Your Health in Action: 5 Wellness Books Worth Reading

As a writer, I constantly try to prioritize reading as a part of my daily life. (Some years, I’m more successful than others!) From fiction and poetry to nonfiction and memoirs, I try to vary my genres as much as possible to broaden my perspective and inspire my own creativity. Of course, because wellness is a huge focus for me and my blog, I often gravitate toward personal development books and podcasts.

For tonight’s edition of Your Health in ActionI wanted to share a few favorite wellness and personal development books worth exploring! As always, please feel free to share your suggestions in the comments below. I’m constantly looking for my next great read. 🙂

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small compensation.

Your Health in Action: 5 Wellness Books Worth Reading | WellnessAndWanderlust.net

1. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
Okay, let’s be real: unless this is the first time you’ve stumbled upon my blog, you had to suspect this book was going to be on the list! For those who are unfamiliar with The Happiness Project, author Gretchen Rubin incorporates scientific research on happiness to undergo a year-long experiment to live a happier life. Each month takes on a different theme, such as boosting energy, focusing on her marriage, learning something new, etc. The book provides practical, easy-to-implement tips for readers, as Gretchen shares what worked for her. Inspired by her work, I ended up creating my own happiness project for 2019. (You can read about my progress for the month of January here.) Be sure to check out Gretchen’s podcast as well!

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2. Food Freedom Forever by Melissa Hartwig
As a fan of The Whole30, I was especially excited when co-creator Melissa Hartwig released Food Freedom Forever. This book focuses on what to do after you’ve tackled the intense elimination diet. How do you let go of your bad habits and baggage around food? Melissa provides a lot of well-researched tips for habit change and creating a healthier relationship with food and body-image. My copy has about a million Post-It notes inside, and is back at the top of my list for required reading in 2019.

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3. The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein
If you believe in the law of attraction, The Universe Has Your Back is for you. Gabby Bernstein’s book on transforming fear to faith is worth exploring if you’re experiencing any major obstacles in your life right now. The book also provides several meditative practices to help you listen to your intuition and learn to trust yourself, while quieting those negative voices.

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4. The Idiot’s Guide to Ayurveda by Sahara Rose
Ayurveda is an ancient system of Eastern medicine and the sister science to yoga. Thanks to Sahara Rose’s book The Idiot’s Guide to Ayurvedanon-practitioners like me can learn all about Ayurveda and how we can incorporate it into our daily lives. You’ll be able to identify your mind-body type (or “dosha”) and learn the best foods, routines, and other practices to achieve mind-body balance.

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5. Rising Strong by Brené Brown
Brené Brown is a renowned social worker known for her research on shame and vulnerability (check out her TED Talk!), and as someone who struggles with opening up about her feelings, I was excited to finally pick up one of her books. Rising Strong focuses on resiliency, coming back from a perceived failure, and changing the narratives we tell ourselves. If you’re struggling to reset after a fall, I highly recommend this book!

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What personal development books do you recommend for 2019? Share your favorites in the comments below!

Girl, Wash Your Face: Three Lies We Need to Stop Telling Ourselves

Girl, Wash Your Face: Three Lies We Need to Stop Telling Ourselves | Wellness & Wanderlust

An avid bookworm, I was especially excited when someone recommended Girl, Wash Your Face, by Rachel Hollis. This book hit especially close to home for me, as it focused on the lies we tell ourselves that hold us back in life. Like most people, I tend to suffer from imposter syndrome and can often be my own worst enemy, letting my inner mean girl speak the loudestGirl, Wash Your Face is a refreshing read that breaks down those negative thoughts with the goal of helping us move past them.

Three chapters in particular stood out to me, so I thought I would share them with my readers. Each chapter addresses a different lie that we tell ourselves, and how to reframe our thoughts. Depending on your own life experiences, other chapters may impact you more deeply, but I wanted to share these insights from which so many of us can benefit.

  • The Lie: I’ll Start Tomorrow
    I’ll be honest — I’m a sucker for kicking off new goals on a Monday or on the first of the month. There’s something I love about having a clear line of demarcation between the old and the new. However, this also gets me into trouble, sometimes causing me to put off my goals with the excuse that I’ll start tomorrowHowever, as Rachel Hollis explains in this chapter, “Your subconscious knows that you, yourself, cannot be trusted after breaking so many plans and giving up on so many goals.” Many of us are great at keeping promises, unless those promises are to ourselves. We’re accountable and reliable for others, but when it comes to ourselves, we can become complacent and give up easily. However, when we tell ourselves we’ll start tomorrow or we push back our goals, we are really telling ourselves that we can’t be relied on. To combat this, Rachel suggests starting with small, more attainable goals, and building over time. We also need to be honest with ourselves about why we choose to put things off, and take the time to be intentional.
  • The Lie: I Should Be Further Along By Now
    This is a lie I constantly struggle with. In certain areas of my life, I feel like I’m not living up to the mental timeline I’ve created for myself, and it stings. However, when I step outside of myself and take a more objective look, I am reminded of how much I’ve accomplished: I graduated with my Master’s degree while working full-time, I’ve reached new milestones at work, I’ve been blessed with some amazing travel experiences, and so much more. Taking inventory of what you have done and setting goals, rather than time limits, will help guide you in the right direction.
  • The Lie: I Am Defined By My Weight
    Since graduation, I have been working hard to reframe the last 27 years of negative thoughts around body image. It is so easy to tell ourselves (especially as women) that we won’t be happy or won’t have the things we want in life until we reach a certain clothing size or a number on the scale. In truth, it isn’t our weight that makes the difference — it’s the way we treat ourselves and our bodies. What we eat and how we exercise matters, and it’s important to fuel our bodies with the foods that make us feel our best. As Rachel says in this chapter, “The lie I used to believe was that my weight would define me, that it would speak volumes about who I was as a person. Today I believe it’s not your weight that defines you, but the care and consideration you put into your body absolutely does.” You are worthy of love and happiness and success at any weight or dress size, but eating the junk foods that you know will make you sick is an abuse to your body.  Your weight does not define you, but the way you treat yourself does. It can be a struggle, but for the last couple of months, I have focused more on listening to my needs, eating intuitively, and incorporating more movement into my day because it makes me feel betterWhether you’re looking to lose weight, gain weight, or simply feel your best, treating your body with respect and listening to what it needs is always going to benefit you in the long run.

Have any of you read Girl, Wash Your Face? Which chapters stood out to you? What lie are you working to overcome?

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small compensation.

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How To Overcome Your Fears in One Simple Step

lion-cub-singita-castletonA few weeks ago, I was asked to speak on a career-related panel in front of 300 students. The invitation was incredibly exciting, and I was honored to share my story with others who would benefit from my experience. A few years ago, however, this type of speaking engagement would have completely terrified me.

As a high schooler, I was so afraid of public speaking that I used to shake before presenting in my English class. I was an All-American cheerleader and loved talking to people one-on-one, but whenever I had to give a presentation in class, my heart raced and my teeth chattered. When I first enrolled in college, the fear had subsided somewhat, but I still found myself mumbling “I’m sorry” in the middle of speech flubs.

However, over the years, I have learned how to manage this fear. During my senior year of college, I taught conference workshops on blogging and social media, and a few lunchtime seminars focused on resume writing and interview skills. Most recently, I spoke on the aforementioned panel regarding the importance of communication skills in the workforce. I may still not be the perfect speaker — I am guilty of a few ums here and there! — and I may still get butterflies in my stomach before I present, but I overcome my fear through action.

In other words, we can overcome our fears by doing the thing we are afraid of. I’m not suggesting you do something completely reckless and life-threatening (I am afraid of the bear that I saw near my neighborhood last month, and I am not going to approach him with food to try and get over that fear), but I do believe that the best way to move past our fears and insecurities is to face them head on and take action.

Public speaking still makes me nervous, but I overcome those nerves by saying “yes” to those public speaking engagements and using them as opportunities for growth. Most, if not all, members of the audience are not there to criticize or condemn what I am saying. They are there to learn. Therefore, I recognize that by speaking to that audience, even if I stumble over a word, I am providing helpful advice and information. I have value.

As my friend Max likes to say, do one thing every day that scares you. By doing this, you are quieting those voices of inadequacy and lessening your fear every time. You are saying yes to opportunities and learning from them. You are growing. You are allowing yourself to be more of the person that you want to be.

Want to overcome your fears? Give yourself a chance to face them.

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

summer“I dream, I make up pictures of a summer’s afternoon.” – Virginia Woolf

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Last night, I began reading Silent Dancing, a memoir by Judith Ortiz Cofer (of whom I am a huge fan!). In the preface, she begins by comparing memories of her childhood to “one perfect summer’s afternoon,” in which it is easy to forget about the hurtful parts and simply remember the happier times. She discusses the need that many of us have, as we look back, “to study ourselves and our lives in retrospect; to understand what people and events formed us (and, yes, what and who hurt us too).”

As a writer, I often find myself piecing together memories and romanticizing some of the less glamorous parts of my life, perhaps to my own detriment. I think this is part of the human condition; we create these stories about our lives that become part of our intricate mythology, and the stories become so ingrained in us that we can’t remember which details are historically accurate and which are wishful thinking. A few images from my own mythology are hard to shake — a boy playing Death Cab for Cutie on guitar when I was sixteen; endless afternoons at a retro burger restaurant with four best friends; that summer when my life was a Sarah Dessen book, down to every last trope that makes its way into young adult novels.

Of course, the stories we tell ourselves can make us nostalgic for the past, and we often forget the struggles that we faced in those times. We think back to our former experiences, jobs, friendships and relationships and remember the perfect summer afternoons, not the thunderstorms or the sleepless nights or the doubt or the heartache that came along with them. When we forget these challenges or minimize them, however, we don’t learn from our mistakes or move on properly.

It is important for us not to take too many creative liberties when looking back, and to remember that life changes for a reason. We change. And we will never be able to grow or truly experience life if we are stuck in that one seemingly perfect afternoon forever.

Following Your Heart And Finding Your Backbone

“See, now that’s your problem. You’re wishin’ too much, baby. You gotta stop wearing your wishbone where your backbone oughtta be.” – Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love

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As children, we were always taught that we had the power to make our dreams come true. The possibilities were limitless — as long as we wanted something badly enough, put in some effort and had a little faith, we would undoubtedly be able to obtain it. Our desires were merely a four -leaf clover, a penny in a fountain,  a wish upon a star away.

Innocent young creatures as we were, we felt entitled to our dreams. And why shouldn’t we? After all, we were nice enough to the other kids, did our best to behave and sometimes even ate our vegetables. Sprinkle on a little fairy dust and we were well on our way to accomplishing our goals.

Of course, as silly as this sounds, some of us have carried this philosophy into our adolescence and adult lives. Logically we know that no fairy godmother is about to wave her magic wand over us and make all of our hopes and dreams become a reality, and yet we still wind up waiting around for our lives to happen to us. We let our emotions get the best of us and meanwhile hope that the answers and solutions to our problems will find their way into our lives and work themselves out.

Sometimes, when we want something badly, we don’t think about it in the most rational way. Although I consider myself extremely goal-oriented and I have worked hard to achieve what I have, I will admit that I also have my struggles in certain areas, and that I have goals that I’ve been working on for years with no luck. This can get even a fairly optimistic person like me down. Such failed attempts at any task might make me and anyone else think, Oh, how unfair life is. Then, we blame our circumstances and wonder if our dreams will ever become our realities.

As I was reading Eat Pray Love this week (just finished today!), the above quote really struck a chord with me. Too many of us simply wish for things as if wishing is all we need to do, but then we forget to wish with our backbones, or really stand up for ourselves and do what needs to be done, as hard as that might be. Sometimes, we need to look within ourselves and find a strength we were lacking before, one that will guide us toward achieving our toughest goals and improving upon our weaknesses.

At the end of the memoir, author Elizabeth Gilbert wraps up her year of travels by discussing how she ended up with such a peaceful and happy new life. Now involved with a Brazilian ex-patriate who pledges his love to her, Gilbert writes, “I am happy and balanced. And yes, I cannot help but notice that I am sailing to this pretty little tropical island with my Brazilian lover. Which is — I admit it! — an almost ludicrous fairy-tale ending to this story, like the page out of some housewife’s dream… Yet what keeps me from dissolving right now into a complete fairy-tale shimmer is this solid truth, a truth which has veritably built my bones over the last few years — I was not rescued by a prince; I was the administrator of my own rescue.”

Too often we expect others to come to our rescue, or for timing to work itself out, or for all of our annoying little setbacks to disappear, but the truth remains that in order for us to see any real improvement in our lives, we have to slay our own dragons. A little help every so often is certainly appreciated from the ones we love and admire, but we have to rely fully on ourselves if we want to experience positive change. We can only live out our fairy tale endings if we muster the courage (find our backbone) to do something about them.

The Freshman 15: Ways To Prepare For Orientation

I remember it like it was just yesterday. Almost exactly two years ago, I drove three hours away from home to attend Freshman Orientation at the college of my dreams. At first, I wasn’t all that excited to be there — my high school friends were having a party at home that I would have rather been attending, and I was terrified that I wouldn’t meet anyone within the two days of speakers, schedule planning and campus tours. As it turned out, I met two of my closest friends at orientation, and I hardly kept in touch with anyone at that high school party. Orientation was what ultimately got me excited about going to college, and I couldn’t wait to move into the dorms and start hanging out with my new friends.

Above all else, Freshman Orientation was what really prepared me for a successful first year of college. Although orientations may differ greatly by school, they can serve as a great tool for getting to know your campus and making new friends. As a peer ambassador for my university this year, I had the opportunity to assist students in the honors college at their orientation, and so I picked up a few tips along the way. Incoming freshmen, keep these tips in mind as you prepare for orientation this summer!  — Tweet this!

The Freshman 15: Ways To Prepare For Orientation

1. Get excited.
First of all, you’re going to college, which is an accomplishment all on its own. Second of all, you are about to embark on a new chapter of your life. Look at either of those facts alone and you have all the more reason to be excited. Now is the time to stop worrying about the schools you aren’t attending, and start thinking about all the amazing opportunities you are going to have. A little bit of enthusiasm at orientation goes a long way — no one wants to talk to the awkward guy who is constantly rolling his eyes or brooding in the corner.

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2. Be open to making new friends.
While it’s true that you may never see some of the people you meet at orientation again in the next four years, you should still make your best effort to meet new people. You never know, you could wind up meeting your best friend! For tips on how to make a good impression, click here.

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3. Take your placement exams before you get there.
Chances are, you’ll need to take some exams so that the school can decide what math and chemistry courses you’re ready for. If you haven’t taken your exams before orientation, a lot of schools won’t let you sign up for certain classes. Because everyone is trying to create their perfect schedules, it is important that you have met all your requirements before attending orientation so that you aren’t fighting someone a few weeks later for the last spot in a class.

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4. Ask questions.
One great thing about orientation is that it gives you a wider set of resources throughout the school. Not only do you learn about the various academic and wellness services that your school provides, but you also usually meet older students who have been through it all and can serve as a mentor for you. This is especially helpful if you don’t have an older sibling who goes to the school and knows a lot about it. No question is really off limits — they get asked pretty much everything, and because everyone else will be in the same boat as you, you probably aren’t the only person who is wondering.

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5. Distance yourself from your parents.
This doesn’t mean to disregard them completely, of course. Your family probably plays a significant role in your life, and they will continue to do so in the future. However, orientation is not the time to latch on. Most orientations do separate the families from their students, and this gives you the chance to choose your classes on your own (without parental pressure!) and prepare yourself for the not-so-distant day when you aren’t living under your parents’ roof. Even if you are staying with your family when you attend college, you will still want your independence. Fill your parents in on what you’ve been doing at orientation, but make sure they give you your space.

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6. Be prepared for the weather.
As a student in Florida, I may be a little biased, but because most orientations take place in the summertime, you never know if you’re going to have rain or shine. Weather.com isn’t always accurate, so make sure you have an umbrella on hand just in case. From personal experience, I have found that it seems to rain specifically on orientation days. Such is the life of a college student.

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7. Connect with your roommates.
Even if you have already found your roommates on Facebook, you may not have met them in person yet. Although there are most likely several orientation dates, you should find out if your roommates will be attending yours, and try to meet up with them at some point. It isn’t the end of the world if you aren’t able to see each other then, but if you can, by all means go for it. This should help alleviate some of the awkward “breaking the ice” when you meet again at move-in.

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8. Join in the festivities.
Yes, orientation is probably going to be long and tiring, but it is important to make the most of it and take advantage of new things. If there is an ice cream social at the end of the day, go and meet people. If the orientation leaders are dancing on stage during dinner and they ask students to join them, do it (or was that just at my orientation?). Try to be upbeat and energetic.

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9. Look at your general education requirements ahead of time.
As a freshman, your first order of business when planning your schedule will be to get some of your general education requirements out of the way. If you have access to a course catalog or the academics portion of your school’s website, look over some of these requirements and think about what sparks your interest. Advisers will be on the scene to help you craft your schedule, but it is a good idea to know what general classes are required and sound appealing to you.

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10. Find out about available clubs on campus.
Want to rush a fraternity or sorority? Find someone who’s an expert on Greek life. Want to find out if there’s a Quidditch club at your school? Talk to some of the people in charge of student involvement. At many schools, the different organizations will actually attend orientation to answer questions for incoming freshmen and recruit them for future meetings. I always stress the importance of getting involved early on. Why not do this at your orientation?

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11. Stay organized.
You will receive countless handouts, fliers, booklets and school paraphernalia while attending your orientation, so bring a folder or backpack so you don’t lose any of them. I found myself constantly flipping back and forth between papers at my orientation because of the sheer number of them — half the time, I didn’t know where to find what I needed! Keep everything together as neatly as possible so you can refer back to specific items later if you need to.

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12. Take advantage of social media.
Hopefully, you will meet a lot of new people at your freshman orientation. Although Facebook isn’t always the best means of communication, it is definitely a good way to group new people together and write quick messages back and forth. Exchange numbers with the people you meet, if you’re comfortable with that, but adding them on Facebook could be slightly less intimidating for the shy student, and allows you an instantaneous means of keeping in touch. When you return to school in the fall, it may be easier to reconnect with those people you met at orientation.

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13. Take notes if you need to.
After receiving countless tidbits of knowledge about your school for an entire two days, things can get pretty confusing. Instead of letting the information get completely lost in translation, write down the important things so you can remember them later.

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14. Be as flexible as possible.
When planning out your class schedule, things might not come out 100% as you may have hoped. This is okay — you have four years of college ahead of you, so you don’t need to rush your way through. Orientation may bring shocking changes to others. For example, the actuarial science majors at my orientation (including two of my friends) were informed on the first day that their program had just been cut and that they would have to pursue new degree programs. Although they were not happy about this at the time, they have thrived in their new majors and since cultivated new interests. Your mind may change, as well, and you may decide to change your major on the spot. Change can be wonderful because it allows us to grow as people and learn something new about ourselves. Keep an open mind.

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15. Have a sense of humor.
There’s usually at least one corny aspect of Freshman Orientation — a speaker who makes too many bad puns, an outdated video of campus life, a few dance routines sprinkled here and there — so it’s important to try and have a good time. Be engaged in what you are doing, but don’t let yourself become too pretentious as you go through the various presentations at orientation. Have fun!

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Questions for readers:
– What was your freshman orientation like?
– What did you learn from orientation or wish you had done differently?
– What topics would you like to read about in future Freshman 15 articles? 

The Friday Five: What I’ve Learned From Blogging

On most days, I don’t write anything specific about my personal life, but today is a notable exception. Today marks a very special one-year anniversary for me — in fact, exactly one year ago, I registered for an account on WordPress and started blogging right here. 365 days and 96 posts later, I have loved every minute of the blogging experience, and have grown tremendously since the very first post I ever wrote on WordPress.

To commemorate this occasion, I would like to share some of what I’ve learned in the past year of blogging. Feel free to comment below with some of what you’ve learned as well!

The Friday Five: What I’ve Learned From Blogging

1. You never know who is reading.
It doesn’t matter who your target audience is… you will still attract readers from other groups as well. Yes, most of my readers are college students, but I have also heard from various family members and employers who have read it as well. My readers come from all over the world and it is amazing to hear from so many perspectives when reading through comments. Blogging has allowed me to learn more about others, but it has also taught me the importance of inclusivity and not alienating any potential readers.

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2. Blogging means community.
Throughout my blogging experience, I have found that it is extremely important to keep up with other blogs in order to stay fresh and informed. In doing this, I’ve been able to meet and interact with a variety of bloggers, forming somewhat of a community through WordPress, Twitter and other social media. As a blogger, I have become acquainted with such a variety of writers, and in turn, have introduced some of my IRL friends to the world of blogging.

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3. There’s a Taylor Swift song for everything.
I used to make fun of a lot of Taylor Swift songs for their subject matter (“I like this boy but he doesn’t know I exist” “I’m in a relationship and it’s the best thing ever” “I wear a lot of dresses”) but with the release of her album Speak Now, I realized that I could relate to more of her songs than I thought. With nearly 10 percent of my blog posts pertaining to something written by T. Swift, I can’t simply disregard the fact that there will always be an artist whose work speaks to you. For the past year of my life, Taylor Swift’s music has spoken to me, and it will be interesting to see who and what I draw inspiration from in the next year.

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4. Making connections is one of the most important things you can do.
In English classes, we are taught to look for specific literary devices that don’t mean much to us personally, but as a blogger, I’ve definitely been able to pick out more prominent themes in famous works and apply them to my own life. Whether an excerpt from a novel, a scene from a movie or a line from a song, these various pieces can shed some insight on our own life experiences and observations, and help to point out a more universal truth. Blogging has taught me the power of making such connections and also enhanced my overall enjoyment of the works I read, watch and listen to.

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5. You are bound to contradict yourself.
In time, as you learn and grow from every experience, you will find that sometimes your thoughts, feelings and opinions will change. Because of this, some of your blogs might seem to contradict one another, and that’s okay. A blog doesn’t have to be perfectly static — it can change over time, just as you will. Realize that what you find in the next year may surprise you, and embrace the contradictions that you face.

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To my readers: Thank you for such a wonderful first full year of blogging. You have all been such an inspiration to me and I could not have done it without your support.

To my fellow bloggers: What have you learned from your experiences in blogging?

How To Start Over When You’re Halfway Through

Next Monday, I will begin the spring semester of my sophomore year of college, but it feels like just yesterday I was packing my bags and getting ready for the beginning of summer classes. A lot has changed in the six or seven months since then, both personally and professionally, and while some aspects have been enjoyable and fulfilling, I’ve definitely had my share of crappy-life-lesson/”character-building” moments throughout these past two semesters as well. After experiencing the best freshman year I could have ever hoped for (minus, of course, constantly getting sick), I found sophomore year to be a bit of a letdown.

However, looking past all the obstacles, I realized that my year isn’t over. I can change its course if I want to — and I will — toward something much brighter. I don’t have to look at the aforementioned highs and lows and then call the entire year a failure; instead, I can work on making this spring even sunnier than the last.

So for those of you in a bit of a rut this year, looking to reinvent yourselves or improve your circumstances, here are just a few quick goals you may want to work toward in the coming months:

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♥ Do what you want to do; forget who’s watching you.
When we worry so much about what others think of our actions, we let their values dictate our own. Instead of constantly tiptoeing around others’ feelings, let’s remember to decide for ourselves what is best for us and how we should lead our lives.

Figure out your priorities.
You can only wind yourself so tightly with commitments before you begin to unravel. I’m not saying to quit the things you love or need, but learn how to manage it all so that you can still get full nights of sleep and not feel like you’re sacrificing something better.

Spend more time outside.
I don’t care how brightly decorated or well-lit your dorm is — it is no match for a cloudless, sunny day. Change your scenery by abandoning your room and heading outside into the fresh air. Do your homework by the pond, catch up on your reading on the benches near your building or take a long stroll with a friend during the limited down-time you both have.

Don’t neglect your health.
Eat the brain foods that will keep you going and throw out the junk food that makes you crash. Hit the gym for an hour or search for workout videos on YouTube. Don’t treat your health as a last priority; you have one body, and the better you treat it, the better it will treat you.

Avoid dramatic situations.
Easier said than done, of course, but try your best to stay away from those toxic relationships and untrustworthy “confidantes” who are mostly looking out for themselves. When you feel yourself being sucked into such situations, remind yourself that you have no time for those things, and steer clear. Had I followed my own advice in the past two semesters, I would have been much more productive.

Remember that nothing good happens after midnight.
Yes, it is extremely hypocritical of me to say that at this hour, but it’s something I plan to work on! What I mean by that phrase is that it’s important to get your beauty rest, especially during the week (because, let’s face it, we’re usually out till much later on the weekends – and rightfully so). Besides, nothing good can come of that late-night text or Facebook IM. Shut off your phone and computer and get some rest — trust me, it’s better for you.

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What are you looking to change in the upcoming semester?

A Decade So Bright

“I guess when it comes down to it, being grown up isn’t half as fun as growing up. These are the best days of our lives. The only thing that matters is just following your heart and eventually you’ll finally get it right.” – The Ataris, In This Diary

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When I turned 20 years old, roughly three weeks ago, I couldn’t help but remember a conversation I’d had with a friend in the wee hours of the morning on New Year’s Day 2010. As we discussed the beginning of a brand new decade, it had only just begun to hit me that this decade would be different from any other that I had experienced — it would present with it new opportunities and challenges that I had never before encountered, and probably require more self-growth than I’d ever undergone in my life. I then began to evaluate every decade I’d lived through thus far.

Born in September of 1990, I was alive for most of the 90s (if only as an embryo for the remaining nine months), but my memories from then are somewhat blurred. My life consisted mostly of Disney princesses, Barbie dolls, Spice Girls music and boys with cooties. Even back then, I knew I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, but my dreams were fuzzier than my curly brown hair; in other words, I would have just as easily settled for becoming Belle or Posh Spice. I associate the 90s with my childhood – a more innocent and carefree time.

In fact, it wasn’t until the new millennium that I was exposed to some of the world’s harsh realities. For me and many of my peers, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 made us question everything we ever thought we knew about human nature, and opened our eyes to the fact that life wasn’t the fairy tale we’d always been told it was. The economy took a nosedive soon after, and in turn we witnessed various other forms of human greed and suffering throughout the world. This wasn’t to say that these things hadn’t happened long before, but we were finally old enough to comprehend what was going on around us.

The decade also brought with it the preteen and teenage years. It was a time of mean middle school girls and the mean middle school boys who broke our hearts before we ever really knew what that meant. It was also a time of insecurities and awkward encounters and frustrations. I moved on to high school in 2005, where dances and parties and football games made you cool, and hearts were broken on Spirit Week. As I floated around between cliques and juggled cheerleading and yearbook, I struggled to find a sense of identity, and never entirely embraced those four years.

In May 2009, I graduated high school and hurried off to college, which was a nice little beginning and ending all at once. Flash forward 17 months, and here we are. It’s October 2010, I’m a sophomore in college and I have my whole life ahead of me. So, what’s next?

I’d like to think that, as I spend the remainder of the 2010s in my twenties, I will be focused on finishing my education, obtaining a career I really enjoy, eventually finding the love of my life and maybe even starting a family. Of course, life doesn’t always pan out the way you expect it to, and so who’s to say that any of this would become a reality?

In fact, ABC has a new show called My Generation, which is a mockumentary zeroing in on nine people from the graduating class of 2000 and revisiting them in 2010. Obviously, this is just a show, but it’s interesting to see how current events and life experiences changed each of the characters over the course of 10 years. It’s important to be flexible in your expectations for the future, but shows like this make me wonder just how much my environment will shape my goals and decisions in the years to come.

Although I don’t know exactly what I want to do with the rest of my life, I do have a basic mental outline, and can’t help but ask myself how I will adjust if things don’t go accordingly. What if laws change, or people change, or some completely unforeseen incident changes everything I have ever known? Do we try to hold onto what’s left, or do we pick up the pieces and move on? Will those events change us?

I hope to look to this new decade as a bright new beginning – a future that offers several different roads to happiness and success, regardless of what those words mean to me in ten years – and I wish the same for you.

 

The End in the Beginning

After six weeks of nonstop note-taking, studying, and socializing in those last spare moments, summer semester is finally over… and as much as I love my life at school, I know that this break (possibly more than all others) was completely necessary. In some ways, the semester has been one of the hardest to get through, but as the week comes to a close, so too does the beginning of a whole new chapter. My first semester of sophomore year has just ended, and yet it opens me — all of us! — up to a brand new start.

The point is, even when it feels like things aren’t going right, we usually still have something to gain. From every failure, mistake, and disappointment, we learn something we never really knew about ourselves. We grow. We change. As long as we’re willing to look past the things we can’t control, then we will be able to face any darkness and let in the light. The idea may sound completely abstract and cliche, but every ending leads to a new beginning, and every new beginning offers a chance for us to achieve something that we we were unable to achieve before.

So try and look back on everything without so much as a sense of regret, but rather a sense of purpose. Learn whatever you can from the time that has passed. Use that knowledge to gain a better idea of who you are as a person and what you want out of life. Take the time to realize that there is a new opportunity out there waiting for you, and get ready to show the world that you are a force to be reckoned with.