Working Mom's Balance - Finding Peace in the Midst of the Crazy
WorkingMomsBalance.com is a website dedicated to encouraging working moms to live a life of peace and love. We share information related to healthy living, spirituality, and personal growth. I help working moms discover peace, life, and joy in the midst of the working mom chaos.
Last summer I stumbled upon Rockets of Awesome. It is a subscription clothing box, for kids (think Stitch Fix but in kids clothes).
I haven’t tried a subscription box service for my own clothes because they are usually far too fancy and expensive for my taste (and my work-from-home-in-my-running-clothes lifestyle). I also don’t need new clothes all that often, so it just doesn’t seem economical for myself.
But my kids need new clothes all the time! They are constantly growing, tearing holes in the knees of their pants, or dripping mustard on their shirts.
My kids get super excited when their boxes arrive.
In the past, I’ve just picked up random clothes from Meijer or Target while I’m shopping for other things. The kids get whatever clothes they get and they survive just fine. However, now that they are getting older (8 and 5), they tend to want to have a little more say in the clothes they wear.
Since I hate shopping and I hate shopping with kids even more, this new having-an-opinion-about-what-you-wear thing is not my favorite. Until we found Rockets of Awesome.
We have now received three boxes for each of my kids from Rockets of Awesome (Fall, Winter, and Spring boxes) and we also ordered some extra items when they had a clearance sale last September. Our kids’ wardrobes are quickly filling up with the great clothes from Rockets of Awesome.
When you first sign up with Rockets of Awesome you will take a style quiz, be sure to take the style quiz with your kids present. This is important so they have a say in what they get!
The style quiz will ask for size details and then get into color preferences, clothing preferences (no sweaters or button down tops, for example), preferred patterns, style choices, whether your child likes words and phrases or neon colors, and a space for any additional notes you want to add.
Then you’ll create your account and schedule your first box. You can add other children and take a style quiz for each of them as well. Once you’re all setup they will get to work selecting 8 items for your box (most will coordinate with each other).
Thank Flamingo It’s Friday!
When your box is ready, you will get a preview of the box. You will then have 48 hours to check it over through the online portal. You’ll see pictures of the items, size information, and cost details. During this time you can swap out any items your child doesn’t like and replace them with something they would prefer from the online store. (This feature didn’t exist when we first started with Rockets of Awesome, but it is now one of my most favorite parts.)
After you’ve approved your box it will ship and arrive in a few days. You then have 5 days from the time you receive the box to go through it and decide what to keep and what to send back. Return shipping is free and you don’t have to keep anything. (There is a $20 service fee that is charged to send your box but that is credited toward anything you keep, which will likely be something since you get to preview the entire box before it’s sent.)
If you keep the entire box you only pay $150 for all items in the box. This feature has given me a savings of at least $30-65 per box. This is my absolute favorite part, it really helps with budgeting for these boxes.
If you decide to send some items back they include a return bag in your box to make return shipments a breeze. You’ll complete the checkout process online and then you’re good to go.
In about three months you’ll get an email alerting you that your next box is being prepared and you’ll get a chance to pause the boxes or preview your next box and start the whole process over again.
Each box will contain 8 items chosen just for your child based on their preferences and style. If you make returns they will update their style information to help them send better selections in the future. The boxes are set to arrive seasonally so you will always receive items for the upcoming season.
The prices of the items in the boxes range from about $16 to $38. And again, if you keep everything you just pay $150 total. We’ve kept everything from our last two shipments under this model and it has been awesome (when we started receiving boxes they didn’t have the keep everything for $150 deal).
The prices felt a little more than I usually would spend on my kids’ clothes when we first started getting the boxes, but the quality makes the prices so worth it. All of the clothes from Rockets of Awesome are incredibly comfortable. I wish they made adult clothes, they are so awesome.
Most of the t-shirts my son has received are made of “tech” fabric and several of the sweatshirts and sweatpants my kids have are the softest fabrics I’ve ever felt in my life. My son prefers sleeping in his clothes now instead of pajamas because his clothes are so comfortable. And the knees don’t wear out nearly as easily on the Rockets of Awesome pants as they do on the “cheaper” clothes I grab at the store.
The convenience of not having to go to the store to shop for my kids’ clothes. Mama ain’t got time to lug two kids around the stores to try things on and argue about what they like and don’t like.
I don’t have to think about it. The boxes arriving are my signal that the seasons are about to change, so I can go through their closets and sort out the stuff they’ve outgrown and replace it all with the new stuff from the box.
My kids love the clothes. They are fun and spunky, comfortable and stylish.
The prices are affordable.
The quality of the clothes is great.
Your kids will be psyched about getting a big box in the mail just for them.
They have fantastic and super friendly customer service. I emailed them about an item in our last box that was too big. I wanted to get the keep it all discount, but I just needed to swap the size. They quickly replied with instructions on how to make it work with our order.
Previously we’d grab an item or two when we were out and about and slowly build our kids’ wardrobes. Now, we get both boxes on the same day. Which means I have to shell out $300 at once. This was a bit of a shock to the budget at first, but now I’ve worked it in so I’m prepared each time the seasons roll around.
The clothes are all made by Rockets of Awesome and sometimes tend to be designed around the same theme. For example, I think my son has 2-3 shirts that say something related to “Zero to Awesome” in a different way and he has several items with lightning bolts on them. If you’re a brand loyal kind of person you might be used to this, but it just feels a bit repetitive to me. However, my son tells me that the “Zero to Awesome” shirts are all his favorite shirts, so this isn’t necessarily a big con for most people. (And since you can swap things out you can probably avoid this fairly easily.)
My kids are super scrawny. Fortunately, the majority of the bottoms we’ve received from Rockets of Awesome have adjustable (drawstring) waists, but the items that aren’t adjustable just don’t work for my kids since they are so tall and skinny. I now look closely at the previews to make sure that the bottoms being sent will be adjustable or I swap them out for something else.
My daughter loves sequin shirts that flip designs. Rockets of Awesome has sent her several that she loves!
Now that you’ve read my Rockets of Awesome review, if you’re tired of dragging your kids around to stores and arguing with them about what they can and can’t get, I’d encourage you to give Rockets of Awesome a try, just click this link to get started. Snuggle up with your kids to take the style quiz and get ready for some very excited kids when that big blue box shows up on your doorstep!
Note: This is NOT a sponsored post. All opinions are completely my own honest feelings about the Rockets of Awesome service. I did not receive any free or discounted items in exchange for this post. I just love the company and want to share them with everyone. The links used within this post are my affiliate links, you can read my full disclosure here.
You know that it would be beneficial to start a routine of creating a daily quiet time with God. Maybe you’ve even begun scheduling some extra time in your day to spend with God. But then you get to that time of day and you feel overwhelmed, intimidated, and you have no idea what you’re supposed to be doing.
A few weeks ago, I shared a post on how to establish a daily quiet time with God, figuring out when and where and what tools you might need. Today, I want to discuss the things you might want to do during your quiet time.
The goal is to make your quiet time an enjoyable part of your day that you look forward to and value. We want to get to a place where we feel like our quiet time is our few minutes in our day that we get to spend with one of our favorite friends. Our quiet time is the place where we will become refreshed, renewed, and encouraged to continue through whatever challenges we face throughout our day.
But if you’re not in a daily habit of making a quiet time with God a priority it can be a little nerve-wracking. Just like meeting someone new for the first time, you might be worried about what you’re going to say or do. What if you don’t get it right? What if it’s boring or you don’t like each other? Won’t it be awkward?
Every time we try something new there are bound to be awkward moments, but this post is designed to help you get started on the right foot with your quiet time with God. Use these guidelines to help you get started. But remember, there are no rules or legalistic expectations about your quiet time. God desires to build a relationship with you. Relationships aren’t built upon should and shouldn’t, can’t or can. Begin with these suggestions and then use your personality and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to make your quiet time work for you and your relationship with God.
Prayer is simply talking with God. If the goal of our quiet time is to build our relationship with God, then prayer must be one of the main activities.
Oftentimes, I think people struggle with prayer because we try to be super pious about it. We fold our hands, bow our heads and try to use just the right words to talk to that great big God up in the sky. I don’t mean to devalue the power of God, but our God is approachable, He is love, and He is kind, and He wants to actually talk to us as His children, not as simply servants and subjects.
We are allowed to approach our God with confidence, with truth, and honesty. I encourage you to pray honest, passionate prayers, to tell God anything and everything. To trust in His love and goodness and know that there is nothing you can say or do that will change His love for you.
Pray with your head bowed or pray with your eyes open while you pace your room. Pray on your knees or pray seated in a chair. You can pray lying prostrate on the floor or be standing with your hands raised to heaven. There isn’t a right or wrong, the point is simply to pray.
Prayer should also be all throughout your quiet time. Since the point is to build a relationship, you’ll likely want to pray in the beginning, pray during, and pray at the end. Just hold up a continual conversation with God all throughout your day, but especially during your quiet time.
Our God is incredible, powerful, and wonderful. His love is rich and mighty. And He deserves our daily praise and worship.
When we focus on God’s love and His attributes like kindness, goodness, and faithfulness we remind ourselves that we can trust Him, that we are safe with Him.
Spend some time each day in worship. This could be as simple as saying words of praise during your prayer, adoring and thanking God for who He is, or you may want to include music. Turn on some worship music and sing or maybe even sing acapella.
This can look different each day depending on your current circumstances and the time you have available for the day, but make sure that you spend at least some time worshipping your Savior.
Bible Reading and Study
This is probably one of the first things you think of when you consider a daily quiet time with God. And for some people, this can be the most intimidating part. The Bible is a really big book, and truthfully, there are a lot of confusing and odd pieces in the Bible. How are you supposed to make sense of it all? Where do you begin? How do you apply it to our modern life?
Reading the Bible
I think it is important to both read the Bible as well as study the Bible more in depth. When we read the Bible it can be similar to reading any other book. You take a passage and just read through it each day to learn the story, the overall concept, and see the big picture.
It is very valuable to read through the entire Bible once in a while to help us understand the full story and history of the gospel. There are so many stories and nuggets in the Bible that can teach us new things about God and the world He created.
When reading the Bible there are a number of ways you can move through it. Each time I set out to read the entire Bible I try to approach it in a different way. Here are a few options:
Historically. The idea with this approach is to read the books of the Old Testament in the way they were ordered in ancient Israel and the books of the New Testament in the order in which they were written. (An example of this plan can be found here.)
Spread out. There isn’t a great term for this, but many people like to read different parts of the Bible on different days or alternate the genres as they read through the individual books of the Bible. For this method you might read from one of the Gospels one day, then some of the Psalms the next day, then maybe some of the Law, then the Epistles, and so on. (There are tons of options here, but this is a plan that I love using this method.)
Studying the Bible
When we study the Bible we aim to take things a step further than just reading the passages. Here, we are looking to really go in depth to allow the Word to affect and change us. We are searching for meaning, application, and context.
When studying the Bible, you might just focus on one verse or small passage for days so that you can learn as much as possible about what is being said and allow it to impact your life.
There are several approaches when studying the Bible. You can do things yourself and pull out commentaries and other resources to help you dig into a specific passage or topic of the Bible. Or you can use a published Bible study to guide you in your learning and study. I don’t think either approach is right or wrong, but it can be helpful to try both at some point or another. Most people feel more comfortable with a pre-written Bible study at first and then as you study the Word more you might be interested in branching out and studying the Bible on your own.
Some great pre-written Bible studies that I’ve either done or hope to do soon include:
Meditation is not a new-world or secular concept. Meditation is Biblical and directed by God. There are several times in the Bible where God instructs His people to meditate on His Word and commands (Joshua 1:8), His love (Psalm 48:9), and His wonderful deeds (Psalm 119:27).
Meditation can also be the time in which we hear from God the most. We can choose a passage of scripture to think and meditate on, when we are still and silent in His presence, God can use that time to speak to us and reveal new insights.
Be sure to regularly find a time where you can just be still and focus on God. Allow Him to speak, to teach, and to lead you in the stillness and quiet.
Writing out our prayers, our thoughts, our struggles, and the things God is teaching us can have a powerful impact on our lives. It’s one thing to read and study the Bible, or even to talk to God, but writing things out allows your brain to process things in a different way. It helps you to better absorb what you are learning, to wrestle with the things you are struggling with, and to be open to the Holy Spirit speaking to you.
My hope is that this post helps you feel more confident and comfortable about beginning a daily quiet time with God. Again, there are no rules, these are just meant to be guidelines to remove some of the intimidation and overwhelm. Find some time in the next couple days where you can try out each of these suggestions and begin to make your quiet time with God a powerful and enjoyable part of your daily life.
When it comes to our health and wellness, there is no such thing as one size fits all. You will not find a diet and exercise program that will work for every person. If you’re trying to lose weight, there is not one specific diet or pill or wrap that you need to discover that will magically make the pounds melt away.
Every body is unique. What works for your best friend probably won’t work for you. The things your sister did to reach her fitness goals will not be the same things you’ll need to do. There might be similarities, things might work for a little while, but everyone is different and needs a slightly different approach.
And what worked for you in your 20’s is probably not what you need to do in your 30’s, and your 40’s will look different, and so on. Even your own body changes and adjusts, and so must your approach to health and wellness.
So if there is no one method, no tried and true guaranteed way to stay healthy what are we supposed to do? Do we just throw up our hands and give up? Of course not.
Instead, we must enter into a science experiment of one. We listen to our body and watch for the cues it gives. We try something and look at the results that happen. We test something new and keep track of what changes we see. If we like the results and changes, we stick with it. But always with the eye of an observer. Watching, listening, and paying attention to the signals from our body, noticing when we need to adjust, tweak, or test something new.
Is this a magical overnight results way to lose all our excess weight and get into the best shape of our lives?
But this is the method for developing a healthy lifestyle. This is the approach to take when we’re aiming for results that stick around.
Listen. Observe. Pay attention. Test. Tweak. Adjust. Try something new. Do what works. Stop what doesn’t.
Listen to your body.
For most of us, listening to our bodies is pretty foreign by the time we reach adulthood. This is why we can’t ever trust our bodies own hunger signals, we push ourselves to the point of injury when we workout, and we live in a constant state of low-level pain and discomfort but don’t even recognize it anymore because it’s just always there.
God has designed our bodies beautifully. We have hormones that control our hunger cues based on the types of food we eat and the amount of fat on our bodies. We have nerve endings all over our bodies so we can feel pain and discomfort. Our bodies show redness, irritation, and blemishes to signal when something’s not quite right.
Unfortunately, we tend to ignore all of these things until they simply stop working. We take pills to “heal” our symptoms instead of using our pain to guide us in determining an actual cause for the symptoms. We eat when we’re not hungry and throw our hormone levels completely off track. We accept discomfort, inflammation, and blemishes as the norm or part of getting older.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We can retrain our bodies and our minds to pay attention. We can learn to listen to the cues and signals our bodies are giving off so that we can fuel, nourish, and care for our bodies in just the way they need.
That is why I’ve created this printable food and wellness tracker. I don’t believe in counting calories or macros on a regular basis. I do not feel that weighing and measuring all of the food we eat is a sustainable or enjoyable way to live. I also don’t think we have to constantly track every morsel that we eat forever.
However, in order to learn to listen to our bodies, we’ve got to start paying attention to them. This printable tracker can help you do exactly that. It can be used for a week or even several months to help you get more in tune with your body and the signals it is giving off. You’ll be able to track what you do and how it makes you feel. You’ll begin to see patterns emerging to help you find what works, what doesn’t, and what you might need to investigate further.
I don’t recommend that you use this tracker forever. But when you are experiencing symptoms you need to investigate, start tracking for a period of time. If you’re trying to lose weight and feeling stuck, use a tracker until you start seeing the results you’d like. If you’re starting a new fitness program or changing the way you eat, track yourself for a few weeks to take note of your progress.
I’ve created the tracker as a one page per day PDF. Just print off a week or two’s worth of tracking sheets at a time. I print mine front and back to save on paper. Fold them up and carry them in your purse or tuck them in your planner or bullet journal.
How to use the food and wellness tracker
I created the food and wellness tracker to help you take note of the things that tend to have the biggest effect on your wellness. You’ll track your food, energy levels, sleep, water consumption, supplements, vitamins, medicines, and exercise.
You’ll also track how you feel at various times of the day. This is incredibly important and I’ll explain how to do this in a minute. The purpose of tracking how you feel is to find out how the things you do and the foods you eat are affecting your body and life. You can write out everything you eat every day until you die, but if you don’t take notice of how that food makes you feel, you are just wasting your time.
At the top of the page, you’ll take note of the date and the number of hours of sleep you got the night before. Pay attention to this number and how you feel the rest of the day. If you’ve always thought you work best on 6-7 hours of sleep but after tracking for a while realize that you actually have more energy with 8-9 hours of sleep, you’ll have some good data to help you make informed changes, if you desire.
Hopefully, we all know how important it is to drink lots of water throughout your day. I’ve included 16 cups of water so you can mark them off as you drink. The general recommendation is to drink half of your body weight in ounces of water each day. This is just a general recommendation and may not be what is best for you. I personally drink as many ounces of water as my weight in pounds each day (twice the general recommendation). So be sure to experiment and find out what works best for your body and lifestyle.
Also, there is no rule to say that each glass icon has to equal 8 ounces. I use a 20-ounce Yeti to drink my water, so I just mark off a glass every time I fill my Yeti. Mark these in whatever way works best for you, just try to stay consistent so you don’t have one glass counting as 8 ounces and another counting as 32 ounces.
All day “feels”
You’ll notice throughout the tracker that there are spaces for “feels”. You’ve got “wake up feels” and a space for feelings after each meal. This is the section where you track how you feel and what symptoms and cues your body is giving you. I know “feels” might sound silly, but these are actually the most important sections on the tracker. Without tracking how you actually feel, all the rest of your tracking is pretty pointless.
The things to keep track of in these sections are your mood, any digestive issues (or nonissues) you experience, as well as any other physical or physiological symptoms such as feeling “foggy”, body aches, headaches, joint aches, congestion, upset stomach, breakouts, and anything else you experience throughout the day.
As you begin this practice, I’d recommend taking a few seconds several times a day to just sit quietly and take notice of your body. Close your eyes and move through each part of your body. Notice any areas of tightness, discomfort, pain, heat, or anything else out of the ordinary. Consider your mood, your appetite, think about your thirst level. Jot down anything you notice in the designated box for that time of day.
This practice can help you develop a stronger awareness of your body and teaches you how to listen to the cues your body is giving. It will also help you discover patterns and find out how the choices you are making throughout your day are affecting how you feel later in the day (or in the days to come since some foods and activities have delayed effects).
Several times a day you want to take note of your energy level. You can log this however you want, on a scale of one through five, or with high, medium, and low. It doesn’t really matter how you log it, it’s just important that you do.
You can find out if that delicious latte from the corner coffee shop is actually giving you the afternoon energy boost that you tell yourself it is or if it’s really just giving you a short burst and a big sugar crash later (remember, what happens to one person doesn’t happen to everyone, so don’t assume, just take notice).
You’ll find boxes on the tracker where you will write out what you eat for each of your meals. If you’re really focused on losing weight or other body mass goals, you may want to keep track of how much you are eating. I wouldn’t get too caught up on measuring and counting calories on a regular basis, but it can be helpful for short periods of time if you need to retrain yourself on portion sizes or something similar.
However, for general use, just write down everything you eat. And I definitely mean everything. A handful of nuts here and a small soda there adds up, so write it all down. It can all be affecting you and you won’t know if you don’t keep track.
I have just one section for snacks. You can put all of your snacks and “extras” for the day in this one section. In the past, you may have been told that you need to eat every 2-3 hours to keep your metabolism up. For most people, this is not actually the case. It can actually be more detrimental to eat that often as it can mix up the hunger cues and hormone signals that your body is naturally designed to give.
This is why I don’t generally recommend snacks on a regular basis. But again, everyone is different, so feel free to test this yourself to find out what works best for your individual body.
You will notice special sections under the snack box to help you think through your snacking habits. Many people don’t snack for hunger, but rather out of boredom, habit, or for emotional reasons. These are not healthy reasons for eating. Food is fuel and nourishment, if your body doesn’t need fuel, you don’t need to be eating.
I’m not saying you can never eat food for entertainment or enjoyment, but if you regularly consume extra food because you are stressed, tired, or just passing by the kitchen, you’ll likely want to acknowledge and address this.
Before and after each meal, it is good to take note of your hunger level. I recommend using a scale of -5 to +5, but you can use whatever scale or notation you’d like.
The point here is to notice if you’re waiting too long to eat, if you’re eating enough at each meal, or if you are eating too much. As I’ve said several times before, your body was designed to signal you when you’re hungry and when you’re not. Most of us ignore these signals.
If you were raised in the era of “clean your plate” before you can leave the dinner table, you are likely in the habit of eating more than you necessarily need. And if you eat at the exact same times each and every day, you might be eating just because it’s lunchtime, but you might not actually be hungry.
Don’t just eat because there is food in front of you or because the clock says it’s time to eat. Eat because your body is telling you that it is getting low on fuel.
The negative five to positive five scale has a set point of 0. Zero is the point at which you are not hungry and not full. A negative number is on the hunger side, so -5 is when you’re feeling famished (possibly light-headed, maybe nauseous, but definitely uncomfortably hungry and probably hangry). Usually, you want to eat when you are around a -2 or -3. You’re definitely feeling hungry, but not uncomfortably so.
On the other side of the scale, a +5 number is when you are very uncomfortably stuffed, possibly how most people feel after eating Thanksgiving dinner. It’s generally good practice to eat until you’re about a +2 so you feel full and satisfied, but not stuffed.
It is also important to take note of any supplements, vitamins, and medicines you take throughout the day as these can have an impact on how you feel and your overall health as well. I’ve found it helpful to just list everything I take throughout the day in one area. However, depending on what you are taking and why, it might be helpful to jot down the times you take something as well. If you recognize that around 2:00 pm most afternoons you’re reaching for the bottle of Ibuprofen, you might want to look into that habit a little closer.
There are three components of exercise that you ideally want to include in any fitness plan: strength, cardio, and flexibility. You don’t need to work on each of these three areas every day, but you should try to do something in each of these areas at least a couple times a week.
This tracker isn’t meant to be a full-fledged fitness journal where you track all of the details of every workout. This section is primarily designed to help you make sure that you are doing something to work on your fitness in each of the three areas on a regular basis. Just make a quick note of what you did for each workout (upper body weights, one-mile run, yoga class, etc).
Fill in the information in the box below and I’ll send you a PDF download of the food and wellness tracker so you can get started right away. Use it for a week or so and then be sure to look them over so you can notice patterns and make adjustments based on the data that emerges. Then, track for a couple more weeks to see what works and what doesn’t.
You are your own test case, study and observe well.
One of the most beneficial things you can do for your faith and relationship with God is to establish a quiet time with God.
Some people might call this their devotions, doing their Bible study, going to their prayer closet, or any number of things. The point is simply to spend time focused on God, learning about Him, praying to Him, and listening for His voice, developing our relationship each and every day.
God desires to have a relationship with us. His purpose for us is to seek Him, to know Him, and to draw close to Him (Acts 17:27). The way to build any relationship is to spend quality time together and get to know more about each other. A relationship with God works the same way.
If you are not currently spending time with God on a daily basis, I encourage you to work toward developing this habit. It is truly one of the most life-transforming things you can do. Here are some tips on how to get started.
Everyone makes time for the things that are important to them. So instead of telling yourself that you don’t have time to spend with God each day, begin to make time with God a priority. Your relationship with your Savior is literally the most important thing in all of the world, don’t make excuses about being too busy.
Ideally, your time with God will be built into your daily routine. Some people do great with meeting with God first thing in the morning, while others prefer to end their day with Him. Other options include your lunch hour or just before you dive into your work. It really doesn’t matter when you meet with God, so find the time of day that works best for your life and your personality.
There is no rule for how much time you spend with God either, and this is likely to change during different seasons of your life, and even from day to day. There are some days when I can spend an hour or more reading and studying the scriptures and praying, while other days I only have a few minutes. The key is to make your quiet time a habit that you do each and every day.
If you’re just starting out, even five minutes is better than nothing. You can gradually work to increase the time. My quiet time usually lasts for about 30 minutes, but there are no hard and fast rules. That’s just the amount of time I put on my schedule, but if I have more time and feel I need to use it, I will.
The great thing about having an omnipresent God is that you can meet with Him anywhere. You don’t have to have a designated prayer closet or “warrior room”, though you can if you’d like.
When developing habits and routines it tends to be best to go to the same place each time. If you travel a lot or have an unusual schedule, feel free to do what works for your unique situation.
However, if you have a fairly consistent routine, find a regular place to have your quiet times. This can be your bed, your dining room table, a special chair in your living room, your office, or even your car. Again, the location doesn’t really matter, but being consistent will help your brain learn to focus and recognize what to expect when you go to that specific place.
What You Need
One of the benefits of having a specific location each day is that you can have all of your “supplies” nearby and waiting for you.
The things that you will use for your quiet time will vary depending on your own personality and lifestyle. However, you will definitely want to have a Bible (or access to it online or through an app on your phone/device). I also recommend that you keep a journal or notebook handy, as well as pens and highlighters.
You may want to have a specific devotional or Bible study book that you are working on to guide you. If you want to dig a little deeper or research your questions, you might also want to have access to a concordance, commentary or online Bible study websites to help you investigate and discover things.
Here are my favorite free online Bible study resources:
YouVersion has both an online website as well as an app with nearly every version of the Bible you might want. They also have tons of reading and study plans you can use during your quiet time. I highly recommend downloading their app if you haven’t already. I tend to use this often if I’m traveling or just need to spend some time in the Word while I’m out and about.
Bible Gateway is an excellent website with various tools to help you research and study the scriptures. I most like to use their topical search so I can find verses related to specific topics that I’m either struggling with or want to grow in.
BibleHub has a ton of resources for additional study and research. You can access concordances, commentaries, atlases, and more.
Most of the time I would guess that you look forward to date night with your spouse or a special family night with your kids. You enjoy spending time with them. The same should be true for your time with God. It should be an enjoyable experience and a time of day that you look forward to.
If you find that you are avoiding your time with God because you don’t enjoy it, try something new. There aren’t any rules here, so if something’s not working, change it. Maybe you do something more artistic, maybe you turn on some worship music and sing your heart out, or maybe you find a Bible study to help you understand things better.
Also, remember that God wants to spend time with you, but there is no guilt or condemnation if you miss a day or two here and there. You want to build the habit and routine to spend time with God regularly, but it’s also not the end of the world if your routine gets a little wonky once in a while. Do not spend one second feeling guilty or ashamed.
Avoid Distractions and Interruptions
I wake up really early in the morning and try to have my quiet time first thing. I love how the house is quiet and peaceful so I can really focus and enjoy my alone time, just me and God. But I have a five-year-old who also likes to wake up really early, so things aren’t always perfectly peaceful.
You can’t avoid every distraction or interruption in your day, but there are things we can do to minimize them. Turn off alerts on your phone or leave it in another room. Make sure you are away from the TV and the activity of others as much as possible. You want a quiet place where you can be alone to focus.
And if you have a little one who likes to join you, don’t be upset or discouraged. It is good for our kids to see us spending time with God. It sets a great example for them. However, I usually snuggle with my little guy for a few minutes and then set him up in front of the TV in another room so I can get back to my quiet time by myself. I feel no shame in letting him have some cartoon time so that I can have some God time.
Today’s Action Step To Establish a Quiet Time with God
If you don’t have a regular quiet time with God, look at your schedule right now and find a time of day when you can begin to work it in. As I mentioned above, maybe you only start with five minutes and grow from there. The point is to start. Find the time you want to do it and then make it happen.
Next week I’ll be sharing more on what to actually do during your quiet time, but for now, just open your Bible and start reading and open your mouth and start talking with God. I’ve also created a Bible reading plan you can print out and use to guide your reading to get you started. Just fill in the box below to grab your copy.
Let’s pretend for a moment. You have been tasked with doing something new at work. You’ve never done this activity before and it’s not necessarily in your normal skill set. You take a deep breath, put on a brave face and get to work. And then, you fail. Your first attempt is awful and does not turn out like it is supposed to at all.
What is your internal dialogue at this point?
Are you saying, “I’m such a failure. I shouldn’t have even tried. I am a loser. Why did my boss think I could do this?”?
Or, would you be thinking things like, “Wow, that was harder than I thought. I’m going to have to put in a lot more work next time. What can I learn from this attempt? How can I improve?”?
Many of us automatically think the former. We chastise ourselves for our failures and use our mistakes to form our identity. We think that when it comes to skills and talents, you either have it or you don’t. And we can definitely point out all the areas in life in which we do not have it. This is known as the fixed mindset.
But in order to grow into the best version of ourselves possible, we actually need to take on the stance of the latter response. Mistakes and failures don’t actually define us, they teach us. And when it comes to skills and talents, there is always room to grow and become better. You don’t have to have it at first, you can work hard and get it.
A growth mindset allows us to recognize that brains and talent can only take us so far, what’s more important is hard work and dedication. Someone who has a growth mindset recognizes failure as a chance to learn and thrives on working hard to improve their skills in the areas that matter to them.
If you look carefully at most successful people in the world you can begin to recognize how their growth mindset allowed them to use their God-given talents to do incredible things. Many people are familiar with the fact that Michael Jordan didn’t make the cut for his high school basketball team. He just wasn’t good enough. But through incredible hard work and perseverance, he was able to become one of the best basketball players of all time. Michael Jordan is a prime example of someone who operates with a growth mindset.
In her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck explains the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset and then describes how to develop a growth mindset. The reality is that our culture has led most of us to have much more of a fixed mindset than a growth mindset, but you can change your mindset by changing the things you think and believe. Here are several ideas that can help you to develop a growth mindset.
1. Change what you think you know.
The first step to changing your mindset is to simply buy into the reality that you can change, grow, and develop. Initially, you might be thinking, “of course I can grow and develop,” but think about how many times you’ve nodded your head when you heard the phrase, “people never change.” Or consider how you think about someone with a low IQ score. Did you know that intelligence isn’t fixed? Your intelligence can actually grow and improve (or even the opposite) throughout your lifetime.
If you find it hard to believe that change is possible, that you can improve, that you can become more talented than you currently are in any area of life, then I challenge you to learn more about the growth mindset. Read the book and allow yourself to develop new beliefs about growth, change, learning, and success.
2. Get comfortable with failure.
Failure = learning.
Mistakes lead to a chance to grow. If you never take a risk you will never improve. The way to success is paved with mistakes, failures, and opportunities to learn. If you want to be the best you can be, you’ll have to push yourself past the point of your confidence.
3. Develop a love of learning and curiosity.
We’ve all heard, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” This is true, repetition is hugely important when we are working to figure out something new. But we also must remember that “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results” is also the definition of insanity.
In order to improve you can’t just try and try and force success, you have to learn. You have to get curious and ask questions. and you’ll need to try new tactics and ways of learning.
Your brain is like a muscle, the more you use it the stronger it gets. And just like the muscles in your body, if you keep lifting the same weights in the same ways your progress will stagnate. Don’t be afraid to mix things up and try something new.
4. Become self-aware.
When working to develop a growth mindset it’s important to really get to know yourself better. Initially, you want to become more aware of the thoughts you are thinking. This will help you identify times when you are thinking in the fixed mindset to help you change your thoughts to a growth mindset.
You also want to notice the areas in which you do have initial skills, gifts, and interests. There are many really tall guys out there that have a gift and some skill at playing basketball, but if they don’t have an interest and a passion for it then they will struggle to become great. No one wants to study, learn, and strive for something they aren’t interested in. So get to know yourself, what do you love, what are you initially good at, and how can you pursue those things to improve.
5. Pursue difficult and challenging things.
If you never try anything hard you won’t improve. If you never get better at anything it will reinforce your fixed mindset beliefs. Think of something that excites you, something you are passionate about, but also a little afraid of. What is something that you know you aren’t good at, but you wish you were good at it?
Set a goal to do something challenging in an area that you love. It doesn’t have to be a crazy goal, just choose a goal that is a little outside of your comfort zone. A goal that makes you feel a little anxiety about whether you can accomplish it or not.
6. Do things you love.
If you love something you are more likely to put your whole heart and soul into it, and when you do, your skills and abilities will grow.
7. Develop grit.
I’m not talking about dirt and gravel, I’m talking about the psychological definition of grit which is a “perseverance and passion for long-term goals”. Grit is the ability to keep going and keep a positive attitude even when things aren’t going as planned, are harder than imagined, and success does not appear to be coming soon.
Grit and a fixed mindset go hand-in-hand. Angela Duckworth is a researcher who has spent a lot of time studying grit, she has written a book about it that you can check out as well. Essentially, you can be smart, talented, curious, and raised in an incredibly wonderful home, but if you don’t know how to work hard, persevere through struggles and failure, and stay committed to your long-term goals you aren’t going to be successful.
8. Give up your need for perfection.
Perfectionism as a need to be perfect to avoid judgment or failure is completely characteristic of the fixed mindset. A perfectionist’s goal is to look and feel accomplished at all times, to never make mistakes, and always be perfect. In order to keep this up, most perfectionists will stay stuck. They’ll play it safe and only pursue things that they know they are guaranteed to succeed at. But if you know you are guaranteed to succeed at something, you never have to learn, grow, or improve.
Someone with the growth mindset doesn’t believe in this type of perfectionism. A growth mindset oriented person may believe in setting high standards for themselves, but they don’t achieve those high standards through perfection, but rather through hard work, perseverance, and never giving up. They recognize that they can attempt something that isn’t initially perfect. They aren’t worried about judgment and they don’t fear failure.
9. Celebrate hard work and actions, not character traits.
Have you ever told your kid, “Wow, you’re so smart!” or “You are so talented!”? I think most of us have, these types of things just roll right off the tongue, but they’re actually not helpful. They reinforce the fixed mindset.
When someone hears, “Wow, you are so smart” it sounds like a compliment, but when you internalize that compliment, “smart” becomes a part of your identity and “smart” is expected to naturally flow from you now and forever. Which means that the next time you do something you may expect your “smartness” to do all the work. When we emphasize and celebrate a character trait or the end result we missing a crucial opportunity to encourage growth.
What’s better is to celebrate the effort, not the end result. Celebrate times you worked hard, kept a good attitude, improved, or came up with a creative solution. When talking with your kids, instead of praising their smarts, say things like, “Wow, that was really hard. I can tell you put in a lot of effort to get that done. Great job!” The internal message here is that the hard work and effort are what it takes to be successful, not smarts or talent.
This is important because many people with a fixed mindset believe that needing to put in a lot of effort means they are inadequate. They believe that if you have to work hard at something then you are a failure or not good enough. This couldn’t be further from the truth, but it is a lie that so many people believe. Everything important in life requires a huge amount of effort, but if you think effort is a bad thing, you are at a huge disadvantage.
10. Don’t look for approval.
In the fixed mindset, judgment plays a large role. We are either constantly judging ourselves or looking to others for judgment and approval. We constantly seek praise and thrive on people telling us how amazing we are. We pursue things that lead to more praise and avoid things in which we know we won’t be receiving the praise and admiration we crave.
If we’re constantly thriving on approval ratings it can be crushing when we don’t measure up. People with a fixed mindset will often point to other people and other things as the problem when they don’t succeed. “I was sick.” “The judge was unfair.” “He didn’t give me enough time.”
People with a growth mindset aren’t striving for the approval of others, they are striving to learn and improve. Instead of pointing the finger at others when they fail they get curious and look for opportunities to grow and become better for next time.
Today’s Action Step to Develop a Growth Mindset
Spend some time doing some self-reflection. Mindsets are on a scale. You may not be all fixed mindset or all growth mindset oriented, you’re likely somewhere in the middle. And you might have a fixed mindset in one area of your life, but a growth mindset in another area of your life.
Identify the areas and the times in which you reflect a fixed mindset. Write out some of the thoughts and beliefs you have about your successes and failures. For every thought that reflects a fixed mindset, write out an alternative growth mindset oriented thought. Practice saying and thinking these new thoughts to give your brain a chance to develop new neural pathways for that thought.
Then look through these other ideas and come up with a few things you want to work on to help you develop more of a growth mindset. Slowly begin to implement new goals and challenges to reinforce your growth mindset beliefs.
Today is my 1,000th day of running every single day. It is now a fully established habit and expectation in my life that I run at least one mile every day. There is no question, no excuse, no way to avoid it. I just do it.
I recently read the book Mindset by Carol Dweck. The book is all about the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. A growth mindset will lead you down the path to success while a fixed mindset will keep you stuck.
“Growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts, your strategies, and help from others.” What this means is that success is not simply a measure of luck, genetics, or giftedness, but hard work and focused effort.
If you want to be the best version of yourself that you can be, you will have to push yourself outside of your comfort zone to do hard things. That’s why I run every day. It actually has only a tiny bit to do with my health, my weight, or my physical fitness now. My run streak instead, has everything to do with pursuing hard things to experience my personal best, in all areas of life.
If you want to be successful, grow in life, and become your best, you’ll have to work your hardest, pursue discomfort, and get well-acquainted with failure. Here are some other tips I’ve discovered during my streak about how to tackle hard things and blow your own mind:
1. Choose a Goal You Care About.
The book Mindset shared a lot of stories of various professional athletes. Dweck mentions an athlete who had great skills and talent and parents who pushed him to pursue his sport because he was so good at it. The problem was, he didn’t actually like the sport! He never reached his full potential because no matter how skilled he was, you can’t force passion.
So shut out the crowd of people telling you what you should do with your life and pay attention to what you want to do. What burns in your heart? What excites you? What wakes you up in the morning? What fuels and energizes you? Pursue those things and leave the rest for someone else.
It kills me how many times I hear people complaining about how much they hate running, and yet they try to force themselves to run all the time. And they’re miserable about it. You don’t have to run to be in good shape or lose weight, in fact, there are better ways to do both of those things. If you don’t like running, don’t run. But if you do like running and you’re maybe just not very good at it, then by all means, run more, you’ll improve and you might just start enjoying it more (worked for me!).
2. Develop a Good Reason.
If I was running for weight loss (or weight maintenance), which tends to be what most people assume, I would have felt defeated and given up a long time ago. Not that I’ve gained a ton of weight on my streak, but I also haven’t lost much. My body size was never my reason for running every day.
It started out that I was tired of signing up for half marathons and then struggling to finish them because I was so inconsistent in my training. I wanted to actually figure out how to run on a regular basis. And now I have mastered the consistency habit I was hoping for. Last year I ran half a dozen half marathon or longer races and none of them were miserable. I enjoyed every single one and still had energy left over after each of them to take care of my kids and live the other parts of my life.
The “Why” you have for pursuing hard things is one of the most important things you need to figure out in order to keep yourself going. If you’re struggling to keep yourself motivated take some time to figure out why you decided to do this thing in the first place.
3. Commit and Decide Ahead of Time.
Never make important decisions in the heat of the moment. Always decide ahead of time. I chose to start a run streak. At first, I was only committed to 41 days. My goal continues to grow the longer I run. But I decided on my goal before I ever got started. Which means that the decision to run each day or not, is not a question I ever have to ask myself. I run every day, that’s just what I do.
Don’t let your emotions and excuses derail the things you want to accomplish in life. You will not feel like doing hard things at some point, but if you’ve decided and committed to yourself in advance, you can push past your excuses and just do it.
4. Accept Imperfection as a Learning Experience.
If you want to be successful in life you will not be perfect. Perfection means you aren’t pushing yourself, you aren’t growing, you aren’t doing hard things. You were made for bigger things, not perfect things.
The entire point of mistakes and failures is to teach us and help us grow. Babies don’t give up on learning to walk just because they fall down. They always get back up. And it is in the getting back up that their muscles are used in such a way that they are able to develop the strength they need to successfully walk. If babies didn’t push themselves back up after falling they would never develop the muscle strength required to actually walk.
If you don’t pick yourself up after a failure or mistake you will never develop the strength and knowledge you need to actually reach the success you are seeking.
5. Take It One Step at a Time.
If you would have told me on day one that I would be doing this 1,000 days later I would not have started. That sounded miserable, stupid, and ridiculous to me at the time. But I wasn’t focused on day 1,000, I was focused on day one, and then day two.
And when I’m sick, I don’t even focus on the whole day, I just focus on the very next step in front of me. Left foot, right foot, left foot. One at a time, just keep moving forward.
If you’re facing a mountain, focus on the next right step.
6. Stop Giving Up.
Sure, there are some things that are worth giving up in life. We learn something new and realize that we are better off taking a different path.
But what about those things you really want in life? What about that dream you have that just won’t let go? What about that desire burning inside of you no matter how much you try to ignore it?
You’ve tried before and failed. You couldn’t figure it out. You weren’t successful. It was too hard.
But what if you just didn’t give up? They say insanity is doing the same thing in the same way and expecting different results. This is true. But what if you tried the same thing in a different way. And just kept trying different ways until you found the one way that actually worked for you. Everything is figure-out-able. Stop giving up.
7. Don’t Make Excuses, Find Creative Solutions.
There will always be good reasons for you to delay, hold back, give up, or change course. I’ve been sick many times over the past 1,000 days, but I still went out for a run. We had nearly two feet of snow on the ground last week, but I still went out for a run.
When faced with a reason to go off course instead of giving up, figure out what you can do to keep going.
8. Don’t Go Alone.
I have a friend who started a run streak with me on day one. We’ve only been able to run together a handful of times, usually at races, but I always know she’s running each day as well. I have a large number of people who have started (and many still continue) their own running streaks over the last 1,000 days. Knowing I’m not the only person crazy enough to do this is encouraging. And knowing that my friends across town are fighting this snowstorm too, helps me keep pressing on.
Find someone to support you, cheer you on, and maybe even go with you. Pursuing hard things can sometimes feel isolating. You feel like the odd one, the crazy one, no one else is working so hard. But there are others out there doing hard things too. Find your people (or inspire some people to join you if you can’t find any).
9. Push Yourself to Learn and Try New Things.
If I ran the same route day in and day out for the past 1,000 days I’d be bored out of my mind, so I’m constantly changing up my route. Sure, I have some favorites that I do most often, but if I’m in a rut or feeling bored, there are miles to run in every direction. Some directions have more hills, some have prettier views, and some routes I enjoy just because they are fun. I also tend to change up my pace when I’m looking for more of a challenge or to beat the monotony.
You will hit a point in every difficult journey where things start to become easier or monotonous or boring. Instead of just trudging along in misery, do something to change things up and help yourself grow.
10. Speak Positively to Yourself.
Listen to the thoughts and words you say to yourself, about yourself. You have to be your biggest supporter and your best cheerleader. Yes, you see your deepest flaws and imperfections. You know all your secrets. And you still get to love yourself and count yourself worthy in spite of it all, because you are worthy and wonderful and valuable.
Speak only things that edify, encourage, and build up, not just toward others, but more importantly toward yourself. If you can’t love yourself you can’t ever fully love someone else.
11. Just Show Up and Do the Work.
I know, I’ve said a lot of words in this blog post so far. And I think each of these pieces is important. But the mindset of a champion can all be boiled down to someone who shows up and gets it done, no matter what.
There is no easy button. There is no fast track or shortcut. Achieving great things requires great effort. “Personal success is when you work your hardest to become your best” (Carol Dweck).
Growth can only happen in the pursuit of hard things. And success is only reached when you put in the work.
Last week, I shared many of the reasons why you should start a journal. Today, I want to share more of the in’s and out’s of how to start a journal. What it looks like to journal. What types of journals you could have and the various formats.
Journaling is a very individual thing. No two people necessarily “journal” in the same way. There is no right or wrong here, and many people journal in a variety of formats. I personally have a number of different places and things that I keep track of in a journal format.
The key to journaling is simply to do it. Try different formats, different types of journals, and see what works for you. The goal, as I mentioned in last week’s post, is to improve your life by allowing your thoughts a chance to teach and grow you as a person. Journaling allows you to pay attention and notice things better.
Tools for Journaling
You don’t need anything fancy to journal. You simply need a way to write out your words and thoughts. However, there are a lot of ways and places you can write these days.
Notebook and Pen
The most popular way to journal is to simply grab a notebook and a pen and just start writing. You can use any notebook, it’s all about personal preference here (and maybe a little bit about budget).
I love using a Leichtturm 1917 journal for my bullet journal and I have used one for regular journaling as well. They are a bit on the pricey side though, so usually I grab something a little cheaper for my daily journal writing. I have a lot of words (if you haven’t noticed), so I can’t afford to buy a new Leichtturm every other week.
Amazon has a ton of inspirational journals to choose from and you can also find them in stores like Target and Barnes and Noble. These journals usually have a pretty cover usually with a verse or a quote on the cover and sometimes on each page. This is usually what I tend to use for my own journaling. They are pretty, functional, and affordable.
Or, if that’s still too fancy for you, just grab a simple spiral notebook or legal pad like you used to use in high school for your class notes.
Keep in mind, if you just like words (like me), you’ll be fine with a simple lined notebook for your writing. However, if you’re more of an artsy person you might want to consider a journal with large margins or blank pages to give you space to doodle. Doodling and drawing can be incredibly valuable when journaling as well.
Computer and/or Apps
There is something special about writing things out with a pen to paper. Studies have shown that it is more beneficial to hand write things we want to learn or really focus on (which is the point of journaling). However, there are a number of reasons that people might want to journal digitally. Here are a few of the reasons:
If I’m journaling about something particularly private and close to my heart I have been known to type it out. You can password protect files on your computer or type them directly into Google drive or another online document management system that is kept behind the safety of your private password.
Sometimes, when my brain is overwhelmed and running a hundred miles a minute it is helpful to do a brain dump. I can write out all of my thoughts, all of the things I need to do, all of my worries, and anything else that’s floating around up there. But sometimes I write too slow or I can get a hand cramp after a while. If I know I have a lot to say and just want to get it all out so I can look things over and sort, process, or analyze, typing is often incredibly valuable.
Let’s be real, these days we always have our phone/devices in our hands or our purse, but you might not always have a pen and paper (that crumpled receipt on the bottom of your purse isn’t exactly conducive to journaling). If you’re sitting in your doctor’s office waiting room or the school carpool line and you just need to get some things off your chest, you can type out your thoughts on your phone in a pinch.
There are a number of apps available for journaling. I haven’t used any of them as that seems far too fancy for me. If I’m going to journal digitally I just go to my notes app on my phone or start a fresh Google Doc. But if that sounds like something up your alley, be sure to do a search for journaling apps and see what looks good.
As I said before, there are many ways that you can journal. I personally start my day by writing at least three things I’m thankful for in the gratitude pages of my bullet journal. As I go through my day, if I hear a quote or a thought that really inspires me, I also have a section in my bullet journal for “What I’m learning”. As I’m reading my Bible in the morning I write out the scriptures I’m reading and any observations and applications I want to consider. I also sometimes write out full prayers, especially if I’m particularly overwhelmed and want to pour out my heart to God and listen for His response. (Writing out your thoughts as you’re praying can help you notice when God speaks to you.) And finally, when I’m stressed out or need to sort out my thoughts or feelings during the day I will free write whatever is on my mind.
There are so many ways that you can journal and many people are like me and tend to use a variety of these formats. Here are some journaling formats that you might want to experiment with to see what works best for you and your life situation:
Today’s Action Step
Grab some paper or hop on your computer and try out one of the journaling formats above. Do some experimenting to see what you love and what works best for you.
Throughout my lifetime I have journaled on and off and in many formats. When I was younger I had several “diaries” where I wrote out the events of each day as well as all my hopes and dreams. There was a time in middle school where my friends and I would write each other long letters, like 50-60 pages long. I don’t even remember what all we talked about in our long letters, but it was largely rambling about anything and everything. In many ways, our letters were a form of journaling that we just so happened to then give to someone else.
If I’m going through a particularly difficult season of life, journaling is always one of the first things I do. I’ll journal out my prayers. I’ll write about my worries and fears. Sometimes my journals just look like a bulleted list of thoughts, other times I’ll write whole stories. I’ll ask myself questions and try to answer them. I’ll write out Bible verses that speak to me in my current circumstances. For years I have kept a daily gratitude journal in which I write out at least 3 things I’m thankful for every single morning. I also keep a monthly log of things that I’m learning (which I used to share in my monthly wrap up posts).
Journaling takes on many forms and looks different depending on the person and their current season of life and circumstances. Keeping a diary or writing in a journal is actually an ancient tradition that successful people have kept for centuries. Journals can help you keep track of events and circumstances as well as help you work through problems and issues.
I recently read A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis, which is basically his journal writings after his wife died. In the book, he talks about death and love and grief. He openly struggles with his faith and questions how a good God can allow such terrible experiences. It was so helpful to read his experiences and thoughts right in the midst of his deepest grief. It allowed me to recognize that my thoughts and questions and struggles are a completely normal part of grief. (You can read more about my thoughts on the book in my Instagram post about it. If you are going through a season of grief, I’d highly recommend the book).
But the book also reminded me of the power of journaling in our daily lives and encouraged me to do more of it on a daily basis. There are so many benefits of keeping a journal. Today I want to share some of them with you in the hopes of encouraging you to give it a try.
Recording Your Personal Story and History
This is probably one of the most obvious benefits of journaling and possibly the one that is least convincing for some people, but stick with me. When you journal about your life circumstances and situations you are recording what you are feeling, things you are dealing with, and possibly the lessons you are learning. This allows you the opportunity to go back to your journals at a later time to remind yourself of how far you have come.
One of my friends keeps a prayer journal. On one side she writes out her prayers and the date and leaves the other half of the page open for later. When God answers the prayer she fills in the open side with details on how the prayer was answered and the date it was answered. When she’s going through a particularly dark season of life she is able to thumb through the pages of her prayer journal to remind herself of all the times that God has answered her prayers and provided for her in the past. This allows her the chance rest in the knowledge that God was faithful and good to her in the past and He will be faithful and good to her now as well.
Have you ever had a day (or a week) where nothing seems to go right? Everything is a mess and you are so overwhelmed you have no idea where to begin to try to make things better. Journaling is incredibly valuable in times like these.
When you feel overwhelmed, either by your life circumstances or if you are overwhelmed by upsetting emotions (anger, fear, frustration, etc), pull out your journal and just start writing. Write out anything and everything that comes to mind. Write your thoughts. Write your feelings. Write the stories and circumstances. Just get it all on paper.
Even if you do nothing but write it all out, this simple practice will usually help you to calm down and feel less out of control. Sometimes we just need to vent and to get it all out of our heads and off of our chests. It feels less overwhelming and controlling when we can put words to the swirling chaos inside.
Getting our thoughts and stories and feelings out of our head and onto paper isn’t just a good stress reliever, it also helps us see our circumstances in black and white (or whatever ink color you choose to use). When we journal, we are engaging our left-brain, the rational, thinking, and analytical side of things. But we are also freeing up our right brain to get involved as well. And our right brain is all about creativity and intuition. By using both sides of our brain we can see our problems in a different light and begin to come up with creative solutions to our biggest concerns.
Oftentimes in life, we get so busy doing things and reacting to our circumstances that we lose touch with how we feel, what we desire, or what we’re even trying to accomplish. When we spend some time journal we are able to get back in touch with what we’re thinking, how we’re feeling, and who we are. We can begin to remind ourselves of what we like, what we don’t, and the things we’d like to do.
When you journal and relieve your stress, work through your issues, solve your problems, and create plans for what you want to do with your life your mental health improves. And when your mental health improves, your physical health does too. You sleep better, you have more energy to take care of yourself. Your body isn’t operating under high stress levels so you’re less likely to develop or experience chronic injuries and illnesses.
Improve Your Relationships
Have you ever had a disagreement with someone that you stewed about for days? You constantly cycled through the same arguments and frustrations in your mind and just got more and more upset. Writing out your frustrations helps to calm you down (as we’ve seen in the previous paragraphs). When you aren’t quite so angry and upset you can examine the disagreement in a new light and you might just begin to see a peak of the other person’s perspective to help you come to a resolution.
Understand Yourself Better
When you repeatedly take the time to write out your thoughts and feelings you will begin to recognize some repeating patterns. If you notice that the thoughts you are thinking about yourself are constantly derogatory and negative you can begin to see why you might regularly be feeling down and depressed. Or, on the flip side, you might begin to recognize the types of experiences and activities that actually make you feel confident and happy. As you pay more attention to yourself and truly understand yourself better you can begin to make changes in your life that will allow you to bring the best version of yourself to your everyday life. And that my friends, is the entire point of this blog.
Today’s Action Step
So, now that you know why you should start a journal, I challenge you to grab a pen and some paper and just write. Write whatever comes to mind. It will take some getting used to and it might feel awkward and uncomfortable first, but the more you practice the better you will become and the greater impact it will have for you.
Next week I will share more of the in’s and out’s of how to journal. I’ll share different journaling types and formats to give you more ideas to play around and find what works best for you. Journaling is entirely personal, so what is best for one person will be different for another. There is no “right” way to journal. So give it a try this week and be sure to come back next week for some new ideas.
My kids started taking swimming lessons at our local YMCA at the beginning of the year. The first week of lessons we arrived really early to find the parking lot packed full of cars. It was cold and snowy and 8:00 am on a Saturday morning. This was our first trip to the YMCA so we assumed there must be a lot of dedicated members who come here to workout!
And then, when we arrived for lessons the next week things became a little more clear. It is not that the YMCA has an abnormal amount of dedicated Saturday morning, winter gym-goers. What was actually happening was just what you find at all gyms in early January.
So many people start the New Year with goals and resolutions and intentions to start working out, to manage their weight, and to finally overcome their health challenges. And as we all know, all of these good intentions and lovely resolutions only last a couple weeks, at most a couple months.
For a variety of reasons, it can be really hard to keep up with our good intentions and workout consistently in the wintertime. Life happens, cold weather sucks, and it’s so much easier just to snuggle up in bed with Netflix or a book or just a little extra sleep. But, while rest is important, humans are not designed to hibernate all winter. The healthiest thing we can do for ourselves is to keep on moving and exercising all year round. Here are four tips to help you stay motivated to workout during the winter.
1. Have a Good Reason.
Let me get on my little soapbox here. If you’ve been a reader for a while you might already know what I’m about to say.
Weight loss is a terrible motivator and not a wise goal to use in order to convince yourself to go to the gym. Think about it, when you point out all your flaws and remind yourself of how far you have to go, how does that make you feel? Frustrated, depressed, self-loathing, unmotivated, annoyed, anxious, and more.
Your weight, your BMI, the number of inches on any part of your body, and your clothing size are all terrible indicators of health. And when we focus only on improving ourselves in those areas we miss out on so many positive ways that our body can tell us we are moving toward health.
When we define our health solely by the number on a scale it can begin to define our worth, our value, our self-esteem, and our identity. You are not your weight. You are not only as valuable as the number on your pants says. You are you, fully and completely you. And the number one step to being healthy is to love yourself, just as you are.
Yes, you can desire to improve and work to make yourself better, but you improve yourself because you love yourself and want the best for yourself, not because you hate yourself and are ashamed of all your shortcomings. See the difference?
If weight or inches lost is your goal, you are destined to fail. Because you’ll have an incredible week of workouts. You’ll feel amazing and alive and energetic, you’ll sleep better, be stronger and happier, and then you step on the scale and low and behold, you’ve gained 1.5 pounds. Suddenly all of your happy thoughts desert you and you get angry, frustrated, confused, and go find a pint of ice cream. Am I right?
So stop worrying and focusing on your weight and instead focus on being the healthiest, best version of yourself that you can become. I promise you, your weight will change and you won’t feel so stressed about.
What is a good reason to workout then? Here are a few good reasons you might want to try:
to feel happier
to combat depression or anxiety
to gain energy
to sleep better
to get stronger
to build confidence
to strengthen immunity
to improve your moods
to get more flexible
to accomplish a goal (like run a 5k or lift a certain number of pounds or do a certain number of pushups)
to develop new relationships (workout buddy)
2. Do Something Enjoyable.
Last year I read a book called Thinner Leaner Stronger. It was all about lifting heavy weights for women. I was really excited about it and how strong I was going to get. I made some big goals for the progress I wanted to make and then got to work.
Less than three weeks into January I broke my toe trying to do a pull-up. Yes, a pull-up. I realize that most people don’t use their toes to do a pull-up so this doesn’t make much sense, but alas, this is what happened.
I also quickly realized that lifting heavy was not really enjoyable to me. I really had to focus on my form to avoid injury. I was strong enough that I could lift heavy, but one wrong move could be incredibly dangerous. I asked my husband to spot me and be my “weight coach” because he loves weightlifting and knows what he’s doing.
But he’s very much a push you hard and make you cry kind of coach which is the worst thing in the world for me. He never actually made me cry, except when I broke my toe and he laughed at me, but he was a little too much and made me hate our sessions together.
What I soon realized is that heavy weightlifting is not for me. At least not for this season of life. It took me a while to admit that and be okay with it.
I also know that CrossFit is not for me, group fitness classes with fast-paced dancing are not for me, Spartan style races with crazy obstacle courses are not for me, and team sports are not for me.
Instead, I stick with things I enjoy, like running. I don’t want to just run, so I’ve been working to find other activities that are just as enjoyable to me. I love yoga. I love bodyweight exercises for strength training (pushups and lunges). I somewhat enjoy slower paces group fitness classes like Pilates and Barre. I like bike riding and swimming, though maybe not competitively. I love walking and hiking outside in beautiful places.
So what do you enjoy? If you have no clue then start experimenting. Try everything, give it all a fair shot and see what feels good to you. We stick with things we enjoy. And you are absolutely allowed to and supposed to enjoy your workouts. So if you hate it, find something else to do.
3. Be Flexible So You Don’t Have Excuses.
The kids are sick so I can’t go to the gym.
There’s too much snow outside so I can’t go for my run.
It’s too dark when I get home so I can’t take the dog for a walk.
I can’t afford the classes at the gym, so I guess I’ll have to wait until next payday.
All of these are ridiculous excuses people give for not working out. But do you know what you need to workout? You, yourself, and your own body. That is it. You don’t need money, you don’t need lovely weather, you don’t need daylight, you don’t need a gym membership, you don’t need fancy equipment. You just have to move the body you carry around with you all day long.
Isn’t it about time you grew some big girl panties and stopped making excuses all the time? If you want to workout, you just have to workout.
If you truly can’t get to the gym for your scheduled class or workout, then find something to do at home. If you have to work late and will miss your chance to exercise before the kids get home from daycare, let the kids join you in a living room exercise session.
There is always something you can do, so figure it out and get it done.
4. Do It Anyways.
“If I could just get motivated”.
“If only I could be as motivated as her.”
“I’ll be more motivated when…”
We’re always talking about finding or getting motivation. But the reality is that motivation will only come from action.
Did you catch that? There is not some magical well of motivation you’re ever going to find. It’s not about reading the right book or chanting the best motivational quote. You find your motivation by doing.
Put on your shoes and step out the door. Put one foot in front of the other and I’m gonna betcha you’ll start to feel a little more motivated the more you go.
The more you exercise, the better you feel, the better you feel, the more you want to exercise.
So really, all it takes to get motivated to workout during the winter is simply to get your butt up and start moving.
Today’s Action Step
Go workout! Let’s not make this complicated. Decide what you want to do and try it (the resources below might help you find something to do).
Aaptiv – this is an app you can download on your phone. You can get a 30-day trial membership to try it out. They have hundreds of audio workouts. Workouts for running outside, treadmill, elliptical, cycling, rowing, stairclimber, strength training, stretching, weight loss, abs, yoga, walking, and more. The trainers will keep you motivated and help you to keep pushing yourself during your workouts as they guide you through the moves. I really love Aaptiv and have lots of friends who use it too.
FitnessBlender.com – this website has tons of free video workouts you can do from the comfort of your own home.
Sworkit – I’ve used the Sworkit app for years when I only have a few minutes to get a workout in. They offer a variety of exercise programs and workouts with visual aids (to help you with form and positions). I love that I can set it for 5 minutes of lower body strength and it will walk me through a random 5 minute lower body strength session that always pushes me to try harder.
Last week I talked about my love of freezer cooking with Once a Month Meals. It is so convenient to have a freezer full of meals that just need to be tossed in the oven or the Instant Pot and are ready to be served. All of the meals I made on my most recent freezer cooking day are Whole30 compliant.
What is Whole30?
If you don’t know what Whole30 means, let me fill you in a bit. With Whole30 you eat no grains, no dairy, no sugar (real or fake), no legumes, no alcohol, and no seed oils. Essentially you fill your plate with meat, seafood and eggs; plenty of healthy fats; lots of vegetables; and a small dose of fruits. You even have to make most of your own condiments!
I recently read the book It Starts with Food, which is the science and explanation behind the Whole30 program. I highly recommend that everyone read this book so that you can understand how your body works, how your food affects your body, and how to make the best choices regarding your food. However, I don’t necessarily believe that everyone needs to do a Whole30.
The Whole30 program is supposed to give your body a 30 day “reset” to help you overcome any bad habits and emotional ties with your food and give your body a chance to recover and heal from the damage that foods have caused. After the 30 days, you slowly reintroduce the “forbidden foods” back into your body to discover what, if any insensitivities you might have to certain foods. This knowledge would then allow you to make informed decisions about your food moving forward. For example, if you know for certain that every time you eat sugar your face breaks out, you can decide for yourself whether that cupcake is truly worth it or not. No shame or guilt, just informed decision making.
I do believe this process can be extremely beneficial for many people. I know that many people struggle with emotional eating and overindulging, especially on foods that provide supranormal amounts of sugar, carbs, and flavors that are not found in nature and that cannot be handled well by our bodies. There are also many who are dealing with major health challenges like skin issues, digestive ailments, seasonal allergies, or chronic pain. The Whole30 reset was specifically created just for these types of circumstances.
Should Everyone Do a Whole30?
I am not, at this time, interested in doing a Whole30 reset for myself. I don’t personally have major habits and emotional challenges with food, I actually don’t like to eat many sweets, and I’m not currently struggling with any major health issues that I feel would benefit from the reset and testing phase of the Whole30.
However, I do intend to implement more of a Whole30 style of eating into our family lifestyle. I definitely believe that overall it is a very healthy way to eat. The point of the Whole30 is to give your body a reset and then a chance to discover what, if any, foods your body might be sensitive to. After that, you move forward with the knowledge of what works and what doesn’t for your body, and your new healthy eating habits. There aren’t major rules and restrictions after the initial 30 day reset, just guidelines and knowledge to help you make informed decisions about how best to fuel your body with the food you eat. This is the way I believe people should always eat.
There is a lot of misinformation out there regarding what is actually nutritious and not. There are a lot of fad diets and programs that put unrealistic (and often unhealthy) restrictions on your eating. And there is a multi-billion dollar supplement industry that is making a killing off of quick fixes and promises that either don’t work, don’t provide long-term results, are unnecessary, or lead to even worse habits, hangups, and overall health. I don’t believe any of this is necessary or required for good health or for reaching a desired body composition.
What Does Healthy Eating Look Like?
What is required? Fueling your body on a regular basis with the most nutritious, real foods possible. Not overconsuming foods that cause a supranormal hormonal and digestive response in your body (all the “foods” that have been created in labs to taste really delicious and be so addictive that you can’t stop until you’ve eaten the entire package). Staying away from foods that cause problems and sensitivities for you personally. And moving your body once in a while. It’s all important, but it really does start with food. You can’t out-exercise a poor diet.
So while I can see the benefit of a 30 day reset like the Whole30 recommends, I don’t believe it’s a required step for everyone to live a healthy life. It is extremely restrictive and difficult, which is not a terrible thing, there are harder things in life. However, I’m not a fan of taking extreme dietary measures just because it’s the popular thing to do. If you can find a healthy food freedom without following a strict Whole30, then that is the entire point.
One of my favorite concepts in the Whole30 is their suggestion of how to fill your plate at mealtimes. It is so simple and easy to follow. You put a palm-size serving of meat on your plate, then fill the rest of your plate with vegetables. Also, make sure that all of the food is prepared or served with a good amount of healthy fats. That’s it.
Aiming to eat most of your meals like this is an incredibly healthy way to live and an easy format to follow. What I don’t like about the Whole30 method is all of the rules and restrictions. They can be really helpful for those who need to find out their food sensitivities and heal their bodies, but if you’re just trying to eat healthier or lose weight, rules and restrictions tend to cause more harm than good.
Find a Balanced Way to be Healthy, Not a Diet
If you give me a list of things I can’t have and I’m constantly stressing out to make sure I don’t even have a drop of a “forbidden” food lest I have to start my 30 days all over again, that makes me feel deprived, anxious, and scared about messing it all up. This is far too close to a diet mentality, even if they call it a “30 day reset”.
My favored approach to health and wellness is to focus on the good. I make sure that I fill my plate with lots of vegetables, healthy fats, and good quality meat on a regular basis. If I’m craving something sweet, I’ll grab a bowl of strawberries. However, if I’m at a birthday party at my friend’s house and she serves cupcakes, I don’t have to stress and worry. My health is not determined by a single cupcake, but by the choices I make on a regular basis.
This is called living a sustainable, balanced healthy lifestyle. Develop good habits that allow you to regularly consume the nutritious fuel your body needs. However, if you are in a situation where you want to celebrate, indulge, and enjoy something that isn’t as nutritious you can decide to make an informed decision, completely guilt and stress-free.
Recipe Ideas for Healthy Family Dinners
I do intend to share more about how this balanced healthy lifestyle works on a daily basis in future posts. Today though, I want to share with you the “Whole30 compliant” meals that I created on my latest freezer cooking day. We have tried several of these recipes already and they have been quite good.
If you are used to eating a Standard American Diet or following outdated nutrition recommendations (like the food pyramid) it can be a little intimidating and overwhelming to imagine how to create meals that don’t involve multiple servings of grains and minimal amounts of fats. These recipes have been very helpful for me to spark my creativity in creating healthier meal plans for my family. I hope they can provide you with some fresh new ideas and possibly take away some of the overwhelm if you are trying to move toward a healthier lifestyle yourself.
Buffalo Chicken Spaghetti Squash Casserole – just like it sounds, shredded chicken combined with spaghetti squash and flavored with buffalo wing sauce and ranch dressing. Similar to a chicken spaghetti casserole, but with a buffalo sauce flavor.
Instant Pot Cherry Balsamic Beef Short Ribs – for some reason we were expecting a BBQ ribs style meal here, even though cherry and balsamic do not sound very BBQ-y. So if you try this one, take the traditional ribs idea out of your mind. This ended up being very similar to steak and the flavor really was delicious. I served this with some roasted white and sweet potatoes and used the sauce to drizzle over the potatoes too. Yum!
Instant Pot Granny’s Italian Beef – this one also just makes the meat for your meal, so you’ll want to add some roasted veggies or something to go along with this one. Also, the cooking time in the Instant Pot wasn’t nearly long enough. You’ll need to cook at high pressure for about 55 minutes and do a natural release.
Instant Pot Juicy Roast Chicken – I can’t wait to cook this one next week. I plan to roast some carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower to go with this chicken. The chicken itself is marinated and cooked in a lemony-dijon mustard sauce with lots of fresh herbs. I’m going to guess it will taste amazing!
Paleo Pizza Casserole – when I made this I assumed it was just going to be a paleo spaghetti (uses spaghetti squash instead of spaghetti noodles). However, the spices that you add help to make it more pizza-y.