Sunday, January 27, 2013

Umm, about those resolutions....

.....they have not gone as well as I had hoped.

In fact, I haven't even put any checkmarks on my sheet for over a week. HOWEVER, I have a good excuse. (I know, I know, no excuses, whatever.) I've been pouring most of my energy into one specific resolution without realizing it, and that is to keep a health journal. I'm using some online apps that help me track what I eat, how much water I drink, exercise, sleep amount and quality, and my acid reflux symptoms. While it does feel like a major chore to keep up with all of this, it forces me to pay attention to what, and how much, I eat, and when. This has been exceedingly important in figuring out my blood sugar patterns.

Yes, blood sugar. No, I haven't been diagnosed with diabetes, but I have several reasons to believe that over the past year or so my body has become incredibly sensitive to the fluctuations in glucose levels throughout the day. I haven't been to the doctor, I don't test, and I don't have a meter, so I deal with all of this just based on symptoms. I'm hoping that with some research, careful planning, and trial-and-error, I can avoid costly trips to the doctor, lab, and nutritionist.

I've adopted an 1800-calorie meal plan using the exchange system. If you know what that is, good for you. If you don't, I don't understand it well enough to explain it yet, BUT IT HELPS and my diet has improved. I eat more fruit and veggies and less junk. I'm more conscious of my decisions, which in turn helps me understand the symptoms (or absence) later on. For example, a bowl of cereal is about the worst breakfast choice I could make, outside of a piece of chocolate cake, because in under 2 hours my blood sugar will crash and I will be a wreck. I have to have a protein and a complex carb, and I have fruit and milk too because it's what the diet specifies. And that results in more stability until snack time 3 hours later.

Anyway, the point of all this was supposed to be my Happiness Project. You know, the chart, the resolutions, the check marks. But somewhere around mid-month the blood sugar issues took precedence, and I've spent all of my energy and focus on that instead. Which is not a bad thing, really, and perhaps later on I'll dedicate another month to organizing. I did get my desk organized before the dramatic decline, though--look!

From this....

To this!

Next month's focus, for the Month of Love, naturally, is marriage. If Bob reads my blog, he'll know about it, but if he doesn't I guess he'll just get to reap the benefits without any conscious thought about it. Later in the week I'll get to the specifics about resolutions, and hopefully this month I'll make it all the way!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Adventures in Happiness and Low-Carb Living

Okay. So far there are a lot of checks and a lot of x's on my resolution sheet for January, but I'm trying. I'm actually keeping up with my health journal using a handy dandy...... NOTEBOOK! No, just kidding, really I WAS using a notebook but now I'm using a Chrome app, which led me to a website where I keep track of other stuff. The combination of app and website help me keep track of what I eat each day (including calories, carbs, protein, fat, and individual vitamins and other nutrients), how much water I drink, how much (if) I exercise, how much sleep I'm getting and the quality, and my reflux symptoms. It's work to keep up with it, because if I don't do it daily I'll forget and be all out of whack, at which point (I know myself) I'll just say, "Screw the whole thing, I've ruined it."

Anyway, this is a lovely segue into the fact that I'm embarking upon a low-carb diet plan. No, I don't particularly want to. I am not excited about counting carbs and eliminating white bread, normal pasta, white rice, and excess sugar from my diet which previously consisted of probably 75% or more carbs. Well, I have been having a crap-ton of trouble maintaining stable blood sugar lately, evidenced by the shaking and sleepiness and hot flashes I've had daily over the past year. So I'm trying this diet plan to see if it helps keep me on a more even keel. Yesterday was great. Today was not AS successful, but I didn't have any dramatic drops like I have been, so it is still an improvement.

I have discovered that SweetLeaf (a stevia-based sweetener) still has an aftertaste when I use it in coffee. I baked a hot fudge cake tonight, using the same powder in the batter but not the topping, and it was ALMOST not noticeable. I don't think it will bother Bob, for instance, but I can pick up the subtle difference because I know what to look for. Still, it's a step in the right direction for someone whose livelihood depends so heavily on chocolate.

Anyway, on to my Happiness Project: As far as the organizing is going, well, I'm trying. More so than daily organizing tasks, though, I'm better about just actually doing the chores that need doing--cleaning the cat box, washing the dishes, doing the laundry, and (now that I've done the total organizing overhaul of this one thing) keeping my desk neat and usable. I would LIKE to get the kitchen (pantry and fridge), bookshelf in the living room, and my bedroom closet in order before the month is out, but my diet insufficiencies have left me without the necessary energy so far. We shall see.

I'm trying on the sleep, and the evening tidy-up. I've already discussed the health journal. As far as the one-minute rule, that's the one I'm actually most lax about because I don't think so much that way. Another principle I got from Gretchen Rubin's book (she may have gotten it from somewhere else, I don't remember) is this: Do it now. That helps me more than the one-minute rule. Instead of thinking, "Can I do this in one minute or less?" I just think, "I should just do it now." This is especially helpful when it comes to throwing away junk mail, paying bills, and washing the dishes (or at least loading/unloading the dishwasher.) I've also gotten better about cooking at home rather than rely on frozen pizzas and pasta, but part of that is the carb thing.

Okay, though. I kind of had a breakthrough yesterday. It was earlyish in the school day, about 9:30, and just about everybody was in a crabby mood, me included. No patience with each other, with the kids, or with ourselves. So I wondered how I could go about changing that, at least for me. I ended up asking myself four questions:
1. How am I feeling?
2. What is making me feel that way?
3. What positive things can I be happy about today?
4. What things can I do NOW or SOON (within 20 minutes) to change my feelings?

1. It turned out to be harder to describe my feelings in words, so I used a color instead: gray.
2. I figured that a combination of the cold, wet weather, the rough commute that morning, and a feeling of stagnation at work and at home was contributing to my "gray" feeling.
3. I was able to quickly find some positive things to focus on, two of which were directly related to specific children I work with--one had a vast improvement with the addition of medication, and another is always so happy to see me, and so enthusiastic to learn. He makes me feel good, even though he wears me out! Finally, I was feeling good about my workable (if difficult) eating plan.
4. Because I was still in class with kids, my happiness-boosting strategies were fairly limited. But I came up with two things I could do to help myself reframe: deep breathing, and a little stretching. Turns out breathing doesn't work for me when I'm angry, but when I'm just feeling a little edgy or grumpy, counting 10 deep breaths and simply stretching my arms and legs a bit helps me to refocus and "try again."

That's all for my update for now, since this post is already pretty long. I will add this, though: If you are a fan of, then you should totally read her book, Let's Pretend This Never Happened. I got it for Christmas. I've read it twice and am rereading my favorite parts for the third, fourth, or fifth time by now. It is hilarious and it will make you happy.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Quick January Progress Update!

Hello friends, I just want to update you on the progress of my Happiness Project during its first week.

You may recall that my resolutions all revolved around organizing my life and keeping track of things. Well, so far I've done okay: 15/20 possible check marks. Going to bed on time and my evening tidy-up have been the two that have tripped me up the most. I'm thinking I may need a more specific resolution than my first one, "streamline and organize." It's too vague, and I need to make it more specific. Not sure why I didn't do that in the first place, but oh well.

I have several focus areas for my streamlining and organizing now, though, and I just finished taking my "before" pictures. I have pics of my desk, our bookcase area (because it overflows), our buffet/counter in the kitchen, the pantry, and the fridge. I was initially going to do the bookcase today, following Gretchen Rubin's rule to "go shelf by shelf," but I'm going to have to switch to the desk first because there is something important that I need to find.

I keep telling myself that I might not get it all done today (the desk--I know I won't get the whole apartment finished) but my goals are to find that important thing, make sure all our bills are currently paid up, and purge extraneous paper. Wish me luck, friends, and I'll leave you with this quote for inspiration; it's something I should probably have blown up and made into a poster to hang above my desk: "Organize, don't agonize." --Nancy Pelosi

P.S. As I get finished with an area, I'll post about it, including the "before" and "after" pictures.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happiness Project: January

Well, friends, I may have mentioned in a previous post that I am embarking upon my own Happiness Project this year after reading The Happiness Project and Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin. Today is Day 1!

Since this is the first month, some things may change, like the format that I use to keep track of stuff, or even a resolution. I'll try my best to keep all of my resolutions, but if I realize quickly that one of them is NOT contributing to my happiness--if it makes my life more difficult, or makes someone ELSE'S life more difficult, if it feels so unnatural that I just can't keep doing it--then I'm going to take it off my list.

That said, here are my resolutions for January; there are five of them.
1. Streamline and organize
2. Go to bed on time
3. Keep a health journal
4. Follow the one-minute rule*
5. 10-minute tidy every evening

First of all, I'll say that I'm obviously modeling my own happiness project after the book, which is one reason why my focus for January is the same as hers. The second reason is that it just makes sense. Before I start trying to get craftier, or bake more, or spend more active time with Bob, it seems reasonable to think that the best way to start is to get my life (and apartment) better organized, and eliminate the junk that is in the way.

"Sure, okay, but why do you need a WHOLE MONTH? How much junk do you HAVE?" some of you may be screaming at me in your heads. Hush, now, I'm coming to that.

I'm taking the entire month of January because a) organization is important, b) I want to do it right, and c) you have to do things every day for it to become a habit. And I want to make organization a habit, not just a two- or three-times-a-year thing. So I have a month to practice before adding more.

Now, to each resolution individually: The first three, I think, are self-explanatory. I want to get rid of unnecessary items that clutter my life, and get the things that are important organized in such a way that I can find them and fully utilize them. Going to bed on time will mean I get enough sleep, which will hopefully lead to fewer naps in the afternoon. (You'll notice I didn't make "Not napping" a resolution. We all have our standards.) Having enough sleep is VERY important to me! And keeping a health journal will help me better understand my own patterns of eating, sleeping, and exercising, and also the role that different foods, weather, and activities may have on how I feel, both physically and emotionally. (I have GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, frequent headaches and sinus pain, and earaches, in addition to to generalized anxiety disorder, depression, and some tendencies toward OCD.) As an adult I have come to accept that a pill won't cure everything and sometimes you have to suck it up and stop eating Wendy's spicy chicken nuggets unless you WANT to be miserable for the next 4 hours.

*As to my fourth resolution, "follow the one-minute rule," I took it directly from The Happiness Project. The one-minute rule means that if there's a chore or task that needs to be done and will take less than one minute, DO IT NOW. Let's say you just used the last of the milk. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, don't just leave the empty jug on the counter! It will take just a few seconds to put the jug in your recycling bucket or garbage can. So go do it. Then it won't still be there staring at you next time you go in the kitchen. Because if you put it off once, it's so much easier to put it off again. DON'T. Same thing with putting your dirty clothes in the hamper, starting the dishwasher, putting your shoes in their place instead of leaving them in the middle of the floor. These tiny, seconds-long actions help tremendously in my feeling of cleanliness and organization.

The last resolution is similar--10-minute evening tidy-up. If I take just 10 minutes before I get ready for bed each night to pick up stray trash, hang up jackets, stack books, and scrub out that pan, the house will look so much nicer in the morning, and next time I do a deep-clean I won't have to start with those little nagging chores.

I'm almost done, I promise.

The thing I love best about this project is that there's a super-easy way to keep up with whether or not I'm following my own rules: A CHECKLIST. Every month will have the resolutions at the top, and each day I'll get a check for each resolution I kept that day. It enables me to chart my own progress and reflect on what I have and haven't been doing, and I can see more concretely what is or is not making my life more enjoyable. Here's the checklist I'm using (it's just a snip because I can upload images, apparently, but not documents and this is the only way I could figure it out):

And of course it's a full page, with numbers down to 31.

That's enough for now. I bought noodles in a new shape at Walmart today and I'm excited for dinner! YAY FOOD TIME! Look for more January updates soon!