5 Ways to Declutter Your Life

5 Ways to Declutter Your Life

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, like everything is complicated or difficult, it might be time to declutter your life. Clearing out space in your home and your mind can help simplify and organize your daily living experience. It doesn’t mean throwing out everything you own and sitting quietly in an empty home (although that might be a nice break). It also doesn’t need to be a huge, stressful overhaul.

Here are five quick ways you can declutter your life and move toward more mindful living:

 

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1. Declutter your home.

If this immediately freaks you out, relax. Make a list of things to clean out, then tackle one thing at a time; bedroom closets, kitchen cupboards, junk drawers, storage bins. You don’t have to do this all in one day. Take your time and be mindful. Donate excess items or have a big garage sale with friends.

For some extra help on cleaning out your closet, check out A Guide to Decluttering Your Closet by The Blissful Mind. She has excellent suggestions, makes it really easy, and walks you through the whole process.

2. Declutter your car and purse.

Basically, declutter anything you have with you on the go; your car, purse, gym bag, school backpack, work bag, etc. That way you’ll always have the essentials and you’ll avoid the stress of leaving home without something you need (or with way more than you need).

I like to clean everything out of my car and only keep an emergency bag with an extra pair of boots, socks, a hat, travel first aid kit, water and paper towels. I also keep my reusable grocery bags tucked in the back so I won’t forget them when I rush off to the store. Do the same for any other type of bag you use on a regular basis.

3. Declutter your diet.

Clean eating and staying hydrated is so important for mindful living. It helps keep your body fueled, your mind clear and your energy levels high. Clean out the pantry of any overly processed foods that don’t add nutritional value to your meals. Do the same with the refrigerator and kitchen cupboards. Keep water on hand at all times so you remember to hydrate.

4. Declutter your mind.

There is so much information being thrown at us on a daily basis that our minds are constantly processing. This can be stressful, cause anxiety and depression, and wreck havoc on our well being. It’s important to disengage from technology at times, take a break from social media, and limit TV.

A great way to declutter you mind on a daily basis is to start a journaling practice and use a bullet journal, like this one. Creating lists and writing everything down takes pressure off of yourself to remember everything. It’s a creative way to relieve stress, manage goals, and be mindful.

5. Create a simple morning and evening routine.

Your morning can set a definite tone for the day. Imagine what your ideal morning would look like. Make a list of all the things you’d like to do if you had no time restraints. Then choose two or three of those things and work them into your morning. It might mean you get up a little earlier each day, but making time for things like working out, drinking warm tea, meditation and journaling, will totally change your day (and your life!)

Your nighttime routine is important as well because we all know that getting a good night’s sleep can make or break your morning. Find ways to relax in the evening and unwind. This 20 minute yoga Bedtime video is a great way to release the day’s stress and ease into your evening.

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These are just a few ways to declutter your life and live mindfully. It won’t happen over night and you have to be intentional, but take it one day at a time and you’ll begin to shift into a more balanced and content lifestyle.

For more tips on mindful living, check out 5 Ways to Be More Present

A Wellness Library: Top 12 Books On My Shelf & What I’m Reading Now

A Wellness Library: Top 12 Books On My Shelf & What I’m Reading Now
[This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click and purchase an item, there’s no additional cost to you, but I’ll get a small kickback that helps me keep this blog alive and the lights on. Thanks!]

 

Reading has been a life long passion of mine. Books can challenge your way of thinking, fuel your imagination, and encourage a healthier life. I’ve read books for fun, for work, for inspiration, even for a little distraction.

Right now I’m reading The Happiness Advantage, by Shawn Achor. Each year my boss takes myself and my co-workers on a planning conference where, among other things, we share ideas that we’ve gleamed from a book of our choice. This was my book of choice this year, so I’ll be reading it over the next couple of weeks, hoping for a little work place inspiration.

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At home I have several bookshelves stacked with books. Among them are crime scene dramas, biographies, self-help, humor commentaries and the like. The following are the top 12 books on my shelf, to date. If you’re looking for a good read, I’d recommend any (or all!) of these.

  1.  Think Happy Be Happy, by Workman Publishing Company
  2. The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz
  3. The Art of Stillness, by Pico Iyer
  4. Work; How to Find Joy and Meaning in Each Hour of the Day, by Thich Naht Hanh
  5. The Little Teal Book of Trust, by Jeffrey Gitomer
  6. Good to Great, by Jim Collins
  7. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain
  8. Yes, Please! by Amy Poehler
  9. A Grief Observed, by C.S. Lewis
  10. The Collected Autobiographies of Maya Angelou, by Maya Angelou
  11. Brave Enough, by Cheryl Strayed
  12. The Art of Happiness, by Dalai Lama

10 Ways to Manage Holiday Stress

10 Ways to Manage Holiday Stress

The holidays are here!

Everyone has a different reaction; some are thrilled, some go into hiding and some of us break out into a full blown panic attack. Wherever you fall on the holiday spectrum, there are ways to manage holiday stress and come through unscathed and maybe, dare I say, even enjoy the season.

Take some time for self-care, consider the season ahead, and find a few things you can implement from the list below to help you manage any stress you experience during the holidays.

Find a way to make it your own.

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1. Plan ahead.

Grab a calendar or use your phone – anything to help you keep track of where you need to be and what you need to do. Parties to attend, gifts to buy, cookies to bake for that work party; there are a lot things to keep track of. Write it down and plan it out to avoid rushing and last minute stress.

2. Carve out some time for yourself.

Enjoy some alone time, read a book, or meet up with a friend for coffee. Schedule time to allow yourself to re-energize, relax, and enjoy a mindful moment or two. It’s okay to make this a priority! Write it in your calendar so you won’t run out of time before you get around to taking care of yourself.

3. Give yourself permission to say no.

You don’t have to say yes to every invitation. Planning ahead will help with this one! Know when you’re available and how much time you have. You’ll avoid double booking yourself and avoid unnecessarily stressful situations. Allow yourself the freedom to graciously decline invitations to things that don’t contribute to your enjoyment of the season.

4. Make time to exercise.

It’s easy to bail on your workout routine when you have so much to do and so many extra holiday activities. But if you want to truly relieve stress and keep your mind right, find some time to work out. It can be a family walk in the morning, going for a quick run, doing yoga at home or hitting the gym with a friend. Exercise is vital to mental and physical health. It can be a life saver during the holidays and can also be a good excuse to take a break from the crowds.

5. Don’t abandon your healthy diet – at least not completely.

Along the same lines as working out, eating a healthy, balanced diet will help you avoid extra stress. Excess alcohol and sugar can fuel stress and drive your holiday season into the ground. I’m not advocating avoiding these things all together, but consider being mindful about how much you consume. Keep healthy options in the kitchen and don’t forget to hydrate! Keep a water bottle in the car, so you’ll have it on the go, too.

6. Adjust your expectations.

Let’s be real, you can’t always avoid grumpy Aunt Margaret, but you can set yourself up for a more positive experience by not setting your expectations too high. Know what you’re getting into, don’t take things personally, and choose to have a good attitude. You can avoid a lot of disappointment by allowing people to be who they are and remember that everyone else is dealing with holiday stress just like you. Tis the season to cut them some slack.

7. Identify your stressors and make a game plan.

Speaking of your grumpy Aunt Margaret, take some time to identify those things (or people) who really stress you out; the party you feel anxious about, the gift you’re stressing over, etc. Whatever it is, acknowledge it and make a game plan – how can you find a sense of ease in the situation? Maybe plan to attend the party for a set amount of time or talk to someone who can help in the situation.

8. Connect to a childlike wonder.

Step back and look around; the lights, the décor, the excitement. Allow yourself a moment to detach from the cynicism and stress. Watch the children’s eyes light up as they stare up at the huge Christmas tree. Let yourself go and enjoy the people around you.

9. Practice mindfulness.

Staying in the moment helps avoid a sense of overwhelm. Find a way to connect to the present moment – meditation, breathing, etc. Being mindful allows us to slow down and truly be present, experiencing the season instead of rushing through it.

10. Remember that this won’t last forever.

Maybe you’re one who really struggles with the holiday season. Maybe it’s something that brings a sense of sadness or loneliness. Know that you’re not alone and the vast majority of us wrestle with these feelings every year. Find solace in knowing that it is a season, and it will not last forever.

Don’t let the stress of the holidays steal your joy! Take whatever works for you from this list and work it out.

Do you have a go-to tip for managing holiday stress? Share it in the comments! Let’s help each other have a stress-free season and have fun!

4 Ways to Move from Cynicism to Gratitude

4 Ways to Move from Cynicism to Gratitude

I never wanted to be the cliché girl who only saw rainbows and unicorns. I thought I’d balance out the world with a healthy dose of eye rolling and cynicism. So I cringed at the annual 30 Days of Gratitude campaign, the ultimate eye roll inducing garbage. It was THE most annoying thing and It. Was. EVERYWHERE.

There came a day, however, when I realized that I was getting older and older and more and more set in my negative ways. My negativity was preventing me from a genuine happiness, certainly from any contentment and even from being comfortable in my own skin. I desperately wanted to change but I wasn’t sure how to do it.

I felt completely ridiculous, the weight of my pride was so heavy and my ego so big. Fake. I felt completely fake. How could I possibly jump on the gratitude bandwagon after protesting it for so long? But I gave it a chance and started to feel a change (if the Grinch who Stole Christmas is playing in your head right now, you’re not too far off base).

I still include the occasional eye roll, just to keep things balanced. But for the most part, I try to be intentional about cultivating gratitude in my daily life. And I have seen some significant changes:

It redirects my focus.

Our thoughts are powerful and what we focus on is what grows into our lives, into our character. When you look for negative things you will find them and you’ll just keep seeing more of them until that’s all you see, because that’s all you look at. The same can be said for positivity. When I become purposeful in looking at things in my life to be grateful for, I am redirecting my focus from the negative to the positive. And the more I do that, the easier it becomes to see the good and to see it more often.

It allows me to disengage my cynicism.

Cynicism can be an all controlling force. It is an easy hole to fall down and a hard one to climb out of. Gratitude forces me to let go of the cynicism and put it aside for a while in order to see the positive. At first, I put it aside just long enough to write down a few things I was grateful for. Then I’d walk right back into it and allow it to continue controlling my life. But the more often I disengaged in order to find the good, the easier it became and less comforting it was to pick it back up again. Cynicism is often a safe place for those of us who don’t want to be vulnerable.

It gives me hope that this world is not all bad.

When I spend time focusing on the positive things, it makes me realize that there is more to life than the grey scale view I’ve been holding onto. It doesn’t mean bad things aren’t going on around me but it does mean that there are also great things happening all around me, too. And if that’s true, then there is hope. And hope is something to be grateful for every single day.

It retrains my brain to see the good.

When you force yourself to find something every single day to be thankful for, it can be hard. Some days are just difficult and you have to look deeper to see something less than awful. But the truth is, you can always find something, even on the worse days. And the more you do that, the more your brain begins to pick the good things out of a crowd. You’ll start to naturally see the good and not always have to look so hard. I remember the first time I went through a tough situation and it wasn’t until afterwards that I could look back and realize I handled it with a sense of ease because even in the midst of difficulty, I was able to see the positive and move towards it without even thinking about it. That was the first thing I wrote on my gratitude list that night.

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You don’t have to join the 30 Days of Gratitude party if you don’t want to (but I totally won’t judge if you do). You can do other things to help move yourself in a more positive direction. These are a few things I did – and still do – to help cultivate a daily practice of gratitude. And it is a practice, my friends. None of us are doing this perfectly. Trust me.

Write it down.

There is something about writing it down that kind of solidifies it in the brain and makes it more real. It’s also nice to have something written down that you can come back to, especially on those difficult days when gratitude feels like complete bullshit.

Do it daily, weekly, whenever – make it your own.

There’s no one way to do this, so don’t ever feel like you’re doing it wrong. The only way to make it work for you is to find ways to make it authentic. For a while, I was writing down three things each night that I was grateful for from that day. I got away from that for some time and was just writing things down weekly as I reflected in my journal. When I moved a bit further from my job and had a longer drive, I started using that time to think about all the things I’m grateful for. I would try to see if I could keep the list going for the whole drive. Find what works for you so that it actually becomes your habit.

Talk about it.

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to talk about the poor service you had or about someone who pissed you off? It doesn’t ever seem as easy or as natural to rant and rave about something good that happened. We rave about really incredible things happening, like miracle status things. But not the average, every day good things. Think about how mundane the last thing you complained about was. What if you replaced that with something equally small but positive?

Fake it ‘till you make it.

I know this one is rough. Sometimes you just have to force yourself to see something good even when it doesn’t feel good. Ab workouts don’t always FEEL good either but you force yourself to do it and are grateful later. Gratitude is a practice. It won’t always feel great or look great or be easy. It’s okay. Acknowledge that it’s hard today and that you’re struggling. Move on. Do better next time. Be grateful that you tried. (See what I did there? Always something to be grateful for.)

At the end of the day, you choose your attitude and you determine the direction of your life. Gratitude can be a total game changer if you let it be. It’s up to you.

What can you do today to start cultivating more gratitude in your life?

Go all in. You’re worth it.

 

15 Self-Care Tips for the Winter Blues

15 Self-Care Tips for the Winter Blues

If you’re anything like me, the grey skies and stormy weather are only enjoyable for so long. I crave the warm sunshine of summer and when the winter hits, it can be hard to keep myself positive and healthy. For many people, winter can be a tough time dealing with feeling down, depressed or anxious. It is important during these times that we don’t forget to take good care of ourselves.

This is a great list to keep on hand and add to as you go through down times during the winter season. Take what works for you and scratch off the things that don’t. Everyone is different – find what works best for you!

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1. Take a vitamin D supplement. You can pick it up at any local drug or grocery store. Take it consistently to help raise your vitamin D levels.

2. Try “Yoga for the Winter Blues”. There are also tons of other great videos for anxiety and stress on the Yoga With Adriene YouTube channel!

3. Meditate. Sometimes just being still and connecting to your breath can help release the heaviness and negativity that creeps in during this time of year.

4. Talk to someone. You’re not alone! There are tons of people who find this time of year to be difficult. Reach out and find a support system.

5. Drink warm tea. Wrap yourself in a big blanket and curl up with a warm cup of tea. It’s relaxing and comforting! I love to unwind in the evening with a caffeine free tea; my favorite is Yogi Chai Rooibos.

6. Get outside when you can. Weather often makes this difficult during the winter, but find a moment to step outside between stormy weather or watch the rainfall from your porch. Fresh air is game changer.

7. Read a good book. Reading is a great way to occupy your mind and keep it from dwelling on the negative. I’m currently obsessed with Michael Connelly’s ongoing Harry Bosch series! I’m on book 14 in the series; 9 Dragons.

8. Listen to positive, upbeat music. Music has an incredible way of changing your mood. Turn it up and dance it out!

9. Know yourself. Pay attention to the times you tend to feel the most down and make it a habit to do something positive during that time.

10. Exercise. It’s hard to get moving when you feel down or it’s too stormy to go outside. Find a workout video on YouTube or do jumping jacks while watching your favorite TV show. Do something to get your body moving.

11. Eat healthy. This requires planning ahead. When you’re depressed or down, you often don’t have the energy to cook a big meal. Plan ahead and have healthy food on hand.

12. Go with the flow. Know that each day will be different and that’s okay.

13. Be kind to yourself. Try not to get upset with yourself but instead, allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling and tend to it in a nurturing and caring manner. Be easy on yourself.

14. Stay hydrated. Drinking water helps your body to stay healthy and keeps your energy levels up. Try to keep a water bottle on hand at all times.

15. See a doctor. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you feel like you need it. You are not alone and there is no shame in reaching out. Sometimes taking good care of yourself means letting someone else help.

The Social Component of Happiness

The Social Component of Happiness

There you are in your little bubble of happiness and joy, minding your own business, smiling at the birds and smelling the roses, when someone crosses your path with a rude word or condescending comment. Your bubble is burst and all positivity flies out the window.

Sound familiar? You’re not alone. Unfortunately, none of us live on a deserted island and human interaction is unavoidable. Not everyone is on the same journey, so it begs the question; how can we stay positive and find happiness when we live in a world full of unhappy, negative people?

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Surround Yourself With Positive People

A great place to start is to surround yourself with people who are positive. They’re out there. Just look around. And happiness is contagious; the more you interact with people who are uplifting and encouraging, the easier it will be to deal with those who aren’t. So find your fellow happiness seekers and keep them close.

Check Your Social Media

Another thing to pay attention to is social media. Evaluate the things you see as you scroll through your news feed. Are they positive? Do these things make you smile and help elevate your perspective? One of the best things I ever did for myself was to go through the people and things I saw on my social media accounts and remove anything that didn’t inspire or encourage positivity in my life. For better or for worse, I spend a lot of time on social media, so it was important that I not be filling my mind with negativity and bringing myself down during that time.

Talk To Someone

There are days when it feels like everything and everyone around me was designed to squash every happy bone in my body. One thing I found incredibly helpful in times like that is to talk to someone (preferably someone in your little happiness tribe). Not only does it help to release negativity, but it helps you to hear yourself and just maybe realize that it’s not as bad as you thought. And having someone else’s perspective on things can help turn it around, too.

Surround Yourself With Things That Make You Smile

I’m a very visual person, so it’s nice to have things around that remind me to smile. I have a calendar at work with photos of tropical beaches and a daily positive quote calendar on my desk. I put up pictures of friends and fun decorations at home that remind me of how good life can be. When I used to commute and spend a lot of time in my car, I made “happy music” playlists to listen to and kept a photo or two in the center console that kept me focused on the positive. Wherever you spend a lot of time, have something around that makes you smile.

Be A Happiness Ambassador

Cheesy? Yes. But when everyone else is negative, who else is going to bring that ray of sunshine? You absolutely have the ability to change someone else’s day and help make it more positive. Encourage those around you to smile. Do something to help lighten their load. Show kindness and remind people that life is still good. Be the type of person you are looking for when you need a lift.

It is easy to see all the negative in the world. All you have to do is look. But the amazing thing is, if you look for the good, you will see that, too. How can you remind yourself to look for the positive? What can you do today that will bring a smile to someone else’s face? Find the good, be happy, and spread it around. You deserve it.

 

Daily Balance for a Happier Life 

Daily Balance for a Happier Life 

daily-balanceI have never been a morning person. For most of my adult life I have let that make me feel guilty, like somehow it makes me lazy to not enjoy the pre-dawn hours and running five miles before the neighborhood wakes up.

Then I realized, if the neighborhood isn’t even awake yet, why do I feel like I need to be? Because all the self-help articles say that the most successful people are morning people. Are they though? And does that, by default, mean I’m not successful?

Regardless.

I hate to admit it, but I do feel better throughout the rest of my day when I have gotten up a bit early and done something, anything really. Get up and have breakfast, or read a book, or workout, or write, or just sit quietly and watch the sun rise. There is something to be said for rising early and putting the time in.

There are some mornings my mind and body, my soul, just need to rest though. And I have come to the conclusion that it’s okay. It is okay to listen to yourself, to trust yourself, and to take care of yourself without the internal judgments of being selfish or lazy. We all need rest. We all need down time. Things will still get done.

It’s all about balance. I think sometimes we swing so far one way out of a fear that we might end up going too far the opposite direction. We can’t miss a single workout day because we might end up a sloth on the couch binging  on potato chips and ice cream until we can’t move any more.

But extreme is extreme is extreme. And we all need to recover. Even it out a little, let go a bit, lighten up and let things work themselves out. That’s scary to a control freak like me. I’m not good at loosening my grip, much less going easy on myself. But when I am, when I do manage to find ease and trust that things will unfold as they need to, it’s so much nicer than white knuckling my way through the day.

So maybe it wouldn’t totally kill my spirit to get up a little earlier each day or hit the snooze button one less time. It also won’t ruin my life to sleep in when I need to and allow myself extra rest. I’m slowly learning the fine art of listening to myself while simultaneously silencing my biggest critic: me.

What can you do to bring a little more balance to your day? To your life? Give it a try. Your well being is worth it!