The Year of Tiny Pleasures

A friend has a daily goal of 15 minutes of movement, so I thought she might enjoy tracking her efforts as part of the Facebook group 222 workouts in 2022. She wrote back that she didn’t think it would be a good fit because people who do 10k hikes and own Peloton bikes would not be interested in her 15 minutes of stretching or struggles with a 20 minute dance routine of warmups and isolation exercises.

My response to her original post this was to share this cartoon, and the comments below it.

Sam also shared this cartoon, but it is too good not to use again.

“If you read all the posts, there are plenty who are doing 30 minutes of yoga (I am doing that series and it is a lot of just sitting and breathing). But many of them won’t finish the 30 day series. I know I didn’t finish until about May last year. Late last year there were a lot of “I took my elderly dog for a slow shuffle” posts, and through most of the year many of us posted #slmsmph (stupid little walk for my stupid mental and physical health). The thing is, it doesn’t matter what you do, except to you. The rest of us are just there to be cheerleaders. There are weight training, indoor cycling and gymnastics workout posts that are irrelevant to my interests and abilities. But I like to look at the pictures, especially when people go outside to do a walk or bike ride. Having it pop up in my feed every day helps me remember I want to move, even if it is just to walk to the park and back (takes me about 20 minutes).”

She wasn’t convinced, but that’s okay. The year of tiny pleasures is also about doing what works for you.

My tiny pleasures right now are all things that don’t require me to leave the house because it is too cold. I am focusing on my on-line ballet classes, with some yoga offered by a work colleague, and the occasional gentle movement class with a local studio. I have abandoned that 30 day yoga challenge already.

As soon as it gets a little warmer, I look forward to getting outside with friends. A short walk with some duck watching, as I did with my buddy April recently, was a joyous hour of connecting with someone I haven’t seen in too long. That shared time was more precious than the thing we did (though 5km on a frosty day was nothing to sneeze at).

Diane in a brown furry coat and red hat, with April in a black coat, green hat and black balaclava

I am holding these two images close to my heart for 2022. The first reminds me that not every fitness activity needs to be exciting or a big challenge. The second reminds me that the best part about being active that I get to spend time with friends.

2022 isn’t shaping up to be a great year on the global scale, but I intend to make it as pleasurable as possible at my tiny scale. I will make opportunities to connect in person for walks or outdoor swims. I will continue to draw inspiration from my virtual friends at 222 workouts. And I will garden (good workout, good for the planet, good way to spend time with friends and neighbours). Mostly I will grow food, but I will also plant some flowers.

goals · motivation · self care

Go Team! January 10: Feelings Part 2 of 3

Now that we have talked…ok, now that *I* have talked about things to consider when you don’t feel like doing your workout, let’s look at your feelings in a different way.

Today, I’m inviting you to consider how you WANT to feel and how your habit will help you get there.

I wrote about this a bit last year and invited you to consider how some aspects of feelings and exercise and now I want to expand on those ideas a little.

How do you want to feel?

In general, goal-setting advice in the health realm promotes picking something you can measure – number of sessions, increases in strength, changes in skill – but considering something trackable but intangible, like feelings, doesn’t come up as often.

Obviously, it can be easier to use a measurement of some sort, if that kind of thing serves you well. Noting minutes spent, reps completed, and skills gained is very straightforward and can be very useful – I have just started tracking something like that myself.

But, often, our wellness goals are not just increasing skills or strength, they are also about how we want to feel -physically or mentally.

Perhaps you want to have greater peace of mind.

Or you want to feel happier or calmer.

Maybe you want to feel balanced…or to feel like you have good balance.

Or you want to feel nimble or fluid.

Maybe you want to feel capable or grounded or solid.

Perhaps your practice gives you space away from certain feelings or gives you room to hold them.

Those are all valid and helpful things to seek from your practice. Fitness is about your whole self, not just about your muscles. Positive emotional or sensory experiences in addition to physical results will give you a richer sense of well-being overall.

But, just as building muscle takes time, finding the feelings you are seeking is a gradual process and I hope you’ll be kind and patient with yourself about them. It may take time for your practice to produce those positive effects and you’ll have varying results from day to day. Slow and varying results are a natural part of the process, not an indication that you are doing something wrong.

Keeping Track

If you look back on any measurements of reps or minutes you have kept, you will probably find it surprising to see how far you have come because we forget that we couldn’t always do what we can do right now. I think that emotional changes are even trickier to remember and without some sort of record, you might not realize that you have moved closer to your goal. But, even though you can’t measure emotional or sensory results in minutes or reps you can keep track of how your habits contribute to experiencing the feelings you are seeking.

It would probably help to start by making some notes about what that feeling means for you or how you have experienced it in the past. That way, you’ll know it when you feel it. So, for example, if you want to feel fluid in your movements, try to recall a time in the past when you felt that way and take note of what your body and mind were doing at that point. You can then use that remembered experience as a point of comparison for future experiences of fluidity.

Once you know some specifics about what you are seeking, you can put reminders in your calendar to check in with yourself regularly about those feelings and then either make a journal entry or a short note about them.

If you like to keep daily records of things you can use a spreadsheet or a journaling app or you can do some more elaborate bullet-journaling style tracking. Just be kind to yourself and don’t make the tracking process so onerous that you end up avoiding it. (so says a person who has fallen into that trap many, many times)

And, if you also make notes about what you did in your practice on a given day, you may be able to see if certain actions or activities provide a more positive emotional effect over time. Perhaps you are less anxious about your writing on days when you have meditated, or maybe you feel more balanced on days when you do squats.

Obviously, your experience will be specific and personal but it is definitely worthwhile to see if your practice is bringing you closer to the feelings you want to experience more often.

Today’s Invitation

So, today, I invite you to consider your feelings.

Are there any specific emotional or sensory experiences you are hoping to get from your practice?

Is there anything you can add (or take away) from your practice to contribute to the experiences you are seeking?

If it interests you, is there an easy way to track your feelings that will show you changes over time?

How can considering your feelings ADD to your overall kindness to yourself?

And finally, if all of this feelings stuff isn’t relevant to the habits you are building, I invite you to ignore me completely! 🙂

Here are several gold stars for your efforts today, whether you are journaling your answers to these questions, sweating your way through a workout, meditating with ease or dragging your mind back to your breath over and over, or still just figuring out how you might move a little more today.

Gold coloured wood stars against a textured blue-painted background.
Today’s stars are on one corner of a piece of multi-media art that my sister Angela made for me. Feelings are complex and layered things so I thought that this textured, layered, multi-star art was a good symbol for our celebration. Image description: three gold coloured wooden stars sit on a blue textured background that features tiny green stars and gold dots.

Note: When I wrote the first feelings post yesterday, I thought I would be able to cover everything in two posts. It turns out that I need three. So, please tune in tomorrow when I’ll be talking a bit about how building habits can stir up challenging feelings. I am not a psychologist, I am not a mental health professional and I don’t have any training in trauma, so I won’t be delving into anything that requires expertise I don’t have. I’ll stick to general advice about self-compassion and link to a few articles that address issues around when exercise or meditation generates relatively manageable stress or anxiety. If your emotional reaction to building wellness habits goes beyond that or is overwhelming or all-encompassing, I hope you can seek professional help from someone trained in supporting people through processing those emotions. I wish you ease and I am earnestly trying not to cause additional harm.

For the second year in a row, I’ll be posting a Go Team! message every day in January to encourage us as we build new habits or maintain existing ones. It’s cumbersome to try to include every possibility in every sentence so please assume that I am offering you kindness, understanding, and encouragement for your efforts right now. You matter, your needs matter, and your efforts count, no matter where you are applying them. You are doing the best you can, with the resources you have, in all kinds of difficult situations and I wish you ease. ⭐💚 PS – Some of the posts for this year may be similar to posts from last year but I think we can roll with it.

fitness · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team! January 9: Feelings – Part 1

Building habits and making changes – even ones you want to build and change – tends to stir up a lot of complicated feelings. So complicated in fact, that I am making a two part post and there may be a few subsections and contradictions in both of them. Roll with me and let’s figure this out.

One of the first feelings-related tangles in building new habits is dealing with days when you just don’t feel like doing your new practice.

Not feeling like doing your practice might just be your brain resisting change, it might be a sign that you need to rethink your routine, or maybe today is an overwhelming day and you need to rest.

Let’s poke around those ideas a bit and see what we can find.

Is ‘not feeling like it’ a sign that you have picked the wrong thing to work on?

Not automatically.

It depends on whether you are facing every single session with dread or if you are having trouble stirring yourself to do it every now and then.

Daily Dread?

If you are facing every single session with dread, that’s probably more than ‘I don’t feel like it.’ even if that’s the answer that your brain is churning up for you right now.

That regular sense of dread might mean that you have taken on something that you feel you *should* want to do instead of something you actually want. Dig into that a little and see if you can figure out why you chose this habit to build. Where did the idea come from? What are you hoping to gain from it? How do you see it enhancing or expanding your life? Your answers will tell you whether to reconsider your plans.

Or it might mean that you have taken on too much at the start, that your first step is too big for right now. This is a VERY common thing to do when trying to build a new habit. You know where you want to end up and you want to get there quickly. You assess your time and your capacity on your very best day and use that to make a plan. It works for a while but then you have a day when your time and capacity are limited and things go awry. If your daily dread is centered around how huge your practices seems, then dial things back to something much smaller. On high energy days, you can add extra things but average day can stay manageable.

Or your feeling of dread might be coming from something more easily fixable. A few years ago, I was doing a short stretching practice in the morning. I had my mat set up in the rec room with a small speaker for some energizing music and I really enjoyed the practice once I got started each day but I still found myself dreading the whole thing. I pushed through most of the time but I hated having to wade through all that dread to get to my mat. Luckily, the whole thing came up in conversation with my son and he noticed something I hadn’t paid attention to: how chilly it is in the rec room. I started putting on a cardigan before I did my stretches and I stopped dreading my routine. Your routine may not involve being too chilly but perhaps there’s a type of discomfort involved that you haven’t noticed. Are you hungry at that time of day? Are your socks too slippery? If it noisy or messy? Are your boots uncomfortable? Is your jacket too tight? Do you get interrupted a lot? Any of these things could be creating dread without you even realizing it.

Every Now and Then?

If you ‘don’t feel like it’ every now and then, or even several days in a row, you might just have what my dad refers to as the ‘sooners.’*

As in ‘I’d sooner get a poke in the eye with a sharp stick as do that now.’

That feeling, Team, tends to be good old fashioned resistance.

Your brain likes your old patterns. They’re familiar, the neural pathways for them are smooth and well-established, they take less energy than creating something new. Of course your brain wants to stick with them. Even if it knows, on some level, that the new pattern will be beneficial, it is harder and energy-consuming right now.

If you have the sooners, you will probably want to coax yourself into doing your practice anyway. In this case, your ‘don’t feel like it’ is usually about not wanting to switch gears from what you are already doing (even if you are currently doing nothing.) It’s often a resistance to getting started, not a resistance to doing.

And it’s okay to dial things back to help yourself get started. Make use of your placeholder habit and tell yourself that you only have to do a minute of exercise or meditation and then you can stop. If you are still feeling meh after a minute, stop. If you want to continue, go ahead. Or you can offer yourself the chance to switch things up a little. Maybe do your stretches in bed instead of on the floor or do wall pushups instead of floor pushups, anything that helps your practice feel more doable.

Is ‘not feeling like it’ a sign that you need to rest?

It very well could be.

We live in a world that is full of pressure to push ourselves to do more, more, and more. We take in that ambient pressure without even realizing it and we can end up packing our days with so-called productivity and alleged self-improvement. This leads to us forgetting that we need rest.

If you have even the smallest inkling that rest is what you need, then rest.

The worst thing that can come from resting is that you will feel more rested. (The horror!)

Resting doesn’t mean you are lazy.** It means that you care enough to give yourself what you need. Your body and brain need rest to function and we all need different amounts of rest at different times. If anyone tries to give you grief about that, send them to me. I have both a fierce Mom-look and a swift front kick ready to deploy as needed.

Resting can look like crawling into bed at 7pm. Or it might look like a gentle walk or a few stretches. It might look like doing Yoga Nidra. You are the only one who can determine what you need right now but if you can’t figure it out, text your kindest friend and ask them what you should do. If they aren’t available, give yourself the advice you would give a tired person who asked you for help.

Today’s Invitation

So, if today is one of those ‘don’t feel like it’ days, remember that it happens to everyone and that it is ok to feel that way. Please be kind to yourself about the feeling and try not to read too much into it. All feelings are valid but they aren’t all profound. They aren’t all signs of something important.

If you are bothered by that ‘don’t feel like it’ feeling, I invite you to take a few minutes and use the ideas above to explore what might be behind it. Maybe, like me, you just need a sweater!

If exploring feels too hard, then I invite you to rest.

As always, here is your gold star for today’s efforts – your efforts in your practice, your efforts to figure out your ‘don’t feel like it’, your efforts to make space to rest, any efforts at all.

You work harder than you realize, and this star celebrates that effort.

 A sparkly gold star against a dark grey background
Image description: a very sparkly gold star with a gold pipe-cleaner attached between the bottom points. The pipe-cleaner is bent into an S-shape and there is a shiny dark grey curtain in the background.

*For the record, I’m not claiming that my Dad made up this expression, it’s just where I heard it from.

**Personally, unless you are prefacing it with the adjective ‘delightfully’, I would like to banish the word lazy from our collective vocabularies. It’s too often used in a harsh and mean way that serves no one. That goes double when we use it to describe ourselves.

For the second year in a row, I’ll be posting a Go Team! message every day in January to encourage us as we build new habits or maintain existing ones. It’s cumbersome to try to include every possibility in every sentence so please assume that I am offering you kindness, understanding, and encouragement for your efforts right now. You matter, your needs matter, and your efforts count, no matter where you are applying them. You are doing the best you can, with the resources you have, in all kinds of difficult situations and I wish you ease. ⭐💚 PS – Some of the posts for this year may be similar to posts from last year but I think we can roll with it.

fitness · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team! January 8: Powerful Attention

Last year, I wrote about how Adriene (of Yoga with Adriene) asks us to ‘give attention’ to things we find challenging or to the muscles that we want to relax or strengthen instead of directing us to ‘work’ on them.

I still love that concept and turn of phrase. Giving attention to something is kind. It’s gentle. It’s responsive. It’s not about bossing your body or your mind around, it’s about listening to what your body or your mind is telling you.

It’s a very useful and supportive way to support yourself as you develop new habits that serve you better.

And I’d like to build on that idea by borrowing an idea about attention from Taekwon-do.

In TKD, we channel our power by ‘moving the eyes, hands, feet, and breath in a single coordinated motion’ and to ‘look where you’re striking.’

That advice is there to remind us that where our attention goes, our power goes.

If we’re looking off to the left while our right hand is striking or blocking outward, we aren’t going to be very effective. We will either miss our target or we won’t be able to protect ourselves from our opponent’s attack.

By paying attention to the task at hand, we are able to be as effective as possible.

This is also true when you are building a new habit.

I don’t mean to suggest that you need to make your whole life about that one thing, that’s not sustainable.

I am suggesting that choosing to give yourself attention will direct your power, your energy, into meeting the need that your habit represents.

After all, we don’t pick these new habits out of nowhere, we are choosing to meet a need. Maybe we do yoga because we feel the need to reduce pain or to move with more ease. Perhaps we are meditating because we need peace of mind. Or we’re doing bicep curls because we need that feeling of strength. Those habits, those actions, are about giving our attention to that need.

Making the connection between the need, the habit, the choice to give ourselves attention, and the power that comes with that directed attention, will serve us well as we move forward.

So, today, I’d like to invite you to choose, with kindness, how you will give yourself the attention you need and I hope that you feel the power that comes with that attention.

And, of course, here is your gold star for your efforts today. Whether you are figuring out how to apply your attention, if you are blasting through another workout, taking a few deep breaths in your car, choosing to rest, making a list, or doing a stretch for that sore ankle. It all counts. It all matters.

A drawing of a gold star on white paper. The star is outlined in black.
In a surprise to no one, I also draw a lot of gold stars. It’s imperfect but it is embracing its wonkiness. And so am I. Image description: a drawing of a gold star on white paper. The drawing is done in shiny ink and the star is outlined in black, there are short gold lines drawn outward from the star to suggest that it is shining.

For the second year in a row, I’ll be posting a Go Team! message every day in January to encourage us as we build new habits or maintain existing ones. It’s cumbersome to try to include every possibility in every sentence so please assume that I am offering you kindness, understanding, and encouragement for your efforts right now. You matter, your needs matter, and your efforts count, no matter where you are applying them. You are doing the best you can, with the resources you have, in all kinds of difficult situations and I wish you ease. ⭐💚 PS – Some of the posts for this year may be similar to posts from last year but I think we can roll with it.

fitness · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team! January 7: Focus On What You CAN Do Today

Every time I start to write one of these Go Team! posts, I get worried that I have already said the same thing in a different form or that I am getting repetitive already. But then I remember how often I have to engage with certain ideas before they really take hold, especially when it comes to ideas around self-kindness, and I figure it is safe to approach the same concept from different directions while we learn to embrace it. So, some threads will appear again and again in these posts and I hope they help different people each time and/or they help the same people in different ways.

Often when we have goals or plans, we get so caught up in what we want/mean/plan to do that we forget that we are fallible human beings, trying to do the best we can with the resources we have available. We focus on following the plan, at all costs, and we feel like doing anything else is a complete failure.

You will be shocked to discover that I refuse to let us get mired in that kind of thinking.

Don’t get me wrong, I fall into that all-or-failure thinking trap, too, but I am learning to extract myself as quickly as possible by focusing on what I CAN do in a given moment instead of getting dragged down by what I can’t do.

And I invite you to consider the same approach.

When your plans for self-care, whether that is exercise, meditation, rest, or anything else, go awry, please don’t stay tangled in your ideas of how things should have gone, or how unfair it is.

It’s true. Things should have gone better for you. It is unfair. And if is definitely frustrating. You are doing your best to take good care of yourself and you just wanted to be able to check these few things off your list.

And if I had a magic wand, I would wave all of those things away and give you the space to follow your plans.

Since I haven’t figured out the whole magic thing yet, I’m hoping you can try this instead:

Choose to focus on what you CAN do today.

Obviously, please go ahead and give yourself time to acknowledge how frustrated you are first. I am not asking you to pretend that everything is fair. You don’t have to brightside yourself.

But, once you have acknowledged your frustration and your head has cleared a little, try to start looking for what feels possible right now. This isn’t about ignoring the problem or pretending that obstacles don’t exist, it’s about finding a focus that serves you best at the moment.

Focusing on what you CAN do puts you back in charge. It means you aren’t just being buffeted around by your annoyances. It helps you take action.

So, when you find yourself unable to follow through on your wellness plans on a given day, perhaps ask yourself these questions:

What is my energy level today? How much time do I have? What tools are available to me? How can I combine those factors to help myself expand toward my plans today?

Your plan for today doesn’t have to be huge. It doesn’t have to be groundbreaking. It can be a placeholder for the plan you had or it can be something totally different. I just want you to be free from the constrictions of what you can’t do right now and open to the possibilities of what you can do.

By the way, if the answer to those questions is: I have no energy, no time, and no tools, that’s ok, too. Some days are just like that. You aren’t procrastinating, you aren’t avoiding, you are recognizing your capacity today. Decide that today you are taking a break from expanding towards that goal and consider that (always challenging) decision to be your effort for the day. Building a new habit is a slow and steady process and will involve twists, turns, stops, and starts as you figure things out. That’s not you getting lost, that’s you creating the map.

As always, here is your gold star for the day.

You matter.

Your efforts count.

I’m proud of your hard work.

A free-standing 3D gold star ornament, lit by the sun, sits on a wooden surface.
I love this geometric star. Lots of spaces for good things to happen in between all of those points. Image description: a 3D, multi pointed, gold star ornament on a wooden surface, a beam of sunshine is making the star glow and is casting a shadow on a dark surface behind. The star itself is made from lines of metal so each point on the star is actually the outline of a triangle. Photo credit: my son, J.

For the second year in a row, I’ll be posting a Go Team! message every day in January to encourage us as we build new habits or maintain existing ones. It’s cumbersome to try to include every possibility in every sentence so please assume that I am offering you kindness, understanding, and encouragement for your efforts right now. You matter, your needs matter, and your efforts count, no matter where you are applying them. You are doing the best you can, with the resources you have, in all kinds of difficult situations and I wish you ease. ⭐💚 PS – Some of the posts for this year may be similar to posts from last year but I think we can roll with it.

fitness · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team! January 6: Beyond Compare

You, my friends, are absolutely beyond compare.

Look at you, figuring out your own ways to reshape your habits and your days so they align with your intentions and your values. Not to mention facing obstacles and schedules and competing priorities while you do it.

You are bringing a unique set of experiences and perceptions to your plans and you are dealing with a unique set of challenges while you navigate them.

So, given that uniqueness, why do you end up comparing your efforts to the efforts of those around you?

I know, I know. Some comparison is a natural thing and that natural tendency gets reinforced by the social structures we live in.

We can’t blame ourselves for the tendency to compare ourselves to other people we perceive to be in the same situation but we can choose to be conscious about the meaning we ascribe to the differences.

We can notice the differences without using them to be mean to ourselves about our efforts.

Let’s put this firmly in a fitness context:

We all have bodies but each of those bodies is different. Many of the parts of our bodies work in roughly the same way but each person’s body has its own specific abilities and capacity. Even bodies that look similar or work in similar ways will each have their own unique specifications and abilities. And those abilities and specifications make vary from day to day.

One person will find easy to build muscle while another person’s strength isn’t visible at all. Another person might be able to easily touch their toes while their partner finds it painful to lean forward. Someone may learn new movements quickly while someone else struggles to grasp a few basic gestures. The person at the front of the yoga class might be able to move into Eagle Arms on their first try while the person on the next mat finds that their breasts are in their way or that their upper back doesn’t have the flexibility yet. Person A might be able to put in a very similar physical effort every day while Person B’s capacity varies depending on their pain level, their body’s reaction to medication, or the range of their chronic illness or disability. Your brain might crave meditation while your sister’s brain finds that meditation stirs her anxiety. Today, you might be able to walk the hallway easily but, tomorrow, you may need your cane.

We all have to work with the bodies (and brains) that we have. And we have to work with what they can do on any given day. And our ‘progress’ might be slow, fast, intermittent or non-existent.

And those are just the body-related and brain-based side of things.

On top of your body’s natural tendencies, you also have to factor in your schedule. And your obligations. And the weather. And the people who live with you/depend on you.

Each of those things are going to affect you in different ways on different days and someone else’s physical, mental, and life factors are going to affect them in different ways on different days.

When you consider all of that, doesn’t comparing your efforts to someone else’s just seem ridiculous?

Me, just now. I couldn’t figure out another way to make this important point stand out in a pretty way.

We have all learned how to compare ourselves with others and these days, a variety of factors encourage us to compare our messy day-to-day with the curated glimpses we get of other people’s lives.

This can lead to us wondering why our efforts in fitness, wellness, or anything else aren’t getting the same results as someone else is getting.

And THAT can lead to us feeling like we just aren’t trying hard enough or that our efforts are meaningless.

That is simply not true.

We have no idea what combination of privilege, genetics, free time, and effort is giving someone else the results they are getting. Comparing our efforts to all of those unknowns is not going to serve us.

Instead, I’d like to invite you consider yourself as a person beyond compare.

Your efforts are about you. About your wellbeing, your fitness, your peace of mind. Someone else’s efforts and results only matter if they are inspire you or give you useful information.

Your efforts matter, whether you are making a plan, holding ground, inching ahead, leaping forward, or taking a step back to reconsider, recover, rehabilitate, or to heal. Please be kind to yourself as you acknowledge where you are in the process.

And here’s your gold star to celebrate your incomparable efforts. I’m proud of you.

A decoration made of a star-shaped frame with curly wires extending across the inside to add to the solidity of the star.
Another gold star decoration from my house. You can’t see it from the photo but this is the top of a small tree that’s formed from gold-coloured wire decorated with beads. Image description: a gold star made from a small wired frame that has overlapping curly wires extended from side to side in an irregular pattern. At the bottom of the star there are some more curls of wire and there there are coloured beads at various intervals on the star and the wires. A light green wall with a stripe of light and a stripe of shadow is visible behind the star.

For the second year in a row, I’ll be posting a Go Team! message every day in January to encourage us as we build new habits or maintain existing ones. It’s cumbersome to try to include every possibility in every sentence so please assume that I am offering you kindness, understanding, and encouragement for your efforts right now. You matter, your needs matter, and your efforts count, no matter where you are applying them. You are doing the best you can, with the resources you have, in all kinds of difficult situations and I wish you ease. ⭐💚 PS – Some of the posts for this year may be similar to posts from last year but I think we can roll with it.

fitness · goals · habits · mindfulness · motivation · self care

Go Team! January 3: Pick A Time

One of the trickiest things about adding something new to our lives (or about continuing a habit when other parts of our lives have changed) is actually fitting it into our schedule.

We can have a clear plan and all the good intentions in the world but we still need actual time to exercise, or meditate, or stretch, or whatever we have chosen to explore right now.

And if we don’t consciously choose a time for that new habit, it will probably get pushed down our to do list until we are scrambling to fit it in before we let ourselves go to bed or we end up putting it off until “tomorrow.”

I know this happens because I do it ALL THE TIME. My ADHD brain thinks time will expand to let me fit everything I want to do into a day. It NEVER works. I apparently do not have control over the flow of time after all.

So, if this happens to you, too, I invite you to take a few minutes today to consider WHEN you will work on your new habit.

Do you need to be in a specific location? Do you need particular equipment? Will you need to shower/sleep afterwards? Is it too noisy to do at night or early in the morning? Do you have caregiving responsibilities that you need to work around? When do you PREFER to do your practice and is it possible to do it then?

I know we would all like to assume that we will just automatically do the things we want/need to do in a day but the truth is that we need to make room for them.

And while you’re trying to figure out your timing, please ignore the nonsense advice that says “If you *really* wanted it, you’d make it happen.” because that’s garbage. Your desire to include this new habit in your life is only one factor in the equation and reality is much more complicated than that. Please do NOT let advice like that add to your pile of guilt-related shoulds. (In fact, burn that pile of shoulds at your first opportunity.)

If you discover that you don’t actually have time in your schedule for your planned habit right now, it’s ok to make a note in your calendar to reconsider it later. (I like to put things like that in my calendar so I don’t forget to return to them.)

And it’s also okay to scale down your habit so you can fit them in at the moment. For example, if you can’t figure out how to fit 10 minutes of meditation into your days right now, maybe you can start by taking three deep breaths while the kettle boils for your tea. Or you can do 5 squats while you text a friend.

Every little bit counts and your efforts will help you feel a bit better, even if you have to go slowly.

And, speaking of your efforts, here’s your gold star for today.

I’m proud of your hard work.

A star-shaped ornament covered in gold covered sequins hanging from a yellow pushpin on an orange wall.
One of my year-round gold stars that I keep hanging next to the wall calendar in my kitchen. Image description: A star-shaped ornament covered in gold covered sequins hanging from a yellow pushpin on an orange wall.

For the second year in a row, I’ll be posting a Go Team! message every day in January to encourage us as we build new habits or maintain existing ones. It’s cumbersome to try to include every possibility in every sentence so please assume that I am offering you kindness, understanding, and encouragement for your efforts right now. You matter, your needs matter, and your efforts count, no matter where you are applying them. You are doing the best you can, with the resources you have, in all kinds of difficult situations and I wish you ease. ⭐💚 PS – Some of the posts for this year may be similar to posts from last year but I think we can roll with it.

habits · motivation · planning · self care

Go Team! January 2: Go Easy

Hello Team!

Today, I’d like to invite you to go easy on yourself.

We live with a cultural narrative that tells us to Go Big or Go Home, one that stresses that we have to push, push, push, and be tough and disciplined, and work hard all the time.

I vote no.

There can be a time and a place for all of those sorts of feelings and that type of effort but the first days of building a new habit is definitely not that time or place.

This is a time to be gentle with yourself, to work with the feelings of reluctance and discomfort that often surround making any sort of change.

After all, our brains like to stick with established routines – those routines use less brainpower, less energy, and they feel more efficient – and introducing new habits will require work.

That’s why we need to go easy.

 a GIF of three light-green plush peas with smiling faces jumping excitedly in a zippe​red felt pod
I couldn’t resist how cute these peas were in their wee pod. Image description: a GIF of three light-green plush peas with smiling faces jumping excitedly in a zippered felt pod.

We need to know that we might start later than we intended or that we might miss some days in our plan.

We need to acknowledge that we will have ups and downs in the process of developing our new habits. We need to recognize that things going awry doesn’t mean we have failed, it means we are following a perfectly normal pattern of developing a new habit.

If you are in the honeymoon phase of your new habit, when everything is going smoothly, this may seem like a weird time to bring all of this up, but I think it’s useful to consider that there will be challenges ahead. Maybe you’ll want to make some encouraging notes for your future self about how you feel right now or about how you could choose a streamlined version of your habit to use on a challenging day.

If you are still struggling to get started, then going easy is definitely going to help. I know that in the past, I have set a date to start something new but when that day arrived, something was in my way – a work project, a migraine, a missing piece for the routine- and I didn’t start the way I meant to. Sometimes, I abandoned the plan right there and then because I only had one vision of my new habit – things going perfectly – and I didn’t know how to work with anything less. Other times, I started anyway but the plan felt somehow tainted because I hadn’t managed to start as I had planned.*

GIF of Kermit the Frog looking upset. Text beneath reads ‘Mistakes were made.’
I know, Kermit, this kind of thing happens to me on the regular. Image description: a GIF of Kermit the Frog from The Muppets shaking his head with his hand over his snout (do frogs have snouts?) White text beneath reads ‘Mistakes were made.’

Instead of planning to be our most perfect selves on our most perfect day, it would be better for us to go easy. Learning to take small steps and to do things like creating a version of our new habit that we can do even on the hardest of days will serve us better in the long run.

I know that we all approach new habits in different ways. Some of us like to start with a huge workout or a long meditation and some of us like to work our way up. And, obviously, I want you to do what works best for you. However, it’s a good idea for us to all have a ‘go easy’ plan to use on days when we struggle.

On any given day, go easy might mean doing a low-key version of our plan or it might mean taking a break, but going easy will never be a sign of failure. It’s a sign of self-compassion. It’s us recognizing that we are human and that our days will vary. Being prepared to for all kinds of days and all kinds of energy levels will help us stick with our new habits until they become routine.

And now, since I like to have an example as an anchor, here’s how my yoga plan for this month will go.

I’m signed up for Yoga with Adriene’s 30 Day ‘Move’ program for January but I am going to do it on my own terms. Ideally, I will do the video for a given day at 10pm. However, there will no doubt be days when I will have a family obligation or an online meeting with someone in a different time zone at 10pm. On those days, I will plan to do the video at 2pm. BUT, if that doesn’t work, I will do a very short practice on my own and I have decided that even one asana will count as a practice. So, even on my most difficult day, I can lie on the floor in Savasana (corpse pose) for couple of minutes and consider my yoga done for the day.

When you are building a habit, having what I call a placeholder practice – like me doing Savasana – is an important way to go easy while still keeping your momentum.

You aren’t slacking off, you aren’t letting yourself off the hook, you are being responsive to your own needs in the moment.

Your efforts count, whether you are meditating for an hour or a minute. Everything you do to build your habit matters, whether you do one squat or a hundred. Trust yourself to know whether you need to go easy or push hard.

And here’s your gold star for today’s efforts – even if the only thing you can manage today is reading this post – or even part of it, there are a lot of words up there!

A gold star ornament hanging against a dark green wall.
Image description: a gold star ornament against a dark green wall. The star is made from overlaid gold-coloured wires so it appears to be woven or made from wicker.

*This might be a being-too-literal-sometimes ADHD thing or it might just be a being-too-literal-sometimes Christine thing but I have always hated the sayings ‘Start as you mean to go on.’ and ‘Start as you mean to finish.’ I understand that the spirit those sayings are trying to foster but, to me, they always seemed impossible. How am I supposed to know at the beginning how things are going to go later on? What about if I start strong and can’t sustain it? What about if I don’t have enough information at the beginning to know how things need to be later? This is more evidence of my expert-level overthinking.

fitness · habits · health · holidays · meditation · mindfulness · motivation · self care · yoga

Making Space: Day 17

When I committed to writing this posts for December, I thought I understood the value of making space for yourself during a busy time. And I would have sworn that I knew the rewards of small exercise and meditation practices.

But obviously there are levels of understanding when it comes to this stuff because I am thrilled with how different I feel from doing (and writing about) these things daily.

I hope that you are getting at least some of the same effect.

It can be really easy to dismiss a short practice in anything, whether it is meditation, Taekwondo, piano, or deep breathing. The truth is that those short practices are not only surprisingly good in themselves but their cumulative effect is delightful.

For a little more delight today, here’s Joelle with some lower back reset yoga in a beautiful setting.

(It’s really cold here today so seeing this summery scene was extra lovely.)

A short yoga practice for the lower back from Yoga with Joelle. In the still image, Joelle is outdoors ona dock with lush greenery and water in the background. She lying on her back on a yoga mat with her knees curled up toward her chest and her arms wrapped around them.

And for some restful breathing today, here’s a short meditation to try:

A 5 minute guided meditation for mindfulness from the Declutter the Mind YouTube channel. Image description:?The still image is of a waterfall surround by rocks and trees. The name of the video ‘Short 5 Min Guided Meditation for Mindfulness’ is in the foreground in white text.

As always, I wish you ease and space in your day.

And here’s a star for your efforts: ⭐️

Dancing · fitness · habits · holiday fitness · mindfulness · self care

Making Space: Day 12

How are things going so far?

Have you been managing to make some space for yourself through movement, meditation, or through something else that makes you happy?

I really hope you have.

But if it is hasn’t worked out for you yet, I still applaud your efforts.

It’s tricky to find time for yourself in a busy life and it’s even trickier to find energy to do something different with that time. It’s far easier to just zone out and go with whatever habits you already have.

I’m not criticizing the tendency to zone out. I do it too. Sometimes, it’s is all we can manage to do and that’s fine.

But if zoning out is not serving you well, if it is not helping you to feel rested, then maybe you can ease your way toward another form of self care.

Today’s breathing exercise (it’s not exactly a meditation but it also kind of is) might be a good place to start, even if you just follow it for a couple of breaths.

You don’t have to create a huge space for yourself right away, the teeny tiny space of a few breaths is an excellent place to start.

A breathing exercise video from the Hands On Meditation YouTube channel. The still image is a greenish blue sky with different shades of greenish blue mountains at the bottom. The words ‘4-7-8 Calm Breathing Exercise’ are in the foreground in white.

If you want to get moving today, this hip-hop dance video is a fun way to get started.

A 5-Minute Hip-Hop Dance Cardio video from the PopSugar YouTube channel. Still image shows three people is exercise clothes in a gym with wooden floors and a white brick wall.

No matter what you decide to do today, I hope you find some ease.

⭐️ <- for your hard work