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Exercise everyday with these easy hacks

I previously wrote about the most important new year’s resolution that we most often take for granted, our health. My attention was brought to this realization one day by a sickness which sabotaged all my activities laid for the several days that ensued. Then and there, I made the commitment to prioritise my health.

What seemed like an easy goal though is – in reality – an overwhelming task. I found it challenging to identify time to exercise. Whenever I’m immersed in a certain work, it was all too easy to make excuses not to exercise. In addition, I haven’t been fully well since the day I vowed to make health a priority. I have been nursing a cough which never went away, probably because I was reluctant to take medicines. I took vitamin C, ensured I am well hydrated, took ginger and lemon tea, and ate more fruits and vegetables so I’m gradually feeling better but still not fully recovered. My illness made my body feel heavier; so I got lazier.

Inclined to overcome my repugnance with exercise, I ascertained what made it feel overwhelming. I realised it was because I had this notion of an ‘ideal workout’. I think about long yoga sessions, kilometers stretch of jogging route, a treadmill and the likes. This tendency to set an unnecessary high standard holds true with other plans. Setting a high standard is not wrong, in fact we should aspire to achieve this in everything we do because the world deserves our best. What makes it wrong is when it hampers our growth; when it becomes a cause of our paralysis.

Some things take time to develop. Excellence is not achieved in one attempt but rather after a long process of trial and error. It’s the same with exercise or of being healthy in general; small everyday efforts can lead to notable results. Instead of aiming to do my ‘ideal workout’, I began to think about small ways that I can exercise. These ways aren’t like those exercise hacks suggested online which still involve ambitious, abrupt change of attitude that can get overwhelming and paralysing. Mindfulness helped me identify these pockets of opportunity which include the following:

* Walking instead of driving or taking a cab
* Doing some yoga poses while watching television
* Doing some lying yoga poses during days when I don’t feel like getting out of bed
* Doing some dance moves or belly dancing while cooking!
* Doing some stretching anytime, anywhere during the day
* When stuck in traffic, doing some breathing exercises or stretching poses such as eagle arm, ear to shoulder/neck rolls and shoulder rolls

These are just some ideas but when we continue to go on our day mindfully, I’m sure we will find more ways to move our bodies. Doing these simple steps will eventually lead to a positive change to our health. When we feel healthier and more energised, doing the ‘ideal workout’ will no longer feel overwhelming but a source of joy.


Reviewing my week changes my perspective of tomorrow

Working in a non-profit organization for over five years taught me the importance of setting concrete goals and establishing a monitoring and evaluation system to help us keep track of our progress and steer us back to the right track should we veer, among other things.

In one of the workshops I’ve attended, I learned about the Theory of Change and the process of identifying a specific goal, how to break it into long term and short term plans, and how to create a timeline on a yearly, monthly, weekly and daily basis to ensure that what we do every day will contribute to the realization of our ultimate goal. I thought then that such process can also be applied to our personal goals. But since I decided to not think about ‘big plans’ yet at the moment because I still don’t know what it is I really want, I will instead focus my energy into making sure I spend each day doing the things I am passionate about and hopefully in the process I will be able to figure out what ‘big project’ I want to pursue.

The ‘big project’ I was referring to is something in addition to becoming a lawyer. Becoming a good lawyer requires one to study diligently so I make sure that each day I also allocate some time reading law books and cases aside from doing my other passions.

Now, here’s the thing. Some people don’t even know what they are passionate about. I am the opposite. I enjoy taking pictures, writing/blogging, reading, knitting, cooking, baking, meditation, yoga, video editing – a lot! That’s why it can also get frustrating trying to identify which one I should focus on. So instead of asking myself what is it really, I will just attempt to do them and see where the process will lead me. Thus, being mindful of how I spend my day is the first step at ensuring that this year will not be another wasted year spent mindlessly.

So how do I know I am on track? On January 1, I began to journal my daily activities, learning and realisations. Sometimes I would write whenever I feel the urge particularly when something came up that I didn’t want to forget but most of the time I would write before going to sleep. The first time I did it on new year’s night, I was appalled to see how little I accomplished that day. The nights that followed were filled with the same dismay at how I was not able to maximize my time. I was particularly disappointed when most of my day was spent on delays – when I had to go through a delayed boat departure, delayed van departure, or long queue at a mall counter.

What are you tracking if you don’t have a specific goal?

It’s not that I totally don’t have a goal. I don’t have specific goals such as opening a business venture, publishing a book, winning a Pulitzer award or what have you, but I do have a goal and that is to mindfully spend my day doing the things I am passionate about. My daily journal keeps track of this. Am I doing the things I am passionate about? Or did I spend the day slacking?

I then came up with an idea of having a weekly review of my activities. This is what I meant when I said in my previous post that it’s not necessary to make grand plans for the year because identifying one’s goal is a process and being mindful of how I spend my day is the beginning of the process. True enough, when I began to be mindful of my day, I came up with ideas I would not have thought about before and one of them is to do a weekly review of my activities. The weekly review is designed to help me celebrate my little victories, identify my weaknesses and assess areas for improvement.

My first week of January 2018

I am happy to report that I successfully avoided soft drinks and alcoholic beverages. I plan to continue not drinking them for the whole year. What happens next year is yet to be determined. Vowing never to drink them until the end of time is such a huge goal which will only make me too overwhelmed and overwhelm leads to failure. The key is to make short-term achievable goals first then cross the bridge when I get there.

I was also able to read 40 pages of civil cases on New Year’s day! This was such an accomplishment given my tendencies to avoid work or school work during a day of celebration. And because I was able to do that on a special day, I was able to encourage myself to spend time reading law books every day no matter the duration.

Unfortunately, aside from those two key wins, my week was uneventful. There are definitely more areas to improve. I did yoga just once – for only 30 minutes – though this was also because I was feeling sickly for three days. I felt nauseous then better the following day then suddenly hit by a cough the day after. In fact I was supposed to do my weekly review yesterday but my body felt extremely heavy I ended up sleeping most of the time. I wrote just one article. Did two sessions of 10-minute meditation which was a total shame! And I didn’t finish reading a single novel; I’m not even halfway done!

Overall, my week wasn’t fully maximized. My study time fell too short even though I knew I could have spent more time on it. The same with meditation where a 30-minute session in the morning and before sleep would have been totally achievable but I just didn’t do it. The yoga failure I can forgive because I was really feeling awful though I have to give myself some credit for being mindful of what I eat and drink.

Hopefully this week I will be physically healed and will be able to spend my days better than last week. One thing is for sure, this weekly review is very effective at drawing my attention to how lazy I was, how I’m not able to fully appreciate the time I was gifted to spend; it is a good motivation to keep going and to keep changing for the better. I knew I’ve been good at wasting my time in the past but reviewing my week like this gave a whole new perspective. There’s something about it that gives me that needed boost to actually, really change.


Most important New Year’s resolution we often miss

It’s that time of the year again when most of us are revved up to start the year fresh, make New Year’s resolutions and plans for the whole year round. There’s just something about new year which screams renewal, hope, chances and new beginnings; it fills our spirits with optimism and drive.

The first three days of my year was spent on visiting relatives and traveling. I was out and about with no regard at being productive because I was on full holiday mood and my days were meant to be spent on making memories and quality family time. Yesterday was supposed to be the day I was to begin executing my plans. I sat at my study table in the morning and jotted down my day’s to-do list. I was committed to making that day productive.

Executing my plans doesn’t mean I have a whole plan laid out for the year. In fact, I don’t have any plans at all, except the plan of making this year different. I still don’t know how to do that or what I wish to achieve this year but I believe that it’s a process. And going through the process involves being disciplined on how I spend my day. I want to ensure that my day is spent doing the things I am passionate about, things that make me happy and fulfilled. I hope that through this process, I will gain a clearer perspective on where I want to go, what I want to be and how I will make my existence meaningful.

It’s been a cliché how the internet particularly social media has created these delusions of what an ideal life must be. I want to live an authentic life and I can only do this by being mindful my life’s unique purpose – as each of us has our own purpose of being, different from the others, solely our own destiny. So how do I remain true to my personal calling? I don’t know but living mindfully each day is the beginning of the process.

What’s the use of a thousand plans when you have an unhealthy body?

Yesterday, my attention was brought to a very important realisation. Committed to making the day productive, I immediately began to read one of my textbooks after I was done with my to-do list. Fifteen pages down, I began to feel nauseous followed by a throbbing headache. I don’t know what its cause was. So there I was, in bed capable of doing nothing except nurse my headache; and there it hit me that above all else, our health is our most important wealth. Without a good health, what use is there of all our plans when we don’t have the capacity to execute them?

Today I woke up all better, thanks to hubby’s good massage last night. I’m now ready to continue with my ‘be mindful and productive each day’ goal. But, on top of that, I will make my health a priority. It doesn’t even have to be through an arduous workout routine. It just simply means I will be careful with what I eat, drink enough water, get enough sleep and do some daily exercise/stretching and meditation.

Oh, and being productive doesn’t also mean doing so much hard work because being still and just spending the time doing nothing is a productive activity in itself. I wrote about it in another blog post here.

Happy New Year! May your 2018 be filled with good health, peace of mind, and lots of love and happiness.