Mind & Body by Samantha Nichole

Mind & Body by Samantha Nichole

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Change in Routine for the Summer Solstice

I used to think that a routine should stay the same; I used to think that I should find a routine that works, and if I'm lucky enough to uncover it, I'd stick with it. Now I disagree with that idea. I think people are meant to get into a comfortable place in life and then change circumstances--not only to keep life interesting, but to grow as individuals. That's what I've done this summer. I've made some slight adjustments to my hobbies and routine, and the result has been positive.

Newly-Pursued Hobbies

A couple months ago I bought a camera, and it was one of the best purchases I've made. It was a long overdue purchase, having been interested in photography since childhood and recommended to pursue photography in high school. My degree is in Professional Communication, and while I didn't get the chance to take a college-level course specifically in photography, I worked in a Media Lab and was constantly taking photos for the newspaper. I now haul my camera everywhere I go, and I'm looking forward to taking it on trips to more exotic places. Right now I'm photographing my family and a lot of Wisconsin as we travel around for mountain bike races.

My husband is a newly-avid cyclist, and he's been competing in Category 3 cross-country mountain biking. I started in my early 20's, right before I became pregnant with my first daughter, Audrey. A move, 2 children, and a couple job changes later, I'm where I am today. If I'm lucky I get a chance to go on the trails once per week, or a couple times per month, but I'm going to push through anyway and try my first race in a few weeks.

Routine and Change

My new morning routine is similar to the old, but I was able to shift my hours by 30 minutes; therefore, I have help getting the kids ready and out the door. Although the change was slight, the benefits have been awesome. I'm able to make it to work on time with ease, and I have more energy in the afternoon for a workout.

I now wake up at 4:45 or 5:00 in the morning. I start my day with meditation still, although the way I meditate has gradually evolved, which I like. I used to practice a sitting meditation with focus on breath. Breath still remains important, but I focus now on a mantra. I identify a positive word that will help me throughout the day. I also now incorporate mala beads, which helps me stay on track, and rather than using the tea kettle I use a meditation app called The Mindfulness App. I love and prefer the natural way of using my tea kettle to time myself, but as someone who struggles with staying on task and not getting distracted, the prompts the app gives helps me to focus. I am also able to look back and see how many minutes I've meditated in a given week, and that's motivating to me.

If I have time after the meditation portion of my morning, I do some simple stretches on my (new!) yoga mat. I have it set out at all times in the foyer, so I am not ever using my mat as an excuse not to meditate or stretch in the morning. After that, I drop the girls off at school, and I go to work. On my way to work I have been trying to drive in silence and pay attention to the road. I have a 51-53 minute commute, so this is a challenge, but a calm way to start my day.

After I get home from work, my family and I have been outside as much as possible. Looking back, the only time we have been indoors is if it's raining. I love it! This change has increased my energy and given me an opportunity to workout with newly-found friends. I've been more social in my workouts as a result, and I recommend the buddy system of working out to any social person.

I had a routine that I enjoyed, but for the sake of being productive, I changed it. Two new hobbies that I've been procrastinating on starting have now been incorporated into my life. This change in routine has given me energy to exercise, continue meditating, and essentially improve my life.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

My Morning Routine

This is my 7th post since my second daughter, Annie, was born. I think that's a pretty good indication of how busy life has been for me over the past two years! I do have my methods of coping, though. If you've been following my blog, you know I like to write about habits, and ways to make life balanced. One of the simplest and most effective ways to do so is by developing a routine, which has been linked to achieving goals and being successful, overall. There has also been a recent influx of YouTube vlogs specifically aimed at morning routines, and due to their popularity, companies are eager to capitalize and reach out to individuals to promote their products.

I have a morning routine I started a couple months ago. It's imperfect, and free of any sponsorship, but it's the most important part of my day because it sets the pace for the rest of it. If I have a productive, stress-free morning, I walk into my job with a positive attitude and enough energy to meet everyday challenges.

My Morning Routine

My alarm goes off at 5:00 and then 5:10 a.m. every morning. Setting multiple alarms has helped me wake up in a gentler manner. Once I get up, I make my way to the kitchen. I fill the tea kettle with water, and I start meditation to gently wake my mind. This meditation is usually longer on days I'm more tired and my mind isn't waking as quickly as my body. The tea kettle is my cue for when to switch from meditation to movement, and while letting the water cool, I work through a few basic yoga positions.

I finish making coffee after my sequence, and I get myself ready for the day. I don't spend much time at all picking out what I'm going to wear. Since adopting a capsule wardrobe and reducing the amount of clothes I own, I spend very little time planning that. It's important for the sake of productivity that I'm ready before my husband wakes up the kids. Once the kids are awake, we both work to get them ready. I use this time to water my plants, also. After he leaves, I clean up and get the kids out the door. I drop them off at their separate daycare buildings, and if I'm lucky, I'll drink some of my coffee before leaving the house. I always eat breakfast, but it's usually once I get to work.

Realistically, my meditation and yoga routine has been happening 2-3 times per week. My goal is to make it all 5 days per week, beginning this coming work week. A morning routine is like eating breakfast. If I have it, the rest of my day falls in place. If I skip it, I feel disheveled and hungry for something. I'm irritated, and stressed, but if I take the time to care for myself, I am positive.

Living With a Commute

Credit: barefeetpoweryoga.com
Commuting is one of the most challenging parts of my day, but I have turned it into an opportunity. Years ago, when I was a new yogini, I remember instructors telling me to set my intentions for class. Initially, I would pick a physical goal or two to achieve, such as better balance and control in Vrksasana (tree pose), or following along with the teacher's breathing. It took me a couple years to focus on cognitive challenges, such as letting go of frustration built up during the day, or finding and releasing anxiety within myself. Once I reached this new height, my practice became an all-encompassing mind, body, and spiritual experience.

One recent accomplishment is using my commute to focus on the cognitive challenges I am facing, and in the same manner as my new yoga experience, I now incorporate basic stress-relievers into my routine to start the day positively. Sometimes I'll listen to music and choreograph routines in my mind. If the music brings my mind in a direction that makes me focus on negativity, I change the genre. Also, I'll sing in the car. Singing is incredibly relaxing, and it's something I do for myself. It incorporates breathing and emotion. Other times, I choose to drive in silence. I soak it in, because that is the only time during my day without noise.

Future Goals

In the future I hope to refine a post-work routine. At the end of the day, I walk through the door and am greeted eagerly by my two little girls. It's awesome. Then, my husband serves dinner (since's he's our family cook), but there's not a set routine after that point. We do a lot, like cleaning and running to gymnastics practices, but capitalizing on our time together in the evening has been a challenge. This is also prime-time during the week for a workout, so I'm looking forward to warmer weather bringing the opportunity to include the girls on bike rides, runs, et cetera. In the meantime, I'll continue to keep my morning routine as it is. This start to my day is refreshing, and proving to be beneficial for my health, mentally and physically.

How do you spend your mornings? Do you feel spending them that way is helpful, or is there room for improvement? Challenge yourself to identify areas of improvement, and set a goal to make change. 

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Friday Dirt and Bloody Mary Yoga

Today is Sunday, which is one of my favorite days of the week. I reorganize my mind and possessions for the week ahead. This day in particular is also daylight savings, so a time of change and brief disorientation. In the spirit of change, this weekend I've been incredibly busy preparing for the inevitable spring and summer months.

"The Buzz About Bees"
This past Thursday I realized that it was time for me to take a day and focus on spring prep. I was partly inspired by a brief seminar I went to with my dad on Tuesday about beekeeping. My dad started a hive last year, and this year he will have three. My daughters and I have been invited to help him with the hives while learning the ropes. Keeping bees is a difficult but rewarding job, and I'm happy to take on the challenge, considering all the benefits to the world and community beekeeping can give. I've been preparing through research and starting some bee-friendly plants to help with honey production. (Don't worry, a more thorough, future blog post about novice beekeeping will be in the works.)

I requested Friday as a vacation day, and I made the most of it. I started my morning by running necessary errands, like dropping off the kids at school, cleaning my car, and shopping. I picked up some organic potting soil, seeds, and went home to start my seedlings. Thinking about what my husband usually cooks for dinner (since he's the family cook), I decided to start tomatoes, spearmint, and chives. I also planted lavender (for luck, and the bees,) and I picked up a plant for my desk at work.

Digging in the dirt, even though inside, was an amazing escape. It gave me energy, and I was able to shuttle three trunk-loads of clothes and other excess household things to secondhand stores throughout the weekend. I rearranged to create more space in our home. I slept so well on Friday night. 

Saturday, I took my daughter, Audrey, to dance. Afterwards, I fit in a really quick workout. I tried the row machine for the first time, since it was recommended to me as an excellent cross-training exercise for biking. (I'll be competitively mountain biking this summer.) I spent the balance of the afternoon with my family, and I slept really well, once again! 

I am grateful for the extra hour of light we have in our day today. In celebration of daylight savings, and my dating anniversary with my husband, we went to a beer and yoga event at a local restaurant. After a weekend of work, and physical exercise, ending the break with a Bloody Mary and some carbilicious food was well-deserved. Namaste. 

My takeaways from this weekend are simple.

1. Give more to have more. 
2. Soak up the sunshine every chance you can. 
3. Dig in the dirt, wherever dirt may be.

- Samantha