Welcome to my new site. It's still under construction, so please excuse anything that seems out of place.
Welcome to my new site. It's still under construction, so please excuse anything that seems out of place.
If I have any readers in the southern hemisphere, feel free to switch the word “autumn” for “spring” in today’s post. A lot of what I’m about to say can apply to the shift between other seasons as well with a little tweaking.
In fact, maybe I’ll revisit this topic from that angle in six months once Canada shifts to spring weather? I won’t make any promises, but I will keep this idea in mind for the future.
In the meantime, this is why I think everyone should be taking note of the autumn equinox tomorrow.
Over the last few years I’ve begun to pay more attention to the two solstices and two equinoxes we have each year in an attempt to remain mindful no matter what season Ontario is currently experiencing.
There are parts of this time of the year that I deeply enjoy and other parts that I’m not such a big fan of, just like there are things I like and dislike about winter, spring, and summer.
One of the things I’ve enjoyed the most about practicing mindfulness has been how its adjusted the way I see the world at the end of a season when I’ve grown tired of the snow, rain, or heat.
This, too, will pass if given enough time.
Nothing lasts forever, so it’s a good idea to settle into it while it is here and find the good in whatever it is that’s happening right now.
When I was a teenager, I noticed that my grandfather read a lot of books about World War II. While he wasn’t old enough to serve in that war, he was definitely old enough to remember it when it happened. Instead of asking him why he read about a period of history he’d personally experienced, I decided to quietly pay attention to what he kept on the stand by his favourite chair to see if I could figure out the answer myself.
Most of the books he read were about history in general. Many of them were about things that happened decades or centuries before he was born. I think I also remember seeing books related to farming, fixing machines, and other practical topics that applied to his lifelong work.
What I learned from this experiment is that there’s always something new to discover no matter who you are or how much you already know about a topic.
So far the autumns of the 2010s have been warmer than most of the ones I remember from my childhood thanks to climate change. While some of this may be part of the natural process every mind goes through when it decides which memories to keep and which ones to toss away that may have distorted my memory of what September should be like, I also think there is something to be said for paying attention to how weather patterns have shifted over time.
Someday someone might want to hear our stories about what it was like to watch the world grow warmer than its ever been before. We’re living through a part of history that is going to be discussed for many generations to come.
I’m not a huge fan of celebrating most of the big holidays hat happen between now and January, but I sure do love seeing all of the pretty decorations for them.
Hallowenn, Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas, Eid, harvest festivals, and many other holidays bring out the creative side of people. The nice thing about living in Toronto is that we get to see decorations for just about every holiday known to humankind during this time of the year. If any group of people celebrate it, a few of them are almost certain to live here.
I am often amazed by just how much thought people put into the decorations they choose for the holidays their families celebrate. For example, look at the gigantic scarecrow above this paragraph. I’ve never looked at a bale of hay and imagined it could be repurposed as a friendly face, but that concept works beautifully here.
The outfit this scarecrow is wearing looks like something that could be hemmed together fairly easily and inexpensively, but the joy he or she brings is immeasurable. If this is something you find pleasure in as well, now is the perfect time of the year to begin looking around and seeing what kinds of wonderful decorations will begin to pop up in your area.
How you celebrate the autumn equinox is up to you, but I hope you’ll consider acknowledging it as the seasons change.
One of the things I found most surprising about improving my fitness was how much the small decisions I make every day can accumulate over time.
The first fitness goal I set for myself a few years ago when I decided I wanted to get back into shape was to finish a 30-minute cardio and weightlifting video I found on Youtube. I didn’t even have a pair of hand weights in the house back then, so I improvised with canned food to get myself used to those moves at first.
There were times in the beginning when I could only get about 10 or 15 minutes through it before I needed to take a break to catch my breath because I wasn’t used to moving my body in certain ways. Nevertheless, I persisted. 😉
This was also the only change I made in my daily habits for those first few weeks. My diet remained the same, and other than taking some walks I wasn’t active during the rest of my time.
The interesting thing about small decisions is how they build on each other when you’re least expecting it. Once I started making it all the way through that video, I decided to start using an actual set of hand weights during the weightlifting portions of it. I’d previously loaned a 4-pound pair of weights to someone I knew, so once I got them back I began using them instead of lifting tonight’s dinner over my head. Ha!
Suddenly, my routine became challenging again, and I reveled in the idea that those little weights would someday feel too light for me. This was about the same time that I made the commitment to take a walk every day no matter what else I did. Sometimes those walks were a light, 5-minute stroll around the block, and sometimes they lasted an hour or longer and left me sweaty and out of breath by the end of them.
The act of taking the walk was much more important to me than how strenuous it was or how long it lasted.
Once that habit had been formed, I started to take a closer look at my diet and other lifestyle habits that needed to be tweaked in order for me to become healthier. There was never a point when I quit eating anything cold turkey or when I suddenly jumped from not really working out at all to doing something active every day of the week.
It was gradual. One good habit encouraged me to build another. Now I walk or do other cardio exercises for about an hour each day, lift weights for about a hour each week, and have averaged 15,000 steps per day over the last year.
I’m writing this portion of today’s post with the knowledge that some people want to quit certain habits cold turkey and leap into long, challenging workouts right away. If that’s what works best for you, great!
It’s been my experience, though, that breaking unhealthy habits and building better ones takes far more time and effort than you might imagine at first.
Most of the people I’ve known who were successful at reaching their fitness goals over the long term were folks who focused on one habit at a time and committed to eliminating (or adding) it to their daily routine before choosing their next goal.
Change is difficult. I won’t sugar-coat that for you. There were – and sometimes still are – days when I don’t want to move a muscle for reasons that are completely unrelated to needing time off to heal from an injury or illness. If I had tried to change everything I wanted to do differently in the beginning, I think I would have had a very hard time sticking to my resolutions.
By focusing on one small goal at a time, I was able to build the habits I needed to take on more challenging stuff in the future.
Getting into shape is simple in the sense that you will become healthier once you’ve committed to a workout or diet tweak and stuck with it over the long haul.
This doesn’t mean it’s easy, though. To give you an example of what I mean, I’ll tell you the story of what happened when I first decided to switch from drinking rice milk to almond milk. The rice milk I used to drink was sweetened. The almond milk I decided to switch to in order to cut some unnecessary sugar out of my diet was not. It was a simple decision in the sense that both of these milk alternatives are sold in nearly all of the grocery stores close to my home.
I was not a big fan of the almond milk at first because my taste buds were so used to sweet beverages. It took a while to adjust to the more subtle flavours of almond milk, and I definitely had my fair share of gripes about the process in the beginning. I didn’t realize just how much my taste buds had adjusted until my local grocery store temporarily sold out of unflavoured almond milk a few months ago and I had to buy a jug of the stuff I used to drink.
Wow, was it sweet! It tasted like a dessert to me instead of something I’d put into my morning oatmeal or add to a savoury recipe. I honestly didn’t like it at all, and was very happy when my almond milk was back in stock again.
Simple choices aren’t always easy ones to stick with, but if you keep going you’ll be surprised by how much your body can adapt to new routines, foods, workouts, and so much more.I hope this post has encouraged you to find one small change to make in your daily routine. If I can do it, then so can you!
Here is this week’s list of comic strips, blog posts, short stories, tips for staying healthy over the winter, and other links from my favourite corners of the web.
Sfingi Recipe (Sicilian Doughnut) via LorelleCat. Yum! I was also surprised to see that this recipe is 100% dairy free. That’s rare for desserts. I might add powdered sugar to them if I ever make them.
Teen Trees. This made me giggle so much when I first saw it last June that I had to save it to share with you today. This is about the time of year when I start asking my spouse when the trees are going to begin changing colour. If they’re late this year, I’m going to assume that some of them are teenage trees. Haha!
A Call to Arms for Deceased Author’s Rights. What if ghost writers literally worked with ghosts?
Moderate Exercise Can Cut Your Cold Risk in Half. I thought this was fascinating. The cold and flu season will be here soon, so here’s hoping we all stay as healthy as possible through it.
Can Cuss Words Make You More Compassionate? via MayaSpikes. This blogger hit the nail on the head. While I don’t make a habit out of cursing online or in real life, I also don’t see a problem with doing it in general. Sometimes a well-placed curse word is a better way to get your point across than a whole speech.
Women were motivated to get central station electricity in their homes because they, by most measures, had the harder life. They bore and raised children without lights or indoor plumbing. They cooked meals over a woodstove on sweltering summer days, washed clothes by hand, and swept dusty wood floors with calloused hands so often, it seemed to their husbands and children they never put the broom down.
The autumn and winter holiday season is right around the corner.
In the past, I’ve felt kind of like discombobulated like the glass of water in the picture on the left for several different reasons: I’ve felt pressured to participate in religious rituals I disagreed with; I do not enjoy the wasteful, commercialistic side of the holiday season; I miss the sun when sunset begins to happen before 5 pm in November and December.
Whether you love the extra hours of darkness and the festivities of this portion of the year or, like me, are not a big fan of them, they’ll be here before we know it.
This will the first holiday season I will have ever been through as someone who meditates and practices mindfulness regularly. I have already seen positive changes in my life as a result of these new habits. It’s going to be fascinating to see if they make the end of the year more enjoyable for me. My best guess is that they will be!
If you haven’t started practicing mindfulness yet, now is the perfect time to begin. Let’s talk about why this is so and what to expect if you decide to add this habit to your daily routine.
No, this isn’t going to be one of those blog posts that promises to improve every part of your life in five easy steps. I don’t know about you, but I’m not a big fan of that writing style or of the idea that reading a single article is all someone needs to make big changes in their life. Few people are that simple or that easily swayed.
There is also the fact that learning how to stop and focus on the present moment takes time. While I am gradually getting better at brushing away unhelpful thoughts and keeping my mind focused on what is currently going on, I still have a long way to go.
This is by far the biggest reason why I strongly recommend getting started with this habit as soon as possible if it’s something you’re hoping to get benefits from over the next few months.
If you want to be able to live in the moment at the end of the year when you’re at an event that you find stressful or over-stimulating, practicing now will make that day easier than it might have otherwise been because you will have already gotten into the habit of quietly focusing on the moment instead of thinking about what happened in the past or what might happen in the future.
Think about practicing mindfulness the same way you would if you wanted to learn a new language, strengthen your muscles, or play a new instrument.
All of these skills take time and effort to master. I’ve never heard of anyone becoming fluent in a new language in a day or a week. The same can be said for learning to play the piano or swing a kettlebell.
While the basics can be figured out fairly quickly if you’re motivated, it will take sustained effort over much longer periods of time to really reap the rewards of your hard work.
Mindfulness requires that same attention to detail. When I first began meditating and doing my best to remain in the present moment when I wasn’t meditating, I didn’t notice any major changes in how I thought or felt.
It took a while for me to fall into the habit of doing it regularly, and even longer for me to learn how to use it to relax consistently.
I wish I’d started practicing mindfulness regularly many years ago. There were several false starts over the years as I slowly figured out what did and didn’t work for me.
While I understand why it took me a while to where I am today, I sure wish I could have had a cheat sheet to both warn me about the techniques my brain would not find helpful well as to tantalize me with all of the positive effects of mindfulness if I kept plugging away at it.
If there were a way for me to give you a tour of my mind and show you all of the small but still wonderful improvements I’ve made as a result of this habit, I’d do it in a heartbeat.
Since that isn’t currently possible, I’ll tell you that my mind wanders a little less now than it used to. It’s easier to return to the present moment when it does go scampering off into the furthest recesses of my brain.
I’ve also come to love my daily meditation sessions and mindful moments. They are such a nice way to pause and immerse myself in the moment before moving on with my regular routines. It’s going to be interesting to see what other benefits I discover over the next few months as I become even better at the skills i’m currently practicing.
In short, mindfulness is worth every ounce of effort you put into it.