I love writing about life hacking and intentional experiences designed to expand our comfort zones. In addition, my life tends to accumulate clutter over time – both mental and physical- and I often need to detox. I need an intentional cleanse to purge the unnecessary things that creep into my life and replace them with only things that I truly value. Partially inspired by Hatmaker, Cain, and Leo, challenges are a great way to try something new and observe our own reactions. The project and challenges I have proposed are two fold. They are exercises in self control; but also activities that produce personal awareness about some aspects of our lifestyle. I dislike leaving my comfort zone, but I enjoy the process and learning new things.
I’ve written about 30 day challenges before. But I’ve never offered publicly the ones we plan on attempting. I do enjoy public accountability and I also like the support we get when we invite others to join us in experimentation. I honestly think that habit formation and change is one of the single most important things anyone can do to make their lives better. In addition, this will be a joint challenge as Ms. SE has decided to join the lifestyle experiments and even added a few of her own. A supportive partner is another crucial element to a life of contentment, and her participation gives me extra motivation. So, what are we going to do to detox our lives? What to join us for a challenge? Feel free to pick ones that you want to do with us here.
January – Food
Eat only “real” food for one month. We will use the definition developed by Lisa at 100 Days of Real Food. The basic concept is simple: eat basic, unprocessed food like fruits, veggies, meat and whole grains. What’s left out? Sugar, refined grains, and anything processed. If it comes in a fancy box, has an advertising campaign, or ingredients you can’t pronounce- it’s probably out. We have done it for several weeks before, but we are using January as a kick off to healthier eating for 2014. We encourage anyone who will listen to give it a shot, even if you are only up for trying it for a day, week, or month. I know how much better I feel when I’m not eating junk. You can even try some mini-pledges if the idea of a large commitment scares you. I can assure you, even if you start and don’t finish, you will be much more aware of what you are eating in the future!
February – Exercise
30 Minutes of Exercise a Day. Everyone always plans on exercising more and trying to get into better shape. Ms. SE often writes about great ways to exercise and develop the habit. We try and exercise everyday; however, depending on our schedules we often find ourselves skipping days, making excuses, or being inconsistent. So, our challenge this month is to engage in thirty minutes of aerobic exercise (and track it) every day with a day of rest on Sundays. For ourselves, this will not include any biking (My commute to work won’t count), nor will any walking, which we do everyday.
March – News and Social Media
No News, Social Media, or Blog Stats. This one might be hard. I’m not really sure. I’ve never really taken weeks off. Twitter and Facebook tend to be my check-ins when I wake up and before I go to sleep. Ms. SE is a pinterestaholic. Spending many hours cruising the site for recipes and getting craft/sewing ideas. I think the main benefit of this project will simply be awareness. I’m not really sure how much I’ll miss this one. I tend to check social media out of default. I’ll set up automatic basic wordpress notifications so the blog won’t miss a beat. We practice the low information diet, so most of our news comes from alternative sources. Not checking blog stats will be interesting to me as well.
April – TV & Screen Time
No TV or Screen Time after 5:00. TV won’t be a big issue for me, but all screen time will be really tough. I tend to check my phone, tablet, or write late into the evenings most nights. We will definitely bust out the board games and do plenty of outdoor activities to fill all of our extra free time. I’ll be listening to all my sports on my sweet radio this month. April happens to be a great month for this because it will be busy with school, writing, gardnening, and house stuff. We’ve currently defaulted into the habit of watching a show or two each night on Netflix, so this will be an adjustment. We’ll have to dust off the board and card games for the month. I might even get a bit of reading done. My work is tied to the comptuer so it is currently not completely feasible to do ‘no screen time’ during the day. This one may be hard.
May – Reading
Read for 30 Minutes every day. I typically spend hours reading every day. My day job precludes that I am reading and researching; and classes often require hundreds of pages a week. But May will be different. I’m planning to read a classic and also several books from biblical text. I want to be intentionally reading thirty minutes instead of just wondering through mindless Wikipedia links. Now.. what to read? Maybe I’ll work through some Hemingway, Dickens, or Austin.
June – Trash
We have talked about this one for years. After watching No Impact Man, which we’ll do the first day of the challenge; we will attempt to go an entire month without generating trash. The hardest part will be shopping so nothing we buy needs to be thrown away. We’ll allow for recycling, and our compost bin will be happy. June is strategic due to the fact that it is prime farmer’s market season and our crops should be ready for harvest. Still, awareness should be mind blowing for this one.
July – Drinking
Only water, tea (the herbal kind, not sweet tea), or fresh fruit/veggie smoothies. This one will be tough, especially for Ms. SE because she enjoys her cup of Joe each morning. We tend to drink many different things including juices, sodas, beer, and wine (Ms SE), so this will limit our variety of beverage choices. We like to use orange juice in our smoothies, but for this month we will stick to water. Drinking more water will be nice and refreshing. Trying some different herbal teas will be interesting as well.
August – Entertainment
Spend no money on entertainment including dining out. Do we need to spend money to be entertained? That will be the avenue we will be exploring in August. The good news is that most of the activities we enjoy do not cost anything! We love to play sports, run, play games, hang out with friends, and watch cheesy movies. In addition, the weather will be great and there will be plenty of projects that will fill our time. How much does it cost for you to entertain your family for a month?
September – Gratitude
Ms. SE – Write an ‘I-Like-This-About-You’ note/text/email for someone different each day. It can be easy to forget to say something nice to someone each day. Why not take a month to intentionally think of things you enjoy about others close to you? They will appreciate it. It will create a positive mental picture of others around us and put things into perspective. A kind word can brighten anyone’s day!
October – Things
Buy nothing new for an entire month. I never really think about how much I shop. I tend to just buy stuff when I need it. Most of our shopping includes groceries and consumables, and we’ll allow those for this challenge. I tend to buy electronics every week that I often fix up and resale. I’ll be taking a break from that for thirty days. We’ll have to get creative if we need gifts or the little munchkin suddenly needs something. This one may not be as challenging for me as it will be for Ms. SE.
November – Sleep
Sleep for 8 Hours and No Snooze. We try and get lots of quality sleep. In fact, that is one of the primary ways I monitor how well I’m doing mentally. We normally get around seven hours and we are both pretty good sleepers. I rarely hit the snooze button but that might be a challenge because I like to sleep in when it gets cold. I’ll also take the time to track my sleeping for the month. Each morning I will track when I went to sleep, when I woke up, and I’ll rate the quality of sleep each night. I’ll be curious to see if any patterns are apparent.
December – Driving
No Driving. I’ll be committing to walking or biking to work every day. While, I normally bike at least four days a week, it is always a little tougher in December. I actually did a bike only month years ago and it completely changed how I travel. In addition, I will be attempting to drive as little as possible (Sunday’s will be a free day due to prior commitments). I’ll try and bike everywhere I need to go. I’ll put the baby seat on my road bike for the family trips. For me, most months are pretty easy but I need some extra motivation when its dark and cold during non-working hours.
So why experiment? Why do a life detox? For me, it is simply to examine the clutter of habits that tend to develop over time. I want to know which things in life I truly value and which things I simply do. I want to make sure I have time, energy, and capacity for the things that are actually important. I want to make a habit of developing self control and awareness. I’m actually looking forward to the challenges.
Are you up for a challenge? Want to join us in 2014? Feel free to participate in any of our challenges. Leave a note in the comments or feel out web-form here. Let us know if you have any tips or if there is anything we should try next year.