3 Little Lessons that made me Happier & Healthier

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1. Lowering my Exercise Standards

I’ve always wanted to be someone that exercised regularly – what I didn’t realize was that it was actually my high standards getting in the way of an exercise practice. I knew cardio was the “best” kind of exercise, and I had decided that to be healthy I needed to do 45 minutes of intense cardio every weekday.

And guess what? I did not follow through on that exercise schedule. I had a day when I was really tired and intense cardio for 45 minutes just was too much for me to handle. So I didn’t do anything. I felt bad for skipping my exercise routine. And I dropped off after that. I stopped exercising altogether because I didn’t feel like I was doing a good job in keeping with it.

I used to think high standards would motivate me to do my best. But really, it just caused black and white thinking. Either I was doing things perfectly…or not at all. And since perfect standards were impossible…not at all was more likely to happen.

So what is my exercise standard now?

Exercise almost every day at any intensity for anywhere from a half hour to an hour.

Maybe this seems too relaxed? Too vague? My standards seem too low? Well – I have exercised more this summer than any summer I can think of.

Sometimes on a beautiful day I go on a two hour hike with my husband in the woods.

And some days it’s raining and I feel sick and I am tired and anything seems hard. A two hour hike definitely seems impossible on these days. But then I think, Could I handle a half hour of listening to one podcast on my phone while walking around inside my house? Yeah…that doesn’t seem so bad.

And as long as I do some form of exercise, I feel good about it, which causes me to stick with the routine. Sometimes the guilt of not doing something perfectly will cause us to quit that thing altogether. I have found it to be important to have realistic standards, and ones you know you can actually follow through with.

This summer I have reached my goal of exercising almost every day at any intensity from a half hour to an hour. Lowering my standards has helped me exercise MUCH more and as a result has helped me become healthier and happier.

In Gretchen Rubin’s book Better than Before, she talks about the importance of doing what works for you. This is what has worked for me for my own exercise habit. If there are habits you are interested in developing in your life, I definitely recommend her book!

 

2. Giving up Planning

When I say “give up planning,” of course, I don’t mean all planning, but as a chronic over-planner, I needed to learn how to allow for spontaneity.

I also thought that planning everything out, would improve experiences, but it often did the opposite. I would make a plan for a Friday evening to do a hike and picnic. I would then come home to a storm and colder temperatures. But my planning mind would hold on to the plan, No we must still follow the plan! Even if the plan didn’t make sense anymore.

Or, I would let go of the plan, but it would be really hard to do so. There would be a strong sense of disappointment that the plan wasn’t happening like I expected.

I think planning can be helpful, but I try to make my plans a little less rigid now, a little more loose and able to be changed. Sometimes I think of them as “maybe plans.” My mind naturally likes to plan things. But now I will think things like, IF the weather is nice, MAYBE we will go for a hike and picnic.

If I come home to a storm, This seems like a really nice night to stay in and read. MAYBE we’ll do a picnic and hike tomorrow.

There has to be room for changes and the unexpected. Not only because these two things are inevitable, but sometimes we miss opportunities because we are so focused on following the plan.

This applies not just to day to day planning, but life planning too.

If we plan out our life so perfectly, we might miss a beautiful opportunity that is outside of our expected plan.

Or, your dream job/spouse/life may actually look a little different than what you expected – you don’t want miss out on an amazing opportunity because of rigid and overly specific planning.

So just to be clear, I still do plan. But I have been so much happier since allowing spontaneity and unexpected changes – it is a much more enjoyable way to live!

 

3. Realizing Fun is a Responsibility

It feels a little funny writing that heading. Probably because it is so different than I used to think.

I’ve always been a pretty responsible person. When I was in school – making sure my school work was done on time. At work – making sure my paperwork is done before deadlines. At home – making sure chores were done before play.

However, I am also a person that has struggled extensively with having low moods in the past. It was only within the past couple years that I realized having fun was a responsibility I needed to have for myself.

It’s easy to write off fun. Many people would not feel comfortable saying that they make fun a priority. In fact, a few years ago, I would probably have judged someone for saying something like that.

But, fun is a priority and responsibility for me now. I am being irresponsible if I am not allowing fun into my life. Because I can be susceptible to low moods and because I can get into overly-responsible mode, it is important for me to make time for fun, as a way of taking care of myself.

How much fun? I make sure I have fun at least once a day, because it is that important. Fun for me could be hiking, going out to eat, or just spending time with my husband. Every person has their own definition of fun – just make sure it is a priority in your life – it truly is important and fundamental for your self-care.

 

These are just a few little lessons that have helped me be a little happier & a little healthier. I hope they inspire a little bit of happy & healthy in your life too!

Wishing you the loveliest of days.

Yours,

signaturesmaller

 

Journal Questions:

  1. In what ways would you like to be happier & healthier? How could you work on developing habits that would help you toward health & happiness?
  2. What is your current relationship with exercise? How would you like it to be different? What is an exercise strategy that might work better than the one you are currently using?
  3. Are there ways in which your planning is not serving you? Do you have difficulty if plans change or things don’t happen as expected? How could you change your relationship with planning? Are you willing to allow for more spontaneity?
  4. Do you make a fun a priority? Would you be willing to shift your perspective into thinking that fun is a responsibility you should have for yourself? How would you make your days different if you embraced this way of thinking more?

8 thoughts on “3 Little Lessons that made me Happier & Healthier

  1. Love, love this one Nicole!

    I like reading about your strategies and how your thinking has changed! For me, it’s really nice to see your thought process, especially because I think we go through some of the same things. I’m going to do the journal questions now, but just wanted to register what I liked about this article :). Thanks for what you do!

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    1. Hey Emily!

      So glad you liked this post! From what you have shared in your comments, it does sound like we have a lot of similar thinking patterns! I am so glad you can relate & find what I share helpful! Also, it is always nice to know there are others out there like me! 🙂

      Thank you so much for your feedback!

      Nicole

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  2. What a great post!

    I’ve been reading through your blog for the past week or so, and want to say I think they’re just great! I’m personally a shy person too, and sometimes I think too thoughtful, so I appreciate the brain-training from your blog!

    Of these three, I’d say giving up planning is the hardest for me! 🙂 I love the idea of maybe plans, it really “tricks” my planning brain into being ok with changes in the plan. Thanks again!

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    1. Hi Anna!

      So glad you have found the blog & have been enjoying it!

      Also, I am glad the “maybe plans” strategy was helpful! Sometimes we do have to “trick” our brains a bit, don’t we? 🙂

      Thanks so much for sharing your feedback!

      Nicole

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  3. Hey Nicole,

    Thanks again for your writing – it’s really nice to read. I was wondering if you had some advice. I’m trying to practice more trusting my intuition, and letting go of some of the fears I have about the future, and about dealing with people, but I’ve just got a very fearful mind. I think part of the reason that I need lots of plans is that without them, my mind goes to the worst possible outcome. It does make it hard to relax, or not have everything be really structured. Do you have advice for how I could deal with that?

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    1. Hi Chrissy,

      I’ve definitely been in a place before too, in which I would have lots of structure and plans in my life, in an effort to avoid my thoughts and also as a way of trying to find security or control over my life.

      Changing our thoughts and getting over our fears, definitely isn’t easy, nor does it happen quickly – but I recommend that this is something that you continue working on, because it can be changed. I write quite a bit about this in the article I posted yesterday – I suggest taking a look at it and seeing if you find it helpful?

      Whenever I begin to have fearful thoughts I counter them with positive, calming, more hopeful thoughts. At first this practice may not feel helpful, but the more you do it, the more it will become more natural and the more you will believe the positive thoughts.

      Also, sometimes I think about a spectrum when it comes to best case scenario and worst case scenario, and I think about what everything in between would be. Sometimes this is helpful for me to think about, because it makes me realize that there are a lot of different outcomes that could happen, besides just the absolute worst case scenario.

      Finally, I also would suggest exploring the idea of counseling or coaching, if you haven’t already. Having someone to work with you each week on this might be helpful. I personally offer one-on-one email coaching, if that is something you might want to try (see coaching tab at top of page). There are also many lovely counselors and coaches out there, if you prefer in person or over the phone.

      Regardless, thanks for asking your questions & let me know if there is anything else I can do to help or any resources I can assist you in finding.

      Best,

      Nicole

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