Saturday, November 13, 2010

Halfway Through

“Change begins with drawing a line between now and something different, then crossing it.” -Talent Revolution

Today is November 15th and I am officially halfway through my first 30-day Personal Revolution. I say first, because creating a new 30-day bucket list is something I plan to commit to at the beginning of each month.

Why did I start this now? I mean, for a lot of people, January is the beginning of the rest of their life, right? Well, for me, it’s around October of each year that I start thinking about making some changes. It might have something to do with my birthday falling in October, or because here in Toronto, the weather is changing.. leaves changing to wonderful hues of orange, yellow and crimson, the temperature starts dropping and the days become shorter. All of a sudden, the summer is a distant memory. The world is changing around me and it speaks to me about making some of my own changes.

Back to my 30-day bucket list. How am I doing? Well, on some things I’m doing great, and on others, not so much. Let’s start with what I’ve found to be the most challenging - my fitness goals. Twice a week yoga and twice a week workout at the gym or a run outside. Over the past two weeks I’ve met half of those goals each week. The yoga’s been good, but the rest, not really. I need to figure this out and adjust for December. Finding something I enjoy doing is important and I’m just not enjoying the gym. And it’s too cold to run outside. I’ll figure it out.

Last week I attended my first Third Tuesday Toronto meet-up and had the pleasure of listening to @RichardatDell speak about social media at Dell. Interesting and a great opportunity to get together with a room full of people who are doing social media. I also joined TweetGasm, a monthly meet-up of social media people at the Gladstone Hotel here in Toronto. By the way, the Gladstone Hotel's website describes the term "Tweetgasm" as a word "to describe a tweet that was too good to be true, causing intense elation and sharing in the Twittersphere!" Interesting - I can hardly wait to attend! Haha. Point two on my bucket list is moving along nicely. I've also made an effort over the past two weeks to engage in more conversations online. Sitting back and observing comes much more natural to me, so this is one goal I need to keep working at.

I’m happy to report that I have not bought even one item of clothing since I committed to it in my blog and it feels great! I’ve also found that I have plenty of clothes and am in need of nothing. One of the secrets to keeping this promise to myself is of course, staying away from stores and malls.

I have started painting my kitchen walls a lovely "classic ivory" and I should be able to finish by the end of the month. The kid’s room, however, will most likely be pushed to my December bucket list. I’ve also put a good dent into my Christmas shopping.

The last point on my list is probably the area where I have made the most progress and am most excited about. Unfortunately I’m unable to be completely candid in this space about it, but let me just say that I'm beginning to see some of my dreams for the future unfold, and it's pretty exciting!

So that’s how I’m doing at the halfway mark. I'm "drawing a line between here and something different..." How about you? What’s on your bucket list for the next 30 days?

Monday, November 1, 2010

My 30-day Personal Revolution

After months of searching for the perfect conference on social media, I finally decided on Ungeeked Elite in Toronto. Reviewing the agenda, it looked as though there would some excellent speakers, great content and it was happening in my very own city. Attending a social media conference had been a goal of mine for this year, as part of the coaching program we have at T.E. Wealth. It had been a few years since I had attended one and I knew it was time to be updated, refreshed and connected to what was happening in the world of social media today. I wanted to attend a conference that wasn’t too basic (after all, I had been using social media tools for a few years now) or too technical. I’m glad I attended Ungeeked Elite, it was exactly what I had been looking for.

One of the speakers, Amanda Hite (she reminds me of dark-haired version of Jackie Warner, whom I adore) is full of energy and spirit. She’s one of those women you notice the moment she enters a room. Amanda (@sexythinker) spoke about her journey from corporate America to what she does now at her very own company - Talent Revolution . Her story was so inspiring, and the video she showed us at the end of her presentation, "Live as if addicted" brought tears to my eyes. Her presentation inspired me to try her “30-day Personal Revolution” on my own. The idea is to create a 30-day bucket list based on the values of authenticity, lifestyle, and purpose. You set your goals, 30 days at a time, and become your own change agent. To keep yourself accountable, you publish your list and update your followers via Twitter, using the hashtag #TR30days. So here goes.. today is November 1st. Follow me if you’d like, at @wendypgreene.

My 30-day Personal Revolution - November

I will give my attention to the people who genuinely care about me
I will seek out opportunities to connect with others doing social media well
I will practice yoga 2x each week
I will run or go to the gym 2x per week
I will not buy even one item of clothing
I will be more engaged online
I will paint my kitchen
I will finish my Christmas shopping!
I will clear out my daughter’s play room
I will daily seek the direction in which to go that makes me happy

Wish me luck! And go watch the video that sparked this for me.. It’s really good! Oh, and one more thing.. What’s on your bucket list for the next 30 days?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Most Like Me

Last night I visited the little fishing town of Puerto Morelos, located just south of the bustling tourist city of Cancun, and known for it’s spectacular coral reef just off the coast. One of my Mexican friends, an aspiring distributor of Mexican Mezcal was on his way there for business and invited me along for the ride - a thirty minute ride north of Playa del Carmen.

I first visited Puerto Morelos last June with my daughter. We arranged a snorkelling excursion through the Snorkel Shop in Playa, and into the minivan we climbed for the ride to Puerto Morelos. I’m told that the residents of this town are very protective of their area - preserving the coral reef and limiting developments. It was nice to see a city that looked as though it was still pretty much in its natural state. You’ll find no glitz or glam here - the feel is more small, natural, real. I loved it. The beach was beautiful.. and empty. Quite the contrast from the crowds along the beaches of Playa del Carmen and of course, Cancun. Small, colourful fishing boats lined the beach as we sat and ate lunch that day.. It was lovely and the snorkeling excursion off the coast, with the beautiful schools of fish, conch, barracuda and many other wonderful underwater creatures, was definitely the highlight of our trip.

As we pulled into town last night, we passed a park where families were milling around, their small children chasing each other and happily playing. We stopped at La Panza es Primero for dinner - a chain restaurant housed in a large palapa-style building that sits facing the beach. (Click on the link to see their very cool website.) Even before I stepped out of the vehicle I could smell the fish (it is a fishing town after all). Decorated in the Mexican wrestling theme, we took our seats in the restaurant on blue and pink plastic chairs, facing the peaceful ocean. The service was friendly and attentive, and the fish fillet I decided on (I had to have the fish!) smothered in mango sauce, rice, beans and vegetables was delicious and filling. A mojito complemented the meal nicely (don’t they always?). My friend ordered a caramel cake dessert but I was too stuffed to partake.. He finished it off, no problem.

We were soon off to our second stop of the evening, a little bar called Bara Bara. Filled with what looked like locals, there was a real community feel to that bar which made you instantly feel at home. For such a small out of the way bar, I was struck by a few men sporting stylish hats.. It somehow felt out of place but at the same time fit perfectly. Bara Bara reminded me of some of the bars I visited years ago in Trinidad - a local neighbourhood bar that pretty much stays the same, year after year. (I have to make mention of the service, which I have found all over Mexico - while I was sitting and happened to reach down and scratch an itch on my leg, a man quickly came over to me and offered me bug spray. Can’t say that has ever happened to me in any other country I‘ve visited!) While a couple of patrons played foosball just outside the entrance, I enjoyed another mojito and some good conversation with my friend. A perfect bar on a perfect evening.

Earlier in the week my Canadian-living-in-Mexico girlfriend asked me where in Mexico I would choose to live , if given the opportunity. I gave it some thought, and although I have visited some really beautiful and special spots in Mexico over the past year and a half, I couldn’t pinpoint one particular area as my favourite. It wasn’t until last night that I could answer her question. Puerto Morelos feels most like me.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Three Things I Learned from a Trip to Mexico with my Daughter

Last June I took my fifth trip to Playa del Carmen, this time with my nine year-old daughter. I was excited to show her the Mexico I loved and I fully expected my trip to be the same as the past four had been when I visited alone, maybe minus the nightlife. Yeah, not so much. These are just a few of the things I learned on this last trip.

It's okay to change plans.
I had fantasized about what our days would be like, and was excited to show her the spots I liked to frequent and spend my time. It didn’t turn out that way though. On our first day we walked the many blocks to Kool Beach Club. I love everything about this club - the food (their fish tacos are to die for), the ambiance, the tunes - it’s a fine way to spend a beach day. Taking my daughter there, however, was a different story. On the morning we arrived, ready to spend a fun day at the beach, the ocean was quite rough with huge waves so my girl wasn’t too comfortable swimming in there, even with me. Kool has a pool, but it’s for adults only, which was unfortunate. Also, I realized that sitting on a lounge chair while she played in the sand just wasn’t going to work out too well.. it's just the way things are set up there. I could see that my fantasy of replicating my trips to Playa with her was not going to be possible, so I needed to be flexible and come up with a new plan. We ended up walking back to the beach in front of Fusion restaurant, which was located pretty close to our hotel (Hotel Azul) - a hotel with a lovely pool set among the trees, in case we needed it. It turned out we did need it and spent most of our days between the pool and the beach. No lounge chairs on this trip - just our towels on the sand. It was perfect.

There's more to buying a hammock than meets the eye.
My girl had brought money she had been saving. I showed her how to exchange it at the airport into pesos, and the whole currency exchange sort of amazed her. The first night in Playa, walking down 5th Avenue, among the many shops, my girl spotted the hammocks in among the merchandise. For whatever reason, she has always loved hammocks. We once decided on one hotel over another because one had a couple of hammocks on the property. Every chance she got, she could be found relaxing in one of them. So there we were, walking along the main strip with hammocks on either side of us, in different styles and different colours. We bargained with a few vendors (she loved this as well) and in the process learned more about hammocks than I ever cared to know. Cotton, nylon, silk, double stitched, single stitched, chair style, laying style - who knew there was so much to know about hammocks! Armed with the knowledge of a few days of asking questions and bargaining with various vendors, my girl decided on an orange and yellow, laying style hammock made of silk, double stitched. She spent about $30 for it. And she wants to hang it in her room. I haven’t quite figured out that one yet.

Eating ice cream EVERY night after dinner is a fine tradition.
That’s right, every night. I don’t think I had ever eaten ice cream in Playa before that trip, but this quickly became a new tradition while we walked up and down 5th Avenue after dinner. This is how it would go - first stop was Haagen Daz for two scoops in a cup for me, and then across the street to the gelato place for my girl. They got to know us there. Pretty funny that my girl’s first gelato experience was in Mexico. She teaches me every day to take pleasure in the little things.. guilt free.

I experienced so much with her on that trip - we often talk about it even now, four months later. She loved Mexico as I do, and in fact, didn’t want to leave. She loved the people, the culture and the food (chicken tacos at either Fusion at the beach or El Tulipana at 5th and 16th were a favourite - if it were up to her, she would have eaten them every day). The photo above was taken at Fusion - dinner right on the beach. Her favourite excursion was snorkeling at the reef off the coast of Puerto Morelos with the Snorkel Shop - they took such great care with her and gave her the experience of her life. She loved the butterfly conservatory, giant turtles and (of course) the hammocks at Xcaret Eco Theme Park. We walked 5th Avenue every night and enjoyed the artists who sell their wares each week off of 5th Ave. one night each week. The trip I had envisioned for us was quite different from the one it turned out to be, and I’m so grateful - we had more fun than I could have ever imagined or hoped for.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Bonjour Montreal!

Being back in Montreal this week, it occurred to me that it had been over two years since I had been there last- way too long a time to be away. As I headed up rue de la Montagne with my colleagues for dinner at da vinci at the end of a long but productive day, I blurted out to my girlfriend that one day I would live there. I don't actually know if this is true, but it was how I was feeling at that moment- connected to everything I love about Montreal (by the way, the pictured Boston cod at di vinci was fabulous). I don’t know if it’s the people, the French culture, the sexy language or the city itself, but there’s a certain charm in Montreal that I always enjoy when I am there. I had missed it. Of course there is the fabulous shopping (which I didn’t get a chance to partake of on this trip - another good reason to go back!) and the nightlife - a city where there is always a party somewhere. Canada is so lucky to have this gem and we in Toronto are so fortunate to have such a diverse and wonderful city within reach. So for now, au revoir Montreal - but I will be back soon!

Monday, September 13, 2010

She's Making a Change

One of my closest friends is about to embark on a journey. She will be leaving her safe and secure nine-to-five job in a couple of weeks to pursue her dream. We hear these stories all the time, don’t we, but have you heard the one about the girl who leaves her job to find out WHAT her dream may be? That’s my friend. She doesn’t see the other side of the bridge quite yet, but she sees the beginning right there in front of her and she’s taking that first step. My friend is also a cancer survivor and has a unique perspective on life that only someone who has overcome such a sickness could have. She is just too aware that we are not guaranteed tomorrow and that if we want to do something, accomplish something, change something, we better get moving to get it done.. today.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Raspberry Bush

Today I planted a raspberry bush. I chose the perfect sunny spot in my little backyard garden and dug a hole. I mixed in some of the compost I had made from the scraps of last year’s garden with the surrounding soil and patted it down firm. The little card the bush came with tells me I won’t see raspberries until next summer, because the roots needs this summer to make themselves at home. I watered carefully and deeply.

When I was a child, my mom would take my little brother and I to Port Elgin, a small beach town that sits on the eastern shores of Lake Huron. We loved it there. I still love it there. Summer days spent at the beach, Gerry’s fries for lunch, and evenings spent at my Aunt Pearl and Uncle Mac’s house, where Aunt Pearl would make from scratch the best meals ever.

Aunt Pearl was my mom’s Aunt. She was fair- light hair, white skin, and the darkest of eyes. Fiery eyes in fact, to match her personality. She and Uncle Mac grew a garden at the back of their house- organic, where they grew a variety of vegetables and fruits that made it to the table every day. In addition, Aunt Pearl was known to can and preserve much of what they grew. At the back of the garden, against the neighbour’s barn was a big raspberry bush and my brother and I would help ourselves to the raspberries whenever we passed by. Sometimes Aunt Pearl would give us each one of those green, square baskets and send us out to fill them up with raspberries. That meant dessert would be raspberries with cream and a sprinkling of white sugar after dinner that night.

Aunt Pearl and Uncle Mac passed away years ago, but for the past six years I have shared the beauty of Port Elgin with my little girl, taking her there for a week each summer. It’s a special time for us to bond as we spend days at the beach and early evenings watching some of the world's best sunsets. A couple of years ago I passed by the house that Aunt Pearl and Uncle Mac once lived in. The outside of the house had been freshly painted, the garden was gone and the raspberry bush was no longer growing along the side of the neighbour’s barn. I told my little girl about the garden- where the raspberry bush once was, where the peach tree stood, and how my brother and I would chase each other around the outside of the house in the mornings.

Today, I didn’t only plant a raspberry bush, I planted a small memory of my childhood. Even now when I pop a raspberry into my mouth, I am transported back to those summers in Port Elgin as a child. I look forward to eating from my own raspberry bush now… if only I didn’t have to wait until next summer!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Five Steps to Creating a Simple Employee Communications Plan

Creating a strategy that helps employees communicate better and ultimately feel good about where they work may seem like a daunting task at first, but with a little research, creativity and patience, it can not only be accomplished, the improvements have the potential of enriching a company’s culture. I share from my experience what has worked for me, as a communications professional.

1. Determine your goals and objectives
Research what the desired outcomes are. Talk to the CEO, management and as many employees as possible. Who is not getting what messages? How is the company presently communicating? Talk to everyone you can at the company and get a feel for what is needed. Take a look at the company’s mission statement and strategic plan to ensure you align your communications strategy at every step.

2. Know the company culture
This ties into the first point. Whether you are the new kid at the office or are working as an outside Communications Consultant, it’s important to know who you are dealing with. When I was new to this company, I took a couple of months to know and feel the company culture as I researched their goals and objectives. Do a communications audit– conducting an anonymous employee questionnaire is one option. I prefer to talk to as many people as possible in person. It’s important to know exactly who you are dealing with and what the issues are when you’re starting out. Geography may be one issue you will face, even within Canada- what works for employees in Vancouver may not work in Montreal.

3. Decide on the best communications vehicles to use.
When I was first determining what communications vehicle to use at this company, for many reasons I knew an old fashioned newsletter would work best (very little budget, limited technology). I was told by one naysayer employee, “we did that before and it was impossible to keep it up.” I disagreed, stuck by my decision and have been able to keep it up for over four years. Believe in your decisions. Other communications vehicles I chose were a quarterly newsletter from the CEO, a CEO book club and regular town hall meetings. Our monthly newsletter features an interview with one employee each month on the cover with a follow-up by CEO with a hand-written note sent to the employee’s home. Other features include a “welcome” section for new employees, a mention of employees quoted in the media, our marketing update, an IT update, upcoming holidays and regional news to keep the rest of the company apprised of what is going on across the country. This has been become our “intranet” and our source of non-urgent company news. I also started a private Facebook page where employees take turns blogging.

4. Believe in your ideas.
Change can be slow process. It probably took about a year of begging before employees were sending me information to include in our monthly employee newsletter. Along the way there were times when I thought about throwing in the towel, but I stuck to it because I knew it had the potential of being a good vehicle and would meet their needs at that time. Don’t expect anything to be embraced right away– in my experience, it takes time and patience. Just stick with it.

5. Measure the results.
After a period of time (I have found that annually is a good time to do a review), go back to step one. Decide ahead of time how you will measure results, and keep your planning notes from step one to refer back to. Have you met the goals you set out to meet at the beginning? Are employees seeing an improvement in how information is communicated throughout the company? An anonymous employee questionnaire is a great tool at this stage should result in honest feedback and discussions with the CEO and senior management will provide additional insight. Think about ways in which you can improve upon the work you have already done. Consider new challenges that need addressing. For me, four years have brought a slew of challenges to the business due to economic upsets and advances in technology so fast, it's often a challege just to keep up. Regularly take stock of what's working, what isn't; research new methods of communicating and make any needed changes. Check out what others are doing. The work we do as Communications professionals is an evolving process that's both rewarding and challenging, but with a little creativity and patience can net results worthy of the work.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Mexico I Love

When a friend of mine, who had moved to Playa del Carmen, Mexico, first invited me to come for a visit, I didn’t exactly jump at the opportunity. I had never been to Mexico, and frankly, it wasn’t on the top of my "bucket list." In fact, it wasn’t anywhere on my list. My impression of Mexico wasn’t exactly positive at the time: a cheap sun vacation spot where everyone and their brother went; rampant drugs and violence.

Fast forward a year and my friend extended another invitation. This time, she had two weeks left on a condo rental so it was a “now or never” situation if I wanted free accommodation. I accepted. It was an ideal time for me to take a vacation— as a single mother of a young child, I hadn’t traveled alone in many years. With my girl now seven years old, I fought past the guilt of leaving and took the leap to set out on my own. And so my love affair with Mexico began.

I stayed ALONE, in a two-bedroom condo in Playa del Carmen, located a few blocks from the famous fifth avenue. My girlfriend was staying at another condo she had since moved into and was working during the day, so I had most days to explore the town on my own. I’m going to be honest here, I was nervous. I was in a strange country, didn’t speak the language, hadn’t traveled in years and the sliding door on my condo wouldn’t lock! Remember, this was not an all-inclusive resort with a concierge and security. I met a neighbour (a fellow Canadian) living the in the same condo complex and mentioned my sliding door problem. She didn’t seem concerned in the least and said that she had never heard of anything bad happening in the area. I wanted to say, “Excuse me, but are we not in Mexico?”

Instead, I trusted in her confidence that everything would be fine and took some comfort in the fact that the condo complex itself was locked from the outside. I put the door out of my mind and slept peacefully every night. I’m certainly not suggesting you rent a condo anywhere and leave the door unlocked— not even in “safe” Toronto, which is where I live. It’s always important to do your part in keeping safe, no matter where you are— at home or abroad, exercising the same precautions everywhere. My point is that I was discovering that my preset ideas about how dangerous and unsafe Mexico was, was a bit exaggerated.

Each day I discovered a little bit more of the little town I was staying in. I walked the few blocks to the beach, did grocery shopping down the street, got my money exchanged around the corner, used an ATM machine, shopped and dined in and around Playa. I made myself at home and never felt as though I was in danger. Nobody bothered nor harassed me. In fact, I found the Mexican people to be very kind and respectful— they mainly just kept to themselves as they went about their daily business.

I fell in love with Mexico – the people, culture, food and the beautiful surroundings of sun and beach. I felt something in the air that was unique and special and I loved being there, taking it all in.

I don’t deny there is more violence in Mexico than in Canada, but most of the problems are concentrated in the big cities and towns that border the U.S., such as Tijuana, Ciudad Ju├írez and Nuevo Laredo and centre around the illegal drug trade. You just have to look at a map of Mexico to see how far away those areas are from where I was in Playa del Carmen.

Something we must remember is that Mexico is not Canada. It has its own culture, language, history and government that have helped shape it into what it is today, and like any other country, it has its own unique challenges. If you want what you have at home, don’t leave home. But if you want to experience something different, rich and rewarding, travel the world and open yourself up to what is different from home. I’m not sure what the media’s motivation has been for blacklisting Mexico so unfairly over the past couple of years, but hopefully more people will see past the hype and go and experience the beauty and rich culture of Mexico.

The other day I mentioned to my mother that it had been one year since my first trip to Mexico. She responded, “It’s only been one year? It feels like you’ve been going for years now!” You see, I’ve been back three more times since that first trip in April 2009. My next trip is next month and on that trip I will take my eight year old daughter. We will stay in Peurto Aventuras, located just south of Playa del Carmen, and I imagine we will spend our days building sand castles on the beaches of Playa del Carmen and Tulum, swimming in the turquoise-coloured ocean, taking local taxis and buses here and there, eating chicken and fish tacos at some great little restaurants, visiting the ancient Mayan ruins, strolling up and down fifth avenue, catching up with friends and meeting new ones, and together experiencing the beauty of the Mexico I fell in love with during that very first trip a year ago.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

16 things that keep me sane

After struggling for months on how to get started blogging, I was inspired by my friend Camilo Olea, who posted a great article on maintaining a sense of well-being, entitled, "30 habits that will change your life." As I read the post, I realized that, although it made some really great points, it was indeed a personal list. It got me thinking about the various "lists" out there: 10 steps to losing weight, 15 ways to stay organized, etc., and it became clear to me that all of these lists are written from a personal point of view. I had never really thought about it like that before. Although some of the points made on lists are common sense and apply to large groups of people, many points are personal. How interesting that we all find various paths to well-being, and what helps to make you sane may cause me stress! My friend Camilo lives in Cancun (and is doing some great things in the areas of social media and promoting Mexican tourism) and I live in Toronto - only a four-hour plane ride away, but world's away in terms of culture, weather, language, experience. I'm not sure of the whereabouts of the author of the post, but I'm sure there are differences there as well. I was inspired to write my own list of things that contribute to my sense of well-being and I wondered if, in the end, my list would in fact be so different from the list Camilo posted.. Here is the list of 16 things that keep me sane:

  1. Creating my art.
    Admittedly, I "borrowed" this one from Seth Godin. I was fortunate to hear him speak in Toronto a few weeks ago at a social media conference, and the one statement that stood out for me was "start creating your art." Whatever your art is, be it writing, organizing, painting, connecting people or flying an airplane.. whatever it is that stirs up excitement within you, start doing that. That is why you are here, that is your unique contribution. Creatively speaking, I make soap and have started painting furniture. I tried a silkscreening class and I've immersed myself in anything social media-related. I have been thinking about embellishing clothing and now I'm writing a blog! We are all given 24 hours each day, to spend however we wish. Make time to start creating your art.

  2. Smiling more.
    While hanging with a friend in Playa del Carmen last year, I observed the power of the smile. My friend is just one of those people who smiles at everyone.. the store clerk, the waiter - pretty much everyone she meets. I noticed not only her smile, but the reactions from people she came into contact with - they smiled back, seemed to instantly relax and were friendly back. I have tried incorporating this into my everyday life, and have found that people smile back and it actually makes me feel pretty good. It's hard to be sad or angry if you're smiling!

  3. Exercising regularly.
    At the moment there are three activities I enjoy - running, yoga and kayaking. Find a few activities you enjoy and participate a few times each week - it's an excellent way to maintain your sense of well-being.
    I aim to run at least twice a week. Running is definitely something that helps keep me sane. I am an amateur runner, but it doesn't matter. The rush from running for at least 30 minutes is wonderful, as it clears my mind, lifts any stress my body may be holding on to, and it's usually the time when I get my great ideas.
    I aim to do one or two yoga classes a week. Again, a personal step to saneness for me. Don't you find that we usually gravitate towards physical activities we are naturally good at? Well, yoga is not one of those for me, but that is why I do it. It stretches me - both literally and figuratively. It helps me to calm my mind and focus on my breath. After months of practicing, the muscles in my shoulders and arms still scream out while I attempt to maintain the "downward dog" pose for any length of time, and my favourite poses are still "child's pose" and "corpse." Why do I keep at it? Flexibility and strength are important to me, and I feel absolutely wonderful after each class.
    Living in Toronto, kayaking season is short - June to September. I started kayaking last year at Harbourfront Canoe & Kayak Centre in the evenings, after work. It became a great way to get out of the city for a few hours and also proved to be a good workout for the upper body! I can hardly wait to start up again in a few months.

  4. Drinking water.
    Just one point on drinking water, as we all know the benefits in maintaining our health and sense of well-being. Instead of drinking an 8oz glass of water in one go, try taking a few gulps every so often. Your body can't absorb a full glass of water in one sitting and will rid of the excess. Drinking a little at a time and often, is better.

  5. Eating food that's good for me.
    For me, cutting out bread (including bagels, pastries, muffins, etc.) and sugar from my diet is a giant step towards feeling good. I do struggle with this from time to time, but if I'm "in the zone" and doing well in this area, I feel better, have more energy, and the flat tummy is not bad either! I substitute the bread with protein and veggies and the sweets with fruit and nuts, among other healthy alternatives.

  6. Sleeping.
    Seven to eight hours of sleep each night is what I aim for. I awake refreshed and ready and excited to start my day!

  7. Meeting new people.
    This is something that does not come naturally to me but ultimately does make me feel good. As an introvert, I'm aware that my need for being around people is maybe less than that of some. Social media has really opened up this area for me personally. I have made connections to many different people, and I feel that it has enriched my life. Through Facebook and Twitter I have been able to reunite with old friends, meet new friends and business contacts and maintain relationships easily.

  8. Forgiveness.
    All of us have been disappointed or hurt at some time in our lives and I am no exception. I remember a person saying to me, after a rather painful experience I had gone through, that I would need to forgive before I could move on. At the time I thought that if that were true, how unfair. Why did I have to do anything - I was the hurt one. It seemed too tall an order. Years later, I came to recognize the truth in that statement. Forgiveness was essential for moving on and essential for my sense of well-being.

  9. Keeping connected.
    Once every couple of weeks I get together with friends after work, for drinks or dinner (or both!). My schedule is pretty busy most weeks, but this is something that is really important to me, so I make the time for it. Those nights with girlfriends are especially essential to keeping me sane - it's where I get to be myself, talk out what's on my mind, and listen. Another tip on keeping in touch is this: every so often I look through the contacts on my phone, and if I come across the name of a person I have not connected with lately, I'll send her/him a note to say 'hi.' Many of us get caught up in the business of life and before we know it, a week has passed, and then a month. I try to keep in touch.

  10. Spending time in nature.
    Essential to my well-being, every once in a while I need to get of the city - away from the noise of traffic and surrounded by the sound of birds or a lake or the ocean; away from the smog and smells of the city and around the smells of trees, flowers and fresh air.

  11. De-cluttering and organizing.
    I like to spend some time each month sorting, filing, throwing away and donating when possible unwanted items: papers, books, clothing, shoes and other items that contribute to clutter. When I clean out a drawer or catch up on my filing or donate clothing I no longer wear, I feel as though I've accomplished something, and the stress that comes with all that clutter goes away.

  12. Planning.
    Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a planner. I may be a little too extra in this area, but planning for me really does help keep me sane. A schedule keeps me organized, and being organized helps keep stress at bay.

  13. Creating a sanctuary.
    I love my bedroom. It's the colour of the ocean and my furniture for the most part is white. I have various photos on my wall of the beach. It feels peaceful. It's important to have a place I can go to when I need to be alone. It provides a time for me to relax and reflect.

  14. Thinking good thoughts.
    I try to be conscious of what I am thinking about at any given moment. This is probably one of the most important points on maintaining saneness for me. If I think about how I want my life to be, live in anticipation of those thoughts and believe I am already there, I will attract more of the same thoughts and that which I am anticipating. More on this here.

  15. Taking time for myself.
    So essential to me staying sane is taking time for me. Going for a run to clear my head, taking a book to a coffee shop and spending some downtime immersed in a novel, taking a trip on my own, going for a long walk and taking in the sights and sounds - time alone is necessary in keeping me sane.

  16. Living MY life!
    Last, but certainly not least, please live your life. It doesn't have to resemble anyone else's, it is yours after all. You get one chance at this thing called life. People say, "life is short" but it's the longest thing you'll do. Do it your way. I do.