12 Months of Simple Living: End of Year Thoughts

It’s been a year of this transformation journey and as January 2018 arrived, I thought this would be a good opportunity to reflect on each month and what impact, if any, it has had on the way I live my life now.

1. | January – Vegetarian |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two | Vegetarian Recipes

If there was ever going to be a controversial challenge it was this one. With opinions and beliefs splitting people world wide on the subject, it was always going to be harder for a previously strict carnivore to “try out” being Vegetarian for a month and then blog about the short lived and not hugely successful experience. But this journey is my own and now I can see this short lived month really did have an effect on my view, and now my lifestyle choices. However insignificant they might seem, they are still small steps toward a healthier life and a better world.

Since January, I’ve found myself increasingly choosing the vegetarian options whether it is in my work canteen, at home or out to eat with friends. I put this down to a change in my attitude towards meat as a result of understanding the vast amounts of waste, the damage to the environment and the inhumane treatment of animals all for the sake of corporate greed.

From a health point of view, I am so much more aware of the fats and greasiness of meat and how much heavier it sits in my stomach, I do tend to feel a little odd when I eat some types of meat now. It does make me wonder what sort of diseases we are potentially exposed to by eating meat.  That’s not to say I don’t crave the odd steak now and then but I am so much more aware of  trying to choose organic, free range, grass fed meat.

Having said that, I do want to aim to be even more veggie and I have concluded that being a full time vegetarian would be the ideal lifestyle choice and probably is how we were once meant to be. Not that any of my life choices are ideal- we’ll see!

Note: Spiralizers interest me now more than ever before!

 

2. | February – Forgiving |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two | Part Three
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This one has to be the hardest of all as it’s a continuous battle and a continuous cycle. Choosing to let people off the hook when they have wronged you seems unnatural to our human instincts and makes us feel like a doormat sometimes. But this doesn’t have to be so. I am continually reminding myself that forgiveness does not mean reconciliation; if you are continually wronged, don’t let them wrong you again. But love them and show them kindness anyway.

I can definitely see improvements with the way I handle disagreements, knowing that just because we have differences of opinion doesn’t make us bad people, just unique individuals who handle things in different ways. I try to respect another’s perspective even if I disagree.

I still struggle with letting things go quickly, but I can usually get over it after taking a breather. And with my long term grievances, it will always be a battle to maintain forgiveness but I will keep trying.

 

3. | March – Positivity & Thankfulness |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four
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This challenge is one that went beyond my natural disposition. I’ve grown up in an environment of complaining, from my family to the culture of the UK, so trying not to was a real difficulty. Being thankful for everything, including the bad times, just opens your eyes to how blessed you really are. Blessed you have arms and legs, and eyes and ears, blessed you are able to use them, blessed you have food, shelter and a job. There’s actually a lot to be thankful for!

I really struggle, still, to see the glass half full rather than half empty but I am working on it. A good way to start thinking a bit more positively is by writing a diary of your week noting, at various points of the day, how you felt – happy, sad, angry – and to what degree out of 100% you felt those emotions. When you look back, you will likely realise you have a much happier life than you initially thought. This is because our minds get conditioned just to remember the negative and not the positive.

Try it out and let me know how it works for you!

 

4. | April – Stick at It |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two | Part Three
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This challenge  actually made me realise that my problem wasn’t so much giving up on things, as feeling like giving up every time something gets tough. Also it was about believing in my ability to achieve what I set out to do.

Through going travelling, something I needed to do for myself but was afraid to, it helped me build confidence in myself. I’m trying to maintain this confidence now that I am back; it’s actually the mundane things in life that knock the confidence out of you.

I have found myself being a little braver and taking those risks even if I might fail, but there’s still work to be done!

 

5. | May – Exercise |

Navigate: Part One| Part Two | Part Three

This one’s gone out the window! Seriously, I don’t like doing any of it – classes annoy me, I don’t even know where to start in the gym, I HATE running, going for walks in the cold British weather is not up there on my fun list… so what can I do?!

I know I have to exercise, I know it’s very important for mental and physical health, but I just need to find something I actually enjoy doing.

I am working on it!!! The only classes I do quite enjoy are yoga classes, so I will try to keep those up at least. Any suggestions? Let me know!

 

6. | June – Meditation |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two

A very interesting challenge, in that, I thought this would be the easiest, but it turned out to be much harder than I thought.

I enjoyed it when I did it, but I found that I had to make time for it, rather than try to fit it in my day.

I haven’t kept it up on a daily basis but have naturally found myself meditating on life, faith and positive thoughts when on my own and spending time enjoying the beauty of Nature.

“Beauty is the purest feeling of the soul. Beauty arises when soul is satisfied.”
― Amit Ray

 

7. | July – Water |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two
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A challenge that you either understood completely or didn’t get at all. Fellow water haters, I confess, I was doing so well and then I reverted… But I have a plan to get me back on track!

Drinking water has always been at the bottom of my to do list, and something happened when I realised, in my sugar free month, that (some) wines only had naturally occurring sugars; I started drinking more wine… And more… Not like an alcoholic, but just like with my dinner and in replacement for water…

Okay jokes aside (sort of), I just struggle in this already damp and wet, cold English weather to feel thirsty. I feel somehow I’m absorbing so much water just through breathing damp air. And even when thirsty, I’m so cold I opt for a dehydrating cup of tea (that’s right, tea is a diuretic so you ultimately lose more water than you take in).

But the plan? I bought this from Kikki.K and I intend to use it.
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New Year, new pee… I mean me.

8. | August – Say Yes |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two
Climb every mountain

This challenge was certainly the most adventurous and the most rewarding, delivering me to exciting new places, giving me more out of life and connecting me with the best people the world has to offer!

It’s an attitude that takes courage and takes self-belief. You need to be a risk taker, taking chances when there may be disappointment. Worst, you need to be prepared to be disappointed.

I have definitely carried on with this type of attitude, but I have to remind myself. I am naturally cautious and if left to my instincts, I would let opportunities pass me by. I struggle with disappointment and so when I am let down it hurts, a lot! But life is not going to get more interesting, fun or exciting if you don’t take risks.

I hope 2018 will be a year that I don’t hold myself back with my own self-doubt, but a year which I open my eyes to opportunities and take them with both hands!

 

9. | September – Slow Down |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two

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Image Credit: ryangoggin.com

This one is harder to keep up when life just gives you busy schedules week on week. Certainly, my technology diet assisted with this and I naturally slowed down in most aspects of my life.

I have since had to remind myself to enjoy beautiful moments, the first full moon of 2018 for example, and a stunning sunrise the following morning.

Slowing down ties in with meditation, with reducing social media and other time fillers and many other parts of my yearly challenges.

I hope to carry on a slightly slower, more purposeful pace into 2018.

 

10. | October – Sugar Free |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner | Dessert
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This is the challenge I am most proud of. It was complex and required a lot of effort; cooking, reading ALL labels, turning down tasty office junk food etc. But I smashed it!

I honestly saw the health benefits (especially when I returned to sugar), I realised the effect that sugar had on my asthma!

Sadly, the return to sugar has been a full submersion due to the time of year, but I would like that to change in the new year and I’d like to greatly reduce my intake. If not for my overall health, for my asthma (which has suffered greatly due to the return to sugar and all the other factors that trigger it).

I will proudly say though, that I have not returned to putting sugar in my tea!

 

11. | November – Technology Diet |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two
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Being cut off from the world of social media came with mixed feelings… It was strangely freeing but at the same time isolating.

Yes, I missed out on social events, life updates from all my 900+ facebook “friends” (ha! I have more than you! JK) and ultra-hilarious memes, BUT I gained an independence, learned a new language (slash carried on learning Spanish from all my years of dabbling) and met people in more organic ways.

Being back on social media, I actually am not as bothered anymore… It’s sort of an effort to post so I’m doing it less. And I’m only really scrolling through facebook for the “12 times you failed at life” style posts, because … they make me giggle.

So, although I won’t keep off social media, I think I have struck a balance along the way.

 

12. | December – Volunteer |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two
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What a feel-good way to end the year; by volunteering! I honestly got such a sense of achievement by helping these charities in the skills that I had to offer. I really cannot urge you enough, if you have any spare time, to give some of it to a charity of your choice. You will form new friendships, new connections and it can even help you gain more skills.

One thing that is overlooked when people are looking for jobs but lack the experience, is volunteering. The way I gained my administrative experience was by volunteering for the Lifetrain Trust. So if this is where you find yourself, just go for it – if not to help, then to look better on your CV. But you will feel good when you see the contribution you have made to these charities.

Charities do amazing work, and I will be more than happy to give more of my time to volunteer during 2018!

 

So that’s it, my end of year update! Let me know how you have found my challenges and if you have a resolution for 2018!

Thanks for reading!

Ciao!

X


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July Month 7: Water (Part Two)


Challenge: Drink Water!!
Charity: Tearfund
Total £ accrued: £7
Status: Doing the pee dance does not get you ahead in the queue…


The Seventh Challenge: To Drink Water

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Downing to Drinking

I don’t know how it happened, but one day I looked at my half empty water bottle and realised that I hadn’t been forcing it down my throat. Had I developed a taste for it? Would I start craving water in the same way I craved a good mango daiquiri back in Thailand? Could I manage… gulp… two litres of water?!

Do not drink
Oh well, if the sign says no then I guess this month is cancelled…

Yes and no… No, I still don’t enjoy the taste of water and I couldn’t imagine ever savouring the flavourless liquid in the same way as I would a good cocktail. BUT… I had managed a full two litres on more than one occasion! To me, that’s a success!

 

Restrooms are for Customers

Along with the success of 1 – 2 litres of water a day, came the downfall of 1 – 2 HUNDRED pees a day (slightly exaggerated). And it didn’t get any easier finding ways to manage the much needed toilet time.

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Oh look! A beach after a 6 hour long boat ride down the Mekong Delta… I wonder if they have bathrooms…

Consuming that amount of liquid needed planning, where am I going to be in the next couple of hours? Will there be toilets there? Am I prepared to hide behind a sand dune and pee in a hole on the beach on a 6 hour boat ride down the Mekong Delta (it only happened once, I promise!). And sometimes this meant putting off the water drinking activities until I was sure I would have toilet access.

I had high hopes for my trip to the US because I knew there would be shops everywhere, and where there’s shops, there are also “restrooms” (that means toilets, or loos in American).

Laos Toilets
Parents, hide your children’s eyes. This is what I had to deal with in Asia…

Doing the pee dance around the entire Heathrow airport after following the bathroom signs that seemed to lead me in a perfect circle, I found out the hard way that no matter how dancy your pee dance is, you will not get ahead in the long queue for the ladies.

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Upon entering the United States, it didn’t take me long to find out that my restroom plan was pretty shot. That’s because every shop has the sign “Restrooms are for Customers ONLY”. Apparently I’m not the only one doing the water challenge here.

 

Forming Good Habits

Rained On
Getting Rained on: When you thought you were drinking water but actually water was drinking you…

I have to admit, it didn’t take long before planning for water became a regular part of my day. Everyday I think about where I can go to fill up my water bottle or buy a cheap one and most days I have been able to meet my 1 litre target (at the very least).

I realised, you have to start in the morning or you won’t do it! It seems to make all the difference. Also, have a bottle that is 500ml or more. That way you know you only need to fill up twice for 1 litre or 4 times for 2.

Now, when I go to a restaurant, I almost always opt for water rather than a sugary soda (that’s American for fizzy drink).

 

The Conclusion


Success rate: 89% (7 days failed out of 31)
Cost per fail: £1
Money raised for charity: £7


I will definitely be carrying this habit forward with me, hopefully into the rest of my life. Annoying as it can be… but nobody said that I can’t also consume other delicious liquids!

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Next Challenge: Saying Yes!

July Month 7: Water (Part One)


Challenge: Drink Water!!
Charity: Tearfund
Total £ accrued: £1
Status: There’s no feeling quite as terrible as of a stomach full of water.



The Seventh Challenge: To Drink Water

It’s really unfortunate that I begin this challenge in the most rural of areas and not in the comfort of my own home. With frequent need for a bathroom and little more than a hole in the ground available (if indeed a bathroom is nearby), it makes this challenge more… challenging?


Water? Really?

Yes water! And it’s not because I couldn’t think of anything better. It’s because I hate the taste of water (please, let me stop you there with your “but it doesn’t taste of anything”)! Sorry people! But the taste of nothing is just so unappealing.


So I have a bit of a problem, in that, I don’t drink water. In fact, I just don’t drink. The trick to not drinking is to wait until you get a dehydration headache and then down a 200ml mixture of diorralyte. It’s true, it sorts me out within half an hour (it’s also a hangover cure, you’re welcome)!

Tip: In order to truly rehydrate, you don’t just need water- you need electrolytes to help you absorb it. Try having a packet of salty crisps with your water.

The other thing I hate so much about drinking is the inconvenience of needing to go for a wee… frequently!


They say the reason you pee a lot when you go out drinking is because alcohol is a diuretic, but for me it’s normally that I just haven’t consumed that much liquid in days!

Taste Acquisition

When I see all you water lovers guzzling it down like it’s milk and honey (neither of which I would guzzle down but you get the picture), I do think you are crazy. But a part of me wonders if just maybe water is an acquired taste, sort of like wine. I remember the days when I looked at the grown ups with their wine glasses and thought “eugh, why do they like that gone off grape juice?!”

So I’m hoping that this is just another one of those “things”.


But for now, I’m sat here in my “hotel room” in Laos (it’s actually closer to a mud hut) forcing the water down like a dirty pint, having just been for my third pee in three minutes.

I’m actually scared to leave the room in case I wet myself, plus it’s raining heavily outside which really doesn’t help.


The Challenge


I’m going to be real with you, Rome wasn’t built in a day and nor was my bladder. So, although the recommended daily water intake is 2 litres, I am not going to pretend I can manage it. So, the challenge is to have at least 1 litre (seriously cringing as I say it) of water a day.

It has to be clear water, not mixed with anything.

If not, it will be £1 (because I’m currently poor, especially as the last month just wiped me out) to Tearfund who provide clean water and sanitation in impoverished communities.

Wish me luck, I’m going to need it!

Part Two