Mindful Benefits Of A Digital Detox

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It is called a web for a reason and without some mindful awareness of its entrapment it is not just our time that gets tangled up but also our minds.

The other day I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when I came across a link to a great piece in the New York Times. I jumped across to the lengthy article and had a read. Once I’d finished I returned to Facebook, pausing to read some things in more depth, skimming over others, and leaving comments here and there.

Sound familiar? I am sure this is a typical snapshot of all of our social media interactions.  We flit seamlessly from one thing to another. This is true of most of our online activity. Social media aside, web-surfing lures us from one interesting site to another and I even find just answering emails takes me into the maze. It is called a web for a reason and without some mindful awareness of its entrapment it is not just our time that gets tangled up but also our minds. A single interaction can agitate the mind enough to cause an entire avalanche. You find yourself snowed under with streams of open tabs to come back to and a mind that has travelled far and wide and has lost track of where it was.

The risk here is that our minds are becoming conditioned to being constantly stimulated and eternally engaged. Our minds are presented with fewer and fewer inbuilt opportunities to sit still and be quiet. The previously uninhabited spaces in our lives are now filled in, filled up and filled out. The mobile nature of the devices we carry make sure of that. The quiet little windows of time that spontaneously presented themselves – standing in line, sitting in the waiting room, stopped at the lights, waiting at school pick-up time, are fast becoming non-existent. These little gaps left time for us to ponder, daydream, reflect, notice and people watch. These are not activities that we schedule into our day and so by filling this time we go without them. These incidental activities, shall we call them, reward us without warning or fanfare. They provide mental relaxation, some down-time for the mind,  and when they are absent from our lives our mental-hygiene suffers and can leave us feeling constantly distracted and overwhelmed.

Our minds are moving from one thing to another in such quick succession that we don’t have time to digest the information let alone process our emotional responses to it.

Knowing when it’s time for a digital detox.

Our need to constantly ‘check in’ agitates the mind. We struggle to rest in stillness as there is always a task at hand (or more literally in hand). Our minds begin to scan the device-driven to-do list (emails, social media updates, follow-up phone calls etc.) for anything that can occupy our time. Eventually it becomes an unconscious time filler that we reach for in our spare moments. As soon as it becomes an unconscious habit it sits very close to an addiction pattern. This is perhaps a good indication that it is time to switch off and break the cycle.

I took the opportunity over the weekend to turn off all devices and experience life without distraction for a couple of days. I was starting to feel wired and the monkey mind had become a hyped-up beast that was difficult to settle, even during meditation. In the absence of any undue stress or tension I could feel the restlessness building from technology constantly tugging at my skirt tails. I felt that it was time to switch off in order to restore balance and create more space and time. My instinct was to go back to the simplicity I once knew before devices were the norm.

Unplugging was a hugely rewarding way to take a breather. Almost immediately there was a sense of calm that came with feeling there was more time and space for things, not to mention the relief of not being constantly interrupted by a smartphone. Each time the temptation arose to check a device or look something up (like where to eat in a new part of town we were visiting) I refocused my attention on how calm and quiet my mind felt, and how grateful I was to recalibrate in this way.

Taking a little (or a lot) of time away from devices helps to raise awareness around the behaviours that agitate our mind. This experience made me aware of small ways that I can adjust my day-to-day use of technology so as to minimize some of its effects on my mental wellbeing and I have been implementing them ever since.

I highly recommend that you try it for yourself. Once you resist the initial temptation to reach for a device you will be well on your way to discovering a whole new (old) world that leaves you feeling renewed, relaxed and recharged and very much more connected to yourself and the world around you.

Let me know how you go.

Perhaps you have already done a digital detox. What did you discover?
Leave a comment below.

May your week be a centred one.

xM

 

How To Exchange 15 Minutes Of Your Time For Something Of Value

Michelle iphone photos July 2014 033If we don’t consciously choose how to use our time, those precious spare moments or hours will be lost to unrewarding filler.

Time slips away, whether or not we choose to use it wisely. Even a window of 15 minutes can bring rich rewards if spent consciously. Whilst there are some more obvious ways of spending 15 minutes wisely, like meditation or perhaps  breathing exercises, there are other activities just a little outside the box that I know you will find worthwhile.  Here is a list that I think is a good trade for 15 minutes of my valuable time.

Pick from the menu below to find your own fair exchange. Perhaps you are looking for connectedness, stillness, efficiency, fitness, love and more. They are all available at the very low price of 15 minutes of your time. Ready to trade?

1. $15 for 15 minutes

I recently went to one of those drop-in-for-a-quickie places for the first time. I had 15 minutes to spare before collecting the after-school gaggle and, in desperate need of some body work, I scanned the menu for 15 minute options. Fast forward a mere 15 minutes and I was transformed. The quiet, the smell of rose-geranium, the firm but nurturing hands of the therapist made this a value-packed 15 minutes.

2. Write.

No planning, no over-thinking, just start. Blurt it all out. Have a whinge or have an epiphany. It is all great. Writing helps us sort and order our thoughts. It also helps us get in touch with ourselves and ourfeelings. By expressing ourselves in an unedited environment we can tap into self-guidance and experience the therapeutic effects of journal writing.

3. Write a love letter.

This helps you to get in touch with the positive feelings associated with love and gratitude. Dwell in those feelings for 15 minutes by writing a love letter to someone. You may choose to deliver it (in the mail or tucked into a lunch box) or not, but by spending the time and staying in this mind space for 15 minutes you are reinforcing these loving experiences and pathways in the brain.

4. Trade 15 minutes with a friend.

This works well over the phone on days that you need a pick-me-up, someone in your corner who is cheering you on when you can’t do it for yourself. Let them know in advance you need some loving-kindness, or a good laugh or a boost of ‘I-know-you-can-and-here’s-why’. This works best with friends who know you well and whom you can be vulnerable with.

5. Spend 15 minutes ONLY on a task from the to-do list.

It is often when I have a small window of time left before I need to walk out the door that I notice the place needs a tidy.  I can somehow make a mere 15 minutes incredibly productive. I move like a woman whose mother-in-law is heading down the driveway and can get a huge amount done knowing that it will all be over in 15 minutes when I need to leave. The daunting task gets done in  a much less imposing time frame.This is also a good time to make that appointment you have been putting off or clearing out ONE drawer. Less time to contemplate means the mind is less of a hindrance in the process of attending to stuff.

6.Take 15 minutes to photograph your kids, your pets, your neighborhood.

This is an active way of appreciating and actively noticing the ones we love and our surroundings. It helps the mind become more present focused when you fully engage with your subject and look a little more closely. Take the time to dwell in the small details.

7. Take 15 minutes to put together an outfit for the day.

Our clothes are like costumes. When we wear our old jeans and most loved t-shirt we are setting ourselves up for comfort. And whilst this is exactly what we need some of the time what about setting yourself up for an adventure, for being noticed, for self-expression, for trying a new approach (wearing heels always makes me feel like someone else, and I like her). This 15 minutes can breathe freshness into your whole day and maybe even beyond.

8. Done right,15 minutes of exercise can pack a punch.

1 minute squats + 1 minute pushups + I minute plank + 1 minute skipping + 1 minute back extensions. Repeat x 3. Done.

9. Draw to quiet the mind.

No artistic qualifications required here. Take the time to just involve yourself in the process and let your mind relax. Take a pencil in your left hand, close your eyes and slowly make lines all over the page. When you are done open your eyes. You may look for images amongst the lines and flesh them out, or enjoy coloring in your doodle. You may also enjoy doing this activity to music.

10. Brainstorm

Pick a prominent nagging dilemma and spend 15 minutes coming up with a list of creative solutions. Whether the problem is work related, organisational, social, creative, etc. give your self a big piece of paper and a time limit and without the opportunity to procrastinate or perfect you will have created the ideal environment for your ideas to flow.

11. Organise fuel for the day

Eating wholesome, nourishing food is key to our health and feeling at our optimal best. Nourishing ourselves helps our mind and body function well but it is also an act of self-care. Many of us intend to eat well but never quite follow through. Preparing healthy food needn’t be a roadblock to health and feeling great. A 15 minute investment in the preparation department here can mean the difference between a sugar and coffee fueled afternoon slump and ending the day with some pep still in your step. A fair and worthy trade here I think.

I would love to hear what you find is a rewarding exchange for 15 minutes of your time.

Drop me a  comment below.

4 easy steps to a healthy lunchbox

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What kids eat over the course of the day has the potential to set them up with good energy levels, good concentration and a good mood, if done right.

I am pretty conscientious when it comes to healthy lunches. I aim to include minimally processed whole foods and homemade snacks most days.  The closer it is to nature the better. I also prefer to use all organic produce where possible (thus reducing the pesticide load and impact of added hormones on growing bodies). Add to this a drink bottle filled with plain water and we are setting our children up with healthy food habits and a healthy future.

My able assistant here is the lunchbox itself, which serves as my guide. I use those lunch boxes that have 4 neat little compartments, 2 of which can conveniently hold sealed containers. Not only do they provide the perfect tool for wrapper free lunches (look for BPA free and check they are made from recyclable plastic –  my kids seem to go through a few each year) but more importantly they are the perfect tool to create a balanced lunch. These 4 compartments are my best friend in the don’t-have-time-for-too-much-thinking morning rush, and can be yours too.

The perfect school lunch in 4 compartments

1. Main course

2. Fruit and vegetables

3. Something savoury

4. A healthy sweet treat

Making sure kids get a balance of healthy fats and protein alongside energy-giving, wholegrain carbohydrates will help to keep blood sugar levels stable, ensuring good concentration and mood. It is important to keep changing it up too. Adding variety from one day to the next ensures the necessary balance of nutrients over the course of  a week. This also helps our children develop their palate. I have never prepared separate meals for my children and whilst they have their favourites, they are enthusiastic about new foods and dishes.

Main Course

The main course should provide a combination of lean protein,  healthy fats and carbohydrates. These carbohydrates should take the form of vegetables and minimally refined whole grains.. Good fats to include are avocado, nuts and seed butters  or a drizzle of olive oil. Some proteins that are lunchbox friendly include legumes (whole or as the base for a spread), organic meats, eggs and dairy.

  • Sandwich/ wraps – (sourdough, stoneground, organic breads for sandwiches or flat breads/ nori sheets for wraps) with eg. fetta and avocado/ tahini and miso
  • Leftovers that work really well  include nasi goreng, stir fry, quinoa based salads, vegetarian curry with grain, pasta-style salads
  • Homemade pastry triangles
  • Nori rolls/ sushi
  • Frittata muffins
  • Burgers

Fruit and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are an important part of the diet as they provide a wide range of nutrients as well fibre to help the digestive system function properly. Try to serve a rainbow of colours and as much variety as possible over the week.

  • cherry tomatoes
  • carrot / cucumber / celery sticks/ snow peas/ etc.
  • fresh fruit: berries / cherries/ pear / apple / stone fruit pieces

Something savoury

This includes either a savoury snack or a protein (depending on how much protein is already included in the main course)

  • boiled egg
  • cubes of marinated tofu
  • edamame (young soy beans)
  • cubes of cheese/ dip with rice biscuits or vegie sticks
  • nuts
  • small container of chick peas
  • homemade popcorn
  • rice cakes with protein based spread: nut butters, miso paste, hummus

A healthy sweet treat

  • fresh dates
  • date and coconut rolls
  • homemade bliss balls
  • homemade muffins / biscuits (sugar content reduced by 1/2)
  • dried fruit
  • pureed fruit with yogurt
  • oven roasted pear sprinkled with cinnamon

It doesn’t take much effort to create healthy school lunches. The key is being organised with a stocked fridge and pantry at the start of the week and then it is just a matter of mixing and matching  to create nutritional balance.