Ways to live more simply

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I recently read a blog post by Tyson Popplestone that resonated with me. It was about 30 ways to simplify your life. Whist I try to do many of these things, it’s a good reminder to come back to.

The ones I find particularly useful are:

  • Say ‘no’ sometimes.
  • Check email, Facebook and news once or twice a day. Not multiple times during the day, or as soon as I wake-up or before going to bed.
  • De-clutter – home and desk at work.
  • Establish routines – I’ve written about this before and how establishing something as  a routine means we don’t have to keep making a decision to do something. We’ve already made-up our mind in advance.
  • Live frugally – consider purchases and choose quality over quantity.
  • Don’t allow debt.
  • Consider what is ‘enough’ for you. I like to remind myself that I have enough sometimes when my mind is craving.
  • Meditate, do yoga, walk.
  • Eat simply – natural foods.
  • Take a day-off from media.
  • Give everything a place.
  • Stop multi-tasking.
  • Take an annual retreat – or three or four in my case!

The Top 20 Happiness-Boosting Strategies, Ranked By Science

The Top 20 Happiness-Boosting Strategies, Ranked By Science Hero Image

I was reading this blog post by Doctor Joel Almeida, and wanted to save it as a few things jumped out at me and reminded me of some of the work I’ve done with my therapist this year.

  • If you’re in an unfortunate predicament, change it or accept it. Then go on with the rest of your life. Don’t get trapped by rumination about what’s wrong with your life.
  • Know which direction you’d like to travel in life and how you can start. You don’t need to see the whole journey or worry about crossing bridges until you’re in front of them. All you need is a general sense of direction, determined by what you most value, and to know the next step in that direction.
  • Exercise and take care of your physical health.
  • Ask for and accept support. Do the same for others.
  • Meditate and seek support from your beliefs e.g. listening to dharma talks or reading books.
  • Be more active in your leisure time – it’s good to relax but too much watching TV and sitting on the sofa isn’t helpful.

Letting it out

I’ve been reading ‘Let it out – a journey through journaling‘ by Katie Dalebout and wanted to share some of the exercises that I’m finding useful.

Get going

  • This is the best advice I’ve read for ages – make mornings something to look forward to – rather than wanting to press snooze. Get up even 10 minutes earlier to read, drink tea, listen to music, a podcast or TED talk. Journal – do anything that doesn’t feel like work and write plans down if it helps me to commit. Remember that I don’t have to do it all, or even the same thing everyday. Mix it up depending on how I feel and what is needed at that time.
  • I’ve also found this advice really useful and have been able to put it into practice a few times – get back on the wagon no matter what the time of day. Ask ‘what are three things I can accomplish before the end of the day?’ For me usually there are small things like washing up, changing my sheets, doing some admin etc but I go to bed with a sense of achievement and don’t feel like the whole day was a write-off.

Get organised

  • Pencil self-care into my diary, especially to compensate for non-negotiable commitments that I’m not looking forward to.
  • I’ve started writing a to-do list for the next day so I don’t go to bed thinking about things.

Find presence

  • Katie writes about a ‘joy jar’ however I kind of already do that with my gratitude journal. I did remind me though of my memory box that if filled with lots of lovely cards, photos, trinkets etc from loved ones, and also an album my mum gave me of photos from when I  was born until a couple of years ago. I need to remember to get it out when I’m feeling low and need cheering up, or to feel a sense of connection.

There are so many suggestions in the book and I’m not even half-way through, but these are the things that feel like they have the most potential to make the difference to me at the moment.

How to improve mornings

I’ve been wanting to change my morning routine for ages! Once I am up and out of bed, I consider myself a morning person – it’s when I’m at my most productive at work.

But getting out of bed is the problem. I often wake up naturally before my alarm then fall back to sleep. When my alarm goes and I press snooze three or four times, leaving myself just enough time to rush around getting ready before going to work.

Every morning I wish I’d gotten up earlier and think about how much nicer it would be to start my day in a more relaxed way. My current habits definitely don’t help the anxiety that is often present in my belly as soon as I wake up and open my eyes in the morning.

I’ve read a few articles about improving mornings so here are some of the things I think I might find helpful:

  • Put my alarm clock on the other side of the room so I have to get up. Or decide to only press snooze once if I think I can handle the temptation of having the alarm clock next to my bed.
  • Drink a cup of hot water with lemon. I don’t usually make myself hot drinks so this feels quite indulgent and a nice thing to do for myself in the morning.
  • Take five minutes to eat breakfast at home in my comfy chair in the lounge – I usually eat it when I get to work. I always have oats with skimmed milk, 0% fat Greek yoghurt, fruit and sprinkle of cinnamon.
  • Meditate – even if it’s five minutes.
  • Read something positive – like a blog post. I really enjoy reading Mind Body Green.
  • Don’t look at my phone first thing – shower and clean my teeth first. I also don’t need to check the news first thing in the morning.
  • Tidy up – even something small – start the day with a sense of satisfaction.
  • Open the blinds and let sunlight in.
  • Stretch
  • Send someone a nice message – maybe not everyday but this is a nice idea to brighten up someone else’s morning.

It feels like an important time of year to work on this as the dark mornings and evenings definitely make the comfort and warmth of my bed more appealing.

I’m going to try some of these things this week – not all of them everyday – that would be unrealistic and I’m trying to be aware of my all-or-nothing thinking! Doing a few of these things two or three times this week would be a good start.

Planning, ruminating and finding fulfilment

Planning

Planning things in detail seems to work for me:

  • Plan meals, when I will shop and when I will prepare food.
  • Plan exercise – what classes or groups I will go to throughout the week.
  • Plan what time I’ll go to bed and what time I’ll wake up.
  • Put the alarm clock on the other side of the room so I have to get up to turn it off.
  • Set a time to start getting ready for bed – phone away, clean teeth etc. Try doing this early in the evening when I’m not so tired then all I have to do is  to get into bad. When your depressed, why does cleaning your teeth feel like such a  mammoth and relentless task?!

Ruminating

Things I can do when I’m ruminating on things that aren’t helpful – like how bad things were and my time in hospital. I think some of the reason that comes back up though is because I haven’t really spoken to anyone about it properly – there are things that I need to say, that weren’t said or seen then. I will write about it here one day soon. In the meantime here’s what I need to try:

  • Meditate.
  • Practice moving my attention around my body or the room.
  • Get up and move – change the environment.
  • Play some music.
  • Get outside.
  • Exercise.

Finding fulfilment

I seem to constantly struggle with the meaning of life – what it’s all about, why I am here, what am I doing with my life?

  • Deal with it practically – thinking about these big questions on a daily basis won’t help.
  • Think of it like a flow chart – do I have the money to do the things I want to do? If the answer is no, then I can either accept that and make the most of what I have, look for meaning in other ways etc or I can decide to save and make plans for a point in time when I will have the resources.
  • Plan to check-in at a particular time frame e.g. in six months or one year. Postpone the worrying. Ask myself – am I happy? Am I fulfilled? What am I missing?
  • Keep planning regular treats and rewards – don’t give them up to start saving – need balance and compromise.

I like the idea of postponing things until a more useful time – it works well for me with anxiety. Sometimes a thought pops-up and I can decide not to give it any attention right not but to park it for a specific time – it seems to work!

The main thing to remember when I am stuck and ruminating is to focus on the small changes that I can make right now – sleep, food, exercise and routine.

Dealing with cravings

I’ve been struggling with eating too many of the wrong things and feeling bad about gaining weight. I found this list of advice that my therapist give me for dealing with cravings:

  1. Read mantas or quotes
  2. Think about how good it feels not to binge.
  3. Get outside and get some fresh air.
  4. Talk about it.
  5. Move around, change the scene.
  6. Read articles as a distraction.
  7. Do some art, make a collage.

I really need to practice distracting myself. I haven’t even remembered to try, let alone giving any of the things above a chance this week. So that’s my challenge for the next week or so.

I’d love to hear about anything that help anyone reading this post.

Advice for difficult days

One of my friends has been struggling with depression returning this week, and as well as listening,  I’ve found myself giving him advice I’m sure I’ll need it myself in the future so I thought I’d write about it here.

Sleep

Get back to a good sleep routine. Mine consists of no technology after 9pm, a bath or shower, a cup of hot cocoa and getting into bed to read. It’s also helpful to get up at the same time each day rather than laying around in bed and feeling groggy for the rest of the day. I’m fortunate that for me it’s 8am. If I really can’t sleep I listen to a dharma talk, and if I can’t bring myself to get out of bed in the morning, try to do something useful with the time like watching a documentary, listening to a TED talk, reading, writing or colouring.

Eat and drink

Don’t forget to drink lots of water and have food that’s easy to prepare on hand. For me that’s soup, eggs, pre-prepared salads, fruit and yogurt. If I really can’t be bothered to cook then I’ll make a smoothie with almond milk, almond butter, spinach, banana and blueberries.

Take a shower

It’s amazing what a difference taking a shower and washing my hair can make to how I feel, even if I don’t have the patience to dry my hair. If I’m going out, putting on a little bit of make-up also makes it feel slightly easier to face the day. Sometimes it’s easier to have a bath instead of a shower as it takes less energy just to lay there in the hot water! Or I often shower before bed so it’s one less thing to do in the morning.

Get dressed

Even if it’s just lounge wear -comfy clothes that I can wear if I need to go out. Or put on some clean PJs and change the sheets so I have a clean bed to get into as well.

Get out

Get some fresh air – even if it’s just in the garden or looking up at the stars in the night sky. Driving in traffic is the last thing I want to do when I’m feeling rubbish so try to walk the dog around the block or walk to the shops for some food.

Schedule

When things are really hard, I write a to-do list for the day and it includes the basics like have a shower, clean my teeth and make some porridge. I also include things like open the post, read, watch a film so I don’t have to make decisions or feel overwhelmed by all things I could be doing.

Reach-out

Ask for help with cooking, cleaning or walking the dog. Also pull back when I need to. I don’t have to accept every social invitation – one or two things a week is enough sometimes.

Exercise

Even if it’s a 30 minute swim – it kills two bird with one stone as I get to shower and wash my hair at the same time! Commit to doing something whether I feel like it or not.

Be productive

Write a to-do list for around the house. Or a ‘done’ list of the things I have done so I don’t forget the small achievements. Break things down – I don’t have to clean the whole flat in one day – start with doing the washing up or dusting one room.

Be grateful

Keep up my daily gratitude practice. But don’t forget to express other emotions to – physical exercise, art and writing also really help when I have some anger bubbling away below the surface.