Three simple resolutions to make 2016 healthy and happy

IMG_3653The fault of most failed New Year’s Resolutions is that they are too vague and goal oriented. As well intentioned as SMART goals may be, when it comes down to it, they are just a catchy acronym that don’t connect the individual making them with the process and specific steps it will take to reach the desired outcome. There are a variety of words used to make up SMART (most common: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time based), some of which I find limiting and all of which require brain power to clarify—brain power better used on self-restraint, self-discipline, or setting up an environment or system in your life that supports the resolutions you’ve made.

Here are three process oriented resolutions for those of us who would like to make 2016 healthy and happy:

1. Treat food as fuel, not comfort or a reward

Even though I love to indulge in a good steak and use meals as time to connect with family and friends, it’s important to me to keep in mind that at its core, food is a basic need. When our relationship with food is complicated by it being presented as comfort or a reward, we’re apt to experience guilt or shame when it comes to eating. If we treat food as fuel for our bodies, we can focus on filling up with the nutrients we need instead of constantly feeling like we’re testing our willpower—will we or won’t we reach for that sweet/salty/crunchy whatever?

Thanks to food marketing and the scientists behind making fast food and junk food addictive, reframing how we see and relate to food is no easy feat. However, if we take a moment to ask ourselves, “Is this fuel to help my body run?” each time we’re making a decision related to what we’re going to eat, we’re on the path toward a healthy relationship with food. When we approach food as fuel, we’re naturally guided to seek out nutrient dense items at the grocery store more than the quick ‘n’ easy nutrient-less number whatever at the drive-through.

If you’re not sure how to treat food as fuel, understanding the basics of proteins, vitamins, and minerals is a good start. And if you’re curious about “good cholesterol” and “bad cholesterol,” you can find articles on the internet to help you understand the bigger nutrition picture.

2. Replace screen time with _________(fill in the blank)

A lot of us tend to ignore the clues all around us that indicate we may want to rethink how much time we spend staring at the screens of our computers and mobile devices. We notice we have trouble focusing on one thing at a time, we suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out), we feel strangely disconnected from our friends who we keep in touch with on various social media platforms, we’re amazed how quickly time passes when we’re clicking on links and watching videos online.

I like to replace screen time with reading actual books with paper pages, playing nerdy strategy games with my partner, and exploring my city’s cultural offerings. Based on my non-scientific study of one, less screen time leads to a fitter, healthier, more productive life. I started screen free evenings last summer; it morphed into mostly mobile device free evenings when my partner and I found a show on Netflix we wanted to watch on evenings during the week; I have a steady stream of books from the library coming my way, so it’s likely I’ll get back in the groove of being completely screen free in the evenings. I recommend screen free evenings to anyone having trouble falling asleep at night (combined with a coffee curfew of noon) or anyone who is just looking to feel like they have more time to themselves.

Note to Self is a great podcast worth a listen, if you want to hear others talk about how the struggle with managing technology in their lives is real.

3. Practice kindness every day

This sentiment is so cliché it’s easily ignored. Good thing we didn’t waste all our energy on understanding what SMART stands for, we still have strength to do the actual work of being kind. And it is work. When we’re kind to ourselves, we’re less critical of where we’re at in our lives and what we’re doing (or not doing). Guy Winch makes a strong case for practicing emotional hygiene in his TED talk, “Why we all need to practice emotional first aid.”

If we focus on practicing kindness, a lot falls into place. Being kind means being inclusive, being compassionate, and being empathetic. Moment to moment, not just when you’re at your place of worship or with your group of friends. Practicing kindness in a variety of settings and especially with those in our lives we find most challenging, creates a space for us to live in that is cushioned with love instead of riddled with hate.

Cheers to you and making the choices in 2016 that bring about positive change!

Traveling light

IMG_5157Thoughts are like travelers we meet along the way; sometimes knowing where they come from helps us to understand them; some are entertaining; some are inspiring and make us change our direction; some carry so much baggage it’s a real drag to be around them.

I’m fortunate that the hater traveler is not part of my entourage. You know the one. They constantly tell you you’re doing it all wrong and question every single thing you do. I run into this one sometimes for sure, but can shake ‘em off pretty quickly.

My core posse tends to consist of the planner, the photographer, and the mountaineer. The planner likes to (as you may have guessed) think ahead, strategize, and structure. The photographer insists on documenting, documenting, documenting. And the mountaineer is constantly pushing to ascend another peak. Having these fellow travelers around is nice, but I have to constantly manage them so they don’t rob me of the moment. Too much planning and looking ahead and I miss the incredible experience of being present. If the photographer had their way, I’d always have a device between me and reality—as a buffer and also to prove to myself that it all really did happen. The mountaineer’s ideal itinerary would keep me busy but leave me with no time to process, learn and grow.

I cross paths with these three time and time again, we walk together for a little while sometimes and then we say “until next time.” There are other travelers who I’ve had to say goodbye to altogether. They were keeping me from the path that’s right for me.

Prompt for Power Year clients:

Think about the habitual thoughts in your life. Is it time to let go of any of them? Email your thoughts to or comment below.

Holla days

For the past few years I’ve been working on reclaiming xmas. I didn’t realize this is what I was doing until recently, when I told myself, “It’s time to reclaim xmas!” and I thought about all the small changes I’ve been making to the rituals I choose to participate in during what can be a tumultuous season of consumerism.

Four years ago, my partner for life and I started a new tradition in our home. The xmas time capsule. On December 25, 2011 we gathered items from around our home and placed them in a box, wrote cards and letters of reflection to each other, and closed up the box—a gift to our 2021 selves. Each year since then, we’ve spent time together on Christmas Day, reflecting and packing away tchotchkes that reflect events and interests from the past year. This ritual has come to hold more weight than new gift giving and receiving.

A couple of years after the xmas time capsule tradition began, a xmas cube found its way into our home. More cheerful than a Festivus pole, our xmas cube was constructed by my husband, who initially used it as part of a prototype for a IMG_1344project he was working on. Rather than trashing the thing, we threw some lights and ornaments on it (and later a White Walker–what says winter is here more than that?). I especially love the xmas cube for its size. It doesn’t disrupt the Feng shui of our home and stores easy once xmas is over.

I brought up our one and only cardboard box labeled “XMAS” from the basement the other day and resolved to never have more xmas decorations or ornaments than can fit in that single box. In that moment I managed to tame the beast and freeze it to forever being nothing more than a cute little baby beast. Relief! Literally. A big sigh of it.

IMG_1341Two of the newest items in our box of xmas decorations are beautiful (and ginormous) stockings embroidered by my stepmom. She gifted them to my husband and me over the past couple of years and now they will hang on our mantle each December. I appreciate the time and love she poured into the stockings, and have been thinking a lot about how to incorporate them into a reclaimed version of xmas. Traditionally in my family, the stocking served as the appetizer of gift time. A warm up to the main event. And because of this, I think I probably sped right through the plastic candy canes full of chocolate kisses and whatever else (see? I don’t remember) was in my stocking as a kid. I think the stockings may serve as the main event for our reclaimed xmas. Like the single XMAS box of decorations, the stockings serve as physical visuals of containment. If I don’t contain consumerism, it’ll contain me.

Reclaimed xmas is an evolving process that happens in a dogma free zone. Maybe next year we’ll incorporate a winter solstice celebration—holla to longer days filled with light!

On stuff

I used to save chewed up gum. I’d put flavorless gobs of colorful gum on a coin counting tower I got from Chuckie Cheese. Part of me thought it just looked cool, but let’s face it, another part of me had a serious issue with throwing things (apparently anything) out. Other items I had trouble letting go of:

Cheap crayons

Compared to Crayola, cheap crayons just don’t deliver. You have to press hard and the colors are so weak it makes any picture look like a faded version of life. They break in your hand most of the time because they are brittle and can’t withstand the pressure it takes to get them to work. However, I’m pretty sure their lack of quality isn’t their fault. It’s not like they have free will and just don’t want to work. So I used to hold on to them (because I tend to anthropomorphize everything), as if to let them know that I knew they were of value, just for being.

Bags, boxes, containers

Plastic bags, paper bags, cereal boxes (you can’t throw Snap, Crackle, and Pop in the trash!), gold boxes that once held fancy chocolate (it’s too pretty to throw away!), cylinders no longer full of oats (you also can’t throw the Quaker Man away).


Fluffy was my security blanket. Looking back on it, I realize how disgusting it was. There were numerous blood stains on it from when my nose would bleed and dried up boogers because I was a gross little kid who picked my nose when it wasn’t bleeding and saved the boogers in my Fluffy so I could crush them when they dried up and hardened. I am literally nauseous as I type this.

For me, throwing STUFF out was hard because I may or may not have legitimately believed every thing had a soul of sorts. And I had abandonment issues that I hadn’t worked out yet. So basically I’m fortunate I didn’t turn into a hoarder.

These days I live a life with less STUFF. I like less. Despite the advertisers who want me to believe I need more, I’ve found I’m much happier with less. Less STUFF means less distractions from what I value in life. There is less in the way when I want to connect to my partner, my family, my friends. And when I say connect, I mean directly. Face to face. Sans screen or online social network where ads pop up in the sidebars telling me I need more STUFF. Less stuff means less clutter and that’s a good thing because clutter tends to drive me bananas.

I have a client who is in the process of de-cluttering their own home and is on the quest for less STUFF. I share these tips for them and anyone else who is interested in a life less full of STUFF and more filled with living.

Two Steps Toward Less

  1. Purge

Dedicate time to go through your STUFF and get rid of things. I like to shoot for three or more hours on a weekend so I can get in the zone. Although some suggest not going room by room, I like to focus on one room at a time.

Depending on how much STUFF you have to move, set a goal of completing one or two rooms (or a single closet) during your first purge session. Take the items to a donation drop off center (wait a day if it helps with the goodbye process). I find the satisfaction of seeing a room transformed motivating. Once you reach your goal, set a day and time to work on the next room(s). For some people, the purge step takes weeks, others finish it in one weekend. Figure out what’s right for you and go for it.

During the purge you may think, “What if I need this the day after I get rid of it?,” “What if I grow back/shrink back into this?”, “I can’t get rid of this because…” This can be challenging. Ask yourself why you’re holding on to this particular piece of STUFF. Turn the eye inward and explore your issues. We all have them. If it turns out some professional help could assist you in exploring your particular issues, go for it if it’s within your financial means. A free option for getting to the root of your issues exists. It’s called the library and I love it. I find reading Buddhist texts to help with the purge perspective. A great one to start: The Art of Power by Thich Nhat Hanh.

After purge is complete, take a moment to feel the lightness of a life with less STUFF.

2. Reduce

Practice a pause before buying more STUFF. When you’re about to purchase something online or in a store, take a pause, walk away from the screen/item and take a breather. Break the consumer spell and ask yourself if you really need that particular WHATEVER THING. Companies bombard us with messages that play on our deepest fears to get us to feel like we really need, absolutely can’t survive without, must buy now, their WHATEVER STUFF. And if it’s not the company itself who we get this message from, it’s our neighbors/peers/extended family the Jones’s. Stop trying to keep up and flip the script. Write your own narrative of living with less STUFF.

When I’m in B,B, and Beyond on a mission to buy a mop with my 20% off coupon, it’s tempting to stop and look at the kitchen gadgets and impulse WHATEVER STUFF near the checkout. I have to pause and remember the ol’ 1, 2. Only a few people give me skeptical looks when I punch the air and dodge an invisible fist of STUFF. Part of me wants to hold the mop above my head like I’m the heavyweight champion of the world. Navigating that box store makes me feel like I went twelve rounds with THE MAN.

Read this: The Art of Power by Thich Nhat Hanh

There are books that find their way into your life at just the right moment. I feel that way about The Art of Power. I also feel like if everybody read this book and took the time to really soak up the insight that Thich Nhat Hanh shares, the world would be a much better place.

I agree with the idea that peace and happiness are available to us, even in today’s fast paced, technology ridden world. The key is understanding that the conditions that we think are essential to our happiness (wealth, fame, sex, fancy food and lots of sleep) may actually bring us the opposite—depression, despair and forgetfulness.

Reading this book was an excellent opportunity to turn the ol’ eye inward and apply the advice of a Zen master to my own life. Part of me feels like Buddhism is part of my deep seeded Asian collective unconsciousness. Who knows.

For anybody who has lost sight of why they create works of art or who feels like their place in the business world is a lost cause, I recommend reading this book.

Messages of living simply and consuming less are hard to come by, especially at this time of the year when gift giving is amped up. If you would like to be spiritually rejuvenated, read this book.

Shaping up for summer

I’ve been feeling blah about my eating and exercise habits during the past several months; so last Sunday during my kickball game when I was running the bases and felt more jiggly than normal, I decided it was time to come up with a plan of action.

I completed week one of shaping up today. For the next month I’m going to complete these low-intensity physical activities to help make me feel less jiggly and more toned. Who knows though, the jiggle may be here to stay—I am 30 years old after all.

Yes, that’s right. I’m 30 and play kickball. You didn’t just misread anything.

The plan—I'll write down the date each time I complete the listed exercises.


Every professional creative should read The War of Art

I just finished reading, “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. It’s a quick read; I picked it up this afternoon from Tattered Cover and was 100 pages in after a very short time. This book resonates with my soul. I feel like the powers that be led me to this title, at this particular moment in my life, so that I follow through with my calling to be a professional creative in this world.

Reading Pressfield talk about the creative process reminded me a lot of my Power Year.  He reveals numerous truths about the challenges and distractions that people face (he refers to those and many other factors like procrastination as Resistance) when finding their authentic Self.

I found the section called, “A Professional” very relevant to what happens when you decide to embark on a Power Year and set the wheels in motion.

Someone once asked Somerset Maugham if he wrote on a schedule or only when struck by inspiration. “I write only when inspiration strikes,” he replied. “Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’ clock sharp.”

That’s a pro.

In terms of Resistance, Maugham was saying, “I despise Resistance; I will not let it faze me; I will sit down and do my work.”

Maugham reckoned another, deeper truth: that by performing the mundane physical act of sitting down and starting to work, he set in motion a mysterious but infallible sequence of events that would produce inspiration, as surely as if the goddess had synchronized her watch with his.

He knew if he built it, she would come.

I subscribe to serendipity, and during my Power Year, I must say, it was a driving force.

I highly recommend this read, particularly if you procrastinate work or rationalize why you don’t have time to dedicate to your creative projects.