Healthy Habits = Happy

This is what I look like at work 98% of the time

This is what I look like at work 98% of the time

I consume a lot of health and wellness content, but sometimes I don’t put it all into practice. I’d like to sharing some of the healthy habits I’ve been able to implement as a sort of motivator for myself (and hopefully encouragement for you!). Please, please, please share your own tips and experience! I’d love to hear how other people are incorporating wellness into everyday life.

  • Lovely smells. In one of her podcasts, Gretchen Rubin talked about how we can use smells to make us happy. This plays out in my house several ways. First, I started burning candles ALL THE TIME. Ok, so that was actually because the house we just rented smells nasty. But having awesome candles in each room is nice. I’ve also become more conscientious about using well-scented lotions and essential oils. I tried non-scented and¬†supposedly more effective lotions for awhile, but they’re just so sad….scents all the way for me.
  • Morning and evening habits. This is a combination wellness and productivity tip, but just about everyone agrees that morning and bedtime routines are really smart. I’ve slowly been adding healthy elements to both routines — doing yoga, eating, drinking a glass of water, moments of reflection, planning, and meditation. I feel much more peaceful, a little less sleepy, and I tend to be less hangry.
  • Speaking of hangry – how do you deal with food routines? This one I have not solved yet. I generally eat three meals a day and snack periodically in between, but I’m still hungry so often! And my meals are often protein-rich – lots of eggs, meat, peanut butter, and nuts. I’d love some advice.
  • Taking tech breaks. I wrote about this recently for a client and slowly started separating from my technology. I try (sometimes unsuccessfully) to get off my laptop for an hour or so before bed, to resist the urge to check my phone or email or blog stats ONE MORE TIME, and to spend less time mindlessly browsing. I’m definitely not perfect, but I’m making progress.
  • Moving more. I know that this comes up all the time, but it makes such a difference. I’m not doing anything hardcore (although someday I’d love to run to work!). I try to take a walk in the middle of a long work day (10 minutes in the nearby park), walk across the hall when I’ve been sitting for an hour, and stretch out when I start to feel stiff. I’m also doing yoga, as I mentioned, and some workouts, but the little habits make me feel better than the big ones, honestly.

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Death’s Friendliest Cousin: How Sleep is Changing My Life

(If I’m melodramatic today, I blame Chateaubriand. #EnglishMajorProbs)

Me (minus some hair)

Me (minus some hair)

As if life wasn’t cruel enough, my internship supervisor made me write a blog post about why sleep is important. Me. A college student. An over-achieving college student. Yeah, not cool.

Anyway, I did all this research (translation: I googled it and read blog posts) and found out that sleep deprivation is horrible. Like, kill you horrible. Great. So I’m super productive, but probably dying sooner. Oh, and probably not that productive–it’s proven to ruin grades and athletic performance. Continue reading

A Death-Tinged Fall

Literature intersects life at all points. This semester, my literature class talks about death. A lot. I don’t know that it’s necessarily my teacher’s intention…it just happens. For example, studying Keats is almost impossible to accomplish without discussing death. Today, we read and discussed “Ode to Autumn.” Autumn is a predecessor of winter, which is symbolic of death. Keats talks about sunsets too, classic symbols of death. Is that morbid? Not really. The entire point of the poem is that we don’t have to be scared of death. Also, death doesn’t have to overshadow beauty.

Why does all this talk of death matter to me? It matters because it doesn’t. At one point, dealing with death would have resonated deeply within me. It would have touched the cord my whole being was wrapped around. Now it matters because I understand all of Keats’ concerns about dying young, but because I am distant from them. I almost always associate death with depression. Regardless of the dying person and situation, someone is depressed (in most cases). And depression is something I understand. For a significant portion of my high school years, I struggled with depression. Not always at the same level – sometimes not so bad, other times much, much worse – but always present, weighing my every thought and action. Eventually it went away. I don’t have a spectacular story about a person or event or miraculously snapping out of it. Just slowly but surely, the depression disappeared. I still remember though. The overwhelming sense of drowning. The intense desire just to lay down and never, ever wake up. The complete lack of hope. The feeling of perpetual exhaustion…

If anything is a problem in college, it’s exhaustion. I try to use my time wisely and get enough rest. I try not to stay up all night studying. But it still happens. Some days, I remember what depression feels like. I taste the hopelessness, the complete apathy, the impossibility of mustering any energy. I am the lucky one. I know it will pass. I will sleep, pass that test, finish that project. I will wake up in the morning back to normal. But I know that so many around me will not. They are not just exhausted. They are drowning, lost in a world of grey apathy. Sleeping for hours won’t solve their problem. And that makes me so sad. It is a helpless thing, watching someone else in depression. Having no control whatsoever to pull them out…it makes my heart break.

Statistically, there are probably at least one or two people in my literature class suffering from depression. Likely several more of you read my blog. I don’t have an answer for you. I can’t tell you how to change that or how to cope. I will say this: there are people here for you. People understand. And please, please, no matter how attractive it seems, don’t make death the answer. Death has its place…but it is not the solution for depression. Read Keats. May your fall be full of beauty, even under the shadow of death.

My Vampire Encounter

I encountered and (sadly) escaped the vampires today. They were not sparkly, hundreds of years old, or fanged. However, they did want my blood. This week is the annual blood drive at school. My family has always (affectionately) referred to the Red Cross and other blood donation companies as “vampires.” (I say affectionately because everyone in my family donates, if possible. We understand the importance.)

I tried to donate blood. I really did. I ate foods high in iron (spinach, blech!), drank a lot, and scheduled an appointment. I went to the bus, sat nervously with my friend, and finally got called back to have my blood pressure taken. As she was wrapping the cuff around my arm, the nurse asked how much I weighed. When I told her, she kindly informed me that I am too small to donate blood. I did get a free blood pressure reading and T-shirt out of my humanitarian effort, but I’m afraid it didn’t help anyone else very much. I feel bad that I can’t donate, but it’s highly unlikely that I am going to gain 15 pounds anytime soon. But when I do, hopefully I will be able to go and donate my blood. I know that someday I could be very, very thankful for someone else’s blood.

So no vampires today. Do you have any vampire stories?


The flipside

I am going to talk about New Year’s resolutions, but only in a roundabout way. You see, I have a lot of vague resolutions, but there is one very concrete one I can talk about.

This year, I am going to gain weight.

You read that correctly, and no, this is not opposite day. Unlike the thousands, probably hundreds of thousands of Americans who are resolving to lose weight, doing so would probably kill me. If you are among the majority of people who would love to have that problem, you need to read this post.

Our society is obsessed with weight….primarily losing it. Understandably, since we are among the most obese countries in the world. Surrounding you every day are messages about losing weight. Pick up any magazine. I dare you to pick a magazine off the checkout line and not find one thing about losing weight. Look at any health website or article. In every restaurant, look at the menus, the advertisements, and the nutrition guides – they are all filled with statements about how the food will help you lose weight. Low-fat options, hints for how to ward off hunger, diets, calorie burning exercises…they are all over the place!

Imagine for a moment that you are skinny. Not ideal weight skinny. Your ribs are visible and you are classified as underweight skinny. That might sound like paradise. But consider. How does one become so small? What if you never eat enough? Stress, picky eating, any number of factors might play into your constant hunger, but it is there regardless. Your friends don’t ever allow you to complain about needing to eat healthier or exercise…they just tell you there is nothing to worry about. You walk around hungry every day. Have you ever gone two or three days without eating a full meal? I have. Have you ever bent over with hunger pains, feeling as if you can’t stand the agony? I have. And now, tell me if that sounds like a dream.

There are people in the world, right here around you, who need to gain weight. They are constantly surrounded with information about how to lose it, information that could kill them. There is no one to tell them how to eat more, which foods are high in healthy calories, how to stay healthy. They won’t tell you their struggle, because you’re likely to be jealous and brush them off. You have no reason to be jealous. They are struggling as much as you are. You do not want what they have.

My New Year’s resolution is to gain weight. My health depends on it. This year, when you are working to lose weight, remember the flipside. Next time your skinny friend guiltily eyes your salad and looks regretfully at her pizza, notice it. Tell her she should have a second piece. Don’t make comments about how you just wish you had her body. You don’t.