Eyes Wide Open: Discovering My Personal Passion

Recently at a professional book club meeting, the topic of passion came up. One of the questions was what are you passionate about personally?  The question kind of took me by surprise because I had always related passion to work.  When you are growing up and planning your future, you always hear the advice “Find something you are passionate about and then figure out how to make a job out of it.”  For me, teaching is definitely one of my passions.  And just recently I’ve recognized some things that have driven my level of passion with teaching sky-high (another blog post on that coming soon!) But when I was asked “What are you passionate about in your personal life?” I was really taken aback – what am I passionate about?

Of course, the most natural of answers came to me right away – I’m passionate about my family, about spending time with loved ones, and making sure they are taken care of.  But is that really a passion?  Sure, I care immensely about my family, but what interests do I have that excite me, inspire me, light a fire within me on a daily basis?

My colleague suggested my love for the Toronto Blue Jays.  I am definitely a huge fan.  I watch games religiously on television, attend as many games as I can throughout the summer, and proudly wear my Jays gear whenever given the opportunity.  I can name all the players, know what position they play, and know the basic stats.  But I don’t live for the Toronto Blue Jays.  It’s an interest but it doesn’t create a burning desire inside of me.  Watching the Jays doesn’t inspire me, it’s more just like a really enjoyable passtime.

So what is my passion?  I started to think about things I am good at and enjoy doing.  I know, I thought, my passion is writing!  It’s true I’ve had many fantasies about making a living as a writer – spending my days in a quiet room, alone, sipping flavoured coffee, and lighting my keyboard on fire as thoughts and ideas come flowing out of me and onto the screen.  I do feel I express myself best in writing. I do get great satisfaction from writing blog posts and putting my ideas into words.  But is it my passion?

I started thinking of a passion as that one thing you can’t stop thinking about.  It permeates your life every single day.  It makes you feel excited, inspired, thoughtful… but sometimes overwhelmed, confused, and scared.  Then it hit me!   I think I know what my passion is…..

Health and Wellness!

For years, I have been interested in health and wellness.  For the most part, I have been interested in health as it relates to weight-loss.  The story of my adult life is that I am consistently trying to lose weight or maintain a weight loss.  I am constantly seeking out the right plan to follow that will help me to look and feel great.  But more recently, the idea of health and wellness has evolves into something different.  Yes, I still want (and need) to lose weight.  But more importantly, I have recently become more interested in simply making myself healthy.

This has stemmed predominantly from my diagnosis a few years ago with ulcerative colitis.  I consider myself lucky in the fact that my colitis is fairly mild compared to some others.  Most of my symptoms include bloating, a lot of foul-smelling gas, indigestion, diarrhea and constipation.  At it’s worst, I’ve also experience severe abdominal pain that has landed me in the emergency room.  I’ve also experienced severe urgency that has disrupted my workdays and interfered with social activities.

What I didn’t realize until recently though, was that some of the other symptoms I’ve been having could be directly related to the inflammation in my gut.  I’ve had excema, skin problems, achy joints, headaches, extreme fatigue, and mood swings.  These things are all symptoms of inflammation (mind blown!)

My most latest motivation to get back on the “healthy eating/exercise bandwagon” has been not only to lose weight, but to heal my gut and to feel better overall.  I am tired of being tired.  I am fed up with the mood swings (irritability, crankiness, anger, sadness).  I want to feel energized, positive, and happy – every day, all of the time!

This has inspired me to start a kind of “new” health journey.  In order not to overwhelm myself (which can happen so easily), I have decided to focus on nutrition and making better food choices, not only for weight loss, but also as a means to heal my body from the inside out.  I am slowly starting to learn about whole foods, natural ingredients, eliminating sugar, processed foods, wheat, and dairy, eating more plant-based foods, and feeding my body so that I can feel energetic, vibrant, and strong rather than bloated, tired, and irritable!

I have chosen nutrition because there are SO many areas of health and wellness that if I jump into too much of it, I will totally overwhelm myself and may give up altogether.  But that’s not to say I am not dabbling and looking into other areas of health and wellness (mindfulness, meditation, exercise, to name a few).  I am so enthusiastic about this topic that it’s actually kind of hard to rein myself in but I do have to remember that it’s a HUGE learning process.  Lord knows, I have a LOT to learn.  But the most important part is, I am not only open and willing to educating myself, I am so excited to do it!  I have this strong natural urge, this passion burning inside of me that wants to know all I can about how to live the best life I can!

Whether it’s articles, videos, books, websites, social media pages, internet sources, or people… if it has to do with health and wellness I am interested!   Here are just some of the topics that have grabbed my attention, that I’ve experimented with, researched, read about, or thought about so you can get the idea of how interested I really am!

Nutrition – gluten-free, elimination diets, anti-dairy, the wheat belly diet, holistic approaches, Weight Watchers, eliminating sugar, processed foods, 21 Day Fix (Beachbody), Shakeology, supplements, anti-inflammatory foods, recipes, plant-based foods, whole foods, Paleo diet…..

Fitness – going to the gym, walking, running, yoga, 21 Day Fix, home workouts, Tai Chi, pilates, weight lifting, heavy lifting, CrossFit, Pure Barre, ballet, dance, hiking, paddling, skiing, baseball, soccer….

Spiritual/Mental Wellness – mental health illnesses/conditions, mindfulness, mindful vs. Mind full, coping with stress, anxiety, depression, yoga, meditation, self-care routines, prayer, journaling, grounding techniques, therapy/counselling…

Wellness – natural self-care products, natural cleaning products, environmental factors, essential oils, sleep, balance, self-care, time spent in nature, self-help books, self improvement, positive thinking, mindset

No matter what it is whenever one of these topics comes up, I find myself wanting to know more.  I ask questions, I think, I reflect, I analyze, I read, I consider… and most of all,  I get so excited and so emotional!  If that doesn’t describe a person passion, I am not sure what does!

 

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My Intentions for 2017

Happy New Year!

Like many, I love the fresh start of a new year.  I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and reflecting over the last little while to try to decide what my resolutions will be this year.  I love exploring different sources for creativity and inspiration, and a theme that keeps coming up over and over again, and one I am really latching on to, is the notion of self-care.

img_1011Self-care is unique to the individual so it really means figuring out what is right for you.  Here’s what I’ve discovered so far about the components of my own self-care practice that I hope to implement this year.

PHYSICAL HEALTH

Exercise

This year, I’ve decided to cancel my gym membership and find different kinds of exercise that I truly enjoy.  Some things I plan on doing are:  walking my dog, cross-country skiing, hiking, at-home basement workouts (cardio, strength training, weights). I’ve also finally registered for my first yoga series at a local yoga studio that I can’t wait for.

Nutrition

I’ve decided to commit to cleaning up my diet for a few reasons.  One, I’ve continued to struggle with ulcerative colitis and am hoping that by making changes to my diet, it will improve my symptoms and eventually put me back into remission.  Secondly, I want to be in the best physical shape of my life and I know a huge part of that is eating properly.  I’ve decided to try something different and have recently started the 21 Day Fix in hopes that a new program will give me the motivation I’ve been lacking.  Finally, I know that eating healthy foods (and cutting back on the unhealthy ones) will give me more energy and help alleviate a lot of the fatigue I have been feeling.

Water

As part of my new nutrition program, I am trying to consume more water on a daily basis.  I find drinking out of a reusable water bottle helps me to get my daily water intake and also helps me to easily keep track of how much I’ve consumed.

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MENTAL / EMOTIONAL

Yoga

Besides its physical benefits, yoga positively benefits our minds helping us to become more mindful, release negative thoughts, and open our hearts to love, light, and peace.  Yoga helps me to feel relaxed and helps me to slow down the rush of day-to-day life.  I am really excited to get started on my yoga journey!

Journaling

The main reason I started this blog was to have an outlet for creativity.  While others may paint, dance, sing, or scrapbook, my creative outlet is writing.  I think a lot and sometimes my brain feels overloaded with too many things.  Journaling helps me to release some of the things I am thinking about which eases my mind.  Furthermore, it allows me to express myself and reach out to others in a positive way.

Slowing Down

As I get older, I find I crave a more simple and quietwe life.  The drama, chaos, and negativity that thrive in the world, make me upset and make me desire a slower, simpler pace. This year, I intend to slow down my daily activities whether it’s my morning routine, driving, reacting to the choices of others, teaching, or just day-to-day tasks.

Being Outdoors

Until recently, I never truly understood the benefits of spending time in nature.  Lately though, I’ve realized that being outside makes me feel overall more positive, calmer, happier, and more at peace.  I’ve even found a new appreciation for our Northern Ontario winters.  I’ve finally realized that fresh, outdoor air and quality Vitamin D is essential to my mental health.  This year, I intend to spend more time outdoors by doing things like: walking (with friends, my hubby and my dog), hiking, cross-country skiing, skating on outdoor rinks, camping, and exploring the woods.  When summer rolls around, I may even try canoeing or kayaking!

Home

One of the places I love being the most is at home.  Our house is small but it is cozy and it’s one place where I can (usually) fully relax.  Most of the time, this happens in my favourite arm-chair, with a cuddly blanket.  Nearby, you’ll find my water bottle, sometimes a coffee, the latest book I am reading, my Chapstick, my hand cream, my iPhone, and my iPad.  Next to me, my husband is watching TV from the couch with our fur baby curled up beside him.  Another favourite place in my home is my bedroom. I love the cozy weight of our duvet, the coolness of our pillows, the light pouring in from behind our white, gauzy curtains.  On my nighttable, I have a simple statue of Buddha that helps me to feel peaceful before bed.  I love long, slow mornings lounging in bed on the weekend with my husband and our dog, scrolling through social media, reading, or making plans for the day.

Of course, there is always room for improvement in our home.  While I have some projects I’d like to see happen this year, there are a few simple things I can do to help make my home even more cozy.  I’ve started listening to acoustic music when doing household tasks.  I love lighting candles around my home.  I love the greenery of dispersing plants throughout our house. I love having cuddly blankets and pillows.  I am also considering putting up some white twinkly lights in my bedroom to help create a cozy, romantic, warm space.

Relationships

There is nothing in life more important to me than the relationships I have.  I am very blessed to be surrounded by so many special family members and friends.  This year, I hope to cultivate those relationships even more by paying more attention to my loved ones’ needs and showing more kindness and appreciation where I can.  I hope to stay in better contact with friends that live far away and to visit my three, precious nieces more often.  There’s nothing that makes my heart feel fuller than time spent with those I love.

Parenting

Parenting is a tough job, and I would argue that step-parenting is even harder, especially to two teenagers.  That being said, this year I intend to practice more patience when it comes to parenting.  I am a highly sensitive and emotional person that tends to react too quickly to feelings of stress, frustration, hurt, or anger.  This year, I will pause and think before reacting to these kinds of situations.  I will listen, not half-heartedly, but really listen to their needs and interests when they talk so that they feel the love and attention they deserve.  In essence, I will be kinder and more loving to my children.

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SPIRITUAL

Mindfulness

This year, I hope to practice being more mindful and fully present in the moments of my life.  By slowing down my day-to-day routines, I hope to notice the small things that make life so pleasurable (example: the beauty of the snow-covered evergreens that line my route to work).  Practicing mindfulness will also fill my heart with gratitude, faith, and love.

Yoga / Meditation

I am excited to learn more about yoga and meditation this year and hope to discover more about myself through the practice of both.  I plan to explore some guided meditations and perhaps even create a yoga space in my basement surrounded by things that inspire and motivate me.

Light

For me, light is both figurative and literal.  Especially in the long, dark days of winter, spending as much time in daylight is crucial.  It’s one of the reasons I always open the blinds in my home and in my classroom, and switched all my indoor supervision duties for outdoor ones.  But light can also be figurative. For me the notion of bringing light into my life means to bring positivity and happiness ~ something I definitely intend to do this year!

Morning Intentions

At school each morning, our principal asks us to take a moment of silence to reflect on our day.  Each day, I use that time to set some intentions for myself, for my students and co-workers, and for my loved ones.  Recently, I have starting sharing my morning intentions via Facebook as a means of sending hope and light into the world. Also, by writing down my intentions, it allows me to reflect on them and express them more clearly.

Gratitude

Similar to my morning intentions, I sometimes share daily expressions of gratitude on my Facebook account.  Again, writing these thoughts helps me to see them and feel them more clearly.  But it’s also my intention to help others recognize the small, simple things in life that we have and to realize how very blessed we are.

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What are your goals / resolutions / intentions for the New Year?  Whatever it may be, I hope your year is filled with love, light, peace, and positivity!  💕

Mind, Body, and Spirit

mind body spirit

I have been thinking about this quote for awhile and when I saved it I knew that one day I’d write a blog post about it.  Today, while out for a short (yet very frigid!) walk, I started to think more about it and what it means to truly take care of myself – mind, body, and spirit.

Like many others, I’ve been on every diet and workout regime imaginable at some point or other throughout my adult life.  I’ve counted calories, lifted weights, went running, did aerobics, kept food journals, joined Weight Watchers, used a Fitbit,  and obsessed over every food I ate (or didn’t eat) and every workout I did (or missed).  Needless to say, taking care of my body has always been at the forefront of my mind.  That’s not to say that I’m always taking the best care of it, but it’s definitely something I understand the importance of.

Until recently, though, I never really thought about intentionally taking care of my mind. I’m a pretty sensitive, emotional person who over-thinks a lot of things and internalizes a lot of situations. Not taking things too personally is something I am currently working on, although it’s not always easy.  I have a pretty high-stress job working with children which is more mentally exhausting than it is physically.  I am a stepmom to two children (ages 12 and 16) and a wife so I have all the responsibilities that comes along with those two roles.  I’m a people-pleaser.  I don’t like to say no and I always worry about upsetting others with my actions.  Long story short, sometimes I’m pretty hard on my own mental state.

All of this came to a head this past fall when I started to really notice a change in my moods.  For the second year in a row when October hit, I began to struggle with what I believe could be seasonal depression (although I have never been diagnosed by a doctor).  As the days get shorter and darker, so does my mood it seems.  I notice a major lack in energy, more feelings of anxiety and feeling overwhelmed, and less ability to deal with the every day pressures of life.  When these feelings strike, I just simply don’t feel like myself.  I’m moody, irritable, cry almost daily, and just can’t get my mojo back.

It was on one of those bleak nights a couple of months ago, that I first found this quote online. Fall in love with taking care of yourself – mind, body, spirit. I realized then that despite all the work I had done over the years to try to keep my body healthy, I had never made intentional efforts to take care of my mind (or mental health). So I began to give it some thought….  but what could I do to take better care of my mind?   Here’s what I’ve come up with so far….

Write

Even though I spent hours as a child writing stories, filled endless journals as a teenager, and studied journalism in my undergrad, life had gotten in the way and I’d totally forgotten how meaningful writing is to me.  I’ve always felt that I could better express myself in writing. For instance, often when I’m angry, I’ll sit down at my computer and just hammer out all of my feelings.  As my fingers fly over the keys, my emotions pour out of me.  And once it’s all out, I instantly feel better.  But writing doesn’t just help me when I’m upset.  It also helps me express other pieces of myself, which is the main reason I started this blog.  Most importantly, it helps me to empty my mind of all the things that consume it day to day. No matter what I’m feeling, writing is fulfilling and helps immensely in clearing the space in my head.

Go for walks

Although walking has proven physical benefits, it’s another great activity for clearing my mind.  I’ve started the habit recently of taking a short, brisk walk after work which allows me time to reflect on my day and unwind (I get so wrapped up in my days at school that I often think of nothing else while I am there, so it’s nice to let all that go).  On top of that, the fresh air (despite how cold it is lately!) feels amazing and gives me the boost of energy I need to get through the evening routines at home.  The best part of my walks is letting my mind wander.  In fact, as I ponder different ideas, I’ll often start writing my next blog post in my head (like this one!)

On a freezing cold yet refreshing walk this week.

On a freezing cold yet refreshing walk this week.

Do yoga

I am definitely a beginner when it comes to yoga.   I’ve done a few basic classes and absolutely loved them and definitely plan to do more (starting tomorrow night!)  To me, yoga brings peacefulness, calm, and mental clarity.  It relaxes my mind and my breath while making my body strong.  I also happen to think that yoga poses are beautiful and know that it’s definitely something I want to incorporate more of into my current lifestyle!

Try meditation

If I’ve had only a little yoga practice, I’ve had even less with meditation. This being said, from the reading I’ve done about it, I’m eager to try my own meditation practice.  I’m still at the “learning” stage of this goal, but I’m sure that learning to be more mindful will only have positive outcomes.  For now, I plan to do some research and reading and to develop a better understanding of what exactly meditation is and the benefits it brings.

Take Vitamins

Currently I am taking B12 and Vitamin D (since we get so little sunlight these days!)

Be Gentle with Myself / Good Enough is Good Enough.

Of course, both of personal mantras lend themselves to a healthier state of mind (after all, that’s the whole reason I developed them in the first place).  I use these words often (sometimes aloud, sometimes quietly to myself) and find them both comforting and reassuring.  In the past, I’ve put too much pressure on myself which has only lead to exhaustion, anxiety, and stress.  I am slowly learning to let go of my perfectionism, to accept that little things are good enough, and to be more gentle with myself.

 

All this being said, I do realize that taking care of your body, mind, and spirit are not always separate entities.  There are certainly cases where these three areas overlap.  Going for walks and doing yoga, for example, obviously have both mental and physical benefits.  And it’s not hard to argue that taking care of your mental health naturally affects your spirit. That being said though, I do want to be more intentional about taking care of my mind and my spirit as much as I do my body.  Like many things, it’s a learning process but I’m always open to ideas and suggestions 🙂

What do you do to take care of your body, mind, or spirit?

xo,

K.