you don’t normally do, so long as it’s something that puts a smile on your face. It could be as simple as painting your nails if you don’t often do that (mine are now a very shiny turquoise). If you’re stuck for ideas, I love to browse the Sad Trombone List over at GalaDarling. You’re tired of your old routine, so break it up. Go to a different coffee shop. Plan a dinner that you wouldn’t normally try. Draw a picture and pin it on the noticeboard. Re-arrange the furniture. Buy and light a scented candle. Take a break for an hour – turn your phone off for an hour, sit in a room with no technology and read a new book for a short while. Get the paints out. Go to a museum. Usually wear jeans and a t-shirt? Wear a summer dress or a button-down with rolled-up sleeves. The possibilities are endless!

Shake off the cobwebs and set yourself up for a fresh start. You can now tackle anything. And that’s not because you’ve done any of the above steps. That’s because you can tackle anything, and you can achieve anything, you just needed to break out of the rut you were in.

It’s all you, and you’re doing great.

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Resolutions

Several years ago I resolved on New Year’s Day that I would no longer make any New Year’s Resolutions, and for the most part I’ve kept to that. Rather, over the last few years, I’ve been starting any resolutions from that day, or the next Monday, or the next first day of the month, depending on what sort of resolution it was. The trouble with NY resolutions is that it’s all too easy to give up on them very early on.

For example, a few days ago I learnt about the challenge Veganuary, where you go vegan for the month of January (surprise, surprise). I’ve occasionally dabbled in veganism for a week every now and then (usually as a quick way of increasing my vegetable intake and a good way to learn a bunch of new recipes), so the idea appealed to me. It’d probably be a good way to start the new year post-Christmas chocolate binge. However, on the 2nd of January I will be flying out to Canada. Veganuary just isn’t going to work.

“But surely you can be vegan in Canada?” I hear you cry. Well, yes, I could be. But I’m going to stay with a friend who is decidedly not vegan, and I feel it would be rude to make the day I turn vegan coincide with the start of my visit. Aside from that, poutine is also definitely not vegan, and there’s no way I’m not going to try it. It just wouldn’t be right.

My point is that by the time I get around to being able to start Veganuary, it may very well be January the 17th (I’m away with work from the 12th-16th and have already told them I have no specific dietary needs). If this was one of my new year’s resolutions, I think I’d be pretty fed up with myself – nearly the end of January and nothing done yet! I’d feel bad, like I’d failed already so soon into the year, even though my reasons for not being able to be vegan until later in the month are sound.

So I’m not going to make it a new year’s resolution. I’m still not doing NY’s resolutions. What I am doing this year though, is setting goals with the start date being my birthday (which was back on December 11th). I decided I’m going to do the cheesily-named:

“Twenty-three, the year of me.”

Rather than setting a bunch of goals with the start date of my birthday or new year’s day, I’ve decided that there are certain areas of my life I’d like to work on over the course of this next year. There are things I want to have achieved or improved by the time I turn twenty four. Because I have an end-date rather than a start-date as my focus, I always have the ability to get back on track and still potentially make it to where I want to get. So if I decide to try veganism for a month, I still have most of eleven months in which to do it.

Now this doesn’t really work if you just procrastinate everything, which I’ve certainly done in the past. Despite saying several blog posts ago that I was going to start practicing yoga consistently, that hasn’t happened. I have started doing it again every few days in the last couple of weeks, but my plans for at least 5 or 10 minutes every day hasn’t happened. So I will be picking things that I will do “every x days from y”, with y being New Year’s Day in some cases. Whilst I have never completed a full thirty days at anything I’ve tried following a calendar for, setting myself a 10-day or 30-day challenge is a useful tool. Following Blogilates’ monthly calendars has vastly improved my strength over the last couple of months. Even if I don’t stick to it every day, I like being able to tick off the next step and see myself progress that way. If I had to come up with a new fitness routine myself every day or two I’d probably just forget about it.

So I’m not making any New Year’s Resolutions, I’m making a full year’s resolutions. I’ve been saying for years now that it doesn’t matter that I don’t know what I want to do – I’m still young. And I am still young, but it hit me the other day that I graduated from university a whole year and a half ago, and I am no further in figuring out what will make me happy than I was back then. I don’t expect to have the perfect life at the end of the year, but I’m going to keep with my resolutions so that I am much closer to knowing what would be a ‘perfect life’ for me. And that means I’ll start some resolutions on January 1st, but I’ll also start some on January 17th, some on February 1st, some on June 28th, and so on…. I will keep re-starting as many times as need-be, because at the end of the day I’m working towards making my life a little better. The only person who will suffer if I fail is me.

What are those resolutions, you may ask?

Keep reading! I’ll be posting my (until this minute going-to-be-kept-completely-private) ‘manifesto for being 23‘ tomorrow. I hope you have a fantastic New Year’s Eve, and that next year brings you all you could possible hope for. I’ll be right there with you.

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