September Challenge: Self Care

Fall is around the corner and while the end of summer marks a new school year and a feeling of new beginnings, it also means that darker and colder times are arriving. So, for this reason, I will be doing #selfcareseptember as my monthly challenge for September, as a way of easing into the times to come.

If you want to join along I’ll be focusing on one thing daily to treat myself to new experiences and love. However, self-care is about doing what feels right for you, so if you feel like it make up your own calendar or list of things you want to do or focus on. Nothing is too big or small!

Self care calendar

Want to start a yoga practice?

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You might have heard about the perks of yoga and thought that maybe you should try it. Maybe you want to feel more centered, more flexible or get stronger in a gentle way. So where do you start? What do you need to start a practice?

Classes

Well, for starters you do not have to buy an expensive membership to start yoga (unless that is your thing and you have a lot of money to spend, then, by all means, do what works for you!). While it can be nice to go to a led class with a good teacher, in the beginning, to get the technique and basics down, it is not necessary. If you want to try a class, take one at a time and do not sign up for any membership until you find what you like, there are so many different types of yoga and the teacher also has a big impact on how it works out for you. So if you want to do only led classes, my advise is to shop around a bit before you settle down.

If money is tight or you prefer working out at home for your convenience there are also great options out there! I have previously used an online yoga service called Yogobe (most is in Swedish) which gave me access to hundreds of different class videos. This usually has a monthly cost, but it’s usually the equivalent of one 1-3 physically led classes. Another option is the one I am using at the moment, which is YouTube! There are so many free videos out there for everyone, from beginners to more advanced, and my favorite is Yoga with Adriene.

Equipment

What clothes do you need?

Well, one of the best things about yoga is that you do not need to spend a dime on clothes and shoes (unless you want to). All you need is or fitted clothes that do not restrict or move to much (no one wants to have to pull their pants up mid-practice or have their ladies pop out in downward dog…) or looser clothes that stay on (think harem pants).

Shoes are usually a big expense for a sport, but not with yoga! All you need are bare feet, since no shoes or socks are used (although I have problem with cold feet so I like to keep a pair on during warm up).

Then we have the equipment part. The first thing to invest in would be a yoga mat. However, it is mostly for grip and comfort so if you want to try the practice out a bit before splurging you could be fine with a thin mat or towel. Also, if you decide to try out studios many of them offer mats to borrow during the classes.

Except for mats there are many other props that are used in yoga, like blocks, bolsters and straps, but most of them can be subbed for other things. A belt can sub for a strap, books can be used as blocks and blankets can be folded into bolsters.

If you feel like trying out yoga, just do it! There are really low thresholds to starting a practice so don’t let Instagram yogi scare you off from the practice. All you need is you and time.

Declutter your tech: computer

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Just like a smartphone, many of us tend to use our computers a lot of the time, whether it’s for work or just personal use. A decluttered computer with freed up space can help you be more efficient and experience less waiting times because of a slowed down system. Compared to a phone, we tend to stock even more unnecessary things on a computer, since it has more storage space. We tend to save old documents, family photos and videos, music and what not. Even though the files look small, it easily builds up until you get a notification that you have less than 1% storage space left. So how do you deal with the computer? Where do you start in the decluttering?

Programs & Apps

Well, I say start with the biggest (and probably easiest) first. Programs and apps. Depending on how your OS works you’ll have programs or apps installed on your computer. These you should go through, delete anything you do not need or that takes up too much space. If you have a Mac, go through the dock to see what programs you actually use on a regular basis, the others you can remove from there (I don’t mean delete completely, just from the dock). If you have the option to group programs together, this can be an idea too (I have grouped all Microsoft programs together in a folder, as well as Adobe).

Photos

After arranging the programs I would continue with photos. Start with deleting all bad photos, duplicates, etc. then do a back-up either to an external hard drive or to an online cloud service or similar. Or do both. I have previously used Flickr for storage, but unfortunately, they no longer allow free unlimited storage, so if you have a lot it might not suffice. I also use Google Photos (mostly for RAW format). I also keep an external hard drive around for extra safety. When the deleting and saving part is done you can either leave it or you can continue with organizing it all. I have all my photos organized into years and months so that I can easily find what I am looking for. Special trips are also in designated folders. Newer cameras and smartphones will also have the geotag option which is neat for grouping albums together. Whatever suits your needs best is the best option!

Music & Video

After photos, go through other files, such as films and music. If you are like me and you use streaming services for everything connected to media, then maybe you don’t need to keep your old library of iTunes songs that take up space? If you do not use them, but still do not feel ready to part with them, maybe a solution can be to transfer them to an external hard drive for safekeeping? Either way, the same procedure applies here as with photos. Delete everything not needed, back-up and then organize the remainders in a suitable way.

Documents

When all media is done and sorted through it’s time to deal with all your documents. Delete everything you don’t want or need to keep. Then back-up all (I keep mine in Dropbox). Something I try to avoid are “lose” documents. I put everything in folders named related to what it is so I can more easily find them. For example, I have folders that are called *School”, “Work”, “Important”, and under each, I have further classification like “Master’s”, “High School”, etc.. 

E-mail & Bookmarks

Finally done with all files, it’s time to take on the online stuff, like your e-mail and saved bookmarks. Go through e-mail, unsubscribe to all that “bad stuff” you do not need in your life (like online shops that spark your inner shopaholic, things you never signed up for…), create a system of how to categorize the e-mails you need to be saved (I use folder for this too, like “Work”, “Payments & Receipts”, “Important”). Then starts the big job. To get the inbox down to (more or less) zero. It’s not necessary to have a completely empty inbox (I, for one, like to leave important e-mails in the inbox as flagged as to not miss/forget them), but it’s really nice when you have had an inbox of 1000+ e-mails to get down to 20 or even 50. A good way to avoid getting a cluttered inbox is to delete the irrelevant ones directly. I try to do this immediately when I read them, so I don’t have to go over 1000+ emails every time I feel like decluttering. Also, don’t forget to go through your saved folders every now and then. Something that was important a year ago might not be today!

Lastly, go through bookmarks! I tend to save a lot of stuff to my bookmarks, which in the end can make it quite hard and annoying to find things. Go through them all and rearrange those you want to keep and delete the rest.

Now what?

Now you can enjoy a computer that is less cluttered and less stressful!

At least until the next decluttering session!

How to Minimize Your Time Online

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The World Wide Web has been revolutionizing for the way we live online. So has social media. Today, it is rare to meet people in the west who do not engage in any kind of social media platform. Finding someone who doesn’t use the Internet even less so.

It’s easy to see the positive aspects that the Internet and social media has brought into our lives. It has made knowledge more accessible and communication across the globe easier. But it’s not only positive. Except for the simple fact that social media can make us more distracted and less efficient in our offline lives, social media can make us depressed.

So what can we do to stay on the positive side of social media and Internet usage?

Ways to limit your time spent online

Disable notifications

When we have notifications for all the different social apps on our phones, it’s hard to keep the hands off. By disabling notifications, we don’t notice as easily when something “happens” and it might help us avoid opening up social media in the first place.

Set boundaries

By setting boundaries, you make it clearer to yourself what is okay use and what is not. Maybe you only want to use social media in the evening or a certain amount of time a day. By making it clear to yourself it is easier to hold yourself accountable.

Use tracking apps

Funnily, there are apps for helping with excessive screen time. Moment is one app that can help limit the use of the phone. It measures screen time and how many times you pick up your phone in a day. If Instagram is your worst vice, you can set a notification within the app that will remind you when you surpass a certain amount of time in a day.

Be mindful

Try not to grab your phone every time you are bored. Try to think before you open an app what the purpose really is and if it will do anything for you. Will it make you happier? Will it just waste your time?

Try a short detox

When there is a problematic behavior, my best tip is always to lay it off for a while, to do a small detox. This can be anything from avoiding social media altogether for a few weeks, to having a designated day or two a week where you avoid social media and/or tech.

February challenge: summary

I don't believe in failure. It is not failure if you enjoyed the process.So it’s the last day of February, this (normally) dark month of the year. I had two goals this month, to meditate daily and to finish the first book in my conscious readings for the year. Did I succeed? Ehrm… no.

So what happened? Life, I guess. I had to do some really intense reading of 19th century French literature for school and it completely threw me off. The book was not bad, but the stress of making finishing it on time really took a toll on my energy levels and my overall quality of life. Except for that, I just plainly forgot some days. When visiting family and friends, meditating might not be at the top of the list and you might be, you know, enjoying your time with loved ones so much that the last thing on your mind is meditation.

Still, I do not see this as a failure, because I really enjoyed myself and the meditation I did do. If you put it in perspective, I had not meditated more than a few short sessions in the past months, but now I got over 20 sessions in just during February! The perk of setting quite high goals is that even if you do not reach them, there is a fair chance that you improved and learned during the process.

So all in all, I am happy with the daily meditation challenge. It has made me realize how much I enjoy this type of guided meditation since it slows my mind down and brings me back to me and what’s important. If you too would like to try meditating more, I shared some interesting post on meditation and mindfulness this past month, such as mindful eating, mindful mornings, how to sleep better with meditation and some good meditation apps.

Regarding the conscious book club, I’m just going to continue reading into March. So far I like the book, but I’m only about 70 pages into it, so we’ll see how it turns out!

7 Ways to be more Mindful when Eating

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You might have heard about mindful eating or intuitive eating before, but what is it and what can it mean for you?

Why do we need Mindful Eating?

The portions we eat have become increasingly bigger with time and it seems that we do not eat until we are full, but tend to overeat. Do you sometimes have to lie down on the couch after eating just because you feel like you might explode? That would be a sign that you have eaten too much. Many of us also tend to misinterpret cravings and thirst for hunger, which leads to even more overeating. With mindful eating, you bring back the awareness to the act of eating. You are present in the moment and you try to savour every piece, instead of just mindlessly chugging chips while being on your phone in front of the TV.

Intuitive eating, while very similar to mindful eating in terms of being aware of yourself and listening to your body, additionally focuses on avoiding diets and honouring the body and food.

How to be more mindful when eating

In essence, mindful eating is about being in the moment and aware of the food, yourself and your surrounding, but there are tricks to help cultivate the mentality and give space for the practice.

Sit down

Like at a real table. Your desk does not count…
A lot of the time today, people eat while on the move or while standing. Sitting down for eating at a real table creates a routine that you connect with eating.

Set aside time for eating

Give yourself at least a proper 20-30 minutes when you can eat and don’t try to cram it in whenever. This isn’t always possible in today’s stressed society, but try to make an effort. If you only have ten minutes one day, then at least use those minutes for just eating.

Minimize distractions

Don’t eat in front of the TV, your phone or anything else that is too distracting from the act of eating. This doesn’t mean that you can never eat or have a bit of snack in front of Netflix on a Friday, but try to keep it to a minimum.

Eat with people

Food is something that all us humans share, we all eat and it’s a great thing to do together! It might seem a little bit conflicting with the previous point, but if you think about it, most often when you are eating with others you take longer to finish since you interact with the others. And eating slower is a good way to be mindful when eating. It allows you to notice the body’s signals better and gives less risk of overeating.

Remember to chew

This is my personal week spot. I’m horribly bad at chewing! It’s boring and I still do not understand how some people chew one bite 10-15 times… However, it’s important to think about. When you chew every mouthful for longer you extend the total eating time and thus, giving it more time to notice the signals from the stomach.

Drink less while eating

This connects to the previous one. When we drink a lot during the meal, we can have a tendency to “swallow down” the food with the help of liquid. So instead of having to chew properly, we just swallow with the help of a drink. If you drink a caloric drink you also risk filling up to quick because of the drink.

Eat on a plate

Or a bowl. Or whatever type of dish is normal to you or where you live. Skip eating out of a takeaway box or foil container (even though this can certainly save you from doing dishes). By creating a routine for eating (like always sitting down, at a table and eating off a plate) you can be more mindful about the act of eating.

Are you mindful when you eat? Do you have any more tips on mindful eating?

Mindful mornings

tim-foster-667115-unsplashLike for all routines, the most important thing with the morning routine is to figure out what works for you and what you want out of it. Some people like to get up at 5 am so they can spend an hour fixing hair and make up, some need time for a big breakfast, others just want to sleep for as long as possible.

The thing about morning routines is that they can have a great impact on your mood for the rest of the day. So starting the morning on a great note is good not only for your mood, but probably for your efficiency throughout the day.

My idea of a perfect morning is one where I wake up early (like 6-ish) and feel energised. No snooze, just straight up for some light yoga and meditation. After that a quick shower and some 10-15 minutes for skin care and light make up, before getting dressed and starting the day!

However, life is rarely the perfect image we envision and neither are my mornings. Still, I have found some things that have an impact on my mornings and those are listed below.

Tips for a more mindful morning routine

Avoid stressful tech

This you might hear a lot and in my world it does not mean that you should necessarily avoid all technology, but those that stress you or affect your personal mood. If you love watching the news in the morning while drinking a cup of coffee, go for it! But if you tend to get stuck in bed answering work emails or scrolling through Instagram, it might be a good idea to avoid it. Try to not start your morning with things that stress you.

Wake your mind and body

The morning is a perfect time to get some self care in (people with kids might argue with me here though…). The world has not yet woken up and it’s a bit like the calm before the storm. I prefer to do yoga, meditation or lighter work out (like a powerwalk or calm run) in the morning, since the body might still not be fully awoke, but whatever suits you is what is best. If you are not one for working out or moving in the morning, maybe a cold shower can really start your system?

Plan the day

Take some time for setting the intention of the day or simply to plan out your schedule. Maybe you are an avid journaler, live by your lists, or maybe you prefer to just set intentions for the day. I mostly use my phone to set appointments and plan the day, because I am to forgetful to remember to bring my calendar, but each to their own.

Have a filling breakfast

Or skip it all together! That’s what I do. I have been doing intermittent fasting during the workdays for a few months now and it saves me a lot of time and stress in the morning. No matter how early I got up, I would always end up stressed and almost inhaling my breakfast to make it on time. In addition, I am not really a fan of “breakfast foods”, so I decided to skip it! And if you, like me, have grown up hearing that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, I encourage you to Google intermittent fasting. There is a lot of research on the topic.

If you’re someone who won’t make it past 9 am without food, go for a healthy and filling breakfast, that will keep you steady until lunch. Oatmeal topped with berries and fruit or whole grain bread with hummus or avocado are my two go to’s. Try not to eat to much sugar in the morning as it will only result in you feeling sluggish later in the day.

The most important tip for a mindful morning?

A mindful evening

If we are too stressed and revved up in the evening, we risk ruining the following morning and day. Stress tends to impact our sleep and if we do not get our 7-9 hours, there is no morning routine that will save us in the long run.

Except for going to sleep on time, I like to plan my outfits the night before and if I have breakfast to prep it. This saves me a lot of mental effort in the morning (we have all stood there in front of the closet not knowing what to wear…) as well as precious time overall.

How does your perfect morning routine look?