Headspace:  How An App Is Making Meditation More Attainable

Headspace: How An App Is Making Meditation More Attainable

(This post may contain affiliate links.  My disclosure page is really boring but you can find it here.)

An app for meditation? Huh?

Those were my thoughts when my husband told me about an app called Headspace that he had been using for 30 days straight. And then he suggested that I start using it too (apparently he can tell when I’m not handling stress very well).

Headspace is an app that has many different meditations each lasting 10 minutes. So I really don’t have an excuse that I don’t have time because it’s only 10 minutes!

Meditation is harder than it looks.

Woman meditating

Meditation is harder than it looks.

I have been practicing yoga for about 11 years on a regular basis. In that time I have probably meditated (or attempted to meditate- it can be a challenge!) hundreds of times.

The only thing that is consistent for me in meditation for me is that it’s always a little bit different each time. In other words, it’s not consistent at all.

Some days when I reach Savasana at the end of my practice I drift peacefully and effortlessly into the depths of meditation and I feel like I’m floating on a cloud.

On other days, my brain won’t stop reminding me of my to do list or rehashing a conversation with a really mean, difficult patient from my last shift at the hospital.

Like yoga, meditation is a practice. There is no good or bad. It just is what it is at the time. You can keep practicing to train your mind to do better the next time. And then eventually your brain is rewired by the habitual repetition of meditation and it becomes easier.

Setting aside time for meditation is the first step.

Since the birth of my daughter 20 months ago meditation has been a stretch for me and it than it has in a really long time. It’s hard to train your brain to relax when your mother of a toddler with a career as an RN.

And I really just don’t have a time like I used to (isn’t that everyone’s dilemma?). Since Zoe graced us with her presence the only times I have really truly been able to meditate have been when I have been lucky enough to squeeze in an actual studio yoga class. Which to be honest, is not frequently.

I do some yoga at home every day. But it’s mostly some stretching, a couple a sun salutations, an inversion or two, and then I call it a day. Sometimes I may even get to do it twice (usually next to my daughter if she’ll play long enough by herself) for anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes or so.

Thing is I never actually get to the meditation part. And I am really craving more meditation in my life.

So one of my new goals is to try and fit in 10 minutes of meditation every day. No excuses!

This is where the app, Headspace, comes into play.

Do not disturb sign

Mediation requires at least a few minutes of uninterrupted time. Don’t confuse meditation with taking a nap!

As I mentioned earlier, my husband introduced me to this app a couple of months ago. He had just completed 30 straight days of practicing meditation with it. I had noticed that he had been chill in recent days, and now I know why.

I had thought he was just laying down to take a quick nap. Ha! He was actually listening to the app on his headphones under the covers. Sneaky…

I dabbled with the app for the first time a few weeks ago. I tried sitting still with my headphones on while sitting on my couch while my daughter was napping. But my heart wasn’t in it and I just couldn’t get into the idea of using an app for meditation. So I quit.

But this week I got some interesting news that reminded me that I need to be taking better care of myself and not stressing myself out to the max! I won’t go into that now. But the point is it can be a good thing to get a little nudge of consciousness that says the only person responsible for your health is you!

Funny, that’s the exact thing I say to my patients. Hmmm….

So now I’m giving this Headspace app thingy a whole new chance. If it works so well for my husband, why am I not all over this thing?

I tried it tonight and it was, well, nice actually. I definitely chilled out, felt my muscles melting into the floor, much like I used to after yoga class.

The instructor has a nice soft British voice that was calm and cool and walked me through the process of letting go of my thoughts.

It felt really awesome to be meditating again actually. I’m going to try to do it tomorrow before I get out of bed. If I happen to wake up before Zoe does.

Ill let you know how I feel after 30 days!

Sarah, Mother Nurse Love

Recommended Reading

8 Ways Nurses Can Stay Healthy

Nurse Life:   How To Find A Work Life Balance

Why Nurses Need To Practice Yoga:  Self Care For The Caregiver

7 Ways To Beat Nurse Burnout

I Quit Social Media For One Week:  This Is What Happened…

I Quit Social Media For One Week: This Is What Happened…

My name is Sarah, and I’m addicted to social media.

That may have sounded like a dramatic entrance. But it is the unfortunate truth, as much as I hate to admit it.

Almost everyone I know is addicted to their cell phones in one way or another. It’s hard to imagine how humankind ever got by without them.

Between being a Mom, a registered nurse and trying to maintain a life, I am already a super busy lady on the go. Yet I still find myself checking Facebook or Instagram whenever I’m not moving a million miles a minute.

I’m not saying social media or mindless phone browsing are always a bad thing. But I do think many people are more engrossed in their phones then they even realize, to the detriment of intentional daily living. Constant internet use can be a massive time sucker that takes away from being in the presence of one’s own life.

Why is social media/cell phone addiction so common?

Facebook and Instagram browsing has always been an easy, passive way for me to disconnect from the real world. On a shallow level it feels good to distract my brain for a while. After all, I work hard. I deserve a break. Sometimes I don’t want to have to think about how to better use my time.

Sadly though, strolling down the social media feeds doesn’t add joy to my life the way so many other activities do. Its never been purposely included on my to-do list. So why do I always check it so frequently?

What I could be focusing my time on instead of browsing social media:

  • being a wife
  • raising an amazing kid
  • spending time with friends
  • writing in this blog
  • cooking
  • cleaning
  • reading
  • listening to music or a podcast
  • meditating
  • practicing yoga
  • sleeping
  • relaxing
  • doing absolutely nothing at all

You read that last part correctly. Doing absolutely nothing at all can bring me immense joy, partly because I almost never have a chance to do it.

Recently, I was reading an article about an author named Tim Ferris who wrote a book called the 4-hour workweek. He talked a lot about how being perpetually busy just for the sake of business is actually a form of laziness. Ferris explained that on a superficial level, being busy is a satisfying substitute for doing important work. “It’s very easy to confuse activity with productivity,” says Ferris.

This got me thinking…

Is my addiction to social media just me being lazy?

Am I unconsciously browsing social media instead of living my life with intention?

I became inspired to devise the following cold-turkey intervention on myself:

For one entire week I will not look at any social media feeds or unconsciously surf though my phone.

After all, how hard could it be?

My experiment started easily enough. But just like clockwork the minute I stopped paying attention my fingers automatically tried to pull up my Instagram account.

Apparently, my social media addiction was more ingrained then I thought. My plan required increased preventative measures to ensure success.

So I went a step further. I deleted both the Instagram and Facebook apps off my phone. That way if I wanted to use the apps I would actually have to sign in via the internet and type in my password.

Wouldn’t you know, just the annoyance of having to type in my password was enough to remind me of why I had started this experiment in the first place. I created a successful barrier to reinforce my phone addition recovery!

One week later…

My experiment to give up social media taught me a few valuable lessons and brought about some welcome changes.

I Quit Using Social Media For One Week. THIS is what happened.

I Quit Using Social Media For One Week. THIS is what happened.

#1.  I added more presence and engagement in my life.

Sadly, social media is often not an real representation of what is going on in people’s lives. It is a magnification of what people want you to see: slivers of primarily positive information that appears flawless, effortless and often like never-ending, spontaneous fun (don’t we all want to project the best parts of ourselves). Its also full of marketing, branding and sales gimmicks nowadays too.

By taking mindless phone browsing out of the equation I was left with significantly less distraction. It made me more present in day to day activities.

In other words, I took back the time that social media was stealing from me and applied it directly into being engaged in the most important stuff. Like spending uninterrupted time with my daughter and husband.

#2.  I increased productivity in things that matter most.

To make my point on this I’m going to create a hypothetical, but totally realistic situation:

Lets say a person reads social media for 20 minutes a few times a day: once before getting out of bed, once during a break from work, and then one more time before going to bed in the evening (for a lot of people I know, that is a conservative estimation).

It seems like a harmless habit. But if you add up the time over a seven day period you are talking about 7 hours a week. 7 entire hours! That’s just ridiculous. It’s the same amount of time some people spend at work during a normal workday. Mindless internet and social media browsing can kill off the equivalent of almost 1 workday per week if you allow it to.

See my earlier list titled “what I should be focusing on instead” to see where I am making more productive use of my time now.

As I mentioned before, even taking time to do absolutely nothing would be a better use of time. Mental breaks are great for overall productivity. (Did I mention I am training to be an ER nurse and have a ton of training to work on after I put my daughter to bed? My brain can use a little extra time off.)

#3.  I fall asleep earlier and have better overall sleep.

I had a bad habit of flipping through my phone before bed.

Cell phones emit bright blue light that is meant to stimulate the brain. By looking at a cell phone before bed it causes the brain to stop producing melatonin, which is the hormone that cues the brain that its time for slumber. As a result, smartphone light can disrupt the sleep cycle which makes it hard to fall and stay asleep.

Sleep is crucial to good health. Interrupted or lack of quality sleep is linked to so many health care related issues including many cancers, depression, and weight gain. In other words, better sleep habit = happy, sane Mama.

I would rather get some rest and rejuvenation and keep my sanity, thank you very much!

Am I going to quit my Facebook and Instagram accounts permanently?

No. My overall goal was never to shun my cell phone entirely. I think using social media in moderation is OK, as long as I keep it to once or twice per week, and never before bed. I still do enjoy sharing my own stuff and checking out the feeds from time to time. I will, however keep the apps off my phone to prevent unconscious browsing.

Using social media responsibly is not a bad thing. But now I recognize through experience that there are a lot of good reasons to use it sparingly instead of as a way to fill space in the day.

The moral of my story is this:

Living a life of intention requires making conscious changes to habits that appear harmless on the outside.
What habits do you have that are not serving you well?

 

Sarah, Mother Nurse Love

How I Paid Off 27k In Nursing School Student Loan Debt In 9 Months (And Other Tips For Getting Rid Of Debt)

How I Paid Off 27k In Nursing School Student Loan Debt In 9 Months (And Other Tips For Getting Rid Of Debt)

In March 2013, I graduated from college with a Bachelors of Science Degree in Nursing- and a $36,000 tab.

For my first 2 years out of nursing school I made the minimum student loan debt payment of about $420 a month.  But when I finally sat down and looked at how much of that was going towards interest and how long it would take to finally pay off (13 years, yikes!) it made me sick to my stomach.

After the birth of our daughter I decided to get aggressive about paying off my student loans.

By that time I was down to $27,000.  Becoming a Mom made me realize that being debt free AND having money in my bank account was way more important then spending money on stuff I didn’t need.

Prior to starting my BSN, I had a pretty nice savings account set aside.  Because of that, I was able to pay for 1 year of my prerequisite classes and my first few months of my nursing program upfront in cash.    If it wasn’t for that I would have had well over 50K in student loan debt at graduation.

While I was on maternity leave,  I started listening to financial podcasts specifically focused on paying off debt.  Most of this was done while my daughter and I went out for walks and she was napping.  It motivated me to change my thoughts about my current student loan status.

I took everything I had learned from those podcasts and formed my own simple plan:  Don’t spend any money on anything that is not an actual need.  At that time, my true needs included grocery shopping, pet food, and nanny.  That’s it.

How I Paid Off All My Nursing School Loan Debt In 9 Months!

How I Paid Off All My Nursing School Loan Debt In 9 Months!

My Student Loan Payoff Plan: Pay off $27,000 in student loan debt from February 1 to November 1, 2016.

I am happy to announce that I hit my goal right on target! Here is how I paid off $27,000 off student loan debt in 9 months:

I realized that student loan debt is NOT good debt.

There is no such thing as good debt. I don’t care if there is a 0% interest rate. Debt is debt. It is still a black cloud handing over your head that never goes away unless you force it to.

I trimmed my budget.

Mom and baby Zoe

This photo was taken halfway through my payoff schedule.

So long $5 Starbucks coffee (lucky for me my husband loves to make great coffee at home). Bye bye restaurant meals. Farewell clothing budget.

I also forbade manicures and pedicures (unless done by me). Also, I cooked all of our meals at home, packed all my lunches for work and made all my daughters baby food.

If there was something that I thought I needed but wasn’t sure, I gave myself a week to think it over. Even if it was something small. 99% of the time I ended up deciding that it wasn’t important enough to buy.

When I met with friends, instead of going to lunch, we would go for walks or to the park. Fortunately this is easy when you have babies.

I contributed 90% of my paychecks to my loans.

After taxes, retirement and taking out money to pay the nanny, I took the rest and threw it at my loans. It was anywhere from $1500 to $3500 every 2 weeks depending on how many shifts I worked.
I did the math to figure out my payoff date.

I started on March 1st, 2016 and my goal was to be completely paid in full by November 1, 2016. To make sure I stayed on track I planned a celebratory family trip to Palm Springs for the 2nd week of November.

I listened to financial podcasts to keep me focused and motivated.

As a new mom, it is hard to find time to read books or search the internet for resources on paying off student loans. Listening to financial podcasts was my single most important way to motivate myself during this process. I could multitask by listening to them while out for walks with my daughter.

Some of the podcasts I listened to included Paula Pant at Afford Anything, The Money Guys, Stacking Benjamin’s and Dave Ramsey.

I picked up a few extra shifts at the hospital.

As a per diem float nurse I have the option of working as much or little as I want. For the purpose of paying off my loans as fast as possible I tried to work at least 3 shifts a week. Since I was a new mom I didn’t want to go overboard though. The reason a became a nurse was so I could spend more time at home once we had children.

I made many short term sacrifices and got used to being uncomfortable.

No longer was I spending money on anything that wasn’t a necessity. I did this by taking a look at the things I could reasonably live without. This was the first time in my life I stopped buying clothes and shopping for things I didn’t need. To my own surprise, I’m still alive. In some ways life is actually easier now because I don’t have a ton of extra stuff hanging around cluttering my house. I spend the time I would have spent shopping on doing other things that are more important to me.

After I became debt free I kept my new lifestyle so that I could keep saving and investing at a significantly larger rate.

Baby Zoe playing in ball pit

My motivation for paying off all my nursing school student loan debt.

While this is not a repayment strategy, it does help me find motivation to continue down the right financial pathway now that my loans are gone. Having money in the bank is so much better then having debt. It feels amazing! And my savings gap gets bigger and bigger every month because I focus on growing my assets instead of buying unnecessary stuff that will probably end up in a dump in 5 years anyway.

Advice for anyone going to college:

  • Get the best education you can while spending the least amount of money possible.
  • Don’t take out more loans then you need to.
  • Live as frugally as you can while in school. It’s temporary and you will thank yourself for it in the long run.
  • Make an aggressive plan to pay off you student loans as soon as you graduate.

Don’t be the sucker who spends their entire life paying off student loans. They will NEVER go away if you don’t make them, even if you file for bankruptcy.

Do you have student loan debt? If you work hard and focus on what is actually important in your life, living student loan debt free can be a reality for you too. Now get to it!

Sarah, Mother Nurse Love

Turmeric Tea Recipe:  Secrets Of The Centurion Lifestyle

Turmeric Tea Recipe: Secrets Of The Centurion Lifestyle

*This post contains affiliate links.  For more information about my disclosure policy click here.

What should I drink to be healthy at 100?

If you ask a centurion from Okinawa, the answer would probably be turmeric tea. This golden spice is a staple tea for many centurions living in the Okinawa, also known as the Longevity Island.

Okinawa is considered to be a blue zone where people live to be 100 years old at a rate 10 times higher then anywhere else in the world. Blue Zone is a term used to reflect the lifestyles and environment of the worlds longest living communities, and there are only 5 in the world!

Okinawans live to be 100 for many reasons: they exercise regularity and also have an excellent diet low in red meat, and high in seasonal fruits and vegetables, fish, whole grains and lean proteins, including soy. For the Okinawa native, turmeric tea is a nice complement to an already incredibly healthy lifestyle.

Turmeric offers so many health benefits

Turmeric

Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory super spice.

A growing body of evidence suggests that turmeric may help reduce the risks of several diseases and that it may be one of the most powerful anti-inflammatories discovered thus far.

This spice is a major overachiever. In fact, many health professionals have claimed that it may be one of the most powerful disease fighters known to humans. There have been over 6,000 peer reviewed articles published proving the benefits of this beautiful orange herb, and its #1 component, curcumin!

My turmeric research recently made a lot more interested in making my own turmeric tea at home.  So I started making my own over the last two weeks. I don’t know for sure if its the tea, but I feel amazing!

 

My husband has commented several times already about our counters having minor yellow spots. Turmeric’s rich golden-yellow color will stain clothing and may temporarily turn counters and some dishware yellow, so be prepared for that.

How to make turmeric tea at home

Organic ground turmeric

Organic ground turmeric can be found at most grocery stores in the spice isle.

Imagine what replacing 1 soda or sugary drink a day with a turmeric tea could do for your health over the long run!

Turmeric tea is a hearty drink and takes a little extra preparation then just adding a tea bag into a cup of hot water. However, the experience is totally worth the preparation and wait time. I love the idea of adding lots of anti-inflammatory herbs to tea to keep my immune system in tip top shape.

I have tried several recipes for making turmeric tea at this point. This one is my favorite and makes an excellent place to start if you’re starting to add turmeric into your diet. It is simple and strait-forward and adds the perfect amount of spice. In the beginning, I would start with 1 tsp turmeric and try and add a little more each time you make it to see how much works for you.

You can purchase turmeric here.

Turmeric Tea Recipe

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Total time: 15 minutes

Yield: 1 serving

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp turmeric (start with this and work your way up to as much as you want!)
  • 1-2 cups of almond milk (you can use water or whatever milk product you prefer, I like almond milk)
  • tsp cinnamon
  • pinch in nutmeg
  • tsp ginger
  • pinch of ground black pepper*
  • honey (just a little-or a lot, your preference)

*Black pepper is added because studies show it aids in the absorption of curcumin, the healthy component of turmeric.

Directions

  • simmer herbs and water together for ten minutes on stove top
  • strain out and add honey

Pour into your favorite mug and enjoy!

Sarah, Mother Nurse Love