What to do with that ‘Too Busy’ Excuse

In the last three weeks I have spent over 35 hours on a plane, 10 more hours in layover time and over 84 hours in a classroom. I have slept in 5 different beds, been to three different beaches, met more than 400 people, started reading three new books and passed about 20 levels on candy crush!

Things I haven’t done: meditated every day, drunk enough water, eaten my daily 2 fruit and 5 vegetables, exercised, called my mum.

It’s easy to give up our basic life necessities when we are distracted with busy schedules and shiny opportunities. But it’s important to realise that without mental, physical and spiritual well-being, the excitement will be relatively short-lived.

“But how do I balance everything all at once”

A new but very important friend of mine sent me an e-mail where she said …

‘The habit often outweighs the effort. 5 minutes of work like push ups and reading is better than saying you have no time and avoiding all together.”

Set aside 30 minutes of everyday for yourself. This may mean saying no to people at times, or cutting lunch short, or waking up a little bit earlier but ‘the habit is often outweighs the effort‘. You can change the ratio to suit your own life, but to begin with schedule those 30 minutes using a 5:10:5:10 ratio;

5 minutes to fill up your water bottle and visualise your (healthy) meals
10 minutes to show gratitude to loved ones
5 minutes to write down your goals for the day (or following day)
10 minutes to walk/run/do star jumps (this really is the bare minimum, you should be exercising 30 mins+ daily when possible * * *).
“Thirty minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity (e.g. brisk walking) on most (preferably all) days of the week confers important health benefits for all individuals, regardless of body weight and shape. For people who sit less than 4–5 hours/day, this may be enough to prevent weight gain.

On top of this, use your natural alone time to meditate and be mindful: see my ‘Meditation in the 21st Century‘ blog for more information. This could be in the shower, on the toilet, in your coffee break, during your daily exercise or whenever.

Cheat Sheet for Busy People

30 minute ‘me’ time:

2.5 min- fill up water bottle
2.5 min- visualise meals
10 min- call/message someone you love
5 min- write goals down
10 min- walk/run/skip
any min- meditate in the shower/during run/in the car

The more you practice habits, the more you’ll notice structure in your life and all the advantages that come with those habits.

Other habits I’ve found to benefit my happiness and well-being

Body Scans: can be useful in falling asleep and are also a form of meditation
Stretching: increases concentration and coordination, improves sleep and flexibility, boosts self esteem and promotes overall physical and mental wellbeing: it can take place in your bedroom, at your desk, during your wait at the train station, and most places you spend your time.
Planning your day: increases productivity and will save you time in the long run

 

Consider

What are your routines, what is important in your life?
Find a way to bring them into your day and don’t be scared to change your schedule to better benefit these goals.

I wish you success in your everyday and I would love to hear your stories!

Digital Mindfulness

Making a difference via social media

Although I study marketing and public relations, I somehow managed to get accepted into a closed Facebook group run by occupational therapy students called “The Mental Health and Happiness Project”. To summarise, the group acts as a community forum, where members share articles relating to mental health and happiness. There are posts on topics such as understanding anxietycaring for ‘sad’ people ,  autism and animal therapies and glamorised soup kitchens . There are also posts on chickens, more chickens, even more chickens, and my personal favourites, the memes.

 

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This group has created an environment that cultivates empathy, support and compassion. As someone who is not supposed to be a part of the group -and is currently laying low- I still feel so much pleasure in checking notifications from this group. Sometimes it’s not even the content, it’s the concept of ‘happiness sharing’ and this community of positive thinkers.

I belong to various groups on Facebook where we like, share, comment and laugh at each other’s posts. Albeit not of a mindfulness topic, they create a warming sensation of belonging and acceptance, which, according to Wendy Zukerman is closely linked to happiness.

So if we can promote happiness through social media groups, then why aren’t there more groups like this?

Contrary to popular belief, there is actually a mass of studies that encourage social media in encouraging happiness among users.

We fail to acknowledge that for many people, using Facebook is a gratifying experience that can even lessen depression” (Tandoc, Ferrucci and Duffy 2015)

The paper provides case studies of people experiencing mental health problems who are using social media as part of their recovery, to live well and to challenge stigma. […] many people are using social media for peer support, shared learning and to decrease isolation” (Betton and Tomlinson 2013).

We did not find evidence supporting a relationship between SNS [social networking sites] use and clinical depression” (Jelenchick, Eickhoff and Moreno 2013)

While some researchers argue otherwise

media multitasking is associated with symptoms of depression and social anxiety (Becker, Alzahabi and Hopwood 2013).

“‘media amplification’ has been used to explain post-traumatic stress responses […] with media exposure even more strongly associated with stress than direct exposure” (Goodwin et al. 2015).

higher amounts of personal social media usage led to lower performance on the task, as well as higher levels of technostress and lower happiness[…]. These results suggest that the personal usage of social media during professional (vs. personal or play) times can lead to negative consequences” (Brooks 2015).

It is a scientific debate that has taken place since the dawn of social media.

In accepting the facts presented by studies both for and against, I would suggest that the use of social media is equally destructive as it is invigorating; it is intent that differentiates our online experience.

In this way, social media opens a huge avenue for promoting mindfulness, gratitude and happiness, IF done in the correct manner.

And if that means sharing weird chicken videos, then count me in, let’s use technology for the better!

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Meditation in the 21st Century

When we tell ourselves to be happy, it more than likely ends up having the opposite effect. It brings with it pressure, which can lead to stress, which is definitely, not happiness.

So how can we make ourselves happy?

According to studies by O’ Leary and Dockray (2015) and Khanna and Greeson (2013), mindfulness is one of many practices that increases happiness and thus overall well-being.

*Mindfulness: the intentional and nonjudgmental awareness of all thoughts, feelings, and sensations that occur in the present moment (O’ Leary and Dockray 2015).*

I like to think of mindfulness as the meditation of the 21st century. It’s not sitting cross-legged on a yoga mat overlooking the rolling waves of the ocean; it’s time we take to remove ourselves from our emotions. This can take place in different forms: from cooking, running and swimming to painting, writing and cleaning. In fact, I find one of my most meditative states is in the shower. These mindfulness practices should be done somewhere without human interaction. A place where the only dialogue is internal. Talk to yourself but more importantly listen to what you have to say.

Ask yourself questions.

A really great practice I learned from the Headspace App, is reflective questions.

Close your eyes, take a breath. In your mind ask, ‘How are you feeling today’ as if asking someone next to you.
Now let your mind be silent. Imagine floating. And without pressure, let your mind visually show you the answer.
Don’t shape the answer, don’t be ashamed of the answer, don’t suppress the answer, don’t try and interpret the answer. Let it rest there.

You can do this (eyes open) while you’re running, while you’re on your way to work or while you’re in the shower.

And once you know these answers, you can begin to understand not only why you feel this way, but also how to change it. Eckhart Tolle describes this interaction of your mind and your thoughts as a higher evolution of humanity and the foundations of enlightenment.

Finding a way to meditate is easy.
Be productive: work-out, create, clean.

And by doing these activities each day, with the intent to meditate, you will find happiness. It’s scientifically proven.

References

Khanna, Surbhi and Jeffrey M. Greeson. 2013. “A Narrative Review of Yoga and Mindfulness as Complementary Therapies for Addiction”. Complementary Therapies in Medicine 21 (3): 244-252. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2013.01.008.

O’Leary, Karen and Samantha Dockray. 2015. “The Effects of Two Novel Gratitude and Mindfulness Interventions on Well-Being”. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 21(4): 243-245. doi:10.1089/acm.2014.0119.