I’ve been meditating regularly for almost two decades, have attended several long, silent meditation retreats and trained as a teacher of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy in 2013. In all my years of practising and teaching mindfulness and meditation to individuals and groups, I’ve seen the same common misconceptions and myths about meditation come up over and over again with students and clients.
Unfortunately, when you buy into some of these misleading ideas it can get in the way of your willingness to stick at it, so you may be missing out on the enormous benefits to be gained from maintaining a consistent meditation practice.
These days, you’d have to be living under a rock not to have heard of all the great reasons to meditate, but if you’ve tried and failed to establish any kind of consistency in your own meditation practice, you might need to dispel some of these common myths about meditation to give yourself the best chance of success.
1. Meditation is supposed to be relaxing.
As soon as I hear someone say that they don’t find meditation particularly relaxing (and therefore, “It’s not working”), I know they’ve bought into this very common [but false] belief. The objective of mindfulness meditation is not to achieve any particular state; not even relaxation. The only objective when practising mindfulness is to pay attention to your experience exactly as it is, without judgement, and without needing it to be something different.
If you’ve decided that meditation ‘should’ be relaxing and if it’s not, there must be something wrong with the technique or with you, then by definition you’re not being mindful.
Of course, some days you might find that taking time out of your busy day to sit and breathe feels very pleasant and relaxing. If that’s the case, lovely!
But if the next day you’re agitated, restless, bored or emotional, that doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you or your new meditation practice.
Mindfulness is about being willing to observe everything that arises when you sit down to meditate – every thought, feeling, physical sensation, urge to do something, judgement or opinion you might have… all of it – without needing to change anything, fix anything or get up and walk away because you’re not enjoying it.
2. “I can’t meditate because I just can’t keep my mind still”
Oh, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard this.
The good news is that you’re not alone because every one of us has a busy mind! Meditation is NOT about stopping thoughts. Thoughts will always come and go, sometimes at a startling rate. Remember what I said before?
Mindfulness is about learning to observe what’s happening as it’s happening.
That means observing all those thoughts without reacting to them, judging them, believing them or needing them to stop.
When you notice that your mind is busy, you might gently shift your awareness back to the movement of your breath, the feeling of your feet on the floor or silently repeat a mantra in your mind as a way of ‘unhooking’ from your busy thinking mind.
Inevitably, you’ll get pulled back into thinking.
Notice that you’re thinking… Unhook from the thought… Breathe.
Notice that you’re thinking… Unhook from the thought… Breathe.
Notice… Unhook… Breathe…
Sound boring? Remember, no-one said it was supposed to be relaxing!
3. “If I meditate, I’ll be super chill all the time”
Practising meditation does help people to feel calmer over time but it is no magic cure for unpleasant emotions.
No matter how much you meditate, there will still be times when you feel cranky or stressed or sad. In fact, when you first start practising mindfulness those thoughts and feelings might be even MORE prevalent because for the first time in a very long time, you’ve stopped trying to run away from them and starting paying attention to what is actually going on with you.
But since you’re practising noticing your thoughts and feelings, you’ll be getting better at learning to be curious about them instead of believing every thought you think and reacting to every feeling you have.
With time, you will gain more emotional equilibrium because you’re not being hijacked by every random thing that pops into your head and you won’t feel a need to escape every unpleasant feeling you have.
You’ll start to catch your thoughts and feelings more quickly so that you can choose a wise response rather than reacting in old, habitual ways.
And sometimes you’ll still react no matter how much you practice and that’s when you’ll reap the rewards of all the time you’ve spent practising non-judgement because you’ll know not to beat yourself up for those human slip-ups.
4. “I’m way too busy to waste time sitting down and doing nothing”
I get it. You’ve got a busy life, a big job or young kids and there doesn’t seem to be a spare minute in your day. Sitting still and doing ‘nothing’ feels like an incredibly unproductive use of your time.
There are actually two myths embedded in this one. Firstly, that meditation is doing nothing. And secondly, that you don’t have time.
So first up, what most people notice (and science would support) is that the improvements in focus and productivity that you gain from meditation mean that you’ll easily make back the time you invest. Then there are the improvements in your mood and sleep and the wiser choices you make in every aspect of your life – all of which add up to increased energy, presence and attention.
Secondly, if you’ve got one of those screen time apps on your phone, no doubt you’ve already been confronted with how much time you lose every day staring at your phone. Even if you’re a master at managing digital distractions, the truth is we all make decisions about how to spend our time and we all waste plenty of it on unnecessary, trivial, or ‘urgent but unimportant’ activities.
It might feel like a pain to shuffle some things around or get up 10 minutes earlier or go to sleep 10 minutes later or turn off the TV or shut down the browser, but you’ve got the time.
If you still feel like sitting in meditation is not a possibility for you, there are plenty of ways to practise “informal” or everyday mindfulness by bringing more present, focused attention to your daily activities like showering, driving or eating. But I want to make clear that all too often I see people falling back on ‘everyday mindfulness’, not as a supplement to their meditation but as an excuse not to do the work of sitting down to meditate, which is where the real benefits are to be found.
5. “There are too many distractions.”
Meditating in a peaceful environment is certainly easier than trying to focus your attention when there’s a lot of noise around you. But remember, mindfulness is about paying attention to your experience even if the experience is unpleasant. If you notice feelings of irritation, or if certain distractions pull for your attention, this is all part of your mindfulness practice.
For a long time when my daughter was young, she’d wander into the room and sit in my lap while I meditated. Or my dog would lick my elbow. Or I’d overhear a loud conversation or the TV blasting in the next room from where I was sitting.
Mindfulness doesn’t require that there be no distractions. It simply asks you to notice the distractions, notice the stories you tell yourself about them, notice your internal reactions, all without judgement. This attention to your experience, without buying into your thoughts of needing your circumstances to be somehow different, is the very definition of mindfulness.
If you’d like more step by step instructions about how to begin and maintain a mindfulness meditation practice, you might want to check out my online course Mindfulness for Busy People.READ MORE
Despite my best efforts to keep things clean and tidy around here, I’m afraid my house in the past few months has become one massive, disorganised mess. Papers and books cover random surfaces, my clothes don’t fit in their drawers and don’t even start me on trying to find a matching set of salad servers in the second kitchen drawer.
Clutter, to me, is not just physical. A crowded, disorganised space does not make for a calm, peaceful mind. It also means I waste a lot of time looking for stuff that is not in its right place and that makes me frustrated and stressed.
That’s why I was intrigued when I first heard about Marie Kondo’s bestselling book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying”. Marie is a Japanese declutter expert with a unique approach to the task of reducing the amount of stuff in your house. I’d known about the book for a long time before I decided that things had gotten so out of hand that I needed a bit of KonMari in my life (KonMari is her nickname and the name given to her unique method of tidying.)
My priority was to clear my space, physically and energetically, for all the things the new year may bring and for about a month now, I’ve been quietly, excitedly anticipating the day when I could begin shedding my excess and regaining my peace of mind. That day was January 29th, which means I’m now a few days into my decluttering process. I have a very long way to go but I thought I’d share with you the basic principles of the KonMari method in case you too are keen to clear some space in your life and mind.
Here’s my quick rundown:
- Decluttering is best done category by category, NOT room by room. So whether you’re doing clothing or books or papers, you go around the whole house and collect everything in that category, then begin the process;
- Next, you take everything OUT of the wardrobe (or bookshelf or cupboard) and decide one by one which items deserve to stay;
- Deciding which items stay and which ones go involves holding each item in your hands and deciding if it brings you joy. Seriously, hold it, connect with it and ask yourself, ‘does this thing make me feel happy?’ If it cost you $500 and you wore it once before you realised it was itchy and uncomfortable, it’s not sparking joy therefore it’s gone! I bloody love this because it’s not so much a rational process as an intuitive one. Marie says quite rightly that with a little practice, you will immediately know which items spark joy. (hint from me: if you feel stuck, it’s because your thinking mind is weighing in on the process);
- For those many MANY items which do not spark joy, you thank each one for the purpose it served and then you let it go. I especially love this. Because I find the hardest things to let go of are those which I might have purchased on a whim, or which were expensive, and I feel guilty about giving away perfectly good (expensive!) things. But the KonMari approach says that any particular item’s purpose may have been served the minute it brought you joy when you purchased it. Or its purpose might have been to teach you to be more mindful about your spending, or that the colour orange doesn’t suit you and never will. Thank it and bless it out of your life;
- There is a particular order to the decluttering process. By the time you get to photos and keepsakes which are hardest to let go of, you’ll be more skilled at knowing what sparks joy;
- After you finish sorting, the next stage is storing things in such a way that everything has its place. This way your home will never be cluttered again. There’s a unique process here too but I’ll let you get the book for that!
And that’s pretty much it. She says most of her clients end up keeping about a quarter to a third of their original amount of stuff. I believe her.
As for me, I’ve just completed clothing over several days (contrary to the ‘do each category from start to finish’ rule). Everything I own is now in plain sight in my bedroom wardrobe – nothing hanging around in the spare room or in storage. And when I go to my wardrobe, there is nothing I automatically skip over because I don’t like how it looks on me. It really is a great feeling.
Probably the thing I really liked about the whole book was the amount of gratitude that goes into the whole process and continues as you actively appreciate those items you have chosen to keep. It’s well known that gratitude is fundamental to happiness, and Marie advocates expressing gratitude for the very things we take so much for granted on a daily basis.
I plan to spend the next week continuing the process, and then I hope to maybe reap some of the ‘life-changing’ rewards that others report experiencing – including ‘KonMari’ing’ all the activities, obligations and people which do not spark joy in my life. I’ll keep you posted!READ MORE
For more than a decade, every time I asked my husband about his workday, his response has been “We are SO busy!”
To his credit, when I pointed out that his busyness made for BORING conversation, he at least tried to apply some creativity by mixing it up with “We are really under the pump right now”, or “We’ve got a LOT going on”.
Pretty much all variations of ‘busy’.
Similarly, friends will lament that there is never enough time, and even on social media, there seems to always be someone wanting to share just how crazy busy life is these days. If you’ve ever tried catching up with friends and had to book a date four months away, you’ll know how out-of-control our schedules seem to be!
Are we really that busy? And more to the point, should we be slowing down?!
There’s no doubt the digital era has dissolved many of the boundaries that once were created by time and geography. Rather than clocking off at 5pm and going home to our sanctuary, we are now available 24/7 via a device we carry around in our pockets. Work can and will encroach on your personal life if you let it. (If you’re self-employed or working from home, that’s a whole other boundary issue.)
If you’re a working parent, the challenge of juggling parenting, kids’ activities, work projects and maintaining a household is a constant source of tension. I say ‘parent’ but I think for working mothers particularly, the notion of ‘having it all’ generally means ‘doing it all’!
We assume then, that busyness is a fact of modern life… but the question is, does it have to be?
No doubt we all experience times in our life when everything seems to happen at once. The big work deadline, the family visit and the school play are all scheduled in the same week. The only thing you can do is knuckle down, get it done and look forward to some down time when it’s all over. But I’m talking about the chronic busyness that never gives you a break. I’ve come to think there are a few reasons we might unconsciously be choosing unrelenting busyness over the option of a more leisurely-paced lifestyle.
- Many people feel pressure to excel in every area of life. This kind of perfectionism is unachievable and, contrary to popular belief, is not so much driven by a desire to be your best self, but by a fear of never being good enough.
- For some, being busy is a badge of honour worn with great pride as if it reflects productivity or importance. “I’m so CRAZY busy”, they say – hoping to transmit the message, “I’m worthwhile” or “I matter.”
- Avoidance. Staying endlessly busy means we don’t have time to engage in any kind of deep reflection or self-examination. If you’re a bit addicted to busyness (a blank page in your diary causes you to break out in hives), ask yourself what you might encounter if you slow down enough to pay attention to what is really going on in your life, your relationships, your level of personal fulfilment.
- Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is a pervasive apprehension that other people are having a better time than you are. FOMO causes people to want to say yes to every invitation or opportunity, even when they might be a whole lot happier having a quiet night in or a weekend of doing absolutely nothing.
In this long list of all the ways we can numb ourselves, there’s always staying busy: living so hard and fast that the truths of our lives can’t catch up with us. – Brené Brown
If you think you might tick any of those boxes or you just feel like your schedule is spiralling out of control, here are a few suggestions for how you might scale back, slow down and escape the cult of busy:
- Pay attention to the urge to fill every moment with activity. Bring a gentle curiosity (non-judgemental and non-defensive) to what might be driving you to keep moving and doing. Does being still make you a bit anxious? What’s going on there?
- Track your output. Multi-tasking (that thing you think you’re doing when you’re busy) is actually highly inefficient. If you assume busyness equates to productivity, try using an app such as ‘RescueTime’ to monitor how you’re spending your online time or ‘‘IDoneThis’ to measure actual outcomes.
- Change your language. Instead of offering “I’m too busy” as an explanation for not doing something, Laura Vanderkam (author of “168 Hours”) suggests you say instead “It’s not a priority”. You might find this a painless enough substitute when you’re skipping a boring work meeting but feel the difference when you apply it to your child’s sporting event or an overdue medical checkup. Then it becomes a question of values, and your behaviour might not be aligned with what you SAY is most important to you.
- Learn to say no. A simple no, that is, without a long-winded explanation or apology. Get clear about what truly matters to you and make time for those things above everything else. I highly recommend the book “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown on this topic. In fact I enjoyed that book so much I wrote a whole blog post about it HERE.
- Remember that Perfect is the enemy of GOOD. Practise lowering those all-too-high standards and accept that ‘good enough’ makes for a full, balanced, healthy life minus the stress of perfectionism (which I also wrote about HERE).
Most importantly, when someone asks how you are, try to catch yourself before you trot out the default response of “I’m SO busy!” Pause, take a breath, and engage in a conversation.
Better still, make plans to catch up for a coffee so you can both take a break from your busy lives.READ MORE
This year, I attended the annual Happiness and Its Causes conference for the second time.
2015 marked the 10yr anniversary of this hugely popular annual event and so it was set to be quite a party at Luna Park! The conference usually attracts some of the biggest names – researchers, authors, and storytellers – in the fields of happiness and positive psychology, and is usually a great source of information and inspiration.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama normally attends every second year to coincide with the Dalai Lama in Australia tour, so his presence this year (his 80th birthday year!) drew a huge crowd. I’ve been fortunate to see His Holiness twice now, and both times have been so inspired by his wisdom, compassion and his incredibly infectious laugh.
I decided I’d do a quick wrap up of the highlights from the conference and then later I’ll do separate posts to expand more on some of the presentations I liked best. So if you weren’t there, it doesn’t matter because I took notes for you!
So here goes, and I’ll try to keep it brief:
Because of my interest in Buddhist psychology and mindfulness, I was particularly interested to see Barbara Fredrickson, Ruby Wax, and several others who referred to the benefits of mindfulness in the workplace.
Barbara is a Professor of Psychology whose interests are in emotions and positive psychology. What I did not know, and what I was fascinated to learn, is that her research has found that people who practice Loving Kindness meditation (anyone who has done my courses will know what this is) demonstrate changes at the cellular level which reflect reduced likelihood of inflammation in the body and therefore reduced likelihood of disease. That’s my quick layperson non-scientific summary – and I’ll expand more later. But seriously.. WOW! Scientific data which demonstrates that kindness = not just feeling good, but actually being physically healthier.
Ruby Wax is best known as a comedienne and actress (and did you know she was a writer for Absolutely Fabulous? I did not know that!). With a long history of mental illness, Ruby decided 7yrs ago to actively seek out a treatment to prevent relapse and came across Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy. She went on to complete a Masters degree in MBCT from Oxford University and this year was awarded an OBE for her services to mental health. Ruby’s presentation was of course funny, honest, and insightful and I, for one, as a practitioner of mindfulness and teacher of MBCT, was thrilled to see the word being spread!
I was excited to see Gretchen Rubin in the line-up this year, since I’ve started reading both her New York Times bestselling The Happiness Project and her new book about habits called Better than Before. Yes, I’ve started reading both books at once because, unlike Gretchen, who describes herself as highly organised and self-disciplined, I am neither of those things. I do not seem to have the capacity to finish reading one book before picking up another, but it’s something I’m working on.
I introduced myself to Gretchen and asked her to sign my copy of her book. I told her I’m working on my own Happiness book and suggested that she and I have coffee next time I’m in her hometown of NYC. At that point, she surprisingly did not back away slowly and motion for security, but she wished me well with my book and even recommended to me a book for writers (which I have swiftly ordered from Amazon because Gretchen Rubin personally recommended it to me!) AND THEN she said she’ll see me in NYC!
Yes you will, Gretchen. Yes you will!
Other highlights included the amazing Lior (I didn’t even get a photo as I was too busy being in awe) and the story of his collaboration with composer Nigel Westlake and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Lior sang Avinu Malkeinu live with no accompaniment (spine-tingling) and then we heard the story of Lior and Nigel’s journey together to create ‘Compassion’, a seven song orchestra.
I’ve included this link to the final, full orchestral version of Avinu Malkeinu for your viewing and listening pleasure.
Among others, Ben Lee spoke and sang a few tunes for us. Michelle Bridges gave us a pep talk on motivation. Dr Tim Sharp aka Dr Happy was there.
Then there were the ‘ordinary’ but incredibly inspiring people who had overcome diversity and trekked across the Himalayas, sailed across oceans, rewired their brains following a stroke and tumour respectively. There were teachers doing amazing things in schools to help children learn the value of positive psychology, first-hand experiences and taking risks (no cotton wool!), and connecting with other kids globally using internet technology.
Truly an amazing line up of speakers.
And finally, a personal highlight for me was being interviewed for an upcoming documentary on Happiness! It was a great experience even if I do end up on the cutting room floor, which is very likely. It gave me an opportunity to reflect on and consolidate my own ideas about the causes of happiness, and I was heartened to hear my own thoughts reflected in the presentations of leading thinkers and researchers from around the world.
I think that’s enough for now! I’ve included lots of links so you can check out anything that might interest you, and later I’ll post some more info about the really interesting stuff.READ MORE
It’s been almost three months since we relocated from Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast hinterland and what a busy time it’s been as we all adjust to our new surroundings and routines. Inwardly, I’ve been reminded of what William Bridges calls ‘the neutral zone’, which is how he describes the ‘no man’s land’ we find ourselves in after we have experienced an ending of some sort, but before the new beginning has fully taken shape. In the neutral zone, he says we find ourselves withdrawing from the outside world, spending time in quiet contemplation, and reflecting on our values. This is very much what the last couple of months has been like for me. (Bridges’ theory of transition is one that my clients frequently find relevant when they are going through a time of change, so I’ll write more about that separately.)
Only in the past few weeks have I found myself emerging back into the real world and re-engaging with social connections and work projects (and this website and this Facebook page) so I thought it timely to post an update.
Starting with the fun stuff…
One of my long held dreams has been to live on acreage and rescue farmed animals and this was one of our main motivations for moving to the country. We are still working on getting some paddock fences to contain larger animals but meanwhile we have added to our menagerie with six more ex-battery hens (Eggy Azalea, Chicky Minaj, Victoria Peckham, Jennifer Heniston, Kylie Mineggue and Bjork) and a lovely rescue dog named Jake who is great company for Scout, our 3yr old border collie.
Now that we’ve settled in to our home, my next major project is going to be renovating the existing 2-bedroom cabin on the property so that it can potentially be rented out as a writer’s/artist’s retreat. There is also a shed nearby the cabin, which I plan to convert to a meditation space so that I can offer mindfulness classes here on the property. I look forward to sharing progress photos as the work gets underway!
And the work stuff…
I am now available for psychology appointments on Fridays at Circle Wellness Clinic in Peregian Beach on the Sunshine Coast.
I am no longer taking on new clients in Brisbane but I am still available in Ashgrove on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for existing clients and returning clients. So as long as you’ve been to see me before, you’re welcome to come and see me in Ashgrove!
Upcoming courses and workshops:
Introduction to Mindfulness: This afternoon beginner’s workshop is a great way to learn about the theory and practice of mindfulness meditation. Come along and bring a friend to take advantage of the couple’s discounted price.
Saturday 30th May, 2pm to 4.30pm @ Circle Wellness, Peregian Beach. Register your interest by emailing me or filling in this form.
Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy for Stress and Self-Care : It’s hard to imagine anyone could be stressed here on the Sunshine Coast but I’m sure there must be a few people around who would be interested to learn how to use mindfulness for stress reduction and self-care. Dates and venues aren’t yet finalised but if you’re interested, contact me to register your interest and I’ll keep you updated as I firm up details!
Remember that the best way to stay updated with dates for courses and events is to subscribe to my newsletter. I only send it out when there is new information so I promise not to overload your inbox.
Until next time, remember….READ MORE
This post is a more of a personal communication than a typical blog post but it seems a good way to get the message out.
My husband and I have recently made a decision to sell our house in Brisbane and pursue our dream of living on an acreage block. We’ve talked about it for many years but have always found it to be far more logical and sensible to live in the city where we can easily commute to our respective jobs. The idea has never gone away though – and so late last year, when we stumbled upon the perfect place for us in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, we decided there really is never a good time to make these kinds of major life changes – so why not now?
Some of you know that I’m quite passionate about animal welfare, and so for a long time I’ve wanted to live in the country and provide a little sanctuary for rescued animals. I’ve also envisioned that this place would have space for me to create a meditation hall/retreat space where I can run mindfulness workshops and courses. The place we have found is an 11 acre block so it’s certainly big enough for us to keep animals, and as a bonus it already has a fully self-contained cabin with 3-bay shed which I hope to be able to convert for use as a meditation hall and workshop space, or perhaps even to provide short-stay accommodation as a writer’s or artist’s retreat.
What this means for my psychology practice is that I will continue to work from my office in Ashgrove on Tuesdays and Wednesdays only. Over the coming months my goal will be to build a client base on the Sunshine Coast. I am running my Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy course on Tuesday nights in Brisbane commencing February 3rd but I’m not sure for how much longer I’ll be able to travel to Brisbane to run an evening course so if you’re considering doing the course, I’d encourage you to register for this one.
I am currently looking for a space to see individual clients on the Sunshine Coast for a couple of days each week and will also be looking for a space to run courses and workshops until I can hopefully create my own space. I’ll keep you posted via my Facebook Page or my Newsletter when those details are all confirmed. By all means, email me at email@example.com if you know of a place that might work for me!
I’m also still confirming dates for the next Introduction to Mindfulness workshop and plan to run this both in Brisbane and on the Sunshine Coast in late February or early March. Again, stay tuned either by Facebook or by subscribing to my Newsletter.
I look forward to keeping you updated on the progress of our semi-rural sea change, and my availability for individual appointments on the sunny Sunshine Coast.READ MORE
It’s a funny thing, really… that for all the advances in technology and the myriad wondrous inventions we’ve created to make things quicker, easier and more efficient, somehow we’ve come full circle and now find ourselves so overwhelmed by the busyness and sheer pace of life that we are all looking for ways to slow down.
Fast food, cheap fashion & social media are the signs of our times. They are relatively new concepts in our culture, and all serving the common purpose of providing instant gratification.
But the truth is that despite all the inventions designed to make life easier, the number of ‘friends’ just a button click away, the prosperity we enjoy and the abundant choices presented to us every time we hit the supermarket or the nearest shopping mall, we are experiencing our highest ever levels of anxiety, depression, obesity and debt.
Depression is in fact the leading cause of disability globally. Consumer debt is at an all time high. The planet is being destroyed. We are disconnected, isolated, and dissatisfied; working harder and longer, yet never being rewarded with the grand prize of happiness that we so long for.
And so it appears we have woken up to the con of ‘fast’.
Voluntary Simplicity. Downshifting. Minimalism. These are all terms used to describe a growing movement towards unhooking from our technology-addicted, consumption driven lives and finding five minutes of peace and quiet in the simple activities and lifestyles our grandparents might have enjoyed.
The slow food movement was born in Italy in the 1980s when Carlo Petrini and a group of activists objected to a McDonald’s being constructed on the Spanish steps of Rome. Fast food is a disaster for animals, the planet and our own health. Today, ‘slow food’ embraces the values of wholesome food, grown locally and sustainably, and offering a fair price and conditions to its producers. It is the antithesis of fast food and processed food. ‘Slow food’ values time taken to prepare and enjoy meals and the role of food in connecting family and friends. Most importantly, it’s a reminder to slow down in every aspect of our lives.
The slow living movement takes its cues from these same principles of mindfulness, connection and community.
Slow fashion for example, objects to the speed at which clothing designs move from catwalk to chain store, inviting us to reconsider our fashion purchases and opt for choices that will sustain us beyond a seasonal trend. Fast fashion pollutes the environment with its manufacture and its rapid disposal, and demands we keep spending money as seasons and styles change.
Where ‘fast fashion’ often utilises offshore labour with unfair working conditions, chemically laden textiles, and rapidly obsolete trends, slow fashion calls us to choose quality over quantity. It also emphasises getting back to basics and repairing or re-purposing pre-loved clothing. Big fashion houses are lining up to get themselves accredited with Ethical Clothing Australia. Thus, it would appear that consumer demand for high quality, ethically produced fashion exists, and that suppliers are happy to meet our demand.
Slow living invites us to unhook from the continual distraction of our screens and gadgets by taking a regular ‘digital detox’ and spending quality, purposeful time in our real lives and connecting with our people face to face.
With a quick Google search (the irony), you can find a multitude of manifestations of the slow movement: people living in tiny houses, embracing thrift and minimalism, and living in intentional communities. Blogs like Zen Habits and Becoming Minimalist have millions of subscribers, such is the level of interest in scaling back and slowing down.
Most of us will never truly escape the hustle of modern life with our gadgets and our shops and our busy jobs. But we can look for small ways to slow down, shed what is unnecessary from our homes and schedules, shop more ethically and choose more wisely in every respect.
What about you? How do you find ways to slow down?READ MORE
I could happily live without a television and yet we have two televisions in our home. I admit there are some programs on commercial telly that I really enjoy, but my tendency to get hooked on a cooking or home improvement show is, for me, another reason to not have the TV in the house because much like wine and hot chips – while I may well enjoy those things, I also know they’re not very good for me.
For now, I’m stuck with a TV due to fierce opposition from my husband and daughter, but I’m not anywhere close to giving up on my anti-TV crusade, and here are all the reasons why:
1. Commercial TV advertising
Research confirms that television advertising increases our desire to buy stuff. Suddenly we want stuff we never even knew existed and our levels of life satisfaction decrease. Of course the TV is not singularly responsible for our increased consumerism but there’s a reason TV advertising is so expensive and that’s because it’s powerful. Children are particularly susceptible to this effect if we aren’t actively educating them about advertising in the media. A Dutch study confirmed that 8-11yr old children who watched more television were more materialistic. I use my 8yo daughter as my litmus test for this. After she’s watched commercial TV for any length of time, the list of stuff she wants grows longer… every time.
2. The News
Don’t even start me on the news. Is there anything more depressing? Of course we all know that there is a lot more going on in the world than the 30 minutes of depressing highlights you’re fed via a (probably biased) television news program each weeknight. I think it’s important to be aware of what’s happening in the world around us – that makes us responsible citizens. And the older I get, the more effort I make to know who I’m voting for and what they stand for and how this affects my family and broader community. But I do not believe it’s vital to my existence to know of every violent death that’s occurred locally and internationally in the preceding 24hrs and I do not need that negativity in my lounge room and within earshot of my daughter. So I turn off the news.
3. Television kills conversation
I know it from experience and I hear it all the time from my clients. Time spent sitting in front of the box with your partner is not quality time. If there are particular programs you enjoy watching together and which prompt you to engage in conversation, that can be fun for sure. But coming home at the end of the day and veging in front of the telly for a few hours before crawling into bed (or worse still, falling asleep on the couch) creates disconnection and dissatisfaction in relationships.
4. Television is often mindless
And I’m much more about being mindful in my daily life because the benefits of mindfulness are immense and proven. When you sit down to ‘relax’ in front of the television, you’re more likely to eat (or drink) more than you intend to, because you’re not paying attention. More importantly, escaping into television prevents you from dealing with whatever unpleasantness you are seeking to escape. In this way, mindless television viewing is a form of avoidance, whereas living a whole, happy, vital life requires us to increase our capacity to turn towards and tolerate discomfort, not find more ways to escape it.
5. Television shortens your lifespan
That on its own is surely enough to make anyone miserable. It’s been estimated that every hour of TV viewing reduces your lifespan by 20 minutes. Exact reasons aren’t clear but presumably it’s a combination of all those things already mentioned. TV watching is a sedentary activity so unless you’re watching TV while pounding out a few k’s on the treadmill or climbing Kilimanjaro on the stairmaster, the more hours spent television viewing, the less you spend moving your body, breathing fresh air and engaging in physical activities. Our bodies are designed to move, not sit at a desk all day and then come home and sit in front a television all night.
So what’s the answer?
If like me, you can’t have your way in getting rid of the TV, or if you’re not ready to make that change, I offer the following tips to minimise your exposure to its harmful effects.
1. Limit your viewing
Instead of turning on the TV and channel surfing until you find something appealing to watch, check the TV guide online and only turn the television on when there is something you really want to see. Each week, try to have one or two TV-Free days (or even better, no screens at all).
2. Skip the ads
Set your timer to record your favourite program so you can watch it at your leisure some other time and fast-forward the advertisements. The program without the ads will take a whole lot less of your precious time and you won’t be exposed to those enticing advertisements convincing you of all the new things you need to buy to be happier.
3. Do something while watching TV
Lie on the floor and do some pilates exercises or stretches, or if you have a treadmill – position it in front of the telly and get on it during your favourite program. The distraction of the TV should make working out seem less painful and if you’re going to do something mindlessly, it might as well be good for you.
4. Create a TV-free zone
If you’re fortunate enough to have space for a couple of living areas in your home – say a family room as well as a lounge room – make one of them television-free. Keep that space for reading, music, playing board games or talking without the noise and distraction of the TV. If possible, make this space the one that’s more accessible to you and your family, nearer to the kitchen and the major hub of activity in your home. Put the television in the room that’s further away and harder to reach so it’s less intrusive.
5. Consider the possibility of getting rid of it entirely
Rather than immediately shutting down the idea, start to play around with the possibility of what life would be like without it. Be curious and open minded about where your hesitation comes from. What would you be missing out on? What else might you do with your time instead? If staring down a whole evening with your own company seems intolerable, perhaps this is something to work on.
Who’s with me in the No-TV camp? What strategies do you use to minimise it, and if you’ve already gone TV-free, how is that changed your life (for better or worse)?READ MORE
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