For my birthday last weekend, I pledged to myself that I’d do absolutely nothing all weekend in order to rest up, practice some self-care, and relax before three consecutive weeks of traveling.
It’s something I’ve always wanted to do for my birthday—sleep in until 10 am all weekend, eat a whole box of chocolates, drink champagne while reading some nonfiction, lounge on the deck, and order takeout while never changing out of my pajamas.
I usually have specific goals, like do a Whole 30 (or 60), run a marathon, lose 27.8 pounds before my birthday, and read 52 books. This year feels different though, as I continue on my journey to treat myself with “loving kindness.”
I want to make goals, but at the same time I don’t want to make goals that don’t address the real changes I need to make.
I love this postcard. I kept it from Dove’s luncheonette, framed it, and it happens to be perfect for this blog post.Losing 27.8 pounds won’t make me love myself more. Doing a Whole60 won’t fix my lifelong relationship with disordered eating. Running a marathon won’t make me feel more accomplished, and reading 52 books won’t make me feel more interesting.
So many of the New Year’s resolutions that we pick have nothing to do with the things that we really need to change.
I’m not super interested in falling into the trap of making a goal that will mask my real issues this year. I do it, and then I spend tons of money on juicers, or cleanses, or high tech running gear that I think will make my life better or help me achieve my goals.
This year I’m more interested in working on the things that make me want to do those things. I’m working on my mental health, my perspective, controlling my thoughts, and being a better, happier me.
But of course, me being me, I still have goals. I can’t avoid them. I love them and I sometimes obsess over them.
It’s funny because I’m in this weird limbo of not wanting to put ANY new self-made pressure on myself this year, but at the same time, I have been spending this whole week thinking… “Well what are my goals? What do I want to do this year?”
I want to read a lot but I don’t want to make a challenge of 52 books so that I end up trying to reach my goal reading short books that I didn’t even want to read in the first place.
I want more energy but I don’t want to make any fitness or health goals that will make my brain go to the disordered-eating-monster place, or the work-out-maniac-guilt-inducing-perfectionist.
I want goals but I want no pressure. I want growth, but I don’t want to stress about my progress. I want to deal with my inner issues instead of the symptoms that my inner issues are causing.
So here’s the plan. Or the non plan, cause no-pressure.
Last year, my already chronically slim patience was tested, twisted and it didn’t make me super pleasant to be around, especially at work… and at home… and maybe out with my friends too.
When I get frustrated, or fed-up, or inpatient, what I’ve discovered is that if I can pause for a second and choose to be kind instead, often that will improve whatever situation I’m in.
I practiced it more intentionally this week, and you know what? I had a better week. I was weirdly better able to listen, and even stranger, I was able to slow down, express myself clearly.
Somehow, when I was feeling impatient, reminding myself to be kind helped calm my annoyances. It helps me get outside of myself, and focus on someone else.
When I think about it, it kind of makes sense.
When I’m at my happiest, I’m usually at my nicest. Maybe it can work a little in the reverse as well.
Be a little bit nicer. Get a little bit happier.
It’s not totally ludicrous.
I like to think that I’m a kind person, but I’m not sure that I’ve really been being the person that I think I am. That sort of dissonance between who you believe yourself to be, versus how you act, can lead to dissatisfaction in life.
It makes you feel like you’re not able to be who you “really are” because of extenuating circumstances– because of a stressful job, a terrible commute, chronic exhaustion, not enough money, etc, etc, etc. The list of excuses as to why we aren’t our authentic selves could go on forever.
But what if we decide to be honest with ourselves? I can choose to be kind. That is a choice. I can be kinder, right now.
I might be doing it for selfish reasons, but if everyone chose to be a little kinder for their selves, think of what a lovely world we’d live in.
It extends to my thoughts toward myself as well. It’s not just about being nicer to others. It’s also about not being a dick to myself, and rerouting my thoughts, as I’ve discussed in a few other blog posts.
“Social anxiety is associated with low positive affect (PA), a factor that can significantly affect psychological well-being and adaptive functioning. Despite suggestions that individuals with high levels of social anxiety would benefit from PA enhancement, the feasibility of doing so remains an unanswered question. Accordingly, in the current study, individuals with high levels of social anxiety (N = 142) were randomly assigned to conditions designed to enhance PA (Kind Acts), reduce negative affect (NA; Behavioral Experiments), or a neutral control (Activity Monitoring). All participants engaged in the required activities for 4 weeks and completed pre/post questionnaires measuring mood and social goals, as well as weekly email ratings of mood, anxiety, and social activities. Both the pre/post and weekly mood ratings revealed that participants who engaged in kind acts displayed significant increases in PA that were sustained over the 4 weeks of the study. No significant changes in PA were observed in the other conditions.”
Isn’t that cool?
Out of all the three methods, kind acts is the ONLY method that increased participants’ positive affect, which is an individual’s ability to subjectively experience positive moods such as joy, interest and alertness.
You don’t have to spend hours meditating, reorganizing your house, or going to self empowering conferences—a small gesture like being kinder might be able to make a huge difference in the way I perceive my experiences.
And plus it just helps make a kinder world. With so many positive potential benefits, it makes sense to give it a more concerted effort. It’s something small that I can do, especially when I don’t want to or don’t feel like it.
I HAVE TOO MUCH STUFF. This photo is just a glimpse of all the things I have in my apartment. It’s chaos just looking at it. MINIMIZE.
In the book, Fumio talks about how our things make unneeded stress, worry, and work for us.
He talks about how our things are barriers to appreciating the things that are REALLY most important to us, like people and experiences. Think about this situation I had today while cleaning out my apartment, and getting rid of junk.
I was in the process of throwing out and donating old jewelry that I haven’t worn in a year or sometimes longer, I came across a necklace that I received as a gift a few years ago but have never worn.
Every time I see it, I feel guilty about not wearing it, and then I promise myself that I’ll wear it more often. Then I decide that I’ll wear all my jewelry more often since I have it, and it’s taking up space in my life.
Then I notice how all the jewelry I have can’t be worn until I clean it.
I then take the time to look at each piece, and note which ones need to be cleaned and which ones need the tarnish removed.
I google how to clean cheap jewelry, and attempt to clean them myself using lemon and salt, and other home remedies. When that doesn’t work, I make note to buy tarnish cleaner, and move on with my day thinking about how I really need to get that done so I can stop worrying about it.
Three months later, the necklaces and bracelets are still unworn and dirty.
This one necklace leads me down that train of energy sucking, time wasting madness.
Multiply that by every single thing that I own—that’s a lot of energy spent on things that in no way enhance my well-being. And yet, I don’t get rid of the necklace. It sits tarnished on my jewelry holder along with seven other necklaces that I don’t wear.
Even today, as I was cleaning it out, I couldn’t throw it away because it was a gift from a person who I love dearly. Throwing it out would feel like an betrayal, even though that person may not have any recollection of ever even giving me the necklace in the first place.
So, I didn’t throw it away just yet, but I did put it on the “see-ya later” shelf as Fumio suggested when we’re not sure if we’re ready to get rid of something that is important to us.
If in a few months we feel like we’re ready, and we’ve even forgotten about the item, then we’ll know it’s ready to go. He also reminds us that, we don’t remember most of the gifts we give so it’s highly unlikely that the person who gave me the necklace even remembers giving it to me, and I’m sure they’d tell me to throw it out if I explained the scenario I just described to them.
After reading the book, I did get rid of about seven garbage bags full of items that I know I won’t miss. What I do miss are the days of living out of at MOST two suitcases.
It was freeing. I can’t believe how much I’ve collected since moving back to the States. After two years of living out of a suitcase in China, I must have been ready to collect items and create a home filled with stuff and things that I thought I needed.
Turns out, I probably don’t need most of the stuff I own, and it’s possible I might not need any of it.
It’s time for me to simplify in order to get some peace of mind.
I don’t want to worry about having space to store our boxes of stuff that we don’t use.
As Fumio states, our “things are roommates that don’t pay rent.” It’s already felt freeing getting rid of those trash bags this weekend, and I’m excited to go through our storage to see just how much I can reduce.
I really don’t want the deciding factor of our next apartment to be if it has enough space for storage. Space is money, and I’m no longer interested in spending money on the things I don’t need.
We only have so much energy to give.
The last thing I want to do is waste my mental energy on things that I don’t need or use. Plus, less stuff means less things to take care of and clean and maintain which means even more time available to me to do the things I love. Like writing this blog and reading cool books! I’m a long ways away from being a minimalist, but I’m ready to downsize my belongings.
In a very real way, less things means more this. More focusing on the things that are most important to us. Those are the two main things that I’m focused on this year!
That and some of the things that I’ve mentioned on previous posts, like working on my real issues instead of numbing them or ignoring them with things like wine, chocolate, and Shameless binges. It feels weird to not have more goals, or even more specific goals. But at the same time, I’ve been making progress on my mental health and emotional well being for the last several months, and my goal is really to just keep that going. I’m far from where I want to be, but I’m trying to enjoy where I’m at.
So anyway, cheers to 2018! I can already feel that it’ll be better than 2017.
I love to hear from you! What are your non-diet, non-fitness, non-avoiding-the-real-issue New Year’s resolutions? Have any of you embraced the minimalist lifestyle or experimented with being kinder not only to others but also to yourself?
I think my body is finally catching up with me, after spending a week in Toronto for work.
When you’re spending 14-16 hours a day being “on”, self-care can quickly fly out the window as it did for me. I feel like I could bury myself for the winter, and still feel tired when I emerged in the spring.
Luckily, vacation is coming this Friday, and I couldn’t be more ready and excited to escape for a week. I plan to turn off my cell phone, bring my journal, and hideaway from the world to rebuild and reenergize myself.
During my first therapy session a few weeks ago, we had started to wrap the conversation up, when my therapist said, “It sounds like you take on the world. You seem to take on everyone else’s problems, and because of that, you never focus on yourself.”
That statement didn’t sit right with me.
I paused and chewed on it while I tried to figure out how to answer. It wasn’t the first time I had heard that from a clinician or friend, but this time, I wasn’t jumping to say—“Yes! You’re right—that’s exactly what I do. Poor me, right?”