Affirming Kinder Self-Thoughts: They’re Not Indulgent Excuses

Wait, what happened? I’m actually…doing some stuff??

Barely a week after proposing that Watching a Lot of YouTube May Not Be Procrastination, I find small changes in my attitude and behaviour are affirming this.

Over the past week, I’ve done little things, not always very significant things, but they are things that focus more on looking after myself and my life. One example is that yesterday I actually left the house for something other than work or grocery shopping. It was still shopping, but, for almost a year, now, I’ve started many days with the intention of shopping for some necessary item (new runners/sneakers, new mattress etc.) but never actually left the house. In fact, even going grocery shopping tends to get put off until I’m almost out of food, and sometimes even after I have no food and I survive on snacks. Now, that’s a diet to set me up for success…

Another example is that I took a suggestion from a minimalism YouTube video I saw and did some tidying up before going to bed rather than leaving it to tomorrow. I may not manage that every night, but it was a little bit awesome the difference starting the following day with less-cluttered spaces made to my attitude and feelings when I got up.

Now, I realise that these things aren’t Earth-shattering in any way, but they indicate a small, positive shift in my attitude and health. My health is definitely a significant factor, here, but the fact remains that I also haven’t had any real desire to do anything. I have wished I would do things, wished I would want to do things and wished things were already done, but haven’t actually wanted to do.

Watching online videos is an easy, passive way to spend time. In the past I have spent many hours watching online videos and, no matter how inspired I felt, have not always changed my behaviour. As I said, though, sometimes we are in a stage of preparation or contemplation and it’s the best time to be patient rather than feel, frustrated, stagnant or begin to self-blame for inactivity. Honestly, I think I’m still mostly in that preparation phase, but I can feel how spending my time watching lots of videos of other people doing things in various ways has helped to shift my current attitude from getting gratification through reading manga and web novels to getting gratification from doing things.

After writing the previous blog post, I wondered if it sounded as if I was making excuses. A tiny but persistent part of me shook its finger and tried to admonish that I really was only trying to make myself feel better while ignoring all the negative things about my behaviour that I should feel ashamed for.

I need to trust my kind voice much more. While I’m still very far from living what most people would consider a properly-functioning lifestyle right now, it’s clear that it really is OK to be patient and gentle with myself as I very, very slowly go through a low period in my life.

I need to trust myself more. I need to have more faith that, in fact, the “excuses” I make aren’t excuses but really are explanations, things that are temporarily holding me back, and that I will do better. It’s alright to believe in positive thoughts about myself, rather than exalting the negative concepts of myself that pessimistically take hold.

I wrote in my rambly personal, blog last June:

It feels like, if I allow myself to merely think that perhaps I was headachey today because I have a tendency towards headaches and it was just one of those days, [this] balanced thought will actually be too indulgent and will reinforce habits of always having excuses for not doing things, for giving up on things, for lazing around and for not needing to put any effort into my health, fitness or general wellbeing. It feels like [allowing] one thought that isn’t stern and strict will turn me into a hopeless blob.

Some things that have really changed in the last few weeks are that my recent back injury has improved greatly, I’ve been getting some teaching work (which is beginning to help regulate my sleep), and the weather has been milder (I have never coped well with heat). These are just some of the things (or lack of things) that I genuinely feel have been making things more challenging for me. I always find, though, that it’s hard enough convincing myself that these aren’t just excuses. It’s even worse because I feel that there are important people in my life who aren’t really able to understand how hard or inadvisable it is for me to stoically push forward and do everything. Although they don’t give me grief about it, and may even try to show sympathy, they often subconsciously convey this subtle judgement. It’s quite difficult for my already fairly weak self-kindness to stand up to this feeling of judgement.

But, you see! You see! One key thing that has been improving recently is my health. It’s only slight, and it’s still pretty unresilient, but it is better than it was. And, this improvement is having a direct effect on the small things I’m starting to do.

So, you see, all of these things are not excuses. They are genuine blocks and hindrances, and it’s alright for me to acknowledge these as such, without needing to berate myself with inflated self-negativity and blame.

 

 

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Why Watching a Lot of YouTube May Not Be Procrastination

I think it’s fairly relatable, the scenario where we read a lot of blogs, watch a lot of YouTube videos or TED talks and generally spend our time devouring information from the internet on a topic rather than actually doing anything about it. In fact, I’ve frequently read or heard people deriding this habit as indulging in the feeling of doing something productive without actually achieving anything.

I both engage in this habit and at the same time chastise myself for staying glued to my laptop instead of spending time on the real thing.

However, I was reflecting just now, that perhaps some of this behaviour may not be procrastination, but instead is a normal stage of implementing action, and may serve quite a significant purpose in itself.

There are two reasons I think this. The first is the model of behaviour change used by psychologists; the second is an awareness of my own preferences for learning and doing things.

There is a widely-used theoretical model of behaviour change that many psychologists use with clients, particularly to aid the change of negative behaviours like addictions. This is the Transtheoretical Model, which is often known merely as the Stages-of-Change model of behaviour change. This model outlines several stages that someone may go through in the process of changing their behaviour. One of the most striking things about this model is that there are three stages before any action is taken. These are known as Precontemplation* (not ready), Contemplation (getting ready) and Preparation (ready).

According to this model, how successful any action attempted to change our behaviour is depends on our readiness for change, and it is only once we move from the preparation stage that we are properly ready and are likely to succeed. Moving from one stage to the next doesn’t just happen, so during the contemplation and preparation stages a lot of information may be gathered. For the contemplation stage, this information gathering is to help decide whether one even wants to take action. In the preparation stage, the information is to gather oneself to plan and prepare for action, without yet being ready to actually act. There’s no set time for how long one is in these stages (and one may move to an earlier stage at any time in the whole process).

For me, I think that this idea of just making a start on something, having a go, not worrying about the result, and building up habits or experience has only got me so far. Therefore, perhaps I wasn’t really at a stage where I was ready to take action.

Recently, rather than just saying something like “I’m going to draw every day!” or “I need to stretch more!”, I’ve been spending a lot of time watching videos about those and many other topics. I’ve felt a bit guilty and self-critical, because I feel like it’s all just another instant-gratification excuse and that I will never really progress while I’m still glued to my computer. Well, there are probably times when this is the case. However, perhaps doing before I’m in a stage of true readiness is futile anyway. In fact, perhaps all this time spent learning more about the things I want to do may be setting myself up for success, even if I spend a frustrating long time in this stage.

The other reason is that I’m a global learner (and another link here).

Now, I’ll pause here to say that this global vs analytical thing was something that I was exposed to at first uni when studying teaching, but was not taught at second uni when studying psychology. As far as I can tell, similar to Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, there is not currently research convincingly showing this to have scientific basis (in fact, I can’t find any at all). However, I have found that this global vs analytical thinking seems to ring true for myself and many people I know. Therefore, I at least find it a helpful way of describing how my brain works and understanding others who are not the same, even if they aren’t proper scientific categories.

A global learner/thinker, tends to be a “big picture” thinker – the overall perspective is more important for understanding than the details. Global learners understand best when the end point/final product/overall view is presented first. The steps or details can then be slowly understood as they are learned in the overall context. This is how I think and learn and even how I tend to explain things.

(By contrast, an analytical learner – according to this particular theory (you may also hear “analytical” used in many different ways, such as analytical vs intuitive) – tends to need to understand each part or step first. Only when they have all the parts are they able to comprehend the overall result. In reality, everyone utilises both ways of learning, but, for me, learning in a mainly analytical style creates an instant block to my progress.)

When I am learning something new, or even trying to improve at or get back into something I’ve already learned, I find details boring and incomprehensible. Many textbooks, for instance, follow this step-by-step process – and there’s no denying that developing small, basic skills is valuable for many pursuits, such as piano or drawing. However, what I would rather do is jump right into something without fussing about those things, actually do something meaningful (such as play a song rather than a finger exercise on the piano, knit a blanket rather than a practice square or draw a scene rather than a circle), and pick up the small skills and details along the way.

In order to do this, though, I still need some understanding of things. In fact, even though the approach seems impulsive, sometimes a global thinker needs far more information before “jumping in” than someone who can immediately start learning one small part without needing to know what comes next until it’s mastered. I think one of the reasons I often fail to persist with things is that I’m following a step-by-step approach that leaves me frustrated because I don’t understand how it leads to the final result and I can’t get the satisfaction of completing something meaningful.

(Well, I don’t think wanting to produce something meaningful is an exclusively global trait, I just think that a strongly analytical learner can get some immediate satisfaction from mastering each part because they feel like they’re working towards the meaningful result. For me, I need to get the meaningful result first, even all the details aren’t perfect (e.g. my knitting has holes in it).

What I think spending all of this time reading and watching online tutorials and related content does is gives me more of a full, “global” perspective of a topic before I go and try out one small part (or even multiple parts). By watching a lot of things and gathering information that way, I’m building up wider perspective with a bank of general knowledge that I can draw on. The details and fine skills will still come once I actually start, but they will have more of a context and I will have more freedom design my learning the way that suits me.

So, yes, I probably do sometimes procrastinate or waste time on YouTube when I could actually be putting some things into practice. However, I think that a lot of my “armchair productivity” is actually far more productive than the scorners give credit for. And than I give myself credit for.

 

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It’s Not Easy to Discard Negativity

I was immediately going to jump into my next DO/AO thingy after the last, but every time I decided what I wanted to focus on, I almost immediately thought of something different, and so have been vacillating like a typical over-thinker.

One thing that I’ve very recently become aware of is my habit of negatively judging others. I was aware of the way I critically judge myself, but really hadn’t thought I wasn’t positive about others.

I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos recently. Normally, I’ll just occasionally look up something useful (such as a product review or a tutorial for something). The past few weeks, I’ve actually become a little caught up in watching some vloggers of various types and on various topics, primarily because of Abroad in Japan*.

I stumbled upon Abroad in Japan while browsing videos to do with learning Japanese, but discovered that the appeal of this channel was somewhat different. You see, the vlogger Chris Broad is a Brit with a stereotypical dry, dour, sarcastic way of talking about life. At first, it was this humour (compared to so many unbearably-energetic and upbeat American and Canadian vloggers that I’d been stumbling across) that immediately resonated. However, what really kept me there was that, as I watched more videos, it became apparent that he really loves Japan and the Japanese. He makes fun of everything and everyone – including himself – but it’s done with affection. For someone with a naturally dour and sarcastic manner that makes others label him as negative, he’s actually surprisingly accepting and positive.

I didn’t quite appreciate this aspect at first. I recognised it, because it’s the same as me (not that I’m dour, but I use a lot of irony and sarcasm, but without any real sting intended). However, as I watched more of other vloggers, I started noticing something about them, and myself:

We spend a lot of time negatively judging others.

I’ve been trying (unsuccessfully) for a long time to try to change my habit of self-criticism, but I had always believed that I viewed others with a fairly positive attitude. After all, it’s everyone else who I’m comparing myself to and finding myself coming up short, right?

However, as I watched various vloggers, I began to notice a few things.

The first was how I was actively judging the YouTubers. I think it’s quite natural to spend some mental energy evaluating something new to decide if I want to continue watching, but I think there’s a difference between deciding that something doesn’t interest me and that someone is stupid. Even if something has no value to me, it doesn’t mean it has no value to others. In fact, even if it has no value to most people, it doesn’t mean that I have to degrade the person who produced it. I’m not completely sure why I do – is it because I feel I need to justify my decision, perhaps? It’s as if, rather than saying “This is not the type of content I’m looking for,” I feel I have to prove to myself that I’ve made a good decision – “This person talks for too long without saying anything meaningful, the things they’re saying don’t apply to normal people, their grammar is bad, they’re really childish, they like to hype things up for attention, they’re really fake, they are really inane…” etc.

It might sound mild compared to the negative comments people leave on YouTube and around the net, but it’s still indicative of how I’m constantly subconsciously generating all of these negative judgements.

The second thing I noticed was how many YouTubers like to make videos about other YouTubers’ videos. Occasionally, I find this amusing because the original video may have been pretty ridiculous. (For instance, there was one Australian vlogger who filmed his reaction to watching a “10 Reasons Not to Visit Australia” video. As an Australian myself, that particular video was almost beyond laughable it was so flabbergastingly false – the number one reason not to come was the presence of an animal nobody has ever even heard of.) The problem for me is that vloggers often generate content based solely around putting down other people. While some original videos may seem too outrageous to ignore, often the vloggers are really only picking on someone just going about doing their thing on YouTube.

And, because some of them seem funny or justified, it’s easy to get lulled into a feeling that it’s natural to find it entertaining to be outraged or scornful of vloggers who really have nothing to do with me and aren’t causing any real harm. It’s easy to start viewing YouTube videos in general through this lens of derision. I noticed, though, that I found myself increasingly uncomfortable around vloggers whose content included a lot of these critical videos.

I think all of the above crystallised for me when I watched a video by photographer Jamie Windsor about another, highly-popular, photographer and YouTuber Peter McKinnon. Almost immediately prior discovering Jamie Windsor’s videos, I had watched some of Peter McKinnon’s for the first time. While not all of Peter McKinnon’s videos have content that is interesting or relevant to me, he is the creator of the very basic video that demystified the horribly technical confusion that is aperture, shutter speed and ISO. So, when I saw Jamie Windsor, whose videos I had been really enjoying, had a video titled Is Peter McKinnon WRONG?, my heart sank in disappointment. It looked like he, too, had become one of these click-baity, sensationalist YouTubers who boosted his views by controversially slamming another popular YouTuber.

But I was wrong.

Instead (because, of course, I  still went ahead and watched it), it turned out to be one of the most beautifully-balanced, thoughtful and considered examinations of a concept that I’d ever seen on YouTube. (Well, that makes it sound like it was a masterpiece, when it was actually quite a simple topic of whether he felt that “Done is better than perfect,” is an appropriate mantra for a photographer.) It was as if my heart sang with joy and relief. Here, finally, was someone who had been genuinely provoked by another video to ponder and reflect on his own attitude. He thoughtfully examined this while acknowledging the value of the other’s perspective and without belittling when he differed. Rather than finding a winner and a loser, I finished the video with a feeling of uncovering the best of both.

I don’t think it’s bad to be humourous and I don’t think it’s bad to examine the information around us.

What I have noticed from all of this, though, is that underneath that can be a tendency to drag others down. I’m sure the habit partly comes from the affirmation our self-confidence gets we get when we are able to view others as inferior in some way, but the problem is that it becomes a habit. Rather than evaluating something as having value or no value for me, and perhaps going so far as identifying what aspects led to this conclusion, I tend to judge something as “bad” (or some other negative value). Of course, there may be circumstances where this is appropriate, where you really do need to write something off as having no inherent value whatsoever, but those are actually rare. I should be able to get by perfectly well in life by deciding that this video, this book or that item of clothing is not to my taste without needing to decide that not only does it deserve to be squished beneath my foot, everyone involved in its creation must have already had their brains squished to have even thought of producing it.

As I said, it’s a subconscious habit to take a preference against something and turn it into a negative judgement of that thing or the person/people involved with it. Another example might be when you don’t like someone’s outfit and rather than merely thinking that you don’t like the outfit, your brain automatically adds “She must be a dowdy and boring person with no taste.” (Yet, so often we see outstanding fashion designers who themselves only wear over-washed, stretched t-shirts and jeans) Or, when a student is constantly talking and mucking around in class and, rather than focusing on the behaviour itself (or perhaps finding out if there are other causes), your brain assumes “This kid is is a problem child who is going to struggle at high school and in life.” (Actually, I should add that, as a teacher, I’m normally pretty vigilant against those types of thoughts about students.)

So, in the end, no matter how entertaining it (sometimes) is to watch vloggers be outraged by and deride others, I choose to turn away from those, and instead click on Jamie Windsor or Abroad in Japan. And, I shall try to nurture my positivity and acceptance when considering others.

 

 

*If you do decide to watch Abroad in Japan, just be aware that there is some casual swearing.

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Challenge* #46 Review

Last fortnight, I tried dropping my sleep-ins and adding tech-free activities.

I’ve been a little slow reviewing this, because I had a lot of random thoughts but not actually much specific to say about it. I guess this is an example of when I expect stupidly amazing things of myself (i.e. writing something long, entertaining and profound) and forget that the most important thing is just to keep things simple and start.

I have mixed feelings about my attempt to fix my lie-in habit. In fact, it is working! Because I had this aim in my head, I found most mornings it was pretty easy to get up not too long after waking up. The only few mornings I didn’t manage it were after very bad sleeping nights (for instance, when we’ve had some horrible hot summer nights) and I ended up actually sleeping late in the morning (as opposed to merely lying in). I’ve noticed that there’s a slight improvement to the time I feel sleepy at night and go to bed. It’s only slight, so I haven’t yet shifted it to a properly decent time yet, but any improvement is welcome!! Yay!

On the other hand, in this last week, after my “fortnight” finished, I’ve found myself more inconsistent. I’m still getting up before midday many days, but there are days in there when I’m lying in bed late for no particular reason other than that staying in bed is more appealing than getting up. I think what I had hoped was that this would just be the start of The Great Sleep Cycle Shift, and that I would gradually get up earlier and earlier, go to sleep earlier and earlier, and in the end have a lifestyle where I not only get up early but also fill my day with productive things.

I guess I just need to continue to plug away at this slowly.

As far as adding tech activities went…well, it didn’t really.

On reflection, I failed to adequately identify and plan for my blocks, barriers and natural tendencies. It is never my strategy to merely tell myself to do something and expect to carry it out. I’d be an amazingly successful person if I could do all the things I tell myself I should do each day. The problem, obviously, is that I don’t do them! So, I try to “observe” myself and figure out what are my blocks and barriers for the behaviour (for instance, temperature, time of day, interest, physical restraints) and also when do I naturally engage in or feel like engaging in that behaviour (or similar behaviours).

(One example of this is exercise: Although experts say that the morning is the best time to exercise, I generally have too many blocks and barriers for morning exercise. However, by late afternoon, when the sun is dipping lower and doesn’t feel so fatal, often I look outside and actually feel like going out into the fresh air. I’ll put on runners and brush my teeth and somehow feel clean and energetic. I’ll listen to energetic music – and might even start listening to it as I’m getting ready, so that I start bopping away and moving around even before my exercise has formally started. Although there are currently other physical blocks, that is an example of how I have in the past worked with rather than against my natural tendencies.)

I thought I’d done this with this non-tech activity stuff. I thought that I’m mainly sticking to my laptop and phone because I get mentally-passive, non-physically-demanding instant-entertainment. Therefore, I bought myself a new puzzle book and two new books to read (one is the latest English-language volume of my favourite manga Natsume’s Book of Friends, the other is one of Terry Pratchett’s last novels, a few of which I still haven’t read, Raising Steam). It worked, but only a little. I did have a nice time one evening reading some Natsume and I did spend a bit of time another evening doing some puzzles. And that was it. What is available online is still more appealing and less effort than offline.

This is a problem for me that I haven’t really figured out, yet. I suppose I did identify two things, though: The first is that I need something much much much more massively fun and interesting to consistently engage me. The other is that my physical problems are much more of a barrier than I thought. Because I have back problems, and a tendency towards neck/migraine problems, the position of my body and arms when I’m doing something make a big difference to whether I’ll do it (knitting and drawing are a bit straining, for instance). Of course, it’s not that the laptop and phone are great in that regard, but I can change position a lot, I don’t have to hold my laptop up, and my phone is relatively light and small to hold. I really didn’t think that holding open the pages of a normal book had even become annoying, let alone holding a puzzle book in one hand and trying to write in it with the other. It seems trivial, and perhaps if I’d become super-engrossed in them they would have actually been trivial matters, but instead they turn into blocks. The next time I considered reading Natsume, the prospect of physical positions that a little awkward was all it took for me to put it off (until never).

I guess it’s back to the drawing board when it comes to spending time away from screens and monitors!

 

P.S. Please excuse any mistakes or confusing bits. I normally self-proof-read and catch about 70% of them, but I’ve posted this one without any proofreading.

 

*I feel like I want to think of a better word than “Challenge”. I’ve always called this overall project “a lifestyle experiment” and I feel strongly that wording it as a challenge implies more of a “must-succeed” attitude, rather than trying something out a behaviour or an approach to a behaviour and evaluating its efficacy. Yes, I’m hoping for positive change through this experiment, but I’m trying to figure out what works for me, not to constantly give myself pass-or-fail tasks. Well, I’ve probably been using it for too long to change, now!

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RESTART: Challenge #46 (fortnightly) – Drop Sleep-ins, Add Tech-free Leisure Time

Yes! It’s true! A new challenge! How exciting! *strikes an imaginary cheerleader pose*

This fortnight, I will aim to get up before midday.

Problematic sleeping habits have always been a major source of difficulty for me. Various things over the years have contributed to poor sleep habits (and continue to), and it has become easier to fall into bad patterns than it is to maintain good ones. Therefore, improving my sleep is something that I need to constantly revisit and nurture. In recent years, I’ve been going to sleep later and therefore getting up later. It’s usual for me not to sleep until at least 1:00am and not uncommon for me to not settle down until after 3:00am. This is not exactly insomnia, it’s more like 11:00pm-3:00am currently feels  like 8:00pm-midnight would to most people. (Well, perhaps netizens are the wrong people to talk to about “normal” sleeping patterns!)

Rather than trying to bed and to sleep earlier, however, I’m focusing getting up earlier and not staying in bed til late. Getting up earlier is actually a more effective way for me to feel sleepy earlier at night than changing my nighttime routine and hoping I feel sleepy. Because current work is casual, I haven’t been forced into a routine of consistently getting up early.

An additional reason for targeting my morning habits is that, in recent years, I have genuinely developed the habit of lazing around in bed even after I wake up. It’s largely because I often don’t sleep well, and so wake up with little energy (or even a headache or migraine). I don’t want to get up and face the day. Instead, I’ll indulge my instant-gratification addiction and read on my phone or play games. Until after midday. Sometimes, until late afternoon. Obviously, when I have a migraine, it’s not as if I’ll be doing anything more productive once I get up anyway, but this has produced a general habit of staying in bed rather than getting up.

Ideally, I’d be getting up by 8:00am on non-work days, springing out of bed with a joyful song. That’s clearly an unrealistic expectation right now, so I’m starting with the more moderate goal of getting up before midday, while it’s actually still morning. This may not miraculously fix all of my negative sleeping habits, but it will hopefully become easier to actually get myself out of bed. And it can’t be worse for getting sleep at night than if I get up only a few hours before the evening arrives…

My other aim is to add in at least 20 minutes of leisure time that doesn’t involve technology – more specifically, that doesn’t involve my laptop, phone or TV (listening to music is fine). There are a variety of reasons that this is desirable for me (such as using tech too much before sleeping), but there are two main motivations this fortnight.

The first motivation is to help with my eyes. While I am always careful about things such as turning on the blue light filter/night mode and having adequate lighting while looking at screens, my eyes currently need extra care. Since significant health problems cropped up a few years ago, my eyes have been more sensitive to strain (and they’ve always been sensitive to light/glare, which is a migraine trigger for me). About a year ago, my optometrist noted that my eyes seem to be drier than they should be, and are not producing enough moisture. Among the various environmental causes, she emphasised that technology such as computer and mobile screens are likely to have an effect. Obviously, I decreased the length of time I used technology. 

The second reason is that it has become a habit-bordering-on-addiction to spend time all my free time on my laptop or mobile. I’ve always enjoyed using the internet in various ways, but the increase primarily came about because my health and energy is low, and therefore my mind is noticeably less nimble and vigorous. The internet provides things such as manga, anime, videos and webnovels that are passive, easily-digestible forms of entertainment for my sluggish brain. Clearly, this habit needs to be changed, at least a little. If it affects my eyes, my sleep and my motivation for doing other things I need or wish to do, then it shouldn’t be monopolising my time as it currently is.

I don’t necessarily intend to do something “productive” with that time; that’s not really the point of this. My aim is to expand the variety of things I feel like doing for relaxation and enjoyment to include things beyond the laptop, mobile or TV. One of the reasons I spend so much time on the computer is that on the internet these days I can find a lot of the things I’ve always enjoyed anyway. Of course, this means I can also do those things in the offline, non-digital way, right?

 

 

(P.S. This is one of those weeks where I could probably switch and re-word it to be something like “Drop Tech-based Activities, Add Getting Up Earlier”, but somehow I feel more like I’m decreasing time in bed and inserting a different activity into my day, so it’s the way it is.)

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RESTART? DO/AO From Now On

I’ve been pondering and half-intending to restart DO/AO challenges for a while, but have only now actually felt ready to do it. Before I officially begin a new challenge, I thought I’d write a few DO/AO side-notes:

When I first started this project, knowing that overly-ambitious challenges are useless for me and that small, manageable steps are the best to focus on, I began with weekend challenges. Soon, I moved to weekly challenges and eventually began monthly challenges, before other life stuff got in the way of blogging. This time, I feel like a fortnight (two weeks) will be a good length of time for most of the ideas or habits I wish to try for challenges. However, I may not post a new challenge every fortnight, nor will every challenge definitely be the same length. It will depend on the challenge and how I am going personally.

I feel like taking on DO/AO challenges again is both a continuation of all of those challenges (after all, it’s the same blog, same person, same lifestyle experiment), and at the same time a restart of this whole process. Although I had tried to keep things organised, on reflection, the way I labelled and categorised my challenges ended up a little messy and inconsistent. So, from now on, I am going to always write the challenge number first (i.e. “Challenge #46 (fortnightly) – “), rather than organising things according to the length of the challenge (i.e. old style: “Week  16 – “). I will pick up the challenge number from what I figure it would have been if I had just kept on with this blog and continued numbering (it seems I stopped numbering when I switched to monthly, but I’ve tried to account for those).

However, I will still think of this new challenge as marking a restart of DO/AO. Some of my After Restart challenges may be very similar to my Before Restart challenges. I had always reserved the right to revisit any area I felt that I needed to, anyway, but this time a lot of those habits I was trying to cultivate have become idle or even somewhat forgotten.

 

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Remembering the Old, But Forgetting the New

When attempting to get back to healthier/more positive habits or further improve my habits, I try to remind myself to keep in mind the lessons and realisations I have discovered in the past.

For instance, one thing that I strongly advocate is to be aware of your own natural tendencies and work with them rather than against them. Discipline and will-power are banned terms when it comes to habit-changing strategies. If it requires you to drum up discipline or willpower, then it’s a weak strategy for you. I mean, if you love shopping but hate exercise, then why would you try to force yourself to go for a run every morning. Doesn’t it make more sense to begin increasing your activity by regularly going to the city or other major shopping districts and shopping without using public transport to get around? Start your pedometer and feel proud!

Going back to nuggets like these remind me of things that I already know work for me, and can help me get started again when I’ve let things lapse.

I’ve been struggling to rebuild my positive and healthy habits since my health went downhill a few years back, but I’ve always had this feeling that the hardest part will be getting myself started and, after that, I know what to do. I’ve kept thinking this way, yet I’ve struggled to get started – specifically with increasing my activity, which is probably the main priority at the moment.

Just recently, I’ve begun to realise something. I’ve been aware that I shouldn’t forget my old lessons, but, in doing so, I didn’t notice one thing.

I change. I continue to change.

While, fundamentally, I’m the same person that I was four years ago, of course things about me have changed. Some of my habits and preferences and tendencies have changed – and, of course, there are physical changes due to my health issues.

I gradually noticed when I was last studying at uni that I had needed to change my study routines from when I first studied at university. During first uni, my brain would stop working after about 8:30-9:00pm, but I’d wake up early in the morning and lie in bed thinking about my assignments for a while, then get up raring to go. Rather than doing the staying-up-late-to-finish-an-assignment, I’d do the get-up-early-to-finish-an-assignment. By the time second uni rolled around, my brain no longer seemed to function like that. I could instead work decently til 10:00-11:00pm (yeah, still not an all-nighter type…), but relying on having oomph and motivation in the morning was hopeless. I had changed.

However, now, I’ve subconsciously assumed that I haven’t continued to change since second uni. I’ve assumed that the times I feel most like being active are the same as they were and the way I like to do things is the same as before. While assuming all of this, I haven’t actually managed to start any of the positive habits I’ve been aiming for, but I didn’t notice and question my assumptions.

Of course, my old lessons and realisations are still extremely valuable and useful. It’s just that I need to re-apply them to the kind of person I am now. The old thing I learned about following your natural tendencies is still hugely important. However, I need to pay attention and become aware of what my natural tendencies are now. I’m sure I’ll be the same in many ways, but, when it concerns how I can be more active, I think I have a lot to learn about myself.

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