In 2015, I’ve taken on a special challenge for each month. It’s a fascinating experiment discussed in this TED Talk.
This started as some dietary experiments with the family to see how our kids might be affected by some common allergens/sensitivities. From there I wanted to dabble with some possible long-term changes and see what I could learn. Generally, the experiments have made me more mindful. Changing my diet in any way forced me to be thoughtful about all of my food choices. Changing my routines in anyway forced me to be mindful of all of my routines. That’s been an overall benefit. Here are the challenges and my brief take aways so far:
January – Dairy Free
This was mostly to see the impact on my two girls (3 yo & 5 yo). Didn’t really affect them significantly. I found I preferred far less dairy in general at the end of this but there were a few things that I really missed – parmesan cheese on caesar salads for example. I did recognize the mindfulness of all of my choices. I only messed up twice by mindlessly eating sandwiches at events and realizing half way through that it had cheese.
February – Gluten Free
This was also to see about the impact on the girls. Gluten free really helped our oldest daughter’s skin issues considerably, so she has stayed off gluten as a result. For the most part this just meant going carb-free, which I didn’t mind at all. It is nice having the flexibility back though.
March – Increased Meditation
I moved to increase my meditation using the Envisioning Method from 12 minutes to 18 minutes. I loved it and have kept my daily meditations at 18 minutes since.
April – Alcohol Free
I learned a lot on this one. Mostly that I enjoy the ritual of having something that signals to me that it is “me time” – no work, no chores, no tasks, etc. A beverage (any kind with ice) has been a good marker. Only slipped twice where I was at events and was offered wine and only remembered after a couple of sips that alcohol free was this months challenge. It’s made me much more mindful of alcohol use since. I also became very aware of how pervasive alcohol is in our culture (events, conversations, media, etc.). I imagine for folks trying to stay away from alcohol completely it is really challenging to have these regular reminders.
May – Rise at 6 am Every Morning
I often get up at 6 am, but the challenge was doing it every single morning. I only missed one morning (intentionally), when I had to staff an event until 2 am the night before. I learned that rising early is a good practice and helps get the day going right. I also learned that doing this every morning no matter my bedtime, stress, sleep patterns, illness, etc. was not good for me. A good practice, in moderation as with most things.
June – Limit Social Media to 3 Times a Day
The challenge was to only checking social media 3 times per day (morning, lunch, and evening). I thought this was going to be easy since it coincided with me departing my full-time role at Macalester College and a 2 weeks vacation in Hawaii. In reality it was a total bust. I was more mindful of my social media use but found that this was unrealistic as I have meaningful and valuable reasons to connect with social media more regularly – even on vacation. I’ll have to think more about this one.
July – Exercise Every Day
Much like the rising at 6 am challenge, I found this one valuable in moderation. Exercise is great and makes me feel more energized and clears my mind. It’s a key part of how I take care of my mind, body, and spirit. However, exercise (even moderate) every day was counter-productive. I found my regular run times getting worse and worse throughout the month. I also was desperate for recovery time and found the value of letting my body rest. I even skipped the last 2 days of July on purpose due to some needed rest and back issues I didn’t want to get worse. I coasted into August with a summer cold. Rest if important. Everything in moderation.
For August I’ve taken on the challenge of trying to have the best posture I possibly can at all times. I invite reminders from all those who see me. My posture is terrible. I hope this helps. I had also planned to intentionally smile as much as possible in September. This may sound silly until you watch the video below. Other suggestions for challenges that I might learn from in the remaining months?
*all images used in this post came from http://gratisography.com/