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. 🙂

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.

🙂

There are doors that open and doors that close…

I’m not necessarily new to the whole blogging scene, but I am quite rusty. So please, bear with me. That said, I thought I would start off this blog by making an acknowledgment. An era in my life has come to a close, while a new, much brighter one has thankfully begun.

You see, for the last two years, I thought I had already entered the golden age of my personal life. I had met the girl of my dreams, or so I assumed. That’s right, I’m nothing special. Much like anyone else on this ball of dirt hurtling through the cosmos, my life became defined by the person I decided to share it with. It was a grave mistake, one that would take me a long time to figure out and one that I have only very recently come to acknowledge as the reality I created for myself.

She was supposed to be my everything. I wrote songs about her, told her I would marry her and did just about everything humanly possible to keep her satisfied with me. But there were dark moments in our relationship. I chose to ignore them, friends begged me to heed them. The truth of the matter is, I had fallen in love with someone not only extremely manipulative, but destructive, both to herself and me.

It has been two months since I opted to officially end things by severing all ties. Since then, I’ve gotten healthier physically, mentally, and emotionally, which provides evidence to the fact that a relationship does indeed affect each and every aspect of one’s life. Being with her, I had grown sluggish. She didn’t like me wasting time exercising, so I became increasingly unhealthy and, for the first time in my entire life, grew a bit of a stomach. She didn’t like me talking to certain friends and, if she wanted my attention, it was to be undivided. Needless to say, I grew increasingly anti-social. I let go of friendships I maintained for years at her request and have only now begun the rather long journey of redeeming myself to them. However, far and away the most affected area was my emotional state. Nothing pleased her for long. None of my sacrifices for her happiness or well-being were in the least bit good enough. I was terrified to speak to her regarding even the most minor concerns because she would angrily and vehemently spout abuses. Being with her, I constantly tried convincing myself I was the happiest I had ever been, when the opposite was much closer to the truth.

We became engaged. For a time, I wanted to believe that things would change for the best now that I had proposed with the ring she herself had wanted. Not even three months after, she called me up in the middle of the night angrily screaming at me over messages completely unrelated to her. But it was when she called me selfish that something finally clicked in my head.

I am not a selfish person. Even people who know me in a general sense are aware of this very simple fact. I give. I make it a point to because I wholeheartedly believe that the selfless stand to gain the most and the selfish stand to lose it all. So, as far as I was concerned, our relationship came to a close when she chose to accuse me of the one thing I consistently made a point of not being. I gave to her more than I have given to anyone else combined.

Suddenly, all of her other faults became glaringly apparent. Her outrageously violent temper, her selfish need to make everything about her, the ungrateful manner she demanded more from me all the while figuratively spitting on what I offered her. It was because of that singular moment, I was able to distance myself with much less pain than I thought conceivable. She made me feel nothing for her in an instant. After lovingly giving her my absolutely best, I now sat there knowing that I was already completely content going the rest of my life never hearing from her again.

That was the door that closed. Despite everything, she was the one person in my life who made me consider marriage. She was the only one I ever envisioned actually saying vows to and starting a family with. As empty as I was in regards to my feelings for her, I felt pain in the notion that I might never contemplate marriage again. I thought I would end up alone like I was before her.

Today, I made it a point finalizing everything. I removed her from every form of social media she was attached to, I blocked her phone number, and burned her photos. And I informed my friends. There were a few who had an inkling of what had occurred, but most wondered, asked me questions about upcoming nuptials. I thought it would be best to inform everyone all at once. My announcement was met with overwhelming support and I was reminded that never once in my life, until the day that relationship began, was I ever alone. That relationship proved to be a bigger blight on my life than anything else. I realized that for all my fear of loneliness without her, I felt the loneliest with her.

My life has made a turn for the better. I suppose the turn was so sharp, I simply could not see what was really awaiting me. As many have told me today, I deserve better. I intend to take that to heart. We humans so often have a habit of either undervaluing ourselves or, less unfortunately, overestimating our worth. My loving friends and family managed to make clear to me that I was a victim of the form, while she was guilty of the latter.

So what better moment than to start a blog about my every day life? As the say, when one door closes, another opens. I can’t wait to walk through it.