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?

Adulting, Books, Mindfulness, Minimalism

Borrow Before You Buy

When it comes to minimalism there seems to be many variants of the popular less is more philosophy. It’s one of the wonderful things about it, it’s such a flexible ideology that it can apply to anyone.

There are also many resources available to guide you on your minimalism journey, with what can sometimes feel like an overwhelming amount of advice. Having read my fair share of books on minimalism, I’ve come across many techniques to assist me in maintaining my minimalist lifestyle. I want to share one with you today that I find to be particularly useful.

The technique is called: Borrow before you buy. This can essentially be boiled down to a try before you buy philosophy.

A big part of minimalism is figuring out what brings you joy and thereby brings value to your life. It involves setting priorities in terms of where you spend your time, energy and money. But for many people, myself included, this presents a dilemma. How do I know what will bring joy or value to my life? How do I figure out what my priorities are without investing in the clutter often associated with them?

The trick is to borrow the item instead of purchasing it.

Whether you’ve decided to take up woodwork, playing guitar or have simply heard great things about a new book… See if you can borrow that item before investing in it.

After borrowing a friends old guitar for a few weeks you may find you really aren’t that musically inclined, or after borrowing that literary classic from the library you may admit that it is a highly over-rated read. The point is you are free from the commitment of owning that item. Or any feelings of regret at purchasing it. You can just return it to your friend or the library and be done with it.

Another version of this try before you buy, is rent before you buy. Want to start a DIY project but don’t have the power tools to do it? Well if asking a friend or neighbour isn’t an option, you can always rent the equipment instead. It will be more cost effective in the majority of cases, and if you find your dream hasn’t quite translated into reality you are not burdened with the task of selling or storing the unwanted items.

For me the borrow before you buy technique has been really helpful in turning what could typically be referred to as consumption into experience. When I borrow a DVD from the library for example, I have a limited amount of time to watch it. This means that I have to make time to watch it. It becomes an experience instead of just a way to pass time.

When I decided to try boxing classes, I asked a friend if I could tag along to one of her classes. Not only did I get to try the class for free under their bring a friend along free program, but I was able to borrow her spare set of wraps and rent out the gloves from the boxing studio. It was a great experience with zero up front commitment.

While this may not apply to everything, you would be surprised how many things you can borrow or rent. It’s definitely worth a try.

Books, Mindfulness, Minimalism

Tidying Up

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” by Marie Kondō has an enormous title. However as it’s really interesting and also has a Manga version, I will forgive the grievance. As far as I’m concerned Marie Kondō  can do no wrong!

Once you put your home in order, your life will change drastically. It’s the MAGIC that this book talks about. Success is 90% your mindset, but If you don’t acquire the correct technique you will undoubtedly rebound in your progress.

In terms of technique:

You just need to look at each object, one at a time, and then decide two things:
1. Whether you want to keep it?
2. Where you want to put it?
That’s it.

Undertake this process by category rather than by location. I.e. Clothes, books, eating utensils as opposed to lounge room, bedroom, bath etc. And start with the least sentimental categories, the practical stuff before you work your way through to the physical and emotional baggage.

Most importantly though, you need to tidy up all in one session. Get it done and dusted and you will find that it’s easier to maintain.

There are obviously many other components of this process, this is just an overview so read the book! You won’t regret it.

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.

Brain Hacks, Mindfulness, Minimalism

Evening Rhythms

Attempting to orchestrate an evening rhythm is no easy task.

If you happened upon my previous blog post about Brooke Mcalarys mindfulness book “Destination Simple” you will understand the exercise I am referring to. But perhaps not the frustration I felt in being unable to undertake it successfully.
The problem is that I get it into my head that everything needs to be worked out immediately, with immediately conveniently being right before bedtime. But the urgency I feel in needing to deal with these “issues” does not represent or correspond with the actual necessities of the moment. It’s not a part of the flow I so dutifully constructed in accordance to the book.

In my search for a solution I came across a really useful trick called allocating worry time. It does take a bit of practice (a lot of practice), but it’s completely worth it because it does work.
So basically you want to begin by taking some deep breaths. Focusing on your inhale and exhale, on the rise and fall of your chest as you breath in and out. Basically trying to relax your body and to let go of your physical tension.
When your mind starts to think about this or that, when you start planning or obsessing, you need to imagine a red light. And you want to tell yourself to stop. You might want to say this out loud or just in your head. But you need to tell yourself to stop.
Say to yourself, “Now is the time to sleep. You will worry about this for an hour tomorrow, at 2 pm.”
The exact time you choose to schedule in your worry is up to you, but it is very important to be specific. Be sure to specify not only the exact time, but also how long you plan to worry about it. Then go back to your relaxation exercises. The moment any of those thoughts come back, just run through the exercise again. See the red light, tell yourself to stop. Now is not the time, tomorrow at 2 pm is the time and you will have a whole hour to figure it out.
The most important thing though, is to follow through with the scheduling. The next day at 2 pm, or whenever you have designated to do it, sit down and think about whatever it was that you were so focused on the night before. Spend that time planning, organizing and worrying about it.
That is it. That’s the trick. It just takes practice and consistency (my two least favourite words) and you can incorporate it into both your evening and morning routines for ease of use.

Brain Hacks, Mindfulness, Minimalism

Slice of Life

Destination Simple: Everyday rituals for a slower life” by Brooke Mcalary is a slight and rather inconspicuous book, brimming with masterful mindfulness exercises. Its key premise is that by intentionally manipulating your daily habits, you can wield these into viable rituals and what is referred to in the book as rhythms. Thus slowing down and simplifying your life.

She prescribes seven solutions or exercises to undertake each day to attain this lofty goal:

  1. Single-tasking: Complete focus on one task.
  2. Unplugging: Basically no electronics for 15 minutes.
  3. Emptying your mind: A mindfulness technique to relive your brain of nagging thoughts.
  4. Three point to do list: Making to do lists containing only the three most important tasks to complete.
  5. Gratitude: Listing 5 things you are grateful for.
  6. Morning routine: Developing a morning ritual of various tasks (both necessary and voluntary).
  7. Evening routine: The same as the morning routine but after dinner.

By incorporating one or all of these exercises, a simplified rhythm can be achieved. Many of these concepts and exercises seemed quite familiar, as they are essentially mindfulness devices. However their benefit lies in their practical application to a rather turbulent and typical home life. Each exercise is brief (except perhaps for numbers 6 and 7), and serves as both an organisational and reflective tool. They provide you with a method to organise yourself, that is simple and effective. All in all, a very helpful little guide.

“Learn to enjoy the slice of life you experience, and life turns out to be wonderful.” – Leo Babauta