In the blink of an eye, we are entering the second quarter of the year. Do you still remember the new year resolutions that you made enthusiastically a few months ago?
Resolution lists were like white elephants in my life - we all know what happens when the "new-year-new-me" vibe dies down. So this year, I decided to end this meaningless cycle by adopting better habits to push me closer to my resolutions.
1. Ditching social media upon rising
These days, Instagram and Facebook are like our "digital nicotine". For me, I could easily hit my Instagram app at least ten times a day. Previously, I would wake up and spend typically about fifteen minutes to catch up with the new flood of posts from overnight. On certain days, I would be browsing for hours, refreshing the explore feed or Instagram stories then regret as the day ends. I knew this is the first habit to go especially when it started making me feel ungrounded. Don't we all feel worse Monday blues after seeing dreamy vacation photos, or feel the need to shop, to visit the salon because everyone looks so cute in the latest trend? Getting too absorbed in social media pulled me away from reality and the things that truly need my attention.
Without checking my phone notifications, I get all the nitty-gritty, necessary chores done and set my daily intentions with a focused mind. Beginning the day with the right momentum has me procrastinating lesser and getting more things done. This is a bad habit that is hard to kick but certainly actionable. You just need to tell yourself that you've got this (like how I am still telling myself these days).
2. Digital Detox
To me, a digital detox is the top five things you should do for better self-care. The digital world is now filled with too much trash that you shouldn't pollute your mind with. As long as someone isn't inspiring you to be better, don't keep them too long in your feed. For example, I used to follow this Instagram account (@sarcasm_only) cause I thought they were funny, bitchy and witty. Over time, I realized that satire and sarcasm aren't attractive at all and it makes human communication so cynical.
If someone is making you feel crappy, first make sure it isn't plain jealousy. Be open-hearted when someone has achieved what they have got due to hard work, dedication, diligence and they are spreading the right values. However, if they are obviously "humble" braggers, narcissistic attention-seekers and insensitive complainers, keep them out. Spend your time and thoughts on better areas instead of getting your mood shifted in a negative direction because of someone's post.
Over the years, I have unfollowed many "influencers" because most of their posts promote nothing but consumerism, materialism, self-obsession, sexualization or false marketing. Although I recognize the efforts to generate content, I feel that many are unauthentic, lack of substance, do not make a positive difference or are of any meaningful influence to our society. Now, I simply avoid things that do not resonate with me ethically and focus on genuine, good people who practice what they preach.
After this "detox", I am glad that I am spending lesser time looking at posts that evoke unwanted thoughts. I spend lesser time judging others and reduced my shopping urges. I'll always be a firm believer that it is more rewarding to improve ourselves than comparing ourselves to others and gossiping about their flaws.
3. Writing daily journals
This childhood habit might sound juvenile, boring or even lame but don't underestimate it. As most of us lead a hectic lifestyle, taking at least fifteen minutes to reflect and center ourselves daily helps to keep us on our path. It is important to always check in with yourself as there are so many modern distractions (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Netflix) that are reactively guiding us to their agendas. Though meditation is a great way, committing to a daily journal is the easiest option for the start.
Here are a few reasons why I keep a journal:
Allows me to re-experience my day in a clearer, adult perspective
Prevents emotional repression and outburst
Keeps me on track by reviewing my daily accomplishments and goals
Provides an analysis of my emotions, triggers, and behavioral patterns
Have a better idea of what I have been investing my time and effort in
Increases clarity, self-discovery, and self-awareness
Helps me to move forward with objectivity
A way to cultivate gratitude and find happiness!
By keeping a journal, I feel more accountable to myself and I could rectify my sabotaging behaviors and attitude better. It showed me how I've been procrastinating and what I've misused my time on. From there, I make daily reminders to not fall back to my old ways. Reading past, unfulfilling entries definitely works as a wake-up call for me. Although there were nights when I skipped, I would always make an effort to follow up the next day.
While journaling, you should try to identify your emotions and their triggers to understand yourself deeper. Contemplating and learning how to handle them better is one of the ways to improve your life.
Points to consider when you are writing an entry:
What triggered your emotions?
Was your feeling a consequence of something you did?
How can you improve the way you feel tomorrow or even for your future?
What have you achieved or done in the day to get closer to your goals?
Are your daily decisions and actions aligned with your resolutions?
Did the thoughts you had during the day serve you and your purpose well?
Reflect and identify things that you should be grateful for every day - It could be a kind gesture from a stranger who held the door for you, a good weather, being able to afford a good meal or the daily things that your parents have done to provide you comfort and convenience.
Keep your journal private and be as honest as you can in your entries - Sometimes, we are only able to step back and see the big picture after a few days when the feelings subside. You want to read your rawest writings when it comes to reflection.
Most importantly, I try to end with a gratitude section which usually makes me feel better and a lot more appreciative of my life. Practicing gratitude promotes self-contentment, happiness, clarity in life and keeps you from living your life blindly. The existence of #firstworldproblems hashtag shows much we need to practice gratitude.
4. Becoming a bookworm
Not just because it is sexy (IMO :p) but the right books will lead you to better places. A good book "talks" to you and offers you apt insights differently every time when you read it. However, I would recommend self-help, general knowledge, and philosophical genres more than fictions. To me, fictions like childhood favorite Harry Potter, Roald Dahl or controversial erotica Fifty Shades of Grey were compelling but that's it. They are capable of carrying us away from reality and influencing our perspectives, behavior, and choices in life. Just look at how many women readers fantasize about having a boyfriend like Mr. Christian Grey or how many of us do get paranoid about cheating partners after watching all those crazy dramas and movies.
These days, I dig books from self-help, philosophical or psychological categories. Biographies and publications like Readers' Digest and National Geography are refreshing and informative reads too. Philosophical books are great as they provide forgotten moral values and life guidelines in this modern era. They provide wisdom and teach us what it means to be human without having to conform to any religious practices.
If you're feeling stuck in some aspect of your life, try reading Designing Your Life by Burnett and Dave Evans. It is a practical guide to change your life, work out what you want and how to get it. The other book I would recommend is Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry to improve the way you manage your emotions and behavior in life.
5. Developing food awareness
Don't worry, this isn't a propaganda for vegetarianism. All I am suggesting is to have a deeper awareness of the food you put into your body by educating yourself on basic nutrition, food production, as well as their health risks and benefits. It is vital to reflect on how all the mass-produced, convenient, cheap, processed food affects our health and mood. How can we be happy or efficient when we are feeding our bodies with toxins?
Did you know that:
High dairy consumption is associated with higher mucus production, acne issues, prostrated and ovarian cancer?
Genetically modified food (e.g. soy) is linked to reduced fertility, inflammation and other cancer risks?
Canola oil is not a healthy but highly-processed, pro-inflammatory oil, despite all the healthy labels of it being packed with omegas?
High fructose corn syrup (used as sweeteners in our processed food) impacts our brain in a way similar to addictive drugs?
There are 28 types of collagen, and not all of them help your skin?
These are just a tiny percentage of food knowledge that most of us overlook. The point of developing food awareness is to eat better, function better and live your life at its best. I do not see the point of working out so hard yet paying so little attention to our diets. Or like how some people work out just to eat more unhealthy food; it's just overworking your body unnecessarily. Developing food awareness or cultivating a better diet is dreary for the start but you'll thankful when you start feeling different from the inside!
On the other hand, I encourage everyone to find out how meat, egg and dairy industries operate. Also, to realize that so much lobbying and marketing has been done to make these food look healthy and essential to the human diet. After my heartbreaking discovery of the egg and dairy production, I have decided to be a vegan in the next 1 to 2 years. Personally, I do not feel totally comfortable knowing that a sentient being is being mistreated, exploited and abused just for our palates' desire. Neither do I feel good about calling myself an animal-lover when I consume selective species' meat. To watch how animals are inhumanely treated and killed just makes me feel guilty, and I don't want to live with hypocrisy for the rest of my life.
Being a vegan isn't an easy, overnight switch because unlike vegetarians, vegans do not eat or use any animal products or by-products. Whereas a vegetarian does not eat any meat or seafood but consumes animal by-products such as eggs, dairy, and honey. If you regard yourself as a vegan, you shouldn't even use any leather or suede products. Your choice of beauty products should not have been tested on animals too. The biggest holdback for me is having to give up all my comfort food such as desserts and chocolates due to the dairy and eggs content. Besides, dinner settings would be trickier because 95% of the people around me are non-vegetarians. Nevertheless, I still firmly believe that my progressive approach will be the way to achieve an everlasting vegan lifestyle.
If you have made it this far, I hope you've found something useful here! <3
With much love,