Doing Things Differently

There is a fine balance here between looking for the silver lining, opening up to focus on the good, and making excuses or allowing ourselves to continue to suffer because of the bad. …Honesty has to come in at some point when we ask ourselves if, when we look at the big picture, we are feeling good or bad, happy or sad, full of joy or despair. …In other words, our emotional misery will put a cap on how physically well we can be.

-Meghan Telpner, UnDiet

UnDiet

Those lines (among many others) really spoke to me as I was reading UnDiet recently. If you’re looking for a good next book to read, I highly recommend picking up a copy, or borrowing one from your library as I did. Although, I think this is one I’m going to want to purchase and re-visit from time to time.

So this last week I challenged myself with making some changes to see if I could gain a better sense of balance and ultimately feel happier. I started out small, knowing if I took on anything really big, I’d probably just end up feeling more overwhelmed. Here’s what I did:

  • I woke up an hour earlier. I’m a morning person and this was actually really easy for me, since I usually spend that hour tossing and turning anyway. It’s also light out super early, so that helps. I think I may even try setting my alarm for half an hour earlier next week and see how that goes.
  • I used my extra hour to read for fun. I started a little ritual of making some tea with homemade almond milk, lounging on the couch, and enjoying a good book. I didn’t do what I usually do, which is immediately open my laptop to check emails. This felt so, so nice.
  • I continued to not check emails incessantly all day, and I found that my life was much less stressful when I didn’t respond to emails within a few minutes of  them being sent. Work people asking questions resolved more issues on their own, and the world did not end when it took me a couple of hours to get back to them.
  • I unsubscribed from a million emails. Less clutter = more (and calmer) mental space.
  • I went to the gym every afternoon, with the exception of one day where I let work take up too much of my energy. However, I realized I did this, and vowed not to let it happen again. When I received a last-minute meeting invite during my scheduled gym time the next day, I declined. Again, the world did not end.

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  • I ate a ton of vegetables. I chose not to get my usual brown rice bread or tortillas at the grocery store knowing that this would basically force me to subsist on mostly produce. Physically, I felt lighter, and mentally, I felt lighter too.
  • I replaced my nighttime trash TV with more reading. Who knew I liked reading so much? Aaron always reads before bed and swears it helps him fall asleep faster and get better quality sleep. One thing’s for sure, it’s way more relaxing than watching Real Housewives.

I have some bigger things I’d like to do differently in the next month or so, but those are still a work in progress (and I’ll share more when I’m able). For now, I feel like these last two weeks alone are setting a positive foundation for what’s to come. It’s kind of crazy how much a few small changes can impact your entire outlook. These are the baby steps that I hope to turn into bigger leaps.

Do you have any habits or rituals that set a really positive tone for your day? Are there things you’re also doing differently (big or small) to create a happier life? Suggestions, as always, are appreciated!

xo
Amanda

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  1. Rebecca P. says

    I always start my day at 5am with a morning warm-up workout and the news. Then Ill have breakfast and read for an hour or 2. Of course I can do this all now that it is the summer but I will only be able to do this on weekends once school starts!

    1. Amanda says

      It’s so nice to get up early when it’s still quiet. I give you props for getting up at 5am! I’m trying to wake up a little earlier each week to see how far I can push it without feeling like I need to hit the snooze button. 🙂

  2. Ooh, I needed this today. My life could definitely do with some refocusing and recharging.

  3. i definitely need to unsubscribe millions emails from this list. I think im going to try waking up little early and drink tea and read or something. Im so glad you are feeling better.

    1. Amanda says

      Thanks, Dixya!Unsubscribing from emails is so freeing! I highly recommend it. 🙂

  4. I love these kinds of posts!

    Probably because I’m always trying “little tweaks” here and there to see if I can create a happier, gentler life for myself. I’ve done a few of what you’ve listed above (re: waking up earlier, I did a gradual 15-minute increase over a couple of days to help me get up earlier which was MUCH harder to do in the winter! and re: unsubscribing: I went on a manic escapade like that for deal sites AND on social media to un-friend/like/follow/subscribe from any source that usually draws an eyeroll from me versus a little “yay!” when I’ve seen they’ve updated or shared something—but for the deals, I made a Gmail filter, so now I only check that category when I need something specific, like a haircut, versus having to deal with the bombardment from Gilt, Groupon, LivingSocial, etc multiple times a day).

    Here’s a few others that you may like to try:

    – Not sleeping with your phone ANYWHERE near your bedroom for longer/more restful sleep
    (more on that here: http://sparklingly.blogspot.com/2013/03/banished-from-bedroom.html)

    – Not turning on bathroom lights in the morning—R thinks I’m nuts, but when I have the morning to myself the light from the open shades throughout the apartment makes the bathroom light enough to take care of business (except for when makeup and hair time comes). It’s SO relaxing to take a shower with a soft glow from the sun versus light fixtures

    – Not using the microwave (you may already not do this), but there’s something about making myself boil water for the French Press or steaming milk properly as opposed to zapping things in the microwave that makes the morning so much sweeter

    – I don’t read news anymore—it’s just too much to bear. Especially local news. When something big happens that I need to know more about, I’ll hear about it somehow, but scrolling through all the badness is a lot to take, especially in the morning

    – Planning out your meals: I don’t do this every day, but when I realized that we were letting too much of our produce go bad, I started making a little bit of an effort to figure out how we could use what’s in the fridge to make good dinners and now when I do do that, I stick in my Google Calendar—helps us not waste AND it’s something nice to look forward to (which makes my workdays go by faster!).

    Hope some of those inspire you! 🙂
    J.

    1. Amanda says

      Your suggestions are awesome, J! Thank you so much! And I’m with you on the no phone in the bedroom – I think I may just need to go back to an old-school alarm clock. 🙂
      I feel like I should give your comment its own post…such great advice! xo

  5. This is great Amanda, such good ideas! I totally agree, a leisurely morning routine is SO nice! People think that I’m crazy when they hear I wake up at 5:00 and I work from home but starting my day off with a workout, a leisurely breakfast and a shower helps me feel refreshed and ready to start my day. On the days where I start working in my pajamas I feel as though I’m crawling out of some hole when I finally realize its 11:00 and I haven’t even showered or gotten dressed.

    Another good one is getting in to some new music. I just downloaded some new songs this morning and jamming to a new playlist gives you some extra energy!

    1. Amanda says

      I so admire your dedication to those 5am workouts, especially since your workdays seem so busy. I also hate that feeling of seeing it’s 11am and I haven’t even showered. It’s easy to get sucked into emails/projects/etc and then completely lose track of time. I used to do that a lot when I first started working from home – not good.
      For some reason, I rarely listen to music during the day (except at the gym when it’s a non-negotiable for me). I’m going to try your suggestion!

  6. Carly M says

    I’m going to give reading in the morning a chance… That sounds like a wonderful idea!

    I have a 1.5 mile walk each way to work. It’s my happy time. It’s nice after a day of sitting in front of a computer to be walking outdoors. I listen to music, call friends/family, daydream. I relish those 30 minutes before I get home and see my to-do list! 😉

    1. Amanda says

      I totally agree about walking to/from work. I used to do that when I worked in the city and lived about 20 minutes away. It’s a nice way to transition into and out of work-mode.

  7. I like your idea of not reading emails immediately or responding to them right away. I start most of my mornings off with 10 – 15 minutes of stretching and some deep breathing. It’s still dark until just before 7.30am here so it’s hard getting up early, but doing this to some calming music sets the tone for my day. Then I usually do a workout DVD around 2pm for that extra bit of energy for the afternoon. Love your ideas! 🙂

    1. Amanda says

      Thanks, Melanie! I know what you mean about getting up when it’s still dark – it’s so much more difficult! Doing 10-15 minutes of stretching and deep breathing first thing sounds like a great way to start your day! I’m thinking I might start doing 5 minutes of meditation/reflection first thing and see how that goes. 🙂

  8. Colette says

    This is the book you could’ve written, Amanda!

    1. Amanda says

      That’s so sweet of you, Colette! I was actually talking to Aaron about something similar last night – that when I write these types of posts, the words just flow, almost effortlessly. I feel like this is my “thing”. Perhaps one day it will turn into something more…I’m trying to stay open to the possibilities. 🙂

      1. Colette says

        Well, your positive attitude is why we keeping reading your blog! xo

  9. I read for about 30-45 minutes every night in bed before turning off the lights. I look forward to that block of time every day!

    I also try to work out in the mornings before work a few days per week & sometimes on Saturdays. People think I am nuts getting up at 5am on the weekend, but I love having done an intense workout, coming home and everyone is still sleeping. It’s my time to enjoy a cup of coffee and breakfast without 3 demanding kids!

    I try to plan out my meals, but this isn’t as consistent. What I’ve been doing this summer is packing my lunch the night before (a huge salad) and snacks (fresh fruit or hummus & pretzels/crackers), this way I don’t impulsively eat like crap and I get tons of veggies in one meal. I also make overnight oats with a bunch of add ins and fresh berries for breakfast. This way the only meal I really have to worry about is dinner.

    I love posts like this, they get me thinking and help me realize other ways to improve my life.

    1. Amanda says

      I enjoy that quiet time in the morning too. On Saturdays I usually try to get to the gym right when it first opens, and I love my walks there before everyone else is up. I imagine that time is even more precious when you have 3 kids! 🙂
      Also, what you said about packing your lunch so you don’t impulsively eat like crap – I think we’ve all been there. Your strategy for meal planning makes total sense.
      Thanks for sharing a bit about what’s working for you!

  10. Caitlin says

    this is such a great list! i used to get up at 7 every morning and then last year decided to get up at 5:45. i love being awake so early, with time to just relax and slowly wake up. it’s my favorite time of the day.

    i can’t wait to read more about you journey in “doing things differently”.

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