My Favorite Little Things- The Importance of Simple Pleasures

DEMON DOG

He’s not possessed by the spawn of Satan. I swear…

I was inspired to write this after an admittedly silly, albeit adorable, moment with my Pomeranian. While in the kitchen washing a few dishes, he walked up to his bowl to get a drink of water. Then, out of the blue, began to spin in a circle…before drinking more water again. I just had to laugh and smile. I had no clue why he did it. He probably doesn’t know himself. He does all sorts of strange, random things at times, but it got me thinking about how enjoyable the simple things in life can be for us when we simply take the time to notice them.

We are bombarded by all manners of stimuli on, not just a daily basis, but moment after moment. Even as I write this, my Internet radio just played some random ad that I barely paid attention to and yet, I’m sure I’ll recognize it the next time I hear it. When you drive around, there are billboards advertising everything from McDonald’s to fancy vacations. When I saw my family watching Project Runway a few days back, the program that used to be an hour long now runs for an hour and thirty simply due to the sheer amount of ads that they play. Even at work, I get calls with automated messages about buying this or that.

Of course, this is far from being a new issue. Undoubtedly, many of us have grown accustomed to constantly hearing how we “need” this or that. Thankfully, there’s a bit of a movement developing against the almost out-of-control consumerism in the country. Even so, while it’s all well and good to fight against the urge to shop and spend on all of these superfluous things, without a solution to a problem, you’re going to find yourself stuck.

That’s what the gist of this post is about. The solution to the problem of dealing with the unnecessary and excess is by appreciating the little joys in life that happen just as often as McDonald’s plays a commercial. All we have to do is keep our eyes and ears open for them.

I’ll give you a scenario that occurred not too long ago when my cousin, his girlfriend, and I went to the beach. Miami beach is obviously not the sort of place where you go to enjoy simple (aka affordable) pleasures in life, but these two managed to find a way. While at the beach, plane after plane flew overhead, advertising concerts and shops and restaurants. It’s much in line with the atmosphere you find at the beach. You go there to buy things, to look beautiful for other people, people who don’t and likely never will know your name. But while all this garbage is going on around us, those two were wrapped up in each other and more concerned about including me than they were about which hot and happening restaurant we should have lunch at. All the while, I just found it encouraging that, dispute everything being offered to them around us, they were already content with what and who they had.

My "souvenir" from that day.

My “souvenir” from that day.

I guess it’s inevitable that I’m going to harp on this a little longer (and I apologize in advance of you reading the rest of this sentence), but their attitude was in stark contrast to the attitude of my ex. I used to shower her in all sorts of materialistic trinkets, from expensive trinkets to customized stuffed pillows. As I mentioned, she was never satisfied, often demanding more and, during one particularly nasty occasion, referred to all my gifts as cheap and worthless.

She was never happy and I am thoroughly convinced that, among the plethora of other reasons involved, her materialism (despite claiming she wasn’t) also played a role.

And that’s the problem with wanting things. You will never have enough and never be satisfied. You will work for years and years of your life for things that you might possibly not even live long enough to possess, all the while losing out on opportunities to spend time with family, or just grabbing a beer with a close friend.

I’m not saying there is something inherently evil when it comes to giving into indulgences. It’s great to splurge sometimes and “treat” yourself (I am LOVING my wireless surround sound system), but if you are constantly treating yourself, it stops feeling like a treat and begins to feel more like an expectation.

So it’s good to balance yourself out by learning how to enjoy the everyday. During a gentle rain, instead of complaining about being stuck in doors, let the pitter patter calm and sooth you. I know some people claim they just don’t like it. I used to be one of those people who “just doesn’t like it,” but when you shut off your mind, focus on your breath, and just listen to those tiny droplets beat against your window…I swear, it’s like you stop having a single problem at all in the world.

I know what I’m suggesting isn’t exactly easy. I could ask a hundred people what’s one of their biggest concerns at the moment and, chances are, it’s going to be “money.” But based on our society’s present culture, you can already infer as to why that might be on a lot of people’s minds. Still, when you take the time to just enjoy a beautiful blue day or hang at a friend’s house watching old movies on VHS instead of going on a shopping spree at Ross or trying to increase your credit line just to get that 60 inch flat screen television you’ve been eying for months, your money woes start to dissipate.

Why is that, you might ask. Because while a new Beamer can cost you an arm and a leg, going for an evening stroll with your significant other is typically going to be free. Granted, that all depends on what that lover of yours expects from you in return 😛

But if you need a little more help in the matter, here are some things that we often take for granted due to our society’s inherent materialism. Fight the urge to spend on tickets for opening night at the theater, and give some of these suggestions a try instead:

  1. Just breathe- Starting with the simplest thing we humans can do, take the time to sit back, relax, and breathe. Focus on nothing else but your breathing, the enjoyment of it, the very fact alone that you can still do it. Yes, this is basically meditation and yes, it works so long as you give it a chance and stop trying to convince yourself it doesn’t.
  2. Go for a stroll- Regardless of whether or not people still even refer to walking around aimlessly as a stroll, give this a shot. Winter is coming up and, thankfully, it’s actually getting a little cooler in Miami. So, after a long day at the office, find a nice park and walk a bit. Don’t think about walking in a specific direction or to a specific location. Just walk.
  3. Hang out with your friends at home- Their home, your home. It doesn’t matter. The key here is to shy away from feeling the need to constantly go out and spend money just to hang out with friends. I know I’ve personally fallen into the habit of going out just to hang out. It’s important to realize that’s unnecessary.
  4. Play with your pets, your kids, younger siblings, etc.– These days I’ve actually realized how much I enjoy playing with that little ball of fur I mentioned initially. If you’ve got pets, spend a little more time with them. If you have children, really evaluate how much time you take out of your day to do simple things with them like coloring or building couch forts. Seriously, how much fun are couch forts?…Yes, I’m 24 years old. Why are you asking?

This is just a starting point. I’m not going to spoon feed everything to you, after all. Besides, I’m still learning to enjoy all the simple pleasures life has to offer myself. Really, with everything we can technically do that doesn’t involve spending heaps of cash or wasting hours upon hours to earn said cash, this is the sort of thing you never stop learning.

So that’s enough of you being on the Internet. Move away from the computer for a bit, put down the wallet, and quit fretting over every little thing. It’s time we all realize just how wonderful the deceptively simple things in life can really be. 🙂

Get Up and Move!- Basic Exercise Moves for Impressive Results

I love to exercise. That’s my pastime, my hobby, and as a recent lifehack article points out, it’s also one of my skills. While I enjoy push ups though, I enjoy sharing and encouraging others to get active more than anything else. So, in keeping with that spirit, I’m going to share with all of you out there so moves you can do, regardless of your fitness level. And as a neat bonus, I’ve scoured all over the internet for little animations to show you exactly what to do.

So, quit making excuses and get your butt off the couch. It’s time to work up a sweat…

After you read and understand this blog post in its entirety :P.

*Special Note* I’ve compiled a nice little work out that you can do at the bottom of this post. Before attempting though, make sure you read the instructions on how to perform each move. Form is more important than anything else when you train. Not the amount of weight you use and not the pace you go at. Good form is the difference between getting results and wasting your time.

Jumping Squats (Good for speed-strength, explosive power, and stamina)

One of my absolute favorite moves to do, no matter the routine (I’ll do them as part of my warm up before weight lifting), jumping squats can help increase both stamina and strength. There are two methods I like to employ, especially when instructing others. However, with both moves, it is important that you land lightly. I would also strongly recommend the use of a decent foam mat on a non-slip surface, because doing this move incorrectly can result in some pretty painful joint problems.

Those caveats out of the way, let’s go over the first method:

Jump-squats (beginner)As you can see, you start out sinking into a low squat position with your legs about shoulder-width apart and your arms straight out in front of you. Then, in one powerful motion, you shoot up, with your feet just barely leaving the ground as your arms swing back. As you come back down, land lightly on your feet into a squat position again. All the while, look straight ahead.

Jump Squat (normal)For the second method, be ready to leave the ground entirely. Similar to your stance from before, this time when you jump up, try jumping as high as you can go while driving your arms upward. As with the first method, be sure to land lightly. I really can’t stress that enough.

Another method I like to employ is bringing your knees to your chest mid- jump. You can also do the wide leg variation (legs past shoulder-width), again pulling your legs in mid-jump. If you want to get really crazy (like moi), you can use weights. But I would only recommend that once you can do all of the other methods comfortably and with good form for at least 30 seconds non-stop.

Push-ups (Good for core strength, metabolic rate, and upper body strength and conditioning)

It’s almost an unwritten rule that you can’t write about a decent exercise routine if you don’t include push ups. Push-ups are extremely versatile, both in terms of accessibility and benefits. Pushups employ a wide range of muscles (chest, shoulders, and triceps) and the different methods of doing a push-up would fill a blog all on its own. Even then, I still wouldn’t cover the many different ways a push up can be performed. So, for the sake of brevity, I am only going to focus on the most basic push-ups in this post.

pushups (beginner)In the first method, with your knees on the floor, get into a plank position, keeping your arms shoulder-width apart. Bend at the elbow, allowing them to flare outwards (keeping them glued to your side is another method as well). Make sure that throughout the motion, you are not allowing your chin to dip down against your chest and keep your butt just slightly elevated. This ensures that you keep your spine aligned. If you feel yourself struggling to maintain this form, you’re done. Remember, form is everything.

pushups (normal)For the second method, you’re just doing a traditional push-up. Get into a plan position, this time with your toes on the floor as pictured. As before, as you sink down, allow your arms to flare out at your elbows all the while making sure your chin doesn’t dip down to your chest. Keep that back straight unless you want to feel the wrong kind of pain.

Just to touch upon the different ways to do a push-up, elevating your feet (putting them on a chair or other surface higher than your hands) places more of your body-weight on your upper body, therefore making the push-up harder. Likewise, completing the push-up where your hands are on a surface higher than your feet will minimize the load on your upper body, making it easier.

You can also start off with your hands past shoulder-width (wide push-ups) to place more emphasis on your abdominal muscles and chest. Or you can bring your hands closer together, forming a diamond with them upon the ground (aka diamond push-ups) to place more of an emphasis on your triceps.

Pull-ups (Good for cardiovascular fitness and arm and back strength)

Just doing one normal push up can be extremely tough, especially depending on your body-weight. So if you can do one already, congrats!

Now do 10…

Kidding. Sort of.

Like push-ups, there are so many different ways to do pull-ups that I’m only going to focus on the most basic method. Unfortunately, for the beginner method I like to use, I couldn’t find an adequate image so I’ll just describe a normal pull-up because the beginner method simply uses a chair to stand on during the entire motion (or you could simply use a lower bar). In other words, your feet barely leave the ground.

pull up (normal)To do a basic pull-up, use an overhand grip on the bar (underhand is a chin-up and is also easier to do), keeping your hands about shoulder-width apart. Whether you’re letting your body hang, or you’re propped up on a chair, lift yourself up, making sure not to tuck your chin into your chest, and raise your head over the bar. With pull-ups, it’s important not to swing around; using momentum to lift yourself up over the bar is cheating. I’ll give you an F for that.

Leave me alone. I’m allowed to be corny.

In any case, keep a steady pace and, like push ups, focus on form over the amount of reps you can get do before you pass out. Also, don’t pass out. That’s not good.

And let me just repeat that pull-ups are hard. There is no shame in needing assistance when doing a pull-up. Also, keep in mind, the heavier you are, the harder it will be. And that’s even moreso than it would be for a pushup. To give you a bit of perspective, with a standard push-up, you’re using about 65% of your body-weight as resistance. Guess how much percentage of your body-weight you use in a pull-up. If you said 100%, you’re wrong.

Alright, kidding again.

So that said, don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t do a standard push-up right out the gate.

Doing these three moves in a single routine will give you a total body work out. I like doing them for fun when I’m not in the mood to do my standard routine and these moves are also a great way to keep track of your progress. Here’s the routine I personally like to use that incorporates these particular moves.

The 10 to 1 (Or 9 to 1…or 8 to 1…or well, you get the idea)

BEFORE you begin this routine, you have to warm up first, and I DON’T MEAN STRETCHING. A common misconception, which I will only touch upon now, is that you stretch before a work out. In a sense you do, but before you even stretch, you have to warm up the muscles. Think of it this way, stretching muscles without warming them up is like trying to bend uncooked spaghetti. Bending uncooked spaghetti results in you snapping it in half. Likewise, stretching before you warm up your muscles can result in pretty painful injuries.

So, while you should stretch before a work out, you should warm up before you stretch.

Warm Up (At Least 3 Minutes Non-stop)

I’ll give a bit a leeway here. Simply warm up by doing a light jog, some jumping jacks, you can even use a jump rope. As is the case with stretching before a routine, you want to warm up the muscles you actually intend to use during the routine. Remember not to over-exert yourself. You’re not doing a marathon, you’re just trying to get the blood pumping.

Stretching (At Least 3 Minutes Again)

When stretching, stick with dynamic stretches. A dynamic stretch means you are emotion and not staying static (static stretches have actually been shown to decrease performance in a work out). When using dynamic stretches, you typically want to keep a steady, moderate pace. Don’t speed through it. Remember, as with the warm up, you want to stretch the muscles you intend to use.

For this routine, try these:

Mini squats– to prep your body for the more extreme motion, do about 30 mini squats. These can be relatively fast and don’t go all the way down into a deep squat.

Arm swings- Just as it sounds, swing your arms out from your chest (inhale) and swing them back in as if you’re giving yourself a hug (exhale)

Arm circles- with your arms extended outward, make circular motions with your shoulders. Start off with small circles, going both forward and backward. Then do the same while making bigger circles.

The Routine

Finally! We get to the actual routine. Frankly, I didn’t even think I’d make it.

For this routine, you will be doing all three moves in succession before you take a rest. Now, you don’t have to start with ten reps, but for the sake of bringing this post to a close already, I’m just going to use ten. Just know that, based on your skill level, you can start at any rep amount you like. That said, keep in mind you’ll be working yourself down to 1 rep. Here’s the routine

  1. 10 Jumping Squats, 10 Pull-ups, 10 Push-ups (I have a tendency of doubling the amount of push ups personally)
  2. Rest for 15 to 30 seconds, but keep moving. This means walking around or even doing arm swings…or doing arm swings as you walk around. If you drink anything, SIP IT. Don’t gulp.
  3. 9 Jumping Squats, 9 Pull-ups, 9 Push-ups (Or 18…)
  4. Rest again for 15 to 30 seconds.
  5. 8 Jumping Squats, 8 Pull-ups, 8 Push-ups (or 16. Come on…do it)
  6. Rest and…you get the idea.
  7. Do this thing over and over again until you get to 1 rep each.

As you can see, this is a pretty basic routine. But don’t you dare think its going to be easy. And if it is, you’re going to easy on yourself. If you started off with 6 reps each, the next time try doing 7. And if you start off with 5 reps each and find out that’s too hard, that’s okay. The next time start at 4. The key is the number you choose to start off with.

Once you finish the routine, walk it off. Or lightly jog. And do some dynamic stretches again as well.

ALSO ALSO ALSO, if at any point you feel sick or dizzy during this routine, you’re done. Do not “power through it.” Same if you feel any unusual pain. If you choose to continue despite these warning signs, I am not responsible when you blow up chunks  right on the cutie you’re trying to impress. The same thing goes if you end up waking up the next day in excruciating pain.

That said, I’m off to bed. Just did this routine myself today so, needless to say, I’m exhausted.

Until next time!

Losing the Gut the Healthy Way

Alright, I should preface this by saying I was never exactly “fat.” That being said, I did get out of shape and add a few inches to my once perpetually thin waistline. In any case, since beginning the process of finding my old self, the self that I loved so much, I’ve been try to get back to the good old washboard abs I once had in my days of yore. And I know these days I’m far from being alone in the endeavor.

That said, there are still a surprising amount of people out there who are unaware of some very important dietary steps when it comes to weight loss, and the unfortunate reality is, you can do thousands of crunches and still not get the results you want if you are neglecting these practices in particular.

So I’ve taken it upon myself to share some of the tips that are not only backed by personal experience, but also by science. Facts baby! Yeah!

yeahsciencebitch

Overused meme? Check!

Let’s just…get started.

1. Eat more fiber. When it comes to weight loss, fiber is like a one-two punch aimed right at those extra inches around your tummy. There are two kinds of fiber- insoluble and soluble– and both are important (as well as general terms for more specific types). Generally speaking, insoluble fiber stays intact and does not dissolve. Instead, it acts as a sort of broom in your intestines, sweeping away all sorts of junk and preventing constipation. Soluble, on the other hand, creates a gel-like substance, slowing digestion and allowing you to feel fuller for longer. For a breakdown of the different kinds of fiber and their sources, here’s a chart you can use as a guide:

Types of Fiber Soluble or Insoluble Sources Health Benefits
Cellulose,some hemicellulose Insoluble Naturally found in nuts, whole wheat, whole grains, bran, seeds, edible brown rice, skins of produce. “Nature’s laxative”: Reduces constipation,lowers risk of diverticulitis, can help with weight loss.
Inulin oligofructose Soluble Extracted from onions and byproducts of sugar production from beets or chicory root. Added to processed foods to increase fiber. May increase beneficial bacteria in the gut and enhance immune function.
Lignin Insoluble Found naturally in flax, rye, some vegetables. Benefits heart health and possibly immune function. Use caution if celiac or gluten intolerant.
Mucilage, beta-glucans Soluble Naturally found in oats, oat bran, beans, peas, barley, flaxseed, berries, soybeans, bananas, oranges, apples, carrots. Helps lower bad LDL cholesterol,

reduces risk of coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Use caution if celiac or gluten intolerant.

Pectin and gums Soluble (some pectins can be insoluble) Naturally found in fruits, berries, and seeds. Also extracted from citrus peel and other plants boost fiber in processed foods. Slows the passage of food through the intestinal GI tract, helps lower blood cholesterol.
Polydextrose polyols Soluble Added to processed foods as a bulking agent and sugar substitute. Made from dextrose, sorbitol, and citric acid. Adds bulk to stools, helps prevent constipation. May cause bloating or gas.
Psyllium Soluble Extracted from rushed seeds or husks of plantago ovata plant. Used in supplements, fiber drinks, and added to foods. Helps lower cholesterol and prevent constipation.
Resistant starch Soluble Starch in plant cell walls naturally found in unripened bananas, oatmeal, and legumes. Also extracted and added to processed foods to increase fiber. Helps weight management by increasing fullness.
Wheat dextrin Soluble Extracted from wheat starch, and widely used to add fiber in processed foods. Helps lower cholesterol (LDL and total cholesterol), reduces risk of coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Avoid if celiac or gluten intolerant.

source: WebMD

2. Getting fishy with omega fatty acids. Okay, not entirely sure about that subtitle, but let’s move past it. The idea that losing fat by eating fat might sound a little absurd, but omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish and flax seed oil especially) have been linked to reducing body fat. That isn’t to say other omega fatty acids aren’t without their benefits, but so far omega-3 fatty acids seem to have the most noticeable impact.

3. Grab your nuts. I know, I need to stop. It’s hard. I’m in a strange mood. In any case, one of the largest and most overlooked weapons in your arsenal against fat are nuts. All kinds of nuts. Seriously, don’t be picky. Go out, grab one of those mixed nuts tins and stuff your face with them. Provided they’re not salty nuts.

Oh…you’re dirty.

Anyway, we’ve already touched upon the benefits of fiber and omega fatty acids. Nuts have both of those in spades. Now, some might argue that there are “good” nuts and there are “bad” nuts, but that is a bit of a misnomer. Some nuts are better than others, especially if you’re into calorie-counting, but all nuts have their benefits so long as they are eaten in moderation. For a good breakdown of which nuts are best for which purpose, check out this article from howstuffworks.com.

You should also know that nuts are high in protein, which happens to be another important tool for weight loss.

4. Get a protein-packed punch. You know what? I’m tired. Yes, these subtitles are lame. But that’s not the point of this blog, now is it? Stop judging me.

Simply put, proteins, much like fiber, can leave you feeling full for longer periods of time. That said, some protein sources’ negatives might outweigh the positives. If you’re a big red meat eater, you’re doing yourself no favors. A nice steak can be fantastic every once and a while, but a diet heavy in red meat has been linked to issues ranging from clogged arteries to an increased risk in diabetes. If that’s not enough to steer you away from that sirloin, you might also want to consider just how slack USDA standards are when it comes to the red meat that you eat. Really though, our whole method of monitoring food in this country can be pretty horrifying. Though, that is an issue for another day.

Getting back to the point, protein also requires more energy during the digestion process. In other words, you burn more calories. Really though, that is just the tip of the iceberg regarding the health benefits of making sure you have enough protein in your diet. As is the case with both nuts and fiber, variety is key if you want to experience all the benefits protein can offer.

I could go on, but this is probably enough for now. As I suggested in my relieving stress blog, implementing all these changes at once to your diet can be pretty hard. Truthfully, if you manage to even implement one of these tips though, you’re bound to experience a difference. So try focusing on making one change for one week to your diet, let it become the norm, and then add onto it the next week. It’s also important that you do everything in moderation. Eating too much fiber can cause uncomfortable bloating, and the same can be said for omega-3 fatty acids. Also keep in mind that, while nuts have a plethora of benefits, they are also pretty dense in calories. And a diet that neglects carbs and essential fats for nothing but proteins is also extremely unhealthy.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. I’ll probably make a part two sometime soon. In the meantime, happy dieting!

Stop Being Sad and Be Awesome Instead

Initially, when I decided to write this blog, it was with the intention of using my personal everyday experiences as a lesson for others. Today’s experience will probably adhere to that theme more than any of my blogs so far. If you’ve been reading my blog, you already know that a few months back I broke things off with a girl I once believed would be my future wife. You’re also likely aware that I’ve had bouts with depression in the past as well as fairly recently. Today, unfortunately, did not start out as one of my better days.

You see, the truth is, as happy and relieved as I am to be out of an abusive relationship, no matter how bad the relationship, we are all bound to remember some of the better moments. I’ve been sick for the past few days, so I’ve been sleeping quite a bit. Needless to say, my inactivity hasn’t been helping my moods much either. However, it was after passing out during the afternoon today that I ended up finding myself at my weakest. And it was all because I had a dream, an all too nice dream, about my ex.

As I said, no matter how bad the relationship, there are always bound to be a few moments that made you smile. Today, I had a dream about one of those moments. It was a flashback to when we met for the first time, to when I gave her the very first gift I would ever give her; a small, sterling silver promise ring that I bought with all the money I had at the time. The dream continued to our first kiss, a hesitant, but soft and sweet moment. Finally, the dream brought me to the scene last fall when she was going up to see her parents.

We were at the airport, she was trembling as I held her close to me. I kept whispering to her how much I loved her, how she would be alright, how she would be in my arms again real soon. It was a bittersweet moment, but it was also the moment, when we kissed each other good bye for the last time before she walked through the gate, that I was positively convinced I would go to the ends of the earth for her and that she would do the same for me.

It was the last, genuine moment where I felt like we were in love because, in the months that followed, and due to all sorts of unfortunate events, our relationship would become increasingly strained and increasingly painful for the both of us. When I woke up, all the anguish of saying good bye to her last fall and the knowledge of what came after rushed back into my head and heart like a jet-propelled freight train. For the first time since saying good bye to her for the last time, I missed her.

I sat up in my bed, contemplating how things had gone so wrong for us and wondering if there was anything I could have possibly done differently. Maybe it was due to my exhaustion, maybe my cold, maybe a combination of both plus the weight of nostalgia bearing down on me. Whatever it was, for several minutes I had forgotten all the pain and all the abuse. I forgot about the abusive screaming, the projecting, and her violent temper and genuinely believed I had lost something precious.

It’s a dangerous state of being, but I suppose that goes without saying. It’s what depression can do to you and it is always hard to fight against to get to the reality of the situation. You begin to feel guilt over things that were ultimately out of control, blaming yourself for events and actions that were never even your fault.

And as cheesy and lame as this is probably going to sound, in moments like this I’ve found myself turning more and more to the immortal words of Barney Stinson. Yeah…as if you didn’t see that coming.

whenimsadBefore this blog loses all credibility, hear me out. As simplistic, simple-minded, and overall dumb, as Barney’s motto may sound, he still has a point.

And frankly, it also takes an enormous amount of will-power to enact.

Feeling sad and upset and depressed literally sucks the life and energy out of you. You don’t want to move, you don’t want to eat, and you certainly don’t want to smile. And in moments like what I experienced early, smiling is exactly what you should force yourself to do. Article after article has been written regarding the many scientific studies that have proven the simple act of smiling, even forcing yourself to smile, can make you feel better.

But that’s only the first step. When life beats us down, smile right back at life and don’t stay down. Get up, get active, and do something you enjoy, be it reading, writing, singing out of tune, or, in my case, working out until you can hardly breathe.

Today, I managed to channel the sorrow into motivation. Each and every day I’ve decided to prove to myself in some sort of way that I am better off. While I’ve managed to get back into my work out routine that I neglected so much while being with her, today was the first day my focus went from being “getting back in shape” to “proving she lost something wonderful” and not the other way around. There is nothing wrong with that because it is important to discover one’s own self worth. It is absolutely crucial that we all discover that we are of value, we matter. And people who mistreat us and take our energy and our love and our sacrifices will never deserve us. For every push up I did, I reminded myself of just how much better off I now was. For every pull up, I admired just how far I had come on my own without the burden of being with her weighing me down. For every sit up, every leg raise, and every mile I ran, I was reminded of just how much I loved finally getting my life back, instead of being subservient to another.

And you know what? It was the best damn work out I’ve had in a long time.

😉

Getting Back in Shape- Beyond the Physical

When you we think about getting back in shape, our minds typically tend to visualize dumbbells, dieting, and drinking tons of water from jogging in the morning for the first time in what? Five years? Tough stuff.

For years, I’ve been doing my fair share of all of that. I was a “graduate” of Insanity and my typical routine at the park consisted of running a crazy amount of miles before doing a crazy amount of push ups, pull ups and jumping squats before “cooling off” with several more miles of running around in literal circles. It was great and I was in the best shape of my life. But at the time, I didn’t realize that my mental and emotional well-being had an enormous impact on my physical health. In fact, I didn’t realize that at all until after enduring through a pretty bad relationship. Don’t worry, I’m not going to harp on about that again. I am, however, going to share with you some pretty interesting articles I came across regarding the link that connects our physical, emotional, and mental well-being together.

While this article on news-media.net doesn’t go into the exact details of a fairly recent study, it does give a bit of context on just how our different states of being are connected.

“The interplay between our physical and mental health has long been suspected,” Yoon said. “When I have back pain, I feel stressed. And if it impacts my ability to work, or to do my usual activities, then I can feel upset or even a bit depressed. But no large scale studies existed that showed the statistical proof of this correlation.”

Here, Yoon offers an example related to how our physical well being can affect our emotional. But what about the other way around? According to familydoctor.org, physical aliments can be indicative of emotional duress. Ulcers and high blood pressure can be brought on by stressful events in one’s life and poor emotional health can actually weaken the body’s immune system. And this is without even taking into account how feeling depressed or upset can leave you less motivated to take better physical care of yourself. But if that’s not enough to demonstrate how important our mental and emotional well-being is to our health, just take a look at how “health” is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO):

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.- WHO

Unfortunately, our emotional and mental health isn’t typically taken into account when we’re trying to “get in shape.” For me personally, my neglect of my mental and emotional well-being actually turned out to be the two biggest reasons why instead of getting healthier, I was getting sicker and more out of shape despite dieting and exercise. It wasn’t until I made changes to improve my emotional and mental states that I finally began making real progress regarding my physical health.

So what are the steps that we can take when we really want to “get in shape” in every sense of the phrase? I won’t cover any physical routines, but here are a few steps you can take to become mentally and emotionally healthier. These are steps that I’ve also personally been trying to implement as well.

  • Volunteering- Maybe it’s an animal shelter, maybe a homeless shelter. Regardless, volunteering your time and energy to a cause or organization you believe in can leave you feeling satisfied and accomplished. There are always ways to volunteer your abilities for the benefit of others, and it can range from working with others on a clean up project to just helping an elderly individual pack their groceries away in their car.
  • Associate with positive people- First hand, I can tell you that doing the opposite of this can be the most detrimental to your well-being. Constantly associating with those who only see the negative side of a situation, those who are judgmental and cynical, will result in you acting the same way. As the saying goes, misery loves company. So be sure to hang around those who are the exact opposite. Lately, I’ve been associating with friends and family who are especially positive, and the results they’re association has had on me is extremely noticeable.
  • Just relax- For some, this will probably be the hardest thing to do, especially where I live (it’s number seven on the most stressed cities in the United States). No matter what day it is, no matter what you have planned, find the time to relax a little. Even thirty minutes helps to reset and refresh your mind, preventing you from feeling mentally overloaded or drained. Listen to music, read a book, or do nothing at all! Just sit there and meditate.
  • Make a budget- One of the hardest things in this age of online transactions and student debts is learning how to manage and track your money. No wonder money is also the aspect of our lives that typically cause the most stress. Thankfully, there are also tools and resources we can use to help us get on track with both how we spend and how we save. The blog over at nerdwallet.com has information on a number of apps that can help keep track of just that. Another tip that seems to work for others is by simply using cash and not cards.

These are just a few tips we can all put into affect to help us be happier and healthier mentally, emotionally, and of course, physically. This is just a suggestion, but if implementing these tips into your life seems like too daunting a task, try picking and focusing on one and doing it for a week or month before adding on another. I’m sure you will experience a noticeable improvement in your overall well-being.

Till next time then and be sure to keep smiling.

🙂

A Dark Hour and an Opened Door

Back when I began this blog, I started writing it the day I felt my life was finally making a turn for the better. But I left a lot of details out, details that I feel will possibly offer some encouragement and hopes to others who might be feeling as though things can’t get better for them. When you read my experience, I want you to focus on the main message. That being, you don’t know how and when things are going to turn around for you. So never lose hope.

I’ll start back by describing to you exactly how things had been going for me up until the evening of September 16th of this year. In May, I proposed to a girl I desperately wanted to believe was the girl of my dreams. Unfortunately, that is when, instead of our relationship getting stronger, they took a drastic turn for the worse. She became more and more distant, I became more and more depressed, and by July we hardly spoke at all. She made claims that her sudden absence from my life was due to medical concerns, but I can no longer believe that. I have no doubts she was cheating on me by that point. I had plans on confronting her, but I wouldn’t get the chance.

In mid-July, my ex would take it upon herself to call me at literally 2 am in the morning to curse me out over writing how I missed her and about me putting pictures up of us being together on my facebook (you can probably see why I doubt she had stopped talking to me over “medical concerns”). After screaming at me over how selfish I had been in the relationship, I ended it on the spot. She was, of course, taken aback. It was the first time I had genuinely defended myself from her attacks and the first time I ever told her I wanted to break up (she had, of course, said it multiple times throughout the course of our relationship).

We stopped talking for a few weeks. I tried focusing on other issues going on in my life, but it was difficult. My ex continuously tried contacting me. I knew it was because she didn’t care much for not getting in the last word, but like a fool I finally relented around the beginning of September. She went on about needing money to send me the ring back, how she was struggling even to feed her cat and buy necessities for herself, and also how she was still deeply in love with me. On the inside, I didn’t believe I was ever going to get the ring back and I wasn’t sure if I cared anymore anyway. I gave her some money, not believing that she was being honest, but believing that my generosity would be returned to me in some other way. It’s a philosophy I’ve always maintained and it’s also the reason why I couldn’t bear being called the selfish one in our relationship.

A few days later, my grandfather died. It hit me hard. It was sudden and seeing as for the last few years my circle of confidantes had dwindled down to my now ex-fiance, I felt I had no one to turn to for comfort. I remember, upon hearing the news, I had locked myself in the room, incapable of containing myself and blasting any music I could find to drown out my sobbing. All the while, realizing that it was in moments like these I used to go to my ex for support. But as I was gearing up to travel out of the country for the funeral, I had come to the decision that I didn’t want her around as a source of comfort anymore. In truth, she had rarely been around emotionally for me anyway. At least, nowhere near the level I had been around for her. I left her a message telling her that I wanted to speak to her with the intention of getting everything out in the open. I wanted there to be no loose ends. However, she didn’t respond until after I returned from my trip.

It was also upon my return that I learned of her infidelity. While I had suspected it, the evidence didn’t become clear until September 15th. While that was difficult to accept, it wasn’t surprising. What had bothered me though, was her professions of love to me literally a few days before. It made me realize I could no longer believe she had ever loved me. If she could say such words with feigned sincerity as she had, how could I believe she hadn’t done the same throughout our relationship?

The following day, I went into work determined not to bother with anything else or care about anything else other than my job. Unfortunately, in the afternoon my boss called me with the news that I had to be laid off. As supportive as he was, with everything else going on, the news that I was now unemployed became the straw that broke this camel’s back. I went back to my desk and, for the second time in my life since middle school I really struggled.

For years since my early teens, I touted and preached about finding the silver lining in every situation. After bouts with extreme depression in the past, I used to think my ability to overcome and find happiness gave me the privilege and the right to help encourage others to do the same. But now, at that point in my life, I felt foolish for ever believing in a silver lining in every situation. I had alienated close friends and family for a girl who, as much as I hate to admit, broke my heart and convinced me romantic love was nothing more than an illusion. I had lost a grandfather I had vowed to see alive, a grandfather who loved me dearly and who I loved dearly in return. And now, I was losing a job that had become my only means of settling the debt I had taken on after caring for a manipulative and selfish girl for the past two years.

I sat at my desk, contemplating all the mistakes I had made that I believed led me down to this path. As giving and caring as I wanted to consider myself, I had neglected many people in favor of a single, undeserving one. I began considering everything bad that was now happening as a well-deserved punishment. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t see a way out. All I could visualize were people in my life, people that I had ignored or hurt, telling me I deserved this. For a while, I sat at my desk, feeling myself ask that all too dangerous question.

“What was the point?”

I had effectively lost two years of my life. And while I don’t believe any years of one’s life should be considered “throw away” years, these two years specifically should have been a time for growth for me. But I had squandered the better half of my twenties and had become convinced that I had only just begun my downward slope into utter desolation.

That evening, I was supposed to give my boss’s grand daughter her weekly piano lesson. I recall him asking if I was still okay giving them. I said yes, realizing that while $30 a week was close to nothing given my financial situation, it was still something. I forced myself to smile for the rest of that day, despite feeling ready to give everything up inside. After all, from my perspective I no longer felt like I’d find love or that I even deserved the love of friends and family, and with debt looming over my head I could no longer pay off, I didn’t see much to smile about. But it was at this point where the moral of my story comes in.

I headed over to his daughter’s house, the same smile, masking a nearly crippling sense of dread, plastered on my face. She greeted me with a sympathetic smile and hug, asking if I was alright. I don’t know if she believed my “Yes” or not, but she told me not to worry, that things would work out. And then she got me a job working for her mother.

That’s the problem with depression. How we feel on the inside, the intense loneliness, the sense that nobody cares. It’s never true. But it is always damn near impossible to realize that. For years up until that point, I had been doing a good job of keeping it in check since struggling with it back in middle and high school. But I let my guard down and convinced myself that I was irrelevant.

Getting this job and being able to continue working for a family I truly admire and care for opened my eyes again. Just when things are at their darkest, that is the time when we should be looking for that silver lining the most. If I had not bothered with the piano lesson that evening, if I had told my now former boss that I was no longer comfortable with it, I might very well still be unemployed and hopeless even now. What’s more, it reminded me that there are those that still care. There are people who care about me. And as badly as I might have treated family and friends, the people who loved me were ready and willing to forgive me for everything I had done. No matter what, there were people who still wanted me to be happy.

That evening, I remember going to my parents, eyes admittedly teary, and telling them how sorry I was for the last two years, how blind and foolish I had been. And my father, through reddened eyes himself, told me he was just so happy to have his son back again.

This blog has gone on for a while. I realize it isn’t the most well-written, and I apologize for that aspect of it (a bit under the weather). But I do hope the message is clear and it’s a message I personally intend to keep in mind more so than ever before. Whenever you struggle, whenever you think there is not a single soul out there that cares, whenever you think your situation can’t turn around, know that today I am telling you, you are wrong. There is always a silver lining. No matter how dark the clouds, no matter how stormy the night, we have to do our best to find it. There is always a reason to hope and it is only when we stop searching for that reason that our situation becomes hopeless. This past September I was reminded of that and I hope my experience will serve as a reminder for anyone out there who is struggling as well.