Monday, February 21, 2011

March Resolutions

I'm not one for New Year's resolutions, but I definitely don't mind making a few every month. For March, I have two big ones that I'm planning to complete.

First and foremost, I'm taking a page out of Caitlin at Healthy Tipping Point's book and am declaring March my very first "Eat In Month." February has been insane in terms of the amount of eating out that I've done. It feels like every week has been one big calorie-bomb dinner out after another. This weekend, Shawn and I went away for his birthday. We stayed at The Pillar and Post, which is an incredible inn and spa in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It was amazing, and so were our gourmet meals at The Cannery. They were also so very bad for my not-so-flat abs. I hate not being able to fully enjoy a meal like that, which was so very incredible, because I was thinking about how much I had eaten out this month and how much I had overdone it.

Now, we don't normally eat out every week, but February has been a bit of a crazy one. I had two friends come in from out of town during the same week, it was Valentine's Day and Shawn's birthday, we got together with friends we hadn't seen in a few months, it was Winterlicious in Toronto... So I overdid it. And that means in March I'm going to concentrate on completely under-doing it. No eating out. Period. At all. It's going to be tough, but I'm sure I can manage it if I put my mind to it.

My second March resolution? To write 1,000 words a day of the novel I'm working on. I totally stole this resolution from Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project, but I'm sure she wouldn't mind. In the book, she decides to write a novel in a month - sitting down to write 1,500 words every day. No editing, no reading back, just committing to sitting down and  writing. It may not be the best novel ever written, or the longest, but it will fit the criteria. I have an idea rattling around in my head, but I haven't been able to commit to writing it, so this gives me the opportunity to get started and see where things go. If nothing else, I will at least have done more writing, something that I've always found difficult while I'm working.

So we'll see how my March resolutions go. I feel like they're important ones and that I'll feel better and happier for making a commitment to them. Is anyone else making a resolution for March?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Changing the World - One Toxin at a Time

I was visiting my cousin and her baby last weekend and we started talking about how ridiculous it is that our government allows toxic products to be sold. As a busy mom, she felt guilty when she went to Wal-Mart and gave in and let her daughter have a toy she wanted, even though she wasn't sure about all the things that were in it.
That really hit me. I am someone who looks at every label, tries to figure out what's in everything, but it takes a huge amount of time and effort. If I had a child, or children, how would that change my ability to do that? I know it would not affect my desire to do it, but with a young child wriggling in the cart, would I have the time or energy?

But the biggest thing that stuck me was why should we have to check everything? And why are we making parents feel guilty when they don't or can't?Shouldn't there be laws in place? Checks and balances that ensure that when you buy something it doesn't contain lead or other toxins?
Lately, I've felt more and more that protecting children is my calling. When I combine that with my passion for the environment I see a path where I can do my part to lobby and advocate for change. Maybe I can't work at Environmental Defence just yet (I did try, for what it's worth), but I can volunteer, I can support them financially and I can write. I already write a lot about these issues, but expect a few more updates along these lines.
Does it fit with this blog's healthy living theme? I definitely think that it does. Choosing to live a healthy life, through both body and soul, is one of the most important things I have ever done. I think that working to ensure that a healthy life is possible for future generations is a perfect extension.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Gratitude Journal

I'm just finishing up Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project. I've had an especially busy few weeks, so it's taken longer than I'd expected to finish, but I'm sort of happy that it did, I've been able to savour the book a little longer and take a bit more time to reflect on her progress rather than just rush through to the next chapter.
One of my only disappointments with the book thus far, if you could even really consider it a disappointment, is that she didn't find a benefit from the gratitiude journal she started. As the project develops there are things that work for her and things that don't, so some are swept aside over time - such was the fate of the gratitude journal.
Now, she did express that she saw how it could work for others, just not for her. And I can understand that. I didn't expect that I would be someone it worked for. But, as it happens, I am.
I first heard the idea in an issue of O Magazine. Yes, I confess to being a full on fan of all things O. It struck me as a bit odd, but when I tried it, I found it to be both harder then I expected and far more gratifying. Every night I sit down with my notebook and write out one page of things that I am grateful for that day.
Sometimes those things are pretty basic - a new episode of Glee, Shawn doing the laundry - and other times they are far more complex - my health, all that we have, the ability to help those in need - either way, they serve a huge purpose for me. They end my night on a positve note, which helps me let go of worries and doubts and sleep better. They force me to recognize life through a glass-half-full lens, which is something I sometimes struggle with. And they allow me to put my life into perspective in a way that I often don't.
Even during tough times, I force myself to write my list. Some days it seems like an impossible task and I find myself throwing anything onto the page - the new dish soap that doesn't chap my hands, the cat not completely destroying my nylons this week - but I inevitably feel better.
I know that it's not for everyone, but I think it's worth taking a moment to consider that it does work well for some. I am incredibly grateful for my gratitude journal and I hope some of you will try it too. I definitely consider it a great step forward on the road to living a healthy, balanced life!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

How My Wrestling Dream was Dashed

When I was a little kid, I loved professional wrestling. Loved, loved, loved it. I still enjoy it as an adult, but back then it was the kind of over-the-top, glued to the TV screen devotion that only little kids seem to be able to achieve. I would watch the show every weekend and then all week long I would dream about one day being a star in the WWE (WWF at the time, but you know what I mean).

My hero was Miss Elizabeth. I adored her. She was beautiful, but shy. Demure, but brave. She may have been the precursor for today's scantily-clad divas, but this was far before the ladies of the ring had to meet a T&A quota to be successful. I dreamed about being a wrestling manager - being funny like Lou Albano, cunning like Bobby the Brain and beautiful and brave like Miss Elizabeth. Every week when they would run commercials for the local wrestling school I dreamed about being old enough to attend.

But then one day at recess everything changed. I was walking around with our recess monitor - either my 4th or 5th grade teacher, that part's a little blurry -  and another little girl, being the quintessential teacher's pet. I loved her. I loved talking to her. And at recess I was happy enough to tag along beside her and chat when there was no one around for a game of Rainbow Brite. She was asking us what we wanted to be when we grew up and I told her all about my wrestling manager plan. I was excited; brimming with that little kid exuberance for my dream career.

And she told me that wasn't realistic. That I needed to think about a real career. Looking back, I think she meant that I was a bright kid who would probably go on to do more than manage professional wrestlers on TV, but at the time it was a crushing blow. Was I not pretty enough? Not athletic enough? I didn't understand why someone I looked up to would tell me I couldn't do what I dreamed about doing. Even my parents had patted me on the head and told me that sounded like an interesting career choice.

Looking back today, I see how that conversation affected me. I still watched wrestling obsessively for a few more years, but I no longer dreamed about being the next Miss. Elizabeth. I didn't think I could do it and that affected my self-esteem in ways I was way too young to understand.

Do I think I would have become a wrestling manager if I hadn't had that conversation? Probably not, but at least I would have held on to the dream until I let it go of my own volition, in my own time. And, as an adult, when I did get to work with professional wrestlers, maybe I would have had the courage to tell them I'd always wanted to manage. Those guys understand childhood dreams like nobody's business and, even if it was just my friend Nick dressing me up in a kooky outfit and letting me walk him to the ring at one of his smaller indie shows in a school gym, it would have been awesome.

But I never asked him. I never really felt like I could do it. And thinking back on that today, I realize the impact that one person can have on the life of a child. So to all my friends with kids, or that teach kids, or even just those who interact with kids at all, I wanted to pass on a little advice: If a little kid tells you she wants to be a WWE diva, an MMA fighter, a flight attendant, a rocket scientist or anything in between, don't tell her it's a bad idea. Tell her that it's a great idea and that you think she'll be an amazing dragon slayer, fashion model, race car driver or whatever she dreams of being.

Chances are she will grow out of it and, if she doesn't, she may just be the best wrestling manager ever to enter the ring ropes. But no matter what, she will feel like they can follow her dreams and do whatever she wants to do, at least for a little bit longer.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Happiness Project

On a recent trip to Costco I picked up a copy of The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I’d read a blog review awhile back by the always-fabulous Chantel Simmons and it seemed like the sort of book I’d enjoy. I’m currently about half of the way though (in July, as each chapter chronicals a month in her year-long journey) and so far I’ve found it to be one of the most inspiring books I’ve read in ages.

Rubin decided that, although she was basically a happy person, she could be happier. And by becoming happier she felt that her relationships with her family, friends, husband and even herself would improve. So she created a plan and each month added five new resolutions that would help her reach her goal. Some were loftier than others (starting a blog or clearing her clutter vs. singing in the morning or wearing a pedometer), but they were all things that she felt she could achieve and make habit-forming.

Throughout the exercise she finds that she is, well, happier. And that the changes she makes really do make a difference. As someone who tackles goals in a similar fashion to Rubin – create a plan, write it down, move forward), I have really been enjoying seeing what works and what doesn’t. And I’ve decided to incorporate many of her resolutions into my own life to see if they might help me be, well, happier.

So far I’ve added the one-minute rule (if you can do it in one minute, don’t put it off) and the evening tidy with great success. I’ve also been working on the no nagging resolution, which I think Shawn appreciates. Some, like singing in the morning, worked well for me, but were not as positively received by my incredibly patient hubby. He’s not much of a morning person and I’m not much of a singer, so that didn’t go so well. Maybe that one only works if you have kids…

I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the book and to seeing what other suggestions of hers I can add to my life. I think the book offers so many positive suggestions about ways that you can find time for fun, for your passions and for nurturing your relationships – all things that we often overlook and that add to our overall level of happiness. This is definitely a new tool in my healthy life arsenal and I’m excited to continue using it.

Have you read The Happiness Project? What did you think?