Wintertime sadness has invaded New York with vengeance and I couldn’t be more depressed about it. It’s hard to be a productive person when a cozy warm bed is your other option. There aren’t many things that can cure wintertime sadness (other than Spring) but so far I’ve discovered 5 essential remedies to help with the symptoms.
1 • A quality slow cookerIn the winter, I am all about heavy & hearty stews, soups, and roasts. There’s nothing better than lazily tossing some ingredients into a pot around lunchtime and enjoying an afternoon filled with savory stew smells wafting through the apartment. In addition to feeding you (when your motivation to cook reaches an all-time low), slow cooker meals warm you from the inside out, making you full and cozy and ready to snuggle up into a pile of warm blankets.
2 • Moisturizing bath bubblesDry skin follows cold weather like a crusty band of hippies follow the Grateful Dead. Why not cure both flaky skin AND chilly bones in one fell swoop by splashing into a hot bubbly bath full of essential oils? Electric Kool Aid Acid not included.
3 • Scented pine candlesIf you grew up in a Christian household, these smells might trigger happy childhood memories of decorating Christmas trees and opening presents. If not, your house will just transform into a beautifully scented pine forest. You will have visions of crackling fires and log cabins and playing in the snow. I suggest one in every room for the full effect.
4 • String lightsThe warm soft glow of string lights helps to combat seasonal affective disorder. At least for me it does (I know many people who suffer from S.A.D. use super bright, super concentrated lights). I have 4 sets of white string lights set up around my kitchen and living room, and another 2 multicolored strands in my bathroom and bedroom. I leave them up all year round because they provide such happy, warm, ambient light around the apartment. I also use push pins to draw designs on big areas of wall.
5 • Colorful outerwearEspecially if you live in a big city, the wintertime streets are chock full of stiffs wearing nothing but black. Black leather boots, black hats, black gloves, black peacoat, black everything. Why all the black? Our moods are already dark and foul! Why feed into that? Granted I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a nice black peacoat that goes with absolutely everything, but I also rock this gorgeous Desigual coat just to spice things up. This thing is magnificent and improves my mood every time I put it on. I feel like a peacock. I stand up straighter. People look at me and smile because they haven’t seen actual colors in weeks. I get so many compliments walking down Wall Street from people who seem relieved to see someone who actually stands out. So get yourself something colorful! It doesn’t have to be anything as whacky as mine (my pink hair lets me get away with a lot of fashion choices like this), but it does have to represent you in some way. So you like baby blue? How about purple? How about lime green? Go find something other than brown or black to wear and add a little spring to every step you take. Yours in warm slippers,
3 Steps to Building a Lasting Fitness HabitLaziness seems to be the natural state for a good chunk of the population. For the rest of us, the busy nature of our lives keeps us from taking time out for ourselves. If we’re not working then we are cleaning, cooking, or looking after dependents (dogs, kids, fish, friends, etc). Either way, it’s not easy to start a fitness habit. What seems like a perfectly doable New Years resolution usually falls apart by mid-February and all of the sudden we’re back on the couch, lacking the motivation it takes to get those running shoes on in the first place. The problem we have is building up these resolutions in our heads and making them out to be huge changes that start immediately and require constant effort to maintain. When we fail ourselves by missing a day, we give ourselves another excuse to fall back into lethargy. That ‘I can’t do this’ feeling pushes us back a step mentally, and we punish ourselves for not keeping up with our resolution. Why do we feel the need to jump head first into habits that take some time to build? I’ve laid out some tips for starting and maintaining a steady workout habit, specifically targeting those among you who have tried (and failed!) to do this before.
1 • For the love of God, take baby steps!When I decided to start a workout routine, the first thing I did was buy a pair of nice walking shoes and a set of 2.5 lb arm weights. My “workout” consisted of walking 2 miles to the Union Square subway station instead of hopping on further downtown. While I walked, I pumped, flexed, and punched my arms around in a pretty ridiculous fashion. While this sounds like a silly way to begin, it was successful for several reasons: • I wanted as close to a full-body workout as possible, so using the arm weights in addition to walking made me feel more successful. • Carrying the weights around guilt-tripped me into actually using them. The extra 5 pound baggage reminded me of what I was supposed to be doing with them, and would compel me to put them on even for a walk down the street. • Choosing a nice, scenic walking path made it an enjoyable experience… much nicer than sitting on a subway listening to panhandlers. • Because I was simply walking I had no excuses. I never had to complain of a shin splint flair up, or not wanting to get to sweaty. Granted, comfortable shoes were necessary, but walking was less stressful and helped build the foundation for a more fruitful exercise. • Hack walking time into your day! The time spent walking 2 miles uptown took only 15 minutes longer than taking the subway the whole way. Because I was replacing one activity (riding the subway to Union Square) with another activity (walking to Union Square and then getting on the subway), the net time I spent on working out dropped by half. I also noticed it was much easier to justify taking 15 minutes out of my day instead of a whole 30. • The activity I chose opened up new possibilities for my after-work routine. Instead of just going straight home like I usually did, I had the opportunity to stop at shops along the way, grab groceries, and observe the hustle and bustle of NYC. Once you’ve picked up the habit of walking (with or without the arm weights) for 30 minutes each day, you’ll begin to feel more alive and motivated. It sounds so simple but you’ve just built the foundation of a workout routine! After awhile, you’ll start to feel ready to take the next step. For most people, this means signing up for a gym.
2 • Become a gym personEven if you’re not a “gym person”, having a membership (at least in the beginning) can mean the difference between succeeding and failing at maintaining your practice. Going out of your way to pay for a gym membership does wonders for building this habit, and here’s why. Much like carrying around arm weights all day, paying for a gym membership puts a burden on your wallet. Knowing that you are paying for the gym service tends to get you to show up a few times a week, and (this is important) showing up at all is the key to building this habit. Literally just showing up. Not even going nuts and exhausting yourself each time. If you can just show up, even if it’s just getting changed and walking on the treadmill for 15 minutes, you can consider the effort a wild success. Even with the financial incentive, a lot of you will still probably find yourself avoiding the gym. These reservations are normal, and there are ways around them: • Bring your gym clothes with you to class or work! Having them with you will remind you of your resolution. You are actively removing the “I don’t have the right clothes / shoes” excuse, and clearing the way for you to build the habit one day at a time. • Since you already have your clothes with you, why not go on your lunch break? Or maybe on your way home? With this in mind, be sure to pick out a gym that is conveniently located. Having to go out of the way will only give you another excuse, or roadblock, to overcome. • Keep the attitude that by merely getting there, you are winning. You have succeeded just by showing up, changing, and doing maybe 15 minutes worth of anything. BELIEVE this, because you will find it much easier to justify doing simple, easy workouts instead of building up a huge routine in your head. When you anticipate a huge workout, you could feel anxious and weary about accomplishing such an exhausting promise that you made to yourself at noon after 2 cups of coffee. • Once you’re changed and enjoying a nice light walk or jog on the treadmill, that 15 minutes will pass by very quickly. You made the effort to get there and get changed, so even though you have already succeeded by staying for 15 minutes, you’re going to want to do more. Soon you’ll start experimenting with the machines, and eventually figure out which ones work the parts of your body you want to improve upon the most. Even one new machine a day will get your curiosity fueled. Going with an experienced friend can help with this, since some of the machines can be rather confusing and you don’t want to injure yourself. Purchasing a one-time personal training session will also help you get acquainted with the parts of the gym you want to use the most. • Be sure to listen to music that excites and invigorates you. I like fast-paced electronic music to keep me fueled while running, and chill, soulful tunes to keep me company while stretching or doing yoga. I also have a few friends who listen to audiobooks while working out, which helps to distract them and put their minds in another place entirely. Make it a personal goal to build up a good workout music library. Websites like Hype Machine, Turntable, and Plug will help you develop a wider taste if you can’t think of anything energizing off the top of your head. Suddenly, you’re on your way to buffness! Yes, some days you’re just going to want to do your 15 minutes and then head out, especially if you’re not looking to get extremely sweaty. Most times, however, you will feel energized after your initial 15 minutes of warm-up, and feel compelled to spend another half hour or 45 minutes exploring what else your gym has to offer.
3 • Variety is the spice of gym-time successIn order to make the most out of your workout time, be sure to alternate between cardio, strength building, and flexibility training. In order to demystify the daunting task of navigating the gym, I’ve put together a sample week which reflects the habit I have built up for myself over the past 2 years. I try to go to the gym 3 times a week, and stay for about 45 minutes each time. Disclaimer: I’m not trying to become a marathon runner, yoga instructor, or body builder – I just want to be healthy and happy with my body.
Day 1: Strength-building (50 minutes)• Jog 1 mile at a semi-easy pace to get warmed up • Find the assisted chin-up / dip machine. Choose a weight that allows you to do 5 reps of chin-ups in a row, but no more. Do 2 sets of this, then do the same for dips. Remember the weight you chose! Once you start doing this enough, you will be able to do 10 in a row without stopping, and that’s when you move the assist weight down. • Find the power tower and do as many knee lifts as you can. After a while of doing this, move up to full-leg lifts. I like to do 2 sets of 20 reps each before moving on. Don’t forget to keep your back nice and straight and flex your shoulders! • Now that you’ve worked your front core, time to hit the back! Find the hyperextension 45 degree bench and grab a 5 lb weight. Keeping your back straight, bend over and slowly work your way back up. Do this 20 times, then switch to your side, letting the arm holding the weight hang down. Work your other side, then do 20 more on the front before moving on. • Go back to the treadmill and do one more set that includes all of these exercises. • After you’ve finished your second set, hit the mats for some good stretching. Look into yoga poses to really get the most out of these 5 minutes of mild flexibility training.
Day 2: Flexibility training (55 minutes)• On this day, I go to a lunchtime Astanga yoga class. If a class isn’t available, then I recommend watching YouTube videos on your phone that will walk you through an abbreviated astanga or vinyasa class. I prefer astanga for regular flexibility training since it focuses on the same moves every time and makes doing the sequence on my own a lot easier. It also is guaranteed to hit all the target flexibility zones, and greatly decrease your chances of injury while performing cardio or strength-building activities. Several martial arts practices also service to satisfy flexibility training, and would offer you similar benefits (in addition to self-defense training). I love yoga mostly because it helps to calm and focus my mind. Incorporating breath meditation provides a fantastic soundtrack to the flow, and puts you in an almost zen-like state of clarity. Although I had established my fitness habit a year and a half before starting yoga, I didn’t begin to see real physical results until after I started to incorporate the practice into my routine. My posture, endurance, and physical build have all improved tremendously, and I specifically thank Astanga yoga for that.
Day 3: Cardio training (45 minutes)• I prefer running on the treadmill, but it’s entirely up to you which type of cardio you want to go with. Cycling, rowing, and hitting up the elliptical will all satisfy the cardio requirement, it really depends on your preference. So try them all and see which ones you like the most! • My cardio days consist of the following: 3-5 minutes of light warm up stretches, running for 30 minutes, then spending a good 10 minutes taking a cool-down walk followed by deep stretches on the mat. • See if your gym offers Virtual Active videos which let you pretend like you’re running through nature. It really helps to make any kind of distance running or cycling enjoyable. Many also offer music videos and television, but running through nature feels a lot more relaxing. • Focus on deep, steady breathing and you will easily distract yourself from any discomfort your body tries to throw at you • I find 30 minutes to be the perfect running time since you will most likely complete a full 5k, thus preparing you for entering cross country races in the future (if that’s your thing)
You’ve got it!Starting small, maintaining realistic expectations, and exploring the world of fitness will bring you success no matter how lazy you think you are. You will have better chances of finding an activity or class that thrills you if you keep exploring. There are some unorthodox classes out there that will not feel like working out at all! I myself have experimented with super fun hula hooping classes and hammock yoga fitness that both serve to strengthen my posture and relieve me of back pain. Once you start to figure out which parts of your body need the most work, search around for activities that will provide you with targeted strength building, endurance, or balance. Now get out of that chair and GET MOVING! There is no better time to start than now. Drink some tea or coffee – even buy some low-dose caffeine pills to amp up your energy and get you excited. (Just a precaution… you might want to bite the caffeine pills in half if you want to avoid many negative effects.) Whatever gets you moving! Yours in sweat,
Practicing the lost art of journal keepingAre you looking to live a more mindful existence? How would you like to prevent the best moments of your life from slipping away into the haze of the past? The simple practice of journal keeping does these things and so much more. It calms the ego and helps you shape your destiny. It allows you to know yourself in new, exciting ways, and to appreciate moments that otherwise might have passed you by. I find journaling to be of even greater importance in today’s behavioral climate, simply by observing how mindless people have become.
We live in a world of distraction.I mourn the attention our society has lost to mindless activity. The precious attention we waste on games and television each day is something we take for granted. That attention could be used instead for reading – for using our minds to take another’s story and turn it into our own personal journey. Even better, that attention could be put toward journal keeping, because instead of immersing yourself in someone else’s story, you could be creating your own.
Journaling connects you to yourselfDeveloping a reflective lifestyle can be a serious undertaking for the distracted mind. To widen the definition of “reflective life”, I’ve established four habits - each of which helps to enshrine “the moment” in unique ways. Working together, these practices will help to capture your life from different perspectives, generating a multifaceted record of your past.
#1: PhotographyThis medium hasn’t faltered at all in the smart phone attention-ocalypse. We chronicle every moment in time (including what we had at that fancy restaurant last week). Our photos record the places we’ve been, the people we’ve met, and the events we’ve attended. Since our phones let us have a camera on us constantly, we find ourselves taking photos of everything all the time. Then let’s not forget to filter that filter until it looks like something that came out of polaroid camera (RIP).
#2: ArtifactsArtifacts consist of found objects, usually small, lightweight, or made out of paper. The Moleskine notebooks I use for my planner and journal have a little folder in the back that I like to keep my wristbands, concert tickets, and other scraps in. These are crucial in constructing a “memory map” corkboard which provides an at-a-glance reminder of all the most beautiful memories from the past. This corkboard sounds like a lot of work but you sort of compile it over time, in no particular order. This helps you to fish these positive memories back up into your conscious mind without having to refer back to your planner or previous journal entries. It’s a physical foundation ready to lift you up on a shitty day and remind you of all the things in your past that have made you smile.
#3: The OracleMy friend and fellow blogger Nikki calls her weekly planner “the oracle” and the name kind of stuck. This handy little device is the one that goes with you everywhere. You write your plans, your schedule, special dates, phone numbers, you name it. It may seem obviously, but you are documenting your time carefully, and that’s whats most important. I often times reference mine in my journalling as a means of placing one event before another. The oracle reminds you that every day is a blank page with amazing potential.
#4: The JournalJournal keeping puts a greater focus on your emotions and allows you to remember personal stories for longer periods of time. Documenting any event, whether it be a difficult trauma or an exciting vacation, lets you anchor personality-defining moments and memories firmly in your brain. Recollecting conversations you had with friends or lovers provides you with greater insight into the relationship as a whole. Reflecting on a memory at any point, whether it be immediately afterward or years later, draws that moment back up to the present and gives your brain another excuse to remember it for longer. It prevents the important times in our lives from slipping into the past.
Pain, regret, and moving onThough you might prefer to forget the most difficult moments, I’ve found that documenting traumatic emotional events can greatly aid in the healing process. Journaling allows you to come to terms with past events, focus on what mattered most out of the situation, and give that memory a concrete place to “live” while you go forth living your life. Often times, writing grants you an opportunity to reestablish forgotten details that you might have overlooked at the time. Have you ever tried smoothing out difficult emotions simply by writing them down? Once you “get it out of your system”, your brain has more room to move around and solve important problems on its own without having to feel cluttered and overworked with anxiety.
Gain perspective when you need it mostWhen you’re upset, it’s easy to get caught up in hyper-emotional states of egocentric quicksand. Forcing yourself to put these emotions into words will help them seem more manageable and less confusing. Before I have a serious talk with a friend or lover about some drama, I always write about it first, hashing out all the details on my own so that I can better organize my thoughts and present my true feelings in the most logical way possible
Your Own Personal PsychologistAfter you’ve kept a journal for an extended period of time, you can start reflecting on past entires. “Personality tracking” is a phrase I use to describe what happens when you read through old entires and start to notice recurring events. Once you establish these habits (which are usually subconscious), you can make a conscious effort to evolve. By moving away from habits that produce negative results, you may gain awareness into your own behavior, forcing mindfulness on a daily basis. You may notice things no one but a sibling or psychologist would have told you otherwise.
Use the past to understand the presentReconnecting to your past means recognizing what you have let go of and what you have kept as part of you over time. Being mindful of prior emotional states keeps you sharp and focused on your ever-changing self. A journal is like a first-person time capsule ready to take you back to a point in your life cluttered with naivety. “If only you knew then what you know now” has never been truer than when reading old journals. Sometimes it’s amusing, other times it’s just straight up anxiety-inducing.
Some tips from a pro:
1) Free-range words.Everyone has their own style of journalling, but I love to write in un-lined reporter style notebooks. These give me total freedom in the way I write and the means in which I choose to express myself on any given day. I can write in a spiral if I want, or draw pictures. And don’t forget to make a little folder in the back of your journal for keeping artifacts, if your journal doesn’t come with one already.
2) Solution to the ‘floating hand’Holding my reporter-style notebook vertically, I write from the top to the crease, then flip it to do the same on the other page. This allows me to write without ever having my hand fall off the bottom of the page. It’s a little wonky to read back but writing comfort is always more important.
3) Color-code your lifeI use different colored pens and choose one at random when I sit or lie down to write. The colors usually end up correlating to my mood at the time, or even the content I’m wrting about.
4) Bring a journal with you everywhere…I have a small moleskine to keep in my purse, and a larger one that is by my bed. Between the two, I always have the option to write when I want to.
5) … but don’t put your habit in a box.Write when you feel compelled to write. Don’t say to yourself “I’m going to write every night at 11pm!” You WILL let yourself down unnecessarily. The urge to reflect and record will not happen every day, and often times I find myself going weeks or months without writing, just because.
So when do I write?I write during big vacations and events, mostly to help secure those important memories firmly in my brain, to be reflected up on in vivid detail for the years to come. I write to sooth weary or grumpy moods, since doing so almost always grants me better perspective and allows me to let go of small petty issues. These times are the hardest to find the motivation, but once I suck it up and just do it, I am always happier in the end. I write to come to terms with my relationships with people. I went through a not-so-flattering period of about 8 years where I would fall helplessly in love with guys who (obviously) got a little put off by my directness and preferred to just remain friends. I was able to reconcile that behavior by observing the patterns I was making and actively focus my attention on self-improvement. Last but not least, I write to capture the moment. There are moments that I feel compelled to write about simply because they were so beautiful and fleeting that I knew time would rob me of those subtle details. Hyperbole and a Half‘s Allie Brosh wrote about breaking through depression by finding humor in a sad kernal of corn stuck under her stove. When you keep a journal, there is absolutely nothing too small or petty to write about, simply because you are creating this story for your eyes only. You don’t need to worry about what other people will think – you have complete freedom of expression.
What are you waiting for?!I’ve put together a few simple easy exercises to dust off the cobwebs and get you thinking in a more reflective way. These are my favorite types of journal writing, and I often jump around between them.
1) List KeepingThis is a unique form of journal keeping that involves breaking down your memories into discrete thoughts and listing them. The order itself doesn’t matter and sentence structure matters even less, so just let it flow. Afterward, if you want to organize these thoughts into something more cohesive, you always have the option.
The Exercise:Reflect on your last exciting vacation. Who did you meet? What were their characteristics? Where did you stay? How was the food? What were some smells you remember? How about local culture? Who did you go with? Which singular moments stand out the most? Was there music you were listening to a lot while you were away? Would you go back? What could you have done differently?
2) Stream of ConsciousnessThis is a challenging one and might be best to do on a computer where you can type as quickly as possible. You’ve mostly likely experienced some kind of stream of consciousness prose in past literature (such as James Joyce’s “Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man”). It can get very confusing and tangled, but that’s the point. Let go of your need to form cohesive sentences. Relenquish the need to finish one thought before starting another. This form of journaling harnesses the moment and rides it into oblivion. So just jot down the first thing that comes to your mind, in the order that they bubble to the surfce, and in the end you will have an extremely interesting piece.
The Exercise:Choose one person that is extremely important to you. Now let the memories, emotions, and sensory experiences flow!
3) The NarrativeOr, your standard journal. The narrative provides your memories with an easy-to-remember home in the world, and it’s your job to explain yourself as completely as possible. Pretend you’re writing your own memoir, only hold NOTHING back. Be creative with the way you describe things, and have at it with the similes, metaphors, and hyperboles.
The Exercise:Imagine that everything you want in life has happened for you, and you are experiencing a moment which you can only refer to as “your dream come true.” What does this enatil? where do you put yourself? Who are you with? What are some characteristics of your environment besides the location itself? Are you in possession of object or piece of technology? Is there fod involved? Really go deep into this scene as much as you can.
Your journey begins on page 1…Now go get a simple, portable journal for your own and start writing every chance you get! You will find yourself more connected to your purpose, your passions, and your weaknesses when they spill out onto paper. Let the words flow, keep your mind focused and soon you will begin to accept the practice as a necessary form of expression. I imagine journal writing as a faucet that dumps out all that weighs on my mind, freeing me from excess baggage and opening me up to greater possibilities. Yours in scribbles,
Copyright © 2013 The Purple Journal - All Rights Reserved
Powered by WordPress & Atahualpa