Eva and I and our two younger kids are in the process of moving back to California from Guam, where we’ve been living with family for the last 9 months. As we pack our stuff, get some stuff ready to ship to California, and donate other things to charity … it is a great time to reflect.
Why do people have so much stuff?
Even though we have relatively little compared to most, we’ve still managed to accumulate too much, from getting gifts from other people to buying necessities (and non-necessities) along the way. Stuff just piles up over time — that’s the nature of stuff.
But most of it is not necessary. Most of our stuff, we buy because of one feeling: the feeling of uncertainty. This is the underlying groundlessness, shakiness, insecurity we feel about the future and the present moment. It’s the uncertainty we feel all day long, every day, to varying degrees. It’s what causes us to feel fear, stress, anxiety, worry, even anger. It’s what causes us to procrastinate and put off our healthy and productive habits.
The feeling of uncertainty is the root of our buying too much stuff.
Think about these examples:
The Futility of Shopping to Deal with UncertaintyWe don’t like the feeling of uncertainty and insecurity – we try to get rid of it as soon as we can, get away from it, push it away. We have lots of habitual patterns we’ve built up over the years to deal with this uncertainty and insecurity … and buying things is one of the most common, other than procrastination.
Here’s the thing: it doesn’t actually give us any certainty or security. We buy things and we’re not really more prepared, in control, or secure. We hope we will be, and yet the feelings of uncertainty and insecurity are still there. So we have to buy some more stuff.
We’re looking for the magical answer to give us control and security, but it doesn’t exist. Life is uncertain. Always. It’s the defining feature of life. Read the quote from Pema Chodron at the top — it says it all, we have to accept the uncertainty of life.
And in fact, this is the answer to our drive to buy too much stuff — if we lean into the uncertainty, embrace it, learn to become comfortable with it, we can stop buying so much.
We can learn to live with little, sitting with the uncertainty of it all.
The Practice of Opening to Uncertainty, to Live with Little
Imagine owning very little, living in a spare room, eating simple whole food, not being involved in social media, just working, reading, walking, spending time with loved ones. Meditating, drinking tea.
It’s a life of very little, and is beautiful in its simplicity.
But then uncertainty comes up, as it inevitably does. You have a trip, you have to go to a party, you have a new kind of project to take on, you are starting a new venture. You’re feeling insecurity and uncertainty.
Here’s how to practice with it instead of buying something:
Sleep is your life-support system and Mother Nature's best effort yet at immortality, says sleep scientist Matt Walker. In this deep dive into the science of slumber, Walker shares the wonderfully good things that happen when you get sleep -- and the alarmingly bad things that happen when you don't, for both your brain and body. Learn more about sleep's impact on your learning, memory, immune system and even your genetic code -- as well as some helpful tips for getting some shut-eye.
Remember pay phones? Those telltale rectangular booths situated at every other street corner for your calling convenience? Well, it looks like Superman will have to find a new place to change, because they're quickly becoming a thing of the past (except in places like airports). If current trends continue, landline phones may soon join pay phones in the technology graveyard.
When was the last time you memorized someone's home number? It's probably been a while, as more people are beginning to make the majority of their calls on cell phones. In the U.S. and Europe, roughly 75 percent of the respective populations are wireless subscribers [source: Mobile Internet, Wireless Industry News]. Some European countries even expect to exceed 100 percent wireless penetration soon, due to people purchasing multiple devices [source: Mobile Pipeline].
As of late 2007, 16 percent of U.S. households had no landline whatsoever, compared to just 5 percent in 2004 [source: Associated Press]. If that rapid trend of ditching landlines continues, half of the U.S. could be without one in about 10 years.
Among the people who have landlines in the U.S., 13 percent nevertheless rely on their cell phones for the majority of their calls. Across the country, people are hanging up their home phones:
Even businesses are ditching their wires for more economical options, like WiFi and VoIP (voice over Internet protocol). Ford's Detroit headquarters, for example, recently purchased 8,000 wireless phones for the staff and ripped up its landlines. Eighty-five percent of the company's business is now conducted wirelessly [source: Foster]. It's not just major players like Ford who are embracing the new technologies, either. In New Jersey, sanitation distributor Laymen Global also has abandoned its landlines, except for a few it's keeping for emergencies.
People who have made the switch cite several benefits. Wireless communication saves money on local and long-distance phone charges, frees people up from their desks and prevents having to lay new cables. Laymen Global, the New Jersey company, saved $4,600 on its phone bill by forgoing landlines [source: Runner].
Ditching Your Landline Phone Service: Advantages and Disadvantages
While VoIP, cell phones and other wireless communication methods can save money, landline stalwarts don't believe a switch is warranted. They argue that the cost of replacement technology can easily eclipse the savings recouped by not installing cable. In addition, local- and long-distance phone charges may be cheaper, but that's not always the case. Making VoIP calls from overseas, for instance, can result in hefty charges.
Security is another factor for people to consider before letting go of their landlines. It's much easier for hackers to gain access to conversations on a cell phone or through VoIP than it is on a traditional phone line. Some people on the front lines of communications technology think that security concerns could prevent many companies from turning entirely away from landlines [source: Runner].
Interference may also pose a problem, depending on the quality of the landline's replacement. While the quality of WiFi and VoIP has improved significantly since the two technologies first came out, they're not 100 percent reliable. Some people claim crystal clear reception and say they can't differentiate between wireless and landline calls, but unless you carry around a portable cell tower, you probably still encounter dead zones every now and then.
A final issue that may prevent the landline's demise is simply nostalgia. Employers who do away with traditional phones often regret it when they see their workers straying farther and farther from their desks. The convenience of wireless communication can just as easily be a distraction, with salespeople chatting on the phone instead of focusing on their next sale. If landlines disappear, the days of sitting at your desk to complete the day's work may disappear, too.
If you can push those issues aside, the attractions of ditching landlines are hard to ignore: no more costly telephone switching stations, no more wires and fiber-optic cables stretching for miles and no more unsightly telephone poles (although you'd still have cell phone towers).
If you still find yourself having separation anxiety over the possible disappearance of landline telephones, though, you're not alone. Many people are fearful of what their disappearance might mean.
A Future Without the Landline?
Even though landlines aren't off the radar yet, some people are already starting to feel the impact of their decline. As you might expect, major telephone providers are among those affected by abandoned landlines, but some other unexpected groups, like pollsters and politicians, are feeling the effects as well.
Don't feel too sorry for the telephone companies though. While major players like AT&T and Verizon get from one-third to one-half of their revenue from land-based subscribers, they won't necessarily lose those subscribers; they'll just convert them to wireless subscribers instead. So perhaps the companies are right not to be concerned about the drop-off in landlines, but the landscape is undoubtedly changing.
For instance, phone companies are starting to face competition from cable companies, like Time Warner and Comcast, who have lured customers away with their Internet-based communication offerings. Even as their landline subscribers decline, the phone companies still have to fork out billions of dollars a year to maintain the networks [source: Cauley].
As the phone companies puzzle over their future business model, pollsters are starting to wonder about their own ability to continue in a world without landlines. Polling organizations rely mainly on calls to landline numbers. Federal law prevents calls to cell phones by the computerized systems most often used by pollsters, so public opinion surveys could start to see skewed results. This is especially true since the remaining landline users tend to come from a particular demographic. They're more likely to be affluent, homeowners, over age 30 and white [source: Associated Press].
Politicians, too, have had to alter their game since many of their targeted constituents -- young voters -- are likely to only have a cell. With cell phones, whether you're dialing or receiving the call you have to pay for it, so this method of communication is off limits to campaigns. Political candidates have had to get creative in how they reach voters: pop-up ads, blogs written by the candidate and Internet commercials are some of the newer forms of outreach.
Although cell phones and VoIP are increasing in popularity, landlines will probably stick around until coverage and security improve. At least one good reason to use a landline is that emergency service providers often still have difficulty locating where cell phone calls originate. So while landlines linger on for now, don't rule out having to explain what a telephone pole was to your great-grandkids.
I have a problem, and I think most people do as well: I want to do everything.
OK, not actually every single thing, but I want to do more than I possibly can:
Obviously, this is all impossible. But I bet I’m not alone in constantly wanting all of this and more.
There’s a term for this in Buddhism that sounds judgmental but it’s not: “greed.” The term “greed” in this context just describes the very human tendency to want more of what we want.
It’s why we’re overloaded with too many things to do, overly busy and overwhelmed. It’s why we’re constantly distracted, why we overeat and shop too much and get addicted to things. It’s why we have too much stuff, and are in debt.
Greed is so common that we don’t even notice it. It’s the foundation of our consumerist society. It’s the ocean that we’re swimming, so much a part of the fabric of our lives that we can’t see that it’s there.
So what can we do about this tendency called greed? Is there an antidote?
There absolutely is.
The traditional antidote to greed in Buddhism is generosity. And while we will talk about the practice of generosity, the antidote I’d like to propose you try is focus.
Focus is a form of simplicity. It’s letting go of everything that you might possibly want, to give complete focus on one important thing.
Imagine that you want to get 20 things done today. You are eager to rush through them all and get through your to-do list! But instead of indulging in your greed tendency, you decide to simplify. You decide to focus.
Let’s talk about the practice of complete focus.
The Practice of Complete Focus
This practice can be applied to all of the types of greed we mentioned above — wanting to do everything, read everything, say yes to everything, go everywhere, eat all the things.
Identify the urge:
See the effects:
Focus with generosity:
Practice with the resistance:
Let go of everything, and generously give your complete focus to one thing. Simplify, and be completely present.
You can do this with your urge to do all tasks, read all things, do all hobbies, say yes to all people and projects. But you can also do it with possessions: choose just to have what you need to be happy, and simplify by letting go of the rest. You can do the same with travel: be satisfied with where you are, or with going to one place and fully being there with it.
You don’t need to watch everything, read everything, eat everything. You can simplify and do less. You can let go and be present. You can focus mindfully.
New house, new car, new job? None of the above: 8 surprising signs your life is considerably better than you think
Stopping to smell the roses can make you feel happier and more fulfilled, as long as you smell the right roses.
The surest way to feel unhappy is to compare yourself to other people.
Take business: No matter how successful you are...someone is more successful. (Unless you're Jeff Bezos, maybe.) There is always someone better.
Wealthier. Smarter. Seemingly, at least, happier.
Focus on what they have--or what they seem to have--and it's natural to assume your life pales in comparison.
Instead, try this: See how many of the following apply to you.
You may find that your life is much better than you think.
You have goals you actively pursue.
Goals you don't pursue aren't goals, they're dreams--and dreams only make you happy when you're dreaming. (Wait, that sounded a little Fleetwood Mac-ish.)
Actively pursuing a goal will make you happy. According to David Niven, author of 100 Simple Secrets of the Best Half of Life, "People who could identify a goal they were pursuing [my italics] were 19 percent more likely to feel satisfied with their lives and 26 percent more likely to feel positive about themselves."
So be grateful for what you have...and then actively try to achieve more. If you're pursuing a huge goal, make sure that every time you take a small step closer to achieving it, you pat yourself on the back.
But don't compare where you are now, with where you someday hope to be. Compare where you are now to where you were a few days ago.
Then you'll get dozens of bite-size chunks of fulfillment--and a never-ending supply of things to be thankful for.
And a never-ending supply of reasons to feel good about your life.
You have a few close friends.
Close friendship are increasingly rare; one study found that the number of friends respondents felt they could discuss important matters with has dropped from an average of 2.94 to 2.08 in the last 20 years. (So much for the power of social media.)
Do you have friends you would feel comfortable calling in the middle of the night if you need help? Do you have friends you can you tell almost anything, and you know they won't laugh? Do you have friends you feel comfortable sitting with for a long time, without either of you speaking?
If that's you, your life is much better than you might think.
You choose the people in your life.
Some people have employees who drive them nuts. Some people have customers who are obnoxious. Some people have casual acquaintances who are selfish, everything-revolves-around-me jerks.
Here's the thing: They chose those people. Those people are in their professional or personal lives because they let them remain.
Successful people attract successful people. Hardworking people attract hardworking people. Kind people associate with kind people. Great employees want to work for great bosses.
If the people around you are people you want to be in your life...you're successful.
And if they're not, it's time to start making some changes.
You have enough money to make positive choices.
Many people live paycheck to paycheck. Worse, many have to decide between necessities.
If the difference between what you earn and what you spend allows you to make at least some positive choices--investing, taking a vacation, taking classes, anything you want to do instead of have to do--then your life is better than you might think.
You've escaped the paycheck-to-paycheck grind and can leverage that extra money to make your life even better.
And if you can't, find ways to make more (like with a side hustle) and spend less.
You embrace a growth mindset.
According to research on achievement and success by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, people tend to embrace one of two mental approaches to talent:
Embrace a fixed mindset and you believe you are what you are...and when the going gets tough, you feel helpless because you think what you "are" isn't good enough.
Embrace a growth mindset and failure and you see failure as training. You see failure as the best way to learn and grow. You know there will always be challenges and obstacles, but you believe perseverance wins in the end.
That means you'll be happier with where you are today, because you know you can be even better tomorrow.
Knowing that--and feeling a genuine sense of hope--is a sure sign your life is better than you might think.
You're a giver, not a taker.
We've all experienced this moment: We're having a great conversation, we're finding things in common...and then, boom: The other person plays the "I need something" card.
And everything about the interaction changes.
What once appeared friendly has turned needy, almost grasping...and, if you're like me, you feel guilty if you decide you don't want to help.
People who feel successful aren't needy. They accept help if offered, but they don't feel the need to ask. In fact, they focus on what they can do for other people.
(For a lot more on the subject, check out Adam Grant's outstanding book, Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success.)
You let others enjoy the spotlight.
Maybe you did do all the work. Maybe you did move mountains. Maybe you did kick ass and take names.
If you aren't looking for praise or accolades, that means you don't need the glory. You know what you've achieved.
That means you're confident. That means you're fulfilled.
And that means you've reached a pretty awesome place in your life.
You found a real sense of purpose.
Successful people--in whatever way they choose to define success--have a purpose. The result is passion. Dedication. Excitement.
And a genuine sense of meaning.
If you're found a purpose, if you've found something that inspires you, fuels you, makes you excited to get up, get out, and achieve, then you're happier than you might think.
Living the life you want to live is the best sign your life is better than you might think.
By Matt Richtel
A century ago, British scientists suggested a link between increased hygiene and allergic conditions — the first hint that our immune systems are becoming improperly “trained.”
Should you pick your nose?
Don’t laugh. Scientifically, it’s an interesting question.
Should your children pick their noses? Should your children eat dirt? Maybe: Your body needs to know what immune challenges lurk in the immediate environment.
Should you use antibacterial soap or hand sanitizers? No. Are we taking too many antibiotics? Yes.
“I tell people, when they drop food on the floor, please pick it up and eat it,” said Dr. Meg Lemon, a dermatologist in Denver who treats people with allergies and autoimmune disorders.
“Get rid of the antibacterial soap. Immunize! If a new vaccine comes out, run and get it. I immunized the living hell out of my children. And it’s O.K. if they eat dirt.”
Dr. Lemon’s prescription for a better immune system doesn’t end there. “You should not only pick your nose, you should eat it,” she said.
She’s referring, with a facetious touch, to the fact our immune system can become disrupted if it doesn’t have regular interactions with the natural world.
“Our immune system needs a job,” Dr. Lemon said. “We evolved over millions of years to have our immune systems under constant assault. Now they don’t have anything to do.”
She isn’t alone. Leading physicians and immunologists are reconsidering the antiseptic, at times hysterical, ways in which we interact with our environment.
Sign Up for ParentingComing soon: Get the latest news and guidance for parents. We'll celebrate the little parenting moments that mean a lot — and share stories that matter to families.
Why? Let us turn to 19th-century London.
The British Journal of Homeopathy, volume 29, published in 1872, included a startlingly prescient observation: “Hay fever is said to be an aristocratic disease, and there can be no doubt that, if it is not almost wholly confined to the upper classes of society, it is rarely, if ever, met with but among the educated.”
Hay fever is a catchall term for seasonal allergies to pollen and other airborne irritants. With this idea that hay fever was an aristocratic disease, British scientists were on to something.
More than a century later, in November 1989, another highly influential paper was published on the subject of hay fever. The paper was short, less than two pages, in BMJ, titled “Hay Fever, Hygiene, and Household Size.”
The author looked at the prevalence of hay fever among 17,414 children born in March 1958. Of 16 variables the scientist explored, he described as “most striking” an association between the likelihood that a child would get hay fever allergy and the number of his or her siblings.
It was an inverse relationship, meaning the more siblings the child had, the less likely it was that he or she would get the allergy. Not just that, but the children least likely to get allergies were ones who had older siblings.
The paper hypothesized that “allergic diseases were prevented by infection in early childhood, transmitted by unhygienic contact with older siblings, or acquired prenatally from a mother infected by contact with her older children.
“Over the past century declining family size, improvements in household amenities, and higher standards of personal cleanliness have reduced the opportunity for cross infection in young families,” the paper continued. “This may have resulted in more widespread clinical expression of atopic disease, emerging in wealthier people, as seems to have occurred for hay fever.”
This is the birth of the hygiene hypothesis. The ideas behind it have since evolved and expanded, but it provides profound insight into a challenge that human beings face in our relationship with the modern world.
Our ancestors evolved over millions of years to survive in their environments. For most of human existence, that environment was characterized by extreme challenges, like scarcity of food, or food that could carry disease, as well as unsanitary conditions and unclean water, withering weather, and so on. It was a dangerous environment, a heck of a thing to survive.
At the center of our defenses was our immune system, our most elegant defense. The system is the product of centuries of evolution, as a river stone is shaped by water rushing over it and the tumbles it experiences on its journey downstream.
Late in the process, humans learned to take steps to bolster our defenses, developing all manner of customs and habits to support our survival. In this way, think of the brain — the organ that helps us develop habits and customs — as another facet of the immune system.
We used our collective brains to figure out effective behaviors. We started washing our hands and took care to avoid certain foods that experience showed could be dangerous or deadly. In some cultures, people came to avoid pork, which we now know is highly susceptible to trichinosis; in others, people banned meats, which we later learned may carry toxic loads of E. coli and other bacteria.
Ritual washing is mentioned in Exodus, one of the earliest books in the Bible: “So they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they die not.”
Our ideas evolved, but for the most part, the immune system did not. This is not to say that it didn’t change. The immune system responds to our environment. When we encounter various threats, our defenses learn and then are much more able to deal with that threat in the future. In that way, we adapt to our environment.
We survived over tens of thousands of years. Eventually, we washed our hands, swept our floors, cooked our food, avoided certain foods altogether. We improved the hygiene of the animals we raised and slaughtered for food.
Particularly in the wealthier areas of the world, we purified our water, and developed plumbing and waste treatment plants; we isolated and killed bacteria and other germs.
The immune system’s enemies list was attenuated, largely for the good. Now, though, our bodies are proving that they cannot keep up with this change. We have created a mismatch between the immune system — one of the longest surviving and most refined balancing acts in the world — and our environment.
Thanks to all the powerful learning we’ve done as a species, we have minimized the regular interaction not just with parasites but even with friendly bacteria and parasites that helped to teach and hone the immune system — that “trained” it. It doesn’t encounter as many bugs when we are babies. This is not just because our homes are cleaner, but also because our families are smaller (fewer older children are bringing home the germs), our foods and water cleaner, our milk sterilized. Some refer to the lack of interaction with all kinds of microbes we used to meet in nature as the “old friends mechanism.”
What does the immune system do when it’s not properly trained?
It can overreact. It becomes aggrieved by things like dust mites or pollen. It develops what we called allergies, chronic immune system attacks — inflammation — in a way that is counterproductive, irritating, even dangerous.
The percentage of children in the United States with a food allergy
rose 50 percent between 1997–1999 and 2009–2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The jump in skin allergies was 69 percent during that period, leaving 12.5 percent of American children with eczema and other irritations.
Food and respiratory allergies rose in tandem with income level. More money, which typically correlates with higher education, has meant more risk of allergy. This may reflect differences in who reports such allergies, but it also springs from differences in environment.
These trends are seen internationally, too. Skin allergies “doubled or tripled in industrialized countries during the past three decades, affecting 15–30 percent of children and 2–10 percent of adults,” according to a paper citing research from the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
By 2011, one in four children in Europe had an allergy, and the figure was on the rise, according to a report by the World Allergy Organization. Reinforcing the hygiene hypothesis, the paper noted that migration studies have shown that children born overseas have lower levels of some types of both allergy and autoimmunity than migrants whose children are born in the United States.
There are related trends in inflammatory bowel disease, lupus, rheumatic conditions and, in particular, celiac disease. The last results from the immune’s system overreacting to gluten, a protein in wheat, rye and barley. This attack, in turn, damages the walls of the small intestine.
This might sound like a food allergy, but it is different in part because of the symptoms. In the case of an autoimmune disorder like this one, the immune system attacks the protein and associated regions.
Allergies can generate a more generalized response. A peanut allergy, for instance, can lead to inflammation in the windpipe, known as anaphylaxis, which can cause strangulation.
In the case of both allergy and autoimmune disorders, though, the immune system reacts more strongly than it otherwise might, or than is healthy for the host (yeah, I’m talking about you).
This is not to say that all of these increases are due to better hygiene, a drop in childhood infection, and its association with wealth and education. There have been many changes to our environment, including new pollutants. There are absolutely genetic factors as well.
But the hygiene hypothesis — and when it comes to allergy, the inverse relationship between industrialized processes and health — has held up remarkably well.
As our bodies strive for balance, Madison Avenue has made a full-court press for greater hygiene, sometimes to our detriment.
We’re fed a steady diet of a hygiene-related marketing that began in the late 1800s, according to a novel study published in 2001 by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology. Scientists at Columbia University who did the research were trying to understand how we became so enamored of soap products.
They have vastly overprescribed antibiotics. These may be a huge boon to an immune system faced with an otherwise deadly infection. But when used without good reason, the drugs can wipe out healthy microbes in our gut and cause bacteria to develop defenses that make them even more lethal.
A scientist who led efforts at the World Health Organization to develop global policy to limit use of antibiotics told me that, philosophically, this is a lesson that runs counter to a century of marketing: We’re not safer when we try to eliminate every risk from our environment.
“We have to get away from the idea of annihilating these things in our local environment. It just plays upon a certain fear,” said the scientist, Dr. Keiji Fukuda.
Has much of our hygiene been practical, valuable, life-preserving? Yes.
Have we overcorrected? At times. Should you pick your nose? Or put another way: Might that urge to pick be part of a primitive strategy to inform your immune system about the range of microbes in your environment, give this vigilant force activity, and train your most elegant defense?
In short, from a cultural standpoint, you still probably shouldn’t pick — not in public. But it is a surprisingly fair scientific question.
Matt Richtel is a best-selling author and Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter based in San Francisco. He joined The Times staff in 2000, and his work has focused on science, technology, business and narrative-driven storytelling around these issues.
By Leo Babauta - Zen habits
While most people want to find a way to eat healthier, they are up against forces stronger than they understand.
Sure, we’d like to eat healthier — but then why do we keep failing? Why are most of us getting heavier over time, despite our best efforts?
To figure out a better method, we first have to look at the powerful forces we’re up against. Then firm our resolve, and try one or both of the powerful methods that I describe below.
The Forces We’re Up AgainstLet’s say you’d like to eat a healthier diet … think about what you’re up against:
I’m sure at least a couple of these sound familiar to most of you. Maybe too familiar — you might have been struggling with these for years.
The forces we’re up against are powerful:
Most of us can’t beat all of these really strong forces all the time. And so we win a few battles but lose the war over the long run.
What can we do against these powerful forces? Are they unstoppable?
No, we can overcome them. It will just take more focused effort than we usually believe when we say, “I’m going to start eating healthier, tomorrow!”
There are two powerful methods that can help us overcome these forces.
Powerful Method #1: Change Your Environment
Most of the forces above can be overcome with a complete change of our environment. Now, I understand that many people aren’t in complete control of their environment (teenagers, for example, or people living in a family) … but we can still make some changes that will help.
The more of these kinds of changes we can make, the better we’ll do against the forces above. See if you can make more changes than you normally would consider — sometimes when there’s a will, there’s a way to make it happen.
Imagine this: you go through your day with only healthy options to choose from, and you have healthy meals already prepared (you made them on Sunday). You wake up, grab a healthy breakfast, take your healthy lunch to work, avoid the unhealthy places your coworkers eat and instead read a book and eat your delicious lunch. You have healthy snacks packed for the afternoon when your energy starts to dip, and when you get home you have a healthy dinner to heat up and enjoy. At night, you have fruits you can eat if you get hungry.
With your environment changed, you will default to healthy most of the time. Then when you don’t have a choice, you can just do your best, and not worry too much about it.
Some changes to consider making to your environment:
These are just some ideas. You might come up with others, but these are some examples of changing your environment to support a healthy change. It’s more important than we often realize.
Powerful Method #2: Get Some Support & Accountability
The next most powerful thing you can do to make a change is to make it social — get friends, family and/or co-workers to give you support, join a challenge with you, or hold you accountable for the changes you’d like to make.
This is true for any habit, but it’s especially true for eating habits. That’s because our friends, family and co-workers are often the biggest influence on us when it comes to eating. If they are trying to make us eat dessert all the time, we will have a hard time resisting that for very long. But if they’re eating healthy meals and snacks with us, or at least encouraging us to do so, we will probably do a lot better.
Some suggestions here:
I highly suggest you join us in the Healthy Eating Challenge in Sea Change — I’d love to have you.
Two Other Things We Can Work On
While those are the two most powerful methods of change, there are a couple things that are also pretty important, that I should mention:
These might sound like a lot of changes to make, and they are. But you don’t have to do them all at once. Make it a project to do some of these changes each week, slowly practicing the new coping mechanisms, slowly changing your environment, slowly getting more support and accountability.
This is doable. You are worth it.
There are very few people among us who doesn’t want his or her diet to get healthier. So I’m issuing a challenge for March: the Healthy Eating Challenge!
This challenge is meant to be doable and promote small, gradual change … but also help push us a little out of our comfort zone so that we can have a powerful change within a month.
It’s not going to change your entire diet all at once, but it can help you move to a healthier diet.
Here’s how it works:
It’s that simple. Choose from the mini-challenges and commit to it for the week, picking a new one each week. One small change at a time. Gradual change is the most powerful change, and this challenge is the perfect way to do that.
I suggest you join us in Sea Change — it’s free for a week, then $15/month after that. For this small monthly fee, you also get:
The Weekly Mini-Challenges
Here are the mini-challenges (you do not have to do all of these, just pick one per week):
1. Adding healthy things:
2. Changing your approach:
3. Cutting out unhealthy things (look at what you do now, and set a target that’s lower):
4. Vegan stuff (a few people asked for some suggestions):
Not every change listed above for everyone. Find changes that feel right to you, as I know not everyone agrees with everything I’ve listed.
What is healthy for you will be different than what is healthy for me. I believe in a vegan diet (out of compassion for animals) and try to eat whole foods as much as I can (but not religiously). That doesn’t mean you have to do that.
The one thing I believe is in trying to get foods that are full of nutrients — vegetables, fruits, beans (and legumes), nuts, seeds, whole grains — and eat less of the foods that are mostly empty of nutrients (processed foods, white bread and sugar, fried foods). Again, you don’t have to be religious about it — I eat cookies and French fries just like most normals!
Are you ready to start the challenge? Start today by joining my Sea Change Program.
Plans to change the rules on organ donation consent in England are set to clear their final hurdle in Parliament.
The legislation will be known as Max and Keira's Law after a boy who received a heart transplant and the girl who donated it.
Under the new system, which comes into effect next year, consent will be presumed unless people have opted out.
Currently, there is a voluntary opt-in scheme. Presumed consent has been operating in Wales since December 2015.
Organ donation consent rates in Wales are now the highest in the UK at 75%.
A voluntary opt-in system still exists in Northern Ireland while the Scottish Parliament is this week considering its own opt-out scheme.
Government ministers argue the change in the rules in England could save up to 700 lives a year by increasing the number of organs available.
Keira - the donor
Keira Ball, from Devon, was nine when she was involved in a car accident with her mum and brother.
Her father Joe was approached by the organ donor consent team after doctors in Bristol confirmed they could not save her life.
He told the BBC: "Although we'd never discussed organ donation, I knew it was what Keira would have wanted - it was in her nature."
Keira's organs were used to save four lives, among them Max Johnson, then also aged nine, who received her heart.
Max - the recipient
At the time of Keira's accident, Max was in hospital in Newcastle with heart failure following a viral infection.
He was being kept alive with a mechanical pump.
He told the BBC: "To be honest I was ready to die - I didn't think I would make it. I hugged Mum and Dad thinking this was the last hug with my parents."
The operation was a success and Max, now 11, is doing well, although the anti-rejection drugs he must take every day sometimes make him quite poorly.
Max's story prompted the prime minister to pledge to introduce presumed consent for organ donation in England.
There are currently around 6,000 people on the transplant waiting list in the UK and last year more than 400 patients died while waiting for a suitable organ.
Under the new system, people will be encouraged to register their consent for organ donation, or to opt out.
It will still be open to relatives to block a donation, so it will be important that families discuss their wishes.
Max and Keira's families both back public education campaigns.
Loanna Ball, Keira's mum, told the BBC: "If this issue was raised in school from a young age, children would happily talk about it with their friends and family; it would be an everyday conversation."
The family has set up a charity in memory of their daughter to promote donation and to help others in similar situations.
Max said: "I want everyone to talk to each other - if a member of your family died, would you let their organs go to waste and decay or save a few people's lives?"
The new legislation was a Private Members' Bill, introduced by Geoffrey Robinson MP.
It was piloted through the House of Lords by Lord Hunt, who told the BBC he was "absolutely delighted" the Bill was on course to pass into law, adding: "I am convinced that as a result, many more organs will be donated and lives saved as a consequence."
The wind and rain were swirling around me powerfully, as I sat in my mom’s tropical flower garden in Guam and meditated.
A tropical storm was passing close to Guam, where I’m living at the moment, and I decided to go out into the strong winds and torrential rain to meditate for at least a few minutes. Don’t worry, it was safe.
I actually stood in meditation, as sitting in a puddle of rainwater wasn’t that appealing to me. The water kissed my face, the wind rocked my body into a sway, and I practiced being present in the storm.
I was practicing stillness in the middle of chaos.
Of course, we don’t need to have an actual tropical storm (which turned into a supertyphoon after it passed us) to practice with chaos. It’s all around us, every day. Chaos is the uncertainty of our daily lives, the constant barrage of information and requests and tasks and messages we’re swarmed with, the uncertainty of the global stage and national politics, of our finances and global economy, of changing communities and our everchanging lives.
Chaos is all around us, and it can stress us out. It causes anxiety, depression, frustration, anger, procrastination, constant distraction, and the seeking of comforts like social media, food, shopping, games and more.
But what if we didn’t need to run to comfort or fear the chaos?
What if we could just be still, and find calmness and stillness with the uncertainty swirling around us?
A member of my Fearless Training Program said he would like to “dance with chaos.” I think that’s a beautiful idea. Let’s embrace the uncertainty. Practice with it. Dance with it, and let this practice be joyful!
A Joyful Practice in Chaos
So how can we practice mindfulness in the middle of chaos? How can we make it joyful?
For me, it looks something like this.
First, you give yourself space to be present with the chaos. I stood in the middle of the storm, because I was excited to see what it was like. I intentionally called it “meditating” because my intention was to be as present as possible with whatever happened. In your daily life, that might look like just stopping in the middle of your busy workday, at any moment, and dropping into the present moment so you can feel what the chaos feels like.
Second, you find the courage to be completely present with the felt experience of the chaos. In the storm, part of that was feeling the wind and rain on my skin, noticing the dramatic light that was filtering through the storm clouds, noticing the amazing tropical jungle in the small valley below me, and the movement of the trees and flowers surrounding me. But there was more than that: it was also the feeling of excitement in my chest, maybe a bit of uncertainty about whether something would fly and hit me on the head, which showed up as a small bit of fear radiating in my heart area. It was also the feeling of my body swaying, my leg muscles tensing, my chest expanding as I breathed. All of this is the felt experience of the moment. Not just my thoughts about it, but how it feels in my body. We can practice this in any moment.
Third, you relax into the chaos, and embrace it. Noticing how the chaos feels, you might notice any tension you have around it. For me, in the storm, there was tension around my safety (again, it was actually pretty safe), so I noticed this tension and relaxed those muscles. Relaxing my body, I let myself just surrender to it. Embrace it, as if it were an incredible gift. Again, we can practice this any moment. Right now, in fact, if you’d like to try it.
Fourth, you dance with it, joyfully. Once we relax around the chaos, and start to embrace it … we’re making friends with it. The uncertainty is no longer a thing to run from, or to resist, but is just a part of the experience of this moment. Of every moment. And so we can start to dance — let ourselves move through the chaos, in a loving, lovely, joyful way. What would it be like to play right now, in the middle of your uncertain life? What would it be like to be curious, and explore, like an adventurer? What would it be like to be grateful for this incredible moment of chaotic beauty? What would it be like to find the love, the openness, the swirling dancing musical movement in the middle of this storm?
We have the opportunity, every single day, even every moment, to be present with the storm of the world. To sit in stillness in the middle of the wind and downpour of life. We have the opportunity to be open to it, to dance with it, to even find the joy in the immense uncertainty that is our lives.
Let’s dance, my friends. Let’s love what is all around us.