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A Great Algonquin Portage

We arrived at Algonquin just as a dark wall of ominous clouds blanketed the park. “Is this foreshadowing?” I thought to myself.

It was my first time visiting this provincial gem. My boyfriend and friends surprised me with the long weekend getaway for my 23rd birthday and I was relieved to ditch the city for some nature-induced fun. What I didn’t know, was that another surprise awaited me at the entry of the park. We weren’t just camping…we were tackling a great Algonquin portage!

Portaging entails carrying your canoe across the land between lakes until you find a marked campsite that suits your liking. I predicted portaging with my boyfriend, who is an extremely ambitious camper, would entail a weekend of intense physical activity, refined outdoorsmanship and throbbing muscle cramps. Sure it wouldn’t be the weekend of suntanning, swimming and relaxation that I had anticipated, but it was an adventure.

Meeting the gray skies, we quickly unpacked our cars and loaded our waterproof bags into three canoes. In the final moments of sunshine, we paddled around the small lakes searching for the perfect campsite. Note to self #1: Never expect perfection while camping.

After an hour-long search that was decorated with spats of rain, we pulled up to a small, hilly island. We docked our canoes and scoped out the plot. It was spacious enough for three tents and even had a pre-built fire pit. “Guys! Come here!” my friend suddenly shouted. We all rushed over to see an aged memorial plaque for a young girl who died on the island years prior. “Nope!” one of my friends said, completely spooked out. We hopped back into our canoes and begged our biceps to paddle on. As we departed, in some sick joke mastered by the universe, a little red shoe floated between our boats. Note to self #2: Stop watching horror movies.

We passed site after site. That one is too bare…that one is too small…that one isn’t marked…until a loud boom echoed across the lake. Have you ever watched that scene from The Notebook when Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling are passionately proclaiming their love for one another while sitting in a rowboat in a torrential downpour? Now imagine that, minus the charming words.

We could barely see each other as we headed for land to escape any potential lightning. When it slightly let up, we caught sight of flames flickering on the shore. An older couple made their way out to the opening. “Are you guys OK?” they shouted. It’s funny how pickiness tends to wear off in moments of desperation. Attempting to seek shelter, even for only a few minutes, my friend shouted back, “Hey, do you guys have room for a couple more people over there?” For a moment, all we could hear were the pellets of rain slamming our tin canoes as the couple stood still on the shore. Finally, the man put his hands up to his mouth and shouted a half-assed, “Ha-ha!” that reverberated across the open water and into my nightmares for the remainder of our stay.

Although miserable, tired and drenched, we eventually found a marked spot that was, ironically, almost perfect for our weekend. After setting up our tents, we spent the remainder of the drier days exploring the island, cooking delicious meals and laughing around the fire. Note to self #3: Never turn down a surprise camping trip.

To this day, my boyfriend tells people, “Yeah, it was raining. But the only thing filling up the canoe was Courtney’s tears.” Which isn’t true, of course, but it is funny. And if the outcome of an adventure is a funny story, then, in my opinion, it was an adventure well-lived.

 

St. Patrick’s Day: How personal tradition defines the way we celebrate our holidays

 

By Sinead Mulhern

When St. Patrick’s Day rolled around each year while I was growing up in Alberta, my mom and I would get to work whipping up batches upon batches of clover-shaped cookies. In the middle of March, winter showed no signs of letting up in the Prairies and so it only seemed natural to stay inside, roll out the dough and fill the house with the agonizingly sweet smell of nearly-baked goods. In our prep, we’d throw into the bowl flour as powdery as the snow heaps outside and whirl it together with crystals of white sugar. While they baked, we mixed up the icing – green of course – ready to coat each little clover with a generous layer. Then, I’d proudly bring them to school to share with my classmates. Being  the Irish kid in the class, it was my special treat.

As traditions go, this possibly was simply an idea one year, before carrying on to the next and the next. Eventually, supplying my peers with these shamrock treats became part of my St. Patrick’s Day routine. Once, I even remember when Paddy’s Day eve rolled around and we had both forgotten so we woke up extra early and baked a double batch together in the indigo blue pre-dawn hours.

At school, I’d pass around the green snacks,  press play to an accordion tune and perform one of the jigs which I learned at dance practice in Edmonton’s Irish club. During those years, St. Patrick’s Day was the celebration of the country where both my parents were born and lived in until their mid-twenties. For me, it was green cookies and dancing and, of course, church and Irish brunch.

The latter would be standard for many Irish households living both in the stocking-shaped emerald isle or abroad – like us. The former though, are traditions we created ourselves. When the calendar turns to March 17, many in Canada will celebrate by clinking pints of Guinness or green-dyed beer. Packs of university students in North America will wear obnoxious amounts of green with probably at least one top hat and kiss-me-I’m-Irish sash in every group. In Ireland, some relatives of mine will take in mass and a breakfast of eggs and sausages after. Green sugar cookies will be few and far between, I know.

Though we religiously kept up our tradition for years, it eventually faded. I grew past the age where it would have been appropriate to pass around baked goods in class and we moved across the country,  well away from our Alberta kitchen with the snow piles out the window. While the sugary clover cutouts became a thing of the past, my mother’s and my love for working with food didn’t wane. Out were the cookies, in was the baked soda bread (a classic) or a piping hot pot of Irish stew (even more classic). Together, we busied our hands putting together recipes that were, this time, symbolic of the place where my mom grew up.

When I left home and moved to Toronto, I kept up our tradition of making food on this day even though we no longer lived in the same household. Just as I did when I was seven, I again made a point of sharing it with school friends. For a few years during this chapter in my life, I avoided the tacky party celebrations and instead whipped up a pot of Irish stew and a fresh loaf of bread for my best lady friend. Together, we drank beer well into the evening.

The food that I now make on this day is traditional, yes. But my tradition of working away in the kitchen on (or just before) March 17, and sharing with friends has nothing to do with Paddy’s Day really. That habit stems from the days I spent mixing sugar cookies with my mom. The food has changed over time, the activity has not. This is how I, a daughter of two Irish immigrant parents, choose to spend this day. It’s interesting, how the customs we make for ourselves somehow have the most importance. Our personalized celebrations often trump how holidays are typically celebrated by the masses.

This year, the tradition, for me, has changed yet again. For the first time, I won’t be in Canada for this Irish holiday. I now reside in Colombia – over 6,000 kilometres away from that Alberta home and 4,000 kilometres away from my mom. The traditions I’ve set for myself will continue to evolve as I celebrate this holiday and the ones to come. As we head into Paddy’s Day, my mom and I have already discussed our menus. She’ll make her St. Patrick’s Day stew on the weekend whereas I’ve made mine already. The difference: mine contained a cup not of Guinness, but a local beer: Club Colombia Negra.

Helping a loved one cope with a mental health diagnosis

It was seven years ago when the news of a loved one’s recent mental health diagnosis hit me with the shock of an ice-cold wave in winter. I was a recent Toronto transplant just acquainted with university life when one of my favourite people in the whole world called me to tell me the beast we knew of finally had a name and to pardon the silence, as a days-long hospital stay required a communication shutdown. I listened to the details and my heart sank to the curb as I watched the walk sign on Dundas street flash red to signal stop. Years later, this is what I’ve learned about helping a loved one cope with a serious mental health diagnosis.

Bottle your emotions

This is a rarely-prescribed piece of advice, but it is absolutely essential to keep personal emotions in check in order to make space for those of a loved one. When I found out everything this person who I adore had gone through, my heart broke in a way it never had before — and never has since. A family member or friend’s mental health diagnosis, however, is about them. Don’t cry or panic. Be the crutch they need. Express emotions to a third party later if need be.

Listen without judgement

Judging a person never paved the way for open discussion. Let this person lead the conversation. Don’t flinch at their reality. Do encourage them to share whatever they need to. Don’t suggest what they should have done or ask why they didn’t do things differently. Certainly don’t ask why you didn’t know. Many need to process by vocalizing. Be a responsible listener.

Follow up

Your friend will need you the moment someone gets a diagnosis, finishes a hospital stay, a rough week or a change in medication, but don’t just be available during those periods, but during all times – without being invasive or helicoptering, of course. If there’s a relevant book or article to pass on, do so. Asking someone how they’re doing never hurts. Find out first what kind of approach works for this person and show support within that scope so as not to drop the conversation.

Ask the important questions

There’s a sweet spot between prying and playing too polite by not asking enough. Find that zone. For example, asking someone how they’re adjusting to a new medication isn’t self-serving and it brings the conversation to a space where if they want to share more, they will.

Do what the medical professionals can’t

There are things that medical professionals with even the best bedside manner cannot do. Details of a mundane day at the office, for example, could be just the thing to make an otherwise chaotic or emotional day seem normal. During a turbulent time, penning a phone call time into the schedule to chat for even five minutes could be a big deal for someone grappling with a new mental health diagnosis. While doctors did their good work, my purpose was simply to dial the number and shoot the shit for a few minutes. That’s an important job too.

Learn what the disorder isn’t

My person’s mental health condition has a name and I know both what it is and also what it is not. It is not, for example, an eating disorder like one nurse ignorantly assumed. It is not temporary. It is also not a life sentence preventing this firecracker of a human being from being anything less than that. By knowing what a disorder is not, those who provide support reduce the likelihood of uninformed remarks causing harm.

From Toronto, New Year’s traditions from around the world

As we approach 2018, it’s time to think about all the positive things we have managed to accomplish in 2017 and how our lives will be different in the new year. Luck and prosperity are just a few of the things many people from around the world hope for. In keeping with this, many people have a few customs and traditions to help make the transition easier, and hopefully bring luck along the way. Here are some New Years customs and traditions from some countries around the world.

Brazil: jump seven waves 

NYE in Brazil is well celebrated and can feature spectacular firework displays all along the famous beaches in Rio. Many people find themselves hanging out by the beach and not just to watch the fireworks. Wave jumping is another tradition. If you jump over each wave while making your wish, this will increase your luck and bring you joy for the new year. If you want to increase your chances in love, make sure the first person you greet in the new year is someone special.

Turkey: wear red underwear

Wearing red underwear is common in many countries on NYE, especially those in Latin America. Many people head to the malls to buy themselves some red undergarments for their NYE celebrations. Wearing red panties guarantee passion and love for the new year ahead for many women. It is also common to wear yellow underwear to bring happiness and money. Perhaps aim for a red panty with yellow polka dots?

Spain- lucky grapes

There is a tradition, as well as a superstition, in Spain where people eat 12 grapes at midnight. These grapes are known as the lucky grapes and can be traced back to a custom in 1895 by grape growers. If you eat 12 grapes at midnight, each grape will represent the 12 months of the new year and the 12 wishes you are permitted. These 12 grapes must be consumed in the first 12 minutes of the new year. If you get a sour grape amongst the bunch this could mean a sour month in the year ahead. It is also common to find this tradition in the Philippines and other Spanish countries and communities.

Denmark- break plates

If you live in Denmark and you have a broken dish, don’t throw it out. Instead, smash the remains on NYE. This tradition is odd, yet serves as a sign for friendship in that country. After midnight, it’s not uncommon to find a pile of broken dishes on your doorstep, as this is a sign that someone values your friendship. Smash plates and other wares against your friend’s door as a sign of lasting friendship and love — just make sure it’s not glass.

Jamaica- clean your house

Similar to many other Caribbean islands, Jamaicans have a tradition of cleaning out their homes for Christmas and for the New Year. You clean out all the negativity and leave room for positive space in your life. People find the time to buy new decorative items for their homes and even repaint their houses. Many people around the world also take a broom on NYE and (literally) sweep all the negativity held throughout the year.

Japan- ring 108 bells

This may not be a personal requirement for the New Year in Japan, but many temples ring the bell 108 times at the stroke of midnight. Ringing the bell 108 times represents 108 worldly temptations a person must overcome in the Buddhist belief.

Italy- Pucker up

particularly in Venice, there is a custom of mass kissing that takes place at the stoke of midnight. As fireworks  light up the sky over St Marks Square, couples are encouraged to start smooching!  Many couples make this a romantic event. It’s not odd to kiss at midnight, as this is common in many cultures around the world, including here in Canada and in the united States. kissing someone at the stroke of midnight is meant to set the tone you wish to establish for the future with that person. It is about maintaining the bond. If you’re single and don’t have anyone to kiss, I say to kiss all your problems from 2017 goodbye.

Happy 2018!

5 last minute, impressive D-I-Y holiday gifts

I love gifts that have thought behind it, like personal touches, For instance, last Christmas my niece gifted me a homemade brown sugar and lemon hand scrub, which smelled just as delicious as it sounds. This holiday season, it’s all about that age old saying: ‘it’s the thought that counts’. With the right amount of ingredients, you can craft Christmas presents that will leave others impressed, without spending a ton of money. Here are five do-it-yourself holiday crafts you can git to your loved ones (or even to yourself)!

Hot Chocolate Mix

It’s rather fun to put together deconstructed kits. There is nothing better than some homemade hot-chocolate on a chilly winter night. All you would need is some mason jars, ribbon,  hot cocoa mix, mini marshmallows, crushed candy-cane for topping, and any additional ingredients you choose. There are so many variations: try creating melted snowman hot chocolate by using white chocolate and decorated marshmallows or add a small bottle of Baileys to your chocolate kit for an adult-friendly beverage option.

Sugar Scrub

The options are almost endless when it comes to choosing the ingredients for your sugar scrub. Sugar scrubs are easy to make and make easy and thoughtful gifts. For instance, if your sister loves lavender, consider adding lavender oil to the mix. With a base of brown sugar and coconut oil, adding additional ingredients will be easy.

 Hydrating Face Mists

There is nothing like a little burst of a facial mist to brighten your day. These face mists are easy and portable, and will keep you going on those long days. Depending on the skin type you want to target, you can try a green tea hydrating mist for dry or sensitive skin. Combine water with green tea bags and rosewater, and put it in a spray bottle. The best thing is that these mists can also double as natural toners.

Cookie Mix

Back to the idea of putting together deconstructed ingredients, why not put together your own little d-i-y baking kits for your loved ones or friends. Measure out the appropriate ingredients for your favourite cooke mix and layer in a mason jar or bundle a collection of tubes. Feel free to write out your own recipe card to include with the gifts for an even more personalized touch. The same can work for cakes and other pastries.

Bath Bombs

D-I-Y bath bombs are fun and easy to make. Using a base of baking soda, epsom salts, and citric acid, you can combine different essential body oils and essences to come up with the perfect scents. You can also add colour, glitter, and even petals to your homemade bath treats.

Are you putting together some DIY holiday gifts? Let us know what you made in the comments below!

5 must-have treats for your next Halloween party

If you’re planning a fun Halloween party this year and you’re looking to add some themed party bits to your food and drink menu, Women’s Post suggests these five treats that are bound to creep your friends out.

Creepy Cheesy Eyeballs

These sure do look gross, but these eyeballs taste amazing. Just take individual mini wheels of cheese, for instance, Babybel and place half of an olive right in the middle (you can use green or black). To make the veins of the eyeballs, take a toothpick dipped in red food colour and lightly carve in the red creepy veins around the olive stretching out to the ends of the cheese. You can fill in the middle of the olive with more food colour or another sliver of olive.

 

Image by Steve’s Kitchen

Dragon’s Blood Halloween Punch

This can be made with or without alcohol and the base is simple. In your punch bowl, combine cranberry juice, red fruit punch, apple juice, ginger-ale, ice and the optional berry vodka. To add some creepy-chunky texture add some crushed raspberries on top.

Image courtesy of The Food Network

Tangerine Pumpkins

This is is such a a classic and easy Halloween party snack to prepare. Peel small tangerines and leave them whole. Take one stalk of celery and cut into one-inch stems. Simply stick the stem into the tangerine and you have the cutest and juiciest pumpkins ever!

Image courtesy of Cooking Light

Bloody Cake

There are so many possibilities when designing a bloody cake or cupcakes. The best mix to use is red-velvet, so you have that deep red colour when you slice in. To decorate, cover the cake in white frosting and decorate with drops of red blood running down the sides, a bloody handprint, or even bloody claw marks.

Image by Butter Hearts Sugar

Bloody Shirley Temple

Who doesn’t love Shirley Temples? Add an extra bit of fun by putting the shot of Grenadine in a plastic syringe. Present your cup of sprite and leave it up to your willing subject to inject the bloody grenadine into their drink.

Image by This Grandma Is Fun

 

Happy Halloween and let us know what treats you have in mind! Comment below

Hang up on your social media hang-out

Has social media made it easier to make friends, or is it even more difficult with our mobile devices in hand?

Technology has vastly changed the way younger generations make friends. With the overconsumption of various social media apps ranging from Facebook to Snapchat, the rules have changed on the how-to’s of finding your bestie.

There are many pros and cons of the social media world people live in today. There is a lot of accessibility, opportunity, and connection that can happen because of computers and cellphones. On the other hand, these positive developments in technology are also paired with pressure to constantly be plugged in and responsive, resulting in face to face interactions becoming less valued. Remember when people used to call a friend’s house and make plans in order to hang out? Now, it’s possible to have a Skype date with a friend across the world and watch a movie without leaving the comfort of your own home.

Though there are perks to social media, there are still some issues that need to be ironed out. Call me a skeptic, but I’m very hesitant about social media. There is something innately creepy about having your every breathing moment tracked online. It’s also clear that people are addicted to their phones. It also puts more pressure on friendships. If someone doesn’t answer immediately, it is quickly assumed that something is wrong (guilty as charged). This need for immediacy and instant gratification creates a lot of issues and useless drama. It is also anxiety provoking to be expected to be available at all times.

It is all too easy to hide behind the computer screen and utter disrespectful statements on a whim that would never fly in person. Social media’s accessibility has made people quicker to cut another person off permanently with the flick of a button. Being able to ‘block’ someone so easily or bully them online has caused a lot of hurt, and instigates more issues. I’d like to believe that most people are decent human beings, but online communication can turn even the kindest friend into a ruthless beast if an argument occurs over the interweb. The golden rule folks: if you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, don’t say it online.

So far, I’ve only touched on the direct affects of social media on friendships, but there are also a a lot of unusual rules and social patterns developing. Instead of watching concerts, people are often too busy taking a video of themselves being “cool” or appearing “valued.” When people hang out in groups, oftentimes it feels like the other person isn’t there because of the phone they can’t tear their eyes from. And of course, there is the “don’t eat until I’ve taken three dozen photos for my Instagram” phase.

It is time to put down the phone or computer! Relying on social media to build and maintain friendships is not the way to go. Instead, try the good old-fashioned in person hang-out without phones. You will find yourself looking at the world in a whole new way without any distractions in your face. There is still hope for people to interact without a social media hang-up, all is not lost, but it is vital to put down your phone first.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

Single on Valentine’s Day? It’s going to suck

It’s Valentine’s Day. Isn’t that great?

Two months ago I had a boyfriend. This year would have been the first time I celebrate this “holiday” with a partner. As you can imagine, I was already planning the details. How I would act all surprised when he brought me flowers with a small heart-shaped card asking “will you be my valentine.” He would cook a romantic meal that we would eat by candlelight. Afterwards, a little dancing outside under the stars (in my dream, it’s always warm in February). The perfect, romantic, Valentine’s Day.

And then it all went to shit — as it always does around the holidays. Am I right ladies?

Now, I’m single again. Single on Valentine’s Day. It feels slightly akin to this:

But, I’m used to it. I’m used to the numbing reality of being lonely, with only your parents to send you a quick “I love you” e-card and a box of chocolates to make you feel extra special. Imagine the talk in the office: “ooooo, who gave you those heart-shaped cupcakes??!! Who is the special guy/gal? – Oh, it was my mom.”

But, does Valentine’s Day have to be so crappy for single women? All the magazines tell us that it’s totally fine and there are lots of ways to celebrate this holiday without a partner. Let’s run through the options:

I’m going to focus on self-love this Valentine’s Day: What a bunch of bull shit. Do you think that by going out to a pedicure or treating yourself to a glass of wine, you will forget about how single you are? You know what sounds like a fun time? Going to a fancy restaurant and having a luxurious dinner by yourself while watching as all the couples around you kiss and laugh and dance….yes, that sounds lovely. Sure, I can spend a few hundred dollars on a spa day, surrounded by equally single (or retired) women, drinking gross cucumber water and pretending to be happy. But honestly, it’s just a waste of a lot of money. I’d much rather go to the spa on a day where I can enjoy it.

I like the sentiment. The “I don’t need a man to complete me” philosophy is a good one, but on Valentine’s Day, it all goes out the window. Even the strongest of women are entitled to feel crappy as they watch everyone else pair off. No amount of “self-love” can change that.

I’m going to hang out with my single friends: What single friends? As a millennial in my mid 20s, all of my friends have paired off, and all the single ones bat for the other team. Hanging out with them makes me feel even more alone. Don’t get me wrong, hanging out with friends is always the best bet, especially if you are feeling a bit sad, but it’s not always the best solution. Your friend invites you to a dinner party that night and you may be stuck sitting between couple A and couple B, trying to explain why there was no guy….literally no one….you could have brought.

Let’s say, for argument sakes, you have a solid group of single friends, all looking to hang out and forget about this terrible Hallmark holiday. You go out, drink your fill, and spend the next few hours trying to get the cute guy in the corner to give us the time of day. At the end of the night, all you are left with is a splitting headache and a lot of regret.

 

I’m going to find someone online to spend the evening with: Bad idea. Just a really, really bad idea. I don’t know how much clearer I can be. Anyone online on Valentine’s Day is looking to do just one thing — find a desperate and sad woman willing to have a one-night-stand. I’m sorry, but it’s true. This isn’t Hollywood. No one finds their soulmate on Valentine’s Day. Remember ladies: you never know who is behind the screen. And, if you do decide to meet up with someone, it will never be Ryan Gosling.

 

I’m going to spend time with family: Hi mom! I’m back! Thanks for the cupcakes and the card! Yes, I know I shouldn’t be upset I don’t have a date for Valentine’s Day. Yes, I know I deserve better. No, I’m totally fine! Can I have a second helping of mac n’ cheese please?

Seriously though, spending time with family is great. They can be a real comfort when you are feeling down. But, it also emphasizes the fact that, well, you have no where else to be. Unless your family has a tradition of getting together on Valentine’s Day, it’s just a nice reminder that your siblings and friends are all having a romantic evening out and here you are, watching a movie with your mom and dad, pretending everything is normal.

As you can see, the choices are slim. I apologize for my pessimism, but there really is no escaping it. Valentine’s Day is going to suck. Might as well embrace that fact and do it properly — alone, in my pyjamas, with Chinese food and a giant stack of candy, watching A Walk To Remember while clutching a box of Kleenex.

Pro tip: Get to your closest grocery store super early the next day for discount chocolates. It’s really the only positive thing about this stupid holiday. You are welcome.

Will you be single this Valentine’s Day? What will you be doing? Let us know in the comments below!

Share with friends: vegan spinach dip with homemade beet chips

Winter blues got you down? What better way to cheer yourself up then have a few friends over for a delicious vegan snack? Everyone loves a good shareable!

One of my all-time favourite dips happens to be full of iron and antioxidants; the classic spinach dip. Vegan-izing this smooth vegetable dip is easy, and it will make it even healthier. If you go even further to pair it with beet chips — suddenly it is a vegetable party! No need to worry about over-indulgence!

Spinach Dip:

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
4 cups baby spinach leaves, tightly packed
2–3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup roasted and unsalted cashews
1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup nondairy mayonnaise (try Vegenaise)
1 (12-oz.) container organic silken or soft tofu
1/2 tsp. sea salt, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp. finely ground black pepper
2 tsp. dried minced onion
1 can whole water chestnuts, diced

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 450°F.
  • Heat a sauté pan over medium-low heat and add olive oil. Add the spinach and garlic and sauté until wilted, about 3 to 4 minutes. Tilt the pan and drain off the additional liquid.
  • In a high-powered blender or food processor, place the cashews, almond milk, and lemon juice and blend until smooth and creamy. Add the non-dairy mayonnaise, silken tofu, sea salt, pepper, and onion. Pulse about 7 to 10 times. Add the cooked spinach and blend until slightly green but not fully incorporated.
  • Fold in the water chestnuts. Transfer the entire mixture to a heat-proof baking dish. Bake about 15 to 20 minutes, or until warmed through.
  • Serve in a bowl

Beet Chips:

Simply cut the beets into thin slices, drizzle lightly in olive or coconut oil and sea salt, and bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes until crispy. Enjoy with the spinach dip!

 

It’s 2017! God, it’s gotta be better than last year, right?!

Thank goodness 2016 is over! Am I right?!

It’s been a rough year. A lot of crazy stuff happened around the world and, personally, I’m feeling the weight of it all. But, the best part about a new year is that that last one is over. There is no need to think about it or wonder what could have happened to change things. Instead of dwelling on the past, it’s time to look to the future. And that is a refreshing thought.

The only problem with a shit show year is that people may feel pressured to overreach, maybe even try to make up for 2016 all at once. Trust me, there is no need to change your entire life in the month of January. You have an entire year, let’s not rush things.

You aren’t going to listen to me, are you? That’s okay! Starting anew can be a wonderful feeling. What I worry about is the February crush, when everyone realizes the goals they’ve set are unattainable, and all of the bad things that happened the previous year have consequences that could last until 2020. What happens then?

First thing first. Let’s tackle THIS year before we worry about the next one. Here are some tips for setting those New Year’s resolutions and planning for that high-expectation 2017:

Take time to reflect: I know you would rather not think about the past year, but it’s important to do so. Reflection offers insight into who you are and who you want to be. Think about the decisions that led to happiness and the decisions that led to that depression. Use this time to find out what works for you and what doesn’t. Also find out what is within your control. The results of certain elections and the needless deaths around the world may influence your unhappiness, but there may not be much you can do about it. Maybe you need to get involved in a charity or nonprofit? Make some donations to the causes you are passionate about? These decisions can only happen if you reflect.

Forget physical health: You will always want to change something about your appearance. Whether the goal is to lose weight, get rid of that muffin top, or simply put more effort into your wardrobe — this type of New Year’s resolution never lasts and always leads to disappointment. Instead, why not focus on mental health and feeling happy. This will still include going to the gym, but you will be going for YOU and not for those few pounds you still have to lose. Spend more time outdoors, meditate, think about your own happiness for once. Be selfish this year. I promise it’s okay to do so!

Start small: Pick one thing per month to do or change. That way, your body and mind are able to adjust. For example, say you will go to the gym two days a week in the month of January. In February, you can start eating less sugar. In March, maybe start a weekly dinner with friends and family. Start meditating for 10 minutes a night in April. If you keep this up, by the end of 2017, all of these habits and new traditions will come naturally to you.

Spend more time with friends and family: Nothing incites depression more than loneliness. Everyone is always “too busy” with work, kids, and commitments. Make 2017 the year of re-connecting and/or making new friends.  Plan a monthly dinner with friends so you can catch up and break from the craziness of regular life. Use this opportunity to vent about work and ask for advice about personal problems. And laugh. I’m a firm believer that laughter is the natural cure to everything!

Be active: No, this doesn’t mean spend more time in the gym. This means do more outside of your home. Get rid of your daily work-home-television routine and put down your phone. Go for more walks, go skating, or visit a museum on their “free” days. Get to know the city you live in. Plan a trip somewhere. Travel or plan a staycation. Nothing lifts spirits as much as a new experience.

Ultimately, focus on yourself this year. I hope these tips help make your 2017 a hell of a lot better than 2016.

And remember to walk away from 2016 like this….it will not hold you back!

 

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