In the past few months I’ve experienced more joy, calm and satisfaction in my life than I think I have at any other moment. It seems unreal to feel unburdened, and going about my day with more clarity and purpose than I have before.
Here are a few things that I think have contributed to this:
1. Getting rid of things that don’t add value to my life. Whether it’s clothing, knick knacks, negative people, or e-mail subscriptions that I never open – I’ve become better at noticing the extraneous things in my life and taking action to build an intentional life around things I love and believe in.
2. Putting things back once I’m done with them. Our house is on Day 7 of putting everything back on a daily basis. It’s a record (which is a bit sad). But doing this rewards me with a fresh morning to start my day, or relaxing environment to come home to after work. Plus, everything now has a home and I can easily see what I have. Instead of dreading a clean-up I get excited to see what I can accomplish with my “free time” (or to relax in a clutter-free zone). Pro tip – if something takes 60 seconds or less to do – do it right away, don’t wait.
3. Cooking more…and cooking more nutritious foods.
It’s amazing how one change leads to the next. For many years, I lamented how I wanted to cook more and fuel my family’s bodies with more nutritious food – but I lacked the time and energy to do it. Plus it was often a feat just to access the appliances/ingredients, and an even bigger feat to clean up afterwards. After reducing my work commitments and dealing with #1 & #2 above, cooking no longer seems as daunting. I’ve tried new healthy homemade dishes including quinoa salad, zucchini noodles, cauliflower rice, spaghetti squash spaghetti & baked chicken burgers…and especially love serving my family Chinese dishes I grew up eating like wontons and congee.
Less work –> less discretionary income –> less restaurants/take-out –> more cooking –> healthier foods –> clearer mind, more energy (& clearer arteries). Winning!
Restaurants are now saved for special occasions and cravings instead of convenience when we’re (perpetually) exhausted.
4. Getting outside and getting active. Being outdoors helps ground & relax me and provides clarity in ways that television and surfing online could never accomplish. Whether its park time with the girls, trail walks with friends, hiking with hubby or even simple things like eating our dinner outside – being outside makes me happier and feel more human.
With keeping an eye on the budget I’m also starting to see if friends would like to spend time by going hiking/outdoors/picnic-ing, vs. the usual fallback of eating out.
5. Reading more. In February a few friends and I started a book club. It was a very “adult” thing to do and I always enjoy the delicious snacks, interesting conversations. A surprise benefit from book club is that it has re-ignited my love for reading which I
didn’t have time to do before didn’t make time to do before. It’s been such a treat to read things I’m interested in such as Chris Hadfield’s “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth“, “The Airbnb Story“, and my current read “If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?” (best. book. title. ever.).
6. Being more spiritual. It’s become more of a habit for me to reflect on my life and (1) be thankful for the blessings God’s given me (2) seek perspective for how difficult situations will shape my life for the better or prepare me for future challenges (3) read and learn from the Bible. There’s something very comforting in knowing billions of people have come before me and endured bigger challenges than I’ll ever face and to read how every event is part of God’s overall master plan.
7. Not sweating material losses. A few months ago we were about to go on a trip, when I heard that a family friend’s house was broken into and their jewelry & valuables were stolen. With that in mind I tried to think of an inconspicuous place to tuck away my 2 most sentimental pieces of jewelry, which were gifts from my parents and that I wore everyday. Ironically, I returned and couldn’t recall where I placed them. 😦 While super frustrating, it’s been a good lesson to teach me that material things (no matter how sentimental they are) are just stuff. It’s been 3 months since I’ve misplaced them and while I do check spots for them every now and again when I think I remember where they are, it’s not a worry or anxiety that burdens me day after day.
8. Taking on new challenges. Whether it’s choosing the steeper route when hiking, tackling a new pile of clutter, or trying a new recipe, I find there is nothing better than giving yourself a stretch goal, working hard towards it and building your confidence when you accomplish it. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, but the experience will always leave you with something to learn from or memories of your tenacity. Usually the hardest part is convincing ourselves to try.
Everyday I am in awe of how different and balanced my life is today compared to 5 years ago or even 5 months ago and I’m excited to look forward and see what will come next.