Unplug & be present this holiday season

bhciagghRight about now, you’re probably face-deep in Christmas shopping, or like so many of us, you might not have even started your holiday shopping. Either way, you’re probably stressin’. Relax! You’ve still got four days before Santa arrives. But before you hit the mall or take to Newbury street, take a second to breathe – unplug, relax, close your eyes, if only for a few minutes.

What do I mean by that first one? Unplug. It’s an idea I know we’ve all heard of, but gets very little actual practice, in large part by no fault of our own. We are constantly surrounded and overstimulated with technology and are living in a world that makes it hard to function without our iPhones glued to our hands at all times. Really, when was the last time you shut off your phone “just because” or left it at home? Probably a while ago. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in work emails, Facebook, or our Twitter feeds that we miss what’s going on around us – real conversations, laughter, and scenery – all so much more real than poorly-filtered photos on our Instagram feeds. More than I’d like to admit, I find myself refreshing my newsfeed while I’m sitting on the metro, despite the fact that I don’t even have service. But I’m definitely not alone; just the other day, I hurried up the left side of the escalator with my headphones blasting – tuning out the world around me – past dimly lit, zombie-like faces glued to their iPhones. And that’s when it hit me. I felt like I was part of one of those UpWorthy videos that explicitly tell us how doomed we are if we don’t just look up. That was a wake up call, for sure.

unplugSo in these next four days of holiday mayhem – and well into the new year – I encourage you to be mindful of the time you spend with your head down and your nose in your phone. Next time you find your thumb apathetically scrolling through your newsfeed, click the off button, look up, and breathe in the world around you

If you find unplugging difficult for you – as I certainly have – there are a few ways to make it a bit easier:

  1. Strike up a conversation with friends/family/loved ones about the idea of unplugging. Guaranteed you’ll all want to leave your phones aside after talking it through.
  2. Exercise. Whether its a run, a ride at the HB, or even a brisk walk with the fam post Christmas dinner, getting those endorphins flowing will make you feel alive.
  3. Create a “no phones” rule when you’re out to dinner or drinks with friends. You’ll be amazed by the added amount of laughs and good vibes you’ll get when you aren’t talking about your washed up high school classmates that pop up on your news feed. So, put your phones in the middle of the table, and the first one to touch her phone buys the first round of drinks! 
  4. Don’t text/email/Facebook/Tweet while driving. Not only is it dangerous, but it seriously takes away from your “me” time in the morning or evening. Use that time wisely – think, plan, dream; do anything but live vicariously through your FB feed.
  5. Write someone a handwritten note instead of a text. When we write something in pen, it gives a sense of permanence and promotes us to really think things through. Not only that, but nowadays, anything handwritten is 10 million times more sincere than a quick text or email.
  6. Meet somebody new. Whether its the rider on the bike next to you at The HB, a stranger in the elevator, or the person sitting next to you on the T, strike up a convo! Say hi, give them a compliment, or simply wish them a Merry Christmas. ‘Tis the season, isn’t it?
  7. People watch. I know, I know, it sounds creepy, but seriously, taking in the presence of others gives us the sense that we’re actually living, breathing humans surrounded by other living, breathing humans. It develops our sense of empathy and understanding, and broadens our horizons to the kinds of situations that actually exist. One of my favorite places to “people watch” is at the airport. So if you’re traveling this holiday, look up and witness the joy, love, and even heartache that comes with people coming and going. Yep, just like in Love Actually

41Unplugging and being present, if even just for a few minutes, has the ability to make you feel a little more human and a little less zombie-like. So while you’re waiting in long lines, traveling, or sitting in traffic, breathe in your surroundings. They might just be a little bit cooler than what your ten million Facebook friends are doing 😉

Alright, HBer’s, good luck with your holiday shopping! We’ll see you in the saddle – sans iPhone!

Rethink your resolution

Ring in 2014 with a resolution that will stick

By Falon Sweeney

Why is it that New Year’s resolutions always get a bad rap? Why do we end the year knowing that an empty promise looms within the first month of the New Year? It’s almost as if we are setting ourselves up for failure as soon as the ball drops. Personally, I have always been a resolution girl. I love structure, and I love a good challenge. But looking back on it, I don’t think I’ve ever made one lasting New Year’s resolution. After actu20131231-145448.jpgally putting a little bit of thought into this phenomenon, I have realized that I, along with my fellow “resolvers,” jump into the New Year with too much of the wrong kind of gusto. We want to take on everything from losing those last ten pounds to kicking every last one of our bad habits, but by the third week of the New Year, we are totally exhausted. We cave, for one reason or another, and many times, end up worse off than we were in December. But this year could be different. This year I challenge you to rethink your resolution.

Make a smaller, more sustainable resolution that you are likely to keep for years, rather than a few short weeks. Keep in mind, your resolution doesn’t have to be—and probably shouldn’t be—an entire lifestyle change, or even something tangible. It can be simple. It can be abstract. It can be one word, or it can involve no words at all. Take a few minutes to sit down and figure out what you can add to your life to make it more fulfilling, rather than what you can remove from it (unless of course you are removing negative thinking!). Focus on process-oriented goals, rather than outcome-oriented goals.

Now, just a disclaimer – This isn’t a way for you to evade the whole resolution thing. It is a way for you to ring in 2014 on a positive note and to keep those positive vibes flowing all year long. Now, take a second and think about the resolution you had in mind—you know, the one you’ve been thinking about making ever since you overdid it with the Christmas cookies last week. Is it broad, all-encompassing, a true challenge, something you’re guilty about, or something you just know you won’t be able to sustain throughout the year? Does it have any hint of negativity? Does it involve some sort of too-good-to-be-true cookie diet or lemonade concoction? If so, consider the following resolutions instead:

Be flexible The next time something doesn’t go as you had planned, take a deep breath and assure yourself it will be okay. Because it will. Embrace the change in plans and consider that maybe, it happened for a reason.

Unplug Yup. You read that right. Shut it off—the iPhone, the tablet, the laptop, the TV, and even the Kindle. Rest your eyes. Hell, even close them and take a second to embrace this human experience you are having. Think back to when technology wasn’t so advanced and all the things you used to enjoy instead of trolling Facebook and Twitter for hours. Maybe even try to incorporate those things back into your life for just a few hours a day.

Take a risk Have something you’ve been itching to do for years but the time is just never “right”? Well, here’s the sign you’ve been waiting for. Get out there and do it, because you’ve clearly been thinking it over for quite a while.

Strive for balance You don’t need to work out every single day. You don’t need to eat clean every single day. You don’t need to work overtime every single day. Because, let’s be honest, if you did all of that, every day, don’t you think you’d burn out? (Hint: the answer is yes)

Meditate daily Many of us get weirded out when someone talks about meditation. Well, at least I did before I actually tried it. I learned that it doesn’t have to be a spiritual experience. It can be a way to relax, to help you fall asleep, or to simply get in touch with your inner-self. I promise, it really isn’t all that cheesy. If you’re not sure how to start, here are a few great meditation podcasts to help you unwind.

Swallow your pride I’m not saying to refrain from taking pride in what you love—that’s a whole different ball game. I’m talking about practicing humility. Don’t assume that you can take on everything and anything. Don’t assume you’re better than anyone else. Heck, don’t assume at all. Although society constantly forces us to compare ourselves with one another, don’t fall victim to it. We are not living according to a scale ranked from one to ten. Stop vying for that power or importance we all so desperately seek, and just be. As Mark Twain once said, “Comparison is the death of joy”. So don’t preoccupy yourself with how many likes you got on that Instagram, how many favorites you got on your last tweet, or how pretty you think you [don’t] look in your NYE pics. It. Does. Not. Matter.

Practice gratitude Say thank you. To yourself, your mother, your brother, and even your cat. Everyone serves some purpose in your life. Even if you can’t figure out just what that purpose is, thank them for their mere presence. But most of all, be grateful for yourself. You are healthy. You are living, You are breathing. Give thanks.

Floss your teeth Your dentist has been on your case for years. Just do it. Successfully incorporating a small habit like this into your daily routine will help you add more significant (yet manageable) habits to your life when the time comes.

Forget the number on the scale It does not define you. It is not a price tag for your self worth. It isn’t even an entirely accurate depiction of your health. Please, this year, don’t make your resolution a number—especially one that no one ever has to know.

Pay it forward Ever get a surge of happiness, kindness, or a random burst of positive energy? Next time, pass that positive energy on to somebody else with a random act of kindness or gratitude so that he or she may pass it on to someone else in need. Maybe just sharing this post with a loved one could be your way of paying it forward.

Of course, New Year’s resolutions mean different things to different people. It is up to you to figure out how you will begin this New Year. You decide. Will you #RethinkYourResolution? Will you #ResolveToRaiseTheBar?