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!

2018: Perform and Travel

Happy New Year, everyone! My husband and I rung in the new year with our family in one of our favorite locations: a family home in Rhode Island. It was filled with great food and drink, laughter, and fun games. I hope everyone had a wonderful time welcoming 2018!

I’m sure you were asked the popular question: What are your resolutions for next year? I know I was. Back in 2016, I wrote a post about why I think forming habits might be more productive than creating resolutions. Since 2015, I have created “themes” for each year and established specific, targeted goals for each theme. In 2015, my theme was “Control.”  In 2016, my theme was “Health.” And this past year (which I did not blog about) my theme was “Improve.” Throughout 2017, I worked hard to improve my skills in my job (area of focus) and education. I started graduate school to boost my skills in literature with the hopes of teaching English in higher education. I have transferred the skills I learned in the classroom to my current job in marketing/communications and public relations. My journey in academia has also helped boost my creative writing craft in the blogging world, where I have aimed to provide clear, concise, and engaging content for my readers (thank you!). The past few years have been my most challenging, yet successful yet—it’s been quite a ride, and I am looking forward to the future!

This year, I am thrilled to have two themes: Perform and Travel. 

Here are my goals for Perform:

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

For those who do not know me well, I spent most of my childhood/teenage years on stage. From singing at All-State competitions to performing in local community and high school productions, the stage was my second home. When I went to college, my passion to perform got lost in studies and opportunities in my major, so I am excited to soon feel that rush of adrenaline and be back on stage. With the talents of singing and a love for music, I also used to play guitar and sing, which also fell by the wayside. Playing guitar and singing brought me such joy; I remember feeling so gratified when I disciplined myself to perfect that chord or song. I look forward to practicing again, learning songs, composing covers, and sharing them with you all (gulp!).

Here are my goals for Travel:

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

OK—so I am cheating a bit with the first goal. For Christmas, my husband surprised me with plane tickets to Ireland in March! We are both anticipating a trip that we have dreamed of for the last three years. While traveling around during the holidays, my husband and I realized the unfamiliarity we have with our own state. We decided that this year we are going to take advantage of the awesome places we can visit in our state and throughout New England!

I can’t thank you all enough for continuing to read my blog and supporting one of my passions: writing. What are habits that you want to form in 2018? Please share in the comments! Wishing you and yours a Happy New Year!

2016: Feeling ‘Better Than Before’

What I’ve learned about resolutions and habits

I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is: I’ve neglected my website. The good news is: I haven’t neglected to work on my habits and theme for 2016. I purposely waited until this very day to share my theme for this year. Why? Today is the one-year anniversary of when I adopted and successfully started working towards my Theme of 2015: Control.

As I wrote in my previous post, making New Year’s Resolutions are tough. Sometimes, resolutions aren’t resolute enough and that’s why 90 percent of our resolutions fail. If you make the resolution to “eat healthily” you aren’t really going off of anything. Your resolutions, or goals, need to be more personalized and instinctual. Instead, your resolution can be to “eat more fruits and vegetables during lunch.” This can be an easier habit to track and offers more of a structured goal for you to follow.

My previous post put a big kibosh on resolutions. I don’t like them. I don’t like that kind of pressure —no one does! You don’t need to wait until January 1 to start improving your life. As I was saying, resolutions aren’t the answer: if you really want to see change, you need to form habits. Habits are automated responses that you learn through repetition. Your prefrontal cortex, a region of your brain, performs these reactions. For example, ever wonder why you can drive and think about a hundred things at once? Your prefrontal cortex puts your brain into “automated mode,” and you are able to think about what errands you need to run after work or let your mind wander while driving.

Forming habits takes a lot of hard work — and practice. The fact that it takes 21 days to form a habit is a common myth. True experts say that it takes up to 18 to 254 days to form a habit. Doing so all depends on your willpower, self-control, and patience! It’s different for every person. In my case, it took less than a year to form a habit. After seeing someone for almost a year, I am able to control my thinking and curb my anxiety without much effort. Seeing my psychologist has become a routine, and utilizing the tools I have learned have become a routine also.

Relax-Blog 1.23

My theme for 2016: health

After some reflection, I have chosen my theme for 2016: Health. I have two overarching goals this year that encompass the overall theme of Health:

  • See my psychologist once every two weeks and continue to maintain control over my anxiety and depression
  • Go to the gym three times a week or 12 times a month and take a spinning class on Fridays to improve my physical fitness levels (and look good in my wedding dress)

I have chosen this theme for a few reasons. The first and the most obvious reason is that I will be planning a wedding for the next eight months. Planning a wedding, although thrilling and indescribable, is very stressful. It is key that I continue to see my psychologist so I am able to learn more tools and continue to work towards managing my anxiety during this fun yet intensified time.

My other reason is a little more deep-rooted. Throughout my life, I have struggled with self-esteem and body image issues —which makes sense, as both of those correlate with anxiety and depression. I have always “hated” how I looked and would take time to look at myself and point out flaws that I noticed from my chicken pox scars to my stomach. I am never fully satisfied. My goal this year is to work on that and learn to love my body and how I look. I made the goal to go to the gym three times a week, or 12 times a month, in order to work on my physical strength and improve my body.

With the combination of improving my mental health and loving myself on the inside as well as the outside, I hope to achieve my overarching goals and my overall theme of Health in 2016.

In her book, Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin says: “The key to habits is decision making, or the lack of decision making” and “habits eliminate the need for self-control.” When we change our habits, we change our lives. The first step to changing our habits is getting to know our tendencies, and then afterward we can monitor our habits and how well we do at reaching our goals.

One crucial thing I keep telling myself is that I need to cut myself some slack. It is totally OK to goof off once in a while and let yourself enjoy the little things in life. That’s why I am not making a personalized “healthy eating” goal. The truth is, I eat pretty healthy, but sometimes, I let myself cheat a little bit. I enjoy pasta and I enjoy carbs. I love food, and I love experimenting with food. I think that’s perfectly OK. I have amazing self-control when it comes to healthy eating.

Ian, however, doesn’t, and that makes it a challenge at home. It’s a good challenge! When Ian makes brownies or cookies, I will have one or two, and he will eat the rest. I decided that I don’t really need to fine-tune my healthy eating habits, but my exercising and mental habits still need some work.

I am excited to keep working towards my goals and work towards meeting my theme for 2016. Rubin’s Better than Before is insightful and I am learning new things about habits and the way our minds work on every page. I look forward to sharing some of those facts with you and encourage that you pick up a copy. It’s always good to work towards a goal or forming a new habit and find that you feel better than before.