Hello, favorites. It's Sunday, and everyone in our house is feeling pretty cozy and tired. There's baked oatmeal in the oven (recipe coming soon) it's dark as midnight (except it's only 7:30...and we're only losing daylight from here!) We're settling into fall and getting ready for winter and all is well.
I had big plans for some blogs this week, and they entirely escaped me. The last few weeks at work have been uncharacteristically hectic, and while I think we're finally coming out of that (knock on all of the wood) it's kept me pretty occupied. On Friday afternoon I flew to Chicago for a Saturday work meeting, and got to spend the night with one of my best friends, her husband, and their two dogs and a cat. It was lovely to see her, and lovely to get home to Dan and Chewy last night. And TODAY, I accomplished a task that has been irking me for MONTHS--the backsplash in our kitchen! The rest of our home renovation was finished in about February, but the backsplash has been a thorn in my side ever since then. Originally we planned to do the tiling ourselves, but we never really got around to it, and then we planned to hire someone, but we hadn't gotten that done, and knew it would be expensive...and THEN. Then. My momma sent me a pin of a laundry room wall covered in tiles that look like old tin ceilings, and I realized I should just give that a try. So today, I did. And I love it SO much.
This entire project cost me less than $200 and took about three hours to finish, all by myself. It's really just a matter of measuring the space you need, cutting the tile sheets down to the right size, squeezing some adhesive on the back (I used loctite) and pressing them on to the wall. The tiles are plastic but look like metal, and they can be cut with a regular scissors. Seriously, anyone could do it. And it took our kitchen from this:
I can't even tell you how much better I feel about our kitchen now. I think most people wouldn't have noticed that our backsplash was missing (or assumed the weird faux-wood veneer was intentional and finished) but it always bothered me and made me feel like our house wasn't "done" yet. I wish I would have thought of this solution six months ago, but I'm so glad that I did it today! Thanks, Mom :)
Here's a progress shot:
So now our kitchen is finally, officially finished. I really love the kitchen--the original cabinets and the tall ceilings make the small space feel much bigger and more usable, and I appreciate our new countertops, sink, and appliances every day. I also love this little touch: I mounted plants above the kitchen window on a rod and some enamel pails from Ikea. Because I have a black thumb some of the plants need to be periodically replaced, but I love them nonetheless.
Looking forward to sharing some new recipes from you, from this VERY KITCHEN, very soon. Wishing you all cozy and wonderful Sundays.
Happy Saturday, lovely readers. The Small Changes Series is back today, and we're talking about self efficacy. Before we jump in to what that is, I want to tell you WHY it's important. Any time we are taking on a new challenge, pursuing a new goal, or making a change in our lives, WE are the biggest factor in whether we will be successful. You are your biggest asset and biggest obstacle, in every endeavor. Self efficacy is your belief in your own ability to achieve a goal. When you say, "I would never be able to do that," you are right. When you say, "I'll get that done, come hell or high water," you are also right. But where do we find this belief in our own ability to succeed? I'm glad you asked--we build it over time. And that's why it's the perfect topic for the Small Changes Series. Let's proceed.
Here's the high-level plan for building self efficacy: you set small, achievable, consistent goals, and then you hit them no matter what. By achieving those goals, no matter how small they are, you build your confidence and belief in yourself that you can achieve goals. Here's an example: if you are someone who believes you will never be able to commit to a consistent fitness routine and get healthy, a great way to build self-efficacy is to commit to exercising a tiny amount, consistently. Like walking around the block every day for the next week. Will walking around the block every day have a huge impact on your health? No, probably not. But if you want to accomplish this goal, there is no way to tell yourself that you can't. You don't need a lot of time, or energy, or anything special to accomplish walking around the block. You can do it in eight minutes, in whatever clothes and shoes you're wearing, at any time of the day. So you don't have any excuses not to get it done. And when you DO get it done, you can and will feel proud of yourself that you actually stuck to a plan and accomplished a goal that you set. You are a goal accomplisher!
Realizing that you are a goal accomplisher and feeling proud and confident in yourself allows you to set slightly more ambitious goals. Maybe you're going to walk a little further. Maybe you're going to run around the block. Maybe you're going to try fifteen minutes of sun salutations or some squats/planks in your house. I don't know what the next baby step is, but the point of building on self efficacy is that you choose goals that are achievable, they shouldn't be too big or too terrifying, and then you just do the damn thing. No matter what, you're all in and you're going to get it done. If you doubt from the beginning that you're going to be able to follow through, lower the bar. Seriously. Walk to the end of the block and back if you have to. Because the point of getting started is just proving to yourself that you're the kind of person who can stick to the program, no matter what the program is.
If you are someone who often finds yourself saying things like: "I wish I could make myself do that," or "I wish I had as much drive as she does," or "I want to do X but I can never stick to it," you are in need of some self efficacy boosting. Because the truth is that you can do anything you set your mind to, and if there's anything standing in between you and that truth, it's yourself. You need to move yourself out of the way, and building self efficacy is the way to do that. Here are some ideas for starting to build self efficacy:
-if you struggle with committing to fitness, commit to a tiny amount of exercise every day (i.e. the walking example above)
-if you struggle with making time to cook, commit to adding an easy-to-prepare vegetable to your meals (like salad from a bag or broccoli/green beans/brussels sprouts that you can steam in your microwave)
-if you struggle with cutting down on junk food, cut one serving of your worst habit out of your day (drink one less soda, have one less donut/dessert)
-if you want to create a mindfulness practice but struggle with meditation, try sitting quietly for two minutes every day (set a timer and breathe deeply for two minutes, stop when the timer goes off if you want to)
-if you struggle with managing your finances, try moving $5 or $10 each week into a savings account that you don't touch.
And then here's the real kicker: once you decide to do it, YOU HAVE TO DO IT. There is no hedging here: you are your own boss, and you need to be stern with yourself. These are small goals, my friend. FOLLOW THROUGH! You owe it to yourself to prove that you are a successful human who can accomplish a thing. Once you realize this about yourself, the possibilities are limitless. Truly. Give it a try.
P.S. It also really helps to tell someone else about your goals and have the added push of knowing another person is aware that you committed to do a thing. So share your goals! This is why I'm so in love with fitness accountability groups--they keep me and everyone in them going, because you know the group is watching and waiting for you to get your workout in. If you want that push, hit me up and let's get you into next month's group.
I've written about goals before, so it should come as no surprise that I think having a clear vision for your future is critical. One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from Eat, Pray, Love, where Elizabeth Gilbert wrote that she believed you must "participate relentlessly in the manifestation of your own blessings." The first time I read that, I wrote those words on a big piece of paper and taped them to my wall, and they've been written on my heart ever since. I believe that you need to focus your energy and efforts on working toward what you want--whether that's a new job, or an entirely different lifestyle, or just a day to yourself this weekend. But to work toward what you want, you need to KNOW what you want, and this vision needs to be long-term. And this is the piece that's been on my mind lately.
It's easy to make a list of things that we want--an "if I won the lottery" list. Maybe you want to buy a house, a pair of shoes, a nicer car. Maybe you want a weekend off from work, to go on a vacation, or to go to dinner at a restaurant. We want all sorts of things. But what we want MOST is harder to pinpoint. We want . . . happiness, balance, health. Prosperity. Fulfillment. Joy. To make an impact.
I've been thinking a lot lately about my vision for the future, because it's easy for me to make short-term goals but it is harder for me to formulate a cohesive vision for where I want to be in ten, twenty, or thirty years. And I think having that long-term vision is crucial, so I'm not letting myself off the hook on this one. Because short-term goals are great, but if I don't know where I'm going in the long term then how do I know I'm on the right track? You need an ultimate destination to set your compass to, and you need to ask yourself periodically if your short-term decisions are leading toward your long-term goals.
This long-term vision needs to be specific and it needs to be compelling to you--here's why: the whole point of vision and hustle is that at some point you will have to make short-term sacrifices to reach your long-term goals. And the way to do that without feeling deprived is to be so motivated, so excited, so drawn to your vision that you're willing to work for it. You're willing to give up what you want NOW (binge-watching Netflix) for what you want MOST (your vision goes here).
To be honest, my vision isn't fully formulated yet. Here's what I know it includes: professionally, I want to be a girlboss corporate attorney leader. I don't know exactly what that role is, but I know some short-term steps that move me in that direction. I know I want to build my health and fitness empire through Beachbody to complement that, and have an awesome, energetic, huge team of wellness warrior coaches helping women improve their lives and feel empowered by taking control of their own health. I want to renovate our home eventually from a duplex into a single family. I want to buy a cabin for our family to get away on the weekends, and I want to prioritize travel and continuing to see the world. I want to be able to give back and help charitable causes that matter to me. That's the long-term plan, and I think about it a LOT to make sure that I'm prioritizing things that move me toward what I really want, even if it's not the easiest choice in the moment.
And that's where hustle comes in--it's great to know what you want, and coming up with your long-term vision can be hard. But what really matters is the tenacity to work towards those goals and actually get yourself there. Without hustle, vision is just a daydream. So here's what I recommend to you: write your vision down. Get as specific as you can about what you want, in whatever order and timeline you want it (long-term vision is crucial, but short-term vision is important too. It's great to have goals that you want to reach in the next year, or month, or even week.) Write it down, find photos that represent your goals, commit to them, and then ask yourself how you are going to get there. What do you need to do TODAY to move yourself toward that goal, even if it's a teeny tiny baby step? Is your goal compelling enough to make those sacrifices worth it? If not, you need to find yourself a vision that is. It should set you on fire.
Another important point here--if your long-term vision is internally inconsistent, you need to look really hard at that. For example, if I added "and I only want to work fifteen hours per week" to my list above, that would raise a red flag, because I just told you I want a high-level corporate position and also to run a successful side business. If the things that you want can't exist together in harmony, you're setting yourself up for disappointment. Don't do that to yourself--it's not nice.
Where are you guys at with long-term vision? Is it easy for you to pinpoint where you want to be ten years from now? Do you feel like you're working toward it? Tell me everything.
Love you, mean it.
Good golly miss Molly, this week has been freaking crazy at work. Actually, that’s true of the last couple of weeks. Which is probably why I realized this morning that a post about self care would be perfect. If you’re either (a) a little put off by the term “self care” or (b) unsure what self care really means (or both) have no fear, there’s actually nothing weird or scary about it. Let’s wade in slowly.
I’ve always had a tendency to overload myself. You know when you really pile it on, and you find yourself burned out and staring down a to-do list as long as your leg? At that moment, you have to ask yourself how you’re going to get through the day. Or you have to curl up and cry in the fetal position, but that doesn’t help you do what you need to do.
When I worked at the law firm, I found myself asking “what do I need to do to get through today?” a lot. Unfortunately for me, at that time I usually answered the question, “eat a bagel, followed by a cupcake. Four cupcakes. All the cupcakes. Did someone say there was caramel corn here?” That wasn’t the best choice, but it did help me get through the day. And that’s what self care is really about—it’s the activity that recharges your battery when it’s totally drained so you can survive the day. On a good day, you can do even better than survive. Self care replenishes your spirit.
I’ve gotten better at self care over the years—some of my methods don’t even involve refined carbs anymore. Here are some better options for taking care of yourself when you’re stressed and exhausted:
3. Light a candle and take some deep breaths.
4. Watch a movie or a TV show that makes you laugh.
5. Read a book.
6. Exercise. Note that this one doesn’t always sound appealing when you’re tired, but will ALWAYS make you feel better afterward. If you can’t convince yourself to do anything really strenuous, go for a walk.
7. Take a nap, or give yourself permission to do some other completely lazy and unproductive for an hour. Whatever sounds good.
8. Call a friend, or better yet meet a friend for coffee or lunch.
9. Get a massage or a manicure.
10. Get outside.
11. Buy yourself some flowers or some special food that you enjoy.
12. Have a glass of wine. Note that I didn’t say four glasses of wine.
It’s important to realize that self care needs to be a part of your regular routine, even when you’re not really stressed and exhausted. It’s like maintenance—you need to think about self care every week, not just during the weeks that make you want to day drink. Taking care of yourself is foundational to this—you’re going to be much more resilient and happy on the whole if you’re eating foods that agree with your body and exercising regularly. Sorry guys, there’s no shortcut there and a baseline of good health is crucial. But it doesn’t stop with that—you also need to intentionally include activities that you enjoy and that energize you on a regular basis. Because you can’t just keep chipping away at your energy without putting anything back in. The way this looks for me is that I include some self-care time every day when I work out and connect with friends, spend time with my family, read, and cuddle with Chewy. When I need an extra boost, I take a bath, or a nap, or buy myself some flowers or a treat.
I hope you’re having a better week than I am, but if you’re not I can highly suggest a bubble bath paired with a glass of pinot.
Hello, friendlies. It's time for the second installment of the Small Changes Series, and today we're moving on to mindset. I'm really excited to take this topic on, because I think changing your mindset can be a daunting task, but it's actually a great area to make some small changes. And, that's what this series is all about--making small changes that you stick with every day, and then adding more tiny changes when you're comfortable with your routine, so that cumulatively you end up with BIG, meaningful, lasting changes over time.
I've been hearing a LOT of talk about manifesting lately, and my first reaction to that is not an enthusiastic one. Manifesting sounds like new-age voodoo where you think hard enough about a thing and it just materializes out of nowhere. I'm not into voodoo, I'm into getting shit done. But here's what I learned about manifesting--it's actually just a fancy way to talk about staying focused on your goals. And I love me some goals. And also, the people who keep mentioning manifesting are incredibly successful people who seem to have actually accomplished some of the alchemy they're preaching about.
So listen--this post isn't about learning to manifest, but I'm starting with that point because a lot of times when we encounter ideas that could have a big impact on our mindset, we have really strong negative reactions to those ideas because they seem foreign or scary or weird. Like manifesting, or meditating. And these visceral reactions ("I'm not sittin' on a pillow and saying 'OM,' got it, pal??") shut down that idea so quickly that we don't even think about taking a baby step toward a mindset shift, instead of jumping in with both feet. Meditating daily in front of the vision board filled with images you are trying to manifest is jumping in with both feet. That doesn't sound AT ALL doable to me, so I'm going to suggest some smaller steps that can have a real and meaningful impact on your mindset and may lead you down the path to eventually being a zen, success-attracting mental ninja. Or it may lead you down the path to being a slightly more balanced, happy human. Both good paths.
1. Naming things that you are grateful for.
Gratitude is a HUGE part of improving your mindset. Where I struggle with gratitude is making it a concrete and routine part of my day--I am generally grateful for my life and I intentionally express that gratitude from time to time, but I don't do a great job of doing it consistently. A small change I've been trying lately is to name all the things I am grateful for from the day as I lay in bed before I go to sleep. It's a great ritual to end the day, and it builds intentional gratitude into my routine. A tiny baby step I've been taking toward manifesting is to add things to the list that haven't yet happened, but that I believe will happen. For example, I think, "I'm grateful for" all the little and big things that were good about my day (tiny things to big things, whatever pops into my mind) and then I think that I'm grateful for things that haven't yet happened, like "I'm grateful that my presentation tomorrow is going to go really well." This is something a really successful coach on my beachbody team mentioned doing, and it seemed accessible to me. It's a baby step.
2. Stopping Negative Self Talk
Negative self talk is another enormous category for improving your mindset, and stopping it altogether is a mammoth task. Or for me it is, anyway. Like most recovering perfectionists, I am absolutely my worst critic, and the talk track inside my mind can be pretty brutal. But a small step in the right direction is to stop a PARTICULAR piece of negative self-talk. For me, my most common negative, internal phrase is "Ugh, you are the worst." I think that to myself all the time. It's not a good habit. But because that's a specific phrase that comes to my mind a lot, a small step I'm taking to try to reverse this habit is to stop myself when I catch that thought, and to consciously think "No, I am not the worst, I am just doing the best I can." Does that sound hokey and dumb to you? It probably sounded that way to me the first time I heard it, but after I realized just how much I bash myself inside my own brain, it became clear that I really needed to make a change. And so I'm starting with reminding myself that I am not, in fact, the worst. Pick your negative phrase, find a positive response to correct it, and use it every time you catch yourself being mean. To yourself. Life is hard enough without bullying ourselves, so we've really got to do something about that.
I've got to be honest here and say that meditation is not really one of my skills--I don't do it. But I know that it is a beneficial activity and I know that it can have a really positive impact. One tip I've heard to get started in meditation but I haven't really utilized is to do guided meditations. I have the Breathe app for this, actually, and I've used it a grand total of twice, but I did enjoy it when I used it. I've also heard great things about Deepak Chopra's 21 day guided meditation series. Again, I'm not an authority on this topic AT ALL but what people who meditate regularly really like about it is its ability to ground you in your day. If you intentionally find time to still your mind and center yourself, it is apparently easier to return to that centered stillness throughout the day. This sounds like a great idea. It's totally on my to-do list. Another tiny step toward full-on meditation that I actually have been able to adopt is mindful deep breathing. When I notice myself getting a little stressed, I take three or four deep breaths (where the exhale is longer than the inhale, and I hold the breath for a few counts in between) to slow myself down. It's not the same, but it's a good practice nonetheless.
That's all for this episode, lovelies--I hope you'll try some of these.
Aaaaaaaare youuuuuu readddyyyyy for the small changes series?! I am. We’re starting with FOOD. And here’s why: as my internet stranger-friend Dallas Hartwig, co-creator of the Whole 30, looooooves to point out, what you eat actually BECOMES your body. Think about that for a second—we’ve all heard that “you are what you eat,” but we never really talk about how this is literally true. Your body is constantly replacing cells as they die, and to do that it uses the nutrients and material from the food you eat. So that bag of potato chips you had with lunch is actually becoming your physical body right now. If that’s not amazing, I don’t know what is.
So here’s the not-so-secret truth about our society’s relationship with food: it’s not great. It’s Complicated, as we used to like to say on Facebook. There are so many different ways to have a bad relationship with food, and everybody’s got their own favorite: you can turn to food for comfort and binge on sweet, salty, fatty things to make yourself feel good (been there); you can restrict yourself to a small number of “safe” or “acceptable” foods and limit your eating so severely that you can’t stick to your plan for more than a few weeks at a time (been there, too). You can ping pong between those two extremes, limiting yourself for as long as you can take it and then falling face-first into a cheesecake because you just can’t cope with the idea of one more stalk of celery (amen, sister). You can go out into the world and try to eat a healthy diet, but have no idea what that really means—does it include red meat? Whole grains? Dairy? Gluten? Fat? Sugar? Hydrogenated oils? Is my Lean Cuisine a healthy lunch because it’s better than the drive-through, or is it unhealthy because it’s really just a tiny portion of macaroni and cheese? Where in tarnation do you start? (Can I get away with a "where in tarnation" here and there? It felt right.)
So, this is the reality: nutrition exists on a spectrum, just like all other areas of your health, and it is different for everyone, just like all areas of your health. In order to be your healthiest, happiest you, you need to eat in the way that makes YOU feel best. But the point of this entire series is that changes that actually matter happen in baby steps over a long period of time, not big changes over a short period of time. You all know I love the Whole 30—it legitimately changed my life and helped me figure out what foods are healthy FOR ME. But the Whole 30 is a strict and (for most of us) extreme shift in your diet that happens for 30 days, and if you go back to your old way of eating the moment your 30 days are over, the Whole 30 doesn’t matter. You may as well have skipped it. Because if you live to be 80 that means you’ll have 29,200 days in your life, and eating really, really healthy foods for 30 of them just doesn’t matter. What does matter is what you eat every day.
This is both good and bad news: the good news is, you can be empowered to make ENORMOUS changes by making tiny tweaks and sticking to them over time. The bad news is that you have to stick to them—there’s no end date to your health. But consistency is not perfection, and one piece of cheesecake (or, let’s be real, an entire cheesecake) doesn’t derail you unless you let it be the domino that sets off even more unhealthy choices. So how does one make small choices that add up to be BIG changes when it comes to nutrition? Good gracious, I’m just so glad you asked.
This is the trick: you need to pick one thing, and stick with it for a long while. And then, when that thing is a habit and it’s going pretty well for you, add on another thing. If you find that one of these things is not serving you very well, tweak it. And as you slowly get used to your one small thing and it doesn’t feel like a chore anymore, then you’re ready to make another tiny change. And as you notice yourself feeling better, you’re going to be motivated to make more tiny changes, and over a long period of time (I’m talking a year, or several years) you’re going to be amazed at how far you’ve come. But it's slow, and steady, and cumulative. It's a journey.
Here are some of my favorite small changes to make to your nutrition, and they can be tailored to meet you WHEREVER you are. Everyone starts from a different place, and every single person has room for improvement in their diet. Pick what works for you.
1. Add vegetables. Everyone and their momma needs to eat more vegetables, we are severely under-vegetabled as a society. So here’s the incremental change: if you are currently a vegetable hater, your small change is to add ONE serving of vegetables to your day. You can hide it in a green smoothie (try this one, it tastes like a tropical drink) or you can drench it in red sauce, you can steam it, you can add butter to it—you can eat any kind of vegetable that you like. And if you think you hate ‘em all, you’re not trying hard enough. Buy a bunch of different kinds, try making them a bunch of different ways, find even a small number of options that work for you and your family and eat them at least once every day. If you’re already eating a veggie with dinner, your small change is to eat a serving of vegetables with every meal. Or at least lunch and dinner, if the idea of adding veggies to breakfast is just too much. Commit to this idea, and MAKE IT HAPPEN over a long period of time. Start with a month, but know that this is a change you’re making for the long-term. Channel your inner Popeye. You can do this.
2. Replace sugary beverages (or fake-sugar beverages). If you are a big soda or energy-drink drinker (or pumpkin spice lattes, or whatever your kryptonite is) you probably already know this habit is taking a toll on your health, even if you drink diet soda. You probably also deeply love your soda habit and can’t imagine giving it up cold turkey. Cool, I get it, so let’s find a small place to start. Here’s a good one: replace ONE soda a day with a different beverage. Try flavored sparkling water (like LaCroix) or water with mint leaves or citrus slices in it. Just one drink a day. You can do that. If your thing is sweet coffee, try ordering your drink with half flavor (or just one less pump of syrup). Your taste buds need to adjust, but they will. And no, that one serving of sugar doesn’t make a big difference in TODAY, but over every single day this month it really does.
3. Move away from building your meals based on simple carbohydrates. If you’re like me, you grew up thinking that carbs were the foundation for your entire diet (I mean there they were at the giant bottom of the food pyramid). There’s nothing wrong with carbs, and some of the healthiest foods have tons of them. If I had to live on one food for the rest of my life it would be sweet potatoes, no question. But a lot of carbs (think bread, pasta, rice, cereal) aren’t BAD in and of themselves, but they just offer a whole lot less nutrition than almost anything else you can put on your plate. You can definitely still eat them, but if you can move away from the simple carb being the main attraction of your meal, you’ll be getting more nutrients and improving your health. So here’s your small change: you don’t have to stop making pasta for dinner, but instead of piling your plate full of pasta with a little sprinkle of sauce, beef up the other things on your plate and shrink the pasta serving. Make a really awesome sauce with tons of veggies and proteins that you like, and put a lot of that over a smaller serving of pasta. Serve some roasted veggies or a salad next to it. Don’t stop eating the meals that you like and don't ban your favorite foods from your kitchen, but tweak the way you eat processed grains to maximize the nutrients you're getting along with them. Also, if you're interested in losing weight, cutting grains from your diet is a must. Don't get caught up in worrying about fat, or your ratio of macro nutrients, or any of that other noise--just cut down on simple carbs. Seriously.
4. Increase your protein intake. If you’re trying to improve your fitness but you don’t like to eat a lot of meat, try adding a serving of protein into your day in a way you’ll enjoy it. Collagen powder is virtually tasteless and can go in your smoothie or coffee. People are wild about Rx bars (even though I don’t like how they stick to my teeth, I recognize that I’m in the minority here). Shakeology has been an awesome way for me to add protein to my day, and it also gets me my probiotics and vitamins. If you like eggs, hard boil some eggs and leave them in your fridge all week—try two of them for a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack. Instead of adding three protein shakes a day until you just can’t stand the sight of it anymore, just add one serving, somewhere in your day, every day, and see what it does for your athletic performance. If you’re not into animal protein, try vegan protein powders or adding quinoa, beans, or hemp seeds to your meals.
Alright, now it's your turn! You get to try these things, or tell me in the comments what small changes to your diet have made a big difference in your life. Remember, this is just the first post in this series--we have many other areas of your life to discuss. But what you eat is a big one, it really does set the stage for everything else. Because no matter what, you're making choices about what to eat at least three times a day, and those choices have a profound impact on your health. And remember what I said at the very beginning--you don't need to try all of these things at once! I don't want you to. I want you to try ONE thing, and really get it ingrained as part of your routine, and then you can add another thing. We're not getting overloaded here, we're takin' it slow. We are the turtles, not the hares. GO FORTH AND CONQUER!
Love you, mean it.
Hi friends, and welcome to a new and wonderful week. Today’s blog post is one that I thought about writing a long time ago but never really got down on paper. It’s an idea I think a lot of my posts dance around, but it’s time to dive deeper. And, in fact, I’ve decided this topic deserves an entire series. So this is your introduction to C&C’s next (first?) series: Making small changes over time to end up with BIG, life-changing changes.
You’ve heard this idea before. Changes that really matter are small and sustainable, because it doesn’t matter what you do for a day or a week or a month, it matters what you do every day. The little choices you make every day shape your life. Your routines actually DECIDE who you are, what you accomplish, what your life looks like. This is true for every area of your life: your career, your family, your relationships, your health, your finances, your fitness, your sanity. And I want to talk about all of those things. That’s why Cocoa and Cotton doesn’t have a singular topic: I want to talk about ALL. OF. THE. THINGS! And conquer them. Together.
So here’s what we’re going to do in this series: I’m going to talk about small changes to my routine that have added up to be BIG changes over time. I’m also going to talk about new things I’m trying, new ideas I’m hearing, and even some things that didn’t work out for me but might be a great fit for you. I’m going to give you ideas of small changes that YOU can try adding to your day, and we’re going to stay committed to the fact that meaningful changes don’t happen right away. They happen slowly, and cumulatively. That’s why you always hear people say “it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle” (and it’s totally ok if you want to punch those people in the face, but they’re right. Sometimes the people who have the right idea are the most annoying.)
Here’s what I’d love for you to contribute to this series: give the ideas a try and let me know how they work for you, and share your ideas for small changes that have added up to big things in your own life! I’m stoked about this, and I hope you are, too. Happy Monday.
Hi, friends! It's Friday, and it has been a good and very full week. And now it is time for a late-breaking Fueled Up Friday! Are you ready? I'm ready. Let's start.
It is FALL here in Minnesota. Sixty degree weather, scarves, and apples. So many delicious apples.
We're going through about a dozen honeycrisp apples a week. I forget how good apples are this time of year, just like I forget how good nectarines are in the summer. Because we live in a frozen tundra where fruit is usually just underwhelming. But not right now--right now apples are showing off. Buy yourself some apples.
II. My Managing Your Energy Group
If you follow the facebook page for Cocoa and Cotton (you should) or my Instagram (@happy_healthy_hannaloraine) you saw me post about a group I'm running this week to share some tips about managing your energy throughout the day and week to avoid burnout and maximize productivity.
You guys, this group has been awesome. A bunch of friends, family members, and acquaintances jumped in wholeheartedly and have been trying things out, sharing their experiences, and totally making my week! I've gotten to know everyone so much better, learned new ideas, and had so much fun sharing what I've learned. It's been a raging success, blowing my expectations out of the water. There will be more of these on different topics, so be sure to follow along on social media so you don't miss the next one!
One of my good friends is a writer's assistant on the Netflix show Girlboss, and I felt like it was finally time to read the memoir that's based on. I love this book.
For those of you who haven't heard of it, #Girlboss is Sophia Amoruso's book about her own life--she is the founder of Nasty Gal, a mammoth clothing company that started as an eBay business where she sold vintage clothing from her bed. I don't so much relate to Sophia--she talks about how she used to eat food out of dumpsters, and she named her brand Nasty Gal, and school really wasn't her thing but making tuna salad at Subway really was (before she became a bigtime fashion mogul). But I really like her. I like her tenacity, and love her story and her message of get-shit-done-ness. Reading her story has been inspiring and motivating to me, and like all of my favorite books it is also funny. If you haven't checked it out yet and you're looking for some boss inspiration, check it out.
Have a truly wonderful weekend, lovelies. Talk to you next week.
A few weeks ago, Dan and Kelly and I watched a documentary on Netflix called Living on One Dollar. The premise for the documentary is that four college kids are relocating to a remote village in Guatemala for the summer to live as the local, extremely impoverished population does: on less than one US Dollar per day. The students tried to simulate extreme poverty in several ways on top of just living on very little—the local people make money most often as hourly workers on local farms, but the income is unstable and unpredictable because they don’t have steady work and don’t know when work will be available. The students mimicked that uncertainty by budgeting $1 per person per day for their entire trip, but they broke that total budget up into different sized chunks, ranging from $0 to $9, and each day they would draw a number from a hat to find out how much money they had for that day.
Their experience was exactly what you could expect—brutal. They lost weight and felt awful because they couldn’t afford sufficient calories (eventually they started adding lard to their rice and beans, but their health definitely deteriorated in the few months that they were there). They had flea bites from sleeping on the dirt floor of their small hut, and one of the guys got extremely ill with a parasite (likely from the unclean water) and had to take medicine that they brought in case of emergencies. If he had not had that medicine (as the local residents don’t) the medicine would have been $25, a price that they definitely could not afford.
So, listen. I’m an educated adult. I know that these living conditions exist in the world. But intellectually knowing something and actually watching someone experience it are incredibly different, as we know. This experience felt especially poignant because I was watching the documentary sitting next to Kelly, and watching children his age on the television struggling with things I wouldn’t wish on anyone. When you are surviving on SO little, any tiny expense can completely derail your life—for example, the cost of school supplies, even though they are pretty inexpensive, is prohibitive for many families in this area of Guatemala. The parents want their children to be able to go to school—they want that deeply. But, as the documentary asks, how do you choose between feeding your family and sending your child to school?
It goes without saying, but will be said anyway, that we don’t face these choices. Even the poorest families in the United States are much better off than impoverished areas of the developing world, but families like ours that comfortably meet our daily needs have a standard of living that just looks absurdly luxurious when you compare it to what you’ll see in this film.
Dan and I have been talking lately about giving back—we give to charities, but it feels like it’s time to engage in some more intentional and organized giving (right now I have a few recurring donations, but the bulk of my giving happens when a friend points out a worthy cause, and I make a donation). In thinking about what our giving should look like, I’ve struggled a little bit with prioritizing recipients. There are so many causes that I find worthy and compelling. But this film, and searching my own heart, helped me cement the fact that providing food, water, and shelter to those who desperately need it are at the top of my list. So, our giving will focus on that—I’ve chosen a charity that focuses on water access, one that focuses on hunger worldwide, one that focuses on hunger within the United States, and one that provides emergency relief to refugees. It’s small, but it’s something. And my reaction when I watch this documentary is that we need to do something.
Love you, mean it.
I've gotta be honest, friends, because that's what I do here: this week has sucked. I really haven't been feeling fueled up, I've been feeling like if I get through the day without telling anyone to fuck off, then I deserve many pretty things and glasses of pinot. But bad weeks pass. And even in bad weeks, there are good things. The good things I want to talk about this week are scarves, deep breathing, and the book You are a Badass. We're covering a wide spectrum here. Buckle up.
Fall has arrived, so scarves can officially be worn, and I LOVE scarves. All fall fashion, really--give me scarves and boots or give me death. Plus they can be wrapped around me like a blanket when the oppressive climate control at work is gettin' me down.
Chewy is a fickle little pickle--if I try to take a photo of him he will NOT have it (he can be laying on me for an hour, but the second I try to take a selfie he's like, "I'm out.") But if I'm trying to take photos without him, he's like, "Hey! Mom! Give me some attention!" That poor dog really needs some grooming, we've let him develop so many dreadlocks he's starting to look homeless. Plus he's taken to chewing off patches of his fur (not the dreadlocked parts, annoyingly) so that's really not helping the aesthetic. But, I digress. Moving on.
II. Deep Breathing
At the risk of this blog becoming little more than live coverage of The Living Experiment podcast, I'm going to tell you that this idea came from The Living Experiment. Dallas and Pilar were talking about the fact that you can reduce stress hormones and slow your heart rate, essentially stopping a stress response, if you breathe in for a few beats, hold that breath for a few beats, and then breathe out for longer than you breathed in. So, something like: breathe in for four counts, hold for six counts, breathe out for eight counts. I've been using this a lot lately, either when I feel myself tensing up or when I just want to consciously set a calm vibe for myself, like on my morning commute. Just two or three breaths will do it. I also used this technique when my flight home from Boston last week hit severe turbulence, dropped unexpectedly, and everyone on the plane screamed. I'm not having a panic attack, you're having a panic attack. I'm breathing. And gripping my seat and listening to Justin Bieber. It's fine. Everyone's fine.
III. You are a Badass, by Jen Sincero
This book was recommended to me as personal development by my Beachbody crew, and I just started it last night. It's awesome. She writes in exactly the way I love (true, striking, and also funny). The book is pretty well-described by its cover: it's about believing in yourself and living your best life. It's definitely self-helpy, but not cheesy, so I love it. Here's one of my favorite passages so far:
"I have a friend who's a professional speaker. She's the kind of person who is so articulate, so powerful and bright and naturally captivating, that she could be standing at the counter, ordering a burrito and I'd get all teary-eyed: 'That's right! No refried beans! You heard the woman!' So imagine my surprise when, after one of her talks, she plunked herself down next to me and demanded to know how boring it was. I have gorgeous friends who think they're hideous looking, brilliant clients who one moment think they're God's gift to mankind and the next need to be talked off the ledge of self-proclaimed ineptitude, and an entrepeneurial neighbor who can't decide if she's a financial powerhouse or if she's about to cause her family to start living underneath a bridge. Self-perception is a zoo."
She goes on to talk about how we're never surprised when our phenomenal friends go out and do something phenomenal, but for some reason we don't give ourselves the same credit. We don't get any benefit of the doubt. She suggests to try seeing yourself through the eyes of someone who admires and believes in you, to try to stop wasting so much time and energy picking yourself apart. Ok, is that not great?? And it's funny, and quick to read. Buy this one.
That's all I've got for you this week, but you never know what next week may hold! OH! Also. Last week I posted about the concept of managing your energy, and energizing vs. depleting tasks, and I decided I wanted to share that concept more deeply and connect with some of my friends and internet stranger-friends about it. So, I'm running a little online workshop next week, Monday-Friday, to do exactly that. It's going to happen through a private Facebook group, I'll share a little bit of content every day and then there will be some interaction with the group, but it can all be done on your own time and won't take more than 15 minutes a day. And it's totally free! If you're interested, you can head on over to Cocoa and Cotton's page on Facebook and comment on that post or send me a message. And actually, if you like the blog and aren't already following the Facebook page, I post a lot more content there and on Instagram (@happy_healthy_hannaloraine) that you may like. Alright, that's really it.