Being All You Can Be. Part V: Enjoyment.

In the last two sections on being all you can be we addressed the two financial, or “survival” sides to hard work: monetized work and self-sufficiency. Doing both of these things in some way will maximize your life by minimizing expense, giving you some spending money and freeing you from reliance on others. However what are we meant to do with all this spare time and money? Enjoy it, of course!

The other thing that makes work worthwhile, beyond money and independence, is enjoyment, pure and simple. This is what you have been working towards.

Everyone should have a hobby or two or three, but not all hobbies are created equal. Some hobbies eat more into your free time and money, some hobbies even generate time and money, some hobbies are pure dopamine and some build us up. So here are a few points on which to evaluate our hobbies.

1: Money.

Hobbies can be sorted into the expensive, the balanced and the paid.

An expensive hobby would be one you can’t afford to do weekly without controlling other expenses. For me that would be shopping and dressing up, which I love but just cannot justify as a full time hobby.

A balanced hobby would be one you can afford to do weekly without going into the red. For me that would be painting or dancing, which cost very little, but generally still cost me.

An earning hobby would be one where you can make enough money to pay for at least the expenses of the hobby, if not enough to give you a profit! An example for me is writing, which is also my job, and gardening, which saves me money.

2: Time.

Hobbies can be sorted into the no-time, the casual and the time-saving.

A no-time hobby would be one that you need to schedule in carefully to be able to do it. For me that would be my comic book project, which eats away the hours.

A casual hobby would be one that you can indulge every now and again without scheduling. For me that would be my blog, which I can fit in weekly or daily.

A time-saving hobby would be one that in the long run saves you time. For me that would be my budgeting and meal planning, which relax me, but also free up time over the week.

3: Productivity.

Hobbies can be sorted into sinks, even and productive.

A sink hobby would be one that eats away at productive time and yields few results. For me that would be anime, which can easily eat productive time.

An even hobby would be one you can happily do daily as it does not affect your productive time. For me that would be painting and gardening, where the results are not frequent, but the effort is not free of results.

A productive hobby would be one that yields solid, real results. For me that would be drawing or writing, where the results are immediately in front of me.

4: Health.

Hobbies can be sorted into detrimental, harmless and fitness.

A detrimental hobby would be one that actively hurts your health in the long run. For me that would be anime, where by sitting around watching something I am negatively impacting my physical and mental health.

A harmless hobby would be one that isn’t healthy or particularly unhealthy. For me that would be dancing, which is in theory good for me, but not required on top of my fitness regime. For others, dancing might be a fitness hobby, as it may be a vital core of their exercise regime!

A fitness hobby would be one that improves your health actively. For me that would be gardening, which does contribute to my fitness via constant low-level activity.

Myers-Brigss style, you can take the first letter of each of the four categories to categorize your hobbies. Another way of doing it would be to number each result in each of the four categories from 1-3, with 1 being least desirable and 3 being most.

Let’s use two examples: soap operas, ballroom dancing and growing berries. Assuming all three are a single person’s hobbies, all of which they enjoy equally, here is their breakdown.

Soap operas: Balanced, as it does not cost or earn; Casual, as long as they are flexible with watching it online; Sink, as it uses time and energy with no reward; Detrimental, as sitting still for extended periods and tuning out are bad for mind and body.

Result: BCSD, or 2211. Not the best hobby.

Ballroom dancing: Balanced, as even classes are inexpensive; No-time, as both classes and casual dancing need preparation and deciation; Even, as eventually results show in health and skill; Fitness, assuming it’s core to their exercise.

Result: BNEF, or 2123. A good hobby.

Growing berries: Earning, as it saves money; Casual, needs minimal involvement; Productive, as results are immediately visible and soon edible; Harmless, as it is active but not intense.

Result: ECPH, or 3232. A very good hobby.

That doesn’t mean soap operas need to be neglected! It is just a tool for considering how we use our enjoyable time.

 

For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.

How To… know when you’re full.

In the vein of this week’s post on getting your family to eat healthier, this post is on how to tell when you’re full.

In the West we have an abundance of food. We rarely if ever feel true hunger. Generally we feel peckish and eat, or eat at set times. And as we don’t feel hunger often or at all, we are almost certainly eating when we don’t need food. We have lost track of the usual signals that tell us we’ve had enough. But with a little focus we can recognize and reintegrate these signals.

I am trying to put them in the order they generally happen in.

Signal 1: The Taste Change.

Your body preempts the foods it will be eating based on cravings, sight and smell. The foods that seem most pleasant are the foods your body is primed for. But after that urge is satisfied, the perceived taste of the food changes slightly. Whether it’s pure grease, pure sugar or a pizza, everything has a taste change once your craving is satisfied, however early or late it is. Because many of the foods we eat are so palatable the taste change is less obvious, but by looking for it you’ll notice it.

Signal 2: Body Heat.

As digestion progresses, your body heats up to help in the breaking down of food. When your body starts feeling warm you know that the stomach is starting to reach its digestion capacity. Not full, just the most food you can optimally digest. Any more and you may get sweats or break into the following fullness signals.

Signal 3: Thirst.

Again, as digestion progresses, your stomach acid intensifies. And once your digestion capacity is almost there, the combined body heat and extra acid will make you thirsty. Don’t drink during your meal and when you get thirsty, drink plain water or tea until your thirst is satisfied. Your hunger will be also.

Signal 4: Boredom.

Definitely into the danger zone here. This is like the mega-evolution of the taste change. You have eaten so much that even the primitive part of your brain no longer enjoys the flavour. Even a different tasting food leaves you wondering why you’re still eating and you’re pushing to finish the plate just so you don’t leave any. It is just eating for the sake of eating.

Signal 5: Stomach stretch.

The slight to intense pain caused by your stomach reaching its full capacity. This is definitely too much food. It can be anywhere from uncomfortable to painful, you probably feel very thirsty but don’t have room even for water.

Signal 6: Gurgling.

Gurgling is the sound of your stomach emptying and gas bubbles being forced through the intestine. It happens when you haven’t eaten for a while and your stomach is discarding old, unused, neutralized acid. It also happens when you have had a meal and the digested food is passing through. If your stomach gurgles during a meal, then the contents have been digested and are on their way out. Adding more food on top of it can lead to inefficient digestion and is almost certainly more than you need anyway.

Signal 7: Sickness.

Definitely gone too far. You have consumed so much that your stomach can’t digest it fast enough to pass it through to the intestine and is trying to force it out the way it came. Abort mission meal.

And those are the seven signals your body gives you that it is full. More or less in the order they occur, though sometimes a step will be missed, ignored or happen early or simultaneously with another.

So if you start feeling the tastes change, know your body is almost done with that food. When you feel thirsty and warm, the meal is over. Keeping on going after that is pure greed.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

How do you control your food intake? Do you find you have a good or a bad appetite signal? What methods do you rely on to pace your meal? Do share!

10 Ways to Take Care of Yourself.

We all know and understand the message of looking after ourselves first. Everything from the little reminder during airline safety videos to advice for first time mothers reminds us that you can’t help someone before making sure you’re safe yourself.

But it can be hard to stick to this. Most of us have someone we put at the same level as ourselves, if not before us in terms of wellbeing. All of us have at some point harmed our health by trying to care for someone else. It’s all well and good to say “look after yourself”, but when the time actually comes, all you want to do is give everything to your partner, child, friend, relative or pet. When we try and look after ourselves first we can feel guilty or worried.

So what are some ways we can take care of ourselves when really all we want to do is run around looking after other people?

1. Quiet corner.

This is first because it’s the very first thing you can do. Everything else comes in no particular order, but this is big. Find yourself a nice, quiet corner of the house to call your own and to make comfortable. Try and keep any stressful work away from it and make it pretty clear that it’s your territory and refuge. It doesn’t have to be a room. The bath, a comfy chair or even the garden could do. Wherever you are comfortable, happy and out of the way of household traffic.

2. Eat well.

Eating healthy is vital to looking after yourself. Make sure that you eat food that energizes you and refreshes you, avoid food that makes you sluggish or unwell and don’t eat too much or too little. Eat when you’re hungry and not just when you get the time. Drink plenty of fluids. Don’t let yourself get away with a diet you’d never feed someone else. You deserve as good and healthy a meal as anyone else.

3. Bedtimes.

Set a bedtime and stick to it as much as possible. Sure, you may get up to care for someone who is sick or to put a child back to bed, but in principle, lights out is lights out. Try and guarantee yourself a routine, some proper rest and some bedroom privacy.

4. Dress up.

Make yourself look nice every day. Maybe not dressing to the nines, but wear practical clothes you like seeing yourself in, sort your hair, put on a bit of jewelery, a dusting of makeup, get rid of hangnails and dirty hands. Seeing yourself looking good will boost your confidence and mood.

5. Have a treat.

Even if you’re making sure to eat really healthy, budget properly and stay focused, from time to time give yourself a treat. It doesn’t have to be something massive, expensive, extravagant or anything of the sort. But if you’re the sort of person who will, in a week, buy £20 of chocolate for a loved one and not allow themselves a boiled sweet for the entire seven days, you’ll understand when I say: it really isn’t that big of a deal. Have a little treat. Enjoy it.

6. Get a hobby.

Find something you can do that you love. It might be scrapbooking, painting, dancing, cooking, rappelling, sewing, anything. But find something you love and make a habit of doing it. Maybe you’ll go to a monthly book club or maybe you’ll set aside twenty minutes a day to garden. Whatever it is and however often, take some time to just be you and have fun.

7. Exercise.

No matter how healthy you’re eating, how well rested you are and how little time you have, try and find a few minutes a day to exercise. It will build your muscles, burn through fat, elevate your mood and get you fired up and ready for the next challenge. Maybe you can only manage a four minute emergency workout in the morning. Or maybe you have three hours a week to dedicate to jogging. Whatever it is, do it.

8. Unwind.

Just because you have your quiet space and bedtime doesn’t mean those are the only times and places you can relax. Sit down with the kids and read a book. Watch a film with your partner. Just soak in the bath. Do something once in a while to completely put your mind and body at ease.

9. Get out.

It can be very easy to get locked between work, home, shopping and any other closed spaces, like bars, clubs, gyms, restaurants or friends’ houses. But the great outdoors can help you in many ways. Just looking at plants can relax you, fresh air does a body good and sunlight provides life-giving Vitamin D. A brisk walk in the park once a week could make life so much easier.

10. Laugh.

Laughter being the best medicine is a commonly repeated and mocked expression. But, in reality, it does help. Laughter can provide pain relief, relax you, make you happy and boost your immune system. So find something comical, sit down and have a good laugh. Laugh even at the bad jokes, the inappropriate ones, the offensive ones, the ones you don’t like. Laugh more and you’ll feel better all round.

Do you think you look after yourself well? Or do you always put others first and yourself last? How do you look after yourself? How could you improve? Feel free to share.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

The Importance of Sacrifice.

Lent started last Wednesday. Which means that for Christians a time of self-deprivation and religious reflection has barely begun. Pretty much every religion has a tradition of enforcing humility, fasting and the giving up of your leisures, to surrender your earthly possessions, your greed and your desire where they are affecting your spiritual growth.

But the purpose of such tradition can be lost on most of us. We’re pampered, coddled souls in a world that offers us nearly everything we demand. Not only that, but we’re sheltered from the sufferings of others and we hide from things that our ancestors and relatives in distant lands witness daily. We haven’t really known scarcity. We haven’t really known poverty. We haven’t really known death, disaster, loneliness. Even when you’ve gone a day without food, you’re moments away from a bite, a bit of kindness away from sustenance. The idea of going a week without food and with none anywhere in sight is gone. We don’t know true hunger or true deprivation. We just know mild forms of suffering, catch glimpses of it through a screen or over a sanitary barrier.

And as such we desperately need sacrifice. We can’t actually experience the mental state of scarcity this way. After all, you can easily just go and buy a chocolate bar during Lent or get yourself a flashy red car as a Buddhist. Nothing stops you. But at least it will help us reflect on how much we have and how little we need.

Because we really are overwhelmed. We’re obese, abusing medications, developing alcoholism and drug addiction, not managing to sustain relationships, giving children vaccines for STDs, shopping our way into debt, partying all night with our 500 facebook “friends” and still somehow bored, lonely and sad. But it isn’t, as some people assume, despite the abundance and freedom we have. It’s because of it. There is too much of everything, it comes too easily and it’s killing us. Like many animals, humans are meant to jump at every chance to eat, rest, have fun, reproduce and socialize. But we’re surrounded by these chances and we’re indulging them too much. These necessary acts we used to perform to keep us alive have become abundant indulgences that make us ill.

Not only have they become indulgences. Because we have almost no upper limit for these acts, they have also become booming industries, with vast numbers of brands and products competing for our attention and wealth. So we’re not just surrounded by food, drugs, media, shops, sex and events. We’re also surrounded by constant reminders of them, a constant pressure to consume.

So eventually, in our own little way, we cave in. We eat too much, take drugs (in one form or another), enjoy casual sexual stimulation, overspend and generally obey the media around us, wondering why we’re still not happy.

And we’re not happy because too much is never enough. I used to be obese. Between that and the preceding eating disorder, I have actually lost my appetite signals, have an overly flexible stomach and can eat almost continuously. When I was obese, however much I ate wasn’t ever enough. I needed more and, even as I was getting fatter, congratulated myself on my restraint. Even after losing weight, that feeling of permanent hunger was so hard to fight that I would indulge, guiltily nibbling at unhealthy foods to kill the cravings. But then I tried fasting. It was as part of a Paleo style diet and I figured that if my ancestors managed to fast for a day once in a while, so could I. The first twelve hours were tough. I was sure that the next day I would be famished. But I wasn’t. The following day I ate moderately and cleanly, not craving junk foods and not wanting massive portions. I felt genuinely satisfied on what would have previously been seen as “too little”. And, for the first time in years, I felt full. Too much was never enough, but sacrifice was plenty.

Likewise for everything. Living on a lower income than you actually have is more rewarding and enjoyable than keeping up with the Joneses. Drinking only on special events improves the taste and enjoyment of the alcohol and helps you drink less, sometimes you’ll even turn down a drink even when you’re “allowed” one. Working your way through lethargy leaves you feeling more rewarded and at ease by nightfall than sleeping or resting until noon does. Spending time in your own company leads you to better appreciate whose company is good and whose is bad. Too much is not enough, sacrifice is plenty.

So give up something, anything, everything. Maybe for Lent, maybe for a day, maybe for a year or forever. Reflect on the abundance around you, on the pleasure of indulging in a controlled manner, on the joy of prohibition and the freedom of sacrifice. Your body, mind and soul will thank you.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!