2020 Gratitude: Daily Walks

I try to take a preventative approach to my health – both mental and physical. When lockdowns first started, I knew I had to find some way to go outside in order to not feel so cooped up and let my body (and mind) breathe.

I used to publicly post all of my walks on Strava, but stopped in August, when my count reached 91 total walks (!!!). I have kept tracking them in the app, and have been relying on the regular walk challenges (sometimes 4 times a week, sometimes 50K in a month) to force myself out, even when it feels tough.

Though I used to feel bad about not going for runs anymore, I soon realized that my body needed a break after an intense marathon training season. I’ve also taken advantage of the lack of races to explore alternate forms of exercise that I would not have normally taken up when I was running 5 days a week, like strength training and pilates.

My favorite parts of taking these walks have been exploring my neighborhood and soaking in the sunshine and greenery around me. Though I suspected that being out and about was important for my mental health before (again, I was out running 5 days a week!), taking these walks on my own accord throughout the year has truly hammered that point home for me. I’ve even noticed a dip in my mood and temperament when I don’t get out and move my body outside.

2020 Gratitude: French Press

I completely intended for this gratitude series to be one-a-day from December 1st until December 25th – oops! There are still many things that I want to express gratitude for from this year – so I’m going to wrap up the year with the rest of my posts that have been on my to-do list.

I usually try to drink nicer coffee beans (because I’m one of those), but I could not resist this bag of Dunkin’ Polar Peppermint ground coffee when I saw it! Thankfully, it is terrible, and now I know not to fall for zippy marketing!

I have a weird relationship with coffee. In high school, I guzzled bottled frappucinos like crazy and wondered why I had trouble falling asleep at night. In college, I learned about caffeine (it really took me that long!), and used coffee from the dining hall to carry me through long all-nighters. After college, I took advantage of my office’s neverending stash of iced coffee to adjust to the 9-to-5 life.

As time has gone on, I’ve realized that bad sleep was affecting my life negatively and focused more and more on my sleep hygiene. I’ve alternately tried cutting out caffeine all together, replacing coffee for black tea, replacing coffee for green tea, and only drinking coffee when I felt like I “needed it” to get me through a long day of meetings or exploring a new city while travelling. I love the smell and taste of coffee, but, on the other hand, the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life (so far!) has been intense caffeine headaches.

In quarantine, however, I’ve learned to lean on little pleasures to carry me through the day, and coffee has emerged as one of those many little pleasures. At first, I wanted to go to each of the coffee shops in my neighborhood every morning to support them through the pandemic, but quickly realized that this was not financially sustainable! Instead, I decided to invest in a French press and bags of locally roasted beans to make coffee at home.

Coffee has carried me through many rough mornings throughout this year. Boiling the water, grinding the beans, and pouring out my morning cup has become a grounding ritual, and a way to start my day without jumping straight into work!

2020 Gratitude: Discord

image from protocol.com`

I started using Discord in late summer. One of my friends introduced it as an easier way to configure voice chat while playing games of Among Us.

However, while we first started using it as a way to talk about video games, it has become an invaluable way for me to keep in touch with friends that I was struggling to maintain regular communication with.

I’ve never been great about reaching out to individual people unless I had a specific reason to – and those reasons are few and far between, especially now, when not much is happening, ever! Instead, I leaned a lot on group chats, where I could rely on other people to throw out topics of discussion and participate on an ad-hoc basis. Though this worked out fine for a while, especially when I could still see people in person, it started to become less reliable for me as time went on. I eventually narrowed my range of group chats down to a small amount, which was good for my easily distracted brain, but ultimately bad for actually keeping in touch with a wider range of people about a wider range of topics (as many of those chats were created for specific purposes or discussions about specific things).

However, Discord has allowed me to expand my horizons! Through the different rooms, I still have the structure of focused “group chats”, but with the ability to mute and lurk and and jump in whenever I want, without having to worry about people noticing that I’ve muted a chat, or feeling excluded from conversations. These servers also include friends that I do want to keep in touch with but have never had specific reasons to talk to, giving me a convenient way to have organic conversations with them.

Keeping up with friends has always been an immense source of stress for me – ask my therapist about it! – and while Discord doesn’t solve all of my problems (honestly, it’s created some new ones), I think it’s been a net positive, and I’m looking forward to continuing to use it in the new year!