Are You a Minimalist?

Have you ever heard of the idea of minimalism? The concept of less is more, decluttering, ridding yourself of material possessions that no longer give you any value, the idea of getting rid of the excess things in your life to allow you to focus your attention and energy on the things that truly matter?

I’m guessing you are familiar with some of these concepts but may not have ever heard of the term minimalism as a concept or as a lifestyle choice, which is what it is becoming these days.

I first came across this idea of minimalism while out running and listening to an episode of the Rich Roll Podcast where he was interviewing a guy I had never heard of about this topic. His story really hit a nerve with me – he was a corporate go-getter, eagerly climbing the rungs of the ladder, achieving “success” along the way and then realising that all this perceived success – the job title, the salary, the stuff you buy with the salary, the debt you run up, the excess, the waste, the overindulgence, the mindless consumption – it was all a complete waste of time – none of it made him even one tiny bit happier. He and his friend and co-author, both chose to live life differently and from there embraced the concept known as minimalism. They didn’t invent it, they just made it mainstream. From there, I watched their documentary on Netflix and I was sold.

Check out the trailer.

We live in a very commercial and materialistic world right now, where wealth and food and possessions are in abundance. But all that wealth and abundance comes at a cost – the cost of your attention, your energy, your contribution to the world around you, your growth as a person and I believe it feeds a greed inside all of us that is never satiated by material things, no matter what size of a tv you buy, there is always a bigger one. Not to mention the environmental cost of all this mindless materialism.

These ideas just make sense to me.

Have less. Take less. Be more. Give more.

For me personally, it is a great reminder to focus on and put my energy in the direction of the things that truly matter to me – my health, my kids, wife and family, my mates, having fun and doing things that truly give me joy – like writing this silly blog. These are the things that fill me up on a physical, mental and spiritual level – these are my true happiness levers.

All the stuff that gets in the way of these I am slowly trying to remove. This is not just about getting rid of lots of stuff (although that is one of the best bits), it just feels better to be in control, to be able to say No to things or people and to do what you know (and you always know) is right.

Here’s to having less and living more.

JP

Going Gluten Free

For the last few years, I have had a recurring pain in my mid section, between the belly button and the bottom of your ribs. It starts off with a dull ache and slowly gets worse to the point that I just want to go to bed. Then I discovered that Nexium seems to get rid of the pain. So for the last few years, I have spent a small fortune on Nexium and its generic equivalents. The excellent advice from my local doctor was – just take Nexium for the rest of your life – there are a lot of people worse off than you. That last part I agreed with, taking a pill for the next 40 years for a gut complaint without any effort to get to the root cause of it was not my idea of sorting this out.

So I took it upon myself to see a nutritionist. I figured it had to be something to do with the food I was eating. The nutrionist referred me to a doctor who referred me to a consultant for a colonscopy.

colonscopy2

I won’t go into the details of the scope but you get the picture. In anycase, the results indicated a level of inflammation in the colon and the recommendation was to trial a wheat and gluten free diet.

The most I had ever heard of gluten free was people giving out about the price of a loaf of gluten free bread. And they were right – it’s outrageous.

Some of the most common irritants in the human diet are gluten, dairy, wheat, soy and eggs. The protocol to treat these complaints is called an Elimination Diet. This is where, for a trial period of time, you eliminate all foods containing these irritants and observe if your symptoms improve. If yes, continue. If no, back to the drawing board.

So my gluten free journey so far has seen me eliminate nearly all types of bread, pasta, pastries, alcohol and wheat based cereals like weetabix and shreddies. I am also cutting out chocolate and dairy at the same time so no cheese or cows milk. I feel good and have lost some weight in the process. I am tracking my food and drink intake manually in a food diary for the 3 week trial period and so far symptoms have improved.

It feels good to be finally tackling this issue head on and with some luck, I will get to the bottom of this health issue once and for all.

Yours in health,

JP

Today’s New Currency: Your Attention

I regularly use public transport as a means of getting to work. I find it amazing to witness how “plugged in” we, as a human race, have now become. Nearly every single person I can see on the train has their face well and truly planted into a smartphone. Swiping, scrolling, checking, validating, commenting…completely absorbed into the virtual world, leaving very little space for the here and now. I know the daily commute is anything but entertaining and smartphones offer an entertainment channel while on the move, but I think there is something deeper going on here.

With the relentless rise and rise of smartphones, apps and the on-demand economy, the race is on for your attention. The big tech companies have invested significantly in techniques designed to pull your attention back to their products again and again and it is working.

The engineers of the now infamous Facebook “like” button have described its use as “bright dings of pseudo-pleasure” that can be as hollow as they are seductive.

The origin of the like button was well intended – in a single click – to “send little bits of positivity” across the Facebook platform. When it launched in 2009, it was wildly successful as the user base took to it like moths to the light and enjoyed the short-term boost of dopamine it generated in our brains as we affirmed each other’s posts and photos, and in the process, Facebook gleaned very valuable insights into its users’ preferences. Since then, people have claimed to be addicted to the like button, to sending likes but especially to the receiving of this tiny affirmation from their peers. In a virtual world like this, addictions like this are becoming more and more common but most people assume it is their fault, they don’t realize they are being manipulated.

When we deliberately look closer at the popular social media platforms, it is easy to see how LinkedIn exploits a need for social reciprocity to widen its network; how YouTube and Netflix autoplay videos and next episodes, depriving users of a choice about whether or not they want to keep watching; how Snapchat created its addictive Snapstreaks feature, encouraging near-constant communication between its mostly teenage users.

How the “pull down to refresh” feature of Twitter feels a bit like pulling down on the arm of a slot machine and waiting to see what pops up in the latest feed.

Last April, software designers, programmers and tech entrepreneurs from across the world gathered at a conference center on the shore of the San Francisco Bay. They had each paid up to $1,700 to learn how to manipulate people into habitual use of their products, on a course curated by conference organizer Nir Eyal.

Eyal, 39, the author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, has spent several years consulting for the tech industry, teaching techniques he developed by closely studying how the Silicon Valley giants operate.

“The technologies we use have turned into compulsions, if not full-fledged addictions,” Eyal writes. “It’s the impulse to check a message notification. It’s the pull to visit YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter for just a few minutes, only to find yourself still tapping and scrolling an hour later.” None of this is an accident, he writes. It is all “just as their designers intended”.

I am 41 years of age today. I am part of the last generation of people that will remember life before the smartphone when phones used to be plugged into walls. Today’s children that will grow up in a world where the smartphone, iPads, tablets, smart TVs, smart homes are all the norm. The pull for their attention is very very strong. It can lead to constant distraction, a lack of focus, an inability to concentrate for any longer than a few seconds, anxiety, addiction and even depression. It is very concerning, especially given that schools are now introducing iPads for use in the classroom. Personally, I think this is an ill-informed decision to appear to be progressive and keeping pace with technology when in fact it will have a detrimental effect on children’s capacity to focus.

I have three kids and I regret every minute that I am not paying attention to them because my smartphone has sucked me in.

Parents and children of this generation need to be aware that all is not lost, that we are in fact in control. Once you become aware of these pulls, you have a choice to uninstall that app, disable those notifications that constantly pull for your attention, start using tools that will help you stay focussed and minimize these distractions.

Remember the most important button on your smartphone?
The OFF button. Now you can breathe…

Credits: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/oct/05/smartphone-addiction-silicon-valley-dystopia

Nut Roast

I first cooked this dish at Christmas just past, in an effort to explore the options beyond the traditional turkey and ham that we have every single year. It was a huge success and the strange thing about this dish is, it actually feels quite meaty, kind of like a decent stuffing. The meat eaters that had it at Christmas all said they really enjoyed it but I’m not sure if they were just being polite. Anyway, cook this for yourself and you decide. You need about an hour to get this on to the table.

Ingredients & Method

Part 1

  • Butternut squash (this is the main ingredient)
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 leek or 2 sticks of  celery
  • 1 red onion (white will do)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 large mushrooms
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • A pinch of cayenne pepper

Dice up all the above veg, add to a big hot pan and cook down for about 10 minutes. If your hob has dials of 1 – 10, set this at about a 7. Once cooked down a bit, all the paprika and pepper so that it sticks well to the veg.

Part 2

  • 150g of mixed nuts
  • 150g cooked red split lentils
  • 100g quinoa or 150g breadcrumbs
  • 5 sun-dried  tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup of dried fruit like apricots, cranberries etc.
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt & pepper

Blend the mixed nuts up in a food processor or just wrap them up in a tea towel and smash them off the chopping board to crush them up a bit. You still want some chunky nut pieces in there.

Add all the cooked veg from Part 1 into a large mixing bowl

Add all the ingredients from Part 2 in on top of the veg and mix well until the egg starts to bind all the ingredients together.

Get 2 loaf tins, grease the sides with some dairy free butter and line with baking paper. Layer in the mix into each of the tins until full. Press down on the mix in the tins frequently so you have no air pockets in the loaf.

Pop both tins in the oven at 180 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes until golden brown. Leave them to cool down before slicing them. Enjoy!

 

 

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