Black and white

You might have seen the black & white challenge on Facebook a few weeks ago. The idea was to post a black and white photo every day the featured no people and had no explanation.

I did the initial seven-day challenge last month and liked doing it so much I decided to keep going. I’ve been posting the pictures on Instagram and am going to put them on here too.

Here’s my original seven days of black & white photos. I’ll add some more over the next few days. If my internet is up to it. Ha.

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No sugar update – day 29

Today is Day 29 of my 30-day reset of not eating sugary snacks and treats. It’s gone surprisingly well.

When I started my mission get back into my no sugar lifestyle, I imagined that I’d slowly cut out one day’s treat over a period of several weeks and that by the end of it I’d be back on track. My first steps were to make sure I had something else to eat in place of my Monday afternoon snack, to remove any cash from my wallet that might make it easy to buy something I didn’t want, should I accidentally wander into a bakery or coffee shop.

After a couple of weeks of this I found that, even on the days I was allowed to have an unhealthy snack, I didn’t want to, so the 30-day reset began. In contrast to previous attempts at this, I’ve found the last 29 days to be quite easy and I haven’t really missed the cakes and chocolate.

I wondered why this was, because in the past it’s been really hard and I’ve struggled.

I think that because I’ve had several long periods where I haven’t eaten sugar, my body knows that this is my “normal”, so once I made the decision to go back to this and started to not eat cakes and chocolate, my body accepted it quite easily. I guess it knows that I am someone who doesn’t eat refined sugar, which is exactly the person I want to be.

I know some people think that cutting out something is a bit extreme and that most things in moderation are okay. The theory goes that if you completely deny yourself something, you’ll feel like you’re missing out and you’ll end up binging on the [forbidden thing], which would be worse for you than allowing yourself to have it occasionally.

Gretchen Rubin discusses this in Better Than Before. She says that some people do better by completely abstaining, because they find this easier than having the [forbidden thing] in moderation – for “abstainers”, having just a bit is almost impossible. Once they have opened the biscuit packet they’ll eat the whole lot. They won’t have one, and put the packet away until tomorrow.

As an abstainer herself, Ms Rubin notes that when abstainers deprive themselves of the [forbidden thing], they “conserve energy and will-power because there are no decisions to make and no self-control to muster”. They don’t have to decide whether to have (or do) the thing, then decide how much of the thing they will have (or do) and finally make themselves stop consuming (or doing) the thing. The decision is already made, and they can go on with their day.

She notes that someone can be an abstainer in relation to some things, but can be a “moderator” – someone for whom “everything in moderation” works well – for others. I might be an abstainer in relation to sugar, but a moderator in relation to alcohol, for example. So I’ll eat the whole block of chocolate, but I can have one glass of wine at lunch time and not spend the rest of the afternoon drinking. Unless I make a conscious choice to.

Ms Rubin notes that successful habit changes involve coordinating multiple strategies, and she gives an example of how she combined abstaining with other strategies to change her eating habits. For me, I can see how I have combined the strategy of abstaining (from sugar) with the strategy of identity (I am a person who doesn’t eat sugar) to change this particular habit. (I mentioned this strategy in this post.)

So this was an easy 30-day challenge for me – but it was only easy because of earlier work I’d done. I imagine that I’ll have more slip-ups in the future, but I hope that this experience of quite easily falling back into a healthy pattern will mean that the slip-ups aren’t frequent and aren’t as long-lived as this one was.

And here’s an unrelated picture of one of my chickens, as I contemplate what my next 30-day challenge will be.

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30 days – let’s keep going!

About this time last year I started the ambitious project of undertaking a series of 30-day challenges. It kind of worked and kind of didn’t.

Some of the challenges were ideally suited to a 30-day format: 30 days of no alcohol, for example. This was because I had a clear idea in my head of what I’d be doing (or not doing in this case) over the 30 days, and my progress was easy to track. I either had 30 days free of alcohol or I didn’t.

Some of the other challenges were more vague and I didn’t have much of an idea what I needed to do over the 30 days. I didn’t have a plan or anything to measure my progress by. So that part of the project was less successful.

I’ve decided to revisit the idea now. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you might remember some of my earlier attempts to quit sugar. I had some success with this, but this year have found my old habits of unhealthy snacking on sweet things have been creeping back in to the extent that resisting sweet snacks and desserts has become almost impossible for me.

I wasn’t feeling very happy about this, or some other elements of my life, so a few weeks ago I sat down and asked myself what sort of a person I wanted to be. (You can read about that here if you missed it.)

Among other things, I decided I wanted to be someone who doesn’t regularly eat refined sugar. I set about gradually weaning myself off it, by replacing one sweet treat a week with a healthier alternative, and taking the cash out of my wallet when I went out, so that if I did happen to wander past a store selling sweet temptations it would be more difficult for me to get it.

After a couple of weeks of this, I extended one day a week to two days a week, which was no big deal and I was quite happy with my progress. I imagined it might take a couple more months to wean myself off the sweet stuff completely.

On Friday the week before last (which wasn’t a designated no-sugar day), I thought about getting a peppermint slice after lunch. I knew where I was going to go and I had the cash on me. Then to my great surprise I said, “Actually no I won’t. I don’t want one.”

Quite the mindset shift. Very unexpected. “What do you mean you don’t want one? Today’s not a sugar-free day. Go ahead and have it!”

I will confess at this point that I did, and I really didn’t want it and I regretted it. So the next day I decided that if I was now at the point where I genuinely didn’t want a sweet treat, but was still prepared to have one, it was time to move to the next level, and to become that person who doesn’t eat refined sugar.

And that’s how the 30 days sugar-free challenge (2017 edition) came about. Today is Day 10.

(If you read the previous post, an update on the replacing alcohol with herbal tea on Mondays challenge is that I have now extended this to Tuesdays and Wednesdays. It’s going well. The 10.00pm bedtime is going less well. It needs some more work and a bit more commitment on my part. I’ll get there!)

 

 

Challenge 10 – 30 days of more sleep

At the start of this year, or at the end of last year – sometime a few months ago anyway, I did that thing where you choose three words for 2017 to guide you over the course of the year.

I’ve seen several people do this. I don’t know where the idea originated, but here’s a post that explains what the concept is all about.

Some people choose one word rather than three, and there’s a nice project that Ali Edwards does over the year, called One Little Word, that sets prompts for you to creatively explore your word over the year.

I signed up for this class once, but in true non-completer fashion, it got too much for me and I gave up after a few weeks. I do have a nice title page of my album though.

I got inspired to choose three words for 2017 after reading Kylie Dunn’s post on her three words. It occurred to me that I had taken on rather a lot in my Stepping on the Cracks project, that I was rushing through some ideas, and not getting very far with others, and not really learning from either. The word “consolidate” kept coming into my head over and over. Reflecting on what I’ve learned and putting it into practise, instead of chasing after the next shiny object that comes along. Seeing something through to the end.

The next word fell out of that one – “simplify”. Focus on one thing at a time. Release what doesn’t serve me. Don’t come up with complicated plans when all I need to do is take the next step. This can be applied in so many ways: getting rid of stuff I don’t  use or need any more, making space to do the things I want to do and doing them, saying no to things unless I am prepared to give something else up.

The final word “nourish” works on a couple of different levels. It could be about food, and certainly one of the things I am interested in learning this year is more about fermentation and about improving my diet. But it’s also about taking care myself on a broader level.

  • Nourishing my body by eating better, moving more, resting more.
  • Nourishing my mind by staying calm when things are spiralling out of control, doing things that scare and excite me, and by finding the opportunities for growth presented by challenges.
  • Nourishing my soul by surrounding myself with beauty, and by creating things for the sake of doing them, and by giving myself time for rest and relaxation.

That doesn’t look very simple when it’s written down like that does it!

So, rather than take on everything at once, I’m combining two very similar pieces advice that I’ve seen over the last couple of days to come up with a new 30-day challenge.

This article from Lisa Grace Byrne of WellGrounded Life came up in my Facebook feed yesterday. Here Lisa invites us to choose three self-care practices based on what we most need for our own well-being, to set a daily goal for each one and to see how many days in the next 30 we can accomplish the goal. She give some examples in this post, and a creative way to record progress at the end.

Simplifying this even further, Kendra from Hey Kendra! asked me if I could just choose one area that I want to make progress in, and then choose just one thing to help me in that area, what would it be? And her advice was to then focus on doing just that one thing for the next week. It might be different thing every day, or the same thing, but just to focus on that one area.

The title of this post probably gives away what my choice is. I realised the other day as I almost fell asleep on my feet while I was out walking, that lack of sleep is the key issue for me, and that I urgently need to do something about this.

So I’ve set myself a challenge for the next seven days (to start with) to go to bed as early as I can. To do what I have to do after dinner as efficiently as possible, turn my screens off as soon as I’ve finished what I need to do (rather than getting lost in a YouTube rabbit hole or checking my social media feed just one more time), take some time to relax, and go to bed  by no later than 10pm.

As a way to keep track of this, I’m going to use this little flower, which I believe was originally designed by one of the women in the WellGrounded Life community. It was a way for her to see her progress in the open-ended challenge, by colouring in one section each day she reached her goals. (It’s explained more in the post I linked to above.)


Obviously this is designed for 30 days rather than seven days, so I hope that seeing seven filled in petals will inspire me to continue for the rest of the month.

 

12 commandments

I got a bit lost on Challenge 6, 30 days clarity.

The idea for this challenge came from Stephen Covey’s Second Habit: Begin with the end in mind. That is, to start with a clear understanding of your destination; to know where you’re going so that the steps you take are steps in the right direction.

I imagined that I might do some activities in this sphere that appealed to me including writing a personal mission statement, identifying my personal values and setting some goals.

I made some progress on the values idea, which actually came about through another exercise rather than this challenge, and I’ve been tinkering with this document for quite a while.

At the same time I’ve been re-familiarising myself with Gretchen Rubin’s work. One of the things she did in her Happiness Project, which I really liked, was to develop her 12 Personal Commandments. These are overarching principles on how she wants to live her life

She describes it as “a creative way to distill core values”.

While I love the idea of having this sort of list, it also terrifies me a little to think about setting down my own rules for my own life. You know, because once you have rules set down like this you can never ever ever change them because they are set in stone . . .

Right?

I know this isn’t true, but it’s one of the mental barriers that I think was preventing me from taking action on this challenge: the mistaken belief that once I’ve written down my life goals, I’m wedded to them FOREVER.

It’s why I could never decide what I wanted to be when I grew up because I didn’t want to make a decision that would bind me to a career path for my entire working life. (So I’ve ended up in a career I chose because there was nothing else going at the time. I’ve been here for 20 years. And on reflection, I seem to have decided my fate by not deciding. Wrap your head around that. Ha.)

I’m thinking about getting back into the clarity exercise and, to kick it off, a few days ago I decided to make my own list of 12 commandments – not for my life forever, but for the way I want to live my life this year. That seems a whole lot less daunting than committing myself to something forever (even though, as we know, it wouldn’t have necessarily been a forever commitment).

Here’s my work-in-progress list. I wanted to put something together now and see how it sits, and make adjustments as I work my way through the other exercises I’m going to do. I think something to start with will be better than nothing.

My 12 (draft) Personal Commandments for 2017

  1. Be kind to everyone I meet.
  2. Nourish myself. (Take care of myself.)
  3. Express gratitude.
  4. Pause before responding, rather than reacting instantly.
  5. Be the change I want to see in the world.
  6. Focus on cultivating positive habits rather than eliminating negative ones.
  7. Be present. Feel my feelings. Fully immerse myself in my experiences.
  8. Fix what bugs me if I can change it. Don’t complain about it if I can’t influence it.
  9. Start where I am; Use what I have; Do what I can. (Know that I am enough.)
  10. I am what I am.
  11. Know what’s important and focus on that.
  12. Simplify. (Don’t take on anything new unless I have identified something to give up. One in, one out.)
  13. Consolidate. (Reflect on what I’ve learned and put it into practice instead of collecting more shiny new objects.)

Yeah, I know. There are 13. The Arthur Ashe quote (number 9) wasn’t in the draft list of 12, but it came into my head while I was writing this post. I love this quote and it needs to be there, but I don’t know which one has to go to make way for it. Maybe none of them do. Who says it has to be 12 anyway? Make your own rules.

I think I want to re-read The Happiness Project now, but I already have three books on the go, so in the spirit of “one in, one out”, I’ll wait.

The three words in bold are the three words I picked out at the end of last year to try to guide me through this year. This is a thing. Three words or one word. It sounded like a good idea, but I’m not really sure what to do with them, so I incorporated them into my commandments. Now I’m not sure if I need big ticket ones and subordinate ones, or if they all belong together . . .

See! This is why I never get anything done. I overthink things.

Just put the damn list out there, refer to it regularly and do it.

I’m going to print this list out and stick it up where I can see it, so I don’t forget. I hope that this will be the restart I need to get me back into the #steppingonthecracks project.

I’m back!

Not that I’ve been anywhere. I’ve been lurking, and feeling a bit like my progress in the #steppingonthecracks project has come to a screaming halt.

If you haven’t been following my project, it’s a series of challenges where I try out a new habit, technique or idea for 30 days to see how it works out. The idea is to put some of the things I’ve been reading about and learning into practise instead of filing them away under “interesting idea, should try this one day”.

I’ve had varying degrees of success with the different challenges, and I was about half way through challenge 9 (30 days of undone things), when the end of the year struck, holidays and various other unsettling events that threw everything out of line and most of my good habits went out the window, along with any capacity to make any progress on these challenges.

I’ve spent much of the past eight weeks feeling like I’d come so far, but that I’ve let myself down by letting everything go to shit. All the other stuff that was going on, well that was just an excuse to not do this.

I know! I’m being harsh on myself, and the perfectionist voice is speaking very loudly. It does that.

Last week (or thereabouts), I found the original hand-written list of the 30 little things I wanted to get done in December – you know, those things that take about five minutes, have been on your to-do list forever, but you can never quite get around to doing them. I was pleasantly surprised to find that, even though the project had collapsed, I’d still finished 20 of them. That’s two-thirds. For December, I think that’s a fairly reasonable achievement.

Hooray!

And many of the 20 things are things I wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t started this challenge. The button would still not be sewn on. I probably would have lost it by now. I’d still be using towels with holes in them.

All that’s left on the list is:

  1. Book skin check
  2. Order yoga shoes
  3. Make a list of jobs that I can do in 5/10 minutes for when I have a short gap in my day
  4. Make a list of things I can do when I have low energy rather than go on my phone
  5. Get my baby slides scanned
  6. Finish the Facing Fear worksheets
  7. Get new cord for Kramstable’s greenstone pendant
  8. Sew buttons onto purple shawl
  9. Make a list of the beers in the beer books
  10. Wash baby mat

It seems perfectly doable. Other than the purple shawl buttons. That is not doable.

The list of things that I can do in 5-10 minutes has been a work in progress for a while. I haven’t finished it because I’ve never known what to do with it, or where to put it, which is probably a reason why there were 30+ undone things in the first place. And I never felt like it was complete, so it couldn’t be put anywhere.

(I’ve combined it with another list I started ages ago of things Kramstable could do when he’s bored. He wasn’t interested.)

So, in the interests of crossing things off the list, and acknowledging that this type of list is never going to be finished, and there just has to be a point where you say, “This is enough and I’m sticking it on the pinboard and next time I have five minutes spare I’m going to do one of these things”, I present it to you now.

  • Put some washing on
  • Put washing away
  • Wash up or put the dishes away
  • Clean out a shelf in the pantry
  • Empty the bins
  • Pick up stuff off the floor in the lounge room
  • Take things that are in the wrong place to the room they belong in (bonus points for putting them away)
  • Clean out a drawer or a shelf
  • Put 10 things away
  • Vacuum a room
  • Sweep the floors
  • Quick tidy of one room (10 minutes with the timer)
  • Clear off and wipe down the bench, coffee table or dining table
  • Wipe down the bathroom sink or the bath
  • Take out the compost or the recycling
  • Go through the fridge and throw out food that’s off
  • Dust a shelf and tidy it
  • Throw something out that’s broken or we don’t need
  • Refill soap dispensers
  • Update the freezer list
  • Unsubscribe from mailing lists
  • Write a thank you note
  • Find a new recipe and add it to next week’s meal plan
  • Book a doctor appointment or haircut
  • Go for a walk
  • Go outside and look at the clouds
  • Hang out with the chickens
  • Do some colouring in or drawing
  • Write in journal
  • Write down things to be grateful for
  • 5-10 minutes of breathing exercises or meditation
  • Have a glass of water
  • Make a cup of tea
  • Read a book
  • Doodle or scribble
  • Sort a paper pile
  • Organise a file
  • Make a to-do list
  • Process emails
  • Download photos from phone
  • Sort some photos
  • Put photos in albums
  • Do something from the 30 undone things list
  • Make a new 30 undone things list

Let me know what you think.

Do you have a list like this? What’s on your list that I missed?

Here’s to getting things done, one five minute block at a time!

I sewed the fucking button on

Yeah. The thing that started #30undonethings. I did it. There was much coarse language and finger-pricking, because it wasn’t as easy as it looked like it should have been.

Actually it wasn’t the one on the list that was the problem, but another button that was sitting next to the one-on-the-list that caused aforementioned coarse language and finger-pricking.

But they are both done, and I can rest easy knowing the buttons are no longer on the bathroom vanity glaring at me every time I go in there.

I did a couple of other things from my list this week too, but I haven’t completed all 30 for December.

But I made a start and I am pleased.

Happy New Year.