You’ve Got Mail

My family every year still writes and sends out Christmas cards to friends and family. The whole Shutterfly-type photo collage and a highlight reel of the past year.

Turns out, we’re few and far between for those who actually send these out anymore. It costs money, yes, and I guess there’s texting and email to stay updated, but there’s still something special about opening a mailbox to see a handwritten envelope to you, a return address from someone you maybe haven’t heard from in awhile.It’s almost cliche now to discuss the commercialism and hullbaloo of the holidays. Flash sales and flashing lights and flashy toys you don’t need, oh my! I guess for those looking at seasonal finances, paying for postage and stamps for Christmas cards is probably cut out before buying certain wishlist items and going all-out in the decor.But beyond my family’s own tradition of Christmas cards, on my trip back to college after Thanksgiving, my mom stuck in a box of holiday greeting cards and envelopes. Originally, I was planning on not doing much, as I do every year, just sending out a text to friends on Christmas Day & calling it good.

A little voice inside me though said, “Why not do more?” So I listened. And now I’m in the process of writing and mailing a bunch of handwritten cards to friends expressing my love and gratitude. Just because. The season of giving makes it timely, but really, you don’t realize the difference it makes telling someone in person or writing out your thoughts rather than just texting or messaging.

It’s extra effort obviously, but the joy I’ve gotten from the process has been astounding. I’m excited to hear about how my friends will open their mailboxes to see their name because who doesn’t love receiving mail? And especially with how few families send out Christmas letters and cards, chances are slim individuals do it either.

I’ve grown up always sending thank-you cards. Often it was tedious and I was not happy about doing it, especially around Christmas when there’s many opportunities to give thanks for gifts and support. Now I don’t even bat an eye about writing them…heck, I’d feel weird not doing it. But you don’t realize how much something so little can mean to someone. We don’t expect others to go above and beyond to send a card or letter just to say thank-you when other modes of communication are so much faster. But with speed comes ease, and that message loses a lot of meaning and value. It’s like my thoughts on saying “I love you”: I rarely say it to others, especially family, because I don’t want it to become automatic, just a statement you make to break silence or say goodbye. I want people to know I really mean it. Not that those who do say it often don’t mean it, but those are just my own reservations.I still am the one sending mass texts to my contact list on holidays, but for this season, I want to make sure that what I say, I mean. If I wasn’t a college student on a budget, maybe I’d include a gift in there, but if I were to receive a card from a loved one personally addressed to me, I’d be blown away.

Doing this has also reminded me just how blessed I am. Let’s be real, I grew up not having a lot of friends and always struggling to relate and connect with others. I still get really anxious about if I’m worthy enough, if I have enough people, if I’m doing enough, all on top of social anxiety so often crippling me in basic situations. However, I still filled a post-it note with names of those I’d like to contact. I was appalled. I know so many amazing people who I call my true friends, distant or nearby, who support me and accept me as I am. That’s the greatest gift I could ever ask for.It doesn’t have to be a card or letter. Maybe to you, giving a little extra could mean spending more quality time with others. Calling friends rather than texting them. Exchanging gifts, big or small. We tend to go above and beyond in other aspects of the holidays, but maybe we should do so in simple ways, in the ways not visible driving past your house or sitting under the Christmas tree.

What little acts of kindness could you do for those you love?

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie


Day 22: Early Mornings #GIG2017

Yesterday was about the early nights going to bed? Today is all about the early mornings to rise.

Now trust me, I still don’t consider myself a morning person. It’s still often difficult for me to get out of bed, whether that be from exhaustion or just a lack of motivation to do anything and face the day. And I have spent years confused by anybody who was up at the crack of dawn and chose to be awake.

But now most days, the latest I can sleep in is 7 AM. Most days I’m up by around 6, sometimes as early as 5. Where this switch came from, I don’t know, but I figured I would embrace it. And indeed, I truly do appreciate becoming more of an early riser so I can see the beauty of being awake before the world is. To see the sun gradually rise. To have moments of pure silence and peace, or more time to be productive and proactive so I can ease my mind later in the day.

With that early start, I can begin my day less rushed. I can take the time I need to get ready and enjoy the process of a morning ritual. I can collect my thoughts and intentions for the day to ensure I’m starting on the right foot. I’m grateful for the opportunity available in that early morning, the promise of a new day waiting to be seized.

And, inevitably, I’m here to mention why waking up early can be good for you, too. Which, if you need a serious reason to think about setting an alarm clock, hopefully these will serve as incentives.

In 2010, Christoph Randler, a biologist from Harvard found that early risers are more proactive. When presented with statements such as “I spend time identifying long-range goals for myself”, an early riser is more likely to agree. There are less distractions in the early hours of the day so you can achieve more with minimal interruptions. After a good night’s sleep, your brain is charged and ready to work hard. You are at your efficient best and will get things done quicker and better, at least once your body gets used to the earlier wake-up call.

As I’ve already mentioned, having more time in the morning helps you set a positive tone that impacts how you feel and act the rest of the day. Studies have shown “morning people” are often more positive, more optimistic and more likely to experience satisfaction in their lives. Rather than the temptation to put off certain tasks, it’s pretty satisfying to finish school assignments, blog posts, and maybe work out if you’re into that, all before the day “officially” starts. My days can feel less hectic and stressful knowing I’ve already gotten some things checked off my to-do list, and it feels nice to remember that even if my only actual task completed was in the morning, I still got it done. You have to celebrate the little things.

So if you’re a chronic night owl or generally despise mornings, I get it. But if you’re interested in hopping on the early riser boat, hop on aboard. There’s plenty of room. We leave harbor at dawn. Sharp.

Seriously though, how does one start waking up earlier if their body doesn’t just randomly switch wake-up times like mine did? Have a personal reason you want to wake up earlier because as much as I can ramble on, if you don’t resonate with an intention you set yourself, I can’t convince you of anything. Be gradual with yourself in transitioning, even if that means waking up just five minutes earlier than the morning before. Be wary of hitting snooze or relying upon an annoying alarm to wake up to. Establish a morning routine you’ll actually look forward to, like having true time to eat and enjoy breakfast, getting into a new hobby like exercise or meditation, or whatever else tickles your fancy.

Regardless if you wake up at 6 AM or 11 AM, the most important thing to be grateful for is that you woke up. Realizing that each day, we can rise in a healthy body, in a healthy environment, knowing everything life has to offer us, is the best habit of all. Anything I’ve mentioned this month would be nothing without the simple gift the morning brings and everything that is meant to come our ways. Each morning is an opportunity to express gratitude, to treat ourselves, others, and the world with kindness.

That mindset is not just designated this month, but for every morning of every day in any month. I hope to celebrate gratitude in all I do and wake up in a sound mindset aware of these gifts, and I hope the same for you.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie
















Day 21: Sleep #GIG2017

We’ve heard it enough times in our lives that you’d think it would be a no-brainer to always go to bed early or at least get the recommended hours of sleep each night.

Except it’s not that easy for many of us. I know I’m not alone when I admit struggling to fall and stay asleep for most of my life. I had more of an issue as a child getting to sleep each night, which I can still tend to do thanks to a racing mind, but I have been prone in recent years to be more restless in general, remembering each morning the few instances I woke up. Those moments of lying in bed fully awake or half-conscious, despite seeming insignificant, can add up.

So besides diving into the low-down of why sleep is important for us (because we can always use a reminder), I want to express some gratitude for sleep. First off, it feels awesome when you end a day dead-tired and immediately drift off, only to wake up feeling well-rested and ready to take on the day. I’m grateful for always having a bed to sleep in each night. I’m grateful for the pillows and blankets and pajamas that help me feel cozy and comforted. I’m grateful for the rare times I have and can remember good dreams from the previous sleep. I’m grateful for all that sleep serves for us, and I’m grateful for ending each day knowing my loved ones are safe and well and I have lived another day doing the best I could.

But back to those benefits. Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety. That means a sleepless night can be detrimental in an instant, or ongoing sleep deficiency can raise your risk for some chronic health problems. It also can affect how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others.

Sleep helps your brain work properly. While you’re sleeping, your brain is preparing for the next day. It’s forming new pathways to help you learn and remember information. Studies show that a good night’s sleep improves learning and problem-solving skills. Sleep also helps you pay attention, make decisions, and be creative. Studies also show that sleep deficiency alters activity in some parts of the brain. If you’re sleep deficient, you may have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling your emotions and behavior, and coping with change.

Sleep plays an important role in your physical health. For example, sleep is involved in healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Your immune system relies on sleep to stay healthy. Sleep also maintains a healthy balance of hormones that affect blood sugar, growth and development, and hunger. Too little sleep is even known to shorten our lifespans and quality of life in general if our bodies become imbalanced and more easily perceptible to disease.

And since sleeplessness is known for making us irritable, slow to make decisions, and inattentive, it is also known with poorer relationships with others that we cannot be “all there” with. And who would want to be around someone who is emotionally heavy, overly pessimistic, and easy to anger? We’ve all been there, but when it becomes chronic, it’s time to start evaluating your habits. We generally cannot enjoy the company of others or anything life throws at us without the foundation of sleep.

If sleep is as basic to our bodies as breathing and eating, then how can we make it easier for ourselves to nail down 7-9 hours each night? It’s all about making a routine for yourself by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. Having a nightly routine to look forward to every day also helps to keep you in check. While I should be better about narrowing down screen time before bed, I have recently started drinking herbal tea or a hot beverage every evening. I also find it much easier to fall asleep with a podcast playing softly in the background.

How you spend your days affect how you’ll sleep at night. Avoid the caffeine once it hits the later afternoon. Eat your last meal at least two or three hours before bed. Get even just a little physical activity in so you feel tired enough at night. Practice mindfulness and meditation if you’re like me and tend to overthink and worry about every little detail.

Obviously these are easier said than done and are not end-all solutions to any woes, but they can hopefully support our well-being and help us step in the right direction. We deserve our best health possible for us. It’s not easy. But we’re each worth it.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie