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!

Need free, beautiful images for your blog? Try Pixabay!

Hey everyone!

A few people have reached out to me asking what resource I use for some of my images, so I thought I’d write a post about it!

I discovered Pixabay a few years ago when I was a Content Producer for a local startup. I was covering education, pop culture, and other topics, and I found myself scrambling for copyright free images to use in my articles.

Pixabay is a super cool, life-saving resource consisting of a community of photographers and artists who share their copyright free images and videos. All content is released under a license that makes it safe for bloggers and writers to use the images without attribution—even for commercial uses!

When I am not posting traveling photos or my own amateur photography on my blog, I turn to Pixabay, and I am usually able to find the content I need. All you have to do is search specific keywords and there you go! Hundreds of images at your fingertips. These artists are absolutely incredible, and I always am pleased with the quality. If you can’t tell, one of my aesthetics is photographs of coffee, colorful journals, and pens! When I search “coffee” or “office,” I find tons of beautiful photos. Here are some examples:

coffee 1coffee 2coffee 3

Cute, huh?! I’m sure you’ve seen the bottom one on my blog before—it’s so peaceful and inspirational!

I can’t thank the photographers and artists enough for sharing their content so that amateur photographers like me can write tips and tricks and bring beauty to my website. While I do plan on using my own photography more on my blog (which I am starting to do), Pixabay is a helpful resource to find images for all sorts of projects!

What are some of your favorite blogging resources? Please share in the comments!

 

 

 

Do you have a kudos file at work? Make one!

It’s been some time since I sat down and wrote about self-help tips. Most of my blog has been focused on travel, which is fantastic, but I originally started KeepitKassual to share happiness tips with others that I have found helpful. This particular topic has been on my mind for a few months and I am super excited to share it with you—especially if you need a happiness boost in your job!

In any day-to-day, it’s hard to press the pause button through all of the meetings, to-do lists, and big projects that eat up your day at work. One day, I found myself troubled with my “go go go!” lifestyle at work and realized that I wasn’t taking time to give myself a mental high five at all of the awesome work I was doing. Whether it was a well-crafted press release or a beautiful creative project, I was not sitting back and appreciating a job well done. So, I started to give myself a pat on the back and recognize when I did something well by writing myself “thank you” and “awesome work” messages in my journal I keep at work. It really did help!

I also noticed, however, that I was not necessarily tracking the positive feedback I was receiving from my co-workers and other employees at my organization. I am lucky to be in an organization where we do congratulate each other and I realized it would be of great benefit to keep track of the compliments I received at work.

One morning, I created an electronic folder in my email and titled it “Kudos.” From then on, every time I received an email detailing positive messages like “great job!” or a “thank you so much!” I would file it in that folder. It’s such an easy way to track how much others appreciate you!

Since then, I’ve collected a handful of emails from my teammates, to my supervisor, and from our CEO with positive messages about my work ethic, teamwork, and work quality. Rather than skimming over the email, taking those as an “OK to proceed” and move on to the next project, I started to save them. I have found this ritual to be super fulfilling for it offers a sense of positive closure to a project. I take time to appreciate my hard work, someone else appreciates what I have completed, and I file it in a folder that keeps track of all my accomplishments!

It’s also a useful tool for when you may start to feel down at work. During the busy seasons at work, I start to feel run down and sometimes hopeless that I won’t get all of the tasks done on my to-do list. The moment I start to lose faith, I skim my kudos file and I immediately feel confident and motivated that I can not only get the job done but also get it done well!

If you find yourself feeling down at work, try to find an innovative way to file your “kudos.” Do you write it down on fun sticky notes and place them in your office or on your desk, or do you file them electronically so you can look at them wherever you are? Whichever way, filing your kudos and successes will help boost your happiness and make you feel fulfilled in your job! And don’t forget to share the love as well!

Check-In to Airbnb

Here is a guest blog post by my husband, Ian, about our experience with Airbnb!

We have now used Airbnb for two trips which officially qualifies us to have an opinion. We have received many questions about this service. While we were a bit hesitant at first and were still hesitant after just an OK, first-time experience, we have grown to love it!

We encourage each of you to consider it for your next trip! Even better, go on there without a trip in mind and see what you discover!

These are the 3 most common questions we receive about Airbnb:

Q: Why would you use an Airbnb?

A: There is one fantastic reason to use Airbnb: price. For the same price as a motel where you might catch something viral, you can stay in a two-bedroom in a trendy new Boston suburb next to a cafe bistro that was featured on the Food Network. While camping is probably the ultimate option for cheap travel, I prefer to do my camping indoors….with soap….and without the fear of bears.

Just as a reference, our trip to Ireland cost less than $700 in lodging for 8 nights.

Q: Do your hosts talk to you?

A: Yes. And that is okay! A big part of Airbnb is the communication between the host and guest. In fact, you are both rated on it.

As for in-person communication, that depends entirely on your stay. The reality is that if you are using Airbnb, then you and your host share a yin for this type of social interaction. We have stayed in four places. Once we never met our host, once we met a friend who showed us in, and twice we met and conversed daily with our hosts. Each experience worked for us.

At our Airbnb in Kenmare, we met Flor, a multi-generational dairy farmer in Ireland. In Fanore, we met John, a widower who found a new purpose in life providing rental opportunities to people to see his corner of the world. We have been empowered through our experiences to see and hear about a new part of the world. The stories of our hosts truly enhanced our visit.

Take time to read the guest book of each Airbnb. You never know who stayed before you, their stories, or where they are from! It’s a cosmic experience.

Q: Is it clean?

A: I have yet to see an Airbnb as spotless as a hotel, but an Airbnb feels lived in. It is cozier and personal than a hotel so don’t let a few dusty corners deter you. Also, most come with a cleaning fee which is just proof for the nonbeliever that the homes are in fact cleaned.

Look around your house right now. Not every nook is spotless, yet you feel comfortable and at home. For reference, I walked around with no socks on at 3 of our 4 Airbnbs and I am usually in my crocs or socks in my own home! If I felt comfortable to go barefoot, then you can go for it and experience a new home away from home!

 

A few last tips:

  1. When you do your search, be specific with your filter. For us, every search starts with “Free parking on premises” (unless we are not driving) and “Wi-fi” because even in 2018 you’d be surprised who doesn’t offer Wi-fi.
  2. Read the reviews. Pictures can be deceiving, so make sure you read why people did or did not enjoy their stay. Try your best to be objective too. Just because SCIFIGUY78 thinks the breakfast place next door made runny eggs doesn’t mean you should look elsewhere…but if he says the bed is uncomfortable and that’s the third time you’ve seen that then maybe it’s a review worth respecting.
  3. Be exotic. Airbnb has opened our minds to new places and opportunities. We found a place in the XVI Arrondissement in Paris for less than $100 a night. Now we are planning a trip around it! Hotels cost at least twice that. You never know where your next destination might take you.
  4. Trust in humanity. The people who rent an Airbnb are nice and mean well. It is their business to give you an enjoyable home. Enjoy your stay and take advantage of their knowledge of the area. You never know who you’ll meet and what you’ll learn.

 

Bonus Material: I am into the NPR podcast How I Built This and one episode is about Airbnb. Listen to host Joe Gebbia talk about his entrepreneurship: https://one.npr.org/?sharedMediaId=497820565:497945288

 

Thanks for reading!

 

 Note: The image for this blog post is from one of our Airbnbs in Kenmare, Ireland. Look at that view!