Forest Bathing – three ways to add it into your self-care ritual

“After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, love, and so on — have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear — what remains? Nature remains. — Walt Whitman

The term ‘forest bathing’ seems almost redundant, but with the hours that most people spend indoors, it’s become necessary to distinguish and carve out time to spend in nature. Forest bathing shouldn’t be mistaken as another therapy that human’s should ‘consume,’ but a return to something fundamental; to ourselves and where we came from.

The archetypal ‘escape into the woods’ has been around as long as the industrial revolution and it was once a footpath seldom trodden, except for a special few including Henry David Thoreau. In the last two decades, forest bathing has entered popular consciousness, now that technology occupies ever increasing corners of our world. You can see it in books about rewilding, the movie Into The Wild and musicians like Bon Iver writing his first album in the snow covered woods.

“In some Native languages the term for plants translates to “those who take care of us.” — Robin Wall Kimmerer

Following the ‘death by overwork’ phenomenon in Japan in the 1980’s, 4 million dollars’ worth of studies were conducted between 2004 and 2012. They found tangible evidence of the importance of returning to the natural world, that culminated into a practice called ‘forest bathing.’ Studies at the Nippon Medical School in Japan discovered essential oils in the forest called phytoncide, a compound emitted by trees to protect themselves from germs and insects. ‘Fresh air’ is more than a figure of speech — it turns out that inhaling it improves the immune system. Spending time among trees is also found to lower cortisol, pulse rate, blood pressure and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, making it the ideal cure for urban malaise.

Forest bathing involves an intentional pilgrimage into nature that combines walking, community and mindfulness.

There’s 1,500 accredited forest bathing guides around the world that facilitate groups and lead walks that include time spent sitting, observing and experiencing their surroundings mindfully. Forest bathing is one avenue, but there are many other ways to integrate nature into your weekly routine without joining a group, here’s a few ideas:

Forest Bathing at Boranup

Exercise or find a hobby in nature

Whether it’s combining an interest in foraging, photography, rock climbing, surfing, or hiking, making sure at least one exercise or hobby involves spending time outdoors, will bring nature into your weekly routine, rather than adding another task on the to-do list.

Treat nature as your lounge room

If you need a weekend nap, why not sleep at the beach under an umbrella? Instead of reading a book on the couch, head to the park and find a nice tree to lean against. Perhaps it’s a picnic on the grass with friends instead of going to a café, or a cup of tea every morning in your backyard — get creative and think of all the moments in your life you could use nature as your lounge room instead. Similar to how you’d behave in your lounge room, make sure you kick your shoes off too, this practice is called ‘earthing’ and it has its own host of benefits including better sleep and reducing stress.

Book a camping trip

There’s nothing quite like escaping to natural landscapes with zero phone reception. It removes the temptation to check your phone 24/7 and gives you time to do nothing but read, write and enjoy being in nature. Camping connect us to the natural world like nothing else and even just spending one night at a national park can feel like a complete re-boot for the body, mind and soul. The difference between a day at the beach, and a few days camping is that after you emerge from the wilderness, you notice the presence of the man-made world much more than before, which highlights the importance of taking a break from it.

Photography by Louise Coghill @louisetakesphotos

Upside-down nectarine and hazelnut cake

Chopping nectarines for a cake

Autumn is taking hold and I’m happily embracing the change in season. The cooler mornings and cosy evenings are so welcome. Over summer when days are long and hot I prefer to make the most of it at the beach or in the garden. These days, while it’s cooler I retreat into the kitchen, the oven warms up my little cottage and I spend an hour or two baking for afternoon tea. This is one that I have with a cup of hot chai on a Sunday afternoon. I sit around with my boys playing card games and taking no notice of the time as the afternoon melds into evening.

This delicious cake recipe is created by Lise Walsh. If you’ve been to one of my Mindful Making workshops you know about Lise and her glorious baked treats. It’s such a delight to have her home baked cakes for afternoon tea. I love a cake that makes use of what’s fresh and in season. We’re at the tail end of the glut of stone-fruits that’ve been filling the stores. I wanted to make the most of them before they’re all gone. It’s one of those recipes that you can substitute whatever firm sweet fruit is in season. I’m going to bake it with pears in the winter.

“Loved by everyone, it always brings a little something special to the table without being over the top or super sickly. It’s deliciously moist and nutty, and the buckwheat flour adds a slightly earthy flavour, while the fruit adds the perfect amount of sweetness.” Lise Walsh

A wooden board with chopped nectarinesHazelnuts and nectarines being prepared for cake makingMixing cake in a winterwares bowlFresh eggs in a handmade pottery bowlCracking eggs into a handmade ceramic winterwares bowl

Nectarines on a wooden board

Ingredients

Cake

250g unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup caster sugar
1 tbsp brown sugar
6 eggs
1/2 cup hazelnut meal
1 1/4 cup buckwheat flour
2 tsps Gluten Free baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
8 nectarines

Topping

1/4 cup apricot jam
2 tbsp chopped pistachios

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees fan-forced.
  2. Grease and line a 23 cm round springform tin with baking paper.
  3. Halve the nectarines and carefully remove the stones (I chopped them into slices for this one).
  4. Place the nectarine halves, cut side facing down, into the base of the tin, covering as much of the base of the tin as possible (keeping to a single layer).
  5. Place the hazelnut meal, buckwheat flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl. Stir well and set aside.
  6. In the bowl of a stand mixer, place the softened butter and sugars.
  7. Beat on medium speed, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl, until the mixture is thick, creamy and lighter in colour. Approximately 4-5 minutes.
  8. Add the eggs, one at a time, insuring each egg is well mixed into the batter.
  9. Add the vanilla extract and the dry ingredients and mix on low, until just combined. (Do not to over mix the batter.)
  10. Pour the batter into the nectarine lined cake tin.
  11. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until the cake springs back when lightly touched.
  12. Let sit in the tin for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a wire cake stand.
  13. For the topping, place the apricot jam into a small saucepan and gently heat.
  14. Spoon over the jam and sprinkle with chopped pistachios.

Photos above feature the dip bowl, lagom bowl, dinner plate and mixing bowl.

 

Five simple ways to be in the present moment

How often have you raced through your day thinking:

‘I just need to tick off this huge to-do list and then finally when I do yoga tonight, I’ll have time to be mindful’?

Mindfulness shouldn’t be reserved for the times that you’ve marked for wellbeing – it should be a state of being, a way in which you move through your whole day.

At first, it may feel hard to be present and even a little unnatural but once you start actively cultivating this practice you’ll notice a difference.

Here are some of my suggestions for helping turn your auto-pilot off and start feeling more present.

A bunch of native Australian foliage in a handmade ceramic vase by Winterwares ceramics in Fremantle. Sitting on a mid-century modern style sideboard.

1. Pick flowers

Research shows that workplaces with plants are more productive, restaurants with flowers have happier customers and hospital patients who receive flowers need less pain relief.

Stopping to smell the roses is a cliché for a reason. Why not keep a pair of mini secateurs in your bag to snip flowers when you see them.

“Flowers help us remain in the moment, they’re to be enjoyed right then and there, it makes us slow down, look, admire, smell, comment, it engages all our senses with its beauty.” – Kym Little, Wild Botanica

Enjoying a tea from a handmade Winterwares cup, holding a basket of fresh picked flowers

2. Create a daily ritual

Sometimes it can feel like our days are dictated by demands outside our control. Creating a daily ritual allows you to do something special, just for you.

What is one thing that will feed your soul? It could be going for a walk, reading a few pages of a book or enjoying a cup of tea in silence.

Whatever it is, make it a non-negotiable part of your routine. Do it in the morning before anything else can take your time.

Taking a moment to rest and enjoy a reading a book. being in the moment3. Change up your commute

How many times have you gotten in the car and you can’t remember how you got to your destination? Changing your route or choosing a different mode of transport will prompt you to notice new surroundings.

If you walk instead of drive, you’ll be able to notice the breeze on your skin, the people you pass and the feel of the ground beneath your feet.

If you take a different route than normal, you’ll notice the new scenery, the way the area makes you feel and your brain will switch on as it navigates you home.

4. Eat from a handmade bowl

Compare the experience of eating a pumpkin soup that you’ve chopped, roasted and stirred for a few hours, to simply opening a tin. You savour the experience, tasting the spices, feeling the warmth and appreciating the way the food nourishes you.

It’s the same with using a handmade object. The feel of an irregular, organic material is more grounding than that of a similar object made by a machine.

A handmade object brings joy and mindfulness to every day moments. The feel of the curves of a handmade bowl brings you into the present and connects us with our food, an experience we can often miss out on.

Pea and mint soup served in a WInterwares handmade ceramic bowl

5. Breathe

Breathing is something we take for granted but it has an immense power to calm us and bring us into the present.

Taking a few deep breaths is especially helpful when we’re feeling stressed or anxious and can switch us out of being in fight or flight mode.

Close your eyes and take a deep slow breath in …. and exhale.

Breathe in again and this time when you exhale, make it twice as long as the in breath.

Count 1 … 2… for the inhale and then 1 … 2… 3… 4… for the exhale.

Extending the exhale will awaken your parasympathetic nervous system and result in a deeper feeling of relaxation. It helps to place your hand on your stomach and feel the rise and fall as you breathe.

 


Featured above: Latté Tumbler, Vase, Everyday Deep Bowl

 

Mindfulness for entrepreneurs with Kaitlyn and Mati from Kuld Creamery

Kaitlyn Kuld is a self proclaimed ice-cream obsessive. She can’t pick just one favourite from the dozens she’s handcrafted with her husband Mati at Kuld Creamery in Perth. Roasted strawberry, baklava, lemon butter with almond poppyseed biscuits and cornbread with rhubarb swirl are just some of the quirky flavours that make her top five. What started out as an idea jotted in a notebook, became a reality when after a difficult day at work Kaitlyn and Mati scored an old commercial ice-cream machine on Gumtree. “I came home from work one day, so upset. I was crying and I just didn’t want to do it anymore. Mati was like, ‘Well what do you want to do?’. I said, ‘I want to make ice-cream’. He said, ‘Ok, let’s make ice-cream then!’.” says Mati. Their small batch organic ice cream with unusual flavours and produced with locally sourced ingredients was an instant hit. Before long Kaitlyn and Mati had quit their day jobs to focus on the business full-time. Fast forward two years and Kuld Creamery now has two stores. We chatted about having a job that brings people joy every day, what it’s really like to launch a business and the lessons they’ve learned in being mindful along the way. Winterwares and Kuld Creamery

Know when to ask for help

Learning the business of running a business, coping with the anxiety of maintaining a profit and creating boundaries between work and home were all new challenges for Mati and Kaitlyn. “I’ve never worked this hard in my life – that’s for damn sure,” Kaitlyn says. “I could never have been prepared for the workload. It’s probably like having a kid – everyone tells you it’s the most rewarding job but I wasn’t prepared for the hours and the sheer stress.” Recognising that they were at breaking point after having worked on every aspect of the business for the two years since its launch, Mati and Kaitlyn made the decision to expand to from two to eight staff. “It just really settled in that we can’t manage it all. We were always stepping in doing the day to day things and that’s really hindering to moving forward and growing. We’ve realised now that it’s OK to hand off those tasks you don’t need to be involved in all the time,” says Mati.

Winterwares and Kuld Creamery

Schedule breaks

Managing two stores has also made taking time off more challenging. “Mati has churned every single batch of ice-cream that we’ve ever sold. He was the only one that had ever done the machine until two weeks ago,” says Kaitlyn. “And then I do shop hours and admin,” adds Mati. As well as growing their team to help with the workload, they have committed to closing the stores every August for their own time to recharge and rejuvenate. Last year they went to Bali, the year before back to North America. “We see each other all the time but we’re not hanging out. You’re talking about business stuff and strategies and orders. It’s not the same,” says Mati. “I think quality time is the important thing for us to gain in our lives right now,” says Kaitlyn.

Have daily rituals just for you

Taking the time to slow down and create daily rituals is a goal for Mati and Kaitlyn to create balance between work and life. Time at the beach and coffee are two of their favourites. “I love a good cup of coffee. We live in South Fremantle and for me, breakfast and coffee at Third Wheel with Mati and a beach walk is my perfect morning. If I could do that every day I’d be the happiest person. It sets my day up for going well. I feel like I’ve had such a good day when I can start it like that. I love the community aspect, going to the local coffee shop and everyone knows everyone there,” says Kaitlyn. For Mati it’s an ocean swim. “There’s nothing better,” says Mati. “It shocks your system, wakes you up, you’re in nature. It’s not just rolling out of bed and going to work. It breaks up the day and feels like a vacation.”

Take everything as a lesson but keep looking forward

Kaitlyn and Mati admit that their passion for the business means they often take on a huge workload which at times has been overwhelming. But rather than reflecting on what they could have done differently, they see all their experiences as a learning and focus on the future. “I think it sort of happened exactly as it should have happened. When we started it was bare basics, with nothing and it just went from there. We didn’t overextend, other than ourselves. You got to put in those hours in the first place anyhow,” says Mati.

Winterwares and Kuld Creamery

Remember why you’re doing it

Despite the stress and long hours, Kaitlyn and Mati love the joy they bring to their customers and the community spirit at the stores. “It’s pretty great that everyone’s always excited when they come in. It’s really rare to have a bad day at work. The only way we have a bad day is if we make it a bad day personally,” says Mati. “Everyone’s in a good mood when they’re buying ice-cream,” says Kaitlyn. “It’s good for the soul. We have the best job in the world – we get to give people ice cream all day. Everyone is always happy to be here. I don’t know how many jobs are like that, where people are genuinely excited to be here. We get to create that. We see people with our ice cream and how happy it makes them and we get to be a part of that joy. How many jobs are there like that?,” says Mati. Vintage ice cream scoop with roasted strawberry kuld creamery hand churned ice cream Winterwares and Kuld Creamery Enjoy the happy vibes at Kuld Creamery’s stores at 460 Beaufort Street, Highgate and 11 Essex Street, Fremantle. Our favourite pieces seen here to serve ice cream in are the dip bowl and the espresso cup.

Conversations about mindful travel with Louise Coghill

A portrait taken while hiking the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal
A portrait taken while hiking the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal

 

Louise in her Fremantle Studio, where she's based between overseas adventures.
Louise in her Fremantle Studio, where she’s based between overseas adventures.

Louise Coghill is a storyteller, photographer, an adventurer and a caffeine addict. She’s hiked to Everest Base Camp, walked along the Great Wall of China, hitchhiked through Laos, and rode horses through Mongolia. She splits her time between her home in Perth and living months at a time in challenging and beautiful foreign countries. I’ve been enjoying chatting with her about how she manages to live intentionally to make the best of both ways of living. Here she talks to us about how travelling to far away places helps us to live our best life here at home.  

Tell us about how you got to be doing what you’re doing.

I was a storyteller first, so I studied Film and TV. I took one unit in photography and didn’t like the assignments and figured it was never going to be my thing.  It wasn’t until I moved to a sleepy little town in the Daintree rainforest, where there was no film industry that my love for photography started to grow. I bought myself a camera so I could make my own films, but I started taking pictures too. I didn’t have many friends at first, so I would take my camera and go on little adventures. Photography got me out of the house, I didn’t mind doing things on my own and immersing myself in nature, and so very quickly photography became about the lifestyle that came with it.

But it wasn’t until I went to India to film a documentary for my friends charity that I REALLY started to fall in love with it. I was capturing portraits, and life in the slums of India. I put it online and people were liking the images, and I started to realise that I enjoyed taking the photos more than I liked making the film, and so it’s been photography ever since.

Although my beginnings in the film industry is what shaped my style, telling stories is still my favourite aspect of being a photographer.

You often travel solo, what’s it like to be far away from home on your own?

It’s a humbling experience being alone in a foreign culture, immersed in a new country and not speak the language. Surrounded by people, yet feel so lonely. Travelling though rural China, I spent weeks not having a conversation with another English speaker. I had to learn how to be alone with my own thoughts. Talking to people tends to give me energy, so I had to figure out how to be who I am with nobody else around. 

Yaks heading home with equipment from Everest base camp
Yaks heading home with equipment from Everest base camp

What is it about travelling that makes you a better version of yourself? 

You only learn certain things about yourself when you’re really pushed. Going up Everest I had a chest infection, and I found – this is going to sound lame and clichéd  right now – I found an inner strength that could only be found by doing something so gruelling. Now I have that, it was always there, but I unlocked it in that moment. I’m sure if I was at home in a tough situation and I needed to find that strength, I would, but I’m just never really forced that far out of my comfort zone. That’s the thing for me with travel, I get pushed out of my comfort zone, and so it grows.

Image from 'The Dreamer' photography series
Image from ‘The Dreamer’ photography series

Do you have any daily rituals when you’re at home?

First thing in the morning, I make a big pot of coffee and read my book. I generally drink way too much coffee, so I can keep reading, so I might have to replace it with tea!  It’s such a big one for me, if I don’t get the chance to do it, my day doesn’t feel as calm or content.

I also love to go for a run and listen to a podcast. I tend to run longer when I have a good podcast, and I feel like I take in the conversations more when I’m doing something active. And bullet journalling, it’s just filled with to do lists, weekly and monthly spreads and I’ve started sleep and mood tracking, I just feel like my brain works better on paper.

What’s one of your favourite simple pleasures?

I enjoy drawing, but I never give myself time to do it because I think I’m too busy. I was sick in bed the other day and started drawing for the first time in ages, it felt so good and I sort of realised it’s ok to take time out for these sort of things. If my life is too busy to do the little things that I enjoy, then I’m not really living the life I want to live. 

Louise Coghill

Do you come back from travelling with ideas on how to live differently at home?

When I was in Mongolia, I spent most of the month without a phone, with no Internet. I was outside all day and living moment by moment. On the way home I kept telling myself “I’m going to cut down on the internet, I’m going to cut down on the internet.” I never manage it for very long though… 

There’s always so many new rituals I want to implement when I come home, like ‘watch a sunset every day’ ‘go on more walks’ but I only ever manage to keep a tiny portion of my new goals. Though each time I travel the resolution strengthens, so I find myself always searching for the next trip to shake up that comfort zone.

I’m putting more effort into enjoying my home life now, making peace with the fact I can’t always be jumping on a plane, I have nieces and nephews to play with, a job and a studio I love. I’m starting to implement all those things I put off for years. Trying to live slower, do little things each day so I feel content, rather than only ever working towards big goals and big trips.

 

What does living your best life look like for you?

Living a good life to me is centred around time. Having the time to do the things that matter to me. Those little rituals, the big goals, the trips I want to take, the books I want to read. Often I choose to work less, so I have more time. I actually only work about 6-8 months. I might have a crazy few months but I make up for it by having a few lazy ones too (preferably abroad). Living that sort of life often means I’m not as cashed up as some of my friends, but I don’t often regret it.

I think if you can invest time doing the small things that you really enjoy, you don’t have to spend as much money on buying things to make you happy. I’ve learned to enjoy things that don’t cost a lot. Instead of meeting up with my friends for an expensive dinner we’ll meet up and go for a walk.

I realise how lucky I am that my job lets me live that life, not everyone has that freedom, and I try and appreciate it as much as I can.

Tell us about your upcoming exhibition.

It’s called Terra, and it’s showcasing landscapes from a four month trip through Nepal and Mongolia. I’m also selling my first zine, filled with pictures and stories, like hiking up Everest with a chest infection, while also exploring the role of the traveller and the impact globalisation can have on these countries. 

Climbing to Everest Base camp
Climbing to Everest Base camp

Louise’s exhibition opens at Kidogo arthouse in Fremantle, on November 29th, 2018, from 6.30pm, and continues from the 30th till the 5th of December, 11am – 4pm. 

Ten ways to break your phone addiction

 

Using our phones make us miss the things that really matter, that are right in front of us.

Our phones are amazing tools. We have access to a world of information in our pockets. Used well, they make our lives easier, more fun, more inspired and connected. Which is great if we are using them for those things, but how often do we pick up our phone just because we have an urge to check it? When we use our phones without thinking about why, it drains our time and energy and can make us stressed, anxious and depleted.

“Technology can be our best friend, and technology can also be the biggest party pooper of our lives. It interrupts our own story, interrupts our ability to have a thought or a daydream, to imagine something wonderful, because we’re too busy bridging the walk from the cafeteria back to the office on the phone.”
~ Steven Spielberg

Since I had a breakdown a few years ago, I’ve been rebuilding my life and it’s taken me on a journey to live more mindfully. I’m trying to be fully present in the life that I’m living, to experience it wholeheartedly. One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced to living a more mindful life is my phone. I created an addiction to it, and it was a constant and very persistent distraction. When I first started using a smartphone I loved taking photos of every moment that I wanted to remember and checking social media to see what my friends were up to. I downloaded dozens of apps to inspire me, connect with my friends and family, to have the convenience of working anywhere, at anytime. Though more and more I found that my phone wasn’t making me feel more inspired, connected and content, it was making me feel empty. Having dozens of reasons to pick up and use my phone was draining me of precious time with my children. I found that I was missing out on the things that made me truly happy because I was idly wasting time in an endless rabbit-hole of links and hashtags.

“We’re living an era where capturing moments using our phones is more important than actually living these moments with whoever is beside us.”

We can’t give them up completely, but we need to find balance.

Our phones are designed to be addictive. It’s really, really hard to break the habit of checking our phones incessantly. When we check the phone we get a little hit of dopamine. It’s a nice feeling, so when the phone pings again, we reach for it to get another hit. Each time we get a notification and pick up the phone we’re creating neural pathways in the brain that are wiring us to listen out for the pings and check them. When we’re away from our phones we can develop anxiety about what we might be missing out on.

Using willpower alone, I tried frequently to give up my phone. I can’t count how many times I deleted Facebook just to reinstall it a few days later. In these moments I imagined my only solution would be moving to a log cabin in the forest. Somewhere with no wi-fi, no phones, no distractions, no temptation to post a photo of the organic tomatoes I’d harvested from my garden that morning. Moving to the forest isn’t an option just now, so I need to learn to live with my phone. To restore the balance so that it makes my life better, not worse.

I don’t want to give it up completely. I think about the ways that technology does add value to my life. Through social media I’ve found a tribe of people that I met online who’ve become real life friends, beautiful, generous, inspirational humans that I cherish. In Podcasts I find thoughtful conversations about what it means to be a human doing good things in the world. Things that bring me feelings of hope in an online landscape saturated with negativity. There are so many upsides to the technology I have at my fingertips and I’m grateful for those resources. I’m well aware that it’s so easy for the balance to tip too far the other way, where the phone becomes a time vacuum. Sucking away hours and hours on things that don’t make my life better, and can actually make me feel more anxious and depressed. Over time, I’ve worked out how to break my addiction and gain back control over my phone. Now when I use my phone it’s mindful and purposeful, not just because it’s there.

Here are my ten tips on how to break your phone addiction:

1. Know why you want to make a change

For any real change to occur you have to think about why you want to make the change. Otherwise when you’re in a moment of weakness, you’ll go back to old habits. Remember, you’re rewiring neural pathways, it’s going to take some time for that to happen. The catalyst for me to ditch my phone addiction was the realisation that I was missing out on meaningful things right in front of me because I was distracted by something totally forgettable on my screen. I imagined being older, in my twilight years and looking back on my life. Thinking how sad I’d feel reflecting on my years and knowing I’d wasted them looking at a little screen instead of looking at my children.

2. Turn off your notifications

I’ve turned off almost all notifications on my phone (and my computer). I don’t want instagram to tell me to ‘look here! Right now!’ I want to block out time and look at instagram intentionally, not just because it’s there. The only time my phone pings now is when I have a text message.

3. Use airplane mode to block out time to be uninterrupted

When I’m in my studio I have a short window where I feel most creative. For the first couple of hours when I arrive I don’t want to be interrupted with messages or calls. If my phone’s on and I hear the ping of a message, I can’t help but look at it. So I put my phone into airplane mode and it sets the intention that for the next two hours I’m going to focus on my work. Research has shown that just the sound of a receiving a message is enough to distract you, even if you don’t read the message. Psychologists at the Temple University in Philadelphia conducted experiments to see how phone use affects our ability to function well at work. “When the notifications broke their concentration, the subjects had more incorrect answers and were more likely to make rapid guesses. Subjects who received notification of a call — even if they didn’t pick it up — were three times likelier to make mistakes.” When notifications break our concentration and interrupt our thoughts all day we lose the ability to think clearly, and deeply.

When I first started blocking out time, I used the Forest app to help me stay focused and stop me from unlocking my phone. With Forest, when you leave your phone alone for an allocated period you grow virtual trees, which earns currency to grow real trees. The Forest team partners with a real-tree-planting organisation, Trees for the Future, to plant them.

4. Declutter your phone screen

Oscar Wilde once said, “I can resist everything except temptation.” I’ve all my apps inside one folder on my phone, and that folder sits on the second screen so I need to swipe across to see it. To access any of my apps I use the search bar to find them. On my iPhone its a quick swipe down on the screen to type in what I’m looking for. Having all my apps hidden away helps to remove temptation to click on one just because it’s there. It makes me pause long enough to think, why am I looking at this, do I really want to check facebook again? Having an empty home screen helps keep my mental state clear because I’m not looking at all the digital clutter on my phone each time I unlock it.

5. Use your home screen to remind you of what’s most important

Having a home screen clear of apps means I have a blank canvas to use for something more meaningful. I have some quotes, prompts and reminders that I’ve saved to my photos folder and I use them for my phone wallpaper. Prompts like Is this the most meaningful thing I can do right now? or Look up and look around, what do you see that’s worth taking in? or simply a reminder to Pause, breathe in, breathe out. I’ve given you a couple of my favourites here if you’d like to download them and use them on your own phone. In this way my phone becomes a reminder to be mindful and think about if I’m on the right track with my goals to live an intentional life. Jordan Travers writes “We need to constantly assess whether our actions are bringing us closer to or further away from our goals, because it is not possible to remain stationary”.

6. Don’t have your phone on the table when you’re with a friend

I know it’s an obvious one, but it’s a big one. If you want to be really present, you need to put away your phone. French Philosopher Simone Weil said that “attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity”. How often do we miss the opportunity to connect with someone because we’re distracted by the ping of our notifications. When you sit down to have a conversation with a friend give them your complete attention. Get in the habit of putting your phone out of sight when you’re talking to someone face to face. Just having your phone on the table while you’re with a friend at a café disrupts the flow of your conversation. Even if you’re not checking it, having the phone in sight is distracting for both of you. Subconsciously the other person can feel like you’re waiting for someone to interrupt, or give you a better offer for your company.

7.  Don’t sleep with your phone next to you

Remove the temptation to look at your phone last thing at night or first thing in the morning by moving it to another room. Have a phone free period where you put your phone in a drawer or plug it in to charge overnight. Switch it to airplane mode or turn it off from 8pm to when you wake. If you need an alarm to wake you up, buy an alarm clock.

8. Delete the apps that don’t add value to you life

It’s a double edge sword to have the convenience of your email, your calendar and your facebook business manager on your phone. At first I thought it would make life easier, it turned out it just made it more painful. I did an audit of which tasks I really wanted to be able to do from anywhere. Do I need to check my work email at anytime of the day, anywhere? No. Do I need to see my PayPal balance on the go? No. Do I want to shop on eBay while sitting in my car? No. Do I want to spend my time waiting in a queue playing candy crush? Not really. I still haven’t closed my facebook account entirely but I decided I didn’t need to have 24/7 access to it through my phone. I’ve deleted the app and now I only check it occasionally from my computer.

9. Don’t take your phone with you every time you leave the room

Are you in the habit of picking up your phone and taking it with you everywhere, from the kitchen to the dining room, from your bedroom to the bathroom? Create device free areas in your home, where everyone agrees that phones are not invited. At my house phones aren’t allowed at the dinner table or in the bedroom. It means when we’re eating together we’re able to be present and when we’re going to bed we aren’t tempted to stay awake for hours looking at funny cat videos on youtube.

10.  Decide what you’d rather be doing with your time

It’s much easier to avoid sitting on your phone when you’ve got something else you’d rather be doing. Make a list of things that bring you joy. It could be anything you love to do; reading, walking the dog, playing a board game, gardening, cooking, swimming. yoga, painting, running. Start with something easy that you know will make you happy. Instead of checking social media the moment you wake up, spend half an hour doing the thing that makes you really happy.

By removing all of the temptation, I’ve broken the habit of feeling the urge to check my phone. I don’t have the anxious feeling of needing to look at it every few minutes. My phone is actually pretty boring now, and because I’m aware of so many other things I’d rather do with my time I’m not idly wasting hours looking at the screen. When I use my phone now it’s with intention and it’s become the tool it was designed to be, something that adds value to my life, not takes away.

Click on the wallpaper below, it will open in a new window for you to download it. 

Solitude: The importance of alone time for fuelling creativity

Reading a book and enjoying a cup of tea in solitude

Not to be confused with loneliness, solitude is a constructive solitary state that scientists say is absolutely essential to creativity. Apps and podcasts rob us from otherwise natural moments of solitude and the creative breakthroughs that happen in extended periods of silence.

In his book Imagine, Johan Lehrer shares his research on the link between downtime and problem solving, saying, “While it’s commonly assumed that the best way to solve a difficult problem is to relentlessly focus, this clenched state of mind comes with a hidden cost: it inhibits the sort of creative connections that lead to breakthroughs.”

At Winterwares, we’ve found that setting aside time to be alone in the studio and let the mind run idle is so important to allow creative ideas rise to the surface. Solitude also adds to a sense of overall wellbeing, because — like the body — the mind needs to rest.

So what are some other benefits we can gain from solitude?

Aside from helping us to be more creative, solitude is gives our brain all-important downtime it needs to process all the information we come into contact with throughout our day.

In the Scientific American, Ferris Jabr writes that downtime is not purposeless, it is essential to mental processes that “affirm our identities, develop our understanding of human behaviour and instil an internal code of ethics.”

“We replay conversations we had earlier that day, rewrite our verbal blunders as a way of learning to avoid them in the future.” says Jabr, “We mull over the aspects of our lives with which we are most dissatisfied, searching for solutions. We sink into scenes from childhood and catapult ourselves into different hypothetical futures.”

So how do we find solitude? Here are three simple ways to find more solitude in your day or week;

Disconnect

The first step to finding solitude is to cut off all means of connection with the outer world. An easy before phones and iPads existed.  Now, we must allocate times throughout our day to disconnect is. Moments where you’d otherwise be in solitude if your phone wasn’t around are best. For example, at home, before bed, or first thing in the morning. As much as we love podcasts and audiobooks, going for a walk without an iPhone is the perfect time to let the mind wander free.

Walking through the forest, natures remedy for stress

Get some vitamin ‘N’

Vitamin ‘N’ is finding time to be in nature. It’s vital for our mental health and a great place to find solitude.

Other ideas include;

  • Enjoy a cup of tea alone outside in the morning before the house wakes up
  • Meditate outside — you can keep your eyes open or closed
  • Walking meditation
  • People-watching in the park
  • Watching a sunset or a sunrise at least once a week
  • Keep a notebook nearby

In her TED Talk Your Elusive Creative Genius, Elizabeth Gilbert shares an anecdote about Tom Waits who’s ideas would come to him at the most ‘inconvenient times.’ Not coincidentally, these were moments of solitude; while driving a car, in his case. Famously Waits says, ‘can you not see that I’m driving? If you’re serious about wanting to exist then I spend eight hours a day in the studio. You’re welcome to come and visit me when I’m sitting at my piano. Otherwise, leave me alone and go bother Leonard Cohen.’ If only Tom Waits knew the connection between solitude and creativity, he’d bring a notebook with him.

While your mind is in idle downtime, you will likely have creative breakthroughs, or questions come to mind, but resist the urge to Google them! How often have you innocently opened your phone to check one thing, only to spend 15 plus minutes opening apps, scrolling Instagram or the news? This is why keeping an unplugged paper notebook nearby can be handy to jot down notes and ideas to follow up on later.

Taking a moment to rest, read a book and have a cup of tea

A few other bonus ideas;

  • Tag team an hour of alone time with your spouse if you have kids
  • Have a bath, but don’t bring any devices, books, or notepads with you
  • Read a book
  • Learn to draw or play an instrument or any other solo hobby you can think of
  • Turn music off — as much as we love music, it’s great to give your mind a break

 

Five ideas to practice gratitude every day

Winterwares handmade Breakfast Bowl

Feeling fulfilled comes first with gratitude. Having everything would feel like sweet nothing without it. Winterwares is a place that we try to practice gratitude every day and it fills the space and the people in it with more calm, peace and joy. From deepening relationships, our sense of self and even our sleep — practicing gratitude also has endless benefits backed by science.

Studies have discovered the gratification we receive from soothing behaviours, like eating sugary foods, are less sustaining than practicing gratitude. “Gratitude is something that leads to much more sustainable forms of happiness, because it’s not based on that immediate gratification; it’s a frame of mind,” says Emma Emma Seppälä, Happiness researcher at Stanford and Yale and author of The Happiness Track. Other studies have shown that gratitude leads to a significant improvement in happiness in people suffering from depression.

“If there were a drug that did that, whoever patented that drug would be rich. Gratitude is very powerful.”— cognitive scientist, Susan Peirce Thompson

Here are five simple and actionable ideas, to experience the benefits of gratitude first-hand;

Keep a gratitude journal

There’s nothing more uplifting when you’re feeling down then flicking back through the pages of a gratitude journal. One study at the University of Minnesota discovered that the stress levels of their participants greatly reduced after writing down all the good things that happened during the day before bed. Keep a journal by your bedside and simply write three things you’re grateful for morning and night.

Thank one person every day

Whether it’s the guy who served your morning coffee, or your friend for simply being your friend. This practice is even more potent when we make an effort to really feel our sentiment as we say it. Making a habit of thanking the people around us is said to develop more new friendships, enhance existing relationships and our feelings towards the people in our lives. The more we practice, the easier it is to feel gratitude well up inside each time we say thank you, instead of simply saying the words.

Give thanks before each meal

If we contemplate long enough on how the food we eat grows, along with all the processes that bought it from farm to plate, it leaves a lot to be grateful for. From the flavours and healing properties of the food we eat, to the people that worked hard to make sure we can easily access anything we need from the grocery store. Taking a moment to be grateful for these things before each meal is an effective reminder to make sure we continually practice gratitude throughout the day.

Oat and chia porridge with berry chia jam, coconut yoghurt & strawberries with a little maple syrup, made by Jess Ettridge of @mindful_moose served in our speckled eggshell everyday bowl.

Write down your moments of joy throughout the day

Maintaining a grateful attitude is habitual, so it can be easy to forget in the early stages of forming the habit. During days or weeks when the world seems grey, it can feel harder to recall all the good things. Keeping a journal to record these moments can help us remember the blissful times, particularly on those days where we need a bit of help. Intentionally being grateful also has a compound affect, leading to more positive experiences and more things to feel grateful for.

Wear a reminder

They say it takes 30 days for a new neural pathway to form in our minds and fire long enough that it becomes second nature. During that time, it takes special effort to solidify. Wearing a symbolic piece of jewellery, or doing something novel like painting one fingernail blue can act as a reminder while we’re in the process of making the habit.

One bowl: A guide to eating more mindfully

Mindfulness is fast becoming the antidote to stress for modern society and there’s many ways to practice it, from meditation, walking and even eating mindfully. Author Don Gerard shares a guide to eating mindfully through his book One Bowl, a concept intended to make people more aware of the food we eat, how and what we eat. The idea is to use a single bowl to eat all your meals for a period of time.

Buddha Bowls have become a popular menu item at healthy cafes in recent years, but the name was no accident. It’s a reference to a form of mindful eating called called Ōryōki, which was practiced in temples by Zen Buddhist monks. Similar to a Japanese tea ceremony, the multi sized lacquered wood bowls come wrapped in a cloth with various utensils, including a wiping cloth and chopsticks. They make a ceremony of eating this way, making sure to practice mindful presence and gratitude in the process.

Holding a Winterwares everyday day bowl

Why eat mindfully?

With so many things to distract ourselves and multi-task with (hello Netflix and Instagram), doing one thing at a time has become more important than ever. Even if you meditate early in the morning, your good work can quickly unravel after eating breakfast, lunch or dinner while intermittently staring at a phone screen.

Fragmented attention deprives the brain of all-important downtime, where we can fully switch off our minds and process the day. Scientists are calling it cerebral congestion and have found it reduces our ability to innovate and be productive. Eating is an opportunity to give ourselves the downtime we need to remain stress free and industrious.

Winterwares serving plate

How to practice Ōryōki at home

Practicing Ōryōki at home is simple and doesn’t require a formal ceremony like the Zen Buddhist do (unless you want to). Simply choose one bowl from which to eat when you’re at home for a period of time. It could be 30 days, or three years depending on how much you like it. It helps to have a beautiful ceramic handmade bowl that you love to eat from. Make an association with the bowl as your time for mindfulness. The key to practicing Ōryōki is in the name itself, which consists of three Sino-Japanese characters below;

応 ō represents your response to the gift of your food — a cue to reflect on your foods journey from farm to plate and to focus on tasting every bite (not just the first few).

量 ryō denotes the measure or amount received — imagine your empty bowl is the size of your hungry stomach and fill it to the level that you need to feel satisfied, eating just enough, but not too much. This helps you to become a more intuitive eater and being more in tune with how hungry you truly are and what foods you need on a particular day.

器 ki symbolises the bowl itself — whether we’re eating at our desk, or stress-eating through a meal, rushing to eat is common. ‘Ki’ encourages us to take time with our food, treating the act of eating as a ritual, rather than a chore. Notice the temperature and feel of the bowl in your hand and the aroma of the food. Having one bowl also gives a singular point to focus your attention. Make sure not to multitask and do one thing at a time.

A few of the surprising benefits of mindfulness:

  • Reduced stress and depressive symptoms
  • Boost in memory and focus
  • Better relationships
  • Less emotional reactivity
  • Increased energy
  • Improved general health

Things to note

This is a practice and at first you might feel like rushing through it. It’s important not to judge yourself when you feel like this, it’s all a practice. Start with one meal a day until the practice becomes more effortless and grounding for you.

 

Images above include Winterwares Everyday Bowl & Everyday Deep Bowl