2020: The year of ‘Self’

Happy New Year, everyone!

I’m a little late to my 2020 theme post. Actually, I’ve been later. Did you notice I didn’t post one last year? Neither did I. I don’t even know if I had a theme in 2019, and it sure did prove to be a tough year for me.

Not only are we welcoming a new year—we are also welcoming a new decade. As I reflect on my life the past 10 years, I see tremendous growth: I met my husband, graduated with an undergraduate degree, traveled to places around the world, had many rewarding jobs, got married, got a cat, went to graduate school, won an alumni award, and rediscovered different hobbies like theater and avid reading and writing. Life has been good to me!

If there’s anything that I’ve learned this past decade, and continue to relearn, is my self-worth. It’s something we all have (not to be confused with self-esteem) and I’ve worked hard to combat those negative thoughts.

What I have noticed throughout the past year is that I have been super negative. From looking in the mirror and picking at my face, my body, and overall image, to writing and calling myself incompetent or worthless, I’ve really pushed myself down this year. I feel as if I can never say a good thing about myself. I’d like for that to change in 2020.

Writing a master’s thesis and starting a new job at the same time is extremely stressful, but they are both very positive things. I’ve become so stressed that I’ve been sick since October. I haven’t been eating well, and I haven’t exercised as much. It’s taken a toll. It’s time I start to become more positive and erase those negative thoughts that constantly swirl in my head telling myself that I am “not enough.” As a perfectionist, these thoughts occur often, and it is affecting my overall health and happiness.

In 2015, I learned that there is a key difference between resolutions and habits. Resolutions just don’t work. If you say you want to eat healthy, you aren’t really creating something that is SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based). If you really want to succeed in your goals for the next year, try to form habits.

In 2016, I took it one step further (all inspired by Gretchen Rubin, a happiness expert) and declared a theme for my year, which was Health. In 2017, I created a theme of Improve, and in 2018, my themes were Perform and Travel. This year, my theme is “Self.”

Coffee, Food, Drink, Hottest, Leaves, Winter, Cold

I was trying to find the perfect word to describe what I wanted to achieve this year, and I found that one of my friends has the same goals for 2020, calling 2020 the year of “Self.” So, inspired by her, that will be my theme!

Now, along with a theme, you must create goals that correspond with that theme. Then, you create SMART habits that will help you achieve your goals.

Here are my goals for Self:

GOAL: Become more mindful: Do you every feel as if your mind doesn’t stop? My mind has raced constantly and I cannot concentrate and complete everything on my to-do list.

Habit: To achieve mindfulness I will use my Stop, Breathe, and Think app once a day and meditate throughout the year.

GOAL: Be organized: From my full-time job and writing my master’s thesis to side gigs and a social life, I have found that I have lost touch with my organizational side (a side I took pride in). I want to be able to juggle all my tasks—from my blog and bookstagram posts (follow me @keepitkassual on Instagram) to my work meetings and academic projects.

Habit: Purchase a monthly/daily planner and a bullet journal and regularly update both items once a week, on Sunday mornings. Sundays will be your day to be organized for the week and start the work week recharged and focused.

GOAL: Prioritize fitness: This one is pretty straightforward. When I exercise, I am not only physically healthy, but mentally healthy. I am energized, confident, and can concentrate and complete my other tasks with a positive attitude.

Habit: Go to the gym 2-3 times a week, incorporating regular strength training with cardio (spinning on Saturdays or using the bikes at the gym on weeknights). I also plan on putting the gym in my planner to hold myself accountable and not move it if other things were to arise.

I am hopeful that these goals will be achieved this year! If I am mentally and physically healthy (mindfulness and exercise), I will feel organized and energized to complete my other tasks. I also hope to prioritize writing not only for my thesis and other academic projects and read slowly, enjoying the books I want to read rather than rushing through them. With the help of achieving these goals, I will truly be able to focus on myself—mind, body, and soul.

What about you? What are your “themes” or goals for 2020? Share in the comments below, and wishing you and yours a Happy New Year!

Reflection: Themes for 2018

Hi all! We are halfway through the new year, and I thought it might be fun to check in and see where I am so far with my “themes” for 2018.

Back in January, I shared my two themes for 2018: Perform and Travel. I noticed that these were two lifestyles that I wanted to incorporate into my life. I spent my entire childhood performing, but I stopped when I got to college. After seeing a beautiful production of “The Phantom of the Opera,” I realized that I wanted to be back on the stage again! Back in August 2017, my husband and I traveled to Montreal, and we realized that we wanted to see more of the world. So, we made it our goal to travel more! Reflecting on my year thus far, I am super proud that I have been making progress in reaching my goals.

When you make goals, it’s a great exercise to reflect and see how far you are coming to reaching them. If you notice that you have a long way to go, you could always modify your goals, or set smaller actionable steps that you can take to get to your predetermined finish line! It’s also a rewarding reflection process: If you are close to reaching your goals, or if you already met them, celebrate! You are awesome and moving in a positive direction!

Let’s go back.

In the start of the new year, I set two goals for “Perform:”

  1. Try out and perform in a public setting for a local community theater
  2. Practice my guitar/singing twice a week and share progress through videos

In April, I auditioned for and landed a solo in a local community theater’s spring cabaret! Not only did I encounter the nerves of auditioning in front of strangers, but I also had the opportunity to perform in front of an audience. It was an exhilarating experience; even though I listened to the recording and had plenty of remarks and criticisms, I had to recognize that it was a big step to get up and do it—and I had so much fun!

And now, I have joined a community theater! A few weeks ago, I tried out to be cast in the theater’s fall production, “Young Frankenstein. ” and I am thrilled to say that I will be a part of it.

So, the second goal: I am still working on that one! For those who do not know, I also go to graduate school. This past semester was incredible because I had the opportunity to be a graduate assistant and help teach a 17th-century British literature course! With a full-time job, three classes, and a cabaret to rehearse for, I found myself with little time for leisure! Now that it’s summer, I will be able to focus on practicing guitar. I plan on writing down practice time in my planner and sticking to it so I can meet my goal this year.

I did, however, have some time to play guitar at my sister’s birthday party and even posted a video on my Facebook page! Progress!

Now, let’s turn to my goals for “Travel:”

  1. Travel outside of the country at least once and write about my experiences
  2. Take more spontaneous trips and explore the state and area that I live in and write about my experiences

When I made these goals back in January, I admittedly knew that I would meet one of them right away. In March, Ian and I traveled all around Ireland. We originally planned to do this for our honeymoon but decided to wait another year. Boy, was it worth the wait! If you follow my blog regularly, I’m sure you read about our experiences!

We are working on scheduling smaller trips this summer, and I cannot wait to share our adventures with you! In fact, we just took a road trip to Burlington, Vermont this past weekend. Take a look!

Thank you to all of my followers for reading and keeping it “kassual.” What are your goals for this year or overall life goals? Feel free to share them in the comments!

 

Happy International Day of Happiness!

Today marks International Day of Happiness, a global celebration when thousands of people around the world take action in their own lives and the lives of others to spread happiness. What an amazing celebration!

If you follow my blog, you know that I have a little obsession with happiness, and that I like to try out different tips and tricks to boost my happiness, whether it is getting outdoors, exercising, or even cleaning up clutter around the house. I love sharing these tips on my blog and hope that I inspire others to live a happier, healthier lifestyle, too! When I found out about International Day of Happiness, I was super excited!

I have been spending International Day of Happiness drinking mugs of tea while burrowing my nose in bridal books. Yes—wedding planning! Today has been chock-full of list making, budgeting, some small yet exciting purchasing, and of course, perusing Pinterest. What can be more of a happiness boost than planning a wedding?

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When it comes to happiness, I do small rituals every day to help make sure that I go to bed with a smile on my face, no matter what trials and obstacles I may face during the day. One ritual is to write in my gratitude journal, where I reflect on things that bring me gratitude. Even if it is one sentence or a couple of bullet points, I find that I am able to find perspective and focus on the positives rather than the negatives. Studies find that being grateful produces positive emotions and fine-tune the ability to relish good experiences, and keeping a journal can help cultivate gratitude and boost your happiness.

Another ritual I follow each night is to read a page out of “Be Happy: 170 Ways to Transform your Day” by Patrick Lindsay. The volume is filled with happiness-boosting blurbs and advice about ways to be happy. Each page has a blurb and is followed by a famous quote. This book is superb. When I am at my lowest, I pull out this book and always find that I am happier and inspired to create change!

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I wanted to take a moment out of my day to share one of my favorite excerpts with you —one that I read quite often to remind myself to follow one of my personal commandments: “Trust the process.”

Here is the passage:

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Everyone has a different journey, and everyone has a different path to follow. Everyone has different goals, ambitions, and talents. It’s not fair to compare yourself to others or try to put a time stamp on your life. Enjoy the ride; take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. The journey matters more than the destination —right? Learn from it. Grow from it.

Happy International Happiness Day! How are you celebrating?

It’s Time to Dig Deep

Has anyone ever told you that you need to “give yourself a break” or “cut yourself some slack”?

Every. Day. I hear it quite often. Lately, I find that I have been the one uttering these phrases to myself, whether it was in front of my bathroom mirror or while taking a few deep breaths throughout the day. Although this is troubling, I find peace in the fact that I’m not the only one who feels this way. In fact, feeling this way isn’t just a common trend in my age bracket, but for all human beings. We put too much pressure on ourselves to succeed. We beat ourselves up over the small things, and are constantly trying to perfect ourselves. We get so busy working towards a better version of ourselves that we lose sight of who we are.  I am very guilty of this, and I decided that it is time for this to change.

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As I continue to make goals and work to reach them and find happiness, I have realized something: I am doing this wrong.  I find that if I don’t meet a certain task that I marked for the day, I criticize myself and question my worth. I tell myself, “Yes, I may have gone to the gym today, but I didn’t write a blog post” or “So what if I wrote in my gratitude journal every day this month? I didn’t practice guitar!” I don’t give myself enough credit for what I actually do. I have this constant urge to perfect myself —to always achieve something. I am not embracing who I already am. It’s not right.

I find myself much happier, but I am so pressured to always feel and be happy, and if I am not “happy” at a specific moment, I put myself in a difficult state. I feel that all I worked for was a waste. If I do not do something that I consider a “happiness boost” I let that affect my overall happiness and mood. What I need to tell myself is that those actions make me happier, but that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t happy, to begin with.

As you have noticed, I have been on the Gretchen Rubin, Happiness Project,
work-towards-creating-a-better-you bandwagon. It has absolutely worked —I owe a lot of my happiness to Rubin and her tips and tricks. I have been reading her books and using what I have learned to better fit my lifestyle. I successfully adopted and completed my theme for 2015: Control, and worked towards battling my anxiety and depression. I have used her books to work towards this year’s theme: Health, and I am happy with the results. Rubin is an amazing writer, and truly a happiness expert. Because of her, I am inspired to write and share my journey to health and happiness with others. I have found, however, it’s the little things that get to me, and that’s what I need to work on.

It hit me one night when I was watching Little Women, one of my favorite movies (and books) of all time. During the scene when Jo first meets Professor Bhaer and they are sitting in his room drinking dark, bitter, coffee, they start to discuss literature and her goals as a writer. They dig deep into their aspirations, struggles, and goals. Jo states: “I am hopelessly flawed.” Professor Bhaer replies: “I think we are all hopelessly flawed.”

In her books, Rubin neglects to write about something I find very important: struggles. Her work lacks the struggles human beings face when achieving our happiness and goals. These struggles can be that one may feel that there isn’t enough time in the day to complete all of their goals, or in my case, there may be psychological barriers that get in the way.

In her books, Rubin touches on a few downfalls she experiences, but she doesn’t dive deep enough; there are only slight mentions. She makes achieving happiness —for her at least— seem so easy. In her case, that is incredible. I am sure it is not easy for her, but it is not as simple for others. How do you achieve all of these things with anxiety, depression,  or both? How do you react when you can’t meet a goal, or find that you didn’t put a nice check mark next to your daily resolutions? Upon asking myself these questions, I told myself: that’s something that I would want to read.

A light bulb then went off in my head and I thought: that’s something I want to write.

Speaking about this with my therapist was enlightening. I have been making strides in battling my inner struggles, but sometimes, I get caught up in my constant need to perfect and succeed. When mentioning the Little Women scene to him and my latest battle with meeting my goals, he said: “You need to be happy with who you are before you try to move forward. You need to work towards meeting yourself where you are now and then focus where you’d like to be.”

I have a constant urge to perfect. I feel that I always have to prove myself, that I have worth, and that I am successful. I continue to push myself to do more and be more, but sometimes it feels like it isn’t enough. It’s a challenge, but not feeling this way is something to strive for. I’ve been buckling under the pressure, and it’s going to take a lot of training to meet myself where I am now, but it’s worth it.

It’s time to dig deep. People aren’t interested in reading personal stories that they can’t relate to. They want to read about someone who embraces human error —someone who isn’t afraid to admit that they are worried about change, or that sometimes they too feel the pressure. What we need are real stories, and people who are brave enough to share them.

That’s where I will come in. I am not anywhere close to perfect, but that’s what I love about myself. That’s what I am excited to share with you.