Thanksgiving, and keeping traditions alive

Mr. Wanderlust and I are wishing all our Canadian family members and friends a very happy Thanksgiving! We hope that you are enjoying a wonderful celebration in the company of your dearest people.

Our own Thanksgiving celebration is belated. For today’s early dinner, prior to my 6:30 p.m. yoga class, on the menu is chicken schnitzel and roasted vegetables. Our little family of four will not have turkey, cranberry sauce, butternut squash, or apple pie, because I realised too late on Saturday morning, after having planned our meals for the coming week and purchased groceries, that this past weekend was, in fact, Thanksgiving weekend in Canada. Thanksgiving is not celebrated in NZ, and likewise there is no widely acknowledged harvest festival. I can blame my memory lapse on seasonal confusion, which often leaves me thinking that since it’s currently springtime, it must be April or May. Then I remind myself that it’s actually October.

And so, we let the weekend go by without a special celebration, but this did not sit well with me. I want to keep our beloved family traditions alive in any way I can, regardless where in the world we might be. To me, Thanksgiving is a grounding reminder to mindfully acknowledge our loved ones and all else for which we are grateful. And so, although belatedly, I made the decision to have an intentional celebratory Thanksgiving dinner today, in-between teaching classes. We might not have the traditional pumpkins or squash, because  they are not currently in season in NZ, and that’s okay. After all, what make a celebration special are the intention behind it and the people with whom we share it. As for the apple pie, I just might bake one in a few days — you know, to extend the celebration. Here’s a photo of a cranberry-apple pie I baked for Thanksgiving two years ago.

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What special Thanksgiving traditions are in your family? If you are currently living far away from family, do you continue to celebrate Thanksgiving?

If we are making ourselves too busy, what are we trying to escape?

I made a mistake. I made the mistake of making myself too busy. A few weeks later, when I came down with a bad cold due to burnout, I understood that I had filled my schedule to the brim because I was too afraid to face a tumultuous issue that was brewing under the surface.

As always, the irony of the situation dawned on me when I felt I had nothing more to give. There, on the couch, feeling too weak to move, I was forced to pay attention to the signs that were before me all along. Instead of sweeping the proverbial dust under the rug, I held it in the palms of my hands, breathed it in and made myself sneeze a few times, blaming it on the virus, before allowing myself to face the big elephant. By doing too much, by constantly moving forward, we often keep ourselves from thinking about what makes us vulnerable. It’s easy to get up in the morning and get to work, to tackle the grit without asking ourselves why we tackle it and whether it serves an ultimate purpose. In making myself busier than I needed to be, I avoided the big question of how I was actually feeling and what I truly wanted to do.

If we are making ourselves too busy, what are we trying to escape?

We must slow down. We must slow down to allow creativity to flow. We must slow down and give ourselves permission to feel the emotions that will arise, instead of attempting to deny them. We must be honest with ourselves about what we truly want to do, why we resist certain projects, and whether we are actually meant to undertake any of those projects in the first place.

When I’m quiet, I hear an inner voice that asks me to simplify, to allow myself to tune into the creative flow. That voice begs me to pay attention to the signs that are before me. After that, I gently nudge myself to take just one step in the direction that feels right to me at this time.

What signs are before you? Have you been paying close attention to them and heeding them?

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Favourites from around the web:

Turning Negative Thinkers into Positive Ones

“Dr. Davidson’s team showed that as little as two weeks’ training in compassion and kindness meditation generated changes in brain circuitry linked to an increase in positive social behaviors like generosity.”

Three questions to ask yourself before buying something – I follow a similar approach.

How to enjoy exercising without making it feel like a chore – For me, it’s all about moving my body in a way that allows me to feel healthy, strong, and energised but grounded.

Community, and the importance of getting to know our neighbours, is a subject that has been on my mind often as of late.

Life through a phone screen

Today’s installment of the blog is a result of a technical issue. Two weeks ago, I recorded a live talk on Facebook, only to discover later that the audio of the recording was less than ideal. I had initially planned to re-record the video but decided, typically, to write about the subject instead. It’s my medium of choice. Without further ado, allow me to delve straight into it.

I enjoy watching people. I am fascinated by how different people walk, stand, eat, and interact. I have always been a people-watcher. On that particular Sunday when this story takes place, I was paying close attention to Mr. Wanderlust and the Wanderlust Juniors, seated with me at a small squared bistro table at a restaurant where we were eating brunch prior to a Cirque du Soleil show. I had shown the Wanderlust Juniors a video that their aunt had posted on social media, then put my phone into my purse to enjoy our lunch free of distractions. We were chatting about something when a man seated at a nearby table stood up to leave the restaurant. He approached and said to us, “It’s nice to see a family that talks to one another instead of staring at phones.”

After he left, I looked around us to see that at many tables surrounding us, families similar to ours were slumped over their telephones, barely looking up at the cutlery and food placed before them.

Later, at the show, I was somewhat surprised to learn that an app had been created for use during the show with the promise to enhance the experience for the audience. My initial reaction was to ask, Whatever happened to asking the audience members to turn off their phones? From the screens of those seated near us, I did not spot anything impressive about the app they had downloaded. I suppose that the app could not be made to be all that amazing, so as to prevent distracting the audience.

The reason I did not download the app is twofold:

  1. I am discerning about what I download onto my phone.
  2. I believe in, first and foremost, enjoying live events with the naked eye, instead of through a screen.

Lest you might think that I am writing this post to sound holier-than-thou, rest assured that I often share content on social media. Those who follow me on Instagram or Facebook hopefully enjoy the photographs I share on an almost daily basis. I enjoy the interaction that is facilitated by the advances of technology. However, I don’t believe that social media can or should attempt to replace real good old-fashioned human interaction and likewise, I believe that, save for a quick snap or video, phones should be put away during live concerts.

If you were born in the early 1980s or earlier, you might remember a time when people used to go to concerts and tell their friends about it later. Perhaps, like me, you remember how excited you felt about returning home after the event and picking up the phone to tell your best friend about how fabulous the show was. During your lunch hour on Monday at school or at work, you enjoyed catching up with your classmates or colleagues to share your story and learn about their weekend outings. Those opportunities are lost amid the ubiquitous content thrown our way via social media.

We no longer need to wait for Monday to learn about what our friends did during the weekend. It’s on social media. But it doesn’t have to be.

Lately, I have been relishing the almost-naughty idea of going on an adventure without telling anyone about it — okay, maybe I tell only my mum about it during our Skype chats. It feels good to create secret memories in an age when so much — arguably too much — is shared for the world to see.

During the second act of the show, from the corner of my eye I noticed that an audience member seated near us was checking his phone, scrolling through comments left below his photos and browsing the updates of his friends. All the while, my family and I were riveted by the show and refused to look away.

I like technology. I expect technology to continue to evolve fast. However, I believe that we should continue to discern, to make healthy choices about how we use technology for our benefit, rather than giving it permission to control us. For that reason I put away my phone at mealtimes and usually leave it in a different room two hours before bedtime. When I attend a live entertainment event, I might take a photo or video and share it later, or not at all. Usually, my phone stays in my purse, giving me the freedom to fully immerse myself in the special — and privileged — experience of watching and listening to something beautiful taking place on the stage before me. I don’t want to let life pass me by while I attempt to capture it through the screen of my phone.

How do you feel about the use of phones during live concerts? Do you share my thoughts or do you disagree? Please join the conversation by leaving a comment below. 

Let me tell you something about courage

When Mr. Wanderlust and I officially announced to a small number of close friends our intention to relocate from Canada to New Zealand, many expressed admiration at our courage.

“I must say,” one friend told us over brunch last December in Toronto, “many people dream and speak of someday moving to and starting a new life in a different country. You guys are actually going through with it. That takes guts.”

Others told us how nervous they would be about the mere thought of making such a move.

Here is something that I don’t often share when talking about our Big Move. It was relatively smooth from conception. We say our thanks every night for how fortunate we feel to have had everything go as well as it has thus far. However, that does not mean that we did not sometimes have second thoughts related to career changes and the change to a different educational system for our children. Similarly, we considered carefully the implications of leaving behind our family and friends and having to start building a new social circle in a new home. The question of social interactions, in particular, sometimes brings on a fair amount of anxiety.

There are days when I feel vulnerable and homesick. On those days, one obscure harsh word from a stranger — in yesterday’s case a woman at the supermarket who yelled at me for blocking her way — is enough to make me want to lock myself in the walk-in closet with a whole bar of dark chocolate and a giant pot of tea. As a HSP and INFP, I work hard to read others, especially if they are not open with me. I replay conversations in my mind that I had the day before with other school mums, wondering whether I might have said something that was misunderstood or committed another faux pas. The cultures in NZ and Canada don’t clash in a blatant way, but sometimes the differences are apparent.

And then, on other days, I enjoy a pleasant chat with another mum over peppermint tea while our children play in her backyard, leaving me feeling lighthearted and at peace.

Courage is not the absence of fear. It is the choice to pick ourselves up and move forward, regardless of those pangs of fear. We all feel nervous about certain changes. Some of us have also had to learn to be good at hiding that nervousness. However, there are three other lessons that have always kept me moving forward through various challenges that I have faced: Curiosity, Equanimity, and Faith. I give myself permission to sit with the experience, to feel the myriad emotions. I allow the thoughts to swirl. Then, I work to detach myself from them. I am not my thoughts. I am not my emotions. They do not define me. I remind myself that all those experiences and challenges are fleeting and every day brings new surprises. I remind myself of the challenges I have faced in the past and how they have made me stronger. I have been reminding myself, as of late, of the time when, as a teenager, I worked to make friends at a new school, in a new country, while learning a new language. Everything worked out for the best. It always does, especially when we remember to let go of concerns about the outcome.

Yesterday, I spent some time on the floor of the closet, eating 70% chocolate, drinking rooibos tea, and journaling to sort through my jumbled thoughts. This morning, I am ready to be the best version of myself and that, my friends, takes courage. As for change? It takes time, patience, and a fair amount of guts. One day at a time.

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If you are enjoying this blog, please take a moment to share it with a friend who might find its content interesting. 

Favourites from around the web:

An interesting study hack

10 Lessons Every 21st-Century Woman Can Learn from Jane Austen

A brilliant interview with Judith Hanson Lasater

A year ago on the blog:

I learned something about stress

Two years ago on the blog:

Health lessons from my grandmother

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Spotted at a Starbucks in Dundas, Ontario two weeks ago, which means there are now fewer than 15 Fridays left to shop before Christmas. That’s great, but let’s focus on the here and now, folks. Wishing you a Mindful Monday.

In praise of the daytime date

Dear readers: I will be on a blog break for the next two weeks. I invite you to read the archives in the meantime. 


On Monday mornings, after taking the Wanderlust Juniors to school, Mr. Wanderlust and I are off on a mini adventure together. On those days, he starts work later, and we have a bit of child-free couple time to enjoy. Now that we are living far away from family, we have to make the most of this opportunity. Monday mornings are for dates, and we love this arrangement.

What we do on Mondays depends on our mood. Sometimes, we go to the movies, enjoying an early matinée in an almost empty theatre, then eat lunch in a restaurant not typically favoured by our children. Sushi is one of our favourite treats, but it’s not the Wanderlust Juniors’ cup of tea. At other times, we choose an active outing with a walk up to the summit of the Mount or Papamoa Hills, or a stroll along the beach. Some Mondays are reserved for errand dates. When we were shopping for furniture for our new house, we spent a couple of Mondays at the furniture and appliance stores, choosing a fridge, washing machine, and a couch for the lounge.

We have come to treasure the daytime date. Although it might not seem romantic in comparison with a cosy dinner-and-movie outing, we enjoy it nevertheless. On a recent busier Monday on which both Mr. Wanderlust and I had to work in the morning, we walked to the local shopping plaza to run an errand after taking the boys to school. We returned home at 9:30 and began the work day, but while out for a walk, we had a chance to reconnect and discuss a few items pertaining to our respective work projects. On the other hand, I typically would not wish to discuss such matters while out for a romantic dinner. Other morning dates are more leisurely and resemble a lovers’ outing, albeit sunlit. Another benefit of this arrangement is that we typically have more energy earlier in the day, and spending time together in the morning gives us a boost for the remainder of the day. I think that’s a fabulous way to start a new week.

Do you enjoy morning / day dates or are you in favour of the traditional romantic evening rendez-vous? Please leave a comment below to contribute to the conversation.

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FAVOURITES FROM AROUND THE WEB:

I cringe when I see doodles on the pages of books, but this is clever.

A good reminder to get out of our heads and take action.

Until next time!

A different narrative

Do you ever talk to yourself? In case you are worried about feeling snubbed by people who might claim to never have so much as thought about talking to themselves, don’t. A few days ago, I listened to this podcast about the merits of talking to oneself in the third person, with reference to research that has shown that doing so can help to reduce symptoms of anxiety through compassionate awareness.

I remember a time in my teenage years when I sat on the bathroom counter in my parents’ home, gazing curiously at the tears that rolled down my cheeks. I believe I might have shed those tears over some boy, but that’s an insignificant detail. As I sat and stared at my reflection, the writer in my head started to draw a narrative to describe the situation, complete with an illustration of the warm droplets on my face and how delicate my wet eyelashes appeared at that moment. The narrator’s descriptions made my inner turmoil seem commonplace, banal, and I soon turned my attention to something more interesting, allowing time to heal the pain.

The writer / narrator in my head has saved me many times by plucking me out of perpetually swirling anxiety-ridden thoughts and casting me in the role of an observer looking in from the outside. Gosh, I realise how strange all this might sound to some. Yet, it works for me, and it appears that others also have had similar experiences.

The premise of the research to which Jonathan Fields refers in the podcast is that when a situation goes sour and we are tempted to turn to self-deprecating talk of ‘not good enough,’ we can instead describe the scenario from the point of view of an observer. It’s the difference between, “I’m an awful mother. I failed today as a mother when my child threw a tantrum at the shopping centre and I ended up yelling at her in front of crowds of people” and, “(Insert name here) is a mother who had a challenging day today. After a restless night of taking care of her toddler, who keeps waking several times throughout the night, and having not had enough coffee, she lost her patience while shopping with her daughter. It was not a pleasant situation, but it’s over. The mother and toddler both need an afternoon nap to recharge and reconnect.”

The latter approach of talking about ourselves as an observer allows us an opportunity to take a step back and evaluate a situation from a more compassionate place. I will continue to refer to this approach as listening to the voice of the mindful writer or narrator within. Care to try it? Have you tried it?

I’m curious to read about your experience with talking about yourself in the third person. Won’t you please leave a comment below to contribute to the conversation?

Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend.

Photo by Christichka Photography.

Silver hair, maturity, and why I celebrate my age

“The weird thing is, you get more comfortable in yourself, even as time is giving you less reason for it. When you’re young and beautiful, you’re paranoid and miserable. I think one of the great advantages of getting older is that you let go of certain things.” – Helen Mirren

In a couple of days, I will officially be in a new age bracket on those ubiquitous household surveys. Trivial questionnaires aside, signs of aging inevitably appear from time to time in the strands of silver hair that sparkle in the sunlight, and little laugh lines that radiate from the corners of my eyes when I smile. Some might say I should start thinking of colouring my hair or consider the latest injections, but in truth, I love my sparkly hair, and laugh lines have never concerned me. There is plenty to celebrate about turning 35:

I choose to be curious and celebrate the changes I experience in my body. I may not be as flexible as I was 15 years ago, but I am stronger in my yoga practice and feel comfortable about slowing down instead of pushing myself to go faster and to burn more calories. My joints might talk to me from time to time, and I treat them with the kindness of warm oil massages, baths with epsom salt, and warm, nourishing meals. I no longer count calories and try to burn them off during intense cardio sessions or with sweaty power yoga. Slow-flowing yet challenging Vinyasa, interspersed with delicious Yin and meditation practices feel better in my body. I pay closer attention to my digestive health and cycle-sync my fitness plan.

If it were possible to return to my early 20s, with the life experience I now have under my belt and a more mature outlook on life, I would have been more successful in university and with my career. I do not wish I could re-write the past, but I value the opportunity to continue to progress and learn, and learn, and learn. There are still many unanswered questions and so much to discover.

In my 20s, I seized opportunities but had to learn to say ‘no’ to what in retrospect I knew from the start was not the right fit for me. Today, with the intention of holding space for self-care and to offer a greater focus where my attention is most needed, I do not hesitate to decline certain invitations. In the same breath, I say ‘Yes’ to other incredible opportunities, even when I feel that my knowledge or talents might not be adequate. Instead, I prepare myself to learn as I go. I confidently create room for potential. I teach my children to do the same. It is my wish for them to feel confident in themselves and their abilities, but also to strive to do better and to be better versions of themselves every day.

I dress better in my 30s than I did 10 years ago and feel more comfortable in my body. I know what works best for my body and what I can wear to look elegant yet comfortable at the same time. Cute and tiny string bikinis were once a must for me at the beach; otherwise, I felt, I looked uncool. Today, I prioritise sun safety. Although I still favour two-piece swimwear (I have a long torso and generally do not enjoy one-piece suits), I also don long-sleeved linen button-down shirts, wide-brim hats, and slather physical sunblock on any part of my body exposed to the sun.

I read better books today, both fiction and non-fiction. I read books that nurture my creative side and help me to be a better mother, partner, yogi, writer, and teacher. I also read books that challenge my worldview and expand my knowledge base.

The silver hair and age lines are inevitable, and they come with a beautiful territory. I admire confident older women with impeccable style and their hair in a chic silver bob, with perfectly manicured nails and Manolo Blahniks. Getting older need not suggest letting one’s hair grow wild or wearing baggy clothes to hide one’s figure. I hope that I will, some day, get to be a chic silver-haired grandmother who rocks gorgeous high heels (okay, maybe just on special occasions). For now, I celebrate with gratitude 35 wonderful years and look forward to what the coming year has to offer.

Join the conversation by leaving a comment below. How do you feel about aging naturally? 

Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend.


Favourites from around the web:

On yoga and aging: A fantastic interview with Desiree Rumbaugh and Michelle Marchildon

Women and Moon-Cycle Empowerment – A great interview on how we can be more in tune with our bodies by cycle-syncing not only our yoga practice but also how we design our lives off the mat.

How to Build Resilience in Midlife – Excellent tips to practise staying resilient to overcome setbacks. I think this is a must-read for everyone.

Leap When You’re Almost Ready – We don’t ever have to be 100% ready to make a move. As Mr. Wanderlust likes to say, I tend to jump the gun without thinking something through. I always respond that I say ‘Yes’ first, then figure things out as I go. When I go with the flow, the experience exhilarates me but never leaves me feeling terrified.

Minimalism is a lifelong practice

We started to downsize our possessions well over two years ago, evaluating the items that we use on a frequent basis and discarding the ones that rested on an out-of-reach shelf at the back of the linen closet. We have been working to simplify our lifestyle while continuing to enjoy our adventure. One might assume that after two years, having sold a house and moved overseas, we would have pared down our possessions to our maximum benefit. At least, that’s what we thought. Three months in a small house allow plenty of opportunity for reflection on what one needs to live comfortably.

During those months, we rented a small two-bedroom beach bach (kiwi-speak for ‘cottage’) while waiting for our shipment container to arrive. Last week, upon moving into our house, we were reunited with some 90 boxes of various sizes, containing the items we had packed four and a half months ago to be shipped from Canada to NZ.

While staying in the beach house, we had not missed much of what we had shipped. We had everything we needed, and we were reminded of just how little one truly needs to live comfortably. Our clothes were stored inside individual suitcases, and for the first few days after moving into our house, I worked to become accustomed to walking into my closet to get dressed in the morning, instead of reaching for a suitcase. Shortly after we landed in NZ, I purchased an immersion blender in lieu of a larger standing blender. This small blender works perfectly for smoothies and soups, yet does not take up much room inside the kitchen cupboard. Several weeks ago, while baking a cake for the eldest Wanderlust Junior’s birthday, it occurred to me that I did not have a mixer to make frosting. I used the said immersion blender and the result was better than expected. These days, I choose multi-purpose tools and only spend money on what I know I will use frequently.

Although we were happy to be reunited with a few favourite items, we also understood that we had shipped certain items that we had outgrown within the past few months. Mr. Wanderlust and I understood, after looking at the too-many travel souvenirs that we had kept, that we no longer enjoy many of those items. They are sitting in a box that is to be donated to an op shop (thrift shop, for the non-kiwis). After drowning in the numerous photo albums we had brought with us, I made a decision to stop printing photos on a regular basis. This also applies to our wardrobe. I learned recently that I prefer to wear well-made black, grey, or dark blue tights for yoga, leading me to donate the colourful tights that had been sitting sadly in my closet, all dressed up with nowhere to go. Uncomfortable yoga tops accompanied them in the donations bin.

Some might think that simplifying one’s wardrobe means living with 10-30 items of clothing, and while I do have a seasonal capsule wardrobe, I admit to still having too many items in my closet and will continue to pare down. Some might think that minimalism means living in a tiny home. Others might expect a minimalist to have one nine-to-five job in the interest of simplifying the routine. I work multiple jobs with non-standard hours, and I enjoy this rhythm. Minimalism might be the latest fad word, but for me, it is a lifestyle practice that I am pursuing at my own pace as I continue to re-evaluate what works best for me and my family today.

Join the conversation by leaving a comment below. I’d like to know whether you have a bin into which you add items to donate to an op / thrift shop.

Four Things I Learned Recently

This is an exciting week for our family, and I promise to tell you more about it in a few days. For now, I will share with you four things that I learned recently and which you might find interesting in reference to your own health and wellness:

1. A lack of routine can present a setback. 

I stumbled and have been working to get back up. Following our move to NZ, my regular fitness regimen took a hit. Although I have continued to exercise, I lost my routine of waking early in the morning for yoga. We have been staying in a small, charming beach house, and although we are fortunate to have these accommodations, it has proved to be challenging to find room in the house where I could exercise without waking my family. As an INFP, routine is of paramount importance to me. If I don’t schedule something into my calendar, it might not happen at all. Likewise, although I am passionate about a healthy lifestyle and my energy levels are the highest early in the day, in the winter when the sun rises late, if I don’t make the effort to go to bed early and wake up before everyone else, I might not make time later in the day for my yoga practice. This week, I have adapted a new routine and am diligently working to stick with it. How do you feel about steady routines? Do you tend to veer off the path when on holidays?

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2. Variety and consistency are the key to a good fitness regimen.

Speaking of exercise, it might sound funny, but I designate certain days of the week as my cardio days. As I mentioned above, if I don’t schedule something in my calendar, I might never get to it. I do enjoy cardio and toning; both forms of fitness benefit and complement my yoga practice. Yet, sometimes, I forget about them altogether. Even with a consistent fitness regimen, I need variety. Some days, I enjoy ballet barre-style exercise, and on other days, I combine toning and cardio into one fun cardio pilates routine. Similarly with yoga, I might start with Vinyasa and end with Yin, then the next day opt for a restorative practice if that is what my body craves. The key is to design the practice intuitively. How do you feel about scheduling exercise? What criteria do you use when choosing a fitness regimen?

3. Different personality types have drastically distinct approaches toward starting a business.

Listen to the podcast here. This explains why Mr. Wanderlust is more inclined toward playing things safe when it comes to starting new projects, whereas I am more likely to abandon all prior commitments to launch directly into something novel and exciting. It turns out neither of us is wrong in our approaches. I’m curious to read about how this applies to your personality type and perhaps to your business venture or special project.

P.S. In the above podcast, there is also an update on new research that indicates that consumption of fruit and vegetables can nourish not only the body but also the mind, fuelling creativity and curiosity.

4. Aromatherapy continues to come to my rescue.

A few years ago, I started to experiment with essential oils. I am sensitive to various conventional products and, naturally, don’t want my family to be exposed to harmful substances. As such, I continue to concoct my own natural cleaning products for my yoga mat and for our home. Likewise, I only use skincare products that are naturally derived and gentle on my skin. I have always enjoyed specific scents but have recently become increasingly sensitive to certain fragrances, leading me to be selective about products that are not strongly scented but nevertheless provide me with a welcome aromatherapy boost. I was recently introduced to HZP + Co, a company based in the Bay of Plenty, our new home in NZ, which creates natural skincare products with the most delicious light scents. I can’t say enough about the beautiful Hydra-Defence Serum and Cream to Body Oil, created with local kiwifruit, mamaku leaf, and kowhai extracts. The Wake Me Up Splashwater, with a blend of citrus oils, has become my magic mist on dark mornings when it’s challenging to roll out of bed. Do you enjoy scented skincare and/or home cleaning products? What are a few of your favourite scents?

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Do you have a few additional minutes to stay and read? 

One year ago on the blog: Anniversary

Two years ago on the blog: Marriage Lessons from the Past Nine Years

A favourite from around the web: The Myth of the Teachable Moment

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A tranquil scene on one of the beautiful paths to the summit of Mount Maunganui
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Exploring Papamoa Hills

Please leave a comment below to join the conversation, and thank you, as always, for sharing this blog with a friend! 

Self-care and intentional usage of social media

I have always had a conflicted relationship with social media. I opened a Facebook account in 2007, when the platform was in its early stages and the question at every social gathering was, “Are you on Facebook?” I was newly married at the time and spent my days in the corporate world while working toward a Master degree in the evenings. Facebook became a fun way to connect with current and past classmates. A year later, the initial excitement wore off and after an episode of social drama, I deleted my account.

Two years later, when I was pregnant with my first baby, I joined an online forum on which I made friends with other expecting mothers. Inevitably, our friendship migrated from the forum to Facebook, and I created a new account for myself to remain in touch with my new friends. Two years later, I completed my initial Yoga Teacher Training, started guiding classes, and used Facebook to maintain contact with the yoga community. I gave birth to my second baby and changed jobs. I’m certain that all this information is imprinted in a remote dusty corner of the platform’s memory bank. In time, like many others, I started to use Facebook as a distraction from the more serious activities that demanded my attention. I found myself scrolling mechanically instead of focusing on my work. The more I scrolled, the worse I felt. Instead of connecting with others, I felt more isolated.

I have deactivated and reactivated my account. Last year, for almost a year, I only used Facebook to update the Mindful Daydreamer page. I enjoyed my long-term social media detox and the freedom that came with the reminder that I could have dinner in a beautiful restaurant without feeling the need to take photos of the intricately presented main course. I baked muffins and didn’t snap a pic to share with my friends. We went on family trips and I didn’t announce it online. I joked about pretending to live in the lull of the early 2000s, before Facebook took over our lives. Several months ago, I created a new personal page in order to remain in touch with my friends and family who are geographically far from us. Yet, we use Skype for real conversations and again, I question the merits of the other ubiquitous platform.

I have accepted that for me, a casual attitude toward social media provokes anxiety and a sense of isolation. Call it FOMO or use the latest more popular term, but when I feel low, I find myself wondering about how to increase the number of my followers on Instagram and (almost) consider posting selfies with pseudo-inspirational comments below them. It’s an ugly downward spiral. And so, instead of deactivating my account, I have decided to use social media more responsibly.

With a focus on self-care, I have adopted the following practices to help me use social media more mindfully:

1. Never check email or social media updates first thing in the morning or within at least one hour before going to bed.

2. Check updates once or twice per day, for a limited amount of time, and with a clear purpose. I watch the clock to be sure to only use each platform for the amount of time I have allotted.

3. Refrain from posting live updates, unless with a specific purpose. From time to time, I record live Facebook talks, but I no longer post spontaneous content. I take many photos throughout the day, then share one of them if and when the timing is right. Before sharing anything, I ask myself what purpose it would serve, whether my audience would find the information useful, and whether the update is uplifting.

4. Intentionally choose to follow inspiring people and material on social media.

5. Refrain from paying attention to the numbers of followers.

6. Repeat to myself: Life is what happens when we are not staring at a screen, and most of it need not be shared online.

Do you have additional tips regarding self-care in relation to mindful usage of social media? Please share them in the comments below.