Cultivating Joy, Cultivating Friendships

When I was a teenager, I had no idea how to sustain friendships. This is not hyperbole. I literally did not have healthy friendships modeled for me, and the friendships I did have were with people who were experiencing the same amount of strain or trauma in their personal life as I was. We were all just trying to figure it out without any guidance to show us the way. So, we hurt each other. A lot.

But even with the hurts we were blindly injuring one another with, we still managed to find some lasting and comforting forms of companionship. As I’m writing this, I’m waiting for a friend at a local coffee shop. Someone I’ve known since high school. We’ve managed to stay friends through the years. Through college, career changes, babies and marriages, we’re still a resource for one another.

But this hasn’t been the case with many of the people I once called friends. I’d like to explore some of what brings us together and how to keep these bonds healthy. How do we nurture the initial spark of friendship that brings us together, to last through the years? Let’s start with the spark, and see where it takes us.

What Makes a Friendship?

I’ve said this before on this blog, that Jay-Z’s line, “real recognize real and you lookin’ familiar” has a spark of truth in it for me when it comes to describing a friendship. What I like about it is, that I think we recognize what’s familiar in one another’s experiences and circumstances. We see that we’re in the middle of something that looks familiar to us, and are drawn to one another. I suppose as a way to support each other while we try to figure it out. Two heads are better than one, as they say : ) ( :

We’re mirroring each other in a way. And I believe this brings us comfort. Because seeing someone else succeed helps give us the confidence to succeed. And if we fail, we have each other as support. Someone who can show us the positive in us while we’re busy beating ourselves up for not succeeding. And if you’re like me, you are beating yourself up quite a bit.

So having another around to help show us that we’re human, and bound to make mistakes, is helpful in keeping us more grounded and balanced. For me, it has been invaluable to have that kind of friendship. The one that tells me I’m “killin’ it”, while I’m paying back my student loans after cutting back to only working one job. This friend was also in debt until recently. We are both here for each other, cheering one another on while we work to achieve our goals. And that’s a great feeling. Feeling support from someone who knows how difficult it can be.

Maintaining a Lasting Connection

This was the difficult part for me. It was fairly simple finding people who were/are in similar situations to my own. But keeping the friendship alive was a mystery to me. What I’ve come to realize is, that we were all just surviving, and not able to think past our immediate circumstances. This lead to somewhat superficial connections.

I was so concerned with when the next panic attack was going to come, that I didn’t have the bandwidth to make plans for the future. Nor did I have the foresight to do the basics. Such as putting close friends’ birthdays in my calendar. I was just drifting from day to day without any plan or goal in mind, playing video games and drinking to numb my experience of what was happening to me. No bueno.

So, how did I change this? How did I go from just surviving to being an active role in my relationships? This took a lot of work. And it’s something I’m still working on. Let me show you what I’ve come up with for fostering friendships.

Make a List

I’m a list maker. I get a sense of joy and satisfaction just from organizing tasks, thoughts and events into a functional and attractive looking list. This is why I bullet journal. It gives me the right amount of art to organization ratio I need. So naturally, in order to stay in touch with those close to me, I’ve made a list.

This list is on my phone, and I’ve put various friends and relatives into four different groups of people. In the first group, are the people I check in with once a week. Then the following three groups are people that I check in with every three weeks, rotating through each group every week to make sure I don’t miss anyone. This way, I’m staying current with what’s happening in the people’s lives whom I care about.

Be Diligent

It also pays to be persistent as well. For example I was texting one person on my list for weeks with no response. This was kind of disheartening because this person is going through a lot of life events right now and I want to be a source of support for them. Then, during one phone call from his brother, I learned that he never responds to texts, (my preferred method of communication) only phone calls. So I called him the next day and low and behold he got right back to me with a text saying he was at work and is it important. That felt good. Like unlocking a puzzle.

Diligence has paid off with friendships for me in different ways too. I had definitely left many of my friendships to decay by simply neglecting them for a very long time. And I was a different person to most of the people who knew me before I changed. So rebuilding those connections wasn’t something that was a one and done deal. It took being persistent, but not pushy, and kind to those I was reaching out to. Hopefully letting them know that I’m not the ass I used to be.

But, this method worked. I’m now in regular communication with many of the people I was friends with from my past and I like to think that both our lives are richer for it. For example, a friend of mine that I used to cook with told me to Google search, “gross Jell-o molds” and it did not disappoint. My favorite was the ones with SpaghettiOs in them : P

Remember Your Shared Interests & Look for Experiences to Share

As far as the curriculum of friendships goes, planning events and then executing them might as well have been a trig class while I was still taking fundamentals of math. I’m an introvert, so doing things with others doesn’t come so naturally to me. I believe that in most of my romantic relationships, my partner was the one who was making plans for us. So during the seasons of my life where I’m on my own, I’ve had to find things and experiences to do, on my own.

What I’ve been trying to do is, when I think of something new or interesting that I’d like to get involved with, I scan my friendships to see who else might want to get involved. Then I shoot them a text to see if they’d like to join in. Again, this may seem obvious for many folks. But for us introverts, it’s a bit of a struggle to make that connection.

For example, I’ve been into thinking about my Polish heritage lately and am making my next self-care meal as an homage to Polish cuisine. There are a lot of mushrooms in Polish cooking so I found some recipes that looked satisfying. But the more I thought about mushrooms, the more fun I thought it would be to go foraging for some. I went once when I was a child, chanterelle picking in Vermont, and absolutely loved the experience. So I searched for foraging groups local to me then texted some people in my friend group who I would normally take hikes with. I thought combining the two, foraging and hiking was a perfect match.

If Your Friend Can’t Come to You Go to Them

If you’re like me, you’re pretty busy. Until recently I was working two jobs to pay off my student loans, and on the days I wasn’t working, which were few, I’d be cleaning and cooking for the week. This left me very little time for myself. But, I found the time to visit some of my friends who were equally as busy. Tending to our friendships was a priority for me. And I did this by getting creative with how we spent time together.

For example, one friend of mine worked at a local restaurant until recently. So on my nights off, I’d hop on the train and go visit with him while he was working. I’d grab a beer and a bite to eat while he sat behind the bar a told me about his goings on. His family and what’s been happening with him personally. It felt good catching up with him in this way. Seeing him in another light, another role. I feel like I know him better as a person now.

I have another friend who recently took a job at another local restaurant. We’ve been friends since grade school though we don’t get together very often. A couple friends of mine suggested that we go to his restaurant and visit while he bakes. A fun night out, catching up with old friends seems like a pleasant way to spend an evening : )

It’s also a good idea to be mindful of how much of yourself you’re giving in all of your friendships and be cognizant of your boundaries with them. If you find you are always doing for your friends, then maybe suggest a few changes to your rules of engagement. It’s no longer fun if it feels like a burden.

Take Risks

Also, it’s important to step outside your comfort zone. Building friendships isn’t always a walk in the park. There are going to be tough times as well as the good ones. And, sometimes meeting new people means expanding beyond what your comfortable with.

For example, a friend of mine called me out of the blue because she had tickets to a small venue to see a bluegrass band. It was on a day I had off, so I decided to go. I didn’t realize at the time that there would be close to eight of us going. If I had known I might not have gone. But I went, and had a great time. Also finding an amazing new venue for seeing music that I will be going back in the future for sure.

You are in Charge of Your Belonging

Connecting with others is risky sometimes. The pain of rejection, or being vulnerable around another is not something that is easily tolerated by many. Especially if you’ve experienced abuse or trauma. But it is necessary if we want to feel connection, or a sense of belonging. But don’t forget, you’re in charge.

It’s okay to go slow while reconnecting. That way, you’re taking care of yourself while taking the time in building your friendships. And also to take the time to know that they are healthy and genuine friendships. True friends are truly a blessing. Finding and cultivating these friendships is something that will bring us so much joy the more we tend to them. But we need to take the time to nurture them.

If you’ve found your relationships are less than fulfilling, maybe it’s time to inspect how you feel in your connections with and to others. Is the fear of pain greater than the value of your connection? If so, the relationship my be under strain. Maybe the strain of not feeling like you are totally accepted as who you are in the relationship for fear of being rejected. And being yourself is a large component of feeling genuine connection in our friendships.

So cultivate your friendships. And tend to them with a nurturing effort, and you’ll find joy in them. But also know who you are first. And true friends will help you to be the best version of yourself. Not expect you to change. Friendships aren’t always easy, but few things worth their while are. Be consistent and make your relationships a priority and they will yield feelings of comradery and joy. Peace & thanks for reading : )

Image Credits: “friendship” by bekassine… is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Cultivating Joy: Getting Cozy

Cozy is something that I’m learning to appreciate more and more as I age. I suppose this was what I was looking for when I would frequent bars. But cultivating cozy brings with it a sense of ease and joy. Now-a-days, I don’t search for my coziness pulled up on a bar stool. Now I’m surrounding myself with family members, friends, a clean or natural setting and a few creature comforts that engage the senses.

In the following, I’ll be going over some of the ways I cultivate cozy in my life. Why it’s so important to create these spaces as a refuge to feel safe and calm and refuel, if you’re an introvert like me. Also how to foster these spaces in your life. Getting cozy is also a great way to relieve stress and cultivate intimacy with those you love. So let’s jump in by slipping into something more comfortable.

Why the Need for More Coziness

There is a terrific amount of emphasis placed on being productive in American culture. I was reading Lee Iaccoca’s autobiography where he pointed this out with an astute observation. He explains, while talking about poor time management skills, how some business men will brag about working all year without taking a vacation. This is something I know to be true from my experience, of myself and those I’ve worked with.

Though I don’t work in the business sector, working ourselves too hard seems ubiquitous in American culture. It seems that everybody I know or meet has a second job to make ends meet. This leads to increased stress levels and less overall life satisfaction. I know in my family, we speak about working six to seven days a week with a sense of pride. I myself held two jobs for the past six years until recently. All in the name of paying down my student loans more quickly.

But all of this working lead me to feeling tired, anxious and unable to partake in the things and be with the people in my life, that bring me a sense of joy. No bueno. This is why it is so important to cultivate cozy in our lives as a direct response to all the tension and stress that we place on ourselves by pushing ourselves past what is healthy. So how do we do this? How do we create space in our lives for more cozy?

The Elements of Cozy

For me, I’ve found that it’s important to find what brings you a sense of ease, and tend to that. When you find something that sparks those feelings of being relaxed, take note of it and repeat those rituals or indulge in those things, but do it sparingly. For example, I’ve always been drawn to a well lighted room. Not in the sense that it is bright, more so that it has many sources of diffused lighting. Lending a softer feeling to the room. I love the flicker of candle light and the low glow from string lights. So I’ve incorporated these into my living space. Let’s take a look at some of the elements and how I’ve put them into practice.

1. Meals

Mealtime is an important one for me. Having worked in the food industry for most of my career and the negative reinforcement I received around my food consumption/weight, not to mention never being taught how to cook for or care for my nutritional needs, I suffered an awful lot when it came to my food intake. Luckily, this is an area I spent some considerable time reparenting myself around. It started when I decided to go veg.

I went vegan first, then switched to vegetarian. I did so for the health benefits, but mostly because, and I can’t remember where I heard this o don’t quote me on this, but if you eat vegan, you will naturally maintain a low body fat to high muscle ratio. Basically I wanted to look good naked. Now my new goal is to be healthy. To value being healthy over physical attraction. This is something I’m still struggling with a little.

But since I started taking care of my nutritional needs with a focus on my health, the quality of my meals has greatly increased. The food I prepare for my meals now is better than many restaurants I go to, and I’ve really learned to love the process. It helps that I also cook professionally. But when you’re making your favorite dish, engaging your senses in the process, something magic happens. Add a few friends or family to the mix and you have time well spent in cultivating cozy.

2. Cozy Space

This is essential for me, in maintaining a healthy headspace, mentally and emotionally. For me, it helps to know that I have a space that I can go to, that evokes a sense of ease and comfort. For me, this space is my room. It’s clean, has pieces and trinkets that remind me of my personality, smells good, has all the right ambient lighting and is cozy in all the ways that bring me a sense of feeling comfort.

This is especially important for unwinding from a stressful day or just time to recharge. If you’re introverted like I am, having downtime is essential to your mental health. Life gets hectic. Why not create a space that will bring you a sense of joy and well-being, just by being in it?

In creating your own space, try looking for what brings you joy just by looking at it. I enjoy the Boho vibe myself, but spend some time looking through photos on Pinterest or Instagram. Look for the images that bring you the most of joy, and see if you can replicate that in your space to cozy it up.

3. Cleanliness

Another element of cozy for me is having a clean living space. Really any space I spend a lot of time in, it’s beneficial for me for it to be clean and well taken care of. Because when you surroundings are in disorder, your inner space can feel the same way.

But sometimes we get busy. It’s not always easy to stay on top of our daily chores and cleaning duties. I try to set aside a day to get tasks like this done. One of my days is dedicated to food shopping, cooking and cleaning. This way I know I’ve set aside the time I’ll need to get done what needs my attention, while also enjoying the benefits of a clean living space.

Try assessing your surroundings and see where your space could use a little more attention. What is the state of your surroundings and are they as clean as you would like them to be? Do you have a regular cleaning schedule? What does your space look like when it’s in its ideal state of cleanliness? Try clearing some space in your schedule to find time for your own cleaning routine. Set aside a day like I have, to create a chores list, yes from when like you were a kid, and get down and dirty with your space. It’ll yield dividends in your happiness for sure : )

4. Creature Comforts

When I sit in my chair, with some music going and a cup of herbal tea, I feel more at ease. Add the ambient lighting I spoke about above, with my essential oil diffuser going and I’m feeling pretty relaxed. These small comforts are a big part of feeling more at ease in my space. Making the over all experience a more cozy one.

Again, this is a space where you need to find what you like. What are the small things in your day to day that bring you a sense of comfort? For me, living in New England, its cold in the winters and we being thrifty Yankees, set the thermostat to 64 degrees. So on the colder days, I have a few throw blankets and an electric heater by my side to warm things up a bit. Other wise I’d be freezing in my own house!

This is also a form of self expression. What scents do you like, and fill your space with those. It’s amazing how supported you can feel in an environment that has a few of your favorite things in them. So find what you like and make a list of these things, a resources list. This way, you can come back to them when you’re in need of a little cozy.

5. Music & Podcasts

These are essential in living the cozy life. Music has, as far back as I can remember, been a source of joy for me. It’s a great feeling when you put your favorite song on and just float on the rhythm. It’s equally as satisfying when you find a new favorite song. Something you can come back to time and again. The same is true of podcasts as well.

I have a few favorite playlists for days when I’d like to spend some time getting cozy. Here’s a band I’ve been listening to lately that’s been helping me cultivate more comfort. I also enjoy listening to podcasts when the mood strikes. This American Life is one of my favorites. Hearing other peoples stories is comforting. Especially when they align with your own. It’s cathartic to hear how others are handling similar situation and all while hearing a good story 🙂

If you haven’t already, it may be worth your while to explore which songs and artists helps to support cozy and ease in your life. Who are your favorite artists, and do they bring you comfort? I used to listen to a lot of industrial music. Artists like Nine Inch Nails and Ministry were on heavy rotation. These are not relaxing bands, nor do they embody cozy. So if you’re into something a little more heavy, try switching it up to something more light and see what comes up. You never know what you may find that you enjoy.

6. Friends & Family

This is another important one for me, and I imagine most people. Having supportive family and friends around is the difference between feeling lonely and without support, and feeling belonging and a sense of comfort. This is no small thing. It’s important to feel and stay connected to those we love.

I have a list of friends and family that I get in touch with once a week. This way, I’m working to build our relationship, and foster our connection. Otherwise, months could go by and we wouldn’t talk to one another. This was the way I used to be in relationship. I would let weeks or months go by without a word, and just assume that we were still close friends. This however is not the way to foster healthy friendships.

If you’ve been neglecting your relationships as I had, maybe pick a day each week and write a list of people you’d like to keep in touch with. Then send them a text or call them and catch up. I send texts, because it’s easier to juggle more than one conversation at a time and the other person doesn’t feel pressured to respond right away. Pick a time that works for you and start connecting. Even reaching out to people you haven’t spoken to in years. You may be surprised with who gets back to you : )

Make it a Routine

And to help make it stick, try making these habits a routine. For some of the items above, like meals, cleaning and friends and family, I have some time carved out from my day each week to tend to these areas. It helps to know that I have that time and space to get things done, so that they won’t fall through the cracks.

I spent a lot of time neglecting these areas of my life in the past. So if you’re like me, there may be some fear around falling back into old ways of being. But it’s good to remember that these are only fears, and you can choose to be a different person from who you used to be.

Also, there will be times when you fall short, and don’t meet your expectations. It’s important to be forgiving of yourself in these times. We all come up short sometimes. We’re human, it happens. The important part is to remember that it’s okay. We’re not perfect.

I hope this has been of some help to those looking to cultivate more cozy in their lives. Maybe start by taking one thing from this list, or something you already do that makes you feel cozy and incorporate that into your routine. And as you get comfortable, add more things. Pretty soon you’ll be living the cozy life. Peace : ) & thanks for reading.

Image Credits: “Tea Mug Cozy” by KnitStorm is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Cultivating Joy: A Self-Care Routine

I’ve written about self-care on this blog before. One post on the benefits of making a self-care meal for yourself once a week. Well, my self-care meals have turned into a self-care routine that has been evolving since its meal time inception. And it’s something that’s given me a fair amount of joy in the process. I was so focused on pushing myself to achieve, that I almost completely forgot how to relax. No bueno. So my solution? Some forced fun and relaxation : )

I’d like to go over some of the parts to my self-care routine, as it is now, and why it’s so important to my mental health. It has been a difficult road, learning how to care for myself as I would, and have no problem doing, for a loved one. Hopefully, my realizations will help others who have struggled with self love also. Maybe we can relax our way into a healthier version of ourselves, together. Let’s step into something a little more cozy : )

“Find What Feels Good” -Adriene, & Keep Doing it

This was a tough one for me. Because when I started out on my journey to finding what I enjoyed doing, I didn’t really know what I liked. The ways I spent my time in self-care before was by numbing my emotional experience of the present. Usually by playing video games, drinking or watching TV.

These activities felt good, but it wasn’t the type of feeling that was satisfying, and weren’t really self-care. Not the way wrapping up a night by the fire pit with friends and a good conversation feels. It was more about passing the time without engaging in what was happening around me. Much like being on autopilot. There, but not there.

Or the feeling I get when I achieve something. This, however, can be dangerous. I was using the feeling of achieving and being productive, like a drug. I would keep pushing past what was healthy for my body, all to feel the high of my accomplishment. As Melba says, “it’s no easy”.

So what’s the solution? How do we “find what feels good” and pursue that in healthy moderation? And then how do we turn that into a sustainable routine? Something we derive joy from on a regular bases? To be honest, I’m still figuring that out. But I have some ideas. Let’s take a look at what I’ve come up with.

Step One: Get to Know Yourself & What You Even Like?

This one is tricky. I thought I knew what I liked. I thought this one was a no-brainer. And for some, maybe it is. But for me, getting to know what I liked was a challenge. Some of the conclusions I’ve come to on the subject are, I was so busy chasing something I thought I should like; i.e. a lifestyle and image, clothes and cars, that I lost touch with what I really enjoyed.

I’m not saying anything that’s new or mind blowing by any means. It seems that each generation struggles with this a new. But when you wake from, and realize what you’ve been doing, that’s worth paying attention to and to cultivate healthier habits. For me, and I imagine most people in my age and demographic, looking like Tylor Durden from Fight Club was what I thought happiness looked like.

There’s something so deceptively enticing about waking up and feeling completely satisfied with how you look, that you feel will lend you the confidence you need to be the person you want to be. And no matter how often we hear the perennial wisdom, “just be yourself”, there’s still that part of me that thinks I’ll be happier if I’m just a little bit different, a little “better” than who I already am.

Step Two: Breaking the Cycle

So, in order to break the cycle of making yourself chase somebody else’s idea of what we should like, stop, look around at your surroundings and ask, “do I like what I see?” If you’re like I was, it’ll take a while to recognize what you’re looking at. I had so little structure, so little order in my life, that there were very few threads that I could hold onto and say for certain, “this is who I am, this is what I like.”

And to add to the confusion, we change. Who I am now, isn’t who I was 10 years ago. And some things have changed, but only slightly. For example, I still love good food. Only now, I prefer to cook my meals at home instead of spending a night out at a restaurant or bar. I know what I like to eat. That’s one area that I’ve discovered I have a strong opinion about. Hence the self-care meals I prepare.

And like I said above, be patient with yourself. This process may take you some time, as it did me. Don’t be discouraged if you think you like something, only to realize that it doesn’t quite bring you as much joy as you thought it would. Or maybe you’re in a place where you’ve racked up a considerable amount of debt, holding you back from pursuing your interests. In this scenario, I’ve turned to the planning phase for solace. But be adventurous. Try new things. If something looks interesting or fun, give it a shot. How else are you going to find what you enjoy?

Step Three: Make a Plan

Making a plan is something that is comforting and doesn’t cost you any money. And if it’s something you’re going to enjoy doing, it’ll also bring you joy to plan for and think about it. For me, I enjoy the act of planning my self-care days. The routine that has become a somewhat regular part of my week. I spend some time picking out the meal I’ll be preparing. The dessert as well. The type of bath I’ll be taking and the scents that will be involved. Maybe choose the podcast I’ll be listening to also.

Sometimes I’ll write it down in my journal and actually have a template of what my day will look like. It helps me to illustrate what I’m planning. This way I have a sense of permanence to what I’m looking to achieve. I know that I already have an idea of what I’ll be doing, and need only to take a look at the structure to remind myself that I already have support.

This type of support is important. Most days, after working six days straight and some being fifteen hour days, I don’t have the energy or will power to sit my ass down and come up with a plan. Even if it is a plan full of things I like and are relaxing. Having support means that I’ve already laid out the plan and all I need to do is pick a recipe. And I’m pretty much always in the mood to look for something tasty to eat : )

Step Four: Schedule a Time

This is equally as important as making a plan. Because without a scheduled time, this day may never come to fruition. I usually pick my day off. Setting aside the latter half of the day for my routine. This way I can get done what needs my attention in the beginning of the day, then turn that attention inwardly towards my self-care routine. Win, win.

Ideally, when picking a time, it’s best to choose one where you won’t be rushed from your state of relaxation. Or a time that’s sandwiched in between tasks. Rushing from relaxing to something stressful, for me, doesn’t embody what I’m trying to achieve with a self-care routine. Stress, is usually what we’re trying to care for with our self-care. So if possible, planning a chunk of time where you won’t feel rushed to wrap up quickly do to other, pressing matters will go a long way in finding ease in your self-care routine.

Step Five: Relax : )

This step is a lot easier said than done. It sometimes feels a though this is the great trick that biology played on us. The one thing we’d like to do most, is just out of reach. But, it’s not impossible to get to a relaxed state. It only takes practice.

For me, I sometimes, okay, most times focus on how everything needs to be perfect. If I’m making a meal, it has to not only taste delicious, but look insta worthy as well. The place I’ll be enjoying my meal has to be immaculate and all my creature comforts need to be within reach.

I enjoy all these aspects of my self-care routine. The cleanliness helps me to feel more at ease and I like like sharing something I’ve spent time and love preparing for myself. But what I need to remind myself is, that it doesn’t have to be perfect. That even if my surroundings are a little disordered, or my meal looks unappetizing, but tastes delicious, it’s okay to enjoy what is. Without the critical judgements that pop up. The judgements will come, but we don’t need to listen to them and respond to them. We can just enjoy what we’ve created.

Practice Your Self-Care Routine & You’ll be Practicing Joy

And it’s in practicing these self-care routines that we can learn to derive a sense of joy from them. This is why it is so important, for me, to come up with a plan and schedule a time for these events. Because it is in coming back to them that we learn how to come back to the things that bring us a sense of ease and where we learn how to come back to joy.

What’s so strange about this lesson, for me was, that it took so long to learn. Almost all of our states are products of us practicing them. We aren’t born stressed. This is a trait we pick up from consistently over loading ourselves with tasks and responsibilities, while we slowly take away our recovery time. For most of us, this is a life long process. But if we can practice our way into a more stressful lifestyle, the good news is, we can practice our way out.

Stick to Your Self-Care Schedule

This is why a routine is so important. Practice, practice, practice. And the more we practice these weekly routines, the more we can throw a few smaller ones in throughout our days. Maybe you find that you enjoy the essential oils you put in your weekly bath so much that you find a shower steamer to use during your morning shower routine.

Or there’s a snack you find during your self-care meal prep that you make a part of your regular, after work routine. Whatever it is that you find that brings you a sense of ease during your week, practice that. Because it is here where you will find your joy and ease. And it’ll be worth all your while when you are able to relax, knowing that it is a state that you’ve cultivated through positive and healthy habits.

Practice, Practice, Practice

This cannot be under stated. You need to consistently practice these routines and what brings you joy. Even on the days when it just seems like too much work. Especially on these days, because this is when you need a little self-care the most.

What I’ve found is, when I schedule my routine for a specific day, I tend to look forward to that day all throughout the week. It helps to keep me in a positive frame of mind during more difficult aspects of my days. When I’m tired or looking at a task I know I don’t want to do, I remind myself gentle that there is something to look forward to. And in the larger picture, when I’m out of debt and living according to my new values of thriftiness, I’ll be able to go bigger on my self-care routines : )

So friends, start actively looking for the things and activities that bring you joy. Start small and see where they take you. Before you know it, you’ll have dozens of little things that bring you joy everyday. Peace : ) & thanks for reading.

Image Credit:”#2. Tea” by ben matthews ::: is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Cultivating Joy: Areas Worth Exploring

I’d like to switch gears a little with this post, and the direction of this blog. I’ve been writing a lot about what’s difficult, but what I’m realizing now is that I’ve left out a large part of the picture. The things that bring joy. So it’s with this idea in mind that I want to begin exploring the areas in my life and in general, that make us happy. It’ll be a little different for everybody, but we all have the capacity to experience joy. I’ll still be focusing on interpersonal and introspective topics about relationships, but I thought I’d throw in some positivity to balance out some of the heavier topics.

In the next few posts, I’m not sure how many yet, I’ll be going over some areas in my life that bring me a sense of ease, peace and joy. I’ll be exploring some of what motivates me and the ways I go about finding joy in the things I do. So let’s jump in with sustainability.

The Joy Of Sustainability

This is a big one for me. I’m not sure why I derive so much joy out of recycling, or using that one plastic cup at work for 2 months straight. But the feeling is a light one. Knowing that I’m doing my part to reduce my footprint and use fewer disposable products makes me happy. Also the feeling I get when I leave the grocery store with only a few containers that are all recyclable is satisfying.

I’d like to go over some of the habits I’ve picked up that are sustainable, my point of view as to why we’re so hung up on our “disposable” world, and how to change our frames of mind about the topic. So let’s talk a little about why we’re so attracted to a disposable lifestyle. Maybe we can get to the root of our filthy habits.

Disposable Lifestyle: Why it’s so Attractive

There’s no doubt that we are attracted to beauty. It’s advertised to us every day. In the ads we watch and read, to the shows we see and the trends celebrities are setting. But when you think of sustainability, do the words “cool” or “sexy” come to mind? They don’t for me. And let’s face it, there is nothing sexy about sitting in a fast food restaurant shoveling a most likely unhealthy meal into your mouth with a plastic spoon. But what if we made that the new sexy?

I’m joking, kinda. As I’m sitting in my room typing this post, next to me on my side table is a spoon rest that I saved from the garbage, with a plastic spoon in it. I use it to stir my tea when I bring a cup up stairs. At first, the sight of the plastic spoon felt trashy. I didn’t like the idea of having something disposable sitting at the ready to be used again. For me, I like the well polished look of a beautifully designed environment. But what changed my opinion about the spoon on my table are two very important people in my life.

Conviction is the New Sexy

I work as a baker at a local bakery. The owner of the bakery is one of the most driven, dedicated and practical people I’ve ever met. She works fifteen hour days and knows all of her regulars names and what’s happening in their lives. And she is also passionate about recycling.

I started working with her when they opened their business about two years ago. One of the things I remember from our first interactions was, that she used a disposable plastic cup for her coffee. This wasn’t so remarkable at first, but what really stuck out was, that she used that cup for about six months. That’s pretty impressive for a disposable cup! This made me think about the ways I use disposables in my life.

The other person is my step mother. She makes and brings her lunch to work with her everyday. And with her lunch, she has been using the same plastic utensils for as long as I can remember her going to work with a lunch. This is impressive, that she can make something “disposable” last so long.

I love sustainability and it brings me a great sense of joy, that’s for sure. But how sustainable am I really? When it comes down to it, am I ready to reuse that plastic cup I purchased a drink in? Does having a piece of “trash” around me make me feel cheap because it doesn’t fit in on the cover of one of my favorite design magazines? The answer to this question used to be a resounding yes. But I’ve come to change my opinion on this matter. Let me tell you what I’ve come up with.

The More Attention We Give to Something the More Special it Becomes

One day, I forgot my water bottle at my house when I went to work. So, I grabbed a plastic cup and in step with the owner of the bakery, I reused that cup. It’s actually still in use, and waiting for me the next time I go in to work. The same is true of the spoon I have on my side table. I can’t remember why I got it, but it’s been here ever since. Waiting to stir my tea.

What’s so strange about these items is, at first they were trash to me. I didn’t like the idea of reusing a piece of garbage. It made me feel cheap, like I was worth less for using them. But the more I used these items, the fonder I grew of them. It seems so strange to me now to think that I’m actually enjoying the plastic spoon that sits on my side table. But there is no denying, that that spoon now brings me joy.

I’m happy to be using something that would have gone into the garbage otherwise and it now feels like it belongs in my surroundings. The same with the plastic cup at work. Knowing that I’m reusing something that still has life left in it brings me joy. It also has my name with a little smiley face next to it, Adam : ). This also brings me joy : ) So my boss’s and step mother’s conviction for recycling has given me a new perspective on what I find to fit in with my image of beauty.

Tips & Hacks for Getting the Most Out of Your Garbage

I’d like to go over some of the habits I’ve picked up in the area of living a more sustainable life. Most of these suggestions aren’t new ones. But maybe they are if you’re still in the frame of mind that single use plastic is garbage. The suggestions below focus on how to get the longest life from the items we use daily, making our habits a little more sustainable and maybe even creating some joy along the way : )

1 .Public Transit & Walking

Due to some early childhood trauma, I have a condition where I dissociate on occasion. It started happening about seven years ago, and since I haven’t been able to drive. So, I walk. I walk or I take public transportation. Luckily for me, I live in a suburb of Boston. So the public transit system is first class. At first, I disliked taking the T, as it’s referred to in Mass. But the more I use it, the more appreciative I am of it.

I also have had to walk a lot of places as well. I used to be pretty sedentary in my former life. Now, I don’t think twice about walking somewhere that’s two miles away. I enjoy the exercise I’m getting and feel good about lessening my carbon footprint. This is a win, win in my book.

What I’ve come to realize is, that even when I’m able to drive again, I think I’ll still be using public transportation and walking a lot of the time. It’s reliable, it’s keeping me in shape and I’m doing my part to keep emissions down. Sure, the convenience of having a car is nice, but maybe we can switch out some of our normal driving routine to public transportation instead. Or carpool with friends and coworkers. Cars are nice to have, but they are not always necessity.

2. Reusing Single Use Items & Replacing Them with More Permanent Solutions

I’ve already written about the cup and spoon I’m currently reusing, but there are also other things we can reuse. For example, I always bring my reusable shopping bags to the store with me. But I also get and use paper grocery bags once every so often to use as trash bags in my room. I like them because they are recyclable and compostable.

The other side to the reusable single use plastics coin is, replacing disposable options with more permanent solutions. One that would help immensely is, switching to a water bottle instead of disposable plastic bottles. The bottle is a one time purchase, most places are happy to fill your bottle and you won’t be creating tons of waste. The same is true of portable coffee mugs. Brew your own or ask your barista to make your morning cup in your mug for you. Other swap outs include, woolen drier balls instead of drier sheets, making your own bandanas and handkerchiefs, if you use them, from old T-shirts. Here’s a link to The Good Trade and an article on making more sustainable swaps if you’re looking for more inspo.

3. Refusing Single Use Items

This one was a new concept for me. I was already concerned with reducing my plastic consumption, but what I was overlooking was, that you can refuse items as well. For example, when I’m out getting an iced tea, I will often times refuse the straw they offer. I don’t use one at home and it’s only when I’m given one that I feel compelled to use them. This is a no brainer now, but it took some time to come to this understanding.

Other items we can refuse are lids for cups if you’re eating in. Only take the napkins you need or use a handkerchief you’ve made yourself. Bring your own containers to the grocery store when buying bulk goods. Carry a backpack or tote with you when you go shopping for non-food items, so you don’t have to use the bag from the shop. Here’s a list of what’s polluting our oceans so you can steer clear of these top items.

4. Gardening & Composting

This is another tasty option to cultivate some joy. Especially if you love fresh food as much as I do. Starting a garden is a great way to cut back on food miles and eat fresher produce. You’ll also bee saving hundreds of dollars on veg. Not to mention how beautiful a vegetable garden is while it’s in full bloom. And if you don’t have a yard, not to worry. There are usually community gardens located in urban areas that allow access to land where you can grow your own. Usually for a small annual fee.

And if you do have the space, composting your kitchen scraps is a great way to recycle food waste. All while building your soil and adding extra nutrients to your harvest. another win for the planet. And if you really want to compost, but don’t have the space, there are companies that collect food scraps like garbage collection, to compost off site.

5. Visit Your Library

Your local library has so many resources, that it’s amazing more people don’t utilize it. You can loan books for sure, but also barrow movies, music, and there’s usually something going on that’s community focused too. Some libraries give tours of their facilities. Scheduling one may yield other hidden secrets that are just waiting for you to discover.

Remember it’s About What Brings You Joy

It seems funny to correlate joy with something as mundane as recycling. But if you enjoy the natural world, then taking care of it should definitely bring a sense of happiness. I know I feel better when my surrounding environment is at its best. So try working some of these sustainable habits into your daily routine. And hopefully, you’ll find a little joy along the way : ) Peace & thanks for reading : )

Image Credits: “joy” by Ganesh K S is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

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