2 In Soulsearching

Living life with a lighter heart

Today, I wanted to write about summertime revelations I had during the break

As you may know, I’ve been to France, Germany and Austria this summer, but the real break from work wasn’t until I went to visit my parents on my own for 10 days. 10 days where the only thing I did, beside meeting friends and roasting under the sun, was reading books. Silence and books. “That’s the life”, I thought to myself. I have had a lot of time in my hands to think during these days, mostly about the changes I need to implement in order to live life with a lighter heart. Because I tend to be really worried every now and then, mostly about having too little time to do all the things I want to accomplish. This, in turn, ruins my mood and if I don’t pay attention, it can make me unhappy. My laptop breaking has also helped to put things into perspective. Everything was getting too much and I needed to lose some weight (both metaphorically, and literally) in order to fly free.

It is the beginning of September now and I don’t want to forget about this recipe against stress that I envisioned whilst paddling in the pool, for the rules I’ve created are meant to keep me sane during this year. More than that, they are meant to make me successful.

When I was in the airport before taking off to return home, I spotted this Spanish self-help book at the duty-free store entitled “Being happy in Alaska”. I felt tempted to buy it, although I always end up feeling annoyed about self-help books. Perhaps because I don’t really need them, perhaps because I am a skeptic. Anyways, I did not buy the book, but the title stuck in my head. Here is my personal take-home message: I should be able to focus on changing my attitude so that I can do anything I aim for, under the most difficult of conditions. Imagine, writing a novel at -10 degrees celsius, and other feats of the like! To me, this means being able to work efficiently despite non-favorable conditions, such as being tired or fed up with commuting.

“Being happy in Alaska” turned out to be a book about reprogramming oneself following basic principles from cognitive psychology. And as half the psychologist I am, I filled in the gaps, and closed the book right then and there. What I did was, I sat and thought hard. At the core of my problems we have time management issues, and a love-hate relationship with writing. Perhaps I should mention my attention deficit too? The inability to focus?… Nevermind. So the main idea is to break bad habits, to become the most productive version of myself so that I can enjoy some guilty-less free time. I think, I will only relax once I view time as infinite (no matter how much of an illusion this is) and not as a countdown. So, I want to create an illusion of having time, instead of relying on the reality that time runs away like a scared animal.

Here is another thought I’ve had: You don’t know what you have until you lose it. This is true for time. I have found out people usually become time-management masters once they have children. Thus, once they have actually “lost” that extra time. Since I don’t plan to become a parent, I must try to develop this skill in some other way.

Here are my 4 simple steps, my code of conduct for the rest of 2016 and beyond, stripped down to the core:

1. Be offline

In my free time I must be computer-less, and maybe even internet-less. I have even considered going off Facebook, and posting less in this blog. As part of my new freedom, I am just going to spend time in silence, reading books or doing anything I find relaxing that does not involve the use of my laptop. If possible, and while the weather is good, I’ll do things outside, such as a stroll or sitting out to read. It is easy for me to get caught up working with my laptop for 12+ hours in a row, and I think it’s unhealthy and does not contribute to happiness. Moreover, I started a private diary that I write on a real notebook with a real pen, using my whole hand, and in Spanish. It is a very different way of writing than this blog, and I like it for that.

2. Follow a tight schedule. An iron routine

I have to stop indulging the idea that I am a free spirit, and that creativity will hit my door when it pleases her. The main thing I would like to change is to become more efficient in writing (80% of my work) so that I can use free time properly. In order to do this I must achieve two things that are related: breaking the emotional bond with my work output, and following a routine. The routine must also forcefully include sports.

A while ago one of my supervisors showed me the only “self-help” book I have ever found useful, entitled “How to write a lot”  by Paul Silva. It is about demystifying the act of writing, by turning it into a routine, one more task in our to-do list. In order to “write a lot” I should set fixed times for writing, and slowly break that detrimental emotional bond with the process of writing. Writing is a trainable skill, a job. It should be seen as such.

I have thus thought that I will devote a number of hours everyday to writing, regardless of whether there is an impending deadline, or no rush at all. The idea is to create a new habit, and for this I need to be consistent. The second part of the deal is that, as soon as the writing programmed time is over, I will move on without batting an eye. Tabula rasa, clean slate. I am not to drag this activity through the whole day in my subconscious. The third part is that I need to sport. And I better do it in the beginning of the week, because this way if things go wrong throughout the week I will have at least done my share with sports.

So, I plan to start my day earlier, whether it is working at the cafe or at the office. Every now and then I can work at home too, but not more than one day a week. I want to avoid the temptation of a sedentary routine. Since I will start earlier, I will also be done earlier. On Mondays, I will go swimming, and on Tuesdays I’ll go to pilates. Hopefully, I can fit in a third session of sport towards the end of the week. Most importantly, I will try not to schedule anything during Monday and Tuesday. These days are now blocked red. It’s called “prioritizing” and it’s starting to kick in.

3. Simplify, let go, and don’t sweat it

Simplify when possible. Stop accumulating both tasks and goods. What do I do best, beside work? Knitting and photography. Then that shall be it for the moment, no need to try every creative hobby out there. I will do less things, and choose them more carefully.

4. Go one step further in watching my nutrition

Two days ago I was for the first time ever at the nutritionist. I did not go there on purpose, it was a free consultation at the gym. They performed a whole body check on me and delivered some sad but unsurprising news: I have a normal weight (phew!) but too much fat and way too little muscle. In addition, I am also below in protein levels. I also got a calculation of the BMR, which basically is the amount of calories that you burn a day just “by being”, without adding all the physical activity of the day. But here comes the shocker: Based on current eating habits, I was told I don’t eat enough. I was told what happens to my body when I don’t consume enough calories, especially carbs and protein, and that this must be the reason why I don’t lose weight and why I always feel so tired. I did not realize it was true until yesterday and today, where I actually had to make an effort to come close to the mark of what I need to eat. So, now it’s all about programming my meals better to hit the right levels of everything. The only requirement is that I should keep an eye on the fat contained in the products I eat.

So far this is going quite well, so wish me luck!!

Much love,

♥ Ingrid ♥


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  • Reply
    Emmelyn | Healthy not Skinny
    September 9, 2016 at 9:55 am

    Love this! I’m going to look into that book your supervisor mentioned (wondering who that was…lol), hadn’t heard of it, sounds great! I’m also a worrier and can really relate to this. Oh and by the way, if my laptop broke I would have a massive break down (not kidding). xxx

  • Reply
    September 9, 2016 at 11:01 am

    Thanks! I can try to share the book with you, as I have it digitally (although I think I have it as an iBook on the ipad only). It is so revealing that I’m going to order a paperback copy and keep it as the bible!

    Surprisingly, I didn’t bat an eye when my laptop broken down. Not only that, I actually felt relieved and free. Honestly!

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