If you have been following along with my blog for the past couple of months you will know that I’ve made some pretty big changes in my life. I’ve cleaned up my diet, I exercise often, and I make time for self-reflection, meditation, and mindfulness every day. It’s been a long road, one with many bumps and starts, and it’s certainly not finished yet. I’ve had a few people ask me what I’ve done to make these changes, how I’m feeling in various stages and what I’m going to do next.
The truth of the matter is: I don’t know. Okay, well I know that I’ve worked out and I’ve eaten better but I certainly don’t know what I’m going to do next. And I certainly don’t know if what’s worked for me will work for someone else. What I do know, however, is there is so much more to this than getting fit, getting thin, and getting to whatever other adjective you want to use (see: toned, skinny, ripped). I am going to try to give you a list of what I’ve done and how it’s helped in this journey.
1. I stopped making my appearance the main focus.
This is so hard for a lot of us. I think humans are inherently vain to some extent. We enjoy looking at attractive people, male and female, and we enjoy looking attractive. We like it when people notice if we look nice one day. We are bombarded with images and studies linking attractiveness to various levels of achievement in life. I don’t believe we can ever fully shift our focus from appearance to our inner selves, but we can certainly make it less important. I started to focus on my mental health and, ultimately, its strength. I focused on my happiness.. I have tried to be more aware of what’s happening inside of me, whether it’s in my brain, my chest, my gut, or my muscles, to try to be more in touch with myself. When I started to do this I became happier, felt lighter (I literally felt physically lighter) and started enjoying my life more.
2. I eat less meat.
Don’t worry, dad, I’m not a vegetarian. I love meat. They say that we evolved to eat meat when humans began to move away from the equatorial areas of the world where plant-based foods were not as abundant. Well, I’m as pale and ginger-haired as they come so I think my ancestral roots are pretty deep down there in the omnivorous realm. That being said, I do believe that a diet heavy in meat wasn’t the best choice for me, either. About fifty percent of my meals are vegetarian, deriving my protein from beans, quinoa, and certain vegetables. I appreciate meat more, I am saving money, and I feel healthier. Simple as that.
3. I meditate along with doing yoga.
Whoa, whoa, I know. The girl who never stops thinking, never stops talking, never stops emoting, is sitting down and clearing her mind for more than five seconds. Well, no, I’m not. My mind is rarely clear. I was hesitant about this at first but I watched a short video on The Yoga Collective and read a few informative articles on mindbodygreen that taught me it doesn’t have to be about being completely clear of all thoughts. It’s not natural and it can be demoralizing when you simply can’t do it. What meditating is starting to teach me is that it’s about being aware of yourself, your thoughts, and how you feel, something that I’ve struggled with for years. I’ve also learned that I don’t have to sit in some crazy bendy position to do it – I can do it laying in bed or sitting on the couch if that’s what’s most comfortable. Honestly, even after five minutes of focusing my breath and listening to myself, I feel really great. I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that I rarely ever took time to notice my thoughts or my body and how it feels (on the inside!) and it’s rejuvenating to give myself those few minutes of time.
4. I still work up a really great sweat.
Yes, meditation is great for the soul and yoga really works your body in a deceptively hard fashion but sometimes there is no substitute for a rough, body-killing twenty-five minute tabata workout. I feel energized and capable after these workouts, laying on my mat covered in sweat and trying to catch my breath, in the same way I feel prepared and clear-headed after meditation or yoga. It’s been important to give myself both styles of workouts because sometimes warrior II doesn’t do it for me and I just need to feel my body scream a little.
5. I get outside.
This is much easier in the summer, especially in Toronto, and I’m already trying to figure out what I’m going to do when the snow and wind hits, but that will happen when it happens! At least once a week I take an extra-long bike ride through the city. Last week I left for work a half hour earlier than normal and did a ten kilometre route that ended at my workplace. Other weeks I’ve gone out on a Saturday morning and biked anywhere from sixteen to twenty-five kilometres, Last night I went for a simple half hour walk. I love getting outside, even if it’s just for a little bit, because it makes me feel rejuvenated after.
All of these things add up to one common denominator: they make me happy. If I’ve come to learn anything over the last little while that is the most crucial thing in any life-changing experience – happiness. If you’re not mentally or emotionally ready, you will give up. Or at least you have to work through the pain and mental crap until you feel happy, like I did. I’m still learning everyday and I’m far from perfect. I still have overly emotional moments or times when I forget myself and my mouth speaks before my brain has time to be like, “I don’t think so, girl.” Nobody’s perfect and I know I never will be. But I do know I can be happy for the majority of my time and I can at least recognize when I’ve been unreasonable, and that has been a major accomplishment in my life.
If you do some of these already or have given them a try, how do you feel? What else works for you?