Adulting, Anxiety, Books, Mindfulness, Motivation

Fail Safe

Challenges are supposed to make you happy. The novelty alone should stimulate your mind in a positive way. However failure is often an inevitable part of this process. To at last succeed after various unsuccessful attempts can bring about deep feelings of satisfaction. I think that’s why people often highlight the importance of failure. I’ve often heard the phrase “anything worth doing is worth doing badly” thrown around in relation to this.
That all may be well and good for those seemingly self motivated, glass half full kindof people. But for some of us, even after we finally overcome the hurdle, satisfaction is not the feeling which we experience. Instead we look to the ground in shame wondering why it took us so long, when everyone else seems to fly through life with ease and control.
I’ve been reading “The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success” by author Megan McArdle. It’s good. It’s very good. I suggest you read it.

According to McArdle, failure will occur because the universe is uncertain. It’s not necessarily due to a lack of preparation or perfunctory attempts. Success isn’t something you are, it’s something you develop and failure is necessary for this process. In learning to make mistakes, we also learn to understand them and thus how to correct them.
The truth about failure is that it’s hard. It’s extremely difficult in fact, to pick yourself up and start all over again. To stare down whatever it was that knocked you on your ass, take a deep breath and charge in to battle it once more. The book argues that much of this struggle is due to an ingrained fear of failure. It’s something that our parents and school (or really any early validation system) is responsible for. It occurs because we are taught to focus on the final product and ignore the earlier drafts. In fact quite often we never even get to see the earlier drafts.

While some mistakes deserve punishment, most are those we make as we learn. When we begin to do something we’ve never done before. When we write the first chapter, when we edit it, when we re-write it, and even when we edit the revision.

Maybe the reason it’s so hard is that failure is essentially forcing you to change. It’s basically telling you that whatever you are doing doesn’t work. Try again, but try something else. It forces you to grow and realize that there is more than one way to approach a situation, and that some methods are more effective than others. The worst thing you can do is get yourself into a position where you cannot fail. If you cannot fail, you cannot learn.

So instead of avoiding failure, we must train ourselves to be more resilient. Take small calculated risks, so it’s easier to stand up after you topple over. Don’t place blame, not on other people and not on yourself. There are a multitude of reasons something you were striving for failed. Don’t be conceded and assume it was all because of you.

Adulting, Books, Motivation, Organisation

The Organizer

I’m not a naturally organised person, it’s something I have to work on each day. It’s not so much the organising that I find a challenge either, it’s maintaining the organisational system I’ve set in place. Somehow there’s always something more important to do than taking out the trash or unloading the dishwasher, and I fall into that “I’ll do it later” habit. In short it never gets done and I find myself using my dishwasher as a cupboard.

This is why I’m always on the lookout for a great home organisation book. The one I’m reading at the moment is “The 8 Minute Organizer” by Regina Leeds. It’s premise in a nutshell, is that you can organise your home and keep it nice and tidy by tackling each room with short 8 minute tasks.

As someone with roommates, attempting to take stock of the shared areas of the house is a futile endeavour. So I decided to attempt the bedroom list of 8 minute tasks to see if her system would work for me. These tasks included activities such as: speed elimination, line up your handbags and shelve books. One I found to be quite beneficial was to gather stray garments. As I have a tendency to simply deposit clothes onto my bed (instead of in my closet) and then move the eventual pile up of garments to the floor (beds are for sleeping after all), taking the time to hang things up and put them away did wonders to the look of my room.

All in all her suggestions were easy to complete, made a visible impact and most importantly let me feel as though I had some semblance of control over my belongings. She ended the chapter with some daily 2 minute tasks to assist in maintaining the serenity that now is my bedroom. (Making the bed, throwing clothes into the hamper, return items from other rooms back to where they belong etc.) Maintenance rituals such as these are key in keeping your space organised.

The final chapter discusses maintenance in depth and how you can turn it into a ritual. Bad habits can totally derail any intention you have for a tidy space, so it becomes necessary to schedule in cleaning time. It also becomes extremely necessary to reward yourself after completing each task or ritual, just think of yourself as Pavlov’s dog and give yourself a little treat for being such a good boy. Leeds says you have to keep at it and practice for ultimate success, and all I can promise is that I will try…

It’s only 8 minutes after all.

Adulting, Books, Motivation, Relationships

Break Up Guide Book

All relationships have expiration dates (read: your eventual death), how you choose to deal with such endings is what the book “How To Break Up With Anyone” by Jamye Waxman is all about. A break up is the process of letting go, often it’s one that serves your best interest. So remember you are not a bad person for wanting to break up, you are simply looking after yourself.

Another thing to note is that no two break ups will ever be the same… I’m sure that seems pretty obvious to most, consider it a disclaimer. Along the same vein of pretty obvious but needs to be mentioned anyway: Don’t break up spontaneously. Relationships don’t really end in an instant, although sometimes they feel like they do. And always remember that avoidance is not the same as a break up. While it may seem easier at first, it’s harder and much more complicated in the long run.

With that out of the way, I present to you the seven steps to breaking up:

1. Be mentally prepared. A breakup requires confidence, clarity and in some instances steely determination. Be honest and ask yourself what does this break up really mean? What does ending things actually look like? What will you lose?

2. Be detail orientated. Decide the where, when and length of the interaction. Figure out what issues need to be addressed, how you will cope with the things that still bind you such as shared social circles, parents, belongings etc.

3. Leave the blame at home. It takes two to tango as they say, and you need to acknowledge the part you played in this situation. It will never be 100% your fault or theirs, and revisiting the past in an attempt to figure things out is a futile effort. The past is over an done with, so why not instead try to make the end as comfortable as possible?

4. Stay motivated and think positive. See this ending as the start of a new beginning and be excited for it. Once this painful part is out of the way, you get to move on to better things.

5. Don’t get trapped. Physically or emotionally. Create boundaries and learn to say no. If necessary play the song “New Rules” by Dua Lipa on repeat until the message sinks in.

6. Feel. It’s okay to feel hurt, nervous, angry, sad, disheartened etc. Make time to face it head on, this isn’t going to be a fun process (unless you’re a sociopath).

7. Get a mantra. Pretty self explanatory.

The book goes into much more detail on each of these steps. It also looks at different types of toxic relationships and how to identify them. There are entire chapters dedicated to different types of break ups, from breaking up with a friend, family, career or community. Everything is presented in great detail with real life examples. So if you need to break up with someone, anyone… This should be your go to book.

Anxiety, Books, Brain Hacks, Mindfulness

Quiet Time

Meditation is the practice of quieting your mind. This is no easy task. So I’m reading “The Meditation Transformation” by Jennifer Brooks.

The book begins with a spiel on what meditation is and several pages explaining the benefits of a daily meditation practice. I’m not going to lie, I skipped this part. Having already read a plethora of articles and enduring various conversations with my therapist, doctor and naturopath about the benefits of meditation, I felt I had a thorough grip of the material.

Following this was a list of excuses commonly used by individuals who are beginning a meditation practice, to condone their defection. This part was actually useful in describing the ideal environment for meditation: Quiet, private and comfortable. It should be noted that thus far the book wasn’t particularly exciting…

That was until I arrived at chapter 5: Alternatives to Meditation. This chapter looked at visualization, guided imagery and relaxation, all of which can be classified as forms of meditation that seem to be more accommodating to the over active brain. For example when utilising visualisation, instead of simply focusing on your breathing you will instead dedicate your meditation time to painting an object in acute detail in your mind.

Chapter 6: Not All Meditation is Created Equal also explores alternatives to typical meditation practices. It covers exercises such as movement, body scan, mindfulness, walking, concept, gap, empty mind, mantra, vibrational and transcendental meditation. Each of these exercises is explained in detail and is easy to comprehend through its step by step layout. I should mention at this juncture that currently this e-book is free to download at the amazon/kindle store, so I would highly recommend picking it up.

Overall this was an extremely informative book, full of great techniques and exercises to bring to your meditation practice. Perfect for beginners like myself.

Adulting, Anxiety, Books, Mindfulness, Motivation

Journaling

I recently picked up a self help guide titled: “100 Days of Gratefulness: A Gratitude Journal” by Amy J. Blake. Although I’m not entirely sure if you could call it a guide per se, it’s more like a journal with prompts. Each page is titled with a question, such as “How am I fortunate?” and then it gives you space to provide an answer. Ideally you would tackle one question each day, spending approximately ten minutes on your response. There are one hundred questions in total, all of which ask you in one way or another what you are grateful for.

I’ve read books on the power of gratefulness before, and I am quite aware of the positive effects this practice can have in your life. However it can be difficult to get started. That’s why having a journal with pre-designed prompts can help. It makes the entire process a lot easier by incorporating more structure to the practice and through it’s one question a day set up it can assist in making gratefulness a habit.

You don’t necessarily need to buy a journal like this one either. Any notebook will do, just google gratitude prompts to obtain the questions. Then take some time each day to answer one, I personally like to write a response with my morning cup of coffee. There is just something substantial about writing your responses down, about taking the time to really collect your thoughts, which makes journaling a great medium for practicing gratefulness. In the past I’ve simply spouted lists of things I’m grateful for at random times throughout the day, but the intention behind writing makes it more meaningful.

Brain Hacks, Sleep

Nighty Night

I’ve been having some trouble getting to sleep lately, with much of the problem stemming from a few careless nights of staying up well past my bedtime (I was out with friends… the fictional variety).

In order to get my snooze routine back on track, I’ve been researching healthy natural ways to get better sleep. That is how I came across “Good Night Sleep: 20 Tips for Better Sleep” by Asanga Wijeratne. The book is quite short and some of the advice it provided I was already aware of, such as turning off electronics, avoiding caffeine and eating late, keeping a routine etc. However its segment on napping was definitely a new concept for me.

Apparently human beings are polyphasic sleepers (we like to sleep several times during a 24 hour period), and napping throughout the day can not only help improve our alertness and productivity but it can also assist us in getting better sleep at night. Ideally these naps should be 20 – 30 minutes long, so as not to negatively impact our sleep during the night.

There are three different types of napping:

1. Planned Napping: This type of napping is intentional and pre-emptive. It’s particularly useful for mothers with nursing babies, who know they will have to wake up regularly throughout the night to feed their child.

2. Emergency Napping: It’s the opposite of planned napping, in that it is reactive in nature. A perfect example would be the five minute power nap, which is often suggested to drivers that are finding themselves feeling lethargic or drowsy on the roads, as a way to prevent car accidents occurring.

3. Habitual Napping: This type of napping occurs at the same time and for the same duration every day. It is most commonly utilised by toddlers after their lunch.

I plan on using a emergency/habitual hybrid napping routine for the next week to see if this improves my night time sleep, in addition to following the other instructions provided in the book. I feel confident that this will give me the results I’m after, and in all honesty I’m really looking forward to incorporating a ritual after work nap.

Books, Brain Hacks, Mindfulness

Happy Memories = Smiling Mind

While reading the “Smiling Mind: Mindfulness Made Easy” by Jane Martino and James Tutton, I came across many, and I do mean many, really useful mindfulness exercises. I find it extremely helpful when self help books become instructional, it makes it so much easier to put the theory into practice. It’s also makes it less stressful to glean results. Exercise 9 was one of my favourites, so I thought I’d share it with you. However I would definitely suggest picking up this book for more options. Alternatively there is also an app you can download and a website to visit.

So here we go:

Step 1: Sit or lie down, but try to maintain an aligned posture as you do so. You can use pillows or folded blankets to help ensure support, but be sure you feel comfortable in that position.

Step 2. Take some deep breaths, and observe how it goes in and out of your body. You can even place your hands on your belly and feel it expand and contract.

Step 3. Recall an experience or situation which made you extremely happy. Try to remember it in great detail, consider the sounds, smells and sights. See if you can relive it using all of your senses.

Step 4. Notice the physical sensations this memory elicits. Where and how do you feel happiness? Is it a warmth in your stomach? Do you feel butterflies? Take some deep breaths and explore these sensations, but be sure not to identify with the emotions. The goal is to observe rather than to experience.

Step 5. Take a few deep breaths and this time try to recall an unpleasant experience or situation. Something that made you feel angry or sad, and once more see if you can relive it in great detail.

Step 6. Once again explore the physical sensations this memory creates. Where does it manifest physically, and how is this different from the sensation of happiness? Let yourself observe the differences between them, while taking a step back from actually feeling these emotions.

Congratulations! You are all done. How do you feel?
Personally I really enjoy this exercise, it makes me feel in control of my emotions and more aware of how I am physically processing them. The breathing also allows me to stay calm, and see those situations in different ways.

Please let me know if you tried and enjoyed this exercise, or if you have any mindfulness exercises or books to recommend. I’d very much appreciate it.
Until next time 🙂