🌞Sunshine Blogger Award 8.0🌞

On September 17, 2019, Stiina Marie nominated me for the Sunshine Blogger Award. This would have been my 8th award and I was planning to complete it when I had the opportunity to do so. It usually takes me several months to complete these awards. Also, I am very picky about the types of awards I complete, mainly because these awards are so mainstream and repetitive these days. Seriously, everyone and their moms get these awards. People have even started naming awards after themselves, which is a bit self-conceited if you ask me #unpopular-opinion

Sadly, it looks like I am a little too late to the party. Instead of being greeted by a working link, I was greeted by this oh-so familiar message from WordPress, which felt a punch in the proverbial gut. If you are a blogger, you probably know what I am talking about:

Stiina Marie, I hope that you return to WP one day. It seems like the blogging community loses fellow bloggers on a regular basis, which is a real shame. Well, this concludes the Sunshine Blogger Award 8.0!

Thanks for stopping by! ❤

Just kidding. It would mean a lot to me if you grabbed a coffee and took a moment to read this blog post! ☕💕

screen-shot-2018-03-23-at-8-2116615623 (1)The Sunshine Blogger Award is per recognition award for bloggers who inspire readers by promoting positivity and bringing joy. Thank you, Michelle, for nominating me for the award on December 11, 2019. Michelle blogs about her personal life and offers practical advice that is not only relatable, but also covers topics like mental health and well-being. I highly recommend that you check out Michelle’s blog if these topics interest you. 


🌞Sunshine Blogger Award Rules🌞

The Sunshine Blogger Award has rules (surprise, surprise!). These rules ensure the success of this award, providing exposure to all the award winners. The rules are quite simple and straightforward.

Rules for Award:

  • Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link back to their blog so others can find them.
  • Answer the 11 questions asked by the blogger who nominated you.
  • Nominate 11 other bloggers and ask them 11 new questions.
  • Notify the nominees about it by commenting on one of their blog posts.
  • List the rules and display a Sunshine Blogger Award logo on your post and/or your blog site.

Questions I was asked:

1. What is your favourite thing about blogging? Engaging with my readers, responding to comments, and following interesting bloggers! I get more enjoyment from interacting with people than I get from writing blog posts and humble-bragging about myself.

2. What do you like about winter? Nothing, unless you count Christmas. That being said Christmas typically lasts 2+ months which is WAY too long.

3. What do you hate about winter? I do not like the snow, slush, ice, snow, melted ice, slush, and more snow. Scraping off icy snow from my car each morning and praying that my car will start is the most anxiety-provoking thing ever. We can talk about winter after you try living in Canada 🍁

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Photo taken on a cloudy, cold day in Banff, Alberta BC (Before COVID-19)

4. Do you celebrate Christmas? Absolutely. I didn’t go home for Christmas 2017 and I didn’t decorate my house. My husband was out of town so I ended up watching TV re-runs on Christmas day, which was really depressing.

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A non-traditional Christmas tree | Christmas 2019

5. Have you ever written a blog post and later decided not to publish it? Can you describe the post and why you decided not to publish it? I currently have 34 unpublished posts and 98% of them are blank drafts. They’re mostly just titles for potential blog posts. If I recall, I wrote a rough draft about my Steeped Tea addiction, but never ended up writing the final copy. It wasn’t really an addiction since I was able to easily quit the following month. I love Steeped Tea but it’s not worth the price of $2.30 per drink. I’m a broke, frugal student and this habit was burning a hole through my wallet. I will happily accept gift cards though! 💌

6. Which country would you like to visit and why? I previously answered this question in 🌞The Sunshine Blogger Award🌞 and to cut to the chase, I would love to visit Japan!

7. How do you overcome a struggle? Good question. When faced with adversity, most people would probably give up and quit. Most people like to play victim and use the “poor me” get-out-of jail card, which is a pet peeve of mine. You see, I don’t have victim mentality. I refuse to quit, and I learned to embrace challenges. Even at my lowest, when I was suicidal and diagnosed with major depression, I kept fighting. Did I mention that I live medication-free? It IS possible to function even if you have a mental illness. I just refuse to accept that my life is hopeless and that depression rules my life. In most cases, depression is situational.

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The Pug Life is hard too 🐾

8. Can you share one positive thing about yourself? I have a good heart ❤ People have told me that my advice can be harsh and abrasive, but I have good intentions. A good friend is someone who is truthful and honest, even if the truth stings. I believe that it is better to have a friend like that than someone who always agrees with you. And if I am wrong, please tell me and we can have a mature conversation about it over coffee sometime.

9. What is one thing you want to do that you haven’t done yet? I really want to graduate from nursing school! 👩‍🎓 I was supposed to graduate a year ago and I am ready to move on with my life.

10. What is your favorite song at the moment? I don’t have a favourite song. My favourite music genre is Chillstep. Also, Lo-Fi hip hop music is starting to grow on me but I don’t know if I would classify it as a favourite genre.

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I think I have 500+ subscribers now? I haven’t logged into this account in ages.

11. What is your favorite movie? I don’t have a favourite movie 🤷‍♀️


🌞SUNSHINE BLOGGER AWARD NOMINEES🌞

I have received several requests from bloggers asking me to nominate them for a Sunshine Blogger Award, so I decided to leave it open to anyone who wants to complete it! Please answer the following questions below ↓

Questions for You:

1. What year did you start blogging?
2. What is the theme of your blog?
3. What topics do you write about most often?
4. Do you write short stories? Do you write poetry?
5. How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected you?
6. Have you ever gone to a meetup, such as the meetups from meetup.com?
7. Have you ever sold something on Facebook marketplace? What did you sell?
8. Have you ever bought something from Facebook marketplace? What did you buy?
9. Is it better to be rich, boring person or a poor, adventurous person?
10. Can you share one positive thing about yourself?
11. What is one thing you want to do that you haven’t done yet?

And….GO!! I know you have very busy lives outside of the blogging world and I appreciate that you took the time to read this blog post! I look forward to reading your answers if you decide to participate in the Sunshine Blogger Award. 

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The Lockdown Tag | 2020 Edition

log-down-tag-imageHello, dear readers! I am still alive. I am barely hanging by a thread, but I am alive and this blog still thriving! I am currently in the middle of Spring semester and my courses rely heavily on essay writing and group work. Trust me, it is as boring (and stressful) as it sounds.😴 Since I don’t have a lot of spare time, I was looking for a blog post idea that wouldn’t take hours to write… then I stumbled upon this gem💎 My creativity is nonexistent right now, so I want to thank blogger Pooja for sharing this tag with me! If you aren’t familiar with her blog, I highly suggest that you check out her creative musings on her blog, Lifesfinewhine!


Rules for Award:

  • Thank the person who nominated you.
  • Answer the blogger’s questions. 
  • Nominate other bloggers. 

Questions I was asked:

1. What country do you live in? I live in Canada! 🇨🇦

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Mountains in Banff, Alberta

2. Favourite book? This is a tough question. I don’t really read fiction books, so a lot of the books I read are snore-worthy, self-help books. 😂

3. How do you spend your time during lockdown? During the first month of lockdown, I wasted most of my time doing unproductive things. Then school started near the end of April, which forced me to get my shit together. Now I am drowning in a pile of writing assignments which doesn’t seem to end. It is insane how quickly time flies, especially since this semester is less than 8 weeks long!

Study breaks with my kitty ❤

4. Have you tried cooking a new dish because of lockdown? When I am not busy with school, I am busy trying popular recipes that have been floating around the internet, such as whipped Dalgona coffee. Dalgona coffee is amazing, and you really need to try it. I used to think that instant coffee was yucky, but I assure you that it is not! Dalgona coffee is as divine as a fancy coffee drink from a coffee shop. Yes, it’s up there with the Starbucks Gods! ☕😍

Photo Credit + Coffee recipe: https://www.instagram.com/bbcfood/

5.Early riser or Night owl? I wish I was an early bird but I am a night owl!🦉 Given the option, I prefer night shifts over day shifts. Afternoon shifts aren’t bad but night shifts are the best! 😴🌙

6. Holiday dream destination? Cherry blossom festival in Japan! 🌸🌸🌸

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7. Favourite food? My Oma’s German cakes! While we’re at it, let’s take a trip around the world! LOL✈🌎 I wrote about my Oma’s desserts in an older blog post which you can read about here.

8. Instagram or Twitter? Neither?! I don’t like social media since it’s junk food for my mental health, and my mental health is SO delicate these days. I bet some of you are wondering if I have an Instagram or Twitter account. Yes, I do. My Twitter account is private which I seldom use for product reviews.

My Instagram account is @serene_hilz but I rarely update my account. Honestly, I am not a fan of social media right now. Feel free to follow me – my account is public but that may change in the future!

9. Favorite cartoon as a child? Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? Spongebob SquarePants! 
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10. What do you prefer on a Saturday night? Netflix or Partying? Neither?! I prefer to play video games on a Saturday night or catch up on homework that I may have neglected during the week. I usually let my homework pile up on weekdays and attack it on weekends. Yeah, I am weird and I know I fit the stereotype of an extreme introvert. Don’t judge me until you try it!


My Nominees:

https://reasonstolivefor.com/

https://stevescountry.com/

https://themoodymom.com/

https://kimswebsite.blog/

https://bournemouthgirl.com/

QUESTIONS FOR THE NOMINEES:

  1. Overall, how are you handling the quarantine?
  2. Have you violated any of the restrictions? If yes, what rule(s) did you break?
  3. What viral recipes have you tried during the lockdown?
  4. What activities have you missed the most during quarantine?
  5. Do you wear a mask when you leave the house?
  6. Are you an essential worker? If yes, what is your job title?
  7. How do you exercise during the lockdown?
  8. Have you subscribed to any new subscription services since the lockdown started?
  9. What did/does your daily schedule look like before the pandemic started?
  10. Do you think that the pandemic is getting better or worse?

And….GO!! There is no pressure to respond to this nomination. I am curious to know what your answers are if you decide to participate! Whether or not you were nominated, you are still welcome to join in on the fun!

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‘Tis the Season to Be Sick

Every year around the holidays, I seem to be one of the “lucky” individuals who gets sick. Last year, I caught bronchitis which started off as a head cold. Due to my crappy immune system, this nasty bronchitis refused to leave my poor lungs for several weeks which ultimately lead to an inflamed trachea. On top of that, I spent last Christmas in the ER. Thanks Santa! How thoughtful of you!

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Despite receiving the flu shot on Saturday, December 7, 2019, I wasn’t prepared for what was to come. From what I discovered over the years, the flu shot seems to work against me for some reason. However, the faculty insists that students receive their flu shots each year so that they can attend clinical practice. And this is kinda a big deal. If you don’t attend clinical practice, you automatically forfeit the entire semester. And anyone who has been following me knows why I cannot allow for this to happen.

On Sunday evening, I spent my waking hours in the bathroom puking my guts out. At one point, I didn’t make it to the bathroom on time and my poor husband volunteered to clean up the mess. I was in so much physical pain that I thought I was dying, similar to the memories from Christmas 2018. I didn’t see a magical light leading to heaven or anything, but if projectile vomiting is similar to what dying feels like, then yes, it was a near death experience for me.

Last night as I was lying in bed, I thought to myself, “This is it. I’m going to die. Pneumonia finally got me.”☠️ Memories from Christmas 2018 

It wasn’t just me who was sick this past weekend. My husband was the first one to get sick, so I spent the weekend nursing him back to health. Hey, I want to take some of the credit for making him feel better. It’s possible that I may have caught this stomach bug from him. However, he didn’t experience any vomiting whatsoever, so could it really be the same sickness? Yesterday evening, my toddler had a fever, but she displayed no signs or symptoms of being sick. Instead, she was full of energy and bouncing off the walls like any healthy kid. This morning, she asked us to take her to the playground so she could play on the slides. Not today, Rebecca. You still have a fever. You’re supposed to be sick. Silly girl. 

The Mystery Continues

Perhaps I had food poisoning, which is a possibility. Some of the food I ate last weekend was questionable, such as a bag of stale BBQ potato chips. Dollarama, get it together! 😑 Add 3 chocolate bars to my day’s worth of calories, and that binge could have been enough to cause a puking fest. We usually don’t eat junk food at home, but I thought it would be nice to surprise my husband with some of his favourite treats. He refused to eat any of it, so I ended up stuffing my face with chips, candy, and chocolate. Now, I am swearing off junk food for good, which could just be a temporary food aversion. Yesterday, I had a long conversation with Steve in the comments section over at Steve’s Country. He is super friendly and I highly recommend checking out his blog! 😀😺

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Always find something to laugh about every day. And if you can’t find anything, you can always laugh at yourself!

I am grateful that I am able to breathe through both nostrils. Thankfully, I didn’t end up with clogged sinuses or a stuffy nose. Try to stay healthy my friends, especially since there are sickly people everywhere this time of year.

Thanks for stopping by!

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I Attended An Anxiety Workshop | Part 3

This blog post is the final installment of the I Attended An Anxiety Workshop series. Please check out Part 1 and Part 2 if you haven’t previously done so, which give detailed descriptions leading up to this point. Thank you! ❤

During the month of November, I attended an anxiety workshop on campus called “Confront the Discomfort.I previously shared some techniques that were addressed in Session 1 and Session 2, and I was overwhelmed by the amount of positive comments and feedback I received from all of you. You guys are the reason why I continue to pour my heart and soul into blogging. Blogging is more than just a hobby for me. Blogging is an essential part of my recovery. 

be-still-be-present-be-mindful-quoteDuring Session 3 on November 19, 2019, we talked about positive coping statements for dealing with anxiety. I want to give you some examples of coping statements that I use in my daily life. Next time you are feeling anxious, I challenge you to try applying some positive coping statements similar to the ones I am going to share with you today.

Did you know that these coping statements can be used to manage stress, as well as phobias? Oh boy, so my fear of balloons can be overcome by repeatedly using positive affirmations? Even I am a bit skeptical about this one. Skepticism aside, let’s explore some coping statements, shall we?

♥ Let’s talk about coping statements ♥

(っ◔◡◔)っ ♥ Before we dig deeper into some examples of positive coping statements, what the heck are coping statements to begin with?! ♥

The best definition I found is directly sourced from www.choosehelp.com, which defines coping statements as “truthful positive statements used to replace the negative and untrue thoughts that take over when you feel anxious, stressed, angry and/or when facing overwhelming situations [such as phobias].”

I really love lists. I love lists so much that I had originally intended to write listicles for this week’s blog post. As I started writing these lists, it dawned on me that the material this week is quite dry and does not really spark excitement. If my own writing is gonna bore me to death, then chances are you’ll probably be bored out of your minds too. And nobody would want that. Not me. Not you. Not anyone. 🙇‍♀️

A Simpler Way to Remember Things: Draw a Picture

Disclaimer: Since I do not have the resources to draw and upload my own images for you, I am using images directly sourced online. All images shown below belong to the rightful owner, Rebekah, from @journey_to_wellness_. The images that I am displaying here are strictly for educational purposes ONLY.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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Rebekah from @journey_to_wellness_ does an excellent job at illustrating effective coping statements for dealing with anxiety.

♥ My New & Improved Listicles ♥

I’ve decided to take it upon myself to improve my otherwise boring lists by making them more visually appealing. This is literally the extent of my artistic abilities, and I know that these lists are not nearly as exciting as the previous illustrations. However, I hope that this information helps you find relief whenever you are feeling stressed out or overwhelmed.

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Coping Statements for Stress.pngWell, I hope you enjoyed reading the I Attended An Anxiety Workshop series as much as I enjoyed writing it! Any feedback would be greatly appreciated since I am trying to improve my blogging and writing skills. Have you used similar positive coping statements in the past when you had to deal with a stressful situation? Please leave a comment by joining the conversation below↓

Thanks for stopping by!

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I Attended An Anxiety Workshop | Part 2

This week is a continuation of last week’s blog post, titled I Attended an Anxiety Workshop. Please check it out if you haven’t read it yet. Thank you! ❤

On November 19, 2019, I attended the last session of “Confront the Discomfort, which is an anxiety workshop offered to students at my university. I’m technically a student but at the same time, I am not a student. I am registered as a student, but I haven’t taken classes since being forced to withdraw in April 2019. I will be starting school again in January 2020. A part of me dreads 2020 because I used to think that 2020 was in the distant future. Well future, here I am so watch out! 🙊

peace-social-text-square-templateDuring the summer, I stopped taking my antidepressant medication. Please do not abruptly stop any kind of medication without speaking with your doctor first. After quitting my medications and significantly reducing my caffeine consumption, I am feeling mentally stronger these days. Hopefully, the progress I have made will be enough once I return to school in the new year. Ultimately, I figured that I had nothing left to lose and everything to gain by attending this anxiety workshop.

“Stop being afraid of what could go wrong, and start being excited of what could go right.” —Tony Robbins

Shine Bright Like A Diamond

As mentioned in my previous blog post, I was unable to attend Session 2. Luckily, they were happy to fill me in on the details. Only I showed up for Session 3 (final week) so I got to word vomit all over ’em. Like diamonds, private counselling sessions like this one are incredibly rare, so I interpreted this opportunity as a blessing in disguise.

Here is what I’m having a hard time fathoming: One student in particular made a lame excuse as to why he couldn’t attend the last two sessions. Dude, here are 2 professionals who are willing to help you for FREE and instead, you rather turn down this opportunity? SMH. 🤦‍♀️

Tip of the Iceberg

Using the summary sheet from Session 2, we talked about The Anxiety Iceberg. If you have studied psychology, you’re probably familiar with this diagram. I don’t have an exact diagram to show you since the one they gave me is barren. Basically, the behaviors that we outwardly express on the surface are attached to underlying subconscious thoughts such as fears. What fears are holding you back in life? Why do you suffer from anxiety and what factors may have caused this? Most often, the root causes stem from negative childhood experiences. Our behaviors are a type of coping mechanism we have adapted in order to survive in the real world. In other words, your fears are meant to protect you.  

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What fears are you hiding under the surface?

As I dug a little deeper into my past, I learned that I have a fear of both success and failure. And balloons. I am afraid of succeeding at something that seems overambitious, like nursing school. In elementary school, I learned that peers will dislike you if you are the smartest kid in the class. In high school, I leaned that nobody will notice you if you are extremely introverted. Loneliness followed me throughout my childhood and adolescent years, which added to my depression and social anxiety.

In university, I was an average student. I took a mainstream degree so I could please my parents and win their approval. Unsurprisingly, a mainstream B.Sc. degree got me mainstream results. I stopped trying to stand out or achieve big dreams. I thought that I wanted to be like everyone else, but trying to fit into mainstream society DID NOT lead to a happier, more fulfilling life.

“Find light in the beautiful sea, I choose to be happy.” —Rihanna, Shine Bright Like a Diamond 💎


Emotional Activators: What is Really Going On?

Instructions:

  • Think of one emotional activator that triggers you.
  • Write it down on the tip of the iceberg.
  • Think of the memories, experiences, thoughts, and beliefs that contribute to this emotional activator in particular.
  • Then write these memories, experiences, thoughts, and beliefs under the water of the iceberg → This is what’s really happening.
  • What can you do to better manage/respond to this activator? Write down 3-5 strategies.
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Drowning to be reborn again as her true self. Source: https://wall.alphacoders.com 

Thank you so much for joining the conversation last week, and leaving such lovely and insightful comments. This week, I plan to finish replying to the rest of your comments. I apologize for taking my sweet-ass time, as I unintentionally got swept away into the addictive world of video gaming. 105+ hours later, I finally beat the game and awoke to the realities of life. As of today, this blog has gained 400 amazing followers which is a HUGE milestone for me. I want to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart, for spreading the love and helping to keep this blog alive.

𝕊𝕥𝕒𝕪 𝕒𝕨𝕖𝕤𝕠𝕞𝕖, 𝕞𝕪 𝕡𝕠𝕤𝕤𝕦𝕞𝕤.

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I Attended an Anxiety Workshop

I recently joined an anxiety workshop on campus because my cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) therapist suggested that I should see what workshops are available to students. Then she told me that she is happy with the progress I’ve made so far, and that I don’t need to book another appointment until the end of the year. Um, okay.

I have some mixed feelings here: Will I be mentally prepared to handle school in January? What if I have another major depressive episode like last time? Will the progress I made this year be enough to overcome failure? 

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“Confront the Discomfort” is the workshop I accidentally stumbled upon two weeks ago. When I signed up that day, I was innocently checking emails instead of studying, and thus, procrastinating like it was nobody’s business. This workshop takes place every Tuesday on campus and runs for a total of 3 weeks. I was unable to attend the second workshop since my toddler was with me that day, and I highly doubt that they would have wanted her running around and screaming the place down.

Fight or Flight

I admit that I was hesitant to join this anxiety workshop, since I often dismiss the possibility that anyone can help me with my problems. However, earlier this year I surrendered to defeat and accepted the fact that I do not have the answers to my problems. Shocking, right? I have some of the answers, but not all of them. Also, I am usually reluctant to join social gatherings since my natural instinct is to isolate myself from people. Social anxiety is real man, but I know that social anxiety is not an uncommon disorder. To make matters worse, [social] anxiety sufferers are the ones who are likely to refuse help, and thus, unlikely to attend these workshops in the first place. And yet, anxiety sufferers are the ones who are most likely to benefit by attending these workshops.

So far, I have only attended Session 1, and I plan to attend the Session 3 next week. I was unable to attend the Session 2 so I am missing that worksheet. Using the summary sheet from Session 1, I want to show you how to do the 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique and the 3-7-8 Breathing Exercise. Both of these techniques are effective at calming your nerves so that you can focus to the present moment. I’ve been using the 3-7-8 Breathing Exercise for months now and can confirm that it works quickly and effectively.

5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique 

Preparation:

  • Place both of your feet flat on the floor.
  • Lean back into your chair, and make a mental note of the feeling of the chair under you and against your back.
  • Cross your arms over your chest.
  • Gently tap your shoulders, alternating one side at a time OR place your hands on your thighs and tap one leg at a time.

Directions:

  • Find 5 things that you SEE in the room.
  • Notice 4 things that you can FEEL in the room (feet on the floor, itchy sweater you’re wearing etc.)
  • HEAR 3 things in the room right now (traffic, clock ticking etc.)
  • What are 2 things that you can SMELL OR 2 smells that you like?
  • Get 1 thing that you can taste (mint, gum etc.) OR 1 taste that you like OR think of 1 thing that you like about yourself.

3-7-8 Breathing Exercise 

  • Breathe in quietly through your nose for 3 seconds.
  • Hold your breath for a count of 7 seconds.
  • With pursed lips, exhale slowly through your mouth for 8 seconds.
  • Repeat the cycle as needed until you feel a sense of calmness.
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It is all about finding the clam in the chaos.

I am curious to know if you have attended workshops related to mental health, especially workshops focused on dealing with anxiety. When you were a college or high school student, were similar workshops available to you? If not, is this something that you would be interested in? Please join the conversation and leave a comment below ↓

Thanks for stopping by!

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31-Day Motivational Journal Review

I was hoping to publish a new blog post on Monday, but I found out that my grandmother passed away yesterday evening. I needed some space and time to myself to grieve. Nana, may you rest in peace, as memories of you live on. No matter what I do, I will always remember you. You always loved butterflies and even had a collection of beautiful butterfly figurines in your cabinet. Whenever I see a butterfly, I’ll know that you are saying Hi from up above. RIP Nana 🦋

“Butterflies are not only a symbol of transformation. They are heaven’s messengers, letting you know that your loved ones are by your side, always.” –Unknown

Speaking of transformations, I thought I would update you on my fitness journey. An interesting fact about my Nana is that she did yoga when she was my age. I did not know this until a couple months ago after I told her that I wanted to get fit. In memory of my grandmother, I will continue being healthy and live life to the fullest. She would have been 96 this year on November 5, 2019. Nana always seemed at peace and content with life. ♥️


31-Day Motivational Journal Review

As I begin to pick up the pieces from last night, I admit that I did not work out yesterday evening, but I plan to work out the rest of the week. Prior to working out, every day I ask myself the following questions: Why do I want to be fit and healthy? What is the point of working out 5-6 days per week? Is fitness simply for weight loss or am I doing this to keep depression at bay?

In August 2019, I met a kind soul named Benjamin Lee who runs a blog called I CAN DO. If you haven’t stumbled upon his blog yet, please go check out his blog! His blog is full of inspirational, relatable content about getting physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually healthy. Not only does he take the time to reply to his followers, but he also gave his readers a FREE copy of his 31-Day Motivational Journal. Thank you, Benjamin, for your kindness and generosity!

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Photo credit: Benjamin Lee, author of Faith, Family, Fitness, and Food 31-Motivational Journal 

During the month of August, I printed off the journal, completed the pages, and worked out even when I was travelling. Because I was 100% honest with myself, I was able to see where I made poor food choices or ate one too many slices of cake. I admit I am a grazer by nature. Instead of eating 3 meals a day, I prefer to graze on whatever is easily available in my kitchen. Now that I am wearing Invisalign, which is an alternative to braces for adults, I do not have the luxury to graze as I please. As of last Friday, I now eat 2 large meals a day (no snacks) and stopped drinking caffeinated beverages. I was told that coffee and tea will stain my aligners so I quit coffee cold turkey. Over the past week, I experienced some wicked headaches due to caffeine withdrawal so sleeping gave me some relief.

Sadly, I didn’t end up losing any weight during the month of August or September. However, I am gaining muscle and my physique is slowly improving. My body transformation has been slow so far, but I also think it is time to switch up my fitness routine again. Starting out, I did high-intensity interval training (HIIT) in the comfort of my home. All I bought was a $12.99 yoga mat and searched for free videos on YouTube. Ultimately, YOU choose how much $$$ you want to spend on health and fitness. Working out at a gym is optional. Lululemon is optional. So is that expensive Swell bottle you purchased from Costco. But exercise is FREE.

Let’s be real with ourselves for a minute. If you claim that you don’t have enough time to exercise because of x, y, and z excuses, you are wrong. You have plenty of time to work out. You simply choose not to work out because it takes effort and long-term commitment. You’re too comfortable being a lounge lizard and change is scary. It’s OK if you feel this way; we are human after all. Benjamin addresses the common struggles we face when we are first starting out and he challenges our limiting beliefs. I like that he gives a little pep talk each morning as if he’s standing right in front of me saying,

Yeah, I’m talking to you!!! Get up!!! –Benjamin Lee

No subscriptions. No fancy supplements. No BS.

Benjamin’s motivational mantras are very effective in my opinion, especially when you are first starting out. By Day 8 I wanted to quit but he kept telling me to push through the pain. Best of all, he gave me a rationale each day as to why quitting was not an option. I noticed I had more energy after a workout and wanted to share my progress with the world so I posted daily Instagram stories regarding my progress. IG stories helped keep me accountable and I helped motivate others along the way. IG gave me a sense of connection.

I like listening to Britney Spears when I work out! #Stronger

As much as I want to continue posting IG stories after completing the 31-Day Motivational Journal, I decided to take another hiatus from IG because my mental health is still delicate. At this time, I need to focus on my top priorities if I hope to crush my bigger goals. These days, I still work out 5-6 days a week but I don’t share my progress online. Instead, I keep track of my progress on a giant fridge calendar and reward myself with stickers. Because why not? It’s not nearly as fun as sharing IG stories but at the same time, I don’t need the distractions or the emotionally triggering content. 🙅‍♀️

Lemme tell you that my fridge calendar is not nearly as motivating as Benjamin’s daily words of wisdom. In the end, you’ll have to find a method that works for you. Remember, getting and staying fit is now part of your identity. Eventually, you’ll need to spread your wings and fly on your own. Even if that means rewarding yourself with stickers.

Remember, physical and mental health are interconnected, and one cannot function very well without the other. What good is it if you have an attractive body but your mind is a mental mess? You need to feed your body AND your mind with diet and exercise. His journal will help you do just that. 🧘‍♀️🌱

I am curious to know if you work out on a daily basis. If you do, what is your favorite type of physical activity? Please leave a comment by joining the conversation below ↓

Thanks for stopping by!

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Improving Sleep Hygiene

As somebody with a history of depression and the tendency to stay in bed all day if only my toddler would let me, I struggle with sleep hygiene. During my second cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) session last month, my therapist gave me a list of ways to help improve my sleep hygiene. I want to share these helpful tips with you, especially if you deal with frequent bouts of insomnia or have mild to moderate depression.

Improving Sleep Through Behaviour Change

Stimulus Control Procedures

  1. Go to sleep when you are sleepy.
    The longer you stay in bed, the more the bed is associated with a place to be awake instead of asleep. If you need to, delay going to bed until you are sleepy. No, this does not mean watching TV or using your smart phone. Screens emit a blue light which messes with your circadian rhythm.
  2. Get out of bed when you cannot fall asleep or go back to sleep in 15 minutes. 
    Get out of bed if you cannot fall asleep after giving it your best effort. It is better to get out of bed than it is to keep laying in bed with your ruminating thoughts. Once you are out of bed, return to bed when you are feeling sleepy again. The goal is to associate your bed with sleepiness.
  3. Only Use the bed for sleep and sex.
    Avoid other activities that do not involve sleeping or lovemaking. Activities to avoid include watching TV, listening to the radio, eating, or reading in your bed.

Sleep Hygiene Guidelines

  • Caffeine Avoid consuming caffeine 6-8 hours before bedtime. Caffeine disturbs your natural sleep rhythm. I would suggest cutting off caffeine consumption around 1700 (5:00 PM) so you will feel sleepier prior to bedtime.
  • Nicotine Avoid nicotine before bedtime because nicotine is a stimulant which keeps you awake. Avoid tobacco before bedtime and during the night as well.
  • Alcohol I don’t know about you, but alcohol makes me drowsy. Even though alcohol promotes the onset of sleep which makes you feel sleepy, alcohol also interrupts your natural sleep pattern. Avoid consuming alcohol less than 4 hours before going to sleep.
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Because we don’t get this drink in Canada. If it’s fruity and sweet, I’m probably going to drink it.

  • Sleeping Pills Sleep medications are an effective short-term treatment for people who struggle with falling asleep at night. However, sleep medications lose their effectiveness in approx. 2-4 weeks when they are taken regularly. Over time, sleeping pills may actually make sleep problems worse due to dependency; withdrawal from the medication can cause insomnia. Use sleep medications only if you need them and avoid relying on them long-term.
  • Regular Exercise Do not exercise within 2 hours of bedtime since exercise excites the nervous system and interferes with your ability to sleep. I am guilty for exercising right before bedtime…
  • Bedroom Environment Your bedroom should have a moderate temperature and it should be quiet and dark. Personally, I leave the window open at night and close the blinds. Also, I sleep with earplugs and an eye-mask which helps a lot.
  • Eating A light bedtime snack, such as a glass of warm milk, a banana, or a piece of cheese can promote sleep. Avoid eating snacks in the middle of the night because awakening may become associated with hunger.
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Eat all the yummy things; my mom really knows how to host a party! 🥳

  • Avoid Naps OK, I am totally guilty of this one! I love afternoon naps and will occasionally take an afternoon nap, typically lasting at least 1 hour in length. Now that my toddler lives with me 24/7, she doesn’t let me take naps. The sleep you get during the day will essentially take away from the amount of sleep you need that night. If you must take an afternoon nap, schedule it before 1500 (3:00 PM). Do not seep more than 15 to 30 minutes, according to doctors’ recommendations.
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Now that is the biggest yawn I’ve ever seen! 😂

  • Unwind Before Bedtime Allow yourself at least 1 hour before bedtime to unwind. Find what works for you to wind down, and give yourself an hour to do so. Consider reading a book or writing in a journal before you fall asleep.
  • Regular Sleep Schedule Keep a regular time each day (7 days a week) to get out of bed each morning. Keeping a regular waking time helps set your circadian rhythm so that your body learns to sleep at the desired time each night.
  • Stick to the Plan Set a reasonable bedtime and rising time, and then follow through with the plan long-term. Set the alarm clock and get out of bed at the same time each morning, regardless of your bedtime or the amount of sleep you got the previous night. This guideline is designed to regulate your internal biological clock as well as reset your sleep-wake cycle.

Monkey Business by Rebecca Tan 🐵

I would greatly appreciate any feedback or tips that you have for fighting insomnia. Let me know if anything on the list has helped you achieve a good night’s sleep by joining the conversation and leaving a comment below ↓

Thanks for stopping by!

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28 Life Lessons Learned

I had good intentions to publish this blog post on August 4 which was my 28th birthday. Fast forward two weeks, only to realize that I had forgotten to edit it. Now I am finally getting around to publishing the damn thing. 5+ hours later, my back aches, my feet hurt, and I am surprised that nobody has kicked me out of the food court where I am mooching off of A&W’s WiFi. My husband is meeting clients today so I really have no excuses while I wait for him downtown.

It’s the Thought that Counts!

Overall, my birthday was OK. Nothing too eventful happened unless travelling 7+ hours counts as an exciting trip. Even tough I only flew across Canada, there were many stops along the way which extended the trip. Since moving out west, flying has become the norm for me so my birthday was just an ordinary day. To celebrate my very belated birthday, I wanted to share with you 28 things that I learned in 28 years. This list is in no particular order since I wrote the outline while waiting in the airport, but each item on the list has shaped me into the person I am today.

28 Life Lessons Learned in 28 Years

1. Life is unfair. Get used to it. #tough-love  

2. Insomnia is real and can be really debilitating if you let it rule your life. 

3. Cats and dogs make fantastic friends. Lizards….not so much. You can’t cuddle with a lizard but they make great conversation starters when forced to awkwardly engage with people.

4. And you fall, and you crawl, and you break many times over. Avril Lavigne got it right. #complicated

5. Life isn’t static. It’s constantly changing, so it’s better to change along with it than to resist change.

6. Being uncomfortable is a GOOD THING. You need to step outside of your comfort zone in order for real growth to happen. And you’ll be one step closer towards reaching your goals.

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All credit goes to Sarah Andersen → Sarah’s Scribbles

7. Quality over quantity. The number of likes and followers does not matter in the grand scheme of things. Social media is also quite meaningless unless you’re trying to brand yourself or provide value to people. Blogging provides tons of value IMO and it took me several years to discover that I really enjoy writing for an audience.

8. Minimalism is a great concept and we can all benefit by learning how to live with less stuff. If you would like to learn more about how minimalism has positively impacted my life, you can read about it here.

“The secret to happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.” —Socrates

9. Don’t treat your body like a dumpster. Respect yourself by being kind to your body. 

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10. Learn to accept and make peace with yourself because nobody else can do that for you.

11. You don’t need friends to be happy and being extremely introverted is not a flaw in your character. 

12. Most people will lie to you or let you down, including family. Be prepared for friends to disappoint you as well. If anything, lower your expectations to live a happier life.

13. There is truth to meditation. We should learn to embrace this ancient practice. 

14. I am scared of aging and looking my age. I really don’t want to live to be 90+ years old. Genetics suggest that I will live well into my 90’s. A vivid dream I had when I was a little kid suggests that I will live to be 64 years old.

15. Failing at something does not make YOU a failure. I still haven’t made peace with my failures yet, since my recent experience with failure is still raw and painful.

16. Not everyone is going to like you no matter how hard you try to please them.

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17. There is truth to mindfulness and finding greater consciousness. Make it your ultimate goal to aim for self-actualization by referring to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. At one point, Maslow’s Pyramid was the background image on my desktop. Can you tell that I like psychology? 🙊

18. After all these years, The Amazing Race is STILL my favourite reality TV show. I watch the Canadian version as well even though it’s not as good as the original series. I don’t keep up with the latest TV shows on Netflix because TV is a HUGE time waster, but I will make a scene if I miss out on watching “The Great Race.”

19. Strong negative emotions are meant to protect you, that is, if you are still living in the stone age. 

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You can find my latest Instagram stories @serene_hilz

20. There is no need for cookbooks as long as you have an internet connection. You can find everything you need online for FREE! I enjoy learning how to make delicious recipes that are kinder to my body, since I am intolerant to white flour, dairy, and refined sugar.

21. Sugar is highly addictive and should be considered a drug. It’s impossible to quit. I even published a post about how to give up sugar, and even I cannot follow my own advice. Hypocritical of me, eh?

22. You can grow bean sprouts in a jar. Bean sprouts are not only cheap, but they’re also nutritious. You can find affordable jars at your local dollar store. You don’t need a special lid or anything fancy to grow bean sprouts. I used a tutorial from YouTube to grow beansprouts. The whole process is very easy and straight-forward.

23. If you don’t have dental insurance in Canada or the US, do yourself a favor and get dental insurance. Since the problem wasn’t resolved years ago, I’ll have to spend thousands of dollars to pay for orthodontic treatment and jaw surgery. I have no choice but to go back to nursing school and face that beast. These “luxuries” in life cost $$$.

24. I don’t drink alcohol and I don’t smoke. Marijuana recently became legal in Canada but I still have no desire to smoke weed. The cannabis culture does not appeal to me and actually disgusts me. NO THANKS. 👎

25. It is OK to spend money on things that bring you joy. Cats, unicorns, steeped tea etc. Cats bring me joy so we adopted a kitty in April 2019. Steeped Tea from Tim Horton’s also brings me joy. I stopped buying steeped tea in April 2019 to save some pocket change but later decided that the benefits of saving money did not outweigh the enjoyment I get from drinking my favourite beverage.

26. Have a growth mentality instead of a shrinking mentality. Do not settle for less than you deserve in life. Always look for opportunities for growth, whether that means aiming for financial security or finding a career that will sustain you. My husband deserves credit for teaching me this life lesson.

27. I believe that there is a soulmate for every person on this planet. Ladies, if you are still single, consider this as a plausible reason:

“Someday my Prince Charming will come. Mine just took a wrong, got lost, and is too stubborn to ask for directions.” —Unknown

28. It is OK to be yourself even if people don’t always get you. For example, I am hypersensitive to noise and a little neurotic at times. My automatic response to loud noise is to cover my ears and cry. I have cried at a loud football game, I have cried at a loud pub full of drunk people when I was 3 years old and when I was 23 years old. Oh there ain’t no other way because baby, I was born this way!

img_2937_19727604261_o.jpgWell, there you have it. I could keep going but I am feeling 28 right now. Which life lesson(s) did you relate to the most? Please join the conversation and leave a comment below ↓

Thanks for stopping by!

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Breaking Trust

1:00 AM: My heart is pounding through my chest and anger rages through my veins like a forest fire. I’m not angry – I’m furious. I feel like the carpet has been pulled out from under my feet by some prankster. Right now, I’m sobbing like a 2-year old who desperately longs for a comforting hug and a popsicle to soothe the pain. In reality, I am an adult and I won’t be eating any popsicles tonight to help me self-soothe the pain away. The pain I feel is emotional and I’m not the type to eat my feelings anyways.

I apologize for wasting your time with another depressing post. If you would prefer to read something more uplifting and positive, feel free to click away. Because this is the internet and everyone can read my blog posts, I cannot openly express who hurt me or share the juicy details with you. That being said, this post isn’t directed towards you or anyone else in the blogging community. I am writing this blog post because it’s incredibly painful for me to fathom what happened last night and I just want to be understood.

As some of you already know, 2019 has been a bad year for me. I try my best to stay positive but it’s difficult when I’m dealing with $hit that is VERY triggering to my mental health and well-being. Tomorrow, I have my first cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) session on campus so I plan to discuss my anxiety and trust issues with the therapist. I have been on a 3-month waiting list so I am grateful that I am finally getting some professional help.

What the hell is happening to the world?

Everyone handles anger differently. My anger accumulates in the pit of my stomach which makes it difficult for me to eat after experiencing hurt or betrayal. My negative emotions feel like a tangled ball of anger, envy, jealousy, and frustration towards everything that’s wrong in my life right now. It is like I am drowning in my own sea of negative emotions and I have lost the ability to breathe.

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This elegant image of Miku Hatsune illustrates depression in an artistic way. Source: https://weheartit.com/entry/253679447

As Sheldon states from The Big Bang Theory, “Everything is changing and it’s simply too much!” After being mislead and lied to by my loved ones this week, I don’t know who I can trust anymore. I have been lied to by friends in the past which seriously sucks, but loved ones… really? Am I destined to be lied to by everyone I encounter in my life? What other secrets have they been keeping from me?

10:00 AM: In my book, lying is NOT okay. From the moment I met you, I made it very clear that lying is unacceptable and that I won’t tolerate it. However, you made the choice to keep me in the dark by making me oblivious and ignorant to the world around me. Like they say, ignorance is bliss…. but is it really bliss? Even though you felt like it was best to protect me during my most vulnerable moments, you still lied to my face and broke the foundation that we worked so hard to build. You probably felt like I was too emotionally unstable to handle the truth, but you also kept me in the dark. Right now, I’m having a hard time trusting anyone including you.

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Trust is a fragile thing – difficult to build and easy to break.

How does it feel when you realize that you’ve been lied to? Do you believe that it is ever OK to lie to someone? Please join the conversation and leave a comment below ↓ I really enjoy reading your comments! ❤️

Thanks for stopping by!

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Manifesting Money Using LoA

Disclaimer: I haven’t read the book, “The Secret,” so I don’t know what I’m doing regarding manifestation. I’ve read a few articles in which I am basing my general knowledge plus guidance I’ve received from bloggers who are more experienced with the Law of Attraction. Thank you, Nova’s Namaste 365 Online, for reassuring me that I really did manifest something on Friday! ♥️

To be completely honest with you, I feel like I am not knowledgeable enough to be writing a post about how to manifest anything using the Law of Attraction (LoA). However, yesterday evening I had a very real and freaky experience where I manifested money within 24 hours after having a dry spell of zero Kijiji sales this past week. I even considered deleting my current ads or significantly lowering my prices to hopefully increase leads.

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#positive-vibes

A couple days ago, I noticed that I was low on cash and down to my last $5 bill. It’s a personal choice of mine, but I try to pay using cash as much as possible to encourage more mindful spending. Later that day using silent prayer, I asked the universe for some money and I specified exactly how I would obtain this money, down to the minute details such as $amount and type of bills. Usually, I will focus on what I want and try to channel my energy so that I have a clear vision of what I’m trying to manifest.

This step is VERY important. You need to create a clear image in your head and believe that what you’re trying to manifest is abundant and available to you. 

I have experienced these little “miracles” on multiple occasions, but I did not connect the dots until now. Most of these miracles involved money manifestations since money makes the world go round, so I am starting to understand why so many people believe in the Law of Attraction. I celebrated my little victory by treating myself to a delicious Jasmine Green Milk Tea [bubble tea] from Chatime at a local bubble tea shop in the heart of downtown Calgary, AB.

img_3305_19712725211_oIf you are feeling adventurous and would like to learn how to make bubble tea at home, I posted a Mango Coconut Bubble Tea recipe listed under the “Smoothies” tab. If you are currently using the WordPress Reader, you will need to open a new window in order to access the page.

I am curious to know what awesome things you have manifested using the Law of Attraction. Please join the conversation and leave a comment below ↓

Thanks for stopping by!

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Practicing Gratitude 🙏🏻

I used to think that keeping a gratitude journal was silly and a waste of time. However, I’ve learned that practicing gratitude can positively influence one’s mental health and well-being. Since having a major depressive episode on April 4, 2019, I started being more mindful of my negative thought patterns as well as making mental notes of the good things that are happening in my daily life. Now, I really wish that I had written these good experiences down. As I continue to gain control over my mental health and work on managing my depression, I plan to eventually quit my antidepressant medication for good. I have a doctor’s appointment scheduled this Thursday to discuss options.

Previously, I haven’t been keeping a physical list of the things that I’m grateful for in my life. Rather than thinking of obvious things that most people are grateful for like food, shelter, family etc., I’m trying to dig a little deeper by appreciating some of the mundane things that many people take for granted. Remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs that I previously talked about? Let’s assume that my physiological needs (food, water, sleep, sex etc.) as well as safety needs (roof over my head, resources, property etc.) have already been met.

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My Gratitude List:

1. I tried meditating outside in the courtyard for the first time. The view is quite pretty, especially in the evening. Will I be meditating in the courtyard tomorrow? Probably not. I prefer to meditate from the comfort of my balcony.

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Beautiful view from my balcony this evening. I walked barefoot in the grass today which felt rejuvenating.

2. My husband strongly encourages me to go back to nursing school in January 2020 even though I am afraid of failing again. He suggested that I follow a study schedule by studying for 2 hours a day. So far, this is day 3 and I like to take my sweet time reading this textbook. If I follow this schedule, I calculated that I will have the entire textbook read in three months. A lot of students use this textbook to help them study for the NCLEX-RN exam but I plan on using this textbook to brush up on the fundamentals of nursing and re-learn concepts that I may have missed in school.

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This is the textbook I am using. Right now, I am reading a really boring section about ethics. I have to study ethics each semester which is a requirement by the University.

3. My husband and I walked to the mall this afternoon (and back home again). It takes half an hour to walk there and I was initially reluctant to go. I told him that he owed me a Starbucks beverage if I dragged my ass there. On the bright side, I survived the heat wave and also got my 10,000 steps for the day.

4. When we finally arrived at the mall, I tried the Strawberry Pink Drink from Starbucks and it was really yummy. 😋 Since I’m frugal AF and rather not blow all of my money on Starbucks drinks, I’m going to try and replicate this delicious beverage on the weekend. The DIY recipe that I found comes from www.nutmegnanny.com and their photos are mouthwatering! 😍

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DIY strawberry-coconut refresher recipe and photo credit sourced from nutmegnanny.com

5. I scored some good deals today at Bath and Body Works. Even though I really cut down on my spending over the years, I still buy things from time to time as long as these items are on sale. Today I saved $19.51 because both items were discounted at 75% off which makes me happy. Also, I broke even on some lottery scratch tickets and yet, I still got enjoyment from scratching the lottery tickets without taking a loss. For some reason, today I felt like treating myself!

What are some things that you are grateful for today? I am also curious to know whether or not you keep a gratitude journal. Please join the conversation and leave a comment below ↓

Thanks for stopping by!

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