What Are Some of the Smallest Baby Step Lifestyle Changes You’ve Made in Your Thirties?

It’s amazing how habits take shape and slowly, incrementally change the structure of our lives. I feel like it’s usually not the big, sweeping ‘grand decisions’ made in bold statements that change our lives (ie most New Years Resolutions, most “I’ll never drink again!” statements, most “no more sugar for life” proclamations, etc), but actually the small changes made in private moments and repeated again and again that actually make a major long term impact.

In the past year, I’ve made a few changes- most of them arbitrarily or unpremeditated. But these particular changes have slowly but surely changed my everyday patterns of thinking and feeling. Here’s a list of the ones the made the biggest impact.

1. Deleting the Facebook app from my phone- I did this in a moment of pain and anguish on election night back in November. I mean, you get it. But I never put the app back, and that in turn has me going on Facebook a whole lot less. Which in turn frees up a lot of my time. Which also in turn really tones down a bad habit I have of comparing myself to others. I still go onto Facebook and read stuff and post things, but the amount of time I spend on the site has decreased immeasurably. Results of deleting Facebook app on my phone: I feel happier and have more time. And I still have Facebook so I don’t even feel any weird “I deleted my profile feel sorry for me” stress or Fear Of Missing Out.

2. Starting to make green smoothies full of vegetables – I’ve made green smoothies on and off for a few years now, but it’s only recently that I followed nutritionist Kimberly Snyder’s basic recipe for her diet staple: the Glowing Green Smoothie. This smoothie is made up of all vegetables with the inclusion of an apple, almond milk or water, and some stevia. She includes a bit more fruit but I’d rather eat that fruit separately. This smoothie is the equivalent of having something like three or four salads before lunch, without all that annoying chewing. The ingredients of my smoothie, if you want to try it, are a head of romaine, either a bunch of celery or a large cucumber, a handful or two of spinach leaves, a handful of cilantro, an apple, half a lemon, stevia to taste, ice, and a bunch of almond milk or water. Results: I put a TON of nutrients in my body before I have time to think about anything or eat a bunch of nonsense food. Therefore my mind feels clearer and my body feels happy.

3. Tracking my spending- I wrote about this in the post How Tracking Money is Like Weighing Yourself and then again in The Anti-Budget Budget In Your Thirties. I began using the app Goodbudget to track each and every dollar I’ve spent. I started this back in June, and it was very painful. I didn’t want to track every dollar because I felt like I knew where every dollar went already, and the whole thing felt tedious and filled me with guilt whenever I spent a penny. However, after about a month and a half it all got a lot smoother and easier. I realized exactly where my money was going each month and that small purchases really add up to way more than I thought. I swear I’ve saved a ton of money simply by writing down my expenditures- because I think about where my money’s going every time I spend it. And I feel more accountable for a purchase if I know I have to write it down and it goes into my monthly total.

All of these small activities have added up to big change in my life. Are there any small changes you’d like to start or have recently begun? Don’t worry about those big, scary changes- concentrate on a little tiny change every day, or even every other day. Don’t underestimate what seem like small tweaks- they add up.

main-qimg-4bffd1e322dd40654b3679787b3e9447-c.jpeg

 

Advertisements

The Bowling Ball Leaning Dilemma, or Trying to Control the Uncontrollable

It’s been awhile since I’ve last gone bowling, but it’s been barely any time since I’ve worried about something. Both of these things are connected by a bad habit.

You see, I have a ridiculously useless habit when I go bowling. I throw the ball down the lane (and I seriously mean throw, as I have no technique. I only go bowling for fun or birthday parties). Once I’ve thrown the ball, I watch its trajectory down the lane, and then, very predictably, I lean my entire body in the direction I want the ball to go.

This crazy-looking full body lean is sometimes accompanied by arm waving, pushing an imaginary force that connects me to the ball and will accomplish a strike by telepathy. Astonishingly, my leaning telepathy has zero effectiveness in getting the ball to change course. All the leaning does is scratch my itch to DO something.

Lately, I’ve decided to pay attention to the hum of worry that naturally clouds my mind from the moment I wake up. I vaguely worry that I’ll do something wrong and wind up with people mad at me, or lose friends. I worry that I’ll forget all of the tasks I must do later that day or “some day soon.” I worry that when I’m happy for no reason I’m not being ‘reasonable’ or ‘down to earth enough.’ I worry about being happy in general, because if I’m happy now, then I must have settled.

Take a look at your own life- is there a sheen of mild to medium worry coursing through your moments? Worry might have become so habitual in your life that you barely notice it anymore. Maybe you feel like worry  helps you accomplish something by keeping tasks in the forefront of your mind. On the contrary, think of worry as the equivalent of that bowling lean, where your best effort will always be completely useless. Sometimes when you feel like something is helping, your instincts are actually fooling you.

bowling_emma_leaning.jpg

 

 

The Trouble With Thankfulness In Your Thirties

So Thanksgiving has come and gone, and we’re still here, facing the possible Black Friday carnage, and the insane cyber Monday heading directly our way.

We may have felt sincerely grateful on Thanksgiving for our situations and our families and our friends, but now holiday shopping is upon us, and work is crazier than ever, and it’s hard to remember the peace we may have felt for a second or two last Thursday.

I was talking to a friend about this the other day- how gratefulness slips through our fingers so easily, especially with years of built up stress and to-do-list habits. I can be grateful for a moment for one second, and then suddenly my mind will be racing with worry about something I don’t have or what I have yet to get done.

It’s extremely difficult to let go of the sometimes very painful old-feeling moments in life- those moments where we’re hit with a sad situation, or when we screw something up or feel guilty about something, or someone hurts us, and those same-old-feelings come up once again. It’s very hard to be thankful for all we have, when seemingly large problems are hitting us with 30-plus years of habitual worry once again.

However, I feel like it’s possible and actually quite necessary to feel thankful in my thirties way more than I have before. Every day I try to start again. It’s like brushing your teeth- you have to keep doing it- it doesn’t just last.

There have been some stressful work situations going on in my life lately where I’ve been angry and feeling wronged and hurt. Sometimes I’ve stewed in those emotions and sometimes I’ve expressed them and tried to be clear about what was wrong. All of that action had its place, and I think that it was good to express the problems and my feelings about them. However, after awhile, it became impossible to stew in the negative feelings anymore. I was causing myself unhappiness and grief. There was nothing to do but to concentrate on things that were still good- and there were many things to be thankful for.

I started feeling thankful for people who smiled at me when they walked by. For children who were adorable and quiet and sweet. For the cool breeze I felt as I walked to work. For the beautiful park I was able to run around in the morning. For coworkers who made funny jokes. For hot showers. For beautiful texts from my family and friends. For delicious hummus. For my Spotify playlist.

And I started to feel better.

We have so much and we forget. I think that forgetting is normal and natural. The habit of not thinking about the small stuff has been a survival tool that’s gotten us through more than thirty years of life. We want more and more- which can be great. We’re in our thirties- we have big dreams. We want an amazing career and an amazing marriage and maybe a family and a creative empire and a wonderful home and creative control and financial freedom.

And those big dreams are extremely important. Huge, in fact.

But we’ll never appreciate them if we can’t be thankful for what we have today.

Each moment is a win. Each day is jam packed with small and beautiful things. Don’t be afraid to appreciate them again and again and again- Thanksgiving is every day.

image.jpeg

Beautiful terrace view on Thanksgiving in Los Angeles 

Are You Using Only 10 Percent of Your Power in Your Thirties?

We all know that the widely believed scientific fact about us using only 10 percent of our brain has been proven to be a myth. Hopefully you know that we use 100 percent of our brains (well, most people anyway). If you don’t know that we use more than 10 percent of our brainpower, now you do. Here’s even more info proving the old myth wrong.

However, even though we’re using our brain’s full capabilities, sometimes I feel like we’re only using 10 percent of our full power in general. We have at least thirty years of habitual behavior behind us, and it’s very easy to fall into the same patterns.

One of my newest consistent habits has been practicing meditation. It’s an interesting new habit, because I’ve been pretty consistent about it, but it’s still very new as far as consistent habits go. I’ve been meditating for a little over a year now, whereas I’ve been brushing my teeth for over 31 years, traveling consistently for 8 years, making vegetable juices and smoothies for 6 years..you get the point.

What I’m saying is that new habits are hard to create, but when you create them and stick to them they start getting easier and will become a consistent part of your life. The issue with this is that bad habits also become easier and more consistent parts of your life the more you practice them.

I’ve had some really big bad habits forever. These include habits like:

-Procrastination on big, important things

-Relying on what other people think to determine my happiness

-Fear of confrontation

-Time management issues

When it comes to big, bad habits, change can seem frightening. But we have to remember that changing bad habits only takes many small steps.. and a lot of courage. It’s not easy to change bad habits, the same way it isn’t easy to create good habits. As I said before, the old habits we have have been going strong for over 30 years. But as I wrote about in the post “It Hurts. So What?”, sometimes you have to be courageous and get through the painful things in life day by day and bit by bit.

Deepak Chopra said during one of my guided meditations, that sometimes we’re standing in a river but we’re trying to drink from a thimble; It was an eye opening metaphor. When I feel like “I’m never going to manage my time better..I’ll never do what I really need to do!” or “I don’t know how I’ll ever do bigger and better things! Life will always be the same!” I think that I’m drinking from a thimble while standing in a river- I’m trying so hard to gulp every last drop of water from the tiniest cup but I’m too habituated in fear and desperation patterns to see that I’m standing in a river flowing with water. Wouldn’t it be funny if my fear and desperation while looking into the tiniest thimble blinded me to the river of possibilities that I was standing right in?

This can be seen even in the smallest cases- for example, yesterday I was logging in to the WIFI at the Marriott where I’m staying for work. Every day my computer logged me off the WIFI and I had to log back in again. It was really frustrating until I realized that I was selecting a button that said ‘Log in for ONE day.’ There was a drop down menu where I could’ve selected “log in for TWO days.” Or even “log in for TEN days.” I just habitually kept clicking ONE over and over and over.

Seize your power on both large scales and small…it’s all about creating new habits and breaking old ones. Don’t settle for the old habits that probably make up about 10 percent of what you can do. Stop looking into the thimble and see the damn river all around you. I swear it’s there! Don’t keep doing ONE mildly okay thing when you can have TEN great things!

1864c8cqmc1dzjpg-10b97ob-300x252 (1)

First Thing in the Morning in Your Thirties

For most of my life, I never really had a morning ritual. Well- I never had a morning ritual that went much beyond putting on my makeup and getting my hair into some sort of acceptable outside-world style.

Then, as I went through my twenties, I started adding new parts to my morning ritual. I got into making green juices in the morning, and then- even better- I got into making green smoothies. I purchased a french press and started making my own coffee every day as well. Lots of liquids. And then I figured out a way to style my hair even quicker than before (by forsaking straightening my crazy waves into heat-damaging oblivion every single day).

Yet even when I had a handle on my morning routine, it always felt like a means to an end. I got nothing super important done in the morning. I usually saved that stuff until the afternoon, when something more pressing usually came up and interrupted it anyway (like lunchtime. Or drinks out. Or a new bunch of emails to return. You know, the important stuff…)

This summer, I hit a wall. I was sick of the days passing me by while some of the most important things I wanted to do daily remained undone. So I started a ‘most important things on my list are the first ones’ habit. And it really started to work.

I’d get up, start some coffee, eat an apple, and meditate (which is very important to me). Then I’d put on my gym clothes and go running or to the gym (also very important). Then I’d come back, make a smoothie, and tackle my to do list or go to work. In this way, I was meditating daily and also getting to the gym before interruptions took over. The first thing in the morning habit really worked. Even though I’m a night owl.

The hardest part has been expanding my morning ritual into other important tasks. It was easy to meditate and run and then get through a to-do list of smaller items like ‘wash dishes. email so-and-so. send invoice.’ It was much harder to meditate and run and   then tackle larger and more important to dos like ‘rewrite resume. practice presentations. watch videos and research new job prospects.’ I was just talking to my friend Janna about this; For whatever reason, the reallly important tasks that could further our lives and careers have been getting pushed by the wayside and out of our days entirely. And this has been happening for a while… kind of sort of like always. Especially on work days where there’s not much time left in the day to tackle tasks other than getting to work.

Our new idea has been to start using the ‘first thing in the morning’ ritual to include these big important tasks right away…and I think it’s best to only focus on one Very Important Task daily.

So to recap, instead of trying to kill a whole to-do list, I’m going to prioritize one big important task a day and only try to do that, starting in the morning. First, I’m still going to start my coffee and have an apple and meditate. Then I’m going to work on the chosen task for an allotted period of time. Only THEN will I tackle the other items.

I think choosing only one large item a day to work on first thing in the morning is helpful. When there’s only one thing to think about, it’s easier to stay focused and not accomplish absolutely zero big important tasks in a day.

What do you think? Do morning rituals help you? How do you accomplish the really big important tasks and not let the days pass you by?

0d246de

I’m Easily Distant…Even Now

Now that I’m thirty, I feel more comfortable with myself than I’ve ever felt in the past.

I’m eerily familiar with that weird vocal quirk in my voice I’ve had since third grade that people occasionally remind me I still have.

I know exactly what I should eat for breakfast in the morning to keep me going for at least 3 hours and not make me groggy (right now it’s bananas and peanuts butter, and/or a green smoothie plus coffee. It used to be oatmeal). Boring, but necessary for me to know.

Vegetarianism is part of my soul. I can’t imagine eating meat ever again. For now, anyway.

I’ve gone almost platinum blonde kinda by accident since the summer (I suddenly decided to dye my hair myself for the first time, and after much trial error and purple hair it just kinda happened). And I love it. Right now, anyway 😉

When I feel good, I feel really, really good. Overall my life seems to get better and better as I get older- I’ve always felt that way. I’m very much still working at feeling my best more often (I know it’s all waves), and tracking down major life goals that can help me move forward. I really want to master the subtle art of Not Giving A Fuck about unimportant things, which we’ve talked about a lot on this blog….more than once.  However, one of the things I’m really always working on, especially now that I know myself better, is being able to tell others what I need and want…after figuring out what I need and want.

It’s very easy for me to let friends, family, and significant others take the lead and pull me down their path without much resistance from me. I’m very good at going with the flow (something I really know about myself)- and that combined with a dislike of confrontation, an intense empathy for other people’s feelings, and a deep curiosity for other people’s habits and points of view can occasionally leave me feeling swept up in lives that are not my own. I can let others sweep me so far into their lives that I don’t even realize how distant I suddenly feel from myself.

I don’t know if that makes sense exactly or if it feels familiar to any of you. Or if you’ve outgrown this now that you’re in your thirties. But sometimes I’m the polar opposite of the ideal cool and collected thirty-something who doesn’t give a fuck. I used to give so many fucks about what other people thought that my life became a guessing game and I thought I was the ultimate winner of knowing what people wanted. All I cared about was making my favorite people happy and figuring out how to play their game correctly.

I doing so, I would sometimes lose what exactly I wanted and who I wanted to be. With my best friends, this didn’t really happen. But with acquaintances and romantic relationships, I would become distant from myself which would also lead to a certain distance from others. I couldn’t honestly communicate who I was and what I wanted because I myself wasn’t aware of what exactly I wanted. And once I figured it out, it felt scary to tell.

Sometimes that distance returns, even in my thirties. I find myself getting swept up in other people’s lives and dispositions once again, and I lose what I want and start to forget who I am. If I don’t stay in touch with myself by meditating, re-centering, talking to good friends, and expressing what I need, this old habit from the past seems to return.

It’s interesting that even though we can come so far by the time we’re in our thirties, those old traits from our younger days can still seem to be lurking around the corner, waiting for a time to reappear and scare the crap out of us. For now, anyway.

ghost

The Little Things You Know How to Accomplish by 30

Today I went to steam some broccoli for lunch. I’ve gotten very good at steaming broccoli- and not because it’s easy. I actually used to find it very difficult. My main problem was that I didn’t own a steamer.

I used to microwave just about all my vegetables. I was too lazy to bother purchasing a steamer. Even when I found out that steaming broccoli was healthier than microwaving it, I always thought “one day I’ll go out and buy a steamer.” But I didn’t.

It was only when I was at a 99 cent store purchasing lightbulbs that a little steaming basket crossed my path. It was quite cheap, and quite cute, so I bought it. But I never used it. I continued microwaving my broccoli this whole time since the microwave was familiar and the steamer was not. Path of least resistance.

My former roommate found the steaming basket I’d bought and enjoyed it thoroughly until she finally broke it after a few years- it was from the 99 cent store, after all. I watched her use it and promised myself I’d get around to using it too. But I did not.

Then one day I saw an even better steaming basket in Bed Bath & Beyond and decided that I was going to try again. This time I went home and actually took the steamer out of the box. I was going to put it on a shelf, but without thinking, I quickly threw some broccoli in it. The first time, I burned the broccoli, the steamer, and my pot. But I got familiar with how steaming worked.

After that, steaming wasn’t too bad except that I always had trouble finding a glass lid that went with the pot I was using. In my old apartment, all the lids for every pot were thrown behind the kitchen appliances. So I steamed with the wrong size lid all the time. It was the easiest way to get broccoli steamed quickly without a lid search. Most of the time, I was too lazy to search around for the right size lid. This worked okay, but was annoying enough to deter me from steaming too much. So I still used the microwave half the time.

When I moved to my new apartment, I put all my glass lids together in their own drawer, with nothing else. Suddenly, all my steaming obstacles had been removed.

Today the process of steaming broccoli was seamless. I grabbed the steamer, the nearest pot, and its easy to reach lid. I put the broccoli in. I steamed. I ate.

Sometimes getting things done can take 30 years to perfect.

broccoli-bites-001

What little things have you not bothered doing because you haven’t made them habits yet?

Here’s to Consistently Improving in 2015!

Happy New Year! I hope your first day of 2015 felt like the start to an auspicious year. Today I relaxed with my dude and watched some of my favorite TV shows, worked a bit on some projects, and also fit in a hike in Rustic Canyon here in LA. This was where, after huffing and puffing my way up a series of stairs, I discovered that I am ridiculously unfit and clearly need to add cardio to my New Year’s resolutions.

Whatever your personal hopes for the New Year may be, I want you to go easy on yourself. Big changes happen with tiny steps. I believe that we undervalue tiny changes. When we see people transform their lives on shows like The Biggest Loser or Extreme Makeover, the transformations happen in these huge “all or nothing” ways. We’re bombarded with the message that if our life changes aren’t big and sweeping, then they aren’t going to be effective.

But that’s a crock of sh**! Even five minutes a day of a new habit adds up. I became a writer through 20 minutes of writing a day. Years ago, I remember telling Laura I was going to devote myself to 20 minutes a day of putting words on a page. I did it. And honestly, I got a TON DONE. Way more than I ever thought. That’s how I wrote my first major play.

Now I write a lot more than that, but even more important – I write nearly every day. Whether it’s more outlining than actual writing, I’m usually at work on some project. Even writing for this blog counts. But it all began with 20 minutes a day.

And even 20 minutes can be a lot. So why not start with 5 minutes a day of whatever it is you want to accomplish? Establishing a new habit is very much about creating mental (or actual physical) muscle memory. It’s also about consistency. Doing something everyday is way more important than doing it intensively once in a awhile.

So here’s to tiny changes! Or, as Richard Dreyfuss’ character says in the comedy classic “What About Bob,” Baby Steps...

When I See A Starbucks Red Cup, I Go There

I was thinking the other day of what Jane said about beverages. She was writing about ways to save money in your thirties and she mentioned that her major indulgences were beverages of all kinds. A glass of wine or fancy coffee here or there can add up, but they truly brought moments of happiness, so it was difficult to reconcile stopping them to save money.

As we sat sipping margaritas one day, another good friend of mine who follows the blog brought up that same beverage conundrum Jane wrote about. “I love my nice coffees or glasses of wine or margaritas. These little things make me so happy… I like saving money but I’d lose so much happiness now if I deprived myself of occasional nice drinks.”

And random acts of drinkable kindness do indeed bring me joy as well. Here we are in winter, and the need for cheer runs strong. Whenever it’s cold outside and I see a red Starbucks cup, my Pavlovian-trained mind snaps into action, and I feel the strongest urge for the happiest latte. I not only want to go into Starbucks, but I want to buy the sweetest, warmest, most holiday cheer themed beverage that I can hold in my chilled fingers. Better yet, if that drink was bottomless and refilled automatically, I could hold it all day as a warm fixture of my waking hours.

Starbucks___Red_cup_version_by_Remcow16

Starbucks does a great job with their red winter cups- they’re a signal to my psyche that something nice is in the air. I mean, it’s definitely really good branding, and I won’t deny that they’ve trained people well…but I just let myself fall for it. The advent of the holiday cups invites time for ease, comfort, and celebration during a cold and occasionally stressful time of year. Getting myself an occasional holiday red cup coffee from Starbucks transports me to a cozy state of mind.

starbucks-red-cups-2011

I fight so many habits in my life, and I’m always trying to make the “right” food, money, and job decisions. Having a coffee or a glass of wine or even a smoothie or sparkling water with a friend is an indulgence I’m willing to embrace. A happy red cup of coffee can leave me transported. As long as they’re not in total excess, small indulgences can be bonds shared with others or with yourself. As much as I talk about how I love to save money, certain sweet moments of now I don’t want to save for later.

Also, this article was not sponsored by Starbucks. I wish.

%d bloggers like this: