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Fighting Forgetfulness

Image from Prevention

Forgetfulness. If you’re anything like me, this one thirteen letter word causes an overwhelming tide of problems crashing into your everyday life: frantic calls, lost items, rushing around like a chicken with their head cut off. Plagued by a ditzy, wandering mind, that relentless forgetfulness that keeps surfacing has left me feeling frazzled and unprepared many times throughout my life. 

It’s beyond frustrating to be an intelligent young woman with a strong mind, and yet still have to rely on others because I can’t trust my own brain to remember the simplest of things!

 Though I’m still young and supposed to be “carefree,” I lead a busy life just like any adult. Even a brief lapse in memory leaves me spiraling into worry (and embarrassment!), cursing my own mind to no end. So I’ve come up with a few simple ways to be less forgetful and, as a result, be more prepared for life! 

Sticky Notes will be your savior!

Sticky. Notes. I can’t emphasize them enough, and though I’m not sponsored, I can easily rave that Post-its have been a lifesaver many a time. Using these colorful papers to your advantage is beyond easy since… well, they can go anywhere! You might not always remember to check your phone or scan over the calendar on the fridge, but a sticky note can go anywhere, like a traveling reminder stuck in the most convenient places to make it impossible to forget.


Being a rather forgetful person with an incredibly visual learning type, if I don’t write it down, I’ll never remember. The most common excuse my brain conjures up is “I thought I would remember!” But my biggest advice to anyone with tendencies to forget things would be to never trust your memory alone!


Write anything that you think you may not remember (or even things you think you will remember) on a sticky note and stick it in a spot that you absolutely will see throughout the day or before an event or class you have. This little reminder will jump start the synapses (or connections) in your brain so that you can go back to firing on all cylinders and toss out the worries!

One of the best places to put sticky note reminders are directly on the screen of your phone, since most of us check our phones more often than we’d like to admit.

Use Todoist!

Todoist is a productivity app by nature and an organizational tool for all. Recently I found this app on the App Store on my phone and it has skyrocketed my productivity and reduced the number of frazzled moments by half. You can use it to log tasks, map out your schedule for months and months, categorize and organize your life all on one app!

Why not just use a traditional notes list? Simply put, keep doing that! But sometimes carrying around a piece of paper is less convenient and portable than having your phone. Checking off a Todoist task gives almost the same burst of satisfaction and dopamine as dragging a pen across paper to cross out a completed task. One of my favorite parts of Todoist are the milestones of Todoist Karma that mark when you’ve completed a certain number of tasks. 

The notifications that Todoist displays in the corner of the app are an excellent reminder for any event or thing that you want to get done. Most of the time, the day flies by and I spend time relaxing, having completely forgotten about the things I so desperately wanted to do the night before. But if I write it down on Todoist, my memory will never fail and I can get everything done that I want to without the burden of cramming it into my thoughts. The world is rapidly becoming digitized… so why not let your memory and organization change with it?  

Calendar: set alerts!

“Wait, what do I have going on today?”

“Ugh, I’ll never remember that date.”’

“Uh, I’m not sure what I have for that day… can we schedule later?”

“Oh, crap! That’s today?” 

If you’ve said any of these more than once, or on a daily basis, there’s a simple solution that seems obvious. Most of the adults I’ve seen live by their digital calendars, and rightly so! Being less forgetful and more punctual is made easier with the calendar app on your phone, computer, or other device. 

Recording any planned events and setting reminder alerts at least fifteen minutes before can make life a lot easier for busy adults and busy people as a whole… even the people with the best memory can always use a push to recall certain things. Inputting everything into your calendar as soon as you receive news is essential to avoiding schedule conflicts and laying out how much time you will have on a daily basis.

Staying grounded in the moment– a tricky task

This is one of my worst downfalls in my life as a whole: I find it incredibly hard to be completely present in the moment, the here and now. I’m not a worrier by nature, chewing my nails with anxiety, or a fuzzy-brained ditz with my head in the clouds wandering carefree off in my own personal space. I’m somewhere in between with an adventurous soul and jumpy mind, hands that urge to be moving and brain chugging ahead with a million thoughts. 

Meditation is not always a perfect fit for everyone, especially those that simply feel unproductive and fretful when just sitting in stillness. But for some people the simple practice of sitting and breathing can be a centering, relaxing tool that you can use to strengthen your brain and memory as a result. 

But sometimes a direct meditation isn’t the best option for people trying to become less forgetful, rather, taking a less strict approach can be beneficial. When you go outside, taking a moment to watch the sunlight stream through the leaves, painting the grass in gold. Looking at the bright blue sky and watching the clouds chart their endless course across the sky like voyaging ships. Gazing into the vast blackness, pin pricked with glowing stars shining their light from hundreds of thousands of miles away. A present moment like this acts (though less strongly than traditional meditation) as a way to clear your head.

A clear mind can make a world of difference in the amount of information you retain, synapses firing speed, and your memory as a whole, even if the effects are temporary. 

Forgetfulness can be frustrating to no end. I know it better than most. But utilizing these four methods can truly make a difference, whether it be scrawling a note on a Post-it or taking a moment to ground yourself in the details of your surroundings. A faulty memory can drag you down into frazzled emotions and worried spirals… but it doesn’t have to.  

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Sharing Our Stories: Language, Communication, and Why Words Matter

Recently, I entered into a contest with the topic of “Why Words Matter” hosted by my city’s Cultural Awareness Society. I won in my age group with this short essay I wrote with the topic in mind. Enjoy!

**********************

Could you imagine even a day of utter, all-encompassing silence? As a child, the silent game was always a frustrating activity — straining to express opinions, basic needs, ideas; but the frantic hand gestures and facial expressions always seem to fall short in comparison to words. 

Words. Inexplicably powerful, yet impalpable to humans except by ear and on paper. Communication changes lives all over the world, alters the course of history, drives human development into new ideas and technologies that would be unfathomable to someone from an earlier century.  

Exactly one hundred years ago, the motion to give women the right to vote passed on June 4th, 1919. It is a thread we can follow all throughout American history and world history as a whole: Women’s Suffrage, Civil Rights protests, Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat, the Emancipation Proclamation, The United States Constitution, and The Declaration of Independence even before that. Hard to imagine that in the 1800s women could not vote or voice an opinion when you are basking in the present day, isn’t it? Two hundred years ago it would be an utter shock to any American woman that I could express an opinion so boldly — not to mention on a computer (which would be unimaginably complex at the time) where I can communicate with an audience all over the world at the press of a button. 

You can see the never ending cycle: our progress is driven by communication, and communication is sped up exponentially by human progress. Tracing back every single event involving people (whether they be good or bad), it all comes back to language in one way or another. Our shared ability to communicate and express ourselves is what links generation to generation and weaves a tapestry of diversity and development. 

That is what makes the power of words so truly incalculable. One single author can paint the fiery crimson-golds of a sunset sky across the minds of millions, one eloquent speech can plant a seed in the hearts of humans all across the world… one single word can change a life forever, and perhaps even history itself. Almost every single event in the course of human history stems from our ability to communicate through speech or written words. After all, we have come a long way from our caveman ancestors!

So why not keep the trend going? Write a new chapter in the history books, make your move to change the world. Great ideas have brought us everything we have ever known, all the new technologies and ideals that would never have seemed possible in the past. But ideas are nothing if you can’t — or won’t — act on them. The way to do that is through words. A book. A letter. A protest. A speech. Even a simply-written, passionate pamphlet like “Common Sense” by Thomas Paine inspired countless patriots in the Revolutionary Era to fight for a cause that was widely considered absurd at the time (a cause which we now perceive as a basic birthright: freedom).

I’m not going to say changing the world is an easy task, because if it was, everyone would do it. But we all have the tools to evoke change in the world, and they come in the form of words and language. If you believe in a cause, there is no excuse to remain stagnant and helpless when you can speak out and share your view with like-minded people or (perhaps even more powerful yet) sway others to change their perspective!

No matter what others may say or what limitations you may place upon yourself, you have the power to influence the world. There’s no need to think outside the box if you’re searching for a way to inspire the masses… every single person has that power hidden right inside a box. Your voice box. So let’s write a new chapter in the history books together, one word at a time.

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Envy- Why we feel it, how to get rid of it

“There’s always going to be someone better.” If you are anything like me, you’ve heard this before. And it breaks your heart every time. I’ve been there! I hate those words more than anything. Why? Because I want to be the best at something. Anything. A simple desire, yet one that causes a lot of pain for me and many others, a lot of tearful breakdowns and a feeling of hopelessness that festers, building up and bursting like a raging inferno. 

You look at other people, doing the things you love, but better. Envy swells in you. In your mind, it doesn’t matter how much work they had to put in to get there, how much time and commitment. The only thing that matters is that they are there, and you aren’t. 

Hopeless. Unmotivated. Furious. Maybe you’ve felt it before, or are feeling it now, that dark voice that whispers, “Why try if there’s always someone better?” and the yearning for a legacy, the insatiable desire to be the best, to make your mark on the world. You want what the other person has so much that you lose sight of what you have. It’s easy to do. So how can we expel that hopelessness and turn it into something great? How can you be the best you if there truly is always someone better? 

Envy. It grows like a weed, and like a weed, it can take over and start to kill off flowers, or the good things in life. To beat envy, you need to find its roots and tear them out. Let’s find out how.

You are different- Stop Comparison!

Comparison is the thief of joy.”

-Theodore Roosevelt

You have hobbies, loves, interests. There will never, ever be another person exactly like you. And yet, that seems to get lost in seas of envy, comparison, anger. 

I’ve met people, had friends that seem like they are better in every way.

I had a great friend in elementary school who had the same interests. We played the same sport, had similar hobbies… it seems great, but for me? That was a double edged sword. Sure, we had fun, of course, but I always found myself comparing me to her. I worked hard in gymnastics, writing, and yet she was just… better. At the time it was easy to be jealous because she simply seemed like a better version of me. Prettier. More athletic, more trophies, won the award I had worked so hard to get. 

There will always be people like that- some worked hard to get to the place they are, but others seem to naturally be better. It can be infuriating when you try your best and someone else breezes past you without hardly any effort. 

Judging your skills and self-worth against someone else’s comes naturally. It’s called the Social Comparison Theory, says Psychology Today. It states that humans compare themselves to others- usually someone with similar characteristics as their own (like age or gender)- simply because it is biologically ingrained in us as a way to judge how you stack up in development and other areas (Social Comparison Theory- Psychology Today.)

But ultimately, though comparing is a natural thing, it causes stress, anxiety and self-loathing. Studies have shown that people who frequently compared themselves to others were more depressed and had less self-confidence than those who didn’t. Try to be a better person instead of trying to be better than someone else.

Monitor your “diet”

No, not your food diet! What you read, watch, listen to, and look at. Nowadays, there are millions upon millions of opportunities for jealousy. As technology advances, envy grows stronger, feeding off its new platforms like a smug demon puppeteering our society. With social media being as it is, jealousy runs rampant in the streams of people posting their highlights. 

Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, all showing pictures of people having amazing times. Countless beauty magazines portraying women decked out in the finest clothes without a blemish on their skin and men with six-pack abs and bulging muscles. Celebrities sharing their wealth on Instagram, TV shows boasting billion-dollar mansions decorated to the max with gold filigree and gorgeous sprawling gardens that rival the Palace of Versailles. All of it cultivates a breeding ground for envy like never before. 

Poisoning our society with pressure to be like other people, to change yourself and who you are- it’s a real problem that only gets worse with the passing years. Unrealistic beauty expectations can cause body dysmorphia, anorexia, bulimia, unhealthy habits. Overwhelming envy of a celebrity (or even just a friend!) can cause depression and forms of anxiety. Envy goes deeper than momentary frustration. For many all across the world, it can be detrimental to their mental health and overall happiness.

To help eliminate any jealousy you may feel, you have to monitor your “diet.” Cut out anything that makes you feel like a lesser person, anything that gives you unhealthy desires. Skip the beauty magazine, don’t record the millionaire reality shows. Unfollow a celebrity on social media, stop scrolling through a successful friend’s pictures. Truly think about how things make you feel, if the simple things you do every day might be taking a toll in the long run. Make what you listen to, watch, and read things that have a positive impact on you and your self-confidence. It’s okay to want something you don’t have occasionally, but jealousy can be cured- and I guarantee you will be better off.

Think about what they aren’t showing you

Image from CNN

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

-Socrates

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. Social media can be toxic! It warps our perception of people’s lives like a fun-house mirror, a bright facade slapped onto a dingy gray building. In the age of internet and social media, envy and jealousy is made easier than ever. You look at a post of a person on vacation, lounging on the beach with friends under a shining sun, and jealousy takes over. But you have to remember- you only see what they want you to see. 

Nobody takes pictures of their darkest days, crying on the couch surrounded by used-up tissues. Nobody shows the world how it stormed almost everyday on their tropical vacation, how they returned to the normal world in a week with a hundred chores and an overflowing inbox. It may seem like they have it all, but there are always hidden struggles behind the endless stream of smiling faces and beautiful photos.

The same thing applies to real life as well. You can never know what people have been/are going through. Festering envy can easily be cured if you imagine what they aren’t showing you, take the person who seems perfect and think about their dark days, how they have obstacles and fears and struggles just like you and everyone else. 

Better at a sport? More attractive? Good grades? It can be hard to fight back the yearning to be like someone else, but they may have had to work hard for their reward. You will always be happier and more content in your own body, doing your own work, no matter how it may not seem like it. By putting yourself in their shoes, you will find that you like your own much better. 

Sources used:

  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/social-comparison-theory
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The Simple 5-Step Plan: Get Better At Anything!

Source: Entrepreneur

With any new (or old) hobby or passion, the desire for growth is always there. But growth and achievement seem virtually impossible when you don’t know where to start. Without a plan? Not only can you not imagine the challenges you need to face, but they will be tougher to manage once they do inevitably arise.

Who am I to say? Well, I’ll use an example. In 5th grade I joined the band and started playing the french horn (one of the toughest instruments which I thought looked easy… boy was I wrong). I wasn’t some child prodigy like you see on Youtube or in movies that’s been playing instruments since they could barely walk. I didn’t even know how to read music! So, of course, when it came time to test to earn our music books, I was second to last in a crowded class. It took me over a week to learn a simple 5-note scale that almost everyone else had mastered in my class.

Despite the challenge, I stuck with it. By the end of 5th grade, the band teacher referred to me as his “star french horn player,” and in 6th grade there was no doubt in my mind that I would continue to take band. Now, in 7th, I can hardly believe how tough it was to get out a single note as I play complex pieces and effortlessly play songs I once thought impossible. I went from “Hot Cross Buns” seeming incredibly difficult to “Champagne Song” by Mozart being very manageable. And I’m still growing, applying those same principles to swim, track, and writing!

So how can you mimic that same kind of growth, even from humble beginnings? Here are 5 simple steps that will get you on track to being better at your hobby or passion. Get better at anything.

1. Evaluate: Are you genuinely passionate about this? What is your reason?

Before you get really invested in anything, make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. Are you genuinely passionate about it, doing it to impress someone, or just for something to put on your resume? Maybe you want something to boast about to your peers or to make someone you like notice you. That’s when you stop.

You can try to justify, but if you know that you don’t really like it, I wouldn’t follow the rest of the plan. Of course, exploration of new hobbies is great but there’s no reason to keep chasing something you don’t truly enjoy. If you are wanting to grow and get better for the right reasons, because you are either genuinely interested or it gives you happiness, procede! By defining your reasons, you are already so much better off. If possible, write the reasons down. For example, I swim for exercise, competition, because I love the water, and to hang out with friends.

⅕ of the way there!

2. Define a goal: major or minor! Now branch off of it.

From Economic Times

Arguably one of the most important steps: setting a goal. People always say to set small goals first, but I don’t think that has to be the case every time. Something that works just as well is envisioning one big goal and then having smaller, interval goals within it.

Either way, you need a picture of success. This is absolutely essential to motivation. It could actually be your reason, like mentioned in the first one. Perhaps your hobby is baking and your reason/goal is to be able to bake and decorate a cake. Every time that you make a mess in the kitchen or absolutely fail (which you inevitably will at some point), your goal will give you the motivation to never give up.

Image from fitbodyweightloss.com

To do this, some people make vision boards or simply write them down. Rather you decide to make a vision board or not, I heavily suggest putting them on paper so that you can physically be reminded and motivated each day.

For example, my goal for swim is to be able to do a 50 freestyle in 32 seconds, which at the start would have seemed impossible but now seems in-reach.

Setting a minor, achievable goal will help you along and ensure that you are making progress each time you set down to practice or work on the hobby you pursue.

3. Make a practice schedule!

So now that you’ve got a goal: let’s face it. That doesn’t mean anything until you have a plan. In any hobby or passion: a sport, instrument, writing, learning, cooking, art, whatever it may be, it’s going to be necessary that you practice. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Any kind of growth will take work and practice. Even the simplest of plans will take time, but you have to make time for it!

Let’s admit it: we’ve all procrastinated. It’s easy to do, but scheduling out your day makes procrastinating a thing of the past. Using bullet journals can help you with this, in my article: https://lifeandlemons.net/2019/02/03/how-bullet-journaling-could-organize-your-life-with-examples/Calendars can be great to start, and eventually your hobby will be like a second-nature where you barely have to think about it. In fact, I believe that making the practice a habit is the most important thing for growth. If you’d like, read about exactly how to do this and I can guarantee you will become so much better in my article about forming new habits and breaking bad ones (link is here): https://lifeandlemons.net/2019/04/27/5-easy-tips-to-form-good-habits-and-break-bad-ones/

4. Interval Practicing

Picture from TED Talks

When you practice, if you want to do so for a sustained time, you need to do what’s right for you. Only go for as long as you can focus. If you feel yourself slipping, losing motivation/concentration, take a five minute break.

You can get a water or snack, go on a quick walk, or just get a breath of fresh air. Whatever it is that you choose, don’t work yourself until you are exhausted and unmotivated (unless in the case of a sport, where being exhausted is normal and part of practice).

A scientific method that many productivity gurus swear by is the Pomodoro technique. Invented by Francesco Cirillo, it is a strategy that is traditionally 25 minute work periods followed by short breaks. You keep going until you have made progress or have reached a satisfactory level. Depending on how small your goals are, you may actually want to keep practicing and taking short breaks until you achieve one.

Motivation is everything! Don’t lose it over one exhausting practice!

5. Never Give Up!

Never give up on your dreams. The wait can seem painful, but the regret of not going for it will be even more painful.”

-Steven Aitchison

It seems like with every passion of mine, I start out the lowest of the low. French horn? I couldn’t play a note without sputtering hopelessly. Swim? When they said freestyle, I thought it meant to do whatever you wanted. I doggy paddled for the first day, struggling to swim a single length when my whole life I had thought I was a decent swimmer. Though sometimes you have to step aside to explore other things, like how I put a pause on swim to do track, you will always return to it if it’s something you love.

Nothing worth getting comes easy. If you follow the first three steps and continue to practice, over and over and over for as long as it takes, you will improve. You can and you will reach that goal, climb that mountain. It just takes work. Practice. Effort. Repetition.

The most important thing is that you never give up. If you do that? There’s nothing you can’t do.

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5 easy tips to form good habits and break bad ones

Ugh. I really should exercise today… You think, throwing off the sheets and looking down at yourself self-consciously. It had been days since you’d gotten actual, true physical activity, more than walking back and forth from the fridge to the couch and hopping in the car to drive to work or school, where you spend even more time sitting. Today would be the perfect day to get in a little exercise. Glancing over at the clock, you shrug lazily, feigning a sigh though the only person you had to fool was yourself.

It’s already too late. If I would’ve done it, it would have been earlier in the morning. I have stuff to do… you think, fully aware that the so-called “stuff” was laying on the couch, watching Netflix with a handful of cheesy Doritos that coat your hands in orange dust. You simply can’t bring yourself to do anything because somewhere deep down, your brain says, “Why do something you don’t need to? It’s a waste of energy.”

The clock mocks you as you settle in, unconsciously unlocking your phone without a single thought. Clicking on the red and black Netflix icon, the time whirs by in a blur. At the end of the day, as you lie down to sleep, the things you didn’t do torment you, and they attack your brain ruthlessly until you fall into a restless slumber.

But nevertheless, you wake up the next day and do it all over again. Why? Habit. Breaking these habits can be hard, and forming good ones is, debatably, even harder. But I’m here to help you with five easy tips for integrating new habits into your life and destroying the old ones.

1. Start on Monday

Source from 123rf.com

I know, I know. Not the advice you want to hear, necessarily. Mondays are most people’s least favorite day of the week, for obvious reasons. It brings on the end of a fun weekend and welcomes the start of another long week of work or school. Though it may be the worst day for many of us, we also have to look on the bright side.

Mondays, as painful as they may be, are the perfect habit-breaking and habit-forming day. Why? Because they are a fresh start, quite like a mini-version of New Year’s. If you choose to form a new habit like a diet, exercise, or perhaps daily writing or journaling, try starting on Monday. Since it is the beginning of a new week, you will feel psychologically compelled to continue the habit each day for the rest of the week because you, “already did it once, so why not keep it going?”

Or, in the case of breaking a bad one like smoking or alcohol use, not smoking a cigarette or drinking on Monday sets a healthy tone for the rest of the week, making you less likely to give up during the following days.

2. Make a schedule

From mss.mpsd.ca

Though it may seem simple, many habits are formed in our downtime, where we have nothing specific to do. To break bad habits, or form good ones, first try to recognize the times that are problematic- where you are lazy, doing nothing, just generally a bad time for you.

For me, once I get home from school on the bus or once I get back from track, I tend to overeat instead of having a small snack like I should. Most people have trouble in the mornings, where they could spend hours on their phone or lying in bed, dreading the day ahead. Once you’ve identified these specific periods of time where bad habits form, or where good habits should be taking the place of unstructured time, make a schedule!

It’s simplicity is what makes the schedule so wonderful. You simply write down each span of time and what you will be doing in that time, adding in times for things like exercise or language learning, and scheduling out times you would use to smoke, drink, or do other things considered to be a habit to break.

People with schedules are more likely to stay organized and get everything done that they want/need to. Sometimes all you need to inspire change in your life is a simple, handwritten schedule.

3. Do it the same time, same place every day

Studies say that repetition of doing something the same place and time every day can be the key to forming new habits. Somethings are just so ingrained in your brain that you feel like you are on autopilot, a robot mindlessly going through the motions.

Say, brushing your teeth. Do you have to think about how you hold the toothbrush? The motion of the bristles, sliding back and forth? Chances are, you don’t. Why? Because you’ve (hopefully) brushed your teeth the exact same time: the instant you wake up and again, right before bed. It’s just habit, through repetition in the same location.

We can use this same concept to attack the difficult task of forming new habits. If you would like to form a new habit, start on a Monday. Schedule it out, picking a specific time frame in which you want to do this activity. Then, pick a location in your home. After the first few days (or weeks, depending upon the person), you will begin to naturally perform this, building it into a healthy thing you do without cue.

4. Recognize triggers/cues

Image source: Marla.Cummins

Pictured above is a classic example of what we call a “habit loop.” This is basically the cycle that can form habits. The cue (also known as the trigger) causes you to do the activity. Routine is the actual action, and the reward is the pleasure you get from doing it. Usually, the reward comes from the brain in the form of dopamine releases.

For example, cigarettes. Your cue can be being in a certain place or at a certain time of day (which is most common).The routine is simply going through the motions, mindlessly lighting it and smoking without any real thought. The reward comes in the form of dopamine, a happiness inducing chemical, being set off in your brain when the nicotine from the cigarette attaches to the nicotine receptors. This pleasurable, dopamine-induced sensation causes an addiction, and it makes smoking a bad habit that becomes incredibly hard to shake.

So, to break a bad habit, whether it is as serious as smoking or as minuscule as biting your nails, it is important to recognize your trigger so that you can effectively put an end to the habit loop.

Perhaps you chew your nails when you are bored in class or at work. That’s the cue. Now that you’ve recognized that, you can put a new routine in place of the old one. Next time that you are bored, recognize the trigger and instead of chewing your nails, do something else like tapping on the desk three times. This can eliminate the old, harmful habit simply by recognizing the cue and replacing the routine, eventually this habit will produce a reward much like the one you got from the bad habit.

As for forming new ones, you can create a new cue for yourself. Perhaps you have a clock that chimes every hour. After you wake up, you can get used to starting your exercise when the clock chimes in the morning. Eventually, you will fall into this habit and it will require almost no thought at all.

5. Habit trackers

Image from Kelly Creates

Habit trackers don’t need much explanation- it’s in the name! Made popular through bullet journaling, habit trackers are a great way to visualize your progress and keep on track. For more information about bullet journaling, see my post, https://lifeandlemons.net/2019/02/03/how-bullet-journaling-could-organize-your-life-with-examples/

Conclusion

Now that you’ve delved into the world of how habits are formed, how to break them, and how to make new ones, try using these tips in your daily life. You’ll be surprised how much of a difference they will make.

Sources Used:

“5 Ways to Increase Dopamine Without Smoking Cigarettes.” Quitter’s Circle, 29 Aug. 2017, http://www.quitterscircle.com/staying-smokefree/5-ways-to-increase-dopamine-without-smoking-cigarettes.

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Gratitude: Taking a look at the little things

Sometimes life is rough. The smooth seas of childhood won’t last forever: the blissful days in the sun, drifting peacefully to sleep after a long day, the sweet, positive outlook on life that makes everything seem radiant and beautiful.

The angry torrents of problems will crash over you, pushing you beneath the surface sometimes. You turn away genuine compliments, swatting them away as meaningless and untrue. Question each emotion, each thought, a happy moment shattered as you stop to analyze the feeling, thinking, Am I actually happy? Stressing over nothing. Riddled with anxiety with no cause, clouded by doubts when you should be enjoying yourself. New relationships and the doubt that ensues, constantly questioning, Should we have stayed friends? Or am I just overthinking things?

One day this will come for everyone, as it has for me. It is simply a part of life and of growing up and being an adult or teenager. But you don’t have to let it control you. Stressing, overthinking, and being constantly anxious doesn’t have to be the norm. People will dismiss these as “normal feelings,” saying that everyone experiences them. And that’s true. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t an issue.

My lifeline? Gratitude. I’d always shied away at the idea of gratitude, dismissed it as a stupid concept. The problem? I was thinking too generally.

When asked what you are grateful for, what do you say? Family, love, a home, food, shelter, my pet. That was always my response, but afterward, I was left feeling dissatisfied. Not because those things aren’t wonderful and things to be grateful for. They are. But they are just too GENERAL! To grab hold of gratitude and swim to the surface, first, you need to step back. Take a look at the little things.

Little turtle- Taking a look at the little things in life

Tiny sources of joy. Natural things. Small trinkets. Sweet moments. These are the things that truly make life great. And yet, we overlook them so often. Why? Because we are swept away in those waves, and when looking at gratitude, we automatically go for the big things. But sometimes the big things in life are just as good as a bunch of little ones.

When I was on vacation recently for spring break, we went to a souvenir store. There were a lot of nice things, but the main thing that caught my eye was a little metal turtle charm. So small, not even two centimeters long with a shiny green shell. Something about that tiny turtle struck me, made me smile as I rubbed my finger along its belly carefully, tracing the etched designs.  

The immediate thought went through my head: you don’t need this. Don’t buy it. There’s no use for it realistically. Did I need the little turtle like I needed a home or food? Absolutely not. Did I buy it anyway? Absolutely.

You see, I bought it because it made me happy. I took it all over with me that trip, taking pictures of it along the way, setting it on rocks and smiling as I snapped pictures of Tuttle (yes, its name is Tuttle) and his gleaming green shell (some of the pictures I took are shown above). That small turtle charm brought me so much joy, that the next time I sat down and thought to myself, “What am I grateful for?” the first thing that came to mind was that little turtle.

Having realized that taking a look at the small things could bring so much happiness, I formed a new list of natural sources of joy, of little things: fuzzy socks, warm clothes fresh from the dryer, the swish-swish of my ponytail as I walk, the smell of fresh Sharpies, braided bracelets that last a lifetime, inside jokes with friends, the surge of adrenaline during a performance. Tiny moments like that bring so much happiness but can be overlooked so easily, making gratitude a challenge.

Now I understand why when I was young, my mother would always ask what my favorite part of the day was instead of a general, “How was your day?” She let us focus on the little, favorite moment that made our day. In retrospect, that question made me a better person, one that could better understand gratitude later on in life.

So take a look at the little things. Stop in the store. Buy that turtle charm. Focus on those moments that bring you joy. The key to gratitude and gratefulness is as simple as that, and can help drown out the anxiety, stress and perpetual overthinking that are a natural part of life. Take a look at the little things. You’ll be surprised how much of a difference they can make.

Articles

Could the key to happiness and health be a simple project?

People have millions of theories as to how to get rid of boredom, stop bad habits, not overeat, even to live a happy, joyful life! But do all of them really work?

Absolutely not. The main problem is that most of them are just simply too big. For example, happiness. Some say just to focus on the happiness of others. But is it really, truly realistic to always be kind to everyone you meet and have perfect manners? Eventually, focusing solely on others will only wreck yourself in the long run.

What about something like being on your phone too much? The internet raves about phone-detoxes, going days at a time where you don’t use it at all unless you physically have to. I’ve tried this, but honestly? What happens when you need to Google something or have nothing to do? Most of the reason I got on my phone in the first place was out of pure boredom.

The problem with trying to live a happy, healthy life is that people think too big. And I too have thought that way. Doesn’t it seem like being happy or forming good habits requires some grand turning point? An extreme diet, a sudden midnight revelation about kindness, working out around the clock? This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Whether it be a painting your work on, or sketching out your dream home, sometimes the key to happiness isn’t in a grand act. Sometimes the key to happiness and health is a simple project.

My Recent Projects

Photo from Medium

The main reason I decided to write this article was because I wanted to share the joy I got from some of my recent projects and encourage others to do the same. There is a startling difference in my productivity and general happiness when I have a project versus when I don’t.

For example, just recently I received a canvas, paints, and brushes as a gift. I was a little hesitant to start it, the blank canvas threatening me. It already had buildings outlined, but it was my job to paint them in and choose all the colors, removing and adding buildings at will. At the start, I was certain that this would be just another one of my failed art projects like I’d had in school. Needless to say, I was stunned at how it came out.

My painting- thanks Mr. Jones!

This is a picture of the finished project. Each day I would come home from school and work on it in whatever free time I had between homework and other activities, carefully etching each detail and watching as it came to life before my eyes.

The next thing was something my brother and I did together. Just one day when we got home from school, we decided to draw out an extremely detailed sketch of our idea of what to put in the spare room. We spent at least an hour painstakingly measuring out each item to add to the room, each wall and vent, meticulously drawing it on the paper so that every foot in real life was exactly one inch on paper.

Yet, we had fun! Listening to music all the way, we strung out the measuring tape and detailed the length and width of each of the bins, calculating everything down to the inch. It took less that two hours, but just that quick, simple project brought a lot of joy and, along with it, a warm prideful feeling of accomplishment at the finished product.

Lo and behold, with help from the rest of the family, we ended up moving everything up to that room to the point that the bare, desolate room that had housed only a lamp and a small table was now a fun, organized entertainment and study room complete with a TV, desk, and bungee chairs.

Although we switched most items around and modified the design, the sweet warmth of pride bursts in my heart everytime I show someone the design knowing that such a simple, quick project had turned out so well and changed the house dynamic for the better.

After I realized I liked designing and sketching out that room, I began drawing out designs for new houses and have recently been drawing models and exploring architecture and interior design.

So now that you’ve heard some of my experiences with quick projects I’ve done lately,  let me explain how I think they could change your life for the better.

Benefits: Could a simple project help you have a happier, healthier life?

Image from New York Post

Break your phone addiction

You get home from school or work, and immediately your hand goes to your phone almost unconsciously, your body making the decision without any thought. This is just the natural reaction. As you watch a video or scroll through social media, minutes tick by fast, flying away with each stroke of your finger on the screen.

Before you know it, you’ve spent an hour on your phone. Looking up at the clock in a daze, you notice the time. Crap! Panic surges through your veins. Homework is piling up, or housework needs done, you have to finish that assignment by tomorrow! You realize that you’ve just wasted an hour of your time that you could have used to do any number of things, even if you don’t have anything pressing to do.

So how can a project help take away that natural urge to pick up the phone, to drown in the digital world and have the minutes tick away until the panic and guilt set in? For me, having a project around, like my painting, has helped me stay off my phone a lot. My screen time has decreased dramatically!

The main reason is that most of the time, the root of a phone addiction or wasting time on your phone is that you simply have nothing better to do. It starts with one day where you get home with nothing to do, and of course, your phone is the natural solution to that boredom. But over time, what started as a harmless time-killer can morph into an addiction.

A month later, you come home with piles of work to do, a mountain of chores. But your body is so used to immediately picking up the phone, so it does just that. You watch the hours wash away as you delve deeper and deeper into the digital ocean of content, swimming through an endless sea of distractions. Sooner or later, you forget the mounds of work and papers that sit in stacks…

But what if when you first got home that one day, you had an unfinished painting at the table, with brushes and vibrant paints at the ready? You go to that instead, leaving the phone behind except to play some background music as you work.

A month later, you get home and have those mounds of work. You could go finish the project, paint the rest of the houses… but it doesn’t distract you nearly as much as the phone. Sitting down at the table, you sift carefully through the stacks, the pen scratching away at the papers one by one until each and every one is done. Then, once the work is done, you pick up the brushes and get to work.

Having another fun task to do will wash away the urge to reach for your phone, and will ultimately end up reducing the amount of time you do spend on it by hours. That is just one way that having a fun project can make you happier and more productive!

Less absent minded eating

Photo from Everyday Health

Just like phone addictions, unhealthy eating habits can often stem from boredom. In my experience, when I get home and have nothing to do, I either go for one of these two things: my phone or the pantry. Or both.

Chomping away mindlessly at your snacks, you barely stop to taste the food. You aren’t eating because you’re hungry. It’s because it gives you something to do. This is called absent minded eating. Just like with the phones, having something to do the instant you get home can stop these habits from developing by eliminating the root of the problem: boredom.

Coming home, instead of going to the pantry to rummage up some food, you direct your attention to a project… a painting, sketching out a room, rearranging furniture. Without even knowing it, you just avoided a huge binge session and possibly thousands of extra calories.

For more ways to stop your mindless eating, check out a previous article, https://lifeandlemons.net/2019/01/26/how-to-eliminate-absentminded-eating/

Discover new passions

Image from Medium

Lately, I’ve rekindled my love for architecture and interior design after my brother and I started… you guessed it, a simple project. As I mentioned before, there was a spare room in the house that we wanted to turn into our own entertainment/study room, just a fun, cool hangout.

We had so much fun just measuring everything out and sketching out all the plans in detail, and while we were doing that, something just sparked. I always used to say that I wanted to be one of two things: and architect or an author. Now with my blog, I sort of let my love of architecture and interior design fade into the background, lingering on the edges of my thoughts and clinging on as I focused my attention on writing. But that project reignited the spark, and now lately I’ve been sketching out new, intricate house designs.

This has certainly brought an element of happiness to my life and eliminated boredom. You never know if a simple project like rearranging furniture or filling an empty room will help you discover a new passion… or rekindle an old one.

Conclusion

Breaking your phone addiction, less absent minded eating, and possibly discovering your passion? Big lifestyle changes and greater happiness don’t always have to come from a big change. Whether it’s painting, redecorating a room, rearranging furniture, or even starting a blog, the key to achieving greater happiness and health truly could lie in the occasional small project.