It isn’t just about that hour in the gym

Wouldn’t it be lovely if there was just a single aspect to fitness that we could all aspire to? If hitting the gym for one hour, five days a week could take away all our health woes? After all, it does sound very intense. But it just doesn’t work that way.

Of course, if you have never worked out and you join a gym, or you start a diet (any diet), there is a huge possibility of you seeing some results rather quickly. But that is not because you have found the perfect solution for your body, it is just that you have jolted your body out of its comfort zone and the muscles are trying to adapt to that, so some changes will be visible. But the appearance of our bodies is majorly a reflection of our overall wellbeing – the toned muscles don’t show up without weight training, the tummy flab doesn’t go simply by doing stomach crunches, the excess weight doesn’t fall off simply because we brisk walk every day. There are many dimensions to a healthy body and they can be served in not just that hour in the gym. They need 24X7 attention.

A big component of fitness is how we think about our food, and how much do we think about our food. Basically, it is imperative to understand what our relationship with our food really is. Do we eat to fulfil our nutritional needs, or do we eat to satisfy our taste buds most of the times? Do we eat in a timely fashion throughout the day or do we simply get up in the morning only to eat and think about food all the time? Are we accepting of different tastes such as sour and bitter foods or are we only fixated on salty and sweet foods? Most importantly, a very profound question – do we think that we create food or do we realise that food creates us?

In all cultures around the world, cooking is a labor of love. Traditionally, people grew locally, cooked every meal fresh and ate in company. However, in most modern cultures, people are truly unaware about where their food is coming from, time doesn’t permit cooking each meal separately and eating is more of a chore that people need to get done with, often times on the run. In fact, working lunches, eating on the go and ordering in is seen as a measure of efficiency and dedication of a person.  But remember, what we do not respect, rarely ends up respecting us back. So our bodies end up suffering and retaliating in response to the abuse that we subject it to, with diseases. If we don’t truly understand the purpose of eating in the first place, it is very difficult to do so mindfully. If eating is only about the immediate pleasure and obsession with palatable tastes, we will only be restricted to the attractive packaging of the food industry and the so-called solutions of the pharmaceutical industry to get by through life. Hence, it is very important to have a constructive relationship with food and only opt for food with nourishment over taste (at least 80% of the times or as much as possible).

There is an important term that I shared earlier – obsession. The easiest way to hook people on to something is to spin a story around it that makes people obsessed with it. And almost anything can become an obsession – food, caffeine, traveling, working out, working late, watching television, social media and so on. Really, anything. It is very important to stay clear of obsessions as much as possible as it is likely to lead to indulgent behaviours tilting on one extreme. Even thinking about food is an obsession that prevents people from engaging positively with food. If you are visiting a friend’s house and all that you are wondering is what she will serve you to eat, there is an obsession. If you are going to attend a work conference and more than the prospect of what you will learn, you are excited about what you will get to eat there, there is a definite obsession. If you are thinking about food, even on a full stomach, there is an obsession. Recognise it and address it, not by indulging, but by truly listening to your stomach. Even if your tongue gives a signal to the brain that mac n cheese is food and a pear is not, your stomach is truly craving for that nourishing fruit instead of the yellow coloured goo. Trust me.

 

There is a beautiful post on www.positivehealthwellness.com about Emotional Eating. A must read for those who want to understand, acknowledge and control their sense of hunger and satiety.

 

The second important dimension to fitness is what you do with your bodies outside of the gym (whether you go to one or not). This means, are you challenging your body for things it should obviously do – like taking the stairs, walking to do grocery, cleaning up after yourselves? Our bodies are not meant to see comforts 24X7. We are built to toil, to struggle and to achieve. Our bodies can truly see their full potential when we push ourselves to the limits and beyond. If you hear yourself saying “I can’t do it” often, find company or get someone to stand next to you while you try to do it. Seek professional help, but definitely try. There is no limit to our body’s ability to do the unthinkable.

Go for it.

 

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Watermelon Salad – A treat for every age

Watermelon salad

 

Watermelons are a treat for us tired, dehydrated souls in the harsh summers of Delhi. That feeling of contentment of biting into a crunchy and juicy watermelon on a hot summer day is indescribable. Watermelon is over 90% water and the rest is all nutritional goodness – Vitamins, lycopene (the red pigment), anti-oxidants and amino acids. All these nutrients and minerals help regulate the body’s functions and keeps the gut healthy as well. Moreover, watermelons are a healthy snack and are completely fat free (if that is something you desire in you diet).

There is another great advantage to stocking up on watermelon at home, especially for the lazy people out there. Watermelons are one of the easiest fruits to cut and consume, as compared to other similar fruits. Below are 3 ways you can consume it, if you are feeling lazy even to chop the skin-

 

However, if you are feeling up for it, with a little bit of effort, this watery goodness can transform into a delicious salad too, which sky-rockets its status from a mere snack to a fulling meal. All you need is the following-

Half a watermelon (regular sized for one person)

A handful of crumbled feta cheese

A few sprigs of fresh mint

A sprinkling of rock salt

A drizzle of lime

A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Feta cheese is known to be the healthiest, most easily digestible of all cheese. It is a staple in Mediterranean dietwhich is known as the heart-friendly, waist-friendly diet of the world. Often made from sheep or goat milk, feta is a power-house of nutrition and is even known to have anti-bacterial properties.

Simple toss all the above ingredients together in a bowl and adjust the seasonings as per your taste. The combination of sweet from the fruit, salt from the seasoning, fat from the cheese and oil, tang from the lime and slight bitterness-pungency from the mint tickles every part of your taste-bud to ensure that you get the satiety of a salad, main-course and dessert, all rolled into one. So PLEASE DO NOT WAIT and try this today.

If you have a hard time getting your hands on Feta in India, try Amazon-

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Dip and Rise

Tricep exercise

#Picture courtesy Pinterest (FitnessMagazine.com)

One of the major problem areas for women, especially post-partum, is the tricep area, which is a group of three short muscles at the back of the upper limb. Often times, the mass in the tricep region hangs lose and I too have struggled to tone it up for the longest time. One exercise that I find really effective for working the tricep region is tricep dips. As you can see in the above picture, the only equipment you need for these dips is a bench (even a sturdy chair would do) and you use only your body weight to work these muscles.

Simply sit on the edge of the bench, hold the bench with both hands and extend out your legs either straight as above, or if you find if difficult, bend your knees so that your body forms the shape of a chair. Ensure that you are sitting upright and that your shoulders are rounded back. At no point should you be hunching. Now slowly move away from the edge of the bench and move your hips and entire upper body low (or dip) and keep lowering yourself till your upper and fore arms form a 90 degree angle (as above). Remember to inhale while you go down on 5 counts and exhale and come up using your arm strength till the elbows are fully extended in 3 counts.

Again, inhale going down and exhale coming up with force.

Start with 3 sets of 20 repetitions and gradually increase the repetitions and sets up to 5-7 minutes at least 3-4 times a week to notice a difference. This is excellent to tone up the flabby upper arms and to give strength to the arms, shoulders and chest, while also training the abdominal muscles to work against gravity. Plus it needs no fancy equipment. You can do it at home, in the park and even in your office, when no one is around, of course!

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Tidy Up – Part III

Clean computer and phone

From the last two posts, we know why it is a good idea to declutter right now and where to start decluttering to see immediate benefits. It is now time to delve a little deeper into each of the target areas to derive the maximum benefit from the entire decluttering exercise.

The first place that I recommend starting to declutter is your laptop/computer/phone. I have suffered immensely for the lack of space on my phone and desktop and have even deleted some precious data out of frustration of not being able to sort out the vast volume of data. Even though newer laptops come with sufficient in-built hard-disk space and newer phones have ample internal storage, it is still likely to get filled up if we don’t keep the unnecessary stuff out and do regular clean-up. Below I will take the most common electronic devices that we all use to suggest some simple cleanup techniques.

#1 Phone – Or should I say, lifeline. We are more likely to encounter people on the street who’ve probably forgotten to put on their underwear, but no one forgets to carry their phone. Period. With instant access to easily downloadable applications that bring the world into our palms, there is no dearth of possibilities that this phone, the size of a soap bar, holds for us. Yet, no matter how smart the phone is, we need to be smarter in order to keep it functioning to its capacity.

 

(I) Applications –  A lot of times, even if you extend the storage by inserting a memory card, you may still not be able to clear the internal storage as all the applications tend to get installed there. I recently faced the same issue where even after deleting large volumes of data in terms of videos and pictures, I still couldn’t free up my internal storage space. The easiest way to figure out where the issue is, simply go to settings->storage -> internal storage ->used space and see the actual usage by categories (Apps/Pictures and Videos/Audio). Chances are that you would realise that a huge chunk of your space was getting used by the Apps, many of which you have used just once or would not really need in the future. I prefer deleting all the online shopping apps for a simple reason – it prevents me from getting tempted to compulsively buy stuff online, what with the push notifications etc.

(II) Pictures and Videos (clicked) – This is a major issue for me, since I am a mother of a toddler, and I tend to capture moments a lot. I mean a lot. Every silly antic, every crooked drawing attempt, every joyful baking experiment gets documented on my phone multiple times so that I can preserve and cherish the best shot of the moment, forever. The irony is that as memory cards fill with more and more pictures, the time available to actually savour those continues to go down day by day, year on year. Regardless, a mother needs to click. The simplest way to clean up your gallery is to mark a day in your weekly calendar to clean out the multiple versions of a click. Delete away all the hazy pictures and poor quality videos and keep only the stuff you need. Better still, if you have access to free cloud space, back-up all your media on it weekly or set it on auto-backup mode.

(III) Pictures and Videos (shared) – I love whatsapp. I do. But for someone like me who doesn’t promptly delete viewed data, whatsapp can be a nightmare. I have had to literally beg my husband to sort through the whatsapp media and clear all the images to bring my precious space back. The best way to handle forwarded media is to simply click on Group Media for the group (or Media for a person), keep only what is absolutely necessary and delete the rest. But do it then and there, because forwarded media can add up very quickly.

#2 Computer/Laptop space– Whether it is the desktop or all your data on the drive, there is only one way to organise – compartmentalise! Folder in a folder in a folder may be an annoying task when you do it, but trust me the long-term benefits hugely outweigh the little discomfort caused by organising. The simple rule of organising on a desktop is that if you are looking for something, you should be easily able to find it, but not immediately. Easy, but not immediate. Try to back-up data on a flash drive or even on the cloud often to keep your immediate space clutter free. One general rule that I follow, especially for my desktop is to try and keep 2/3rd of the desktop space free. The rest of the items on the desktop are mostly folders (which may have more folders inside) but it gets you in the habit of clearing the desktop space often.

#3 Web Browser space – This one is probably the hardest for me to follow and stick to, but I try and close my browser now after every session of using my computer. It is mentally draining to see 20 pages open in the browser and it simply leads to unproductive use of time, simply going form one task to the other. I specifically remind myself to focus on the task at hand till completion and stop the urge to browse mindlessly. For any reminders, simply write on a post-it note or maintain a diary.

Try these amazingly simple tricks to get started on your decluttering journey. More to follow soon.

 

 

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10 things that gardening taught me about Conscious Parenting

Man planting seeds

 

I was always in awe of people who kept plants and maintained gardens. For the most part of my life, I didn’t have the opportunity to enjoy much greenery around me, since my maternal home was a second floor apartment with next to no open space, and my three years in America too were mostly spent in apartments with affordable rent, so out went the option of a lavish garden space. It was only very recently, mostly during my pregnancy, that I just convinced myself to start with a few plants in the balcony. What started as a 1-2 plant project then expanded to 40 over the next 3 years, which is quite commendable, given the limited space in my balconies.

Last year, I also started planting vegetables and since then, we have enjoyed sporadic yields of tomatoes, coriander, mint, lettuce, spinach and a handful of bitter gourd, along with perennial growth of curry leaf trees . My son has picked up the gardening bug from me and has helped me plant seeds add compost occasionally and he waters the plants quite regularly. It fills our hearts with joy when we see the little greens sprouting from the seeds that we sowed, the greens turning into flowers and the flowers into fruits that we finally consume. It is a great bonding activity for the two of us and for me, it has been a great lesson in parenting. Wondering how? Here I am listing the 10 major lessons about parenting (and life) that I have learned from immersing myself in gardening-

 

parents with a child in farm

 

Lesson #1 – You have got to start from somewhere – I kept procrastinating the idea of gardening for a long time – lack of space, lack of daily commitment, lack of knowledge- you name it. I always had a reason to not get into it, yet I also always had the yearning in my heart to create a greener, more soothing environment around me. I can’t truly remember what pushed me to buy that first plant, but then I did and I was unstoppable after that. Even with our kids, we often stumble to take up a new initiative, do something out of the box because of the fear of failure or rejection, even if our hearts desire a better ecosystem. Whether it is a parent of a toddler, a kid or a teenager, we tend to feel hesitant to take the first step to change the status quo. Don’t. Every effort is a step toward someplace and parenting is a journey of a lot of experimentation. You try something and see if it works for you and your child. It’s as simple as that. No parenting expert knows your equation better than you. So go ahead and start what you want to – it could be a small wake-up routine with your child, or a commitment to put your phone away immediately when the child calls out for you, or even a 10 minute daily bonding activity with your child.

 

Lesson #2 – Nurturing is a daily commitment– Nurturing for plants and nurturing a child is a daily commitment. It is a tedious, time-consuming and a painfully slow process, but that is the way it is. Just like we can’t raise a plant on irregular nourishment, the same way, a child’s physical, emotional and mental nourishment cannot (rather should not) be left unattended, even for a single day. The brief period of a person’s life that is childhood is the bedrock of their future personality and how they will impact the world around them. So even if it seems like a hell of chore, try and make that extra effort every single day. As a parent, it can be highly draining on your energy and time, but it is worth the effort. So, beat that lethargy and whip up a quick snack instead of feeding yourself and the kids junk, whenever possible. Make that effort to ask them about their day in school and be genuinely interested. Open up their little eyes to the wonders of this world, to books and plants and clouds and mountains and let them soak up the vastness around them.

 

Lesson #3 – Patience is a virtue– Think of a beautiful garden, with pretty flowers and blossoming trees. Do you think that is how it looked at the start? Not even close. Someone prepared the soil, added nourishing compost, planted seeds, watered them daily for months, maybe. He had to have a mix of imagination and faith to keep him going and to endure the daily toil. Just like that, a parent has to have a mix of knowledge, wonder, patience and faith to be able to hold on to certain daily practices that would hopefully leave a positive impact on their growing child. Results won’t be immediate for the most part, and there will be many reasons to give up mid-way. But then, one of the most important roles of a parent is to overcome their own emotional hurdles to continue doing what feels right in the larger scheme of things.

 

Lesson #4- Caring should not be outsourced permanently– This can be a rather sensitive topic for parents who, due to time and other resource constraints, have had to send their young ones to day care or even to a grandparent or relative’s care. While each person makes their parenting decision based on their unique circumstances, there are some basics of emotional development that remain common to all children, regardless of social, financial, geographical differences. All children look for attachment with a primary caregiver and are likely to be the most relaxed, stress-free and happy in their company. Putting a young child in the care of an institution where caregivers might leave, may not have the ability to be involved or may even be fired often will leave the child exposed to newer faces often, hence preventing them from forming a lasting bond with any. Similarly, the care and concern of grand-parents is almost always very high, but it still may not be adequate in comparison to what the parents can provide, unless the parents are suffering immensely in some aspect. I have seen that with my plants as well, I always intuitively have a sense of what they might need and that they remain healthier when I am giving them daily attention. I feel the key word here is daily attention (qualitative and quantitative) and not just the number of hours spent being in the same space in a day.

 

Lesson #5 – If you stick with the value system, the returns can be unimaginable– Honestly, there are a million ways to parent, or care for a child. In fact, every parent will have a unique way of parenting, coming from their unique value system. Similarly, there are many ways to go about nurturing a garden – using commercial seeds, pesticides, fertilizers or working towards a more holistic approach of composting, using home-made pesticides, planting organic seeds etc. I am part of a wonderful gardening group that never ceases to amaze me in terms of people’s commitment to their beloved greens.They go through great pains in their commitment to growing their own food, nurturing their plants as family members, and sticking with their belief in a better world through the benefits of gardening and farming. I am also part of many parenting groups where each and every day, I get to learn something new and fabulous to experiment in my own journey. So, I adapt. But I keep the basic principals and values consistent – healthy eating is a non-negotiable, avoiding junk is a non-negotiable, talking and sharing our feelings is an expectation, sitting on the table with everyone while eating, without any distraction is an expectation. There are many questions and comments from people around, but I have truly seen the benefits of sticking to my value system and seeing those being adopted by my child very well.

 

Lesson #6 – The joy is in the journey – Life always seems to gravitate towards future – future planning, future growth, future benefits, but we need to remember that the present moment is as precious as any other we may get to experience. That right now, wherever we are at in our journey, we must acknowledge, appreciate and pause to soak it in. Every morning, when I open the door to my balcony, I am blessed with greenery around me. I take a few moments to breathe in that space, to touch the plants, check on them and just be with them. The same way, our time with our children needn’t always be filled with activities in the present for achieving some larger future goal (like making them an Olympic level swimmer or a Grandmaster at Chess). Simply laying with them, looking in their eyes, rubbing our hands against theirs or watching them play are ways to connect and soften our relationship with them. These are the moments that have the potential of becoming lasting memories, of times that you and your child will cherish and reminisce and they are totally worth experiencing NOW.

 

Lesson #7 – Routines are boring but necessary – Parenting and gardening are both time-consuming and full of routines – doing certain chores every single day, repetition and reinforcement which may take a toll on the caregiver. You need to be mindful of schedules, undertake tasks systematically and basically, always be alert, lest you drop the ball. But over time, I realised that routines can’t (rather shouldn’t) be avoided. They give pace and structure to our lives and our routines ultimately define our basic value foundation. Everything else that we do is an embellishment on that. For instance, someone who is always on time will by nature be punctual and good at planning their time. He/She may be following certain routines to be always punctual but those are what give him/her the ability to deliver every single time. Similarly, for a parent, the routines of bed-times, eating rituals, play time and so forth may seem daunting, but they help build a discipline in both parent and child which they jointly learn to follow and respect. Of course, having said that, we must always leave scope for spontaneity, cheat-days and lots of fun time in between.

 

Lesson #8 – When you nurture, there are 2 people growing, not one- Conscious parenting and gardening are a win-win commitment for both the care-giver and the care-receiver. The parent (or gardener) gets to explore their nurturing personality, learn to trust their instinct and learn to take bold decisions in a field they may not know much about. While the child (or plant) benefits from the nourishment from their caregiver, the caregiver in turn, discovers many other aspects of their self through the journey of nurturing another. There are immense benefits of immersing oneself consciously in these activities to gain as much as you are giving. For those who don’t want kids or for some reason, can’t have kids, gardening can be an immensely satisfying experience and may even motivate one to become more caring and responsible for those around them.

 

Lesson #9 – Sometimes it just doesn’t work out, despite your sincere inputs– The one major issue that parents and gardeners often experience is the attachment to results – the expectation for certain outcome and the investment of a lot of energy and other resources for a desired end. Sometimes, it just doesn’t work out that way. A parent must realise that there are many factors that contribute to the growth of a child, many of which are not in their control – the community that they live in, the environment that the child is exposed to and even the innate abilities and wishes of the child. Similarly, the growth of a plant has many aspects to it – the strength and readiness of the seed, the space available to expand its roots, the environmental conditions and so forth. So, despite putting all the effort, they may not yield what we hoped they would. At least, for me, gardening taught me to take a few things in my stride and simply shrug and so, oh well. At times, that is the best course of action for prevention from a heart break.

 

Lesson #10 – They all grow just like they should – Every time I plant a seed, I tell myself that it has a purpose and that it will surely fulfil it. Just like that, our kids are all in this world to fulfil their unique purpose, and they will. A parent must have that faith and keep trusting it every single day. “They all grow just like they should” is a mantra that we can use to continue trusting our kids and to stop being too harsh on ourselves for everything our children do or don’t do. While all efforts still need to be made, this mantra can give us and attitude of acceptance and even gratitude for our children’s uniqueness.

Saplings

 

Happy Growing!

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Tidy Up – Part II

In my previous Tidy Up post  , I shared about the amazing benefits of committing to a tidier environment, especially the satisfying “feel-good” emotions that come with it. Do read it if you missed it earlier.

In this post, I will talk about 5 immediate places that you can start decluttering as you set out on your tidying up journey, to see an immediate positive impact. I can attest from experience that decluttering even helped me feel physically light, and sleep better at night. I also feel highly productive and active with fewer things around and, consequently, lesser cleaning up to do on an ongoing basis. But, before sharing the 5 sure-shot places to start, I will share two philosophies that help me choose the most appropriate target spots-

(A) I try to take up the difficult spots first, only because the delta difference is most significant there, and the feeling of accomplishment, of having overcome my laziness and of finally treading the Everest of all cleaning endeavours is hugely satisfying.

(B) I try to take up the areas that I encounter the most often i.e. ones that bothers me on a daily/weekly basis, as opposed to a place that I would visit only a couple of times in a year. For such spaces, I would rather seek help from others or make it a project for holiday time.

[Between these two philosophies, I usually flip the coin :)]

Target #1 – My number #1 space for decluttering is my set of electronic devices. I have a bad habit of saving files on my desktop and within no time, the desktop turns into a clutter of files and folders, most of which I don’t need to see beyond a day. Similarly, my phone tends to get perpetually full with media, most of which I don’t even see and I end up losing precious memory space. The third sub-target area in this group is my web browser. I try my best to keep my open browsers appropriate to my task at hand, and specifically remind myself to close browsers that I am no longer seeing. Believe me, there were days when the same pages were open on my browser for days at end and 90% of the times, they don’t serve any purpose being there. So out they go. If you feel like keeping the browser open as a means to remind you of a task, it is much better to put a post-it on your desktop and add the link to the browser there. I put this space as #1 because I assume that most of those who will read this article will be people who look at their electronic devices every single day. So it meets my above criteria (B).

Target #2 – My number #2 go-to place for cleaning is the wardrobe closet. Again, it is a space that one sees daily and that can suck up a lot of time and energy to sort, if one tries to do it daily. Instead, if you resolve to clean out all the mess, fold your clothes, organise your shelves and stack everything neatly, you will reap the benefits of your time invested for many days to come. Just ensure that you are personally cleaning out your closet and not outsourcing it to someone else. There are 2 reasons for that – one is that you will exactly know what is kept where and will be able to reach for it quickly. Second is that since you would have personally invested time and energy to clean it, you would be mindful to keep it that way for long, and not create a mess in haste. In my following posts, I will discuss step by step, the method that I used to declutter my own closet space – the mammoth ‘Project Mt. Everest’.

Target #3 – My number #3 declutter target is usually the pantry closet. Even at this moment, it is not in top shape, but it is a lot better than it used to be. It was not unusual for me to encounter half eaten pack of chips, an expired box of cereal, an empty box housing only crumbs of some delicious cookies and the likes of these. But, thanks to a lot of lifestyle changes, I have stopped stocking my pantry with junk and processed food, and as a result, my cravings for such foods has also drastically reduced. So, not only is it good to declutter the pantry for aesthetic reasons, but it can even have a positive impact on your health as well. A cleaner, more organised and optimally stocked pantry can really help with grocery planning, and also ensure that you and your family are consuming items that were thoughtfully bought and used within their best-before date range. So, more than the physical appearance aspect, this one is almost a necessity.

Target #4 – My number #4 go-to space for cleaning is my work deskThe truth is that I don’t have one, per se. I work primarily from home, so it is even more difficult to appear neat, when most of the times, my laptop and work papers are strewn across the bed. But when I do work on a desk, I try to keep the immediate space clutter free, as it tends to drive my attention away from the things that really need it. So if I am not using my laptop charger, I remind myself to put it away, especially since dangling chargers are highly prone to getting damaged. I even ordered a few cable ties online, and use them occasionally to neatly bundle the cables that don’t stay together easily, such as the wire of my phone charger that doesn’t wind around the adapter.

Target #5 – I was saving the best (and the most important) for the last. My number #5 focus area to declutter is the mind. Whatever is happening outside of our physical body is the stimulus that the world gives us. It can be in the form of words (mean or kind) that others say to us; it can be in the form of deeds (supportive or hurtful) that are done unto us; it can be in the form of experiences (happy, sad, and so forth) that we go through and much, much more. However, it is our mind that does the interpretation for us and that determines the kind of person we become, the way we respond to that stimulus and the way we allow those stimuli to continue to affect us in the long run. So, the most important place to start cleaning, for a truly happy and liberating experience of life is the mind. This is one of the toughest projects that you will ever sign up for, but one that is the most needed in EVERY SINGLE PERSON’S LIFE. It will need you to dust away envy, to sweep out regret, to brush aside anger, to vacuum away all judgment, to wash out self-doubt, and to spray a generous coating of forgiveness on the inside, so that YOU become in control of situations rather than the situations taking control of you . Certainly not a mean task! More on this in my future posts.

 

Now that you have a quick cheat sheet on where to begin, I will gradually take you ahead on how to approach each of these target areas. I guess, spring (and spring-cleaning) came calling early 🙂

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Tidy up – Part I

Clean, decluttered desk

 

This is the first in the series of decluttering posts, so here I am simply focusing on the benefits of decluttering and why you should absolutely do it, like, today!

Up until a few years ago, I wasn’t the most organised person and always struggled with keeping things in their place. There was always the excuse of having too many things and too little time to care. But after the birth of my son, I was suddenly more inclined to have a neater surrounding, probably an instinctive thought for the sake of his wellbeing. Just like most mothers, I too struggle to keep a very clean facade consistently, what with the kid’s toys, books and so on, but I have fundamentally committed to a few changes over the the past few years and I can feel a definite positive impact on my own wellbeing as a result of those changes.

When I started my decluttering journey, it was mostly out of frustration about how many clothes I possessed. I could easily beat half a dozen Zara stores in terms of the number of clothes I had, even taking in account their inventory! It became highly overwhelming for me to see the state of my closet, which was forever bursting, and despite that, on every formal occasion, I felt that I didn’t have the right clothes to wear. On one such occasion, I was engulfed in a lot of dejection and guilt and felt that the clutter in my closet was causing a lot of clutter in my mind. I took a decision that day to part ways with all the stuff that I don’t need. Since then, I have regularly decluttered my closet and I am much more ruthless/practical now, but when I first started out, it was a very painful experience. I could only discard a few clothes since I justified (in my head) the need to keep most of the stuff around. I was able to donate some of the clothes to my house-help and the rest to a charity, which made me feel very good.  In every following decluttering session, I re-evaluated the items that I had retained thinking that I would re-use them, but never got around to doing it. And then they were discarded too. I followed the same principle with my son’s closet, as an infant/toddler’s closet is another ever-growing problem area of the house.

Here below, I am listing 5 awesome reasons why decluttering is so, so, so good for you-

#1 You will find the stuff you need easily – My biggest source of irritation used to be the fact that I always dressed in the same 5-6 pair of clothes and I could never find the ones that were hidden beneath layers of stuff that I just didn’t know what to do with. After cleaning up my closet, I know exactly what I have in terms of options and my ‘staring time’ i.e. time I spent just blankly looking at my closet has drastically reduced. So, it saves me a whole lot of precious time in my day.

#2 You will feel good about the clean space – It is rather silly to admit, but sometimes, I just open my closet to look at the neatly stacked clothes and then close it back again. It is really calming to see a clean space and it is highly disturbing for the mind to look at a cluttered one. So with a clean surrounding, you would be feeding your mind with a lot of positivity, you will sleep better and in general, become very upbeat.

#3 You will know what exactly you need to buy – This is a great way to save money that you would have otherwise spent on buying stuff similar to what you already have. Believe me, I have suffered the trauma of buying the almost identical looking legging or pair of jeans as I could never take stock of all that I already had. So you end up buying less and also buying appropriate to your need.

#4 You will respect your possessions more – This is the ultimate truth – when you have surplus of something, it holds very little value. But when the same thing becomes scarce, you tend to respect it more and use it well. So you will find creative ways to put your wardrobe items together for a new look every now and then. Or you will make an effort to clean your shoes every now and then. Or you will use your toiletries more judiciously. Try it!

#5 You will do good to the world – Once you decide to give away your rarely used possessions, you will start to develop the virtue of detachment, which will slowly overflow to other aspects of your life, and in the process, you will benefit someone who will make good use of those items. Find some charities near by and donate away. Just make sure that whatever you are giving is of good quality and not turn or soiled. I have donated here a couple of times.

Assuming that you are convinced that decluttering is just what you need to free up that mental space, in my next post, I will talk about 5 places that you can start decluttering immediately and feel super nice about yourself. Let’s get your hands dirty a little bit.

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Jump

Jump, Plyometric exercises, fat burning

I have heard many people say things like they want to lose weight and become fitter but they hate going to the gym or that they don’t have a partner to play a sport with or that they don’t have the budget to join a swimming class and so on. While the excuses are endless, the truth is, there are many simple, no-cost ways to start working out at home and to bring oneself out of inactivity and a sedentary lifestyle. Even though I am a strong believer in the effectiveness of group workouts under the guidance of a good mentor, I know for a fact that there is a lot that one can do on their own, as soon as they resolve to improve their fitness levels. In this article, I will talk about the simple exercise called jumping.

There are many ways to incorporate jumping in one’s fitness routine, starting from the basic stationary jump, jumping jacks, rope skipping to the more complicated and high-impact ones such as high tuck jumps, jump lunges and jump squats. Since jumping increases the heart rate significantly, it is advisable to check with a physician before starting on this workout routine, much like any other routine. Two other precautions to take while undertaking a jumping routine are –

(a) To wear a knee cap or knee support to avoid sudden jerks or injury to the knee

(b) To always land on the forefoot or ball of the foot and never on the heels or flat foot to avoid injury

Plyometrics, or routines that stretch and contract muscles in a short interval of time, such as regular and weighted jumps help build body strength. Studies have also shown that plyometrics help build bone density and prevent injuries by enhancing joint stability, while burning away stubborn fat. These are considered to be highly effective exercises, especially for female athletes. In such cardiovascular workout routines, the heart beats faster so as to bring more oxygenated blood to all parts of the body. Increasing the heart rate trains the body to become more efficient at carrying oxygen to various muscles and burn more calories. For starters, try doing simple jumping jacks for one minute. Increase the duration, day by day, and then gradually add more complex routines such as these in your workout. Just remember to inhale and exhale while you workout, so that you don’t run out of breath.

If you want to start with good old skipping, here is something you can purchase to get you started-

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Delayed Gratification

I read about the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment a few years ago when I was working in the Ed-Tech sector with K-10 kids. This study was done on 4-5 year olds who were given two options – the first to get a reward (marshmallow) immediately, or to wait 15 minutes to get two of those marshmallows. The gist of the study is that children who exhibited self control and an ability to delay gratification at the age of 4-5 years in this study, ended up more successful, healthy and better off in every area of their life than those children who took the first offer. This is one of the landmark studies in the field of psychology conducted by researcher Walter Mischel, over a period of 4-5 decades, tracing the progress of these children and making a positive correlation between self control and the ability to make better life decisions as a result of it.

It is interesting to note how the children who exhibited self control at such an early age continued to use that strategy as grown-ups to wait, slog it out and be patient to get to their desired goals. It is also interesting to note how children who were less patient and got tempted at a young age could likely not build the ability to delay gratification and focus on long-term return in their growing up years or even as adults. Both these deductions clearly indicate the importance of building the virtue of self control at an early age! No wonder that child psychologists and researchers around the world stress on the importance of value system formation and building the foundations of social-emotional learning in the formative age between 2-5 years.

But the big question is, how can we get our children to understand the value of delaying gratification. Surely, if you dangle a candy in front of them and tell them to wait some more to get two of those, it is almost certain that they would have gobbled the first one even before you finished sharing your proposition! Most children would either be too tempted by the sight of whatever object you use for inculcating patience, or they would simply be too impatient to hear, register and understand the value of the other option. This article talks about certain strategies that one can employ to build self control in children. Two of those strategies I have consistently followed in my style of parenting as well – First is to minimise distraction, which means keeping unhealthy junk food out of the house and not turning on the T.V. myself. Since I have consistently followed this strategy, my kid has learnt to savour home-cooked meals that we all enjoy and shows very little inclination to watch T.V. He is still excited by the prospect of a cake or a chocolate or a few cartoon videos, but it is very limited and he doesn’t throw a fit for it. The second strategy that I employ, which is also on this list, is that of de-emphasis on the reward. In any situation when my child is having a meltdown or I need him to behave in a certain way, I encourage him to behave in return for a better experience later, such as a great story-telling session or a run in the park, instead of things that he can get immediately. It acts as a distraction and helps him focus his energy on thinking about that experience rather than on losing his calm. This strategy works for me almost 90% of the times.

I am still not sure if my little one is very good at exercising self control or how he would have performed in this study, but I was pleasantly surprised by something he did today. We baked a cake together, where he mixed all the wet ingredients and I put the other ingredients together to bake. For the next 20 minutes, he kept reminding me to check on the cake if it is ready. When I finally took the cake out, he was eager to cut it, but I explained to him that it is better to let it cool off a bit so that the cake cuts smoothly. He touched and examined the cake himself and said that we should wait a bit to allow it to cool! I honestly didn’t expect my 2.5 year old to accept my argument pitted against his favourite cake, but he did, and how! I surely hope he can continue to analyse options for himself and make well though-out decisions later in life too.

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Gur is so Good

Jaggery, gur

Gur, popularly known as jaggery, is a powerhouse of nutritional goodness. Most Indians can relate to the elders in their house finishing off a meal with a piece of this sweet. Jaggery is essentially unrefined sugar obtained from raw and concentrated sugarcane juice. It can also be made form the sap of coconut and date palm. It has more minerals and vitamins as compared to the refined sugar. It is a complex carbohydrate, and thus gets slowly released in the blood stream. Delicacies made using jaggery have a more fulfilling after-taste as compared to the regular sugar laden desserts.

Gur is known for its digestive properties and its ability to increase appetite. It is also believed to act as a blood purifier and toxin remover from the body, when consumed in small quantities. It is also important to consume only good quality, preferably organic, jaggery, so as to not expose the body to harmful chemicals. Jaggery is a rich source of potassium and magnesium, which help in maintaining good intestinal health, building muscles and boosting metabolism.

I have been using jaggery for a long time now, since I have a relentless sweet tooth, and my son too has taken after me in this aspect. I use it to sweeten my tea, add it to my glass of lime water and even prepare desserts such as halwa and kheer with gur instead of sugar. My mother uses jaggery to prepare home-made cough drops with just 3 simple ingredients – Gur (jaggery) + Ghee (clarified butter) + Kali Mirch (Black pepper). These are excellent immunity boosters, especially in the harsh winters of North India. There are also tons of recipes available online that incorporate jaggery and that are very easy to adapt. You can simply replace sugar in a 1:1 ratio with jaggery in your own recipes too and then adjust according to your taste. It is an acquired taste, but one that tends to become addictive, once you start using it.

 

Be sure to buy good quality, unprocessed and chemical free jaggery here-

References-

www.food.ndtv.com

www.ayurtimes.com

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