Tag Archives: mind

Digital detox

Chairs next to the swimming pool in the forrest at Apa Villas, I

Recently I went through a period that was rather stressful and even though I am consciously trying to be mindful and to de-stress, it seemed like all of my efforts weren’t quite working. Reading Arianne Huffington’s “Thrive” also got me thinking: Am I letting my digital life take over my real one?

I decided to re-examine my routine.

I get up in the morning. I check Facebook. I take my phone up to the balcony and do a yoga session with my yoga app. I sit down at the table for Breakfast, and read the BBC news on my phone. I shower, take the metro to work, and check my Facebook on the train (just quickly). Most of the day at the office is spent in meetings, or trying to stay on top of the pile of e-mail that floods in every day. At the end of the day I walk to the train station, check the Herald News in the train, and return home.

We have dinner together as a family, a well-established routine that we decided long ago is an ipad and phone free zone. The TV is also turned off.

After dinner my son and I spend some time together, and I put him to bed. After dinner I tend to check the Times of India News and de Telegraaf (the joy of having lived around the world is that I still like to follow what is happening in New Zealand, India and Holland, plus the global news). I don’t watch very much TV, occasionally a sports game on TV, but otherwise I would rather read a book or the news, or play Candy Crush.

So I took a digital break

When I examined my schedule I saw a lot of checking of apps on my phone, but it just seemed to fit right into my day and I rationalized that I was hardly watching any TV, so what was the harm.

My trip away to Bali was a great opportunity for a digital detox and to really re-examine what I was doing. For the whole week I did not connect my phone to the internet, and I didn’t take my ipad with me at all. No more reading the news, no checking Facebook, and no more Candy Crush.

It was such a relief! And while now that I am back as home I have reconnected my phone to the internet and started reading the news and checking Facebook again, I have decided to make a few adjustments.

1) The phone sleeps in the lounge

I think my favorite tip from Arianne Huffington was that the phone should not sleep next to the bed. With family living around the world, I have got into the habit of it sleeping on the nightstand. Then I would be able to pick it up if there was an emergency. But the truth is, that in the 12 years I have lived away from home, my parents have never needed to contact me in the middle of the night. They have, however, broken my sleep with a skype message to say that they are going on holiday or some other short message that was sent in their day time and my night time, but that they never expected me to see or reply to at night.

The phone sleeping in the lounge also makes sure that checking my email and Facebook is no longer the first thing I do in the morning.

2) No checking Facebook before yoga

In order to turn yoga from a purely physical to more of a meditative experience, I decided that I needed to continue following what I did in Bali and that was to wake up, drink water, and do yoga before looking at my phone, before breakfast, and before the day really started. If I already have Facebook images and words in my head before I practice yoga, I can’t fully focus on my breathing, the poses and the relaxation of the meditative pose to start and end the practice.

3) Enjoy breakfast not news at the breakfast table

Breakfast is the one meal of the day that it is guaranteed that all three of us will make together. I am good at mornings, but I am less good at finishing work on time to guarantee making dinner. I’ve decided that just like at dinner, phones and Ipad’s shouldn’t have a place at the breakfast table either.

4) Turn email off in the weekend

There is something alluring about seeing the number of emails that you have waiting for you in your work inbox climbing. It is hypnotic, powerful, ever present, and demands attention. So on the advice of a dear colleague, I decided to go into the settings of my phone and turn it off in the weekend. It might demand my attention during work hours, but I don’t want it interrupting my weekends anymore. Immediately I reclaimed my weekends as my own. There was a clear breaking moment between the work week and the weekend – that moment when I flicked the virtual switch on my email on my phone.

5) Take the News Apps off my phone

I have a phone and an Ipad. The more apps I have on my phone, the more that I check them when I am waiting somewhere, and the less I use those moments to look around me, be mindful, and engage in where I am. So I decided to take them all off. I still have Facebook on my phone (so I can post photos), but I took all the News Apps off.

If I want to read the newspaper, then I have to get my Ipad (which is anyway a bigger screen and therefore better for my eyes), and that makes it more of a conscious decision rather than an automatic process to read the news. It has already meant that I have cut down on the amount of time that I am spending reading the news, and that also means I am cutting down on the amount of time per day that I am exposed to all the negative news that fills the papers.

I am trying, and failing, and getting back up again

This list was my resolution when I returned from Bali, and some of them I have been able to stick to consistently – the phone sleeps in the lounge, I don’t have any news apps on my phone, and the email is always turned off at the weekend. But some things I notice myself doing, beat myself up about, and try to improve again – like checking Facebook as I walk up the stairs to the roof terrace for my yoga session. I never promised to be perfect, but I am trying little by little to re-balance my life and de-stress.

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This is water

Taking a boat out to the Secret Gili Islands, Sekotong, Lombok I

This beautiful film reminds us of how mindfulness can have an impact every single day. Whether standing at the grocery store, driving in heavy traffic, or listening to our children complaining, we all have a choice to make. To go into auto-pilot and experience the knee jerk negative impulse that curses through our body – irritation, frustration, wishing we were somewhere else – or to be mindful and experience the situation in a different light.

By choosing to look at things differently. By choosing to use your imagination for positive effect, rather than allowing the default setting to stay engaged. By choosing to look at life positively instead of allowing the glass to stay half empty in those every day, mind numbing situations; we can change the way we experience them. We can change our every day existence.

Enjoy the visuals created by Patrick Buckley of the 2005 commencement speech of David Foster Wallance to Kenyon College.




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Embracing vulnerability

Brene Brown the gifts of imperfection

Over the last year I have started reading books to challenge the way I see the world. One which still resonates with me is “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown. She also has two excellent Ted Talks (links below).

Imperfection is a gift
Brene is a shame researcher who discovered through her research that the key to living a whole hearted life is to embrace vulnerability. Being a strong Texan woman, this realization lead to her breakdown / spiritual awakening. That you need to acknowledge, own and embrace your weaknesses in order to grow and innovate was simply too confronting to a woman who wanted to smack weakness out of the ball park.

Vulnerability is courage not weakness
However, the core of her research outcomes is the preposition that vulnerability is not weakness, and in fact that vulnerability is the most accurate measurement of courage. Only through emotional risk and exposure to uncertainty can come new ideas. This means that vulnerability is at the core of creativity, innovation and change. Without vulnerability we cannot dare greatly to create something new.

In the book Gifts of Imperfection she offers 10 guideposts to wholehearted living
Cultivating authenticity – letting go of what people think
Cultivating self compassion – letting go of perfectionism
Cultivating a resilient spirit – letting go of numbing and powerlessness
Cultivating gratitude and joy – letting go of scarcity and fear of the dark
Cultivating intuition and trusting faith – letting go of the need for certainty
Cultivating creativity – letting go of comparison
Cultivating play and rest – letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self worth
Cultivating calm and stillness – letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle
Cultivating meaningful work – letting go of self doubt and “supposed to”
Cultivating laughter song and dance – letting go of being cool and “always in control”

Embrace your imperfections, be the best you that you can be
This isn’t a book to make you feel bad about or discover your imperfections, but rather to stop worrying about what people think of your imperfections and start embracing the best person you can be. In other words, to let go of who you think you are supposed to be, and embrace who you are.

To learn more about Brene Brown you can watch her Ted Talks:





Or buy her books on Amazon:
Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, I thought it was just me (but it isn’t)

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Keeping a journal

Dalai Lama journal and pen

Shortly after I started my wellness journey, I picked up the advice to start writing a journal and capturing my progress and thoughts for the day. Over time this has evolved into a daily practize that I just don’t skip. It is a way to chart my journey, capturing what I eat, seeing my progress, – through peaks and recovering out of troughs – and it is also a way to release my thoughts for the day before I go to bed.

A journal as a release for stress
I have long had problems with sleeping, but I have found that I sleep better when I release whatever is in my mind before I go to bed onto the pages of a notebook. It is a great way to organize my thoughts, and to ponder things that are happening in my life.

The journal will not talk back to me or judge me, and over a series of days I can write down and explore different ways I could approach something that is giving me stress, or think through a problem. Sometimes I just release frustrations, without looking for a solution.

A journal of hope
I have also discovered that it is a great way to continue to maintain hope that I will be healthy long term. I am so conscious of how I feel each day through having to write it down, that I can see progress in a way that I couldn’t if I wasn’t being so diligent in capturing it. This also helps in my food journey, I can see how eating better is affecting me positively, and that helps to keep me on course.

A journal as a conscience
My journal has become my conscience. I don’t like writing in it that I haven’t done anything by way of exercise for the day. I capture classical exercise – going for a run, doing yoga – but also playing football with my son, walking around the neighbourhood, walking my son to school. I also capture my meditation practize here.

My journal has also become my conscience for food. I write down absolutely everything that I eat, even if I cheat. But I don’t like having to write down that I have cheated, so I don’t like to cheat.

My journal template:
I find it easier to stick to following a template for my journal. Habit makes it simpler to see patterns, but to also not have to think about what I will write about, just how I felt and what I did.

Date:                Hours of sleep:
Exercise (including meditation):
Supplements (if you take any):
Medicine (if you take any):
Stress /10    Pain /10    Energy /10
How did you feel today?:
Thoughts for the day:
What am I grateful for today:

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When the going gets tough

Catching the bus in the rain

I came across this poem recently by Katrina Kenison and I thought it was fabulous. It really summed up all of the things that I wish I could do, that I know I am guilty of not doing often enough, but that I aspire to be. I hope you enjoy it as well.

“When the going gets tough may I resist my first impulse to wade in, fix, explain, resolve, and restore. May I sit down instead.

When the going gets tough may I be quiet. May I steep for a while in stillness.

When the going gets tough may I have faith that things are unfolding as they are meant to. May I remember that my life is what it is, not what I ask for. May I find the strength to bear it, the grace to accept it, the faith to embrace it.

When the going gets tough may I practice with what I’m given, rather than wish for something else. When the going gets tough may I assume nothing. May I not take it personally. May I opt for trust over doubt, compassion over suspicion, vulnerability over vengeance.

When the going gets tough may I open my heart before I open my mouth.

When the going gets tough may I be the first to apologize. May I leave it at that. May I bend with all my being toward forgiveness.

When the going gets tough may I look for a door to step through rather than a wall to hide behind.

When the going gets tough may I turn my gaze up to the sky above my head, rather than down to the mess at my feet. May I count my blessings.

When the going gets tough may I pause, reach out a hand, and make the way easier for someone else. When the going gets tough may I remember that I’m not alone. May I be kind.

When the going gets tough may I choose love over fear. Every time..”

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Inspiration for the day

Flower close up, Maya Tagalle Villa, Beliatta, South Coast, Sri

Keeping a journal has become a daily practise for me, but while I follow the same template every day, it isn’t a static process. Over time I have started capturing things that strike me, inspirational quotes, passages out of books that I am reading that I would like to remember.

My journal contains quotes of Gandhi, Brene Brown, and even Dr Seuss.

I may never look back at these journals, or maybe I will in a period where I want to remember how it was in this time, but capturing these quotes makes me feel like I am reading the books more deeply. That I am thinking about things that inspire me. Sometimes I refer to these quotes in my “Thoughts for the day”, other times I just capture them, think about them, and move on.

Here are a couple of my recent favorites to get you started:

“How much better to know that we have dared to live our dreams than to live our lives in a lethargy of regret” Gilbert E Kaplan

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt