CultureSkills

There’s something undefinably pleasing about knowing you’re the first, only, or one of the few.

Perhaps it hearkens back to our primordial roots, the ones that spread from Africa to the Americas in pursuit of survival by any means necessary. When our prehistoric cousins finally did discover how to survive by some means, they must have felt something similar to how we feel when we define ourselves through bold action and unusual experience. Breaking from the norm and achieving survivability in an unconventional but effective way – that was truly impressive.

Similarly, when we skip the cliché and seek the unorthodox, we engage in behavior that is more than just hipster nonconformism. Nonconformism for its own sake is usually more pretentious than purposeful. Nonconformism for our sake is different: it grounds us in our personal purpose, teaches skills and skills-building, and leads to innovation and creative diversity. Thus, breaking the mold with intention always succeeds in some way or another.

In contrast, cliché is the typical pattern of things done by people before you. It might be well-tested, but it’s also tried. It might be popular, but it doesn’t necessarily fit or serve you. Moreover, taking the typical path might get you to where you need, but certainly does not provide you (or anyone, for that matter) with trailblazing perspective and fresh experience. In fact, sticking with the cliché actually diminishes your potential returns because you can rely on others for help or use their methods to get through. In other words, you can cop out.

The most likely result of taking the most likely path is learning the most likely lessons – not that there’s anything wrong with that, but there’s much more to be gained by seeking the unorthodox.

If you’re like most, you have a daily or weekly routine. Routines can be useful: they’re efficient and they give us a sense of security by putting order to chaos. Amidst the multitude of options available to us, we usually choose to do the same things consistently because it allows us to plan/strategize our lives more effectively. Exercising in the evening, buying groceries twice a week, going to school Monday through Friday… This is our routine, and it gives us the ability to easily schedule a proper time and place.

However, if you’re like most, your routine also starts to drag after a while. We know for certain that work starts at 9am, ends at 5pm, and there are X more days until the weekend when we can binge-watch old seasons of Breaking Bad on Netflix. The thrill has long been gone. Even though we have the opportunity, we choose to adhere to routine because it’s easy and the consequences for doing otherwise can be high. Who hasn’t thought about quitting their job to [insert dream here]? Which of us has actually followed through?

And so, skipping the cliché means reframing routine as ritual. It means grounding oneself in personal purpose. That’s not to say that you should go quit your day job – you shouldn’t, but rather, you should find ways to get excited about living your unique life. Rediscover awe. Turn the things that drain you into the things that sustain you. Commuting is a chore, but it’s also 45 minutes to enjoy music and audiobooks; data entry is mindless, but you’re doing it now so that you don’t have to at your next job. Your daily routine can become a ritual of self-empowerment helping you gain the insight you need to achieve your long-term goals.

Once you’ve left the clichéd road more traveled by, find the one less traveled by. Ditch the yes-men, the doubters, and the stubborn status quo-ers; exit the whole system entirely and trailblaze your own path. THAT is truly sticking it to the Man, dude. If you encounter difficulty along the way, it will force you to troubleshoot, work around, and creatively problem-solve. Confronting the unfamiliar is an opportunity to see life from a different paradigm.

Seeking the unorthodox provides you and those around you with effective, constructive knowledge. Living and sharing atypical experiences is a way of contributing to the collective human understanding. By going down alternate pathways and living to tell the tale, your insight can be compared and contrasted to the norm. Think of it like you’re adding data points to the cumulative data set, thereby making the subsequent conclusions more precise. It’s a way of fact-checking: does traveling to China always result in the same set of experiences? If you stick to the cliché of visiting the domineering, capital of the world, Shanghai, or pop-historical megapolis, Beijing, then it might. But what does your trip to Dunhuang, Tang Dynasty city near the Xinjiang-Gansu border, have to say? More than likely, your trip to ancient China’s remote outpost will offer unique perspective and a fresh take on what it means to travel to the Middle Kingdom.

Simply put, by avoiding the cliché and opting for the unorthodox, you can become more grounded in your personal, compelling purpose while gaining perspective, skills, and insight for yourself and your community. That’s a pretty great deal if you ask me. You can even start slow – set your alarm one minute earlier and brush your teeth with your awkward hand. Feel inspired yet?

Image: Flickr

Health

You think you’re healthy, but have you ever wondered what it’s like to have a stress-free morning? Many times, we don’t realize that being healthy goes further than being physically healthy; it has to do with being mentally healthy, as well. There are many do’s and don’ts: do exercise, do eat plenty of fresh greens, don’t go near processed foods, don’t munch on late those night snacks, and do check out that yoga center that’s just around the corner! Although these are all great things, we must not neglect to underscore the importance of maintaining a stress-free morning routine.  Consider these few tips to help keep your morning game on!

Avoid Technology First Thing

How to not check those morning streams of Instagram posts, flips of late night Snapchats, or the urge to text X friend about X morning thought?  However, resisting technology and avoiding grabbing your phone or touching that computer for the first hour of waking up will allow you to hold the peace of mind to focus on just yourself. It also decreases your reliance on technology and you will be able to concentrate on other important things. Morning texts, e-mails, appointment alerts, and social media feeds spark the first dose of mental stress. It’s best to simply stay away from white noise, artificial bright lights, and overall technology in order to focus on yourself for that first hour.

Drink Water

There is nothing more revitalizing that chugging a glass of water at the break of dawn. Studies have shown that water cleanses your blood from toxins, which in turn, makes your skin glow and renews your cells by increasing the rate at which new muscle and blood cells are produced. Also, nutrient absorption is boosted by purifying your colon. It also helps balance the lymph system and fluids in your body. But the best part? It spikes your metabolism by 24% which means that this is great for weight loss! Who knew that simply gulping down water could do such wonders to your body? Try a cold glass of water, or warm water with lemon.

Meditate and/or Exercise

Every person is different, and there are different ways for each person to meditate. Meditation can consist of doing yoga, sitting in silence, showering with essential oils, or even take a quick trip outside to be with nature. Walking outside, watching the sunrise, and even going for a run on the dawning beach is a great way to clear your mind. Also, meditation is for a great way to begin the day in a peaceful surrounding and to encase your mind with positive thoughts.

Exercising first thing in the morning is also a great way to start your day. Whether you exercise inside or outside, increasing your heart rate does wonders for your body. Working out first thing in the morning is a smart way to get your daily sweat out of the way. If the weather is good, get your fitness on outside. Studies show that you will be a happier person if you are outside. In the University of Essex, they have studies that have shown that “green exercise” or exercising outdoors can improve your self-esteem and mood. I would say this is an excellent way to start your day!

Avoid Rushing

Rushing is an integral part of American culture. America is constantly running to get to work, school attendance, an appointment, an event, a meeting, a flight etc. The point is, we never want to be late, yet we are always on the verge of it. This is perhaps one of the most stress-inflicting things that the body can go through. You can avoid this by picking out your next-day’s clothes the night before, making a to-do list in the evening so you won’t forget anything in the morning, and the most effective one, I think: wake up extra early. This will give you the peace of mind that there is no way you can be late since you’ll be able to avoid rush hour or any other incidents that may impede on timeliness.

Shower with Cold Water

Turns out, there are more health benefits to cold water than just drinking it! Showering with ice cold water is incredibly beneficial for your body, as painful as that may sound. It increases your metabolism fifteen fold! After exercise, cold showers also help your body recover by reducing soreness. Heart rate increases when exposed to a surge of chilled water which in turn, causes faster blood flow which will up your energy big time and help you avoid hypertension and the hardening of arteries. There was a study at Virginia Commonwealth University showing how cold water stimulates the main source of noradrenaline, or a chemical that may be used to decrease depression. All in all, starting off your day with a cold shower is a stress reducer and yes, I will repeat, very healthy.

Any of these tips will be great to implement into your current routine. It feels great to start your day off on the right food! How do you maintain a healthy morning routine?

Image: Unsplash

HealthWellness

Morning, kids! The school semester has officially started. Whether you’re in high school or in college, I’m sure you’re having a great time hitting that alarm and rolling out of bed. I’m not. I think it’s awful.

As a senior in college, let me tell you now: it doesn’t necessarily get easier as you get older. But you figure out ways to trick yourself into believing it does. Something I like to do when I first wake up is think about what tea I want to drink the morning. Yes, tea.

Lying in bed, I’m still enjoying the comfort of my pillow and blanket. But I translate that into a good cup of tea, and that makes me want to get up more. Some people drink coffee, some drink tea, some drink orange juice or a smoothie. Whatever you like, let that be what helps you get up in the morning.

Here are some things to think about when you’re getting your tea and coffee, especially if you’re just starting a routine:

1. Find something easy on your stomach. I know some people who can’t have cold things in the morning, and then there are people who drink iced coffee in the winter.

2. Drink something that doesn’t make you crash. Some people can handle their coffee intake, but then they’re knocked out on the desk or drooling in front of a professor five or six hours later. Take everything in moderation, including your caffeine.

3. Switch it up. A different milk, a latte, Earl Grey. I usually get English Breakfast with milk and sugar, but sometimes it’s good to break the routine and try something new. The morning cup of joe, like college, can provide a routine and stability. But sometimes changing things up can be healthy and refreshing.

Tea and coffee may seem like a small thing, but small things can make life easier and enjoyable. Once winter comes, it will be comforting, and during the spring, it will be reliable. Have a good semester!

Image: Unsplash

CultureSkills

It is difficult in this day and age to find an individual who isn’t connected to one account or another. It’s surprising if someone can honestly say they don’t have at least one social media account. I was born into a generation that has never experienced a world without social media. I opened my first social media account at the ripe young age of 11 on MySpace (not the required minimum age of 13…shhh).

Since then, I’ve always had something. But it hit me this summer how dependent I’d become to social media. It was scary, to be honest. My usual morning routine always included checking Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook before heading out for the day. It isn’t fair to say that social media isn’t important because it definitely has its uses. Social media connects people in ways that never would’ve possible 20 years ago. Twitter, Facebook, and other social media accounts can be used not only for personal reasons, but also as a way for potential employers to learn more about you. A well-managed social media account can say so much about a person. However, it’s nice to disconnect for a while. The longest I’ve lasted is a week without checking any of my social media accounts. I realize a week is not actually a long time, but short as it was, it was extremely refreshing. So give it a try! Who knows what you’ll learn about yourself.

A few tips for managing a successful social media account:

  • Show your personality, but be wary of what you post. Don’t anything that you might be ashamed of later.
  • Be sure you have permission when posting anything involving someone else.
  • Post a variety of things! Even the most artsy shots of any specific thing can get boring after a while.

The dangers of social media:

  • Customize your privacy settings. Some accounts, like Facebook, connect you with not only associates and co-workers, but also family and friends. You may post something intended for close family members to see but not anyone else, or vice-versa. Make sure your settings are air-tight.
  • As I mentioned before, just because a picture of you and friends having a night out might be of interest to others, that doesn’t mean that it should be posted. If maintaining an account with only one privacy option (like Instagram – either private or not private), be extra, extra picky with what gets posted.
  • To put it simply, don’t post anything that may come back to haunt you later. Our parents don’t have to worry about an impulsive tweet posted at 2 am when they were 18 coming popping up somewhere. We do.

We’d love to know – do you tweet?

Image: DeathtotheStockPhoto

Skills

For as long as I can remember, I have been a morning person. I drag myself out of bed even if I am tired because I can’t stand the thought of wasting my morning. At least that what it feels like to me…wasting. For some people, sleeping is a great use of their morning. It differs for everyone. Not only are mornings great because of the beautiful sunrises, but also because there are so many things that can be accomplished before the busy day begins.

Though no morning is exactly alike, I try to keep some consistency to my mornings. When I was in high school, classes were scheduled pretty early, so my mornings weren’t as flexible as college or post-college life. Therefore, I would spend my afternoons doing the majority of my hobbies, activities, and school work. Once I went to college and had more schedule flexibility, I was able to either choose classes early in the morning or spend my morning however I desired. I find that my mind is clearer in the morning and I have more energy overall.

Nowadays, my mornings look a little something like this:

6:30am: Rise and shine!

6:45am: Catch up on overnight news, blog posts, promote my own blog posts, and read through emails.

7:15am: Eat breakfast. I love mornings because I love breakfast. Put any type of breakfast food in front of me and I’ll eat it.

8:00am: Start or finish a project (for school or work). My focus is sharper when the world is quiet and people are still sleeping so I try to do my more challenging tasks during this time.

9:30am: By this time, it almost feels like the afternoon. I’ll switch gears and work on another task, take a little tea break, and check my social media channels.

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Want to improve your mornings? If you don’t do these already, try them:

1. Eat breakfast. When you wake up, you haven’t eaten for 8-10 hours. Eating will give you the energy you need to power through the first half of your day.

2. Tackle your most difficult task or top priority. Again with the focus and the quiet environment. Take advantage of the silence when your roommate or family are sound asleep.

3. Personal time. In addition to accomplishing a task, take some time for yourself. The rest of your day will be spent studying, in class, or working, so you might as well do something to boost your positivity. This could mean going for a run, practicing yoga, reading, or skimming new blog posts.

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In 2012, author Laura Vanderkam wrote a book called What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast. The title is pretty self-explanatory, but the book provides steps on how to be more productive in the morning. By making little changes here and there, she shows us that we can change our overall behavior, better utilize our mornings, and further enrich our lives. Even if you are already a morning person, there might still be some interesting points that you can implement into your daily routine.

Are you a morning person? What is your morning ritual?