On the way home from college for winter break, my parents took me along the Blue Ridge Parkway for a little detour. I'd been feeling uninspired and off-track and desperate to be home. College was wearing me down, and I just didn't feel like myself.
We rode along the top of the mountain at sunset, stopping at every overlook, and I was able to photograph some of the most beautiful moments I had ever experienced. Surprisingly, I was no longer itching to be anywhere but there. I was able to breathe and focus and feel. My surroundings motivated me to change my mindset. Why couldn't I feel this serene all the time? Why couldn't I appreciate everyday moments the way I was appreciating these moments on the mountain?
I decided that day, on December 10th, to make the next 30 days a life changing challenge. I wrote down several goals, all relating to mental and physical well-being, and I altered them throughout as I grew in inspiration.
I want to say, as a disclaimer, that I had been exercising, journaling, doing yoga and eating well prior to this. I just wanted to make it a more regular part of my life. I hadn't been consistent at all, and I wanted to commit to health and wellness and create more positive habits for myself. I had a feeling that if I did these things, my overall outlook would change. If you feel good about yourself and your life, you will see the world in a positive light.
One thing I've always struggled with when it comes to changes is staying motivated, and this challenge helped me with that, too. I implemented positive habits and took the time to inspire myself on a daily basis. That was super important! I did not do this challenge perfectly. I did meet every goal every day. I did not get into amazing shape all of the sudden. But that wasn't the point. The point was to alter my mindset and fuel inspiration, and I did that.
I alternate between cardio and strength training. For cardio, I either run outside or use my Everlast Reflex Bag. I started using my reflex bag later in the 30 days, though I've had it for several years. It's not necessarily an arm workout like a punching bag would be, but it's a great core/cardio workout.
For strength training, I have several circuits I've designed, but I also love following workout routines on YouTube. My favorite channel right now, as of recently, is Tone It Up. I love Karena and Katrina! :)
I've been working out 4-5 days per week, but I'm aiming for 6. I'm definitely imperfect - I miss days just like everyone else - but what this challenge really helped me with was getting motivated! It showed me that I can do it. Even as the 30 days ends, I'll be pushing myself to workout more and more.
yoga & meditation
In addition to regular exercise, I like to do yoga. Now, yoga isn't my favorite for everyday workouts, but it is a good way to relax and get in touch with your body. My original goal was to do yoga several times per week, but I've found that just doing it once per week is good for me. As a side note, I don't go to actual yoga classes! I just do Yoga with Adriene on YouTube.
Something yoga has taught me is how important breathing is. Before my regular workouts, I take around 10 minutes to just stretch and breathe. It's incredible how centering this is!
Another one of my original goals was to meditate using the Headspace app. I do like this app (and recommend it if you're looking for guided meditation), but I prefer just stretching/breathing/reflecting before my workouts. I also take the time to do breathing exercises before bed which is super helpful if you have a hard time falling asleep.
centering & mindfulness
I got two incredible journals right before I started this challenge, both about mindfulness. I write in the first one every day and the second one a few times per week. I highly recommend them both!
Do One Thing Every Day That Centers You: A Mindfulness Journal
This first journal is a "diary" of sorts that includes daily inspiration as well as prompts to help you center yourself. For example, one day includes this Aristotle quote: "What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing." It is followed by a prompt that encourages you to write down what you learned by "doing" today. Each day is different and uniquely helpful. I love it!
I Am Here Now: A Creative Mindfulness Guide and Journal
This second journal is filled with mindful activities and exercises. It helps you to be present in each and every moment. It fuels you to be exploratory in your surroundings as well as creative in every circumstance. An example of an activity in this journal is having to draw balloons and write in each balloon something you want to let go of. You then envision yourself letting go of all the balloons and watching your worries float away.
list journal project
I recently wrote a whole post on my new 2017 planner. I'm a huge planner person: they're all that keeps me on track! You can read all about it here:
New Year's Resolution + 2017 Planner
I decided to become a pescetarian in July of 2016. Pescetarianism is a plant-based diet with the exception of fish/seafood. In other words, I don't eat red meat, pork or poultry (similar to vegetarianism). People always ask me why I'm a pescetarian, and honestly, both my morals and health are very important to me. I didn't feel like I was doing what was right when I was eating meat. I don't want to preach too much so I'll leave out the details, but I really encourage you to do some research on this. You may be surprised by what you find!
Now, I do have a few other rules for myself when it comes to my diet. Being a pesecetarian has really opened my eyes to balancing my vitamin intake. Back in July, I did a lot of research to be sure that I could consume enough protein, vitamin b12, calcium, vitamin d, iron, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, etc. That just invovled looking at my diet and incoporating nutrient-rich foods into my everyday diet. In addition to that, I consume lots of fruits and vegetables and avoid processed foods when I can. I also drink tons of water and try to avoid soda and juice. I have coffee on occassion but am slowly replacing it with tea. :) I'm often asked whether or not I consume dairy, and I do but in small quantities. Dairy really doesn't sit with me well, so I've cut out yogurt, switched from dairy milk to almond milk and am trying to consume less cheese. It is tough, though!
I once read that eating well is a form of self-respect, and that has really stuck with me. I want to love my body by nourishing it with healthy food. These 30 days were really about staying on track for me, and again, staying motivated. I think I did a pretty good job! Here are a few recipes favorites that helped me along the way.
pave your own 30 day path
If you're looking for inspiration or a better outlook on life, try paving your own path! Just write down 10 goals related to self-improvement and positivity, and use them to fuel you for 30 days.
You don't have to meet every single goal or suddenly transform as a person. All you have to do is meet each day with optimism and fresh motivation. Show yourself love. If you have dreams, chase them. If you have passions, indulge in them. Implement positive, productive habits that make you happy, and you will feel better about yourself and your life. I know it's easier said than done, but you'll never know if it could work for you until you try. :)
Thanks for reading! Happy 2017!