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Friday, July 22, 2016

Mindfulness - It will change your life

Cea, Flickr

Once upon a time, tired of lugging around extra weight from my pregnancies, and unable to lose it no matter how hard I tried, I opted for a time-consuming method I had put all my remaining hopes in: journaling my food intake (each and every bite), journaling my exercise (each and every workout), and finding someone to hold me accountable of it all (a personal trainer - but it could have been a friend or family member). In one word, I forced myself to be mindful of my caloric input and output. Guess what? It worked. By the end of the year (I like to make my projects last a year), not only had I lost the weight, I had also improved my strength, flexibility and cardio, enough to run half-marathons and participate in Spartan races. I felt amazing.

In 2015, I decided to tackle another goal, which was to regain control of my relationship with money and stuff. I was NOT drowning in debt. I was NOT a hoarder. I had NO intention of making a vow of poverty. I DID like my job. But I felt the need to shed some light on my spending and owning habits. My hope was that this new awareness would enable me to tailor my use of money and ownership of goods to my true needs (as opposed to the needs advertisement tells us we have), which would hopefully have a positive impact on my wallet, the environment, and my peace of mind. To make sure the change was significant, I committed to a form of minimalism: buying absolutely nothing but necessities (e.g. food) for a year. During that non-spending year I also got rid (mostly by donating) of a lot of objects I wasn't using. It ended up being easier and more enjoyable than I had imagined. I felt like I was no longer falling for the false needs put forward in advertisement: I became acutely aware of how marketing preys on us. Being surrounded by less things through decluttering also made me feel lighter. The process made my spending and owning intentional. Even if the "no spending year" is over, I remain very mindful of my relationship to money and stuff. In stores I act as if I was in a museum: if I see something beautiful, I admire it, then walk away from it. The fact that I love an object and/or that its "price is right" is no reason to purchase it. I don't bring anything in the house unless it fulfills a true need.

This year, as I keep striving to increase my overall levels of mindfulness (in the hope that it will make me a happier AND more responsible citizen), I started meditating daily, which led to both good and "bad" outcomes (for more on that, see my article on Tiny Buddha). In the process, I put new issues under the magnifying glass. One example: in the first few months of 2016, I tracked my moods and physical states and made adjustments accordingly. This has led me to increase my sleep intake while I practically eliminated caffeine intake, among other things. It also changed my approach to the media, relationships, work, self-worth, and a panoply of other issues. One important discovery was that more often than not, I need to slow down and put less pressure on myself. It may seem counter-intuitive, but adopting a slower pace and practicing self-care and awareness has actually helped me accomplish more, or more of what really matters (feeling better in the process, too). Which leads me to the area I want to tackle now: my use of time. As aware as I am of my eating and spending habits, I realize that I am still often mindless in my use of what probably constitutes my most precious resource. My to-do lists fill up with new items faster than I can actually check off items. There always seems to be too much to do, with too little time to get it done.

Or so I thought. Just like any budget and the food/exercise equation, there is nothing mysterious about time management: put some in, take some out - numbers don't lie. With the difference that we all are granted the same amount of time: 24 hours per day. If you eat too much, you can always exercise more to burn the extra calories. If you want to spend more, you can always try and increase your income. But the 24 hours a day is a fixed number. The only component of the equation we have power over is our use of time. We need to be honest about 1) the time we need to do things - many of us tend to underestimate it and 2) which things really need to be done, as opposed to the ones that are optional. 

My quest for a better use of time is far from being over. I hope to come back with insights. In the meantime, please don't hesitate to share your wisdom in the comments below!

Mindfulness this Week

How do you manage your time?

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