Posted in exercise, food, know better do better, mindset, motivation, physical health

It’s normal. But is it good?

At some point recently, my Facebook memories claimed this quote:

“I have eaten a lot (for me) of junk food in the last week or two, and I feel like crap. It is amazing to me that how I feel right now used to be ‘normal.'”

If we’ve never been on a path with decent health habits (food, exercise, sleep, stress, connection), we have no idea how much better we could feel.

I had no idea.

How we feel is normal. But “used to it” and “good” aren’t synonyms.

Sometimes (read: usually) taking the first steps to healthier does not instantly yield the results we want. I know countless people who were completely sedentary, started exercising, and complained bitterly that they were exhausted and it was a myth that exercising gives you more energy.

It’s not a myth. But it’s also not a 5-hour-energy drink. Give it a couple of weeks or a month.

Any time I don’t feel like exercising and go out and do something anyway, I felt better after. Always. As a general rule, I feel better when I exercise regularly. I’m not an outlier in this.

Most of us know we feel better with a good amount of sleep. (What “a good amount” is varies pretty wildly.) It’ll take a week or more of regular, sufficient sleep before it yields results.

Stress is a huge weight. I go through periods where I’m able to relieve myself of some of it and feel much lighter. I’m working on managing what’s left better in hopes of maintaining some of that buoyancy when I’m dealing with situations that I can’t get off my plate.

Food plays an enormous role in mood and energy level (which are themselves linked). A reasonably healthy diet on a consistent basis is better fuel for your body. When you have good fuel, you run better. But again, it takes more than two days (or two meals haha) of eating well before you feel it. And if you’re eliminating allergens or irritants, it could take a month before it’s all cleared your system, depending on which food.

If you’re running on low energy, I challenge you to start tweaking your basic health habits and see how they help you. Start with just one.

Change your normal.



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Posted in mental health, mindset, physical health, thoughtfulness

Relaxing vs. wasting time

I’ve had so many conversations with people that follow this general path:

“I was laying on the couch and reading but couldn’t help but think about all the other things I had to do and how I was wasting time.”

We can’t “be productive” all the time.

In muscle strength building, the time spent strength training causes lots of micro-damages to the muscles. We get stronger when we rest; the muscles have time to repair the damages which makes them stronger. Over time, the muscles adapt to the increased demand: increased strength.

Our daily lives cause lots of micro-damages to our spirit (or soul, psyche, self, or whatever you want to call it). We need rest to be able to recover, just like our muscles.

It’s not wasting time. Preparing healthy food, getting enough sleep, exercising are all not wasting time (though they definitely use time); relaxing isn’t wasting time, either.

For me, the difference seems to be intent.

If I’m fooling around online, reading articles, watching videos, playing games because I’m procrastinating, I don’t feel rested when it’s done—I feel stressed, kind of ashamed, and somewhat drained because I have all this stuff to do and I’m wasting—or wasted—time.

On the other hand, if I decide that today I’m going to spend an hour just reading articles and watching videos or playing games, I feel OK about it.

As a small tangent, I feel the best when my down time isn’t on a screen. I think that’s because I have spent so much procrastination time doing these things that there’s a subconscious connection between emotional fatigue and non-productive work on screens.

So. Schedule yourself some down time to spend in a way that helps you relax and recharge. I would love for this time to happen daily, but given life as it is, that’s just not feasible for many of us.

That said, if you take 15 of the minutes you spend on email and social media to power down, suddenly, there’s time on more days than we thought.

My main go-tos are reading, coloring, playing ukulele, and drawing or doing calligraphy (which I just started and am subsequently still really bad at). With the hammock back in action, just laying in it for a while sometimes hits the spot. Occasionally, a massage is in order.

How do you relax? Are you able to set aside the to-do lists for a while?



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Posted in about me, differences, know better do better, mindset

My path from introversion to introversion

I’ve always been an introvert. I’ve not always know I wasn’t defective.

I have never been comfortable around strangers.

I have no idea whose house we were at, but they had a piano. I must have been pretty young, because when I was in elementary school, my parents bought a piano and my sister took lessons. I wanted to play the piano. (I didn’t know how to play the piano.) She said I needed to ask. I was terrified of asking. She said if I didn’t ask, I wouldn’t get to do it. I didn’t ask.

That’s not introversion. That’s anxiety.

I remember in 7th grade seeing a (very extroverted) friend of mine talking and laughing with a couple of other people and thinking that I wished I was more like that because it looks like so much fun.

I spent the next 25 years trying to be that.

And then I realized: that’s just not me. And that’s OK.

In the mean time, I gained skills in hanging with people who I’m uncomfortable with, maybe without it being completely obvious. (I’m still pretty self-conscious in those situations, so it’s hard telling what it looks like from the outside.)

I can have a conversation with a person I don’t know, if they can hang for their half and if there’s something to trigger a conversation.

Most of the time, I still can’t start a conversation from zero with a person I don’t know or don’t know very well.

Unlike the current pop definition of introvert, I love spending time with people. They just need to be my people. I spend so little time in meaningful conversations that when I can spend time with friends, it definitely feeds my soul. (And if I’m feeling particularly chatty, watch out!)

But, like the real definition of introvert, I also need time to myself to recharge. But recharge from the energy spent with people teaching or small talking or other necessary-but-draining activities. Not from hanging with friends.

I’d be thrilled to lose more of the anxiety, or to be better able to make conversation, but not being an extrovert? That’s OK.





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Posted in differences, know better do better, mindset, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

If it ain’t broke…

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Who defines “broke”?

So much of what has been going on socio-politically here for decades (centuries?) really boils down to this question, I think.

People yearning for “the good old days” were, as far as they were concerned, part of a system that was working just fine. Ain’t broke, don’t fix it. (These are the “I don’t have a problem so no one does” people.)

Everyone else was not.

(I would argue, though, that even if it’s working (whatever “it” is), that maybe re-evaluating and looking to improve is often worth the time. Not in the way that we see so often, where we shake things up just to shake them, but in a way that is thoughtful and methodical.)

And so we try to fix it, with constant resistance from people for whom it wasn’t broken to begin with. (Or from people who have been convinced that it’s not broken. Or from people who don’t know that everyone isn’t in their same situation. The “I didn’t know my family was weird until I was 24” kind of scenario.)

A bit of self-reflection I heard, paraphrased:

I did a thing with positive intent to a person who is different from me. The person I did it to received it negatively because of how people like her are seen and treated. At first, I argued that that’s not what happened here, because that wasn’t my intent. But when I stopped caring only about defending myself and looked at it from her perspective, I realized that she was right and I was wrong, and I felt terrible. So we talked a little and I apologized, and I was grateful that she accepted the apology.

I think it’s the “feeling terrible” part that people in general look to avoid—of course!—but you can’t learn and grow without making mistakes, seeing the mistakes, and correcting the mistakes—even if the only opportunity for correction is moving forward.



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Posted in education, meandering, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Self assessment

In my elementary band classes, I’ve spent a fair amount of energy this year on a few non-musical topics: grit (a focus of my whole team), self-awareness, and emotional safety.

Grit is a topic for another day.

Self-awareness is necessary for any of this to be useful. You can’t change a thought or behavior that you’re not able to notice. Applies to learning any skill or changing any behavior.

Emotional safety is not given as much time or emphasis as it deserves, in any realm.

We can’t learn to play instruments in an environment that is emotionally unsafe. While some of that is my responsibility, the kids have responsibility to each other to make the space safe.

(This is also true for math, reading, writing, any art, sciences, sports, families, and on and on and on….)

We don’t have to be each other’s friends. But we have to work together while we’re here in this room. Every single person here needs to be able to try to play something and mess it up without fear of ridicule.

That necessity increases by orders of magnitude when we’re composing. (Creative pursuits are scary!)

At the end of every class, my students have a short self-assessment to do. Two of the questions they need to reflect on are: “Were you kind to everyone in the room today?” and “Were you helpful to your group?” (They give themselves a simple yes or no. Kinda, maybe, sort of are all “no.”)

Don’t talk to me about how anyone else acted. How did you act? If there is a situation that needs my attention, please tell me about it, but not in the context of self-reflection.

Just like adults, some of the students are really hard on themselves, some of them are accurate, and some of them are really easy on themselves.

Where do you fall?



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