2022: The Year of Embracing Joy

This particular blog post has been tough to write because let’s be honest … I am having a very hard time welcoming a new year right now. I think we all are, right? With the new variant spreading across the world and its existence impeding on the safe and happy arrival of our baby, it’s hard to stay positive … especially when I decided that my theme for 2022 is “Joy.”

Cliff, Adventure, Above, Hiking

What I am trying to achieve in 2022 is very similar to this picture here. We are all at the top of this hill looking down at a vast, dark, impossible void. While I don’t want to pretend it’s not there, I do want to take moments and turn towards the sun, stretch out my arms and welcome some light and positivity where I can. I write this very carefully. I don’t want to lose sight of where we are in the world and how much work we have to do. I am luckier than others, I know this. I want to play a role in making our world a better place, but I also recognize that I cannot be an active member of society if I do not take care of myself. It’s a privilege, and I struggle with that awareness.

The world just feels heavy again. I thought we were moving in a positive direction, but now another variant is making me afraid. I am afraid to leave my home again; I am afraid to get sick; I am afraid to get my loved ones sick; I am afraid that my baby will get sick. How can I find joy in so much darkness?

I think that’s why joy is the right theme for 2022. I am determined to find some light in this darkness. My daughter’s arrival in 6 weeks will be the ultimately light, and I don’t want that to dim. I want to also be a positive light for her and most importantly, a positive light for myself.

If you’ve been around for a while, you know that each year, I choose a theme. Back in 2015, I took some advice from Gretchen Rubin and decided to form habits rather than create resolutions in the new year. Since then, I have purposefully stuck to my themes to live a happier life. And it’s worked.

In 2021, my theme was to spark creativity, particularly in my writing, my home, and my music. Looking back at this year, I met my theme in many ways. While I wrote an entire Master’s thesis this spring, I also updated my blog regularly for the first time in a long time (yay!). I also participated in NaNoWriMo and started my first book! We have continued to add our own special touches to our home, and this year, I discovered a love for gardening, a new creative outlet. I learned new songs on the guitar, and I even posted a few singing videos and participated in virtual cabarets with my friends. While I didn’t start my own online bookmark store (oops), I am proud of what I achieved this year.

2022: A Year of Joy

As I enter a new chapter in my life, I aim to live as joyfully as possible. I’d like to embrace and experience joy through many outlets in my life, and I’d also like to spark joy for others, whether that is through my writing, performing, or charitable acts. As a mother, I believe that if I am taking steps to feel happiness, my daughter will also feel that joy through me.

When I think of a year of joy, I imagine adopting a few practices:

Meditation and Yoga: As a new mom, I want to make time for myself to feel grounded and calm. I plan to mediate for 10-15 minutes per day (with the help of the amazing Calm app), and practice yoga at least twice a week. While this may be difficult with a newborn, I am grateful that I have a partner who can help push me to meet these goals.

Practicing Mindfulness and Gratitude: While these are somewhat synonymous, I do want to break them down separately to explain my intentions with both. I recently read in Breathe Magazine (highly recommend) that it’s important to pause during your most mundane routines and find joy in those moments. Whether it is making a pot of tea or feeding my baby on the couch, I want to teach myself to stop and be mindful of the simplicity and peace in those routines. Meditation and yoga will help with mindfulness, and being mindful will help me feel gratitude, an emotion that I aim to focus on every day to help boost my happiness. (See this post).

Exercise: As someone who regularly combats anxiety and depression, exercise has always been a lifesaver. This pregnancy has been a little rough with round ligament pain and sciatica. I’ve been advised to avoid rigorous activity, and now at 34 weeks, walking is a painful task. Once I am healed after giving birth to our daughter, I aim to slowly get back into exercising, working out 2 times a week and increasing that to 4-5 times a week. I miss my Peloton, and can’t wait to get back in the saddle (literally).

Planting: I mentioned that I discovered a love for gardening this past year. In 2022, I want to continue plant and beautify our outdoor space. I am excited to bring our daughter outside, breathe in the fresh, spring air, and get my hands dirty. Planting seeds and watching them grow throughout the spring and summer will bring me joy, and it will also help spark mindfulness and gratitude. I love feeling connected to our planet.

What about you?

What are your goals/habits that you’d like to form in 2022? Please share in the comments below.

Happy New Year to my readers. Be well. Thank you for being here. Thank you for being you.

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!