A New Year’s Index of Wellbeing

Young woman doing yoga on the beach

Before setting goals for the New Year, have you considered taking an index of your own and your family’s wellbeing? I find the broad outline of the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) a helpful place to start because it takes into account the complexity and interconnectedness of human society. It offers a deeper understanding of what constitutes social and individual good. It speaks about relationships, social interaction, and general enjoyment of life. It gives me a place to start as I set out to design my own ideal life with my own measurements of wellbeing.

Assess your own wellbeing.
While you are thinking of how to improve your life, consider the 64 indicators from eight broad domains of the CIW: living standards, community vitality, democratic engagement, education, healthy populations, environment, time use, leisure and culture. Some of the indicators are really only relevant on the national level. “Representation of Women in Parliament” under Democratic Engagement, for example, is probably 0% in your household, but you could create your own list of indicators for yourself, such as: know who your representatives are, know what laws are under consideration and voice your opinions to your representatives, and vote at every level from national elections right down to your city or town. If you make a list with just a few indicators under each of the eight domain areas, you can easily assess how well you are doing and mark the areas you would like to improve.

Then, keep your assessment and check back in with it one a month or once a quarter to keep yourself aware and accountable to your New Year’s check in.

What is under your control already and what needs some focused attention?
This year, a schedule has become my anchor. My own work is under control. I do it without fail, so I don’t need to pay too much attention to it. I know my children’s schooling needs some intense focus, though, so we are more scheduled than we have been before. I know I will never just happen to have time for yoga or my husband for tai chi, so we’ve added those to the schedule. If it’s on the schedule, we are sure to show up. I suppose that means that I’m approaching balance through the domain of Time Use.

Choose one thing, and embrace it.
If it seems too overwhelming to look at the broad view, just pick one thing you want to do. It’s easy to focus that way. For me, it’s yoga. I’ve told two friends who are yoga teachers that I’m going to do this, so I will feel accountable to them, and I’ve just told you, so now I’m accountable to you as well. Once you feel like you have one thing under control, choose another. You don’t need to wait for New Year’s Day or some other special occasion to set a firm goal for yourself, but don’t wait until you are ready. You might not ever feel quite ready. Stretch yourself at least a little to reach one specific goal. Do you want to redo your bathroom to accommodate your growing family? Do you want to learn to knit a sweater? Do you want to become involved in a local charity? Do you want to be certified as a doula? Figure out the first step, and take it—then take another.

Do it!
Dream big or plan tight, but choose one thing you can make your own this year. When it becomes a part of your life, choose another thing and do that with gusto.

Happy New Year from bynature.ca!

Image © Devy | Dreamstime.com

5 New Year’s Resolutions Worth Making

Woman writing in notebook

I like making New Year’s resolutions. This isn’t my only check in on goals during the year, but I like the scheduled reminder to look at my progress.

I also love the tools of goal setting. ‘Tis the season of new moleskine notebooks.

Simple Tracking

Despite my love of online goal trackers, I found over this past year that my most effective method of keeping on track was pencil and paper—colorful paper (that’s my motivator!). Simpler has been better.

Spreadsheets play a big part in my tracking as well. For any routine tasks, I use spreadsheets for check lists, time tracking, and dashboard measurements. I’m spreadsheet addicted. My favorite awesome spreadsheet guy has gifted a bunch of new spreadsheets to his readers this week. I noticed that my husband has been using a spreadsheet to keep track of his ambitious vacation to-do list, so I put the New Year’s Resolution Tracker in front of him and told him it is his. He’s a spreadsheet geek, too, so he’s actually excited to use it.

Simple is better. Use the simplest tracker that works for you, and get on to making your resolutions.

Goal-setting Cheerleaders

For those of us who relish goal setting, this is one of the best weeks of the year. I not only get to check in with myself and understand what I want, but I have a lot of great advice to read from others because everyone seems to be asking, “What worked in 2010? What are you going to do differently in 2011?”

One short post that stayed with me warned of the danger of setting big goals when we aren’t prepared. The solution? Think big, act small, and start today.

My plan to focus on just one thing worked very well for the holidays, and I’m going to stick with this approach in the coming year.

5 Resolutions

Make your resolutions a mix. I remind myself to improve my connections with the people I love, upgrade the things I choose to live with, and build my own happiness. Look around to see what you are motivated to start today.

If you need a nudge, here are five goals worth setting this year.

1. Spend Alone Time with Children

Schedule time when you can sit with one child, face to face just to talk, laugh, ask how things are, and enjoy being together.

You’ve heard that it goes fast. Especially if your children are still very small, let me tell you again that I think you’ll be as shocked as I am to find that your time with your children is almost over sooner than you think. Write it on the calendar so you won’t forget. Your child will learn to anticipate your time together.

2. Use Non-plastic Food Storage Containers

By now, you probably have a decent understanding of the problems with plastic. In particular, chemical toxins in some plastics can leach into food.

It seemed like a daunting task, but over the past two years I’ve switched all of the old, round plastic containers inherited from my mother (and from another era) to glass food storage containers with snap-on lids a lot like our popular wean cubes for storing baby food. I took a while to make the complete switch because I just bought a container here and there to keep the financial impact low and to be sure that I had sizes that we most needed. It’s a bonus that the new containers are square and stack well, so there is a lot less wasted space in my refrigerator.

Start with one cupboard or one starter pack of containers and improvise the rest of the transition one step at a time.

3. Schedule Date Night

It can be difficult to tear yourself away from your babies, but you need to. You need adult time to ground yourself and give your parenting time a positive context. Whether it’s a dinner date with your spouse, a night out with the girls, or even a night in when the children go to friend’s house while you stay home, your adult time can be rejuvenating.

When my children were young enough that they had only ever stayed with family or friends away from us, my husband and I traded time with friends. They got one night a week alone while we added their children to our herd then we got one night when they added our children to theirs. Sometimes 6-8 women from our play group left all of the men at one house with babies while we went out. To make this work, you need a circle of trusted friends or willing family. Start by making an offer to watch someone else’s children while they go out.

4. Use Reusable Cloths & Napkins

Go through your kitchen and your bathroom and replace any paper towels or napkins. Everyone in my family now carries reusable tissues in their pockets. I can hear my grandfather saying, “Handkerchiefs! They are called ‘handkerchiefs.’” Whatever they are called, runny noses do not have to mean full trash baskets.

Using reusable napkins and cloth tissues is an easy habit to make for the whole family. It is also a step toward bigger changes when everyone sees how easy it is.

5. Schedule Alone Time with Yourself

Checking in with yourself regularly is essential to making any kind of changes work for you. Schedule time for yourself and don’t break your dates. Don’t put everyone ahead of yourself then wonder where the time went. You could take 15 minutes before your children wake up to walk or shower or write, or you may need to make your Me Time part of your date night deal.

If you already have scheduled alone time, how can you improve it?

Whatever way it works for you, make sure your check in time includes reminding yourself to take several deep breaths then asking, “How am I?” and “What do I want from today?”

Start now!
Write down what you are going to do then take even one small step to move you closer to a goal. Your steps don’t have to be the same size every day, but don’t make your plans so ambitious that it’s just easier to forget it. Take a small step then take another if you feel like it.

Image © Jochen Schönfeld | Dreamstime.com

I Resolve to Change with the Season

Winter clothes line

Following up on the idea that fall feels like a new year, I asked Naturemom if she has any changes she is making this season. I think you may find her outside in the near future in the garden and with the clothes line.

Garden Plan

Naturemom says this is the year to get her garden ready for spring. She moved three years ago. Business and baby meant that she was short on time and energy for her garden, but she’s ready now. She’s motivated by the desire for her family to grow and eat their own fresh vegetables next year.

I Resolve to start planning for it now, or I know the best planting season will pass me by in the spring and it will be June again before I get to any serious gardening.

Winter Clothes Line

This summer Naturemom has been using a new clothes line, and this will be her first fall and winter. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can only dry clothes outside when it’s warm. Cold dry works wonders.

Though her youngest is nearly out of diapers (this does happen!), she made a point of saying that she would absolutely use a clothes line in winter for cloth diaper laundry. She encourages other parents to try this because of how great the sun and cold is for keeping diapers clean.

I Resolve to use our clothes line until the snow falls, and even give it a whirl a few times this winter (no promises on how often this will happen, though! I’m not a fan of the cold).

How about you? Any resolutions for changes you intend to make with the changing of the seasons?

Image © Denise Campione | Dreamstime.com

Save Green: Is It a Habit?

Green ChecklistToday is day #21 of my new Save Green Habit: run the stairs every day.

For me, is running up and down stairs a habit? Well, yes, but I’m going to put this one into the second round again. I thought I would be running 30 minutes a day by now. HA! Habit and strength are not the same thing. The habit is well in place but I want to push harder. Maybe I will keep this one as my focus until I reach my 30-minute goal.

For my husband, is turning off the computer a habit? Not yet. He thinks about it and talks about it, but he’s not doing it every day yet. He has said that he would like to put this one in for the second round again. He wants to make it work.

For my daughter, is knitting a habit? Definitely. She isn’t obsessing about amount of time spent, but she’s spending well over 30 minutes a day knitting. She has been knitting squares that she will sew into a pillow. I asked if she wants to add another habit for the second round. No, she’s happy and just wants to keep knitting.

For my son, is studying Chinese a habit?
No. He hasn’t been as interested in the language lessons as he has in practicing Kung Fu forms. THAT seems to be a habit now. He does it every weekday, and he always remembers to mark our calendar. For the second round, he has said he would like to focus on just Mandarin Chinese language lessons. I think that if I help him a bit in the beginning, that will help him to get in the groove.

Does 21 Days Make a Habit?

Habits ChecklistWhether 21 days makes a habit seems to depend on whether the person is really ready to make the habit. Having cheerleaders to check in on us and help us stay accountable only creates an external habit. We have to flip an internal switch to make a lasting change.

Isn’t that true of all change?

My family has enjoyed checking in with one another about our progress, so we are going to make checking in about habits, goals, and changes our new family habit.

Save Green: Save Money (and work out) through Babywearing

The Babywearing Work Out

Did you set a resolution to work out more this year? If so, congratulations! That is the top New Year’s resolution on 43 Things this year and seems to top most lists most years.

If you have a baby or toddler, how will you fit in time to work out? The answer is usually that having a baby or toddler IS the work out.

So, here is my lazy way to work out: wear your baby. If you are doing simple, upright stretches or even a bit of dancing, you can entertain your baby and do yourself some good at the same time.

Save Money by Babywearing

The prescribed buncha-gear lists for new parents include a stroller. If you don’t buy a stroller and you do buy a baby carrier instead, you could save a few dollars or several hundred dollars.

A low-end stroller is about the same cost as a medium-cost baby carrier. The high-end strollers, the jaw-dropping $300-500 jogging strollers not just the $1,000 triplet strollers, quickly leave even the most expensive baby carriers behind.

I bought a folding umbrella stroller anyway, though. Where else would I have put my shopping bags? These are not expensive, so, even with this stroller, you would stay on the inexpensive end of the total combined baby moving price range.

Spend Calories, Save Money

To be honest, I suspect it’s easier physically to wear a baby, spreading that weight through your strong back, than to hold a baby in your arms for much of the day. It sounds great, though, doesn’t it, to save money AND have help reaching your New Year’s resolution.

Today is day #9 of my new Save Green Habit: run the stairs every day.

Still running up and down the stairs. I wish my report was about how I’ve mastered the habit and I’m running for 30 minutes a day. I’m not. It’s hard! I am still pushing each day, but I really can’t keep going up for more than a few minutes at a time. I’m feeling good, moving faster, and just improving slowly upon slowly.