Great apps for simple living and staying sane

I use a variety of great apps for staying sane in this crazy world. Here are a few that I strongly recommend. All are freely available for download.

Although all of these apps also have Premium (paid) versions, I have not yet found it necessary to pay for any of them – the free versions work very well in all instances.

Insight Timer

Daily meditation practice is a cornerstone of staying sane and sensible, and the Insight Timer app makes daily meditation really easy.

Some of the guided meditations offered for free at Insight Timer.

It offers a variety of guided meditation, as well as a Timer option for personal, straightforward meditation. There are groups to follow and be a part of, and you can even create your own local group if you want.

Available here: Insight Timer.

30 Day Fitness

30 Day Fitness offers a series of free workouts you can do at home, with no need for weights or machines. It makes working out easy. You can focus on various muscle groups, or do an all over workout, and each of the exercises is explained with simple videos.

Available here:

MyFitnessPal

MyFitnessPal is simply the best food and diet tracker I’ve ever come across, and I’ve been using it, on and off, for years.

You can easily scan in practically any processed food via its bar code, or you can enter via calorie load. You can even enter your own foods, or foods you cannot find, as well as complete recipes and eating plans.

The app tracks weight as well as diet, and has attached forums and friend capabilities, if you choose to use them.

Available here:

StrongLifts

StrongLifts has an excellent name as one of the simplest muscle building programmes around. It’s been around for years, via the StrongLifts website, and the app is straightforward, free and easy to use.

While using the Stronglifts app, I saw my bench press go up by nearly 15 kgs, and saw similar gains in the other exercises it incorporates.

Whether you stick just to the StrongLifts program while lifting, or use it as part of your overall fitness program, it’s a useful app and a useful tool. Worth checking out.

Available here: StrongLifts.

MapMyWalk

MapMyWalk is a great, straightforward walk and run tracker. It tracks calories and distance, and you can see the walks and runs others in your local area are doing.

MapMyWalk

MapMyWalk enables you to track your walks anywhere in the world, and share them with others.

You can set goals, and keep track over weeks and months of where you’re at and what you’re achieving, or just use it on an irregular basis out of curiosity to see how far you’re travelling when on holiday. Up to you, but I find it useful and fun.

Available here: MapMyWalk.

WARNING! Avoid the social media side of these apps!

I think our lives are all too busy these days. It’s easy to let our phones get clogged up with apps that make life even busier with stuff that doesn’t matter, while ignoring the important things.

While the apps I’ve recommended above do have a social media element to them, I strongly recommend against this side of them. Don’t link them to Facebook and Twitter, and don’t join up to all the attached forums and chitchat.

Instead, use them for their best purpose – which is simplifying your life, helping you to stay healthy and calm, and helping you to eat well.

If you do this, avoiding all the social rubbish that comes with the apps, you may find them a useful way to simplify and improve your life.

I did 🙂

Be true to yourself… and fly

Too often we try to satisfy the whims of others to try to keep the peace. We join a stamp-collecting club because our best friend loves stamps – even though stamps bore us to bits!

Or we join a basketball team because our partner loves basketball. Except we hate basketball!

Whenever we pretend to be something we’re not, we’re lying to our friends, our partners, and most of all ourselves. We’re not being honest with anyone.

When we lie to those we care about in this way, we weaken who we are.

True strength comes from learning who and what we are inside – learning who our authentic self is – and building on it.

Leonard Cohen quote

Minimalism centers us

Minimalism helps us find our centre, and clear all the mental clutter that others would dump at us.

If you feel like others are trying to tell you who to be, what to like, what to wear, what hobbies to do, what interests to follow – minimalism can help you.

Simply eliminate everything that doesn’t bring you joy. I’d clarify that by suggesting that you discard anything that doesn’t resonate with your genuine self.

You’ll know what doesn’t resonate by the fact that it just won’t feel right. You’ll feel like you’re filling someone else’s shoes, or playing a role in a production. It might work for a little while, but you’ll know all the while that it’s just not really you.

So if it doesn’t feel right, let it go.
Have a break.
Take some time away to think and reflect.

Anyone who makes you feel stressed, sad, or uncertain – take a break from them.

Anything that makes you feel overwhelmed, anxious or tired – quit it a month then decide if it’s truly important after all.

Eliminate clothes that feel uncomfortable, hobbies that drain you. Give some time back to yourself this holiday season.
Spend time with loved ones.
Reconnect with family.
Find your own sacred space – not someone else’s.
Re-discover your sense of who you truly are.

Find your freedom.
Be true to yourself.

And fly.

whiteflower_freedom

Life is a journey. We’re blessed to be a part of it.

When life feels too hard to bear, and you can’t cope with the stress, take a breath.

Stop a moment.

Look around.

Seek the small things. The details.

Look for the details, the tiny beauty in all things

Look for the details, the tiny beauty in all things

Notice the way the world breathes, the way the seasons change.

tulips

Look for the patterns of the universe, all around you, everywhere. The music of the earth, in every sound, echoing though us, inside us.

Sometimes life is hard, but without the hard stuff, we wouldn’t appreciate our blessings.

So enjoy the journey. Don’t worry about the destination.

Be thankful for what you have. For with every thought, every word of thanks, you’ll come to understand just how blessed you are.

chalicegardens_journey

Decluttering relationships: 7 types of friends to let go

If you’re like me, neighbours, workmates and even old schoolmates have all become good friends over time.

But sometimes we hang on to friendships long after they’ve ceased to be a positive force in our lives. Or something happens that makes us view a current relationship in a completely new way.

That’s when it’s time to look at the relationship and decide whether it adds to our lives in a meaningful, supportive way, or whether it is dragging us down, and possibly even depressing us or bringing out the worst in us.

So here are 7 types of friends you can do without. While everyone has faults, if you recognise these behaviours in someone you know again and again, and they’re bringing you down, it’s time to let them go. No-one has the right to bring unnecessary nastiness into your life.

1. Psychic vampires. Psychic vampires do nothing but drain you emotionally, sucking the life and joy out of everyone around them. They’re needy, self-obsessed and unable to see anyone’s viewpoint but their own. Even if you’ve known them for years, psychic vampires need to be let go, or they’ll drain you dry. Garlic them!

vampire

2. Financial vampires. Everybody understands when a friend is on hard times, and we all do our best to help out when we can. But financial vampires are those people who always seem to be asking for a loan, or who go out with you and – at the end of the night – suddenly have no money. Or they skive off just before the bill arrives. Financial vampires always need more help, and never seem to get out of their monetary woes – they just keep needing more. Ditch ’em!

3. The mean friend. Have you ever had a friend who is always saying mean things about people? Who says sarcastic remarks about you, or people you care for? Sure they might be fun to be around, but have you wondered what they’re saying about you when your back is turned? Unfortunately meanness doesn’t end at high school, but nobody needs friends like that. Declutter them!

exist

4. The jealous friend. This is the friend who cannot seem to support you in your success. They always have to criticise your wins, and attack your gains. You achieve something? They’ll be right there at your side, ready to tell you how unimportant it was. You succeed after a lot of work at an important personal goal? They’ll be right with you, telling you how your success will be short-lived. Or worse, they’ll pretend to be pleased, then undermine every step you take from that point, just to bring you down even more. Nobody needs that kind of attitude. Get rid of them!

5. The unstable friend. Will you catch them on a good day, or a bad day? Will they be your best buddy, our spitting venom at you? Will they be hating the world today, or loving everyone? You need stability in your friends. Nobody needs a roller-coaster of a friendship. Let them go!

6. The blamer. They had a personal problem. Guess what? It’s YOUR fault! They had something bad happen? Yep, your fault again! This type of person can’t ever accept that bad things happen, nor can they accept that sometimes the bad things that happen are their own fault. They need to grow up real fast, and it’s not your job to be their parent. Into the garbage chute, flyboy!

star-wars-into-the-garbage-chute-flyboy

7. The generally insecure horrorshow. They’re insecure about, well, practically everything. So they criticise and make nasty comments about everyone else. They don’t have anything good to say about anyone, and nobody is as good as they are. They’re an expert on everything, but have nothing to show for it – and they’re especially an expert on the stuff you’re good at! Throw them away!

ferns

This lapsed vegan-turned-omnivore is thinking maybe the vegans are right, after all…

My confession: I’m a lapsed vegan.

I was a vegetarian for a long time, almost five years, and then a vegan for ten years or more after that. I stayed vegan right up until I bought my own farm and it seemed crazy to buy tofu from China while we had our own organic lambs in our own farm, barely a few feet away.

So I became a meat eater again. What started as a “only our own meat” exercise gradually became an “all meat” thing, and before I knew it, I was an omnivore again.

Sayonara veganism.

Now I’m not one to criticise other people’s diets any more, although I certainly used to be that way. Maybe being a meat eater again has helped me gain some perspective. I hope it has. I hope I’ve mellowed.

But I can’t help thinking that maybe, just maybe, we need to start eating less meat again.

However…

Maybe the hard and fast lines aren’t helpful. Maybe we need soft lines, soft focus, and an understanding that judgement and rules aren’t useful for anyone.

Maybe the way forward is to be kind – to ourselves, to others, as well as to the planet.

I love food, and I’ve come to really enjoy my meat again. But I can’t help thinking that we’re all eating way too much of it. Humanity’s endless lust for protein is killing not just the planet but us as well.

I’m hearing about the way our fisheries are collapsing.
I’m seeing the way dairying is killing our river systems here in New Zealand.
I’m seeing and hearing the way cattle are destroying the Amazon, which used to be the lungs of the planet.
I think we all just need to take a breath, own the damage we’ve done, and recognise that our diets are a significant factor in all this.

I think we need to change.

So I’m drawing a line in the sand. I’m going back. Not to veganism again, not yet. But to being vegetarian during the week, and to leaving meat for weekends instead.

It’ll require a re-schedule of our rotational menu, but I think we need to do this. Two days of meat should be enough for anyone. We can also have meat on birthdays or special events, if they fall in the week. But I think reducing our meat intake won’t hurt us, and will probably make us healthier.

That’s what I’m going to do. Because the only way to be the change in the world is to make the change we wish to see.

earth

Take a step back…

“If everything that is really so small suddenly seems too big, take a step back.”

Sometimes we get all caught up in workplace drama, or the bickering between friends, or even the latest reality TV instalment.

All these little things seem so important to us at the time – so much so that it’s hard to see out of the mess. We become involved and intense, the little things overshadowing everything that is truly important in our lives.

I realised this recently, when the drama in a community with which I’m involved spilled over among my friends, and even affected my mental wellbeing.

So I did the sensible thing. I took two weeks away from it all – I said nothing, did nothing – and took that time to regroup, reflect, and nourish my own soul yet again.

It was one of the best small things I’ve ever done, and truly helped put all the nonsense into perspective again.

The truth is, there will always be drama.
Friends will always bicker.
Needy people will always need.
And some people seem to lurch from one tragedy in their lives to the next, dragging us all into the maelstrom if we’ll let them.

Don’t let them.

Time for reflection can truly help. If everything that is really so small suddenly seems too big, take a step back.

Breathe.
Meditate.
Care for yourself again.
Stop giving so much of yourself and your time to others.

You might just find, as I did, that all those little things are just little things after all.

aramoana_beach

Don’t seek perfection

Are you a perfectionist? I know I am.

I write music – but while other people love my music, it’s never good enough for me.

I write books – but the editing work takes longer than the creative process. Once I begin to edit, I find flaw after flaw, and the tasks seem never done.

It doesn’t matter what you’re good at, or how good you are at it – if you’re a perfectionist, you’ll always find the weaknesses in your achievements.

You came second? You’ll wish you came first. You came first? You’ll look for a bigger field to compete in. You’re the best in the biggest field? You’ll seek to win again and again.

Yet we weren’t built to be perfect. Nature abhors perfection. Humans are flawed and imperfect by our very nature. It’s built-in – our flaws and errors are the very process by which evolution takes place, enabling us to grow, transform, change.

So what I’m saying is, seek your own nature, wherever that leads you. Don’t seek to be some perfect other, dictated by the whims of fashion or society.

Be content with who, and what, you are. Seek wisdom and achievement, but not at the expense of madness.

More isn’t better, and neither is bigger, richer, or flashier.

There is truth in small and simple.

Seek the truth in who you are – the small and simple of who you are – and be content.

jasmine