Seasonal Changes

Every spring, and again every fall, I find myself feeling a bit lost. I skip workouts, or ignore my weekend to-do lists, and feel generally either frantic (usually in the spring) or discontented (in the fall). I’ve come to realize that my schedule needs to be readjusted seasonally.

In the spring and summer, most of my spare time is spent outside, either in my flower garden or my family’s big vegetable garden. The weekends are filled with cookouts, trips to the creek, boat outings, free concerts, camping, parties, and other outside activities. It’s hot, so I exercise earlier in the day, usually first thing. I don’t love exercise in the morning, but that’s what works best when it’s 90 degrees at noon.

In the fall and winter, I have to chide myself to go outside. There’s nothing happening in the garden, other than a long list of chores that need to be done, and especially since the pandemic, friends and family aren’t having many indoor gatherings. I want to find the beauty in winter, and be comfortable with the colder temperatures (and let’s be honest here: I live in Tennessee, where it’s rarely below freezing during the day) but I’m still not there. I move my exercise to the afternoon, or in less virulent times, I go to the gym. I detest wearing layers of clothes and constantly cold toes and fingers make me cranky.

Knowing that the lack of sunshine and activity is going to affect my mental health, I’ve started focusing on projects that bring me joy and that are easier to do during the winter. I’m learning to quilt – all by hand – and find it a relaxing, fulfilling hobby. I read much more during the cold weather, and work on making my habitat more pleasant. I cook more and am always delighted to have some of the garden produce preserved. This year, I’m adding writing fiction back into the mix after neglecting it for a couple of anxiety-filled years.

One of the unexpected gifts of the pandemic was a focus on self-care during the winter. Going into the cold months of 2020 I challenged myself to find ways to enjoy being at home, and tried to embrace the idea of hygge. It worked, to some degree. I did much more decorating during the holidays, and wrote letters to friends and family I’d usually see. I printed and framed a bunch of family photos and made a big gallery wall that I love.

Even with all the activities and self care, I still found myself depressed by the end of January. This year, I’m going to try even harder to spend time outside to see if that helps. There are a couple of hikes that I want to do and I’m building a better cold weather wardrobe. I’ve returned to running after taking a year off, and that means being outside — oddly, I quite enjoy running in cooler weather, once I motivate myself to get out there — so hopefully that will help too.

I’m also trying to work about two hours a day more while it’s cold out. It seems reasonable to work a bit more when the garden isn’t calling me to come see what’s blooming. Plus, my work brings me great satisfaction and January is an excellent time for marketing.

Do you find your schedule changes significantly during the winter?

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Making a Change

So much of what is considered success has to do with changing habits. To lose weight, you must create a habit of eating healthy food and exercising regularly. To be healthy you must stop the habit of smoking or eating a chocolate bar every evening. Whether you need to establish good habits or banish bad habits, you probably need to change some behavior in order to reach your goals.

Not surprisingly, there is a wealth of information about habits available, some of it conflicting, some of it plain bad and some of it completely subjective. At work, my boss says it takes 21 days to establish a habit, but on, Leo says it takes him more like 30 days to establish a habit. Then I ran across this article that says, on average it takes 66 days to establish a habit.

I have created and destroyed plenty of habits during my life. At work, where details are important, I develop a system for every task, so that things are done consistently. Type the name first, then add the resume, then create a link, then add notes and mark them with my initials. Then, if the process is interrupted, I know exactly where to begin again. These processes, which are also habits, because I do them automatically, without thinking at all, take very little time to establish – maybe as little as 15-20 repetitions.

Why then, is it so very much harder to develop a more personally satisfying habit? Sure, it’s satisfying to get things done efficiently and correctly at work, but it does not help my freelance business grow. For that to happen I need to (among other things) establish the habit of writing for a specific amount of time each night. Of course, at home many distractions are competing for my attention, so not all of my focus is aimed at developing or maintaining good habits.

The whole topic is further complicated by the fact that some things work for some people but not for others. Probably the most studies have been done on quitting smoking and other addictive behaviors. When I quit smoking, I chose a date randomly–because someone told me the Farmer’s Almanac suggested it–then quit. Okay, I did buy enough nicotine gum to last a week or so. But that was it. No support group, no prescription drugs, nothing. I planned it, thought about it, then did it.

It’s a bit more complicated for those who smoke marijuana. Those who do smoke it do get medicinal benefits from it. However, smoking does have drawbacks for lung health. Fortunately, many who smoke marijuana can use vapes to get the medicinal advantages without the health risks. You can visit this website to read more about vapes for those who use cannabis.

Other people have success quitting smoking through different routes than I did. And most habits are like that. For example, a friend of mine recently tried vaping as he thinks it is a safer alternative to smoking. He used products from Slickvapes because, although they still contain nicotine, vaping produces less harmful substances such as carbon monoxide and tar.

Moreover, one factor that makes vaping unique is the wide range of e-liquids that are available. Vape juices come in so many different flavors that there really is something for everyone. For example, if you are a fan of natural remedies, and enjoy using CBD products, there are plenty of CBD infused vaping liquids out there. Correspondingly, you can find more information about vaping and CBD e-liquids here:

Ultimately, you can read advice columns all you want, but in the end, you just have to keep trying things until you find what sticks. Then try applying the method that worked to other habits you want to change. Additionally, it’s true that vaping habits and products differ around the world, so eliquids in the UK are different from the USA. Bear this in mind when you come to buying.

It seems to me that breaking a habit is entirely different than establishing a habit in terms of what you need to do to make it work. And you shouldn’t expect it to be easy either way, because changing human behavior is difficult–something parents know well. The gurus who tell you it will only take one month and it shouldn’t be terribly hard either have far more self control than most of the rest of us, or they are not being completely honest with themselves.

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Trash, Design, Inspiration

I read an article several years ago about a community that subsisted off of a trash heap.  “Trash heap” doesn’t quite cover it–this was more like a trash mountain.  The people who lived near it collected clothing to resell as rags, aluminum cans, and anything else they could use to make a living.  It was a sad story; I don’t remember the magazine or the name of the country because I couldn’t stand to think about it too much.

Landfills are overwhelming.  The cost to the environment is probably incalculable, and the cost to the people who live near or even in all that garbage cannot be gauged.  Today, I read something that inspired me to think we may be able to conquer and vanquish the landfills.  Human ingenuity is boundless and if enough smart people are working to change the way we deal with waste, particularly if they find a way to profit from that waste, then maybe some good will come of it.

Today posted an article called “A New Breed of Eco-Designers Reimagines the Detritus of Our Daily Lives.”  While many of the items featured in the article are too expensive for most people to use daily, (I certainly can’t afford $6.50 per 8 disposable plates-what if you were serving 50 at a party?), they do have the power to impact how we think about the way we use disposable items.

Of course, the best option is to not use disposable items: wash dishes, use refillable pens, compost your pizza boxes, and on and on.  It’s nearly impossible, though, to work, raise kids, run a household, have a social life and make time to wash cloth diapers, use a rotary mower and otherwise avoid Earth-damaging shortcuts.  Convenience has its price, but it’s also, well, convenient.

The items in the article are both convenient and avoid flagrant contribution to the landfills, and, most importantly, are being marketed through avenues that will reach a large population.   There are few people who choose to purchase items that are bad for the planet.  Instead, those decisions are driven by price and (again!) convenience.

I have a friend who always buys styrofoam disposable plates because they are cheaper than paper.  She knows perfectly well that paper plates could be composted but feels she simply cannot afford to spend any extra on what is already a luxury item.  The most recent scourge of the environment, plastic water bottles, are a problem because they are just so darn easy to use.

Designers are making a good start, but now the rest of us have to carry through by making a few simple changes in our habits and in what we put in our shopping carts.  Then, maybe we’ll begin to see the trash mountains of the world shrinking.

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