10 Unconventional Hobbies And Why You Need One

In our spare time it can be nice to unwind and watch a movie, t.v. show, or catch up with what your friends are doing on social media. Down time is essential to decompressing throughout the week. These activities can also enrich our lives through enhancing our social bonds. Watching the same show as your friends can give you all something to discuss together. Social media offers various platforms to connect with people who you might otherwise lose touch with, and to learn and grow in ways that would not be possible with out that technology.

It is also crucial to have other activities that bring joy to your life. Things that are not your work, but that do engage your mind on a higher level than passively consuming media. Hobbies allow you to express yourself, learn about new facets of the world, connect with new people on deep levels, and enhance your skills at something you love. We often see that people who practice a hobby tend to feel better, but why?

Researchers have found that engaging frequently in enjoyable leisure activities leads to overall better psychological and physical health. In their study, psychologists found participants who regularly practiced their hobbies had lower blood pressure, lower cortisol levels, lower BMIs, and overall better physical functions than those who did not, even after accounting for standard demographic differences. Why this happens could be for several reasons. A possible explanation could be found in a study published by BMC Psychiatry, which discovered that the sense of “mastery” over a skill that develops when taking on a hobby improves overall mental health and sense of accomplishment. An additional study published in the American Journal of Public Health explored the healing effects of artistic expression regarding mental health when practiced as a hobby, and found that activities such as creative writing, music, dance, and drawing aided in coping with stress.

The bottom line: exploring a hobby you enjoy can help you to improve your physical and mental well-being. If you already have activities that you like to do, keep up with them, and make sure you set up time in your schedule specifically for yourself to practice what makes you feel good. If you want to explore new hobbies or don’t have anything you like to do yet, below is a list of suggestions to begin your journey into making the most of your free time. Get creative, meet new people, get really into what you like. But, also remember it’s okay if you don’t like something you try and want to try something else. It’s also okay if you like something, but aren’t good at it when you start out (no one is perfect when they first try something). It’s also okay if you like something and don’t love it. Not everything you do has to be your favorite thing. If it brings you joy, do it. If it doesn’t bring you joy, then stop.

10 Unique Hobbies To Explore:

  1. Learn an instrument: There are a ton of YouTube tutorials on how to play almost every instrument under the sun. If you have a certain one you’ve been wanting to try, check it out! Although lessons can be pricey, if you have the funds, why not go all in, or see if there are group lessons at a discounted rate to start out. (Also I can not confirm this, but I have been told by many people the easiest instrument to learn is the ukulele. You can often find these and guitars super cheap at garage sales to start out and see if you like it before investing a ton of money.)
  2. Creative Writing: There are so many types of creative writing to explore, not just fiction writing. Try poetry. Or write a play. Or write non-fiction. Research your hero, and write a biography. You can write about whatever you want, and that is the freedom of creative writing. If you want a platform to share your work, start a blog, or create a goal of a finished product to try and get published. Or self publish. Or join a writing group in your community.
  3. Hiking: Get outside and explore nature. Start with walks at your local parks. Then a quick Google search will show you trails near and far from where you live. There are also groups that get together and organize hikes if you want to meet new people. Check out the American Hiking Society for more information.
  4. Community Theater: Wish you could go back to your drama club days? Check out your local theater groups! Attend a show, see who holds open auditions, and get involved. Whether you like set building, acting, directing, stage crew, or any part of the theatrical process, community theater is a great place to meet new people and explore your creative side.
  5. Upcycling: Turn old furniture or clothes into something completely your own. Get crafty and give new life to old goods. You can keep your finished products, give them to your friends as gifts, or sell them. There is an entire community of upcyclers who share ideas, and hacks to get you started. Even hobbies that you might not think of as social activities, can help you to meet new people- if that is what you are looking for out of your activity. Upcycling is also great for improving your carbon footprint!
  6. Baking: Trying to stick to a health plan that makes you feel good, but miss those sweets? Explore the world of food with alternative baking methods and get down and dirty, experimenting in the kitchen to see which recipes compare to your traditional favorites. Or go all out on the sugar and learn to create delectable delights that will wow your friends. The kitchen can serve as quite the therapeutic place, and you can sign up for cooking classes, donate your goods to local bake sales, or host your own treat swaps to get more involved in the community.
  7. SFX Makeup: If Halloween or makeup is your thing, try out special effects makeup. You’ll get creative with sculpting your own prosthetic pieces, shading the details of your characters, and bringing to life your art. With the beauty industry booming, and spooky season a favorite time of year for many, there are 1000s of resources and tutorials to get your creative juices flowing. Get those make up brushes blending! Check out SFX make up artist Glam&Gore, for some fun looks, and how to’s to get started.
  8. Sports Leagues: Did you love sports when you were in school? Do you miss the sense of belonging to a team and the energy of the game. Check out your local sports and athletic centers for adult leagues. Many areas offer a wide range of recreational teams you can join to get active and meet some new people who also have a shared interest as you. Whether it’s basketball, ultimate frisbee, dance, football, volleyball, or whatever your sport, check out what’s around you and get playing.
  9. Star gazing: Is most of your free time at night? Learn about the sky, track the stars, and planets, and enjoy the beauty of our place in the solar system. NASA even has a tool to help you connect with other star gazers in your area, so you can meet up and share your findings together.
  10. Embroidery: Sewing a straight line might seem like a daunting task to most in modern times, but cross stitch and embroidery are making a comeback. Try your hand at creating intricate designs, and soon you’ll be able to deck out all of your favorite clothes to become a local fashion icon. To get you started, here is a beginner’s guide.

No matter what you choose to do with your free time, be sure to spend it doing what you love, with who you love. Your hobby doesn’t need to consume your life, but if it does drive you to get up in the morning that is also okay too. Make time to take care of yourself. Make time to decompress. Make time to do the things that are important to you. Regardless of where you’re at in life, you are deserving of time that makes you feel good and important.

Hobbies can take you to so many wonderful places you could have never dreamed of going before. Maybe you’ll find yourself on stage performing one day in front of an audience. Maybe you’ll be booking your next vacation to tackle the world’s craziest rock climbing adventure. Maybe you’ll meet the most wonderful people who will become extensions of your family. You never know where you will end up, but when you follow your heart you’ll end up exactly where you’re supposed to be.

Too Much Self-Improvement?: The Balance Between Goal-Getting And Life-Loving

*Disclaimer: This article is purely addressing the “self-help” industry, NOT advice/counsel provided by licensed medical professionals, psychiatrists, counselors, etc. If you have concerns about your current course of treatment or what has been discussed in sessions, please have a detailed discussion with your provider. Professionals have been trained, certified, and have the time to manage cases one-on-one. This article discusses the open access to advice given by anyone, through a variety of formats, regardless of credentials. I am NOT a licensed mental health professional. I am just someone trying to make the best of tough situations, and share those thoughts as a way to help others who might be in similar positions not feel so alone.

Think about how many times you’ve ever said, “I need to get my life together.” Do you binge watch self-improvement videos, reread self-help books, or share 300 quotes on Pinterest to get you ready to “get it together”? Do you rearrange your furniture? Do you buy a planner and fill out the next few days full of productive activity? What’s your go to method for getting it all together? Why don’t you feel better after a few days into your self-improvement journey?

Self-improvement, self-care, self-love, self-acceptance, self-help, all trending topics over the last few years, and especially in the first month of the new year. We are taught from a young age, that life is a journey of continual growth. There is something new to learn everyday. Someway to improve your work. It can always be better. Nothing is perfect. Anyone ever have a teacher who never gave 100% because, “There is always room for improvement”? This mindset while beneficial in some cases is also damaging in others.

This is becoming a little existential, so let’s start breaking it down. Too much strive is toxic. No drive at all, and then what? Never work towards anything? Simply seek contentment? This is a strange topic to discuss on a website that’s all about the power of positivity and personal growth. We’ve put forth a lot of questions, so let’s dive into the research.

In the US alone, the “self-improvement” market is worth an estimated $11 billion. This includes products, retreats, events, books, CDs, apps, etc., that try and motivate people mentally, spiritually, physically, or in any way want to influence people to improve in an area of their life. This statistic can be seen as both a positive and negative reflection on where our society is at. Since I prefer to think positively, let’s dissect this figure with our rose-colored glasses on first. Clearly, a lot of Americans are looking to improve in some way or another, and this number illustrates that they are finding answers to whatever questions they might have. This number also shows that there is hope for a society often seen as lost. People looking to improve, wanting to do better, is crucial to actually doing better. It shows that we are not content with the troubled state of where we are, and that we know there is so much more we can give. Sometimes we just need help to figure out how to get to the next level, and that’s okay.

Time to take off those rosy glasses. To quote the iconic modern poet Atticus, “I worry there is something broken in our generation; there are so many sad eyes on happy faces.” Are we a generation eternally trapped under the pressure of never being “enough”? Why are we seeking $11 billion worth of self-improvement? And here’s the not so nice reality of analyzing that enormous number. With that much content out for consumption, how can we guarantee that what is for sale is quality, accurate, and helpful? The truth is, we can’t. However, people are smart, and can determine what sources of media best serve their needs and their unique situations. (With that much content comes plenty of variety.) Trouble arises when people who are experiencing pain, who feel lost, get taken advantage of by companies trying to profit off people who are in a place of hurt, rather than provide genuine help. Research the media you consume. Self-help doesn’t always come from a kind place.

Here are some key questions you can ask to determine if a source is something you should continue to follow as a place of inspiration:

  • Where is it coming from?
  • Who is creating this?
  • Why are they producing this content?
  • What do I have to gain from consuming it?
  • What do they have to gain from me consuming it?
  • Is this worth incorporating into my life?
  • How can I use this information in my life?
  • Does this make me feel better or worse about myself?

These questions can help you to filter what content will actually serve you, and what content will harm you, or is eating up your time unnecessarily. Follow and consume content that genuinely inspires you to do good, and makes you feel good about yourself. Unfollow and get rid of anything that isn’t genuinely fueling your soul, makes you feel worse about yourself, makes you jealous, anxious, or feel like you aren’t enough. Balance is the key. Don’t write off self-help, because the self-improvement community is full of some incredible and genuine people, striving to create a real impact. This community has broken down barriers to discussing topics like burnout, depression, anxiety, positive self-talk, body positivity, the list goes on and on. So much good comes out of exploring your own potential. As with anything in life, just be mindful of the time you spend on it, and where you get your information from.

Why is too much self-help toxic? If anything, the constant mindset of growth and development should keep us in a place of balance and positive thinking. When we constantly strive for something more, we forget to enjoy what we have. In times of darkness, there are still small things to be grateful for. In times of prosperity, even more to be grateful for. Sometimes, we still don’t find it to be enough and keep looking for the next best thing. That’s when the cycle begins to get dangerous. When we find ourselves, never content with what we have, and always focusing our energy on what’s coming next. Take time to enjoy what you have worked for. You set goals, you achieved them. Take in that moment, and just feel that for a while before going on to the next project. The mindset that you always need to be creating, and working, and moving to the next phase takes away from fully embracing where you are at right now. Balance. Working towards your goals while living for the present.

In his article, “The Disease of More,” Mark Manson (best-selling author of The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach To Living A Good Life), discusses the notion that in the early stages of life, our own personal growth is somewhat linear. As we learn how to take care of ourselves, learn to read, master skills, obtain a job, the trajectory of our growth feels as if we are on an upward path. Then at a certain point, life is no longer about growth, but “trade-offs.” Essentially, once you become a fully functional human, and establish yourself in a field, you don’t grow anymore, you simply trade time. If you learn something new then you give up time that could have been spent advancing in an area you already excel at, or vice versa.

This theory, while interesting, failed to get to give up on the self- help industry altogether. The main point of contention I have with the argument is that growth begins as linear. Life is full of ups, downs, and twists, and everyone’s path is always different. Life never has been linear. Life can be seen as a series of trade-offs, as perpetual growth, as a circle, a spiral, whatever metaphor you choose, but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter how we define the path of our actions. What matters is the actions or the inaction we take. What matters is if what you do everyday makes you feel good. If you are being true to your authentic self. If you are kind to others. If you are doing the best you can with what you have to work with.

There is nothing wrong with wanting more from your life. Wanting to become the vision of what you know in your heart you can become. You should want to achieve those goals, create those goals, chase those goals. There is also nothing wrong in seeking guidance from others when you need it. Surround yourself with positive light. Take in the ideas of people who share their thoughts and experiences. Digest them. If there are resources or programs that help you to feel good about yourself, and help to inspire you to become the best version of yourself take full advantage of them. Keep working towards your dreams, but don’t forget that where you’re at is also just as beautiful as where you are going.

Inspiration for the Uninspired

Inspiration is all around us. It’s hidden in moments of the everyday. The golden color that glows around the flowers at sunset, the smell of rain in the city, the early morning conversations about the day to come, the view of the valley sliced in half with a set of never ending train tracks, all hidden inspiration. What inspires you is a personal and intimate experience. Sometimes elaborate works of art, complex problems of war, or stories of triumph inspire us to create. Other times, the tiniest details ignite the soul and set the mind ablaze.

While the world flourishes with lovely moments everyday, when our own lives become clouded, or we experience difficult times of pain, disinterest, or frustration, it can become near impossible to see that the tools we need to escape these ruts are scattered all around us. Whether you are looking for creative inspiration, the motivation to get work done, or to just feel inspired to embrace the warmth of life again, there are ways to seek out what you need to feel re-energized and excited about what’s to come again.

This week we examine a list of methods to find inspiration when you feel lost:

  1. Free Write: Utilize writing as a tool for catharsis. Get down what you’re feeling on paper. All of what you are feeling. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, format, just write. You can write your thoughts as a list, a stream of consciousness, an essay, however you write is okay, just do it. Write about what you’re feeling in this moment. Talk about how you are feeling stuck, why you are feeling trapped, what is it you want to overcome, and why you think you can not. Then write about how you see yourself once you are out of the rut. Where do you want to be? Visualize it. See that image in your mind and describe it in such vivid detail that if you didn’t know it hadn’t happened yet, you’d think it already had. Now you have down on paper where you are, and where you want to go. One place, one writing session, one document holding your vision and reality. Research shows that expressive writing can help to reduce stress and promote clearer thinking. Why this happens is at the moment unclear, but scientists currently think a combination of factors contribute to the freedom felt after writing your current story on paper. One of those reasons is that in writing down what’s going on that is troubling you, your brain is automatically stimulated- forced into the creative process, because you need to reconstruct the details of your life into a story format. Writing is stimulating and gets the brain working, while allowing you to express the feelings and events of your life free of judgement. You are forcing yourself to process what is happening to you, while engaging in the creative process. Free writing might just be the perfect first step you need to clarify your situation and find inspiration once again.
  2. Create a Mood Board: Another tactic to try is creating a mood board. You can do this during times when you are inspired, so it’s ready to go with ideas and feelings that evoke a sense of wonder on days when your interest dwindles. You can also create one on days when you don’t feel your best. It can be a visual method of laying out how you feel and what you want to feel when you don’t know what your next move is going to be. You can create a physical mood board if you have the time and resources to do so. Things to think about when piecing it together include: color story, texture, images, and layout. Select images that speak to you, but don’t over think anything. Look through photos you’ve taken as well as other sources for inspiration. While looking through your old photographs you might remember times that brought you joy, or peace, or love, or sadness, or hope, and inspiration might start flowing through the process of creating the board. You might find more inspiration from searching for images and pieces to include from other sources as well. You can also create a digital mood board with tools such as Canva or Pinterest. Whatever your medium, mood boards are creative tools for visual expression of where you’re at.
  3. Get Out: If you feel caught up in your head, change your physical location to help clear your mind. Go somewhere new, somewhere you don’t normally go. Change your physical routine, to change the routine of your thoughts. Find a place to walk outside that isn’t your usual spot. Or if you don’t go outside often, spend sometime outdoors. Breathe in the fresh air. Take in the landscape. Embrace a brief change of scenery. Try a new restaurant, go to a store you’ve never been in before, see a different part of town that you don’t often pass through. You don’t need to buy anything, or even like what you see, but experiencing something different from the norm of your everyday will awaken your senses.
  4. Talk it Out: Reach out to your friends and family when you are feeling unmotivated. You can ask them for help, or just talk to them about anything at all. Ask them how they are doing, how they are feeling. Find out what is new in their life. It will take your mind off whatever is weighing on you, and will help you to focus your attention onto something new. It will break your fixation from the task at hand and focus you onto something new. The break might be what you need to see how to solve your problem later on. If you end up discussing your own feelings of frustration, they might be able to offer a solution. If their ideas don’t help, at least you’ve begun the brainstorming process with a fresh set of eyes. Your friends care about you, just like you care about them. If they were feeling stuck and trapped, you would want to help them too. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
  5. Do Something Unrelated to What You Want to Accomplish: Similar to distracting your mind with conversation, distract it with another project entirely. Do something you enjoy, unrelated to what you want to accomplish and focus your attention completely on that project. You can draw, read, watch a movie, clean, listen to a podcast, ride a bike, paint your nails, play with your dog, bake a cake, anything that isn’t what you are already trying to do. When you give your mind a break from thinking about the solutions to your problems, you give it a chance to just take in what’s happening. To experience those everyday moments that are inspiring. You might think of the answer to your questions, during this time and you might not. Either way, you will feel better after taking time away to do something for yourself. You don’t have to figure everything out right now to still enjoy life. This exercise will help you to see that it’s okay to move on from something and come back to it later.
  6. Track Your Progress: Keep documentation of your progress on your projects. This can be as detailed as a fully flushed journal entry every day about what you did and how you feel about it, or as simple as a bullet list of what you accomplished to achieve your long term goal. This will help you to monitor your progress over time, examine where you have been, and determine if you are on track to get to where you want to be. It is also encouraging to see how far you have come on days you feel you have nothing to offer. You have armed yourself with a record of your work, and reassurance that you will eventually rebound to keep making progress. If today you are uninspired and don’t already have a log of your journey, start now. Think about all you’ve done to get to where you are, at write it down to look at. Then from here on out, continuously update the list. Reflection is a powerful tool to help you remember your purpose for your project, take pride in your accomplishments, and rekindle the fire in your heart.

Some days a simple “motivational quote” is enough to get us going. Some days, a few words someone said when they were having a good day isn’t enough to get us through. And that’s okay. You, and your problems, and your life, and your passions are so much more complex than a few sentences or a list of feel-good ideas. What’s important to remember when you are feeling uninspired by the world, is that emotions (good and bad) are temporary. You will get through this period of uncertainty, this deeply dug rut. Inspiration is all around us. You are an inspiration. The work you do is important. The words you speak matter. The life you are living has beauty. Even on days you feel empty, you are so full of life. The periods of darkness will end. You will find your spirit again. You can do anything, right where you’re at.

Visions VS Goals: How To Stick To Your New Years Resolutions

Resolving to improve. This year is going to be better. I will be better. Kinder, healthier, grander, more present, more aware, more lovable, just more. Happier. That’s what we all hope every night on December 31st. Then January drags, we lose course, and next December we’re back where we started. Hoping that next year will be our year. It’s got to be.

Stop. It’s time to end this cycle of regretting the year before, with grand visions of the year to come. Life happens, and it’s never what you plan. But does that mean we shouldn’t plan anything at all? Of course not. How do we balance our dreams for a future that “could be,” without neglecting to appreciate the past that gave those dreams life? How do we make resolutions that we can stick to? How do we make it, so that come December, 2020 we can look back and smile, knowing we did our absolute best, and 2021 will be a continuation of dedication instead of a start over?

This week on Where You’re At, we are going to dive in deep, reflect, brain storm, and set up a beautiful vision of where you can take yourself on your journey in the new year.

  1. Begin With Reflection: Before you start listing off everything you want to change about your life, reflect on where you’re at right now. When you reflect on your past, start small and specific, then work your way back to the bigger picture. (This is the opposite of goal setting which we will discuss in #3.) Key questions to ask yourself include: What have I done today I am proud of? What was I hoping to get done today that I was unable to accomplish? Why didn’t those things get done? You can then replace the word “today” in each of those questions with “this week,” “this month,” and “this year.” These questions will help you lay out your strengths and weaknesses, and help you to map your progress over time. When you reflect through your past year, think about your favorite memories too. Where did you go? What did you see? Who did you meet?- How much of that was planned? Probably not much of it. You can do your best to plan, but much of life (both beautiful and tragic) happens organically. Life is a balance of planning and going with whatever comes your way. As you close your time of reflection pick out the moments you are most grateful for. Then thank yourself for a year of perseverance, patience, and experience.
  2. Visualization: Next begin the process of developing plans for where you want your next year to take you. Visualize. The process of goal setting begins broad and imaginative. This is not the time to be “realistic” or doubtful about what you can manage. Think even beyond the year to come. Where do you want to be in 2 years? 5? 10? What kind of life do you want? How do you want to wake up feeling everyday? What do you see yourself surrounded with? What do you want your daily routine to be like at the end of next year? These big questions will help you to open your heart to the potential you have within you. Brainstorm big. This time is all about the “big-picture.”
  3. Get Specific With Goals: After you’ve thought about where you have been and where you want to go, it’s time to figure out how to get there. This is done through setting goals. Breaking down dreams into steps. Then breaking down those steps into smaller steps. Soon you’ll have a staircase leading you to your destination. When we reflect, we map where we have been by working from small and specific to larger and more broad. Goal setting is the opposite. Take your vision for the future, and write down what it will take to get there. Then break it down again, and again, and again, and again. Soon you’ll see how you can create daily habits that will lead you to tackling bigger projects. Those projects will lead you to conquering more complex steps which require more time, connections, homework, and effort. Your daily habits build the steps you climb through life. It all begins at the micro level. It’s okay if your long-term goals take a long time to accomplish. That’s why they’re called long-term. Move at a pace that is comfortable and manageable for you. If you push too much you’ll end up burnt out and giving up. If your long-term goal is to become more clean, start with making your bed everyday and vacuuming once a week. If your goal is to start performing your music live, begin by committing to your practice everyday, attending more local shows, and marketing once a week. If your goal is to write a book, write a little everyday-even if ‘s not for your book (keep up with the practice), talk about your intentions with others to grow your ideas, and create a tentative schedule for yourself. Start small. Then build from there. It begins with daily practice. Daily habits form life long changes. It won’t happen overnight, but when you come back to reflect again on how far you have come, you will be so proud of how you expanded the map of your life. For more information on setting daily-level goals check out the SMART goal system, which poses questions to help you keep the goals you set at attainable levels. When you use smaller goals as a means to accomplish your dreams, the steps you climb become a manageable hike rather than impossible leaps.
  4. Gratitude: After you reflect on where you have been, envisioned where you want to go, and determined how you will get there, take a few moments to be grateful for where you are at. Gratitude is a powerful tool that will keep you grounded on your journey of change. It is also important to recognize that your current situation whether difficult, painful, or one of the best times of your life is a piece of who you are and who you will be. Periods of our life don’t define us, but they can drive us to where we go next. Everyday has something in it to be grateful for. As the new year progresses, and you check off the goals on your list, pause after you tick off each one. Take a moment to thank yourself and anyone who helped you along the way to get to that next step. On days you fall behind, instead of beating yourself up, thank yourself for trying your best and know that you will keep trying again until you get it next time. More information on overcoming difficult set backs and breaking down the process of gratitude can be found in our article “A Field Guide To Finding The Silver Lining.” Gratitude will serve as your life boat when you’ve been tossed out into rough water. Cling to it. Gratitude will also keep you focused as you keep moving along your list of goals and chasing your vision. It will help you to see your journey is just as beautiful as the dream.

New Years Resolutions are often seen as the beginning of a new chapter in the story of life. However, they don’t mean you have to burn the beginning of your book. You can choose to change your life on New Year’s Day, you can choose to change your life any day of year if you like. Or you don’t have to change it all. But if you’re looking to overcome the obstacles that have held you back from realizing the picture of what you see your life could be, be strategic in your attack. You can build the life you dream. You can overcome the pains in your past. You can learn how to grow in the future. It all begins with today. It begins with you deciding to take advantage of what you have, right now, right where you’re at.

Eager To Learn: Why It’s Important + A Documentary Review

On December 26th, 2019, British Chef and vegan YouTube sensation Gaz Oakley (aka avantgardevegan) released his first full length documentary, titled, “Salt of the Earth.” In the film, Gaz explores his home country of Wales, combining elements of travel, food, and human interest all in an eye-opening, awe-inspiring piece. Without giving too much away, the documentary takes you around the country to see where your food comes from, visit the breath-taking (adventure-packed) sites Wales has to offer, and showcases the charm of the Welsh people.

Visiting the UK has always been on my bucket list, but Wales was never at the top of places I felt obligated to see. I never knew how stunning the country was, or how much there was to do in the Welsh countryside. Opening your eyes to the beauty of a new place that you may have over looked as an adventure hub, full of rich culture, and a diverse ecosystem is an inspirational experience. Exploring the wonders of a world far away from your own, through the lens of a personality so passionate about the journey of discovery, you can’t help but become encouraged to explore your own home.

Seek adventure in the most unlikely of places. It is all up to you what you will find on your journey. Appreciate the unique offerings of your hometown, your home state, your home country. Seek out beauty. Seek out joy. Seek out opportunity.

Try new things. Don’t be afraid to try something new, talk to someone new, be someone new. It is never to late to start learning, because everyday is a chance to learn that there is magic all around you. There are people in your community who know so many details of where to find the most incredible views, the coolest shops, the most interesting ways to spend a day- you just need to talk to them.

Gaz’s documentary embodied the wondrous possibilities that stem from embracing where you’re at. Explore. Enjoy. Live everyday in a mindset of gratitude for what you have. Be eager to to learn, and always ask questions. Always remember, you can do amazing things, right where you’re at.

*Gaz Oakley aka avantgardevegan’s documentary was linked in the first paragraph but is also linked here to watch. He also has a book and website full of more plant based recipes.

Kindness As A Mindset

Selfishness forces us to use tunnel vision to get to where we want to go. Kindness removes those clouds, so we can see that our worlds are so beautiful exactly where we are at.

We see over, and over, and over, and over again in the media how small acts of kindness quite literally change a person’s life. Smiles to strangers give them hope, a random compliment turned an entire day around, one small act of kindness was the difference between life and death. It seems dramatic to put it that way, but in a world so quick to jump to conclusions about people, so quick to judge, so quick rip others down so we can make it to the top, it means the world to stop and be kind. We live in a quick, fast-paced world. It’s not right, but it’s understandable to see how we have come to a point where people are caught up in their own unique and complex miniature universes, and that they sometimes forget everyone else’s is just as intricate. We are all just doing our best. In a society that is moving faster and faster, pushing and shoving to get to the next destination, screaming for answers to questions that don’t have solutions, how do we slow down and make an active effort to live a life driven by kindness?

This week we look at some out-of-the-box ways to go beyond a few intermittent acts of kindness, and lead a softer life, understanding why it’s important, and how to stay centered in a world that isn’t always as kind back to you.

Start with small acts. Weaving kindness into your everyday life can be as simple as letting a car that has been waiting to turn go first, or as complex as changing your entire attitude towards driving, transforming into a less aggressive driver. Those larger changes stem from a series of small changes. Kindness isn’t always paying for the order behind you in the drive thru or donating a bunch of money and stuff to charity. Those are kind acts, and are wonderful places to start if you are looking to integrate more kindness into your life, but kindness goes much further than material objects or isolated instances. However, every act of kindness is beautiful, and every act of kindness makes a difference. Never be afraid to do something you think will make someone else feel good, because you think it won’t make a difference. It will. Tell them their shirt makes their eyes pop, volunteer for a day, start a “pay it forward” at your local coffee shop. Your single act might just be the relief someone needs today.

Kindness as a mindset. Kindness as a mindset means intentionally slowing down in a world that pushes and shoves and presses forward. It means stopping to look around, take in your environment and be aware that your intricate universe is special, beautiful, magical, full of wonder, and so is the personal universe of the person walking next to you. It doesn’t mean you don’t look out for your own well-being. But when you have the understanding that you have a beautiful life with value and that the person across from you does too, life becomes a little softer to handle. It means you can give the time you need to show yourself kindness. Take time to care for your needs, your wants, your dreams. Don’t allow the harshness of this world to harden your heart so you forget to show yourself kindness too. It doesn’t matter what you have been through, the things you have seen, what other people have done to you, or what you have done to yourself. From this day forward, you are worthy of kindness. You always have been worthy of kindness. Some days that may only come from yourself, which is why it is so crucial to be gentle on yourself. You are doing the best you can. Give yourself the love you need. When you feel overwhelmed from the stress of the day, if there are people who one, after the other, after the other try to bring you down, remove yourself from the situation for 30 minutes and give yourself the space you need to breathe. Understand that you are doing the best you can with what you have at this time, and allow yourself to release that tension instead of beating yourself down further. Be kind to yourself. When you are kind to yourself, it will be much easier to be kinder to other people. Cut them a little break as well. We don’t know everyone’s entire story, just as they don’t know ours.

One of the kindest things you can do is be interested in what excites someone else. Imagine how much you could learn from listening to other people talk about the things that bring them joy. World history, technology, art, music, business, animals, engineering, intricate details of wondrous things in the world you may have never even knew existed. Listening is one of the kindest acts we can do in a world that does a lot more speaking than learning. Listen to understand, listen to learn, listen to grow. Have you ever had a time when you were talking about something you were passionate about, only to stop and say “This is probably boring, sorry, I’ll stop,”? Did they answer with, “No, keep going, I want to know more.” How did that feel? Awesome. Have you ever been cut off and told to stop when you were really excited to share something? It felt awful, didn’t it? When we listen to others, we give them our time, our attention. We give them a tiny piece of our own beautiful world, and they share a tiny piece of theirs. That engagement, a genuine connection between two people, grows so much more than a moment of conversation. Learning leads to new ideas. Innovative ideas. Collaboration. All key aspects of success and development. Growing your own garden requires pollination from plants that grow in a garden far away. Diversify. Open your mind. It all blooms from kindness.

Create systemic changes in your perspective. Actively incorporating kindness as a mindset means going against the grain of a society that demands you rush through your life to push your way through to the next stop on your journey. It means slowing down, and being okay with the fact that there are others who are not as kind. It means avoiding those aggressive drivers, blowing off those rude comments from a passerby, patience in tense situations, patience with yourself. It means freedom. Living a life with intentional kindness lifts the weight of the pressure society places on your shoulders. You don’t have to push your way through crowds of bickering bodies, dragging behind the weight of your personal pain behind you. When you are kind to yourself, you can drop those weights, and you can help others set down their own baggage. It’s okay to be a few minutes late because there was traffic. It’s okay to give up some time. Talk to some one new, go to a friend’s art show, read the rough copy of a book they have been working on, support a local business, ignore rude comments on the internet, skip the urge to scream when you’re upset, learn about someone else, pet a dog, bring cookies in for the office, send someone a meme that made you think of them. Small acts ripple to a big impact. The wave of freedom that comes with a life lived through kindness, will carry you further than you could have ever made it pushing your way through alone with the burden of all those weights.

Live softly. Live fully. Live kindly. When you open your heart to accept and share kindness from within, the world becomes a little easier to navigate. Selfishness forces us to use tunnel vision to get to where we want to go. Kindness removes those clouds, so we can see that our worlds are so beautiful exactly where we are at.

When Your Best Isn’t Enough

If you have done the very best you can do, no one can ask any more of you- not even yourself.

Sometimes you try the best you can, you give your absolute all, and it’s just not enough. It’s crushing. Devastating. It’s the setback in life that hurts the most. How do you pick up and try to do better next time when you gave everything you had to give?

First of all, recognize that you did your best. You gave your all, and that is enough. Be proud of the work you did, because even if it was unsuccessful, or no one else saw it, or they did and it didn’t matter to them, you gave it everything you had. That is crucial. Reflect on everything you did right, not with resentment, but with a love for the work you did and a love for yourself. If you have done the very best you can do, no one can ask any more of you, not even yourself.

Next, get upset. After the initial shock of failure, then processing it through the lens of recognizing your work, grieve the loss of the effort you put in. It’s okay to be upset. It’s okay to get angry. It’s okay to question why this happened, and to feel hurt by rejection, or dismissal, or ignorance. Process that pain, and feel it in its entirety. You put your whole heart out into your work, and you put your time, and energy, and your intellect out on display only to have it be turned away. It’s okay to get upset.

After you’ve processed that pain, it’s time to analyze. You’ve reflected on everything that you’ve done right, you’ve felt through the wrongness of the situation, and now your head and heart have a clear space to freely analyze the what happened. If you plan on trying again, what went wrong? Where can you make changes? Can you tweak the project? Does it need fundamental changes? Was it just a fluke? If the next step is to move forward to something new, analyze the specific reason for the downfall, and brainstorm a list of ideas as to how to prevent it from happening again.

Sometimes in life we encounter roadblocks. But when we put out best foot forward and it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t feel like a road block. It’s more like a bridge on our life path crumbled while we were crossing it. And sometimes it’s your fault for choosing an old, rickety bridge to cross, sometimes it’s the bridge builder’s fault for building it with cheap materials, and sometimes it’s no one’s fault at all. Sometimes things just happen. What matters is how we respond to them. Will you lie in the river and let the current take you away? Will you swim out, and climb back up to the top? Or will you find a new path at the edge of the river? It’s up to you how to proceed.

Always try your best, because when you do, no one can ask anymore of you- not even yourself. When you do your best and it doesn’t work out how you hoped it would, do not let it deter you from doing your best in the future. People will respect you for trying your hardest and failing, much more than they will for only doing half the work and sort of succeeding. You will respect yourself more for trying your best, than if you only put in the minimal effort. If things don’t work out, you will know in heart you gave everything you had, and will be able to move onto other endeavors without regrets about how you handled yourself. You can not control the actions of anyone else but yourself. When you put your best foot forward it will pay off. Consistency, hard work, passion. Let them flourish in you. Take the time you need to heal from a set back, and then forge your new path that will take you to heights you may have never imagined you’d see. No matter where your path has taken you, split off, diverged, or turned around, you will find your way. You can accomplish so much with the vision that is in your heart. You can do anything, right where you’re at.

A Field Guide To Finding The Silver Lining

Sometimes it’s hard to look at the “bright side” of life. Sometimes it feels like you get hit with one thing after another, after another, and you just can’t seem to catch a break. It’s okay to feel upset when bad things happen. Get angry, work through those emotions, but the trouble comes when we allow ourselves to sit too long with those negative thoughts. We live in a time of constant exposure to media that showcases the very best of our friends’ lives, that highlights super stars, and the talents of everyone we wish we could be. We all fight our own battles behind the scenes, and sometimes anxiety, resentment, fear, sadness, they just take over. But why do we have so much negativity? How do we overcome it? Should we try to brush it aside?

In a study published by the Educational Publishing Foundation, titled “Bad is Stronger than Good,” researchers explain the necessity of negativity from an evolutionary perspective. Historically speaking, if an ancient individual saw the world as bad and honed in on negative situations worth avoiding over positive opportunities to take advantage of, they had a greater chance of surviving and creating the next generation. If you missed the chance for innovation sure, it was lost potential, but at least you lived to see another day back then. Made a mistake and got eaten or poisoned- forget about the notion of potential altogether. People needed to be hyper aware of danger to make it through the day.

Fortunately today we have significantly less to worry about, but our minds still get caught in a loop of negativity. While that negativity can still provide some type of protection, in the long run it will hold you back from acting on those remarkable opportunities ancient peoples of the past didn’t have the time for. Professor of Organizational Behavior, Psychology, and Cognitive Science Dr. Richard Boyatzis states, “You need the negative focus to survive, but a positive one to thrive.” So how can you switch gears when the anxious thoughts of worry, and confusion, and stress take over? And what about when things actually go wrong when you did your best to do everything right?

Below is a mini Field Guide to finding the silver lining:

  1. Breathing exercises: In the event of a stressful or overwhelming situation that is causing an immediate negative or series of negative responses from your brain, begin by refocusing your breathing. The brain is an organ- a part of your body and you need to regain control over your body. The 4-7-8 breathing exercise developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, is a simple method that will help you begin the process of redirecting you energy from stressed to success. Simply breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 7 counts, then exhale for 8 counts. This process acts as a “natural tranquilizer for the nervous system.” It will calm you, get oxygen and blood flowing through the body, and give you a minute of thinking that is focused solely on your breathing and not the problem at hand. Begin with the breath.
  2. Think about what could go right: Let’s say you’re in a situation where you’re thinking about all the things that could go wrong. What if my car breaks down on the way? What if it’s too expensive? What if they don’t like me? What if they start yelling? What if I get lost? What if I don’t know what to say? For every thought you have of a fake scenario where your situation turns wrong, produce the alternative if it went horribly right. What if it’s on sale? What if they turn out to be a new life long friend? What if they know someone I know already? What if I get there early and find a new store to look in with cool stuff? What if they don’t know what to say, and I make them feel more comfortable? Start thinking of alternates for your “what if” moments, and at the very least it might help calm some nerves. You might even come up with a few ideas to try out in the future of new things you actually want to test out.
  3. Stop asking “Why me?”: Be true in who you are. You are radiant. You are magnificent. You are on your way to creating so many wonderful things. The bad things that happen to you are not your fault, but they also aren’t anyone else’s fault either. Sometimes people aren’t nice, sometimes they do wrong by us, sometimes they hurt us. Do not allow their actions to control your mindset, and do not let that run the course of your life. And also, sometimes things just happen. There isn’t a reason why some people seem to get hit with one tragedy after another, and others seemingly glide through life. Everyone has their own personal battles, and some just don’t talk about it. If you allow your pain to become what defines you, it will eventually consume you. You must let it go. Some of the most beautiful moments of my life would have never happened had I not gone through the darkest times. I would never wish those events to happen, but they did and I am here and okay, and every sadness that touched my life lead to some type of good, because I allowed room in my heart for good to enter. You must be open to healing. Keep your heart open.
  4. Break down gratitude: Write a list of everything you are grateful for. Break it down into 4 categories: the essentials, accomplishments, people, and then everything else. Begin with the essentials. What basics of life do you have that you are most grateful for? Get specific, not just “food, a roof, clothes.” Pick out your favorite food, or the best thing ate all week, your favorite room in your house, your favorite shirt. Then move to accomplishments, what have you done today you are proud of? This week? This year? The past few years? Your whole life? Reflect on how far you have come. Think about the last time you felt discouraged and how you overcame that. Be proud of yourself. Honor yourself for the work you do everyday. Next- people. Who in your life are you grateful for? This week who helped you most? Who was a light in your life? Who has been a guide for you? Have you done anything for them lately? Finally, list everything else. What was the last you did that was fun? When did you last smile? What was the last celebration? Do you have a job? Have you worked on some personal projects? Have you had free time? Find something in everyday to be grateful for. Break it down. Reflect.
  5. Let the little things go: Don’t get worked up over minor inconveniences. If you aren’t allowing the small problems of your day to work you up, you will have more energy to rationally think through the tougher issues that are worth your tears and your heart. Out of copy paper? Long line at the check out? Store isn’t stocked with your favorite flavor soup? Breakfast spilled? Traffic jam? Ignore life’s little problems. Often times these are windows of opportunity to explore something new. Try a new flavor, pick a new store, take the scenic route. Keep your stress levels low by seeking opportunity from inconvenience. Innovation stems from exploration. So go explore. Change your mindset from routine to seeking new things. You will find there are so many more options available to you when you break habits, whether forced to switch up or by your own choice. Even slightly bigger things, like one mean comment from a passerby can ruin an hour, but don’t let it control the rest of your day. For every mean thing someone says about you think of one kind thing to say about yourself. Or take it a step further and think of one kind thing to say about them. For every mean thing you think about yourself, think of a nice thought to contradict that too. Don’t like your nose? But have you seen the way your eyes sparkle? You take too long to finish your workload? Your submissions are always flawless and done with care. Turn negativity into an opportunity to find something wondrous.

It’s important to feel through your emotions when you’re upset. Grieve. Love. Get angry. Be sad. Just don’t dwell on them. Life is full of highs and lows and sometimes the lows seem to dig deeper, and deeper, and deeper, and we start to feel like we are drowning. Don’t give up. Breathe. Regroup. Visualize where you will be once you work through this, and remember how much love you have to give to this world. You have talents and gifts that are entirely your own. Every experience is something you can draw from later on in someway or another. Keep going. Keep growing. You are capable of so much. You can do anything, no matter how dark it may seem right now, allow the light to come in. It will guide your way. You may feel stuck, but no matter where you are at, you can do anything.

Conscientious Consumerism Part Two: Holiday Edition

The holidays are here and consumer spending on goods and services are at their annual peak. A study discussed by Stanford University, explained Americans alone throw away an average of 25% more garbage between Thanksgiving and New Years than any other time of year. This year, make a point to limit your footprint this holiday season as a gift to the earth. This week is a continuation of the “Conscientious Consumerism” series (a follow up to a previous article Conscientious Consumerism: Why The Smallest Steps Towards Sustainability Are Still Important). The simplest and smallest acts of mindfulness regarding sustainability have the power to create monumental change when we come together to create a greener, cleaner planet. Below are a few ways you can make a big impact this holiday season.

  1. Compost That Christmas Tree: Don’t let your tree end up in a landfill this year. If you get a real tree, check out your local government’s web-page to find out about curb side tree collection. Trees can be reused as materials for flood barricades, mulch, or composted. You can also compost or break it down for mulch yourself if you are planning on gardening come Spring. However you choose to dispose of your tree, make sure it gets a second use! If you are ever unsure about how to recycle something visit Earth911. Type in your zip code and what you want to recycle (anything at all, not just Christmas trees!) and it will tell where and how it can be done.
  2. Mindful Gifting: With sales and deals and steals in all the stores, it can hard to resist snatching up all those stocking stuffers. When you pick out gifts for everyone on your list this year, don’t spend money for the sake of spending money. Instead invest in fewer items that you know your loved ones will appreciate and use for a long time to come. Some extremists argue for a gift free holiday to save the planet, but there is a balance between excess and nothing. I enjoy shopping during the holiday season because I get to really think about all the people in my life. What do they like? What are the best parts of them? What brings them joy? When you are mindful about others when shopping, you will have a less stressful shopping experience, probably spend less on filler gifts, waste less on things that won’t get used, and you’ll remember all the best parts of your friends and family. I have some gifts I have received in the past that I have used for years, and will continue to use. Don’t feel bad about purchasing a gift for someone that will go to good use.
  3. Shop Small: Find some out-of-the-box gift ideas by shopping small and avoiding the high-waste, fast-fashion, fad-filled, big businesses this year. Did your friends start a business this year? Support them. Their business will grow which will enrich your own community, and the carbon footprint of a small business is often much smaller than corporate enterprises. Here’s a list of sustainable small business’s in each state! Search online for small business that also support causes you believe in. Bravery, is a small business brand that sells wristbands made of wooden beads, with one a unique color of your choosing that corresponds with a charity. A portion of each sale goes directly to the charity of the color wristband purchased. Check out your local shops as well as online brands. Walk down the main street of your town or city and see what the people in your area are creating. They might have that perfect, unique gift you couldn’t find in the super stores for that special someone on your list. You might even be able to get a custom order from them. Find local artists, and commission a piece from them. You can totally win the holidays with the ultimate custom blanket, painting, or whatever interesting things the people around you are creating. Connect with your community this year and you might find the most magical items to share with your loved ones.
  4. Give The Gift Of Something To Do: Everyone complains about not having anything to do, especially in areas that aren’t super urbanized. This year don’t give another pile of sweaters that will lay dusty in the back of the closet and end up in the donation bin next year. Instead give the gift of a reason to go out. Think about the interests of those on your list. Get them concert tickets if they like music. If they like the outdoors, see if there are conferences on hiking, or gardening, or camping. If they like cooking get them a gift certificate to a cooking class. In Scranton, the beautiful and homey Vintage Kitchen, is a locally run small business that offers cooking and lifestyle classes for all ages. They offer courses for children and adults with categories that range from baking, to meal prepping, to waffles, to happy hours, to vegetarian nights, and so much more. Get them a certificate to sign up for something that interests them, or sign up to take a class together as a way to spend time with them this holiday. You could also reach out to a local photographer and schedule a photo shoot for them. Either make them a model for a day with a solo session, or create some beautiful memories with your significant other in a couples session. You could also have a fun friends shoot to remember the great times you shared together. Now-a-days you can customize super creative photo sessions, and have a fun, memorable experience that reflects who you and your friends are. The gift of something to do eliminates physical waste, and keeps the cheer going even after the day you swap presents.
  5. Gift Products That Encourage Sustainability: If you want to add in a few extra stocking stuffers, or need a few smaller gifts for people on your list, look into products that encourage sustainable habits. Reusable water bottles that have something from their favorite show or book on it would be a great idea. Bento boxes are great for a friend who wants to start meal prepping, eating out less, or just wants to use less waste when out and about. Bento&Co. has a variety of boxes to match every personality type, and several other kitchen gadgets to make on the go eating a breeze. House plants also make beautiful gifts, and don’t need to be thrown out like cut flowers. Consider a potted plant instead of a cut floral arrangement as a gift for your party hosts this year. Research brands, buy from companies who create products out of recycled materials, or who work to create a cleaner, more sustainable world.
  6. Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With String: The marvelous Julie Andrews was onto something when she sang that famous line about her favorite things. This year, instead of buying wrapping paper that will get ripped up and thrown out in shreds after one use, buy brown paper that can be recycled. You can still keep the holiday cheer by decorating them with fun ribbon and bows (reuse any old ones you have and keep any on gifts you get this year to use for next year). If you have extra paper from last year still on a role, use that up first before buying new paper or bags. You already purchased it, so don’t let it go to waste or throw it out with out getting any use at all. You can also use gift bags instead of paper, and encourage those you give them to to keep them to reuse in the future for when they have to give a gift to someone.
  7. Meal Prep Your Holiday Feasts: The EPA estimates food waste during the holidays increases by 25%, and the National Resources Defense Council estimates on average annual food waste amounts to about $281 billion! To cut down on your holiday food waste this year, plan out your big dinners in advance. Write out a detailed menu, keeping in mind the apatite and diet of your guests. Start preparing your holiday meals in advance so you don’t end up stressed in the kitchen the day of, throwing together ingredients. Also make sure to take advantage of your ingredients. Use every piece from root to stem if you can. Get creative in the kitchen with left overs, and if you can’t get through them all, send them home with guests, or freeze them. The freezer will keep your dishes preserved much longer, and then you can get cozy with a bowl of your famous green bean casserole again in a week or two.
  8. Enjoy Every Moment: The holidays are a time to come together and be with the people you care about most. Treat those around with kindness. Have patience when you’re in traffic, be gentle when you wait in line to check out at the stores. When you slow down you’ll realize that this time of year isn’t about all of the physical things we get, the food, the parties, the decorations. It’s about taking time for the people in your life and being present with them. With that mindset, you’ll see it doesn’t matter if you scale back a little to help protect the planet. It’s okay to reuse decorations, and reuse wrapping paper, and turn off the Christmas lights an hour earlier, because what matters is embracing everyday. This time of year is one time where much of the world stops for a few moments to just be together. So go and be with the people you need to be with, because at midnight on New Years, business will be back to usual, and there’s no guarantee everyone will be around next holiday season.

There are many other ways you can make a difference environmentally during the holidays, but even a few steps in the right direction make an impact. If just 1000 more people compost their Christmas tree this year, that’s a major impact. If a few people give reusable water bottles as gifts, and the people who receive them start using those instead of disposable plastic ones, that impact is enormous. Be mindful, be present, be yourself. You have enormous potential, and your actions have the power to create beautiful change. You can make a difference no matter where you’re at.

Every Season Has A Purpose: Do Not Waste Your Winter

A morning snow fall was a pleasant surprise yesterday morning. I was surprised that I found it to be a pleasant surprise. Winter is my least favorite season by far, and I do not do well in the cold. Most winters I tend to bundle up, muttering through the wind whipping my face, under grey skies, and shivering as I struggle to find the car keys in my purse, that I should have pulled out when I was still inside. Anyone else been there? A few weeks ago we talked about drawing inspiration from (and the actual physical benefits of) house plants during the winter months. Beyond setting up a comfortable and personally inspiring indoor space, it’s also important step outside during these cold months and embrace the winter weather. Take a even a few moments to appreciate the unique happenings that occur at this time of year.

Don’t waste your winter waiting for the warmth of summer to return. Go out and enjoy what you can. The perfect day, the perfect time, the perfect opportunity to start whatever it is you’ve been putting off will never come. Go and start that project you’ve been planning, talk to the person you’ve been thinking about, plan that vacation you’ve been wanting to take. Stop allowing reasons and seasons to hold you back. Those roadblocks don’t matter. What matters is your attitude towards those roadblocks. It’s okay to get discouraged sometimes, and you may have to change your course because of those roadblocks, but do not let them put your entire life on hold. I only spent half an hour outside in the snow, when on a summer day I might have spent 3 hours if I had the time. Do what you can, when you can, where you are at. Then when your summer comes, imagine how much more you will be able to do, because of the ground work you laid out while it was cold.

Every season has a purpose, and even if you are not in bloom, it does make you any any less stunning in the snow.

Jump on moments of inspiration. If you suddenly feel an urge to work on a project you’ve been waiting on, to get back into a hobby you’ve stopped, to try something new, to go outside because it’s snowing unexpectedly one morning, do it. Explore. Follow those urges. Live in the moment and embrace life to its absolute fullest, because you don’t know how long the winter will last, or even if you will make until next summer. Every day is a gift, and everyday you are able to pursue the things that fill your heart with warmth is a greater gift. Do not take them for granted. Do not let this winter keep you feeling stuck inside. Do not let your road blocks turn into walls that keep you in an inescapable prison. Face them. Find out what you can learn from them. Find what is beautiful in them. Grow from them. Step outside into winter and see what you can build with your snow. You can create magnificent things, during any season, from where ever you are at.