How to Create a Mindful Space in the Home

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Photo by Trent Szmolnik via Unsplash

Today’s blog is a guest post from Kay Pascale. Kay Pascale is a writer from Durham, NC. When she isn’t writing about home improvement or how to stay healthy, she loves traveling, running with her dog, and honing her photography skills.

A mindful space in your home is a sanctuary that belongs to you. This is a calm place for you to relax, meditate, and focus on getting away from the distractions of your everyday life. Creating a mindful space will also help to manage your self-control, mental health, tolerance, emotions, and mental clarity. Most importantly, a mindful space focuses on you, and that is something we all need more of. Here are a few steps to create a mindful space in your home.

Focus on Color

Most people don’t realize that there’s a direct link between the color of your surroundings and how that color affects your mood. For example, restaurants often use red, because red can lead to impatience and increased irritability, which are perfect for getting customers in and out of a restaurant as quickly as possible. Soft and warm colors, such as tan and light gray, may provide a calming effect while colors like orange and pastels can improve your mood.

Eliminate Blue-light Technology

Blue-light technology is commonplace in most American homes. TVs, computers, and our
handheld devices—including our phones—are all sources of blue light. The problem is that our eyes are just not very good at filtering out the debilitating effects of blue light. Beyond just the distraction of our devices, blue light can increase eye strain and lead to headaches or stress on your body which can make relaxation difficult. Not to mention, consuming blue light before bedtime can cause you to have trouble falling and staying asleep.

Limit Distractions

While blue-light technology is often the culprit of distraction, there are other distractions that are so commonplace they go unnoticed in our homes. According to House Method, creating a mindful space in your home means eliminating as many distractions as possible. For example, this could mean removing clutter to reduce stress and create an open space, reducing light levels, and cancelling out loud noises.

Add Essential Oils

Essential oils have been used for medicinal reasons for thousands of years. Introducing essential oils into your mindful space is a great way to improve mood, reduce anxiety, and provide mental clarity. Essential oils such as lavender, chamomile, lemon, and cedarwood are commonly used in spas and meditation rooms for their therapeutic benefits. Be sure to check for pet friendliness before diffusing oils in a space where your pets may join you, as some oils are toxic to animals.

Make It Comfy

The purpose of a mindful space is to reduce stress and give you a place to relax. For some
people, a comfortable space may include soft pillows and a shelf of books. For another person, a comfy place may be a bed with a soft comforter or relaxing couch to stretch out on. Addressing your comfort needs is essential to creating your space.

Creating a mindful space in your home isn’t difficult and has a healthy rate of return. Focusing on limiting distractions, creating a mood-calming environment, and adapting to your relaxation needs are key. Whether you use your mindful space for stress-related emergencies or for daily meditation, a mindful space is a great way to enhance your mental and physical health.

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Finding Inspiration and Creativity in Your Dreams

Today’s post is a guest post from Amanda Tallent. 

After a long day, one of the best feelings is climbing into a cozy bed and preparing to go to sleep. Even if you have a hard time going to sleep, simply laying down in a relaxed position can bring your body and mind much needed rest. Once you drift off into your slumber, your mind explores all kinds of memories and ideas in the form of dreams.

Dreaming can open up your mind to new solutions, motivations, experiences, and sometimes even fears. Dreaming has also been linked to improving creativity for those who can recall what happened while they were sleeping. Some dreams stick with us and others become faint memories seconds after waking up. To help record your dreams and find creativity in unexpected places, you can practice dream journaling.

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Image description: A person’s hand holds a thin paintbrush to create a blue watercolor shape in a space labeled “Draw or paint a character or location from your dream”

Dream journaling is a method of recording your dreams to help you decode them and apply meaning. Simply writing down what happened, who was there, what you saw, and how it made you feel can help point you in the right direction. The Sleep Advisor created these printable dream journal templates so that you can start your own dream journal.

They created different templates to inspire creativity, manifest success, and record your dreams. The creativity template asks you to record the colors and emotions of your dreams while the success template asks tough questions about your fears and challenges. Being more in tune with your mind and dreams will tell you a lot more about yourself and possibly even your future.

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Image description: A person holds a pencil over a template page for dream interpretation

Amanda Tallent is a content creator and creative writer. Her background in digital marketing has led her to cover unique topics ranging from lifestyle to business. Amanda is an INFJ who enjoys creating and bringing visions to life with a lot of careful planning. To connect with Amanda on LinkedIn, please visit: https://www.linkedin.com/in/amandatallent/.

Tips for a Meaningful No-Spend Challenge

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Before I became my fully evolved writer-self who championed the millennial cause, I really enjoyed writing about budgets and personal finance. Of course, these topics are definitely still related to the millennial experience, especially considering how many of us are juggling multiple jobs and side gigs to make ends meet or work toward financial goals. Today’s post is all about a monthly No-Spend Challenge.

Originally posted by credit.com earlier this month, I’m revising the plan for a more topical take on reduced spending for the millennial burnouts reading this blog. Of course, you can always tweak the plan to make it fit your own needs!

No-Spend isn’t really “no” spend

First off, it’s called a No-Spend Challenge, but you’ll still be spending the usual cash flow on necessities like rent, utilities, food, and transportation.

When planning your No-Spend challenge, you WILL spend on: shelter (rent/mortgage), insurance, internet, phone, utilities, business expenses, personal care items (menstrual products, toothpaste, etc.), and groceries. But you WON’T spend on: eating out, coffee shops, clothing, unneeded cosmetics or toiletries (i.e., if you still have a bottle of shampoo in the cabinet, don’t go buy a new one this month), home decor, hobbies, entertainment, or toys.

Why No-Spend?

A No-Spend challenge is a way to streamline your spending so you can put more toward a savings goal, debt payoff, or other financial objective. But you can make it your own, if your budget is so tight you’re really not spending much on those “luxury” categories in the first place.

Alternatives to the No-Spend Challenge

If you like the idea but don’t have the financial wiggle room to change your spending habits, try the following alternatives:

Use It Up Challenge: Don’t buy any new item until you’ve completely used up the current one. A bar of soap, your cabinet stock of facial cleanser (guilty – the discounts at Marshall’s got me), a tube of toothpaste, or even a dish towel with a hole in it can all be used up completely before being replaced.

Pantry and Freezer Challenge: Cut spending on groceries by using up the food in the freezer and pantry. If you’re a stocker-upper who never seems to actually use those stocked up items, take a week or two to limit your grocery spending to only fresh produce and perishables, while you use up your existing stores of frozen meals, grains, canned goods, etc. in the kitchen.

One Week Challenge: If you can’t swing a whole month of No-Spend, try just a week or a weekend. Or don’t, I’m not the boss of you.

Tips to stick with it

I always enthusiastically start a No-Spend month and then end up allowing this or that, and before you know it, oops, I spent what I normally spend in a month on eating out or haircuts or whatever. Here are some tips to keep your spending at bay for this temporary challenge:

Unsubscribe: Take shopping apps off your phone, unlink your cards from your shopping accounts, and unsubscribe from sales list emails.

Think it Through: When you’re itching for an impulse purchase, think about it for at least a minute first. Write down the item, why you want it, what you could do instead of buying it, etc. — by the time you’re done, you will likely be able to walk away from it. Keep a list so you can buy items after your challenge is up (if you still even want them).

Do Free Stuff: A quick web search for “Free things to do in (your city)” will open up a whole new world. The library has events on a regular basis, museums are usually free to the public (or have a free day for local residents), and the spring and summer is a great time of year to go exploring local hiking trails.

Make it Work for You: If you really love the experience of shopping or getting a treat for yourself (no judgment, I regularly have Treat Yo Self moments), make the No-Spend Challenge work for you. Host a swap meet with friends – everyone can declutter their homes and meet up to exchange art, clothes, decor items, and more. This way, you get the experience of new, cool stuff without spending a penny. Or you can have a garage sale, but that is less fun than hanging with your besties all day.

Get the guide!

Download this worksheet PDF to help you find your motivation for a No-Spend Challenge and check off all the days you meet your No-Spend goals:

No Spend Challenge Worksheet PDF

Acknowledge privilege

If you’re able to do a No-Spend month, of course you should support your own financial goals like debt payoff, saving up for a meaningful purchase, etc. However, it is extremely important to check your privilege. Financial know-how can’t be boiled down to just “skip your daily latte and stop getting fast food.”

For people in food deserts, who straddle a benefits gap, or who otherwise struggle to make ends meet, a No-Spend Challenge is not an appropriate way for them to meet their needs. In addition, their small coffee or muffin at a cafe might be the only way they let themselves have a small piece of indulgence. Luxuries are not only for the well-off, friends. Everyone deserves to live well and have a moment of peace.

If you are privileged enough to have the kind of income that makes a No-Spend Month a huge financial boon, consider rehoming some of those dollars to people in need. You can donate to the Reparations Emergency Fund by Nice White Ladies, which helps black women and femmes who need emergency support for shelter and other needs. Or support a charity of your choice to help marginalized populations.


PS. I mention the benefits gap in this post, a topic I also cover in my upcoming book, “The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation.” This book helps people unpack the claims around millennials’ destruction of society by providing a mix of data and stories, plus advice on how to get ahead in a society that blames you for everything. Check it out and find pre-order links at bornagainminimalist.com/book.

Running on empty: Millennial burnout and why we deserve to stop

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I’ve been listening to a mountain of body positive books lately, like I’m simmering myself in the decadence of self-love until it permeates every molecule of my being. I want every single morsel of myself to be flavored with the spice of confidence and knowledge that I am totally awesome and I don’t have to whittle myself away and restrict my behavior until I’m suitable for the average consumer.

After ravenously listening to Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls by Jes Baker and The Body Is Not An Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor, my copy of the brand-spankin’-new The Fuck It Diet by Caroline Dooner arrived. And this book leans on a lot of the scientific data covered in Linda Bacon’s Health At Every Size.

Everyone benefits from self-love, and the first step toward self-love is changing your media habits as they pertain to how you view and interact with your body. This includes:

  • Unfollowing social media and mainstream media that focus on diet and weight loss mentality, or anything that makes you feel crappy
  • Following social media that focuses on self love, self care, and body confidence, or anything else that makes you feel good
  • Unsubscribing from magazines and returning library books that celebrate restriction, weight loss, and dieting
  • Reading the hell out of books like the above that affirm your desire to love yourself no matter your BMI or body fat percentage

I love the affirmation of books like Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls and The Body Is Not An Apology. They gave me moments of “hell yeah” and “damn right” and “I do what I WANT and if you don’t like me then GO AWAY,” all of which are really nice to feel. But what The Fuck It Diet and Health At Every Size have done is make me super, super mad.

I was so mad that I turned off HAES and called my sister to say, while she was getting a pedicure, “DID YOU KNOW THAT BEING FAT ACTUALLY HAS NO BEARING ON DISEASE? YEAH. FAT PEOPLE AREN’T ANY MORE PRONE TO DISEASE JUST BECAUSE THEY ARE FAT. ALSO THE CDC FAKED DATA AND INFLATED OBESITY RELATED DEATHS BY 94% AND I AM SO MAD RIGHT NOW.”

The truth, they say, will set you free.

It turns out that a lifetime of my bloodwork being great, blood pressure being great, cholesterol being great, prediabetic markers being nonexistant, and overall health and fitness level being great was completely overshadowed by my fatness and BMI. So I restricted, I dieted, I did extreme exercise, and I lost a whopping 99 pounds.

I kept it off for years, too. I was the success story, y’all. I did it. I had made the “lifestyle change.”

And then I left my abusive ex and slowly unpacked that my weight loss had been the only thing in my life I’d had any control over, and every part of me that had been striving for some piece of control and self-efficacy was just burned out and exhausted.

I have gained back 90 pounds. I was struggling with this fact.

But thanks to the knowledge contained within books like The Fuck It Diet and Health At Every Size, I know that it’s not because I failed. It’s because diets fail. They do. They’re designed to fail. No one can sustain such restriction forever, and your body is smarter than you. If you put it into a famine state, it will act like you are in a famine. If you avoid your hunger and fullness cues for decades, you will have to re-learn how to eat.

Listening to HAES on my commute to work this morning, it so happened that I pulled into the gas station to fill up my tank about ten or twenty miles before the fuel light came on. I considered this a huge success. My new year’s resolution was to take better care of my car, which included no longer running it to the fuel light (my previous go-to method).

I pulled away from the pump and turned the book back on, and the topic was hunger cues and when it’s the right time to eat. Each person is different, but the author states that if she waited until her stomach was growling, she had passed from “hungry” into “ravenous” and would likely not make very conscious food choices, as her body would be driving her to eat more food at a quick pace to stop the internal panic of running on empty.

Oh.

Shit. 

The way I operated my car was the way I had been operating my body for years. And let’s not talk about how I routinely run my phone battery charge into the ground and I don’t even know the last time I used, let alone charged, my Kindle.

I’ve been doing a lot of work in therapy lately. I started with body image, and then shifted to rest. One of the thoughts I’m targeting is “I’m not allowed to rest.” Since childhood I have always overcommitted and overachieved, in the hopes of getting recognition and affection from my parents and teachers. Now I do it to impress bosses, peers, everyone around me.

But guess what?

When you keep running on empty, whether it’s your gas tank, your schedule, or your stomach, you are not being a very good steward of your car, your time, or your body.

Millennials are the burnout generation, because we’ve been raised to be. You have to hustle. You have to do so many things, do them well, and do them for a long time, in order to make any headway in life. Retirement? You have to start early! College? Better work as much as possible and take as many classes as you can to get through this expensive experience ASAP. And then haul ass to pay off those loans, what were you thinking? Weight loss? You can’t take over the world if you’re fat, fatty – get moving!

In this world of constant movement, constant stress, constantly worrying what the next problem is going to be, it is radical to rest. It is radical to stop harming yourself with an overcommitted schedule. It is radical, even, to eat what you want, when you want it, without forcing yourself to eat what’s healthy even though it makes you gag.

Fill your tank, please.

With laughter, with dance lessons (even though you’re fat!), with a grilled cheese sandwich, with good sex, with a good long nap, with your favorite book, with a hot bubble bath. Please, take care of you, BEFORE your fuel light comes on.


PS. If you haven’t noticed the new home page for Born Again Minimalist, or the fun link that says “Book” in the navigation – I wrote a book! You can preorder it now!

Learn more at bornagainminimalist.com/book

 

To baby or not to baby: The millennial question

Content warning: This post discusses the decision to have (or not have) a biological child. It also touches on childhood emotional abuse and infertility.

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Why aren’t millennials having babies?

Trick question — they are having babies! Obviously. Most of my friends are around my age and have kids. However, millennials aren’t having as many children, and they’re having children later in life, which is apparently some sort of crisis. (PS. It’s not).

Teen pregnancy is down (yay comprehensive sex education). People are delaying marriage and children because kids are expensive and we can barely afford healthcare and rent. And some people, despite the pearl clutching from the elder generations, choose not to have kids at all (and doctors won’t sterilize them because “what if you change your mind or your future husband wants kids?”)

This post is the first in an ongoing series about the decisions millennials are making to become parents or to remain child free.

I’m 30 and childless… for now

When I was about five, I happily announced to my dad that I knew where babies came from. I believed that each little girl had a seed inside her body that would grow into a baby as soon as she got married. I exclaimed, “I have a little baby inside me!” and my dad, very concerned with my understanding of human biology, corrected me. Probably so I wouldn’t shout to people in the grocery store that I had a baby inside me. This is fair, I’ve heard stories of kids shouting in the grocery store.

My whole life, I have wanted to become a parent. But I was waiting for the right time.

As my (first) wedding approached, my dad started hinting about grandkids, and I told him we wouldn’t have kids for a couple years at least. We were both broke, had no health insurance, and were patchworking together a livable income from multiple part-time jobs. Dad said, “I give it six months til you’re knocked up.”

Divorced that husband. No kids.

As my (second) wedding approached, my husband and I were already trying. This was it, I was ready. I was timing my ovulation and tracking my periods and knew when I was fertile. We tried for eighteen months. Nada. MAYBE one chemical pregnancy, because I was sure I’d seen a faint line on one of my hundred tests before I chucked it into the garbage can. My dad continued to ask me, “When are you going to start dropping grandbabies?” every time I saw him, and did not take the hint when I said “We’re working on it.” At one point, he told my husband “Get on her!” like I was his prized mare waiting to be bred. It felt disgusting.

During my second marriage, I was doing a lot of processing of my childhood emotional abuse and neglect. I unpacked that part of the reason I had waited until later in my twenties to start a family was because on an emotional level, I was terrified of my kids feeling the same way I did about my childhood. I wanted to make sure I could take care of them the way I wish I had been taken care of. My mother was shaming, cold, and perfectionistic in a way that left me feeling broken and alone, desperate for any love and attention I could get. It was easy to take advantage of me, and I’d do anything to keep a partner happy if it meant they’d love me in return.

As my second marriage came to a close, I remember asking my husband if we could table babymaking while we sorted out our issues and got on more solid ground. And his response was that if I wasn’t sure I wanted to have a baby with him right now, why was he about to finally go in for sperm count testing? Basically, he made a threat that if kids were off the table, however briefly, then him going to the doctor was also off the table. So if I thought I’d ever want kids with him and wanted him to get tested, I had better be up for kids right that second.

Divorced that husband. No kids.

To baby or not to baby, that is the question.

Now that I’m out of an abusive marriage, living a life I actually love, spending time with people who actually build me up and support me instead of tear me down, and no longer believing that a baby is a must-have for a happy life, I am confused. I know I would make a great parent, but I no longer feel that just because I’d be good at it, I’m obligated to do it.

I honestly don’t know if I want to be a mom anymore. I spent so long feeling called to parenthood that the absence of “the call” feels strange.

At a time in my life when I’m finally paying attention to my needs instead of the needs of others, am I equipped to bring a child into the world and balance my needs with theirs?

At a time in my life when the most I have to do for a weekend away is leave some extra kibble for the cat and water the plants before I go, am I ready to give up the freedom of only being responsible for me?

At a time in the world’s history when everything is a shit show, do I feel good about having a child and leaving them an even more damaged planet to live on?

At a time in my life when I’m sorting through what I really, actually, authentically want for myself, is a baby part of that or is a baby part of the social narrative I’ve been hearing since I thought babies were seeds that grew when you got married?

There is so much to unpack. There is so much to think about.

And, despite the fact that at 30 and society tells me my ovaries will soon dry up and leave me barren, there’s actually a lot of time to unpack and make the best right decision for me. Not the only right decision — I feel like I’d rock parenthood as much as I’d rock a childfree life — but the best right decision for me.

 

 

My body image boss fight

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Three weeks into my new and improved relationship with food, my resolve was tested. It was the ultimate way for the universe to get right in my face and ask, “Are you sure? Are you sure you love your body right now? You’re not still secretly waiting for a miracle to wake up thinner so you can be happy?”

What happened was that my partner told me he was worried I would reach the upper limit of weight he found attractive on my body.

In the face of this statement, I was shocked, but on some level I also knew it was about him and his own internal and as-yet-unpacked issues about bodies and their worth. I told him that if we got to a point where he was not attracted to me, we’d change or end our relationship so that we both had what we needed.

I was clear about my boundaries: I am repairing my relationship with food, and right now that means that I don’t restrict what I eat or when I eat, and I don’t worry about what I weigh.

I told him I wasn’t going to change to meet his expectations of attractiveness. And he told me he didn’t want me to, but that he had wanted to express his issue before it became a Big Deal in his mind. Which is fair. But also, not super fair. Because the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this issue was not about me. This was not about my body.

This was about diet culture.

Men are not immune to body shame and diet culture. My partner has been as focused on his weight and diet and exercise as I was previously. And the more we talked, the more he realized that he was speaking from a place of weight loss as a life priority, a place of delaying happiness until he hit a certain weight. He told me, “I keep saying I want to get under 200 pounds and then I’ll be able to have a really happy life” and I looked him in the eye and said, “You have a really happy life.”

I bring this sage wisdom to the table after several hours and a good night’s sleep thinking this over. I was scared — not of anything to do with my body, but I was scared because I knew if this became A Thing in our relationship, and he arbitrarily decided that a number on a scale made me unsexy to him, that I’d have to make good on my commitment to myself and break up with him.

There is no room in my life for conditional love or attraction.

But then I realized I was getting way ahead of myself, and we weren’t breaking up. I continued sorting through my feelings and realized that I was a little angry at him. My trust in him was a little rattled.

I had finally shed the giant boulder of shame and self-denigration and disgust with myself after thirty years of snowballing it bigger and bigger. This thing was HEAVY. And then, just three weeks after I had thrown it aside with a resounding, “Fuck that,” this person who I trust and who sees my most vulnerable parts and who loves me… picked it back up and tried to give it back to me.

Did I want to take this shame back, make his attraction to me my problem, chase a pants size to make sure I was pretty enough? Or did I want to slam dunk that giant ball of societal bullshit into a dumpster once and for all?

I am pleased to say that I chose to thank him for his vulnerability in expressing something difficult, but that I would not be changing my lifestyle to make him comfortable, and we would deal with the consequences of that.

After some more space and time to think, we came together again to talk it out a little more. And something that I’ve never experienced before happened: He apologized. Honestly, really, truly apologized. He said that it wasn’t about me or my body, and he was sorry for acting like it was.

After he apologized, something inside me shifted again, and I realized that I had put up a wall between us to protect myself from the same old things I had grown to expect from my ex-husband. A fake non-sorry sorry. An “I didn’t mean to hurt you” that really meant “I would like to hurt you but I don’t want to hear about your feelings when I do.” Being in an abusive marriage will mess up your expectations of other humans a little bit. After so many non-apologies that boiled down to “Well I didn’t mean it like that so you shouldn’t be upset,” I felt heart and loved and valued by a partner.

Where we had once committed to lose weight together and be the “annoying weight loss couple,” we now commit to working on breaking up with diet culture.

 

 

No more food restriction

I’ve always chased success and compared myself to others based on restriction. I can lose weight if I don’t eat sugar. I can get more done at home if I don’t watch television. I can be more productive if I don’t use social media.

The best version of me, the one who weighs 150 pounds and works out every day and truly enjoys salad, the one who works nights and weekends to stay ahead at work, the one who cranks out best sellers year after year because she’s a prolific writer… she’s just around the corner if only the me right now would stop baking cookies and going to bed early and talking to her friends online.

Guess what I’ve decided? Screw all that, oh my god.

I’m fine. I am fine right now. I am living my life right now. And it is a really good one. I am happy. I am taking care of myself. I allow myself to rest. I remind myself to wash my hair. And I allow myself to eat anything.

Yes. I eat anything now. Anything I want.

This has revolutionized my relationship with food. I don’t have to restrict. I don’t have to have a sugar ban or never eat bread again. Y’all. I’m allowed to eat. YOU are allowed to eat. I swear. You’re allowed.

Here’s the thing about food: we kinda need it to live. And we have taste buds. And brains. And when stuff hits our taste buds in a nice way, we like it.

And, in complete and utter news to me, this is not a moral failure. Enjoying sweet or salty or fatty or whatever molecule you’ve banned this month in an attempt to lose those “stubborn ten pounds” is not your failure. Because food is not good or bad. Food is food. Food is neutral. You need food so you don’t die. And it’s okay if that food is a cupcake.

I used to think that a minimalist way of eating was a limit on the types of food I eat. Keep it simple, eat whole foods, eat organic foods, eat fresh and raw foods, eat ethically sourced foods, eat food you can make in one pot, eat food you can eat in a bowl, eat the same foods every day, only eat at certain times per day. The more rules I tried, the more I blamed myself for not being able to follow them. But eating is supposed to be easy. Now, I think of a minimalist way of eating as a limit on restriction. As in, no restrictions. I can eat a sandwich or a cookie or ice cream – even right before bed. Gasp!

The truth about food that I can finally see is this: What I eat has absolutely no bearing on my skills, personality, worth, or beauty.