You’re Taking Notes, Right?

I can’t believe we’re already on the 8th Adventuring on a Budget post. How the heck did that happen? I’m pretty sure it’s only been a couple months since I set out to “prove” that a wellness lifestyle is not just for the privileged.

I also can’t believe that I am only now covering one of the most important parts of improving your personal wellness: keeping a journal (or 4 or 5 like I do, or is it 6?).

How can you possibly keep track of how your wellness is evolving if you aren’t writing it down? How can you science without data? Maybe you have perfect recall, which is awesome, but for the rest of us it’s a good idea to write things down.

I use my journals for almost anything. I write down business/blog ideas, I write out a daily mantra, I plan my schedule, write down what I’m grateful for, and of course, write down how things are going with my latest resolution. I also write poems and essay outlines.

I’m honestly not sure how I used to manage.

Keeping a journal was a chore for me at first. 750words helped me get over that initial hump. I loved that it analyzed my daily writing to give me cool pie charts showing my attitude, emotions, etc. Pie charts with bright, happy colors even! It got me into the habit of writing things down every day and I haven’t looked back.

Where you start is up to you. You don’t *need* pretty, pretty pie charts and word analysis to get value for your efforts. Like with pretty much everything else I’ve written about, consistency is key to getting the results you want.

Do you already keep a journal? If not, what would it take for you to start?



Culinary Adventuring

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food -Hippocrates

One of the coolest things to come out of my adventures these past few years is seeing how changing my diet has changed my life. I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been, and I’ve started to really enjoy eating food that I’ve made myself.

This wasn’t always so; I was all about convenience food. I only had a couple dishes in my repertoire, and while I liked experimenting, most days I just couldn’t be bothered (ah, my old priorities!).

Luckily, there are people who love to experiment and blog about it.

Yes, this is a post about food blogs.

I love food blogs. You can find recipes for just about anything, and they can really get you out of a rut. Plus, seeing all the gorgeous pictures people post of their dishes got me to step up my presentation.

I think experimenting with new recipes gives me the same kind of satisfaction that learning anything else new does; it expands my horizons. I’ll never forget the summer I decided to learn to cook Indian food, it was awesomely fun (and tasty, but so much canola oil…)!

Here are a few suggestions to get you started, then go forth and enjoy! Culinary adventures await you!

  • Oh She Glows (this is my favorite vegan blog, everything I’ve made is delicious! be sure to check out “the best shredded kale salad”)
  • Deliciously Ella (so many awesome veggie recipes, this site got me hooked on celeriac)
  • Manjula’s Kitchen (this is where I learned some Indian dishes, all vegetarian and lots of gluten-free)
  • I Quit Sugar (this is the place I use most often now, quitting sugar has been the best!)

Any recommendations for me? How about favorite recipes?


Play Outside

Many years ago I had a gym membership. It was a nice little neighborhood gym, with very few intimidating members. It was mostly older women, come to think of it.

I lasted for about ten months, then the expense (as well as boredom) got to be too much.

Now I do most of my exercise outside (even in the winter, back when I could ride my bike, I was a 365 commuter), and I love it. It’s amazing what a difference it makes when I walk or run outdoors.

In fact, I’m pretty sure that all the walking and climbing on ice formations I did this past winter is what kept me feeling good all the way into the middle of February.

Now that it’s officially summer for us northern hemispherers, it’s great time to take advantage of the free opportunities for activity and exercise presented by the great outdoors.

Personally, I like to run over to the lake a couple mornings a week and then play in the water as part of my cool down. Evanston’s lakefront trail is cool too, they have some neat workout stations along the trail.

Pick a spot that inspires and refreshes you, and do the activity of your choice. The lack of climate control adds a nice little spice to things, and you really can’t beat the price!


Think Community

The first yoga class I ever took was a free community class held by Patricia Hyland on Sunday evenings. It was an amazing introduction to yoga; Patricia was so warm and welcoming, plus it was free! I have also gone to some amazing community meditation classes and events.

One of the aspects of yoga and meditation that resonates most strongly with me is the idea of community and generosity that so many studios and individuals embrace. In spite of needing to make a living*, there are so many options out there for people with limited means to still get the benefits of attending these types of classes and workshops.

Once again, our friend the Internet makes it easier than ever to find local resources. Just use the search engine of your choice and search for “free (yoga/meditation) your city” and give a couple classes a try. Here’s a website listing free and donation yoga classes for Chicago.

*It was such a good day when I realized that I had enough money to start paying for classes again. I get more out of them because I am paying in time and money now, so I am even more present. Plus, it feels great to make a financial contribution toward someone else living their dream.


Make it Social

One of the biggest pleasures of doing Women Out Walking so far has been the social aspect. Even when I’m alone, it’s so much more fun to walk knowing that I’m participating in something larger.

How can you make some of your exercise into a group activity? Local women can still sign up for W.OW.* For my other readers, there are many ways you can make fitness a social experience.

The simplest way is to start a walking group of your own. Recruit some friends and set up a time to walk together (the more frequent, the better!). You could start a private Facebook group to arrange walks and encourage each other in between. If you’re looking to meet new people, why not set something up on  Meetup?

If you’re feeling ambitious, you could ask your city’s Health and Human Services department to explore doing something like W.O.W. where you are. It’ll take organization, time, and probably some luck, but you have very little to lose.

Fun is such a key component of wellness. We often tend to overlook how important it is to achieving our goals. How likely are you really to stick with an activity if you’re bored or unhappy? If you make it fun you’ll be more likely to stick with it, and I think you’ll be happier overall.

* Speaking of W.O.W. I am leading a group walk this Sunday, May 3rd. We’re meeting in front of Heartwood Center at 9:30 am to carpool over to the North Branch trail where we will walk for approximately 60 minutes. Please come join me if you can! (Note that this event will be canceled if it rains.)


Take a Class!

I write a lot about the health component of wellness, but that’s really only one small facet. To truly be well, we need to nurture and support all parts of ourselves as human beings. One very important way to do this is to develop ourselves creatively.

Having a pleasurable creative outlet can help us get in touch with the other opportunities for creativity in our everyday lives. Plus, it’s an opportunity for fun! One of my big goals with this blog is to encourage myself and my readers to have more fun with our lives. As strongly as I believe that wellness should be accessible to everyone, I believe it should *not* be a chore (at least, most of the time).

There are lots of low-cost classes out there, in almost any subject you can imagine. The only guidelines I suggest are: that you chose something that really excites you, and that you only stick with it if you’re actually having fun.

One year ago I chose to take guitar classes, because I had always secretly wanted to learn to play. It felt really good to know that I had that time set aside for my own development every week. I’ve also discovered that I’m not as passionate about this hobby as I’d hoped, so I’ll move on to something else soon (if you’re reading this, MT, I promise belly dancing classes will happen!).

Choose something new to try, and keep at it until you find something you love. Whether it’s music, or dance, or learning a new language, it will be time well spent.

An App for That

…cultivating mindfulness has a way of giving your life back to yourself… -Jon Kabat-Zinn

It’s no secret that meditation/mindfulness has had a big impact on my overall quality of life during the past year. I’m very fortunate to work in a place where there are some amazing teachers. Taking a meditation class, and/or working privately with a professional can be a powerful and empowering experience.

When I was beginning my exploration of meditation, I didn’t have the budget to work with a professional as often as I wanted to. I needed to find a supplement to it. Here’s where technology came to my rescue: meditation apps! Please note that I don’t intend to advocate these as a replacement for professional guidance; also, I am a student, not a teacher.

I currently have two of them on my phone, and there are plenty more to choose from:

Insight Timer: This was the first meditation app I downloaded, and I think it was a fantastic introduction to the concept. It has both a timer and guided meditations. It also shows you how many people are meditating at the same time as you, and there are groups you can join. The free version only has two options for sounds and no interval bells, for $2.99 you can get the deluxe* version and have more customization of your timer.

Meditation Timer: This app is a timer only, it has no guided meditations or community groups. Why choose this one? There are lots of options to customize your timer in the free version. You can set interval bells, reminders, a daily goal; this timer is cool. You can buy the pro* version for $3.00.

* I’d suggest starting with the free version of both apps to see which one you like better. Once you decide, if you’re able to upgrade it’s a nice way to support the developer.

Quote: Kabat-Zinn, Jon. Mindfulness for Beginners. Boulder: Sounds True, 2012. Print. Page 1.


This blog does not contain medical advice, nor should it be used as advice on exercise or diet. Those seeking advice should speak with your physician and any other appropriate health professionals. Adventuring Toward Wellness is intended for informational and fun purposes only. No liability of any sort is assumed for the use of this website.


Inaugural AoaB post

This is the first of my monthly series of posts called “Adventuring on a Budget“, the plan is to post them on the last Wednesday of every month in 2015. This month’s post is going to be fairly short so I’d like to take some space to further clarify my intentions with this series.

Wellness is a term that gets thrown around a lot, and generally in the context of particular lifestyle brands. It’s often associated with wealth and privilege, and I get the sense that many people believe it’s a lifestyle choice they can’t afford to make. My intention with these posts is to dispel that notion. You can absolutely make wellness a part of your lifestyle without spending a lot of money on it. What it really takes is time, commitment, and creativity. In the past few years I have made this lifestyle change on a very limited budget, and I want to share that with the world.

I’m also writing these posts from the perspective of someone whose livelihood depends on having enough people willing and able to pay for my services. Even on my limited budget, I still pay most of the wellness professionals I see in cash. Much like I prioritized my time so that self-care activities come first, I prioritized my budget so that the things which most directly improve my well-being come before the things which are luxuries for me (going to the movies, eating out, etc.). I definitely want to encourage those of you who already work with health and wellness professionals to keep it up; and to encourage anyone who can to add these services into your life as needed.

One of the first resources I always look to for self-care ideas is the library. It’s so obvious, and yet it was years before I thought to really maximize my library use. Anytime I hear about a book that’s relevant to my current needs I check the library first. It’s almost never at my location, but CPL’s website makes it so simple to transfer the books I want from libraries all over Chicago.

You don’t have to live in a large city of take advantage of more than your own local library’s resources. Most libraries are part of inter-library lending systems to increase the number of books patrons have access to. When in doubt, reach out to one of your local librarians; they are what makes libraries so fantastic.

I’ve checked out so many books on self-care topics from meditation/mindfulness to cookbooks and dietary guides written by health professionals.I would absolutely not be where I am today without the help of my local library.

*I’d like to take this opportunity to copy the disclaimer from my “About” section:

This blog does not contain medical advice, nor should it be used as advice on exercise or diet. Those seeking advice should speak with your physician and any other appropriate health professionals. Adventuring Toward Wellness is intended for informational and fun purposes only. No liability of any sort is assumed for the use of this website.


Adventures on a Budget

That turned into quite the Thanksgiving vacation! By the time my train pulled into Chicago, I knew I was going to need at least a couple more days to get back into the swing of things. I have a very hard time keeping up with my self-care routine when I’m not at home. I finally felt like myself again over the weekend, but of course then I had clients! Anyway, it’s good to get back to the blog.

It was worth the trip just to teach this guy about blankets. He became quite the thief.
It was worth the trip just to teach this guy about blankets. He became quite the thief.

I’ve mentioned before that one of the ways I’m taking better care of myself is by doing almost all of my own cooking, and mostly from scratch. I have a couple of blogs that I check regularly to get recipes when I’m stuck. I’ve noticed that many of the highly visible voices in cooking (and I think wellness in general) belong to people who seem to be pretty financially comfortable. I don’t know any of them personally, it’s just the impression that I get. What about people of more limited resources who are looking to improve their health and well-being?

Starting next year, I plan to write one post per month that focuses on free or low-cost ways to improve self-care. As a wellness adventurer on a budget, I feel pretty equipped to discuss this. I’d like to share some of the ways I’ve improved my own sense of well-being, and I hope that you will share what you do as well. Look for the “Adventuring on a Budget” category for this series. Because wellness is for everybody.