Let's Make This the Year of Trying...


Positively Present - Dont Be Afraid to Try


Much as I hate to admit it, I've never really been a try-er. If something comes easily to me or I only have to put in a moderate, not-totally-unenjoyable work, I'll do it. When I encounter anything I'm not immediately decent at doing (or something that is out of my control in some way, I find myself putting in a minimal amount of effort, doing what's needed to get things done (if I even do it at all). During a conversation with a friend a few months back, I was pondering why I do this. Why do I just not try at certain things? Or, when I do try, why do I not try particularly hard? 

I could be wrong (self-evaluation always comes with the risk of being deeply flawed), but I believe it's because I'm afraid. If I try my best and fail, I'll be disappointed or upset. If I don't try (or half-ass try), I can always tell myself, Of course you didn't succeed -- you didn't even really try! It's an odd act of self-preservation, this not-trying thing. I do it, I think, so I don't have to deal with whatever emotions might arise if I were to try my absolute best and fail. 

This, as you might imagine, is not an ideal way to live. Yes, I've managed to do well in certain areas and find fulfillment in many of the things I do, but what am I missing out on by not trying? And what would it be like if I actually started trying, putting my full effort into whatever I do? 

It was back in the early autumn when I was having this conversation with my friend, and I decided then and there that I was going to try as hard as I could with my upcoming book, Grow Through It. It's not that I hadn't tried with previous books -- obviously, I did. But I didn't push myself to a level of trying that felt borderline uncomfortable. (This sounds like a bad thing, but when it comes to trying, it's actually good to push yourself a bit and not settle for what comes easily.) 

And so I did. I pushed myself harder than I had before. I perfected. I re-read. I redrew entire pages if they didn't feel like they were working. (In the past, I might have thought, Yeah, it could be better, but whatever, it's fine!) Could I have done more? Maybe? Of course I'll always feel that way because without time restrictions and deadlines (and things like sleep and maintaining somewhat of a social life), there's always a possibility that more could be done. But I know for certain: I tried harder than I've tried before. I will not be able to look at this book at say, Eh, well, I didn't really try, so who cares if it's not doing well..

I put everything I could into that book, and, regardless of how well it's received or the total sales (it debuts in early October! yay!), I feel differently about it than I do about other projects I've worked on. Even if no one else loves it, love it. I tried

Of course, the point of this post isn't to rave about my excitement for Grow Through It (though I am super excited for it!). It's to bring up the issue of trying. Maybe you're nothing like me. Maybe you try your hardest at everything -- your job, your hobbies, your relationships, etc. But I bet there are a lot of people out there who're just like me, who hold back on trying because they're afraid of failing. I bet some of you don't try as hard as you know you could because you worry that the end result won't reflect the effort you put in. 

But I'm here to tell you, as a (former?) non-try-er, that it doesn't matter. There's value in the trying itself, regardless of the outcome. The cliche "it's all about the process" exists for a reason. Sure, the end result will matter to some degree. Of course I want my book to do well and my hard work to pay off. But, in the process of all this trying, I've gained something really valuable: more self-respect. Sure, trying is scary. But there's something so powerful and motivating about actually putting in the work. There's a magic to putting yourself out there, win or lose, and giving it your all. It feels good

So, if you're like me and tend to half-ass try (or altogether avoid) things that are tough, I hope this inspires you to give something you really care about your very best shot. It might not work out, true, but it might, and wouldn't it be kind of cool to see what happens if you really put everything into it? Wouldn't it be something to have worked your absolute hardest and be rewarded for it, even if that reward is simply feeling more certain about what you're capable of? 

Trying is scary, but you should do it. I'm going to continue trying not to half-ass my trying (ha!). Like, recently I was nominated for a Shorty Award in Art (omgomgomg -- I still can't believe I'm writing those words!). A (big) part of me wants to be like, Don't promote it and ask people to vote for you -- that seems desperate and you shouldn't care so much about something like an award; you're just feeding your ego. But that's the scared part of me. The other (braver!) part of me is like, You know what? I want to win. Wanting to win an award for something I've worked really hard on doesn't make me a bad person. I'm choosing to listen to that second voice. I'm choosing to ask for votes, to promote myself, and, scary as it is, to hope I actually win. 

If I don't win, I'll be fine. Just like I'll be fine if Grow Through It isn't the smashing success I dream it will be. But I know now that I don't want my fear to hold me back from going after things I want. I likely developed this "don't try too hard / don't act like you care" attitude in my angsty teen years, but it's high time I let that shit go. I do care. I'm still scared to try, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't do it. That fear inside my head is just static. It's muffling the sounds of what I really want, and this year I'm choosing to turn the volume down. 

I want 2020 to be the year of trying. I want it to be the year of giving a shit and not being afraid of expressing my desires. It's okay to want things. It's okay to work hard and hope for success. I'll leave you with this: 

 

If you've been half-assing something you really care about, stop letting the fear win, and start trying instead. See what happens...

 

Also, vote for me in the Shorty Awards! I really do want to win (even though I still feel embarrassed writing that, even after this massive blog-post-turned-pep-talk! *eye roll*), and every vote counts. You can vote once a day until February 20, 2020. Thank you so much to everyone who has already voted, and thank you in advance to everyone who votes after reading this! 

 


9 Tips for Battling the Winter Blues

Positively Present - Winter Blues

 

As winter arrives, I'm taken back in my mind to last year... Last winter, I was really down and out at the start of 2019. I spent so much time in bed, engaging in unhealthy coping methods, and generally just feeling rotten about myself and my life. While I don't know for sure if this was general depression or Season Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) -- I should have sought professional help, but I didn't -- I do know that it was pretty terrible to feel that way. 

Though I feel very differently now than I did then (not gonna lie -- 2019 turned itself around and turned out to be one of the best years I've had in a long time!), when I think back on last winter, my mind starts racing and all I can think about is how to prevent myself from falling back into that darkness again this year. So, of course, I decided to do some research on S.A.D. and learn about how I could prevent it, or, if it happens to strike again this year, how I can cope with it. 

Even if you don't have S.A.D. or depression, you might find yourself facing the winter blues. With colder temps and darker, shorter days, it's not surprising that many people struggle during this season. You can't always avoid feeling sad (or S.A.D.) altogether, but here are some of the tips I've discovered that I think would really help if you're struggling. 

 

  1. GET A LIGHT BOX

    I've never tried one of these so I can't vouch for their effectiveness, but from what I've read, it sounds like they can really help people who are suffering with S.A.D. Apparently there are many different types (as well as something called a "dawn simulator" that's used to wake you up in the morning) so be sure to do your research and figure out which one would be best for you. 

  2. VENTURE OUTDOORS

    The lack of light and shorter days can make it tough to go outside (especially if, like me, you're not an outdoorsy type to begin with), but if you're feeling down, making the effort to spend time in the fresh air can really help. Even just a quick walk around the block can help! (Or get a pup so you're forced to take them out and get some outdoor time in every day!)

  3. TRY THERAPY (CBT)

    While I can't personally verify that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy works for S.A.D., I do know that it's worked for me in the past to deal with other mental health issues and it's the therapy type I saw recommended the most while looking up info on S.A.D. Seeking professional help is one of the best ways to find solutions for your specific needs, so I highly recommend it. 

  4. MAKE SOME ART

    Art therapy really does work, and I honestly don't know if I would have survived last winter without making art. I know art isn't everyone's thing, but if you're feeling down, give it a try. It doesn't have to be traditional art either -- try writing, pottery, drawing, painting, sewing. Anything creative that allows you to get in a flow for a bit can help. 

  5. CONSIDER MEDS

    To get through S.A.D. some people need the assistance of medication. If you're having a difficult time, talk to your doctor about what you're going through to see if there might be something that can work for you. (Whatever you do, don't attempt to self-medicate. It never works out and often makes things way worse than they were.)

  6. PRACTICE YOGA

    Yoga is another saving grace for me. I'm not particularly good at it and I generally do it for about 10-15 minutes every day, but even when I half-ass it and don't feel up for it, making the time to do it always makes me feel a bit better. (My favorite is Yoga with Adriene on YouTube but there are tons of yogis online!) Exercising also works wonders if yoga isn't your thing. 

  7. SEEK SUNLIGHT

    Open the blinds! Pull up the curtains! The lack of sunlight is one of the reasons for S.A.D. so the more of it you can allow into your home, the better. If you don't have a desk near a window, as your boss if there's somewhere else you can work temporarily to be near a sunny spot. Going outside isn't always an option, but take advantage of sunny days indoors by allowing the light in. 

  8. MAKE PLANS 

    When I'm feeling down, the last thing I want to do is be around people. But I've discovered that it's often what my mind needs when I'm sad. I don't enjoy going out in the cold, but I'm planning to make an effort to make lots of plans this winter so that I'm busy and socializing. It won't be easy, but I know it's helpful for me. 

  9. STICK TO A SCHEDULE

    With the lack of daylight, it's tempting to go to bed super early or sleep in (if you have the option), but I've read (and also believe) that sticking to a schedule is important for managing or preventing S.A.D. The body and mind love to be on schedules and it gives your life a sense of purpose that's important when you're feeling down. Your winter schedule can be different from your summer one, but just try to stick to it! 

 

Of course, there are many other options to explore and if you're really suffering during the winter, seeking professional help (whether in the form of therapy or from your doctor) is always a good idea. If you're feeling down (especially after the holiday season passes and it feels like a swift change in pace), know that you're not alone and that it's perfectly normal to experience down days in the winter. Try to remember that, even when it doesn't seem like it, the difficult darkness will pass. There will be a spring again (or something that makes it feel like spring to you). 

 

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The 2019 Gratitude Challenge!


Positively Present 2019 Gratitude Challenge

 

HOORAY! The NINTH year of the Positively Present Gratitude Challenge is about to begin on November 1!

Though I keep a daily gratitude journal, there's always something special about celebrating gratitude during the month of November each year. Having a specific topic to focus on each day really makes me pay even more attention to the things I'm thankful for, and I hope these annual prompts help you too! 

As in previous years, I'll be sharing illustrations on Instagram daily (follow me on Instagram if you're not already!), but feel free to use these prompts for art, photos, collages, or whatever else feels like the best creative outlet for you. If you're new to this Challenge, below are some details (as well as info on each prompt!): 

THE CHALLENGE DETAILS

  • “Challenge” is just a word.

    The goal of the Challenge is to focus on (and share if you want!) something (a photo, illustration, quote, etc.) every day, using the prompts to help you feel more appreciative. Feel free to get creative, make up your own prompts, etc. And don’t feel pressured to attain perfection, either. Thankfulness is what it’s all about; no need to be a professional photographer or artist, or to even keep up every single day!

  • Join in at any time.

    The point of the Challenge is to focus on staying thankful for thirty days. You can start the challenge on November 1 and do it for the whole month (as I'm doing), or you can start the challenge any day that works for you and follow along at your own pace. I see people discovering and partaking in the Challenge all year 'round so don't feel limited to the month of November!


  • Use the hashtag #Gratitude30.

    Sharing your pics on Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc.? If you tag them with #Gratitude30, others can see them and if you click on the hashtag you’ll be able to see the cool things others are sharing, too! It really is so awesome to look through the hashtag and see how others interpret and share the prompts every day. Not only is the creativity amazing, but it often shows me new ways to be appreciative. 


  • Save or print out a reminder.

    Keep up with the prompts by downloading the photo above (or save it to your phone, perhaps!) or, if you’re more of a IRL type, print out a version to post wherever you'd find a reminder helpful. Of course, you don't have to do them all in a row (or even do them all), but there is something special about spending 30 consecutive days focusing on gratitude. 

 

THE 2019 PROMPTS...

 

DAY 1: GROWTH

Whether you realize it or not, every day, every moment, you're growing and changing. Most of us focus on growth as something that happens when we're young, but we never stop growing. How have you grown over the past year? Or how have you seen someone or something else grow? 

 

DAY 2: KNOWLEDGE

You've learned so much since the day you were born, which is pretty amazing. What's the thing you're most thankful to have learned? Is there knowledge you've gathered this year that you're particularly grateful for? Also, today is a great day to be thankful for the resources and people who have taught you. 

 

DAY 3: LOVE

There are so many kinds of love (romantic, platonic, etc.) and type is deserving of your gratitude. How do you share love in your life? How do you accept it? How does it make you feel when you think of the word "love"? Celebrate the love you experience for (and from!) others today. 

 

DAY 4: MUSIC

If you've checked out my playlists on Spotify, you know music is something I'm immensely passionate about. There are songs for every occasion and mood, and hearing the right one at the right time can be life-changing. What kind of music do you enjoy? What song are you most thankful for right now?

 

DAY 5: NATURE

No matter where you live, there's likely to be some nature around you. What is inspiring or beautiful about nature you come into contact with often? What elements of nature do you most connect with? What element of the natural world are you most grateful to experience?

 

DAY 6: CREATIVITY

Even if you don't consider yourself "creative," every day you create something. You create connections, experiences, conversations. You might create art and music and magic. Consider what you have created recently. How did it feel? What would you like to create more of?  

 

DAY 7: MEMORY

Memory is a tricky thing because it's not always very accurate. However, it does feel accurate and it's worth being thankful for. Consider your favorite moment or item from the past. What was wonderful about it? How do you feel when you think of that time / thing / person? 

 

DAY 8: WORK

Work-related gratitude might be a challenge if you don't love what you do, but consider how work makes your life better. It provides income, and it can challenge, inspire, and excite you. Today, reflect on how you're fortunate to have a job (or a school) to go to each day. How does this experience improve your life, or at least help you in some way?  

 

DAY 9: CHANGE

Change can be a negative or positive experience, but it's an inevitable part of life. What's changed in life over the past year? What's changed in the last decade? Do you have new friends, new experiences, new mindsets? If you're struggling with this prompt, change the way you do something today and see how it feels.  

 

DAY 10: PEACE

Peace has become one of my favorite words in 2019, mostly because I so rarely experience it. When do you most feel at peace? When you do feel relaxed, calm, and most like yourself? Those moments are the ones you should celebrate today (and maybe even consider how you want to incorporate more of them in your life!). 

 

DAY 11: FREEDOM

Another word that has a lot of meaning for me is freedom. It's something I value incredibly highly (maybe too much?), and am extremely thankful to have in my life. In what ways do you feel free? What people, places, or experiences allow you to feel independent and untethered? 

 

DAY 12: BEAUTY

There is always something beautiful around you if you make an effort to look for it. What beauty are you grateful to see or experience today, right now? What things make your home, office, neighborhood, etc. more beautiful? Who around you embodies the essence of beauty? What do you find beautiful about yourself? 

 

DAY 13: COLOR

There are few things I love more than color! Every single day I'm thankful for all the colors that surround me and all the hues and tones I get to use in my work. How do you feel about color? Which ones are your favorites? What colors inspire feelings of happiness? Share those today!

 

DAY 14: TIME

Because we're only given so much time (an amount we can't even be certain about!), it's important that we pause and be thankful for the time we've been given. It's important, too, to take note of how we spend that time. How do you like to spend your time? What would you do if you had more time? What does the word "time" mean to you? 

 

DAY 15: FRIENDSHIP

Without friendship, life would be quite dull. Today's the day to focus your attention on the friends who brighten your world. Who has been by your side no matter what? Who can you call, day or night, for a chat? Who puts a smile on your face when you think of them? 

 

DAY 16: MAGIC

Regardless of whether or not you believe in magic, it exists all around you. There is magic when you connect with words written on a page. Magic in the moment that you fall in love. Magic in the way we're able to bond so closely with animals of other species. Magic is mixed in with our lives. What magic are you most thankful for today? 

 

DAY 17: SEASONS

With my new season-focused book, Grow Through It, coming out in 2020, I couldn't not have this prompt! The seasons, for me, are incredibly important. They shape my life in so many ways, and I'm so thankful for the changes they bring. Which season is your favorite? Do you enjoy the changes that come with each season? 

 

DAY 18: BOOKS

It's been months since I shot past my goal of reading 100 books this year. I just can't seem to stop turning the pages! What books do you love most? What's the best book you've read this year, or in recent years? What have you learned from books that you might not have otherwise known? 

 

DAY 19: KINDNESS 

Kindness is such a simple thing, but it's not always as abundant as it could be. Today's a good day to do something especially kind for someone else. It's also the day to celebrate kindness -- kindness you've committed, you've experienced, or you've witnessed. When you think of the word "kindness," what's the first thing you think of? 

  

DAY 20: HEALTH

If you don't have health issues, it can be very easy to take good health for granted, but it's one of the most important and amazing things to have. If you're feeling healthy, celebrate how lucky you are today. If you're struggling with health issues, try to focus on the things that are functioning well (or look forward to days when you will feel a bit better). 

 

DAY 21: INSPIRATION

Inspiration is all around you -- if only you make an effort to look for it. Today, consider what inspires you to get out of the bed in the morning. What inspires you to keep working, loving, living? Use today as an opportunity to share your favorite source of inspiration with others. 

 

DAY 22: HOME

What does the word "home" mean to you? Is it where you rest your head each night? Is it where you grew up? Or is home more of a state of mind? Or perhaps a person? Home doesn't need to be a physical thing so feel free to explore creatively with this prompt. Whatever home means to you, reflect on it and share a photo of it today.

 

DAY 23: ANIMALS

Even if you don't have a pet, it's likely that you take joy in seeing animals (or, if you're not an animal-lover, you can at least attempt to understand where that joy might come from). Do you have a favorite animal? If you have a pet, how does that animal make you feel? What animals would you like to know more about?

 

DAY 24: HUMOR

Humor is one of life's greatest gifts. It can transform a mood, lighten a tough time, or touch on tough topics with levity. Today, reflect on what makes you laugh and the things you find humorous. Is it a movie? A book? A joke? A memory? A friend? Whatever evokes that giddy sense of joy within you, be thankful for it. 

 

DAY 25: SNACKS

I know I should be better at preparing meals and eating like a normal grown-up adult, but I'm a sucker for snacks. I love anything you can eat on the go, and I'm thankful to live in a time when such things exist. What is your favorite snack? What flavors (sweet, salty, etc.) are you most drawn to? Celebrate (and eat!) your favorite snack today. 

 

DAY 26: EARTH

We're so lucky to be on this crazy marble of a planet, spinning around in space. We, as humans, don't treat the earth as well as we should, but still we get so much from it. Today, let's try to do something nice for the planet if we can. What do you love most about this place? What do you think of when you see a pic of earth from space? 

 

DAY 27: MERRIMENT

How often to you make time for merriment? For just being silly? For having fun? Today's a good day to reflect on how it feels to have fun, to be silly, and to make merry. "Merry" is a word we hear mostly in connection with the holiday season, but why? Why not aim for merriment more often? What do you feel is the most merry activity to do? 

 

DAY 28: FAMILY

Family — no matter what shape or size it comes in  — is something we're all lucky to have in our lives. Take note of your family today (and "family" can include friends or anyone you've chosen as your family, too!). What do you love about the family you surround yourself with? What do you often take for granted and could be extra appreciative of today?

 

DAY 29: DREAMS

Today's prompt has a double meaning: it can be either the dreams you have a night (which I always find so fascinating!) or it can be the dreams you have during the day (the goals of what you want to achieve in the future). Regardless of which kind of dream you're focusing on today, ask yourself, "What's so special about my dreams? What do I want to celebrate about them?"

 

DAY 30: SELF

No matter what, the one thing you will always have in your life is YOU. On the final day of the challenge, I like to turn our attention inward. Consider, today, all the ways you are amazing, and appreciate the good (and not so good!) parts of yourself. What do you love most about you? What aspects do you feel deserve more love and attention? 

 

 

As a reminder, these are just suggested prompts to get you started. Feel free to make up your own or mix these up. The point is to focus on being grateful all month long -- not to stick to the rules of a challenge. If you do join in, don't forget to use the hashtag #Gratitude30 so I can see your posts! I'll be posting mine starting on November 1 so keep a look out for them. I can't wait to see what you share, and to spend the month of November focusing on all the things we're thankful to have in our lives! 

 

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