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.
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
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
Everyone has those days where you are just plain BORED. Lounging on the couch, aimlessly scrolling through your phone, staring up at the ceiling. In theory, there are plenty things to do! But sometimes, you just can’t think of one interesting thing for the life of it.
So don’t stare at the ceiling forever, or count all the bathroom tiles. Boredom is a problem everyone faces (especially on weekends), and Life and Lemons is here to help.
Can’t go outside because of snowy, or bad weather? Or perhaps just don’t feel like it? Here’s 30 fun things to do without leaving the house.
Start learning a language. I suggest Duolingo, an amazing educational app that teaches almost any language (and it’s free!).
Write a letter to a friend or loved one.
Play a board game.
Exercise (lift weights, treadmill, elliptical).
Bake, or try a new recipe.
Redecorate your room/ renovate your house.
Listen to music and/or dance.
Drink water (it has innumerable benefits… article coming soon!).
Play video games.
Try to solve some online riddles.
Grow your brain with apps like Lumosity that use fun games to develop skills like attention, memory, even math.
Hide and seek (classic, but fun!)
Make a music playlist.
Brainstorm a wish list for birthdays and Christmas.
Generate gift ideas for others.
FaceTime with friends or family.
Go to an indoor pool.
Plan your dream vacation.
Compose music on your phone with apps like Score Creator and many others.
Twenty fun things to do outdoors, whether you’re in the middle of summer or the dead of winter.
Capture the flag with friends.
Go on a walk.
Visit a public pool or park.
Ride your bike.
Build a snowman.
Have a snow angel contest- who can make the biggest/most perfect snow angel?
Build a snow hill and carve it out to make an igloo (do so with caution so that it does not collapse on people inside).
Build a snow hill and see who can stay on top of it the longest- try to knock each other off.
Outdoor games- What time is it Mr. Fox, King of the Hill, Yard Olympics, races
Games on a playground- Monkey on the ground, obstacle course
Pool- Marco Polo, Sharks and Minnows, Chicken Fight, Diving for Rings/Coins
Build a fort in the woods
Draw with sidewalk chalk
Jump rope or Skip-it.
Still bored? Odds are, no. Life is short, and I sure don’t want to spend hours of it looking up at the ceiling or staring into space, and I bet you don’t either.
Thank you for reading this week’s problem-solving article! You can scroll down through the Writing & Posts section to see past Writer’s Wednesday’s and articles. If you have any suggestions or issues I could post about, feel free to comment down below!
Do you feel good about yourself today? It is a broad question many aren’t sure how to answer. Does this inquiry question well-being? Health? Anxiety levels? The answer is all of them. Sadly, for a myriad of people all across the globe, the answer to this not-so-simple question would be a no. But what if we could change that without expensive new items and without completely altering your daily schedule?
Here are three everyday hacks that can change your answer to a yes.
1. Take a cold shower!
Have you ever been in that dreadful position when you are the last person in your house to shower? We all know what it’s like to be greeted by the painfully cold water. It may seem like liquid torture dripping down your body, but, believe it or not, cold showers have a tremendous number of health benefits!
The first benefit being increased alertness and productivity. Though the shock of icy water running down your skin is definitely not the most soothing thing, the deep breathing in response to the cold water increases our heart rate, giving a natural dose of energy for the day (Borreli). This extra energy can help increase productivity, and you will be more alert and ready to take on the day.
But wait! There’s more! Scientific research has proven that this chilly practice can actually refine your hair and skin. Hot water has been known to dry out your skin, whereas its freezing cold counterpart will tighten cuticles and pores, blocking dirt and grime from getting in (Borreli). After a cold shower, hair will appear shinier, stronger, and healthier than before.
Third of all, there are even more benefits for your looks! According to Medical Daily, cold showers can also stimulate weight loss! How? Well, the science behind it is, sadly, not so simple. The basic idea is that you have a kind of “good” fat in your body, called brown fat. Brown fat is activated when exposed to extreme cold. Therefore, frigid showers cause brown fat activity, which stimulates weight loss.
As if that wasn’t fascinating (and complicated) enough, this chilly water relieves stress and depression. The science behind this is zany and confusing, but, in a nutshell, cold showers are a form of hydrotherapy. Hydrotherapy, though befuddling in its complexity, can help relieve depression and make you less stressed (Borreli).
I, myself, have been taking cold showers for a few weeks now, and I have some advice. My first suggestion would be to not start off with the water too cold. In my personal experience, if you start off with the water freezing cold, you will not have a pleasant experience. I would suggest starting at a temperature just a little below your comfort zone. Each time you adjust to (get used to) the new temperature, turn it a little colder. At the end of your shower, you will still be comfortable, but you will have reached a colder temperature (without so much of the inevitable pain).
When I used this hack, I saw the benefits firsthand. Unlike after a hot shower, I was not drowsy and relaxed. Instead, I felt more energetic and ready to seize the day.
Last, but certainly not least, I usually experience mild acne. However, after taking cold showers for a few weeks, I noticed new pimples appearing less and less often. In my personal experience, this simple, inexpensive hack actually works!
Crazy as it may seem, cold showers will, whether you decide to believe it, improve your overall health and well being. So far I’ve kept my promise…no extra expenses, no overly time consuming activities. One down, two to go!
2. Try a sport!
What else can improve your well-being and health? That’s right! Good old sports. A common misconception is that doing a sport requires joining an expensive league or team and taking hours out of your day, completely altering your schedule. But that is far, far from the truth.
Being in a sport could just be picking a sport (some teams are free, and the ones that aren’t are usually not overly expensive), and, depending on how seriously you take it, take an hour or so out of your day to practice. If you do want to pursue a sport but are afraid of getting hurt, I may be biased (I am a swimmer), but I would suggest a low impact sport so that you can take care of your joints. Some examples of low impact sports are swim, water aerobics, horseback riding, cross country skiing, ice skating, and many more. But why even do a sport?
First of all, doing a sport is an unparalleled team building experience. The ability to work together with others to meet a common goal is a necessity for a successful future. Cooperation is a crucial part of almost all careers. Developing this skill early in life can boost your potential by astronomical amounts, as well as help you get a job. Also, in my personal experience, working well with other people can reduce stress (no fighting in groups means less anxiety).
Secondly, the most obvious reason to do sports. Yes, that’s right. Exercise! Sports provide the perfect dose of physical activity. The exercise that sports provide helps keep you healthy and strong. Depending on what sport you do, and how often your games and practices occur, you will get different amounts of exercise. But, aside from the obvious, there is a hidden advantage to exercise through sports “…they also encourage healthy decision-making such as not smoking and not drinking” (Benefits).
Lastly, sports can play a role in relieving stress! In my personal experience, I can let out all my stress through swimming (my chosen sport) and exercising just by working really hard at it. Say you’ve had a bad day (we all do sometimes), and you have all this pent up aggression. You could take it out on a person, worsening your relationship with them and feeling unsatisfied afterward. Or you can just train harder, releasing anger in the form of speed and power! See what I mean? Getting your energy out through physical activity and sports is known to reduce stress and anxiety levels.
3. Take care of yourself- the 30 minute challenge!
Take care of yourself! This ridiculously simple hack may seem stupid. However, as dumb and obvious as it may be, I am not a dolt. Actually, this is the most important hack on this list, as it summarizes everything I’ve talked about so far. This well-being and health hack will make an astonishing difference in how life unfolds for the people that use it.
This third (and final) tip includes all of the above. Having a better overall well- being and health basically requires taking care of yourself, and all of the previous hacks can help you do that. But, one part of this is something I call the 30 minute rule.
The 30 minute rule is a hack of my own making, and this is a major part of taking care of yourself. To put things simply, this rule consists of one thing: no matter how busy you are, no matter how much you have to do, take 30 minutes out of your day to do an activity of your choice. Not something that you have to do, or feel pressured to do, just an activity that you want to do.
In my 30 minutes, I usually draw, color, write, work on my blog, or read, but you can do anything that you want. This anti-stress time will help you take care of yourself, and the benefit? The benefit is plain and simply feeling good about yourself and how you use your time.
Do you feel good about yourself today? Those were three easy, cheap, and not overly time consuming hacks. With those in mind now, what is the answer to that question? Those three simple things just make life better, when you think of all the benefits. In using these, people are already on their way to better overall well-being and a healthier, happier life. So, has your answer shifted since the beginning of this piece? Whether it be as simple as taking care of yourself or playing a sport, or as complex as the science behind cold showers, try it out! Life truly is what you make of it, so make yours just a little bit better.
*The first two segments are all about the concept of a bullet journal and how to set up your own. If you already have one, feel free to skip ahead to the page ideas.
What is a bullet journal?
Bullet journaling is simply an on-paper method of normal journaling, created by Ryder Carroll as a system for organization and keeping track of your life. A standard bullet journal has four main components: an index, a future log, a month overview, and daily logs. Though it can follow a strict system, you can also take a looser approach and use creative liberty to adapt and make it your own.
How it can make you more organized and improve your life
The whole concept of a bullet journal is specially designed to help you keep track of everything going on in your life and achieve goals. Remembering all of the events and dates is made simple when you implement all the functionality of a calendar into a personalized notebook where you can see all of it at a glance.
As for meeting personal goals? Since the bullet journal is such a loose system that can be adapted to your needs, many people use it to incorporate things like habit trackers to help you stay on track with goals.
I personally use a bullet journal and can vouch for its positive impacts. Using a habit tracker and other trackers, I can keep up with all the stresses of modern life and maintain a healthy body and mind (scroll down to see examples of page ideas).
Setting it up
All that you really need is a blank notebook and a pen, but having other stationary materials can help you create a notebook that is pleasing to the eye. If you are anything like me, you will end up with a stockpile of pens, markers, and tapes.
An index can be set up like this, or any way you wish. The purpose of this is to have documentation of all your pages so that you can easily flip to each one. Indexes are easy to make and can be minimalist and simple, or maximalist and decorative.
Future logs provide an overview of the year or months to come, and the general events that take place in them. The month overview is basically a more zoomed in version of a future log that has more specific events, and may go into detail about times and dates of the event.
One of my favorite ways to set up a month overview is by making your own calendar. Using a ruler, I start first by making the vertical lines, then filling in the horizontal, like so…
You can also do monthly overviews in a way that doesn’t use a calendar, but instead uses a more “event centered” approach that focuses on dates and events on those dates. This method can be a nice break from the calendars that we see all the time in life, and I personally have found this to be more useful than a calendar in terms of quick reference. It looks something like this:
Daily logs are a way to document either what has happened during the day or what will happen during the day. Think of them as a to-do list of everything you need to get done. These are usually simple and quick, as the sole purpose of a daily log is to be an efficient way to manage the day ahead and its various tasks (though many people choose to add embellishments later).
Page Ideas and Inspiration
Need page ideas to fill up your journal? Life and Lemons has you covered, with examples from my own bullet journal and from the internet.
#1 Water Log
Drinking water can prevent cramping, relieve stress, and aid weight loss. Water is such an important element in having a healthy life, and having a water log can ensure that you get all the water you need.
#2 Mood Tracker
Mental health is such an vital part of life, as it impacts everything we do and can affect our bodies as well. Keeping track of your mood from day to day can paint a picture of how you are doing mentally and how to move forward. Having a mood tracker can help you construct a deeper understanding of your own emotions.
#3 Grade Tracker
For students, it is a life changer to have all of your grades laid out in front of you in a way that is easily accessible and understandable, and that is exactly what a grade tracker can provide
#4 Habit Tracker
Can never remember to exercise? Or eat healthy? Forgetting to read every day? Perhaps you need a habit tracker. Having a habit tracker has seemed to double my chances of actually developing healthy habits I sought out in the first place. I find that this is one of the best ways to track progress in personal and professional goals. Not just to track, but also to motivate. Never underestimate the power of a tangible reminder.
#5 Quote Page
“Sometimes clouds can bring rainbows too.” Putting an inspirational quote into your own journal can bring happiness and motivation in a decorative way. Great if you have an empty page to fill, or want to get creative and artsy.
#6 Books to Read
Losing track of your next read? Always saying, “That book looks good!” but forgetting about it a day later? Put it in your “Books to Read” page of your bullet journal, and color the book in when you’ve finished it.
#7 Gift Ideas
When gift inspiration strikes, write it down with this page for gift ideas! It has a slot for what the gift is, who it is for, and how much money it costs to help you keep your ideas organized.
#8 Daily To-Dos… with sticky notes!
This is a method of putting your to-do list into a notebook that I invented! You put a small pad of sticky notes at the top for “Need to do” items and another at the bottom for “Want to do” items. As you do each task, cross it off. Once the day is over, remove them both and start fresh the next day.
#9 Dream Log
Some scientists say that to develop lucid dreaming (a form of dreaming where you can control the dream), it can be helpful to write down your dreams right after you wake up. It can also ensure that you remember them before the memory slips away.
#10 Bucket List
Remember those goals and check them off as you go. Life is what you make of it!
#11 Compliments Page
Sometimes you need a little dose of confidence and happiness, and this is certainly the way to get it! Each time you receive a compliment, write it down along with the date and person who said it. It can be reflected on in times of need or just when you want to feel good.
#12 Important Information (passwords, numbers, etc.)
Never forget a password again! In this digital age, so many things require usernames and passwords. It’s not hard to forget one and then have to drag yourself through the tiring process of retrieving it. Save yourself the hassle and jot it down in your bullet journal!
If you don’t have a bullet journal, I highly recommend starting your own, like I have. Though it’s not something that requires attention every single day, if you stick with it and implement some of these pages, it can have an extremely positive impact on your mental and physical health.
Have you ever eaten a full bag of chips and moments later regretted it? Or, even worse, not remember eating at all? Chances are, you have done this (I have too). Absent minded eating is a big problem for obesity related issues and are a constant struggle when you are trying to eat healthy or lose weight.
That’s why Life and Lemons was invented, to provide solutions to problems. So let’s get right into it and get rid of those unhealthy, mindless binges!
*Note: Everything in italics is a short sample of writing I did on the topic. If you are not interested, feel free to skip ahead to the actual content.
The commercial whirs to life on the screen. As if waking from a trance, you blink furiously, looking around the dark room. Even though you’d been awake the whole time, you still felt as though you were dragging your brain out of a mindless slumber.
Gazing around the room, you see the clock. Midnight. With a groan, you shift slightly… and hear the noise. The dreaded crumple of foil. A chip bag lies empty between your legs, the printed letters taunt you with the emblazoned words, “Party size!”
“Not again,” you say quietly to yourself. Throwing your hands up in exasperation, even your orange stained fingers remind you of the binge session you just had… and barely remember. Your stomach growls, still seeming to want even more food. Putting a self-conscious hand on your abdomen, you notice that the flab you’ve exercised so hard to get rid of the past few weeks has reappeared.
I have to sleep, you think, almost too tired to feel the nagging frustration. Grabbing the remote, you push a button and the TV turns off with a satisfying “click!”. You get up and take a step off the couch… only to hear the sickening crackle of wrappers against your bare feet. You don’t need to look down at them. You already feel enough shame as it is, and looking down at the pile would only make it worse.
Trudging through the house and up the stairs, you quietly enter your bedroom and shut the door slowly, a grimace on your face. In bed, you stare up at the ceiling, memorizing its texture and the exact shade. Every time you close your eyes a million thoughts come speeding through your mind like cars careening along a race track.
It seems easier to keep them open. There will be no sleep for me tonight, you think, accepting this with shame heavy in your heart. Stroking your grumbling stomach, you stare up at the ceiling, listening to the steady hum of trucks on the highway. This will be a long night. Have you ever had a binge session like this? You just keep eating and eating mindlessly, barely tasting the food as you swallow it? Most likely, you have. And I have too. It usually comes when you are bored, or are doing an activity that doesn’t require your full attention, like watching television or Youtube. So how can we prevent those shameful binges, or stop them while they are happening?
Life and Lemons has some tips that will help! Without further ado, let’s get straight into the first hack.
Chopsticks are your best friend
Chopsticks are a great way to slow down your absent minded eating, and make it more difficult to eat an entire bag of chips (or an unnecessary amount of calories). Using chopsticks is not a natural feeling for most United States citizens and people that did not grow up using them.
This means that you have to actually focus on the food and direct all your attention to it instead of being distracted and eating too much of any unhealthy snack because of the extra effort required. Concentrating on taste and texture of food can be made easier through the use of chopsticks, not only stopping you from eating too much but also forcing you to savor the food and creating an overall more satisfying experience.
Also, a lot of times I like to use chopsticks to distract me. Why? Boredom is your worst enemy when it comes to absent minded eating. You simply grab a bunch of food, not because you are hungry, but because it will momentarily distract you and provide something for your body to do.
So instead of reaching for the refrigerator, instead reach for your chopsticks. Chewing or even sucking on the wood will keep your hands and body entertained, thus providing the same effect that eating chips or another snack would give.
Put your food in hard to reach places
How many times have you walked to the fridge or to the pantry and easily plucked food off the shelf? Then, right after you gulp that down, gotten up and grabbed the first easy-to-reach item? Most likely you have done this, and quite a bit.
The problem about storing food in easily accessible places is that getting food becomes just as mindless and distracted. If you can simply pluck snacks right off a shelf and shove them into your mouth, then your brain seems to go on auto-pilot.
While you think about other things, you may find yourself staring into the pantry moments later, never really having made the conscious decision to walk over there. Just as absentmindedly, you find yourself eating it and then repeating those two steps, over and over. Though you weren’t very hungry in the first place, were you?
Chances are you weren’t. But finding and retrieving the food is so effortless that if you are anything like me, your brain thinks, Why not go get some food? If it is there and I can get to it, why not eat it?
So the solution to this is to put some of your most frequent snacking items (things that you can easily pop into your mouth without preparation, like chips or cheese sticks) in an odd or hard-to-reach area. Then the next time you wander over to the pantry to grab some Doritos, you see them on the top shelf. You could grab a stool or strain to stand on your tiptoes… but now you’ve thought about it!
Once you re-awaken the brain with this new challenge, chances are it will turn off the auto-pilot. As a result of the break in habit, it will recognize that it does not actually need or desire to eat.
You’ve just avoided another one of the dreaded hours of cramming food into your mouth thoughtlessly, already on the path to more mindful and controlled eating habits. Now let’s say that you do grab that chip bag from the top shelf with difficulty. Then if you take your chopsticks and eat each one slowly, thoughtfully… well, at that point, you are simply unstoppable!
Chew your food more than necessary
Studies show that chewing your food for a longer amount of time can improve many aspects of your life. The increased breakdown of food through enzymes in saliva and mechanical breakdown by the teeth allows for easier digestion. Also, the mixing of the saliva in your mouth and the food allows for the the body to absorb the maximum amount of nutrients possible (Health).
Weight loss can also be a delightful benefit of chewing slowly. Women who ate their food at a slower pace ate less. However, they also felt fuller and more satisfied after eating than women who ate quicker (Health).
It can also help our problem. Chewing your food thoroughly can not only lead to those benefits, but it also means you have to eat snacks and meals slowly, fully processing each bite. Not only will you savor the texture and taste of the food, but you will also have to direct your attention to what you are eating and why, adding an element of thought and therefore eliminating absent minded eating.
Ding dong. The clock chimes softly. Midnight. You go to the pantry to grab that party size bag of chips, and look around in confusion only to spot them on the very top shelf. Remembering that article you saw and how you had put them up there, the bewilderment instantly fades away.
With a small smile, you slide over a stool and step up carefully, straining to reach it. Once you finally do, you are about to head straight for the couch to get back before the commercial.
But laying on the kitchen counter are a pair of slim wooden chopsticks. You pick them up, shoving the chips under your arm and walking over to the couch with your arms chock full.
The show starts, right on time. You rip open the bag and the excess air puffs out at you. Tediously positioning the chopsticks between your fingers, you capture a chip between them and raise it to your mouth…
And stop. A thought rose to the surface like a bubble drifting upward in the water. Instead of gulping it down, you chew, very slowly. Very carefully. Taking more than needed. It continues this way for about ten minutes. Yet you haven’t eaten much more than a handful of chips. Not hungry anymore, you return the bag to the highest shelf of the pantry. With a satisfied grin, you pump a fist in the air and strut back to the couch, sitting down with a plop.
At the end of the show, you trudge upstairs in exhaustion and slump into bed. This time you stare up at the ceiling, but your heart feels light with triumph. Sleep sweeps in swiftly and smoothly and you lie in bed asleep, a smile on your lips.
Gasping for breath, I collapsed, crumbling to my knees on the cold earth. Each breath was an exhausted plead for air. Lub-dub, lub-dub, lub-dub, my heart pounded, an energizer bunny banging wildly in my chest. I need to get up, the game’s not over yet… I thought desperately.
Every inch of my body ached and groaned in protest as I tried to stand. Sweat dripped down my skin, the stench clinging to my jersey. Longing for a cold shower; I could almost feel the chilly water streaming down my back as I indulged in the sweet fantasy.
My mind screamed for me to quit, to stop and give up. Squeezing my eyes shut, I twitched each limb and slowly, painstakingly got to my feet. The soles of my foot throbbed through the cleats, sweat ran in streams down my body, but I got up.
There was no time to relish in my small victory. I sprinted down the field to catch up with my team, a small, knowing grin on my face.
Sports aren’t always how they look in movies, and in commercials. Training like Rocky Balboa isn’t easy. Mentally or physically. There’s no guarantee that you will always win in your sport, even if you train constantly and work hard.
If you do choose to become very involved and work hard, sometimes the results aren’t only just medals and ribbons. Many athletes suffer from athletics-related anxiety, exhaustion from overworking themselves, and even illnesses/injuries from pushing the limits too far. So how can we get the most out of sports, while also avoiding anxiety and overworking yourself?
Life and Lemons is here to help.
The Power of Why: Getting over plateaus and finding motivation
Stop! Don’t go anywhere! First we’ll be looking at what I consider to be the one of the most important motivators you’ll come across, not just in sports, but also in life.
Evaluating why you do things before you do them saves you from making a lot of mistakes. It can also be extremely inspirational, and can help athletes get over the “plateau.”
Ah, the dreaded plateau. I use this term to describe the point in any sports participant’s journey where they stop progressing for an extended period.
I experienced this in swim. Imagine every meet, every sporting event you improve, you improve, you improve. Caught up in the momentum, you almost begin to expect victory, as though it was a guarantee. And then one day?
It levels out. You don’t improve at the event. Momentum is completely, absolutely still. Naturally, this brings with it frustration and self-doubt. And, the cherry on top, anxiety. For a while, every meet, every game goes the same way. No growth. Just a flat, consistent plateau.
Why am I not improving? I can’t do this anymore. I should just quit now, I’ll never get better than I am at this place in time. So, when the athlete reaches this point, they can go one of two ways. They can either train harder than they ever have before… or they can quit.
When faced with that, my brain fumbled with this for the longest time. Each practice was a war between my natural instinct: to quit when it gets hard; and my love of swimming. Anxiety riddled me like bullets shot through my gut. My emotions swung so frequently I was beginning to believe my heart was a pendulum.
It couldn’t go on like this. I knew I didn’t want to quit my sport… I also knew that I lacked motivation to go any further. I’m still swimming to this very day. So what was my saving grace?
Why. I asked myself, simply, “Why am I doing swim?” To my surprise, a list leaped out at me. As though a switch flipped in my mind, and boom! Motivation seemed to flow naturally as I re-evaluated why I did my sport. Exercise! Friends! Competition!
My mental plateau was gone, and my physical along with it. Now I had reasons to keep going, to play harder, to work harder. One simple question saved my athletic career.
So how can you use this same question to motivate you? I suggest asking the question to yourself, out loud. As you come up with ideas, make a list on paper, something like this:
This is an example from my own bullet journal (stay tuned for that article!) that serves as an inspiring, tangible reminder that will never cease to motivate and help you improve in your sport! Before you think about how you will do something, always first evaluate why you are doing at all. Sometimes all that you need to be inspired is a simple list of reasons.
Technique comes first!
Rushing into anything head-first is like setting yourself up for disaster. Speed and brute strength will not do anything for you in athletics if you continue to make mindless mistakes. Especially in sports like swim and track where the whole point is to be fast, many lose sight of this and overlook the simple fact: good technique will make you faster, stronger, and better. Once you develop those skills, speed and strength will naturally follow.
However, being fast and strong will not necessarily improve your technique. Therefore, before you go into intense training, refresh your technique and review simple skills (this kind of quick review and slow pace skills training can also serve as a great warm-up).
How can you improve your technique? Drills are the main strategy to develop existing skills or build new ones, but you can also try a more mindful approach: simply being aware of each movement and repeating it over and over, noticing and correcting incorrect placements of hands and feet or adjusting stance for maximum efficiency.
Learn from your elders
Listen and learn. A great way to get better at sports and improve is to talk with someone who’s done it longer than you have. Sometimes it might be your coach, but it could also be an older, more experienced teammate.
What they have to say is definitely valuable, especially so if they were/are successful in the sport. Remember that they were in your situation once before, at the same level as you are now (whatever that may be), so just because this person is older/more experienced than you doesn’t mean that their advice isn’t relevant.
You can also learn from others without actually having a conversation with them. One of my favorite ways to learn new skills and notice possible techniques to implement is to watch youtube videos of the professionals. On youtube and other video platforms you can view almost all of the Olympic events. For sports like American football there are also videos of NFL games, or you can watch them live.
What they say is true! Watch and learn. However, I could argue that you could add one more, whether it’s in sports, school, or the arts. Watch, learn, and improve.
Sometimes defeat is hard to cope with. It’s natural to get down on yourself when you feel like you’ve failed yourself or your team.
It is my strong belief that though sports are a competition against others, the most important competition is against yourself. If you view it in that mindset, the pain of a loss won’t fade entirely. Instead it will simply become fuel. Motivation to work harder and do better next time. But, in my opinion, if you view the other person as better than you for winning, do you think that you are a failure after one loss?
Then you, my friend, need to evaluate what is most important. Always having the need to be the best will drag you down into the muck, whereas a more self-growth centered approach will propel you forward. It’s that simple!
Now you have my advice on how to get the most out of sports. To be motivated, to deal with losses and embrace self-growth, physically improving through use of technique training, and listening to others are all skills that will streamline your athletic development.
*Note: This is a small sample of writing I did on this topic. If you are not interested, feel free to skip ahead to the actual content.
You toss and turn, and your head is bursting with a million thoughts, and you can’t sleep. All of a sudden, in the darkness of your room, you jolt out of bed, covers and sheets are flung all over the floor. Hastily checking the clock, you dash over to the desk with more energy than you’d had the whole day. It’s 1:00 A.M… I need to go to sleep, you think absentmindedly, but the pen is already flying across the page in a maelstrom of words.
Inspiration and new motivation surges through you as ink flows across the page of the small notebook, and you have a strange urge to do it all. To write a novel, read a book, start a business, save the world; you want to save the Earth and the environment! You want, plain and simply, to make a difference.
A mess of thoughts is scrambled about on the page, and soon later exhaustion sweeps in, swift as the moon taking over the night sky. Just like that the moment is over, and you turn off the lamp, scribbling a note, “Remember to SAVE THE WORLD! Don’t forget!”
“EE! EEE! EE!” You open up your eyes in the morning, groggily turning off your alarm and trudging out of bed, rubbing your eyes with a groan of protest. And on the door, you see the note, a jumbled mess of scribbles and words only you could understand.
Knitting your eyebrows, you squint at the letters, just barely deciphering the mixed words on the crumpled pink post-it. A blurry memory arises from the night before, an indistinct haze of a gel pen on yellowed paper and tossing and turning under the covers. Oh… well, I’ll just do it later… I guess…
Shrugging slowly, you glare at it, trying to remember why it felt so urgent last night. Why couldn’t it wait for later?
“Eh, I’m too lazy for this; it wouldn’t help the Earth anyway,” you mutter, tossing the note into the trash can. Some small part of you screams to stop, but you are tired and the majority drowns out the little voice, like a grain of sand washed away in the rushing stream. Going to the closet, you put on your Eeyore onesie before tromping down the stairs to the couch. So much for saving the world…
If you are anything like me, this has probably happened to you (maybe not the part about the Eeyore onesie). You want to help the Earth, of course, but let’s face it. You’re lazy, or just don’t have the time for a major project. No shame, but if you are reading this, it’s for a reason (you did read the title, right?).
So how can you SAVE THE WORLD, one small step at a time if you are just too lazy?
That’s where I can help. If you find any of these helpful, you may want to check out my other “Coming soon” articles such as: How to Survive Middle School, 10 Tips for a Healthier You, and Are You depressed, or Just Hormonal?
Without further delay, let’s get started.
Pick up 5 pieces of trash. 5. That’s all you need.
DON’T LEAVE! That’s what they all say, just pick up trash and the world is better. Yeah right, you might think, but those people are probably right. If you live in a big city, stepping outside your apartment or home and picking up 5 pieces of trash takes little to no effort… maybe as much as a walk to the fridge or to the car.
However, if you live out in the country, or just a relatively clean neighborhood, this may be a little trickier. But you most likely could find a lot of litter in places like the sides of roads, or, if you are more adventurous, ditches. If you cannot find any litter in your immediate area, try to recycle or reuse 5 or more items.
Though five pieces may seem like an insignificant number, think about it. If I were to pick up five pieces of trash a day for a month, I would have picked up 150 pieces of trash! So let’s say now you like picking up litter a little bit, or you just need something to do, and you pick up 10 a day for a month. That’s 300! Now imagine what would happen if you picked up five a day for a whole year. You would’ve collected and disposed of 1800 pieces of trash. Wow! You are on your way to helping the Earth, whether you choose to do 5 a day or 10.
Not to mention you can make money by turning in cans you may find at local stores like Meijer and Walmart, and extra income is never a bad thing (I would buy pizza… comment below what you would use extra money for)!
No worries, you can get back in your Eeyore costume now.
Cut down the shower time
For every one minute you spend in the shower, you use 2.1 gallons of water says, https://www.home-water-works.org/indoor-use/showers. 2.1 gallons! Per minute! Personally, I am guilty myself of taking fifteen to thirty minute showers (admit it, you probably have too). The average American takes 8 minutes and uses 17 gallons of water (Showers)! Imagine 17 gallon jugs full of water, in just eight minutes.
So how can you cut down on shower time and water usage? My favorite method that I have tried is timing yourself. Even being as lazy and overall sluggish as I may be, the pressure of a timer immediately speeds up my showers, even when I try to go at a normal pace, my brain seems as though it is in a competition against the clock.
Also, you can try collecting the cold water in a bucket while you wait for it to warm up, and use it to water plants or for other uses (Showers).
As you time yourself, try to beat your personal record each day, like a sort of competition against yourself. Also, you can have a competition with your family or roommates to see who can get a better time (I’m not liable for any fights), all reducing the amount of fresh water you use daily.
Just make sure not to sacrifice your own personal cleanliness while trying to save water; saving the environment will not take you very far if you don’t keep up your own hygiene needs.
To my own surprise, I never missed the extra shower time and actually thoroughly enjoyed the extra time I got in my night time routine. You’ll be amazed how easy it is to help cut down on fresh water usage, while also saving time and money on the water bill (you’re welcome)!
Using your phone to help the world
Some people believe that phones can do no good, and just inhibit laziness. Well, they do increase laziness. But they aren’t all bad!
It turns out, you can use your phone to advantage the environment. A perfect example of this is the popular productivity app “Forest.” The basic premise is that you set a timer, and during this time, you cannot use your phone or mobile device. While the clock ticks away, a miniature digital tree grows.
But it can have incredible real world impacts. As you grow more and more digital trees, you accumulate coins. You can use those coins to plant an actual tree, in real life.
So consider using Forest or an app like it to help the Earth. While you’re taking a nap, watching TV, or doing something that doesn’t require your phone, simply set a timer in the app and watch the coins stack up.
If that’s not lazy, I don’t know what is!
As you can see, even lazy people or those of us who just don’t have the time for a time-consuming project can make a positive impact on the environment, improving life for all of us.
Struggles are a completely normal part of life. Those struggles can be like lemons: sour and hard to manage. But when you taste lemonade, it’s sweet! So how could such a sweet drink come from a sour fruit?
Well, making lemonade isn’t always easy. And I’m here to help! Welcome to Life and Lemons, where we help you make lemonade out of your problems by offering real-world, realistic solutions and life hacks to make your day easier. After all, not all lemonade comes from a packet.