The Thankful Project Day 9: Study Abroad

Though I am still trying to compile all my amazing memories and experiences from studying abroad down to one story, or one way to simply describe it all, I am so incredibly grateful for studying abroad.

The things I learned abroad go so far beyond the classroom, I’m not even sure we can see the building anymore.

I learned so much about myself while studying abroad – my work ethic, my personality, who I’m becoming as a person. It’s hard to pinpoint when I started realizing this, but then, we are always changing.

I met some of the most amazing people while studying abroad. I came home with a group of friends that are so amazing; they are undeniably friends for life. These people are so wonderful. They supported me, and I them, while abroad – struggling with studying, homesickness, heartsickness, etc. I love them with all my heart and wish they could be with me always.

I also saw things while abroad that I never thought I’d get to see. We went to Venice, Monte Carlo, Amsterdam, London, and so many places that I am so glad I got to see. It will probably be a long time before I see any of those places again.

Ireland is also an amazing place to live. It is so different from any place I’ve ever visited, let alone lived before. And I am very grateful to have gotten the chance to live in a place like that.

All in all, while it was difficult to transition back from being abroad for so long, I am so very grateful to have had all of these experiences. I have grown, loved more, learned more, and lived more than I ever thought possible. These experiences from abroad have helped me to know myself better so very much.

I wouldn’t trade any of them (literally) for the world.

The Thankful Project Day 8: Gym

I hate writing this. Because honestly? Who could ever possibly be thankful for the gym? And why would I be thankful for the gym?

I don’t really like going. I don’t like sweating my ass off watching all the body builder guys strut around and occasionally lifting a weight. I don’t like looking at all the skinny girls elliptical for a half hour and then being able to call it good. I just don’t like it.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t be grateful for it.

I’m grateful for the gym simply because it is a place where I can go and for one hour (or 90 minutes), I get to just be alone with my thoughts. And, exercise gives you endorphins, and endorphins make you happy.

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I can leave the gym feeling invigorated (if not a little sore). I feel better. Even when I’m exhausted, and don’t feel like going to the gym, I push myself to go and it makes me feel more energetic. It brightens up the rest of the day.

Plus, getting stronger and getting in shape isn’t too bad either.

Working out also helps my mental health, which also keeps me happier and more energetic throughout the day.

So, even though I really do hate the gym, I’m pretty darn thankful for it.

The Thankful Project Day 7: Smoothies

Smoothies are a quick and easy way to start off your day (or get a healthy sweet fix during the day). They can vary in flavor, color, and size, and are such a sweet cool summer treat to have.

I start most days with a smoothie for breakfast. It takes about 5 minutes to make, and with an insulated cup, I can sip it for over an hour (I make my smoothies really thick). Sure, it gets a little monotonous starting every day the same way, but couldn’t that be said for all the people who start every day with two scrambled eggs and wheat toast? At least mine is a protein packed, 2 fruit serving cup of cold goodness.

Most days, I just do a good old fashioned mixed berry smoothie, but some days, I’ll do a nice tropical flavored one. Here are a few good smoothie recipes:

1. Mixed Berry Smoothie

8 oz. of your personal choice of milk (I do almond milk).
2 scoops of protein powder (or a tablespoon or two of your favorite nut butter).
1 banana.
1/2-3/4 cup of frozen mixed berries – no sugar added.
Ice to make as thick or runny as you’d like.
Optional: 1/4 cup fresh berries

2. Tropical Smoothie

8 oz. of your choice of milk.
2 scoops protein powder (or a tablespoon of nut butter).
1 banana.
1/2 cup of frozen peaches.
1/2 cup of frozen mangos, etc. (Usually the market sells a bag of frozen tropical fruit).
2 frozen strawberries.
Ice.

3. Green Smoothie

6 oz. of water.
1/2 cup kale.
1 banana.
1/2 cup pineapple.
1/2 teaspoon ginger.
1/2 green apple.
(I’ll usually do this one cold, but not frozen – more like a juice.)

4. Strawberry Blueberry Smoothie

4 oz. of your favorite milk.
1 container of plain greek yogurt.
1 banana.
1/2 cup frozen or fresh strawberries.
1/2 cup frozen or fresh blueberries.
Ice.
Optional: 1/2 avocado.
(This one smoothes your skin).

Honestly, you could add literally anything that sounds good together to a smoothie and sip it right up! To keep it healthy, though, definitely look for frozen fruit without added sugar, and keep that need for protein powder and milk to a minimum. What keeps you full is the whole smoothie put together, not just a few components of it.

I’m also super thankful for smoothies because they help me keep my cravings in check. When I’m trying to lose weight, or keep a stricter and healthier diet, starting my day off with a smoothie helps keep my notorious sweet tooth in check.

And during these warm summer months, I get to start my day off with a fresh and cool smoothie.

DElicious!

The Thankful Project Day 6: Planners

To step away for a day from the ultimately cheesy sounding thankful posts, I’m just going to dedicate this post to planners.

Yes, those things that organize your day and tell you what to do.

I use my planner for everything. I write down my work schedule (even though it’s a normal work schedule), I write down when I’m going to the gym, when my appointments are, and to be honest, it reminds me what date it is.

It makes the days look way more conquerable, and like anything is possible. And it’s true. When you write something down, not only does it make you remember it more, but it gives you a sense of purpose. That’s why to-do lists are such a big deal for some people.

A planner is like a giant to-do list that is portable and easily viewable. And, for those of you who are super creative, there is such a thing as a bullet journal now.

And these things are even cooler. All you need are super fun pens (which are sometimes even cooler than planners), and the will to decorate your own planner. It sounds like more work than it’s worth, but it’s actually pretty relaxing, and you have a completely customizable planner all for yourself.

And, to allow the cheesiness to come back in for just a second, planners help me when my depression gets extremely bad. They help me see that my day isn’t as busy as it feels like it is. It makes hours seem less daunting. Planners overall help me feel more in check and organized.

And that’s why I’m so thankful for planners.

What are you thankful for?

The Thankful Project Day 6: Meghan

I wrote an article dedicated to lessons you can learn from your older sister. It was everything from learning how to move on from a guy to learning when it’s appropriate to let go of friends or things or something you think you’ll never be able to grow from.

And these are all lessons I’ve learned from my older sister. I close the article with this: “I am always and forever thankful for my big sister because of everything she’s taught me.” 

But really, I’m just plain old really thankful for my sister.

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She calls me when she knows I’ve had a bad day, she lets me come visit her and celebrates my birthday with me (in style), she supports me in my crazy dreams, and she’s literally always there for me. Like my post about my dad, my sister will hold me up when it feels like the floor is gone.

Meghan listens to my rants, she tells me when I need to get up and try again after I fail, she indulges my love of country music, she laughs with me, she cries with me, she loves the same movies, and she always is there for me.

Come hell or high water, I know my sister would run through fire for me (excuse the mixed and multiple metaphors). I know she would do anything to make sure I know that I’m loved, supported, and that someone will always pick me up when I’m down.

I just hope she knows I’d do the same for her.

The Thankful Project Day 5: Tacos

I guess… More than anything, I’m thankful for Mexican food. But if you ask anyone, my favorite food is tacos – so this post is dedicated to tacos.

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Here’s the thing about tacos, and why I love them so much:

They are very versatile.

Am I the only one that remembers when iCarly characters would eat spaghetti tacos? You can literally put anything in a taco, and it’s still a gift from g-d.

Everyone loves them.

There are a few (and these few are limited) that don’t like tacos, but most (sane) people love tacos. And why wouldn’t you?

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They’re easy to eat with food allergies.

This might be the most important point in this piece. When I found out I had Celiac Disease, my first thought was, “If I can’t eat tacos, I don’t know what I’ll do.” But that’s the beauty of tacos! They can come in corn tortillas, flour tortillas, with cheese, without cheese, with veggies and no meat, etc. The possibilities are endless.

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Tacos are so easy to make.

If you think you can’t cook, never fear because tacos are so easy! Just get corn tortillas, lettuce, salsa, avocados, your meat of choice (this, you’ll have to cook), and cheese if you like. Put it all together and voila! A delicious taco at your service.

To sum up, tacos are the best. They make me very happy. And thus, I am thankful for them. How can you not be thankful for a food that is delicious, perfect in every way, and so beautiful?

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Thankful Project Day 4: Country Music

Some people don’t like country music very much. So this post might not get too much love. But I am so thankful for country music.

In country music, they don’t scream about sleeping with b*tches or rap about shawty’s ass. It’s just guitar, lyrics about drinking beer with friends and falling in love with the perfect girl. It’s soft drums and concerts full of happy people and cowboy boots. In other words, I think it’s quite wonderful.

Country music never fails to make me happy. It’s my music of choice when I’m sad or down about something. It makes me feel like I’m better than what I believe I am. Country music made me believe in the power of music therapy.

If you don’t what music therapy is, here’s a quick synopsis: a patient can find an activity that includes any genre of music (singing, dancing, learning an instrument, sitting quietly and listening), and that activity triggers their brain to be happier and more productive – the more you do it, the stronger the triggers get. Patients can then move from that to another activity (without music), and use the strength of the triggers to be happier, more productive, more vocal, more communicative, etc. Music therapy has tremendous success in patients with depression, anxiety, dementia, Parkinson’s, Autism, etc.

And country music is my genre of choice.

When I get in my car after a bad day, or a day of knowing I’m not going to feel 100%, and I turn on country music, singing softly along, I start to feel better. And I can carry that mood with me throughout the day. I’ll probably be humming at some point, maybe muttering lyrics under my breath, but I feel better.

Country music is so many things. It’s joyful, it’s sad, it’s a party, it’s patriotic, it’s beautiful. 

And no, not everyone agrees with that statement. But I don’t care.

Music has the ability to heal people.

So maybe this isn’t a thank you to country music, but instead to music in general. Music has the power to make people feel something more complex than what they currently feel. It brings people together. It makes people feel wonderful. It makes people happier. And isn’t that what we all want?