5 small things / january

Happy New Year! Wasn’t it 2016 like six months ago???? Time is weird and dumb.

Last year I spent several months making myself work out like crazy and obsessively counted every calorie I consumed. I even started to get abs, which is truly insane for a lifelong couch potato/The One Picked Last in Gym Class. I was also miserable and having to deal with my mental health issues from the ground up. Lately I’m working on accepting the 5 pounds I’ve since gained and the softness that’s returned to my body. If I have any resolutions at all in 2019, I mostly care about tackling my sugar addiction (it’s bad, y’all), moving more every day and really appreciating the good, little things in my life.

So from now on, at least once a month, I want to write a roundup of my favorite foods, clothes, hobbies, art, music, whatever — things I appreciate that I think other people might appreciate, too. Here’s January’s list:

collard greens with vegan bacon

I made way too much food (what else is new?) for a New Year’s Eve party, including these sweet and tangy collard greens — one batch with real bacon, another with tempeh bacon. Holy hell, they’re delicious, and super easy, and there was virtually no difference in taste between the two versions I made. I’m making them again this weekend, and also maybe like, at least once a month from now on? They’re that good. Collard greens are also inexpensive and super healthy and apparently have special cancer-protection properties. I plan to make them again this week to serve over vegan cheese grits.

this little corner in my office

Because it’s perfect.

midi skirts in winter

My Brilliant Friend Fernanda was telling me the other day that her new aesthetic is “Amish chic,” and I realized that’s exactly what I’ve been channeling since the temperatures dropped in October. Longer skirts over tights with untucked sweaters, turtlenecks, other modestly cut outfits — it’s all I’ve been wearing. I recently got this gingham pleated midi skirt from ASOS and I’m obsessed with it. (Is gingham too 2017? I don’t care. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ) I also got this super cute, subtly-leopard-print skirt with buttons up the front and a little bit of a slit up the side.

the Pittsburgh Christmas bus

Our transit system debuted a couple of buses and trains for the holidays that look like Buddy the Elf vomited all over them. I didn’t manage to catch a ride on either of the Christmas buses until January 1st, and it made my whole day, especially after spending most of Christmastime feeling like a little bit of a Grinch.

new rituals and routines

I’m a hermit to my core. If I’m left to my own devices, I’ll choose to stay in or do something alone almost always. But, like most people, I don’t actually know what’s good for me, because that preference for solitude and quiet can be a huge damper on my mood. (It doesn’t help that I work nights and Joe works days, and so do almost all of my friends.) Luckily, I live a few blocks away from a great coffee shop with gorgeous natural light, a hot oatmeal bar and the occasional dog tagging along with its owner. On one of my days off each week, I’ve been waking up, grabbing the newspaper and immediately walking over for breakfast. I read, do the crossword, maybe write in my journal. I love our apartment and cats, but the change of scenery does me a lot of good.

Here’s to recognizing more of the little things this year and beyond.

the five-minute journal

Until about two weeks ago, my mornings started with me lying in bed, a cat snuggled up to me, scrolling through Instagram or Twitter for half an hour to wake up. Now, the cat’s still there, but I grab this book from my nightstand instead of my phone:

the start of my mornings: journal, chai tea and The New York Times in bed

I got it at Urban Outfitters on Black Friday (I don’t normally do capitalism to that degree, but I live right by a store and they had a really good sale going and I got that What Do You Meme game, OK!!!!!) and man, I really had no idea how much I would end up loving this thing. (But it was $25 so thank god I do. I’d feel pretty stupid for spending that much money otherwise.)

Basically every word written in the introduction is something my therapist has told me in a session about positive psychology, practicing gratitude and its benefits, etc. Then you’re told to sign a pledge to write in the journal for the first five consecutive and give yourself a benign kind of “punishment” if you don’t honor that pledge.

Each daily entry starts with an inspirational quote, except for once a week, when you’re given a challenge to complete — the first one is to call a friend you’ve been meaning to reconnect with, which was really cool for me! Then you write three things you’re grateful for, three things that would make your day great (ideally things you can do yourself), and you’re given a space for daily affirmations. I tend to write things about myself that aren’t true yet but that I’m working on.

Then, right before bed, you complete the last two sections: writing three amazing things that happened in your day, and way(s) that you could have made the day even better.

It’s a nice way to start your day, and even if the rest of my day goes to shit, I like knowing that I focused on positive things at the start and end of it. (I’m also one of those people who does especially well when I have written goals for the day.) It’s almost stupidly simple, and I feel a little lame gushing over it this much, but people underestimate how much reframing your thoughts helps with your mood on a typical day. I’m not feeling as anxious in the mornings as I was before, which is a huge deal for me.

If you don’t wanna drop $25 on a fancy journal, you could totally make yourself a daily template in Microsoft Word and make copies to keep in a binder by your bed. There’s nothing in The Five-Minute Journal that you can’t already Google, but I like having a pretty little canvas-bound book to look at when I wake up — it makes me feel fancy :~)

P.S. You can buy the journal here.