Adulting, Anxiety, Brain Hacks, Mindfulness, Minimalism

Disengage From The Game

By the game I mean the social media game. Or more specifically the comparison game.

While we all know that social media often presents us with a fictionalised version of the lives of our friends, family and random Instagram models we’ve never even met, we tend to forget about what it does to our attention spans and faculties for critical thinking.

It’s a minefield of distraction and overstimulation. Anyone who has ever found themselves down the rabbit hole of random YouTube Compilation videos can attest to this. So much is thrown at us that we become utterly overwhelmed and no longer able to dissect the merits of what we are observing.

After being given so many choices our brains are too busy trying to figure out which option is best that it totally bypasses the question of whether the choice itself is actually necessary to our lives.

When overwhelmed say no. Give yourself zero options or stimuli and instead try to assess the situation. From this assessment you will figure out what need you are trying to fulfil and what is the best way to meet it.

It’s like typing the word “robots” into google. Your results will probably be all over the place until you assess what it is you’re really after and put some limitations on your search, like “toy robots”. Then get critical with the smaller number of results you have arrived at. Keep adding more and more limitations, such as “toy robots 1995” to access the information that you actually need.

Instead of letting social media lead you by the nose, take control and decide what it is specifically that you are doing there. Are you on Twitter for information or out of boredom? Then specify your search or usage to cater to that need. Does Instagram inspire you or depress you? If it’s the later it’s probably time to assess who you’re following. And if you come to find you don’t need it, you can always disengage from it.

Here’s a useful exercise: firstly define what valuable information is to you, next monitor or make a physical note of all the valuable information you see on social media. Do this for a week or even a day and see how many truly important things you have seen. My guess is that you could count all the valuable information on one hand.

Yes keeping in touch with family and friends far away is important, but ask yourself are you actually keeping in touch or are you simply a passive observer of the fictionalised life they’ve presented on social media?

Books, Brain Hacks, Mindfulness, Motivation, Organisation

Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind

In the book “Atomic Habits”, author James Clear talks about the compound effects and benefits of making positive small decisions.

It’s the hundreds of small choices we make each and every day that influence our habits and identity. So if we are able to manipulate those choices for the better, pretty soon those choices will snowball into changing our lives for the better.

It’s an incredible book, marked with interesting anecdotes and life stories, designed to motivate and show you how to break down your behaviours and the choices behind them. One of the most interesting things I’ve learned from reading this book is just how much your environment impacts your decision making. I always knew that visual cues were important influences on my behaviour. They’re essentially why I always feel hungry after a fast food ad. But it never occurred to me to harness this link for my own benefit.

Vision is the most powerful of all human sensory abilities according to Clear. Which means that visual cues are the biggest influence on human behaviour. So if you want to change your habits, you have to design your environment for success. “Every habit is initiated by a cue, and we are more likely to notice cues that stand out.”

This concept really echoes the famous proverb “out of sight, out of mind”. If you want to avoid a bad habit, like say eating an entire block of chocolate, hide the chocolate or don’t have any in your home. Conversely if you want to encourage a good habit, like going for a walk every day, it’s a good idea to keep the cues for this action in your line of sight.

In our current “convenience is king” environment, by making your good habits more convenient than your bad ones, you will be more likely to follow through on the good. And that all starts with making them more obvious.

As of last year I have been trying to learn to play the guitar. It hasn’t been going super well. Although my guitar sits in the corner of my bedroom, a place where I can regularly see it, it still gets little to no use on a day to day basis.

With the help of this book, I’ve been giving more thought as to why this potential habit just isn’t sticking. A few things have occurred to me:

1. Even though my guitar is visible, I have no comfortable spot in which to sit and play it.
2. It’s constantly getting out of tune and I have no easy way to fix that.
3. I have exercise equipment in front of it, making the area look messy.

It’s funny how when you start to break down the visual cues in your environment, you begin to see all the obstacles you have inadvertently put in your way. It also becomes extremely obvious how lazy you have become.

My plan therefore is to remove as many obstacles as I can. So my first step will be to install a guitar tuner app on my phone and to actually tune my guitar. Next I’m moving the guitar to my living room. Specifically to the right side of my armchair. This chair is comfortable and offers the back support needed for good guitar playing posture. It’s also my favourite chair and one that I sit in regularly to watch TV.

I’m hoping that by changing the location of my guitar and guitar stand, I will make it easier to form the habit of practicing my playing each evening. Even if it’s just for a few minutes during commercial breaks, the goal is to start forming the habit. I can always build on that habit later.

Overall I adore this book and would recommend it to pretty much everyone I know, even my super organized friends. There is something new to learn for everyone. Remember it’s the hundreds of small steps that lead to great strides in behaviour.

Adulting, Books, Brain Hacks, Mindfulness, Motivation, Organisation, Relationships

Breaking Through The Struggle

The Obstacle Is The Way” by Ryan Holiday is a book that makes reference to various tactics in overcoming obstacles. It does so by applying the stoic philosophy of Roman legend Marcus Aurelius to real world examples of amazing individuals who triumphed over adversity. It is very inspiring and exceptionally useful, as it focuses largely on changing your perceptions of challenges and failures.

One example is a chapter titled: “Using obstacles against themselves”. It posits that sometimes staying silent or simply remaining calm in the face of adversity is the best option. When I was in high school and had just started my first part-time job as a receptionist, my boss gave me an excellent piece of advice. He told me that the best tactic in dealing with upset people was to lower your voice. If they are raising their voice and demanding their way, lower your voice and calmly respond. They will have to do the same, if for no other reason than to actually be able to hear your responses.

This little nugget of wisdom stayed with me through my many years working in retail. It proved to be useful time and time again. I also believe that most people tend to mimic the behaviour of those around them, therefore by remaining calm and keeping my voice at a steady pace I found myself with customers who would also begin to do the same.

Sometimes reacting is just useless. Why not let the person that is getting in your way, get in their own way instead? The book suggests that instead of attacking, sometimes all we need to do is take a stand or even stand back. Let the obstacle tire itself out. Patience is a virtue after all, even if it’s one many of us might feel uncomfortable with when we are trying to achieve our goals.

Ultimately I have to say this is a brilliant book. Every person should read it as it will open your mind to the many different ways you can approach the difficulties in your life.

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.

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 🙂

Books, Brain Hacks, Mindfulness, Minimalism, Motivation

One Thing

Change One Thing” another relatively small self help book by Sue Hadfield, is in some ways pretty straight forward and predictable, and yet it remains entirely helpful for the self help novice. It’s premise is simple: making just one change (however small) can impact the rest of your life. Although throughout its pages it suggests many small changes to assist in projecting this impact.

The past is over and only exists when you choose to recall it. Therefore you cannot let it get you down, instead see your mistakes or regrets as examples of how change will come to you whether you invite it or not. Start being pro-active about this unstoppable foe: Change!

• Motivation
It all begins with motivation. You want to be aware that you are living a life worth living while living it.
• Identification
Know who you are and what it is that you want. Know your values and embrace them.
• Recognition
Having purpose in life is in many ways more powerful than having your perceived “needs” met. Don’t delay following your purpose because you have yet to meet those needs. It’s like saying “I can’t do something until I get a better job” when by following your purpose or passion your inner life would be happier and that in turn would colour your outer life. A great life can be as easy as fulfilling your own potential.
• Procrastination
Procrastination is basically resistance to change. It stems from the belief that you either aren’t capable of change or you have to wait until change comes for you and you have no other choice. You may seek instant gratification and therefore become impatient with those small steps that eventually become a big change, or are a perfectionist afraid of making a mistake and therefore put things off. Instead of focusing on the negative outcomes try focusing on the positives.
• Inspiration
Clarify your goals, success comes from preparation, planning, research and staying power. So prepare! Research the changes you wish to make and ask questions about the process from people who have already been there, done that. Look at how these changes align with your values.
• Preparation
Keep on learning, keep on gathering information and prepare yourself for the inevitable setbacks. Success isn’t about luck it’s about persistence.
• Implementation
It’s all about finding time and working towards your purpose. There’s a danger in being busy doing things that don’t bring value or joy to your life. Don’t let life become a treadmill where you loose track of your values or purpose.
• Determination
Start now and keep going. Resilience is key, and a part of that is understanding and welcoming obstacles as a chance to see how far you come and re-evaluate your plans.

It’s all relatively obvious, but empowering regardless. A great book and one that actually takes the time to identify and describe the entire process from start to finish. Which is actually quite a unique feat for a self help book.