Kindness Crusade: Week 1

Fall is hands down my favourite season, I grew up in rural rural Alberta, where Winter was too cold to do anything, Spring was nothing but wet socks, and Summer was very lonely because my family moved every July. September always marked the start of a new school year, new pens and notebooks, new clothes, new friends, a brand new start. My sisters and I still describe the smell of Fall as “the page turning”.

That being said, last year when my Fiance and I picked our wedding date, I was insistent on getting married in the Fall. Little did I know, I would be accepted into a graduate program beginning in September and an intensive out-of-city research fellowship from April to end of August. My wedding is in four weeks. I am very busy.

Last week I started a personal project which, in summary, is what I think “The Art of Not Giving a F*ck” is about (I’ve never actually read the book). But essentially, I’m so tired of striving for perfection in every single facet of my life. I just don’t have the F*cks to eat Quinoa every day, exercise every week, and perfect my calligraphy. Instead I’ve decided to just be kind to myself and treat me like I would a friend. I picked 5 areas of my life to focus my actions on and to only take the wins.

Here’s how I did:

1. Health

I did great this week. I found “Health” to be a bit wide of a category, so I’ve decided to break it down into body systems, choosing to be kind on whatever I thought needed it that week.

I went out for a few drinks on Saturday, so I decided I wanted to be kind to liver to give it a little recognition for all the hard behind the scenes work she does.

  • I grabbed some liver healthy foods at the grocery store I wouldn’t normally pick up like blueberries and grapes. I’m very happy with that decision. I also forwent picking up more bacon despite the fact that it is a staple in the house.
  • Coffee is supposed to be great for your liver. I’m a regular coffee drinker but I used a little less sugar this week. It was fine, but after the second day I started to like one sugar just as much as two, so I might stick with that this week.
  • I brought a water bottle to work — when I remembered to. I never drink water and I’m pretty sure I’m perpetually dehydrated so this was a but of a shock to the system.
  • I went for a walk with my fiance.

I felt great this whole week, even though these add-ins were so small, and probably won’t improve my health and fitness, it just felt really good to actively do something for my body instead of feeling all this pressure to build lifelong water drinking habits. And I think that’s the whole point of this project. It was so much easier to say no to bacon because I wanted to be nice to my liver than it was to say no to bacon because I’m trying to cut calories and eat only whole foods.

2. Mental Health

This was by far the biggest change I did this week. I did so many things to be kind to myself I won’t be able to list them all. but here are a few

  • This project!
  • I cut my cleaning by almost a third. This might make me gross, but I started using the same plate, cup, and fork for the whole day. I would just rinse the dishes after I used them and then use them the whole day. This grilled cheese pan? Now it’s my stirfry pan. That veggie cutting board… flip it over and BOOM. Now it’s a chicken cutting board. Gross? Maybe. Life changing? Absolutely. I also started doing the floors and bathrooms as needed and 100% delegated laundry duties.
  • I bought two baskets for underneath the coffee table to store all the stuff I have that floats around my living room surfaces. Now it takes me 6 minutes to tidy the whole house.
  • I stopped trying to meal plan. It doesn’t work for me and probably never will. I’ve been cooking long enough I can make a few things out of the pantry staples we always keep and I really only buy produce I can use in at least 3 dishes.
The current state of my bucket O' crap. Tucked nice and away so I don't have to look at it.
The current state of my bucket O’ crap. Tucked nice and away so I don’t have to look at it.

3. Career

  • I finished my fellowship and a lot of projects this week. Maybe I’ll do a post in the future more about what that looks like

4. Relationship

  • I made a lot of intentional time for my partner this week. I went home over the weekend to do some more wedding planning, and I didn’t bring any work with me.
  • We installed screen free Sundays to just hang out with each other. It was actually pretty tough but worth doing again.
  • I made a romantic dinner for the two of us.

The Kindness Crusade

As a psychologist, I’m no stranger to the relatively new concept of positive psychology. The focus of psychology until this movement was on disease and hardship. What made people different? Positive psychology focuses on what makes people happy. This is how we know that one of the best ways to increase job satisfaction is decreasing your commute time. We also know that practicing mindfulness and gratitude drastically changes a person’s level of happiness.

As a person who participates in society, I’m no stranger to the self-help craze. the self-help industry is multi-million dollar industry aimed at targeting everyone’s personal insecurities and making you believe you can just wake up one morning and suddenly you are your ideal self: you’re thin, fit, healthy, financially healthy, productive, people like you, you cook from scratch, you have time to relax, go for walks, your house is always clean and full of flawless DIY projects, your kids excel in every aspect of their lives, you’ve perfected a flawless 15 minute morning routine, your mascara never smudges, and you’ve gone back to school and got an MBA from Yale. Easy.

From how I see it, this positive psychology and the self-help industry go hand in hand. You to can be happier if you follow these 10 simple tricks! Also, is it just me, or are these self-help/lifestyle gurus just selling us pretty gadgets on Instagram and YouTube? Of course I want to eat your 10 minute overnight oats Kay-Cee. You spent 2 hours photographing and editing this picture. It looks incredible. (Anyone who’s tried these overnight oats knows they’re a cold grey lump of glue in the morning that taste like some mixed in some skim milk and strawberry mush to plain oatmeal).

Satire. Image depicts man giving important inspirational speech to interested crowd. Captured moments before the ritualistic chanting began... "Be. Less. Shit.    Be.  Less.  Shit.    Be  Less.  Shit."
Image depicts man giving important inspirational speech to interested crowd. Captured moments before the ritualistic chanting began… “Be. Less. Shit. Be. Less. Shit. Be Less. Shit.”

But we all know there’s some truth to what these people say. You will get more done if you prioritize, you will feel better if you go to the gym, and your kids will have healthy lunches if you pack them. But here’s the thing, it’s not easy. Sure, when you break anything down like that it seems so simple. If you want to go to the gym, you have to go to the gym. I like to equate that to a conversational gem 5 year old me said at her great grandmother’s funeral:

“Why didn’t Nana just… keep breathing?”

5 year old Emma

It would be so simple! Just don’t die if you want to live people!

Look, we all know the secret to going to the gym, is just going there and you can read all you want about just getting there is the hardest part, how you have to do it for so many days to form a habit. But we’re still not doing it. It’s not that gyming is the same level of hard for everyone and people who go have this monstrous will power. We’re all different. Some people can work at a desk all day. Some people enjoy talking to other people at work. For some people the gym isn’t that bad. I’m tired of feeling like crap because I don’t work out like a Kardashian, eat vegan, do all the things at work.

This is a long winded introduction to my newest personal project: The Kindness Crusade

For the foreseeable future, I’m going to keep track of the kind things I did for myself over the week. I have main five domains that are a priority for me: My health, my relationship, my home, my finances, and my work. I’m not setting out to be perfect in any of these categories, I simply want to stop feeling bad about going out for drinks with friends because I’m spending money and being unhealthy. Being social is good for my mental health and that should be enough. From now on, I’m ditching all self-help media and choose to be grateful for the kind things I’m doing for myself and accepting that I have competing interests. No longer will I dwell on choosing new underwear over saving the $30, or eating that burger over salad. Instead I’m going to buy that underwear and eat that burger and remind myself to be kind to my wallet and heart the next day. Life’s about balance and it’s high time I get more of it.

- Emma

About Me

Hi! I’m Emma.

Welcome to Coffee & Dragons, a place where I share my perspective on mental health, self-care, University life, graduate school, work-life balance, and more.

I am about to graduate from the University of Victoria with a bachelor’s in Biology and Psychology and start my graduate training in Neuroscience where I hope to study the progression of Parkinson’s Disease. I live in Victoria, BC with my fiance, Amanda.

I hope you find Coffee & Dragons offers you inspiration, or at least some entertainment as you watch me learn life lessons the hard way.

With Love,