Tag: balance

Grilled cheese leads to better relationships

Grilled cheese leads to better relationships

Who doesn’t love a grilled cheese sandwich? I dare say that even those of you who are lactose intolerant will be sorely tempted. (Although ‘sorely’ might be an unfortunate choice of adjective in those instances…) In the modern world where technology is impeding, rather than fostering, quality social interaction and meaningful relationships, grilled cheese just may be the answer. Hear me out…

In my previous post I reflected on the modern trend of choosing to be stressed and strung out. Part of this phenomenon, I believe, is choosing to adopt the mindset and subscribe to the idea that there is seldom sufficient time to make headway on ever-lengthening To Do lists. Some of this is due to poor time management, but largely it can be attributed to how we choose to prioritize our time.

When we choose to be ‘too busy’ we are choosing to neglect our relationships. Take, for example, teachers who assume that any social engagements have to wait for the school holidays. Or friends who live in close proximity who seldom see each other. It’s just nonsense. Honestly, where are our priorities?

The solution? Yip, you guessed it: grilled cheese.

Social occasions need not involve extensive planning and preparation. Friends do not expect a table setting worthy of Pinterest accompanied by an equally elaborate menu (unless you’ve set that precedent, in which case you should kick yourself – hard). It’s the time you spend together that is important. Needless to say, I’m referring to quality time, not a case of we’ll-be-in-the-same-room-but-stare-at-our-phones. True friends probably wouldn’t mind in the least if you spontaneously invited them over, even if all you could offer was a grilled cheese sandwich. They’d probably love it, not because they’re dairy obsessed (guilty as charged) but because it’s about friends spending time together.  Which, going back to my earlier point, is a great antidote for all the stress and busy-ness of today’s world.

As soon as you lose the idea that everything has to be planned, has to be an event, you will find the time to invest in your friendships and relationships. Importantly, your life will be more balanced and enriched as a result.

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Are you simply talking yourself into feeling busy and stressed?

Are you simply talking yourself into feeling busy and stressed?

Have you ever realized partway through a TV programme that you have no idea what’s going on because you’ve been distracted by your phone? It happened to me earlier today. This morning the lure of social media apps on my phone meant that I lost track of the British TV game show I was watching (a guilty pleasure that I’ve inherited from my mum). The effect was inconsequential, to say the least.

But what about when technology distracts us from engaging in the important aspects of our lives?

Phones, TVs, computers, tablets: they all provide us with constant sources of distraction. This ubiquitous distraction seems to be an ever-increasing characteristic of modern life. Sure, technology makes life easier, more convenient, and so on. There’s no denying that it has its place.

However, the benefits of technology rapidly wane when we are distracted from being present and mindfully engaging with what should be our priorities in life. And no, I’m not talking about game shows.

Consciously developing and nurturing relationships that, in turn, nurture us is an essential underpinning of happiness. At least, that’s what I believe. Unfortunately, all too often we are too distracted to give our relationships the focus that they warrant. More often than not this can be traced back to the modern lifestyle: not only technology in all its forms, but the all too common habit we have of repeatedly telling everyone (including ourselves) how busy we are. How stressful life is. That we simply don’t have time. That we have too many things to do. And yet, I’m sure we’d be appalled if we realized just how much time we devote to ‘screen time’ on a weekly, or even daily, basis.

This is precious time that is essentially wasted. It’s time that we could – and arguably should – be spending in more mindful pursuits. It’s time that would allow us to be properly present in our interactions with others: our spouses, children, family, friends, and colleagues.

It seems to me that we choose to be distracted, albeit on a subconscious level. I’m not saying that stress is not a real concern, or that we aren’t busy. I just think that we tend to talk ourselves into adopting the mindset of a stressed busybody. No matter how much we have to get done, no matter how much pressure we experience, the truth of the matter is that relationships need to be a priority. Spending time being mindfully present in our interactions with others will enhance our relationships and, ultimately, our happiness and sense of fulfilment.

And isn’t that what life should be about – feeling happy and fulfilled whilst enjoying meaningful connections with others?

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Too much of a good thing? Nonsense!

Too much of a good thing? Nonsense!

Why is it that every time someone says something about having too much of a good thing they adopt that annoying facial expression? You know the one I mean? The one that channels your inner caveman and gets you itching to club them over the head? That one.

Hmm… Should I just thump him over the head right now?

I am adamant that there are certain things in life of which it is impossible to get too much. Things in my life such as…

  1. Time with family, my hen and other friends
  2. Laughter (unless you have a full bladder)
  3. Chocolate fondant
  4. Champagne (This is for the environment. You know, to save water.)
  5. My mom’s lemon meringue pie (not the crap version they serve in restaurants)
  6. Full body massages (and if you want to throw in a mani and pedi, why not?!)
  7. Time in nature (especially at and under the sea)
  8. Green tea (to balance out numbers 3 to 5)
  9. Absorbing novels (the kind where you experience withdrawal symptoms when you reach the end)

too much of a good thing

Right, so, in order to be all neat and tidy, it would be great to end with number 10. Thing is, I was about to write 10. Cipralex because this stuff changed my life. But then I realised that it’s not a great idea to tout what would ultimately be an overdose of happy pills.

There was a moment in fact when I thought that the meds might be working too well. Like that time that I scratched my brand new car (a gift from my husband) and laughed. I was delighted by my reaction, exclaiming the wonders of modern meds that target depression and anxiety. According to my significant other, I was taking things too far. So maybe, just maybe, in the case of Cipralex, there is such as thing as too much of a good thing.

PUT DOWN THAT CLUB YOU DAMN TROGLODYTE!

Just as a little tangent to the last sentence, when I was a teacher I always tried to give my classes useful advice. Like don’t go to a dodgy tattoo parlour, that sort of thing. (One of the pupils actually quoted me as saying something of this ilk in the school newsletter. Not one of my finer moments.)

 

 

 

And to think I was just worried about poor hygiene!

One such pearl of wisdom that I shared was that it’s always useful to use ‘big’ words when you insult someone. Like troglodyte. That way they feel insulted and stupid. Plus, they can’t really retaliate because they’re not sure what the insult meant. (Can you tell that I was bullied???)

But back to the actual topic at hand, I’m sure there are things in your life where you feel that you simply couldn’t have too much. I’d love to know what they are! Please share in the comments section.

How tomatoes encouraged me to meditate

How tomatoes encouraged me to meditate

I love tomatoes. Weird perhaps, but true. But I never thought that tomatoes would show me the path to meditation.

I was first introduced to meditation a long time ago. And for those of you who think meditation is some sort of woo-woo practice (or worse), this occurred in a religious context. A Christian context, if you must know. However, it wasn’t something that I pursued (either the meditation or religion). Although I’ve always thought meditation to be a good habit, the true healing power was only really made clear to me when I started incorporating it into my life as part of mindfulness.

Like many things, I got out of the habit. You know how it goes: life gets busy and all these things fall by the wayside. Which is a pity. It’s also counterproductive because it’s when we get increasingly busy that things such as mindfulness and meditation are that much more crucial. Despite several concerted attempts to practice regularly, I just didn’t develop the habit. That’s where the tomatoes come in.

I was recently reading an article that mentioned the Pomodoro Technique in passing. Upon embarking on the inevitable Google search I discovered that this is not something new. Even though I’m rather late in getting the Pomodoro memo I decided to give it a try. Not because I struggle to procrastinate, but because I tend to focus so much when writing that I neglect to take breaks. Although this might sound like a thinly veiled attempt to sound smug, this pattern is just as destructive as procrastination, if not more so.pomodoro technique

And then, just like anything else in life, I discovered that there are several Pomodoro apps. Because who doesn’t need a desktop tomato kitchen timer? It even has all the sound effects of a traditional timer.

My 5 minute Pomodoro breaks typically involve green Rooibos tea. My daily consumption of the stuff is quite impressive. After four Pomodori I hit the twenty minute break. What to do? And then it hit me: meditate. It’s amazing what a twenty minute mindful meditation can do. I feel much calmer, more focused. And happier.

tomighty pomodoro app

Weird as it may sound, and bizarre it definitely is, as long as I use my desktop tomato kitchen timer, I find the time to include meditation as part of my daily routine. And I’m much the better for it. So you see, I have been right all along to love tomatoes!

What has been your experience of an unexpected source of motivation?

The Meaning of Loneliness

Recently I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the meaning of loneliness. And I’m not talking about the dictionary definition. I’m talking about how it’s defined in the context of our lives.

meaning of loneliness

I can be alone, and not feel lonely. In fact, I think that you need to be able to be happy in your own company. You need to be comfortable with yourself, with your thoughts, and be able to define yourself without reference to others.

happy in your own company

But being content like this has its drawbacks.

It can mean that you develop a tendency to isolate yourself, without even being aware of it. And this is dangerous. People are social beings. You need to establish and maintain social ties. Importantly in this day and age, you need to have face-to-face time with people, and not simply rely on social media and the like to give you the impression that you are being social when you’re really not.

meaning of loneliness

Time can fly by and before you’ve realised it, months have passed since you saw certain friends and relatives. These days everyone seems to constantly be talking about being busy and feeling stressed. Before you know it, the work week has ended and you haven’t made a concerted effort to make plans to see people – because you’re busy and stressed. And that may be true. But that’s all the more reason to spend time with those in your social circles.

The meaning of loneliness and the necessity of balance

And so I come back to the timeless theme of balance. Even though you might not really be feeling lonely, that doesn’t mean that you don’t need to spend more time with others. Which brings into question the true meaning of loneliness. Being comfortable in your own company is good, and it allows time for important things like reflection, but it needs to be balanced so that you don’t fall into the trap of isolation. Social media has its place, but it can give us the false impression that we are leading social lives, when in fact all it is doing is obscuring the actual physical isolation. In short, I don’t think that you need to feel lonely to have the need to combat loneliness in your life.

How to make things just fall into place

Have you ever experienced one of those moments when everything just seems to fall into place? There’s that incredible feeling of balance and harmony, of everything being as it should be. I believe that you can create these moments and these circumstances in your own life.

Building on from my previous post, it’s clear that everything hinges on being true to yourself. You have a path in life that you should be walking – your true path – and this is where everything falls into place and life is as it should be. Although this is the natural direction of your life, there are all too many factors that will lead you in another direction, whether you’re aware of it or not. You need to be genuinely true to yourself in order to follow your true path, and experience a life where everything is as it should be.

That’s not to say that your true path is always the easiest. Or the clearest. But life does require effort, reflection and change in order for you to experience a transformation of your destiny. Some people talk about karma, others about energy, others still about religion. Regardless of your belief system, you should be behaving and making decisions that are true to you. As soon as you do this in a genuine manner, you will see the results. Things will appear in your life that will bring you love, joy, and abundance. It’s a miracle that you can create for yourself in your own life.

Who do you put first?

We’ve all heard the mantra that we need to put ourselves first. That we need to look after ourselves before we’ll be in a position to really help others effectively. But it’s such a tricky thing to achieve.

At what point does putting yourself first become selfishness? Where is the line? It’s not very clear, especially if your conscience is riddled with messages about being kind to others. Most of us are brought up being taught to be kind, generous and helpful. And that’s a powerful message to be taught from a young age. Don’t get me wrong, these are all virtues that I value. But sometimes you have to be assertive and do what you need to do to look after your own well-being. And sometimes that means saying no. Sometimes that means declining a request to help out with something. And that in itself can be pretty guilt-inducing stuff.

So it’s all very well saying that we need to put ourselves first, but it is a potentially very tricky terrain to navigate. It’s not always easy to be assertive in this way without being assuaged with guilt. It’s difficult to not feel selfish and overly self-involved. Perhaps the answer lies in reflection – each one of us needs to realise what we need to do in our lives to manage our well-being. The trick is then to be able to maintain these boundaries and to feel confident in these assertions without being plagued by doubt and self-criticism. It’s not the easiest balance to achieve, and it is certainly easier said than done, but it is certainly necessary if you want to live a life that is true to who you are and the life you want and deserve to lead.