Day 8 of 28 Days to Simplify My Life a la Pinterest: Reset Your Habits

In another tip from her post, The Time Jar: 5 Time Management Tips That Will Change Your Life, Ruth of Living Well, Spending Less says:

“I read another book recently called The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business that has also greatly impacted how I structure my day.  One of the many interesting points the book made is that our brains are wired to form habits.  These habits can become good or bad, but once something has become a true habit, a different part of our brain takes over and we begin to perform that particular habit on autopilot.  This means we no longer have to use mental energy to perform the task, which leaves our brain free to focus on getting other things done.

I used to get frustrated with myself because it seemed like I would start out my day so well, but at the end I would just fizzle, with no energy left to put towards any sort of productive endeavor.  After reading this book, I realized that because my willpower in a given day is limited, the more good habits I create for myself, the more willpower and energy I will have leftover to use towards other things.

I decided to make a list of the things I wanted to do automatically every morning.  My list included drinking a glass of water, planning my day over a cup of coffee, having personal devotion & prayer time, then writing for at least 90 minutes.  After several weeks of doing this every day, I finally stopped thinking about it.  I would find myself in the kitchen drinking my water before I was even fully awake.  It takes almost no effort to get my day started off right, and at the end of my writing session, when I take a morning break, I still feel refreshed and ready to conquer the rest of my day.”

I find the idea of limited will power interesting. I had never really thought of it that way. I definitely know I have limited resources, and I can’t force myself to do everything on my To Do list.

The morning isn’t the issue for me. In the morning, I have to get out of bed. Things get moving pretty quickly in our house most mornings, and while I’m definitely the slowest one to roll out of bed (or usually close to the slowest), I still have to get up right away and get started. There isn’t much space for new habits in the morning, as my morning habits consist of some work, usually (checking the social media streams for different businesses; or checking emails for my different jobs); making coffee; and getting breakfast for myself and sometimes other people. I’d love to add yoga into the mix but for the most part, I think that it’s best if I just leave that for another time of day. In the past week, I have added the habit of setting an intention at the start of each day, and I like that and want to keep it up. I’ve also started drinking a jar of water kefir before I have coffee, and I’ve found that that makes me feel good as well.

So, today, I thought about some other habits I’d like to build, that wouldn’t just stress me out more; and when I could build those habits.

One time of day when I tend to be a bit lost, and have time but not a lot of reserves, is after I’ve picked up the kids from school. I only pick them up three days a week, so it’s not like it would be a daily habit, but maybe I could meditate in my office for five minutes right when we get home. Even on the days that I don’t pick them up, I tend to be around home and winding down right around 3 pm.

So in closing, I will continue and/or start the following habits:

  1. Set an intention for the day (before getting out of bed).
  2. Drink a jar of water kefir (right when I get up).
  3. Meditate for five minutes in the afternoon (around 3 pm).
  4. Write down five things I’m grateful for (before dinner).
  5. Choose my outfit for the next day (before bed).

I’m excited about tomorrow! I’m going to finish reading Slaughterhouse Five so I can start Day 9 of this experiment: Read Walden by Henry David Thoreau! I even own it! And I’ve never read it! But The Paleo Mama recommends reading it as one of the tips on her list, 72 Tips to Simplify Your Life, so I took that as a great nudge to get going on it.

Check out the Pinterest board for this series.

Day 1 of 28 Days to Simplify My Life a la Pinterest: Each Morning, Set an Intention

Here is the task that I chose for the first day (from Headed Somewhere’s blog post, 10 Ways to Be Happier in Your Own Home):

“Before you get up each morning, set an intent for the day.

In The Art of Happiness, the Dali Lama says ‘Every day, think as you wake up: today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it.’ Wow. What a wise man. I tend to wake up with a strong visceral reaction that says, ‘Attention human beings: Be afraid of me before coffee. Be very afraid!’ Setting a daily intent makes a huge difference. Your daily intent could be something like ‘be productive’ or ‘enjoy today’s delicious moments’ or it could be something more specific like ‘say thank you to my loved ones today.’ But it should not be another ‘to do’ item on your list.”

(From http://headedsomewhere.com/2012/10/12/10-things/)

Image from “Headed Somewhere” blog (click image to view original post).

Well, I did this on day one. I woke up feeling pretty darn good, took a bit of time to gather my thoughts and let my brain and body wake up more, and then I set my intention for the day. It was, “Find your centre.” To me this meant that if things got harried or I started to feel anxious or stressed, I should try to remember to find my centre, that calm place I can go to, to remember who I am at my core and stay focused on what’s important.

This ended up working really well. There were a few minor wrenches thrown into my plans throughout the day – locked out of the house when I needed my swimsuit to get in a workout; late picking up the kids from school. Andi, my girlfriend, also received a couple of pieces of bad news. A good friend unloaded on me (as she is welcome to, and I was happy to be there for her), and the other drivers on the road were being real jerks. Each time something threw me off, I remembered to find my centre again, and over the course of the day, things went more smoothly because of this and I felt better overall.

Then Andi and I went on a date to a concert, in a bar, and the main act didn’t go on until 12:15 am. We were up until 2 am or so when all was said and done, and ended up with a total of about four hours of sleep. So when I woke up this morning, I could not for the life of me think of any other intention for my day than, “Nap.” My brain would not even function at 7 am when I was still trying to drag my butt out of bed. I tried to think of something meaningful, something that would actually help me throughout the day. Nothing came to me. Even mantras I often use for meditation didn’t seem to hold any real meaning.

While I lay there, our kitten (she’s over a year old now, but she’s still our kitten) climbed up beside me and started to hardcore snuggle me. She showered me with love and purrs, and I felt great. Suddenly I thought to myself, “What if my intention for the day somehow related back to this? What could I say that would remind me of this moment?”

We have strange kitties, who like to be all covered up in blankets.

We have strange kitties, who like to be all covered up in blankets.

And what did my poor, exhausted brain come up with? “Find the kittens.” It’s pathetic. That’s all my poor little mind could muster. What it meant to me was either, “Find the bits of your day that are as precious as this kitten,” or “Literally look for kittens.” I wasn’t sure but the minutes were ticking by and I needed to get myself and the kids ready to walk out the door.

The really funny thing is, my day was filled with kittens. My colleagues at work shared photos and stories of their cats, I enjoyed some kitties on Instagram, there were plenty of kitten cuddles throughout the day, and cats seemed to show up everywhere. I also had a few moments of random beauty that made me think “Is that a kitten?” Like, are the mountains a kitten moment? What about a Chinook arch? A hot cup of tea? Sure, why not?

In the end, my really dumb intention still worked. I mean, probably because it was about kittens, so it couldn’t really miss. But I’d say that so far this strategy is working. I look forward to continue using it.

Tomorrow, I’ll be checking out how different it is to start my day with my outfit already chosen. Pin hereblog post here.

And of course, the dedicated board for this series is here.

Monday: If You Want to Get Something, Give It

This post is the third in a series of eight concerning Deepak Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents. For the original post and summary, click here.

Monday is a day of giving. The message for today is, “If you want to get something, give it.”

First thing Monday morning, Neko and I had a conversation about this. “If you want others to share, or be nice to you, a good thing to do is share and be nice to them,” I told her. An apt lesson, as she was headed to Mairead’s house for the day, and the two of them don’t have the most stellar record for sharing and getting along. In fact, they know exactly how to push one another’s buttons, and do so on a regular basis. Neko was taking an avocado pit (“dinosaur egg”) to their house and was plotting how she would keep it away from Mairead, so we talked about how if she expects Mairead to share her things, Neko should give Mairead a chance with the “dinosaur egg,” as a start.

We also planned, together, to give out lots of compliments during the day. At the end of the day, we would share with one another the compliments we had given.

In the future, we will also talk a lot about being grateful for the things we have, and how, by being grateful for what we have, it can seem like enough, and we can also have more of what we need come to us almost magically.

It was a really great day, and I definitely had lots to be thankful for. In the morning, before I left for work and to drop Neko off (Justan was working downtown today and took the bus), Neko and I did yoga, I fed the hens (and gave them some whey from our cheesemaking to drink), I made coffee and a double-egg and avocado sandwich, and we had time to spare. Neko had a great day at the bookstore and playing outside, and I was thankful to have an extra staff member to help me during my shift, and good friends who stopped by for hugs in celebration of Chinese New Year – and they brought me lunch, including Pocky and fortune cookies!

I have lots of ideas of things we could do on Mondays in the future…

a) compliment each other and strangers – but remember, it’s important that the compliments are sincere!

b) practice random acts of kindness – all sorts of fun possibilities here! I won’t list them, as there are tons of ideas out there, and I’m sure you can think of your own. Look, there’s a whole website about it!

c) free hug day – I have been wanting to do this with kids for some time. A conversation would need to happen beforehand about only hugging if you are comfortable with it and you and the other person consent, but I think it could be really awesome!

d) talk about the things you’re thankful for at dinner – this is a really simple tradition that can, of course, be incorporated at dinner every day.

e) make a gift – whether there is a birthday or gift-giving holiday coming up or not, this is a great day to think of people you know who might like a gift, or to whom you’d like to give a gift. There are lots of amazing ideas for easy, handmade gifts on Pinterest!

f) send a love letter – for kids who can write (or younger ones who can dictate to an adult), writing a love letter to a best friend, grandparent or anyone else they love is a great exercise in expressing feelings and gratitude. While you’re at it, write one out yourself – maybe even to yourself! Or perhaps a spouse or parent hasn’t been told lately just how much they mean to you. Who benefits more in this exercise – the sender or the receiver?

g) hold the door for people – going out today? Take the opportunity to hold the door for anyone you can.

h) write a story about something you’re thankful for – when I was a kid, I loved making books; and now Neko does too. Take some regular, white, 8×10 paper and cut in half width-wise. Stack these new half-sheets together, fold in half and staple in the middle. Now fill with a lovely gratitude story, and be sure to include lots of drawings!

i) give each other back rubs – giving, and gratitude together! Plus – backrubs!

j) give to charity – this will have extra impact if your child or children choose the charity, and what to give. Something more palpable and less abstract than money, like toys, clothes, and so on, are easier for kids to understand.

k) talk about the Golden Rule – I remember learning this as a child: “Do unto others as you would have done unto you,” or “Treat others the way you would like to be treated.” It is absolutely, number one, the best life rule I have ever learned, and it’s easy for kids to understand (especially once they develop empathy around age seven)!

l) have a mini Thanksgiving dinner – if you celebrate Thanksgiving, how about preparing something similar to what you would serve on that day, only on a smaller scale? This may bring more of a focus to the idea of giving thanks. Be sure to talk about all the things for which you have to be thankful as you eat!

m) take someone flowers – pick some flowers from your garden, or wildflowers (just be careful picking wildflowers! Choose something safe like dandelions or a flower that grows with abandon in your area, and not anything that is threatened or rare), or buy some locally grown flowers in-season from your local farmers market, and take them to a friend. A simple way to brighten someone’s day (including yours)!

I didn’t come up with many ideas for books or movies for today, but as always, I welcome more!

Book ideas: Ribbon Rescue (Robert Munsch), Socks for Supper (Jack Kent)

Movie ideas: One Magic Christmas

The Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents

For a long time now, I have wanted to incorporate Deepak Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents into our daily life. As with his Seven Spiritual Laws for Success, the book plots the laws and lessons by weekday, so that each day of the week corresponds with a spiritual lesson to work on. I really enjoy his ideas for relating the lessons to kids – each law is put into language that kids can understand, although many of the ideas are still so abstract that parents will only be able to touch on very simplified versions of the ideas.

I think that there is potential to make this a very central part of our homeschooling schedule, with activities ranging from language, to art, to science tying in to the lessons from week to week. I’ve made lists of ideas and will be posting them on the corresponding days next week. These include book and film suggestions that tie in to the lessons.

Importantly, as we go through the spiritual lessons day by day, we, as parents, need to practice the laws as well. For instance, Wednesday is about the Law of Least Effort, when we tell our child, “Don’t say no – go with the flow.” Chopra tells us to accept situations as they occur; take responsibility for our situation; and relinquish the need to defend our point of view. As we have conversations with our children about these themes, we need to be honest with them about our own actions, reactions and feelings, whether we succeeded that day, or in the past, with the lesson, or whether there was a time when we were unable to

I’ll also try to remember, as Neko talks to me about her dreams and feelings, to not be judgmental of the things she comes out with.

Ideally, I would like to make a felt or magnetic weekly calendar, where we could mark which law we’re learning about each day, things like the weather and events or classes, and well… okay I haven’t thought about it much beyond weather and the Seven Spiritual Laws. I’ve tried to find an example of something similar to what I’m thinking but I can’t find anything close! If I make one, I’ll post a photo.

The days are as follows. I’ve listed a few ideas here, though like I said, I’ll be going into more depth over the next week (starting Sunday, Jan. 22) as I post the laws day by day.

Sunday is a day of pure potentiality. The message for today is, “Everything is possible, no matter what.”

Activities for today would centre around meditation, being in nature, and discussing the different possibilities in a particular situation.

For the expanded version of ideas for Sunday, click here.

Or maybe we build a walking labyrinth in nature for meditation?

Monday is a day of giving. The message for today is, “If you want to get something, give it.”

Activities today would centre around gratitude, giving gifts and compliments, and receiving gifts and kindness with grace.

For the expanded version of ideas for Monday, click here.

Tuesday is a day of Karma. The message for today is, “When you make a choice, you change the future.”

Today is a day to talk about choices, and how we can choose how to act or react in any situation. This is a great time to talk to your children about how to know whether they’re making the right choice. Activities for today might include talking about choices we’ve made today, and how they affected our lives and those of others.

To be honest, this is the day I’m having the most trouble with, as far as coming up with actual activities, or books. How on earth do you teach a kid about something as abstract and complicated as karma? I would welcome any ideas!

For the expanded version of Tuesday, click here.

This little quote is a good start, though.

Wednesday is a day of Least Effort. The message for today is, “Don’t say no—go with the flow.”

Today’s activities focus on finding the game in work or chores; taking responsibility for your actions and reactions; and identifying the work that doesn’t feel like work to you. Some ideas might be floating boats down a stream, wandering without a destination, or engaging in creative pursuits.

For the expanded version of Wednesday, click here.

“Flow Back” by Tim Donnelly

Thursday is a day of Intention of Desire. The message for today is, “Every time you wish or want, you plant a seed.”

Today is about identifying what you want, and putting that intention out to the universe. Some activities might include making a vision board, practicing visualization, or making prayer flags.

For the expanded version of Thursday, click here.

Here’s a great example of a vision board from the blog “The Parenting Files.”

Friday is a day of Detachment. The message for today is, “Enjoy the journey.”

This is a day to let those intentions from yesterday go and allow things to happen the way they’re meant to. I’m trying to gather ideas for some experiments that have unpredictable results to do on this day. This is also a good day to play a board game, enter a contest, and burn or otherwise release the intentions you wrote down on Thursday.

Saturday is a day of Dharma. The message today is, “You are here for a reason.”

Saturday is about discovering your own talents and skills, and using them to enrich your own life and lives of others. Activities today focus on spending time pursuing your talents, volunteering your time and talents for others, and learning about historical figures who have changed the world with their own unique talents.