Ten Reasons Everyone Needs a Digital Detox

8-Minute Read

Did you know that most young adults check their smart phone every 15 minutes? And that Instagram was rated as the worst social platform for its negative impact on our mental health? It’s a scary thought to think that we’re literally scrolling our lives and wellbeing away.

We truly believe a change is needed. People need to be more aware on how often they pick up their phone. If you wake up with Facebook and get easily distracted from all the tweets, pings and push notifications, it may be time for a digital detox.

It has been scientifically proven that refraining from using technology is extremely beneficial for your physical, emotional and mental health. Find out why we should reduce our tech-time and discover 10 reasons to have a digital detox.

TEN BENEFITS OF A DIGITAL DETOX

Reduce Stress

Tech overload causes anxiety, stress, and generally isn’t very good for your mental health. Push notifications, the need to instantly reply to messages, comparing yourself to others online, work emails after hours.. The digital world is increasing our stress levels, and chances are it’ll only get worse. Even if you don’t reply to a notification immediately, the fact that you know it’s waiting for you is a distraction on its own. Embrace a digital detox in the evening or on your weekends and allow yourself to fully unwind and reset.

Increase Productivity and Creativity

According to a study at Harvard Business School, multi-media tasking lowers our creativity and productivity. If you have less stress, you can concentrate better and your creativity will improve. Stepping away from a project you feel stuck on is the best thing you can do. Go for a walk or meditate for ten minutes. Your mind will clear itself of all the clutter and make space for new thoughts. Before you know it, a lightbulb moment presents itself.

Recharge your Brain

A digital detox allows you to slow down, unwind and fully switch off. You can’t give your brain a reboot when you are constantly distracted by email overload and feel you have to stay ‘in the loop’ all the time.

Improved Sleep Quality

Besides creating general restlessness and telling your brain to ‘stay awake’, the blue wavelengths from your screens can mess with your melatonin production (the sleep hormone), resulting in less shut-eye. Bedrooms should have a strict ‘no-phones’ policy. Try to use an actual alarm clock instead of your phone, and avoid screen time after 7pm.

Better Physical Health

We usually talk about the effects of mobile phone usage on our mental health. But what about our physical wellbeing? Hunching forward and leaning over your desk, looking down on your phone and too much screen time will have its repercussions. Nobody wants a text neck, a bad back or eye strain. A tech-free period will give your body a well-deserved break. Take it.

Improve Relationships

Let’s be honest. How often do you and your partner/parents/housemate have dinner in front of the TV? Do you sometimes feel ‘too busy’ to listen to their stories and needs? Taking a break from your digital devices will allow you to reconnect with your family and friends (in real life!). Spending more time with loved ones is important for our energy and mood levels.

Reduce Depression and Anxiety

Heavy internet usage has been linked to depression. And apparently, anxiety increases when our mobile phone usage increases. Looking at your friend’s perfect life, the constant fear you’re missing out, having less social interaction. All of this has been associated with increased restlessness, anxiety and unhappiness. There is a life to be lived in the real world. And unfortunately it’s a short one, so make every moment count.

Feel Happier

Following on from the point above, a digital detox will make you feel happier. A bold statement, we know! Spending more time online can make you feel socially isolated as you have less connection with real humans. And more interesting, a study at Nottingham Trent University in the UK discovered that one-third of the messages we receive on our phone worsens our mood.. So why are we so eager to receive them??

Mental Clarity

Taking a digital detox gives you the ability to refocus. With so many pings and notifications, your poor brain probably has 17 ‘tabs’ open at the same time. Multi-tasking is a myth. Rather than completing one task, you end up with 17 unfinished ones. A digital detox allows you to regain mental clarity so you can give each project the attention it deserves.

Free Up Time

Less time online, more time to do the things you never have ‘time’ for.. Or at least don’t feel rushed when you’re doing them!

Read a book, write a book, cuddle your pet, be creative, play a board game, talk to your partner, do yoga, meditate, play a card game, be mindful, start a business, do a study, catch up with a friend, listen to music, walk in the park, bake a cake, daydream about your next holiday, do some painting, pottery, make jewellery.. You get the idea.

By Sab at Retreat Here
Original Article Here

What It’s Like to be a Power Living Yoga Studio Manager

With Courtney Nault of Power Living Studios

It’s a crisp, fresh morning in the heart of Manly Beach, a beach town residing just a 15-minute ferry ride from Sydney’s CBD. I’m excited for my first interview with Courtney Nault, studio manager and yogi-extraordinaire.

The best yoga studios are the ones where you walk in and feel like you’re already home; when the people behind the desk greet you like an old friend, and remember your name when you return. And that is exactly what I’ve experienced at Power Living. Founded in 2004 by Duncan Peak, the studio was the first of its kind, solely teaching Vinyasa flow yoga. Since then, they’ve established 9 studios, one being in Manly and managed soulfully by Courtney Nault herself.

A traveler at heart, Massachusetts’ born Nault has been “on the road” since 2008. When we sat down to chat, she was actually celebrating her 2-year anniversary of moving to Manly Beach. Her fiancé is an Australian and actually from Manly, so it seemed only fitting they would choose this place as their home. For now.

In what can only be considered a blessing too sweet to surpass, it was Power Living Studio that inspired Nault to plant roots in Manly. In fact, it was one of her very first stops after flying into the Sydney airport two years ago.

Of course, this is because Nault is an avid yogi. She joined her first yoga class in San Diego, and was instantly hooked. All over the world she has practiced and taught. Prior to Australia, she was teaching yoga to children in Thailand. And when she arrived in Manly Beach, Power Living seemed to just be waiting for her.

​“The day I moved here, it was so cold and rainy. had moved from Phuket, where it was the warmest of warm water, and the bluest skies. I was so unhappy. I probably Googled flights home at least twice a day, considering going back. I walked into the studio. It was a really busy class, and they said to come back when you’re ready to practice. The next morning, I had jet lag and woke up at 5am. So, I went to a class, with the studio manager teaching. She was so pleasant and I absolutely loved her. If I hadn’t found that connection with people, that search for the flight home would have become an actual booked flight home.” – Courtney Nault

Over the course of her two years at Power Living, she has taken her 200-Hr teacher certification, and now become studio manager. Truly her home, she finds she has to remind herself to stay away on her days off… Or at least not start in on her To Do list when she comes in for a practice.And what a To Do list Nault has right now. Getting married in San Diego later this year, she is planning a long-distance wedding, running a yoga studio with 2,000 bodies per week, and in her free time spending time training at a local gymnastics studio, rock climbing, spending time in the kitchen baking, and keeping up with her own yoga practice. Oh, and spending time with her fiancé, of course.

Q: What is it like to run a studio that is as busy as Power Living Manly?

A: I mean, it’s amazing. I walk into that studio every day with a huge smile on my face. I feel so grateful to be there. But at the same time, I have to step back because I get caught up in the littlest things. It’s so good, because for me it was the change I wanted. When I went for this job, I was teaching the same lessons to kids (7 classes per day) and it felt a bit monotonous. And then I get here and there is no monotony. You have to let it go that you know what’s going to happen any given day. While also having a skeleton to work from.
To compare, I was going to a studio in Thailand for three years; it was a very boutique studio. ​You practiced on their mats; there were two towels rolled up on each mat, they mopped the floor and mats between each class because they had only four classes per day on their schedule. So, in contrast, when I first started working at Power Living, there was a To Do list with essentially tasks every 15 minutes, because your time flies by here and there is just so much going on.Sometimes I’ll get in at noon and I teach the 8pm class, and I’ll look at the time and think, “How is it already 5 o’clock?” There are days when you are so busy, you have to be OK with that, knowing that you have the same thing coming at you tomorrow.​

Q: Had you worked in a yoga studio prior to this?

A: No. I did property management back in the States, and I worked at a camp. But this was my first studio job.

Q: Are you responsible for retaining new clients, and how do you do so? 

A: Essentially the first time a person walks into that studio, it can be intimidating, especially if you’ve never practiced yoga. Everyone seems to already know what they’re doing. My job as studio manager is to prepare the educators [the people at the front desk] to make that first visit as smooth as possible.
So, they come on a buddy pass. They come in with a friend, or they do a drop-in. Most teachers are really good at connecting with them after to see how it went. I always recommend a Level 1 class to someone who’s never practiced yoga. After that, we educate the new person by telling them about our intro pass (1 month unlimited for $49 AUD). It’s important they know it takes about 10 yoga classes to really know what you’re doing.We call them after about a week to see how they are doing, and make sure they know their options. If they’re on an intro pass, we like to check in about half way through and look at the classes they’ve done. Have they tried the vinyasa and the yin classes? The balance between them is so important. And some people get stuck on Level 1 classes, but there are not as many Level 1 classes on our schedule. So, we like to encourage them to attend a Level 2, letting them know it’s not that scary!So, that’s what we are doing to make people become more committed; to acknowledge people for practicing yoga. Because that’s really what I want. I just want more people practicing yoga, because I know what it does for you.I’m part of someone’s first class through their intro until they’re members. I have people that have been members since I started, and I’ve watched their practice and confidence evolve. To be a part of someone’s change like that, that’s why I’m here, that’s why I do it. To support it and witness it.​

​Q:
 Do you have goals you have to hit as a studio manager?
A: We have goals like any successful growing business. In order to keep the business and community growing, the goals are there to get people doing more yoga.
It’s interesting because in the fitness industry, it is becoming more buffet style. That’s why we offer the new freedom pass. It allows a no-contract but unlimited practice. You can cancel at any time with a 14-day notice. With that pass, it allows people to feel less stuck to one studio. We also offer the 10-class pass. A few years ago, a membership was the only ​option, and our targets were based on that. But like ​anything, you have to evolve and make sure the people we are serving are getting what they need.

Q: ​How do you balance your many hats?

A: Whenever I’m about to switch roles from studio manager to yoga teacher for example, I have a really awesome coach who once told me, “Do something. Whether or not it’s going upside down for a minute, or going in the back room and taking three mindful breaths, do something to switch off.” So that’s something I’m working on. It’s going really well.For me, the way I balance it is having support in those different aspects. For example, I have the person that helps me with my teaching and sits me down and holds me accountable there. I have the regional manager that helps me with my studio manager role. Etc.

Q: What is your favorite class to teach?
A: It’s probably my Level 1 class. There are people that have been practicing yoga for years, and some that are stepping into class for their very first time.
For me, the classes are challenging in the sense I need to make sure everyone is practicing yoga for longevity, and not bringing harm on themselves. It’s a class to dive deep, and find out what they’re confused about in their practice. It’s very much about getting them into their body so they feel aware enough to advance to a Level 2 class. To watch someone evolve, it’s awesome!

Q: I read in your profile that your favorite pose is Ardha Chandrasana [half moon] pose. Would you still stay that is your favorite?
A: For me, that pose is the most expansive you can get your body while still staying grounded. Whenever a teacher says, “Open to Ardha Chandrasana,” I’m like yes! I get as big as I can, sometimes even forgetting the alignment! You can sort of turn off in other poses. But for me in Ardha Chandrasana, I’m there, ever present.

Q: How do you connect with your fiancé with your busy schedule?

A: He unfortunately tends to be the one that suffers the most. Because I commit to all these things! But he always says, “Go ahead, Court.” He’s definitely the most understanding. He won’t fire me. I like to be busy, but he also knows when to call me out. “Court, slow down… Stop doing your 6am trainings when you’re teaching until 10pm.”  I also come home and find he has made my lunch and dinner. He’s amazing.We love to travel together. We went to Canberra this past weekend. There’s more things like that, like planning a wedding. That in itself is hanging out!

Q: Is drinking alcohol a part of your lifestyle?

A: I don’t drink a lot but when I do, I get really excited! I love live music. There’s something amazing about having a craft beer while watching live music. I’m flirting with wine. In the States, I never would drink wine. I had red wine once and I put ice in it and Greg was like, “You can’t do that. You just drink it room temperature.” OK… So, I don’t drink wine much. When I go out, I usually order beer because it’s bigger and lasts longer!What truly inspires me about Nault is her unequivocal desire to create a strong community. When asked if she would consider being featured for my blog, there was absolutely no hesitation and in fact managed to compliment me and my blog on her quick reply. She thrives on supporting and uplifting the community that surrounds her, making her a truly fantastic studio manager and wonderful person, from the inside out.
I love the support I have from the other yoga teachers. Our teachers are amazing, and they see you. There can be up to 60 people in a room, but they’re still looking. They’re teaching for longevity, and not just for the moment. We have the head office in Manly studio. It’s amazing to watch the marketing team do what they’re doing, and the programs team do what they’re doing.”  – Courtney Nault
From her bright smile to her funky spirit, Nault is truly a treasure on and off the mat.

A New Way to Think about Being Compassionate to Others

Oh, that’s the alarm. Oh, I’m so thirsty. Did I drink enough water last night? Mmm. Water’s so tasty. Time to check my phone. Notifications. Who texted me after 10pm? Oh good, it’s not bad news. Woo hoo! 20 new friends on Instagram! I’ll check Facebook, too. Why do I always have 20 notifications in Facebook when there’s nothing actually new to see? OK, I guess it’s time to get out of bed. Am I going to the gym today or yoga class? I can’t remember. Oh right, it’s the gym today. I really don’t feel like putting on a sports bra…

Those were my thoughts this morning in the first minute I was awake. Imagine how many thoughts I’ve had since then. I’ve thought about whether or not I’m working out hard enough at the gym, I’ve gone to the grocery store and bought items to make a protein powder pancake breakfast and some homemade trail mix. I’ve thought about my business Girl Friday Studio and what new photos I want to post on my Instagram. I’ve taken a shower, I’ve thought about this post, I’ve thought about…You get the point.

So, let’s talk about you. You’ve had 50,000 thoughts today. I’m not even kidding. This is the average amount a human being thinks in just one day.

You’ve had thoughts that have turned into actions. You’ve had thoughts that have turned into emotions or were stemmed from emotions. You’ve had thoughts related to your interactions. You’ve done your part to contribute to your community, family and friends. Let’s say you have been on this Earth for exactly 30 years (happy birthday, by the way). This means you’ve been in existence and contributed to this world for 10,950 days. That is a lot of days, a lot of stories, thoughts and contributes to this world!

You have loved. You have cried and you have laughed. You have been joyful, you have been sad. You’ve had a Mother and a Father, you’ve perhaps been a sister or brother, been a mother or father, a lover or a friend, and you’ve been a teacher (whether you know it or not, it’s true). You have changed the lives of the people around you just by interacting with them.

Do you get how important you are in this world? Do you see how special your time on this Earth has been? If you haven’t thought about it, just take a moment to feel how big you are in this world. How special you are. Because why? Because you have lived. You have had 50,000 thoughts every day and every single one makes you special and have led you to who you are today

So now (yes, right now), I want you to think about the person in your life who is the most important to you (besides yourself, no cheating). For me, I immediately think of my husband (and then I see people in the background like my Mom and Dad, my brother, my friends, all waving their hands like, “Here I am, too!”). In your mind’s eye, think of that one person. And then realize that there are 50,000 thoughts going through his (I say “his” but, you insert whatever gender, if any, this person may be) mind per day. Think about the interactions this person has had just today that you probably don’t even know about. Think about the interactions this person has had in his life. It’s impossible to truly know in detail what this person experiences, but you know his life is special, right? Simply because we just did this exercise for you, and now we know how big you are in this world, and now you realize how big your person is, too.

Now think of your neighbor. I know very little about mine. I know he’s in his mid-40s. I know he has a girlfriend who has a cute dog. I know they like takeaway coffee on Saturday mornings. But that is pretty much all. But then I think about the 50,000 thoughts per day rule and suddenly I’m in awe. He has a life. A gorgeous, amazing life that is full of thoughts and stories. And he is just as big as me, and just as big as my husband.

Now think of a stranger living in the city or town next to you. Same thought process. You don’t even know what this person looks like. But you know they have stories; full of love, laughter, tears and emotion. And they matter. They matter as much as you do.

If you continue down this path of recognition, there is suddenly empathy for the entirety of the human race. Each and every single person is big and has so many stories to tell. So many stories. Each person you pass in the street is living a full and complete life. You may not know their stories (how could you, truly) but you know they have them.

A lot of times this thought process leads many people to feel small. But, this is exactly the opposite of what I want you to think. You are not small in this world. You are big. You have 50,000 thoughts in a day, you have interactions with your community that shift it (whether you recognize it or not), and you matter to this world. You matter to me, you matter to your family, your loved ones, your friends, your community, your work, and your world.

With this new thought process in mind, can you go into your daily life with empathy? Can you love your fellow humans in the recognition that they also have stories behind their eyes? That they are just as big as you (not smaller, not bigger) in this world?

When we as humans recognize that separately we are big, but together we are massive, this world shines with the most compassionate love this Universe has to offer.

How to Not Let Others Control Your Self-Worth

It’s time to shine, you legends. How many times in your life have you thought you’re too…something?

  • Too loud.
  • Too strong.
  • Not feminine enough.
  • Not masculine enough.
  • Too quiet.
  • Too successful.
  • Too smart.
  • Too dumb.
  • The list goes on…

There is something going on here that is so much deeper. Here’s how: From a young age, we oftentimes equate our self-worth to how others see us, rather than how we see our own self. Ironically, the way you see others is always through your own lens; a reaction from your own life experiences, emotions and cognition. It’s truly never about the other person; it’s how you react to their action that makes it so.

So, jump back to how we let our self-worth be affected by how we assume others see us. You are actually projecting your own lens onto them. Hence, your self-worth is something that is always and fully controlled by you. No other person in this world has the power to make you feel less then. There are people that will try. There are people that have self-worth issues and want you to get on their level of self-doubt. But you don’t have to let them. Your lens (think of it as a camera) in which you see the world is your ability to control what you see: when to let the light in, when to shade it out, when to point your lens at something else, and when to zoom.

What if you were to take one moment today to just be unapologetically YOU. In your mind’s eye, picture that face, or that sea of faces that you always have thought were the culprits. See them? Him? Her? Now re-evaluate if it was ever about them, or if perhaps it is where your lens is currently aiming. Then say to them through your lens, “I am unapologetically ME.” And then turn on the rose-colored filter because life is prettier that way, anyway. ​

Why Turning 30 is Way More Awesome Than You Think

I watched a Friends episode recently (surprise, surprise) and it was called The One Where They All Turn 30. If you haven’t seen the episode, it’s pretty self-explanatory. Rachel is turning 30, and so all of the Friends cast has flashbacks to when they also had turned 30. The general theme is “Why God, why?” and “Can’t I just stay 29?!” 

The first time I watched this episode was well before I turned 30. And I remember agreeing with them, and even thinking how old they must feel. Essentially, I agreed with them.

And then I turned 30.

And I discovered the secret.

Turning 30 isn’t terrible at all. In fact, it is downright amazing.

I bet you would agree with me when I say that every age I have been, I had the thought, “I can’t imagine being 10 years older than this.” When I was 6, I thought 16-year-olds were incredibly fascinating and mature. When I turned 16 (far be it much less mature than I thought it would feel), I thought 26 sounded like the age I would have everything figured out. And if you’re older than 26, you probably know that wasn’t the case!

We live our lives skeptical of our future years, and judging others if they are at that older age already. We also always think that we are wise and at the perfect age, until you turn a year older. Sure enough, the years keep coming. It’s easy to want to battle against them, and the age 30 seems like an appropriate age to feel like you’re officially “old”.

But the best part is when you turn 30, the secret is… you don’t feel old! You actually start to feel like your life has just begun. Here’s why:

You actually have money to spend.

No more Peanut Butter and tortilla wraps and Top Ramen, no more questioning if you can afford a $15 glass of wine, and no more flatmates.

Insecurities shift and lessen.

When I was in my 20s, I would say my insecurities were at an all-time high. At least in my teens, I could act out on my insecurities like a hormonal teenager and get away with it (sort of). In my 20s, I had to act like an adult and frankly, try to suppress all of those insecurities that were still in me. When you’re in your 30s, you start to worry less about what others think about you, and more about what you think of you. You are actually aware of those insecurities in yourself, which lessens their power over you.

You have more freedom to live your life.

You feel less bound to your parents, and can focus more than your own growth and exploration.

You’re taken more seriously.

No, seriously. In your career, you’ll notice those that are older than you will actually start to take you seriously in your 30s. In your 20s, you are (sadly) considered a newbie with no experience. In your 30s, it starts to feel like your early wrinkles are playing to your advantage.  Wrinkles, score!

You’re actually happy.

2012 survey conducted in Britain indicated that 70% of people over age 40 didn’t consider themselves to be happy until age 33.

Staying at home doesn’t make you a loser.

It makes you smart. And ready for a beautiful hike or adventure on Sunday mornings (as opposed to a hangover).

Your holidays get even better.

You have more money to spend on your vacations, which means more luxury and awesome places. Byebye, backpack.

You actually have a cool furniture.

OK, maybe it’s still from Ikea. But it’s totally the step up collection away from dorm room status.

You enjoy doing the dishes.

You realize you are actually doing household chores to make you love your space, not because your parents or flatmates asked you to.

You stop worrying about the little things.

You notice that time is speeding up, and each year passes more quickly. So, there’s no point wasting time not being happy.

What did you notice when you turned 30? What stands out as being positive? Or, let’s be honest… negative?

Weight Gain and Road Rage: This is Real Life Yogi Confessions

Confession time.

For years, I was nervous to call myself a “true yogi”. I was afraid if I proclaimed it loudly enough, that the real yogi’s would hear me and the worst thing would happen to me (not that I even fully asked myself what that would entail?). After all, I ate meat, and (gasp) I drank wine, and participated in so many other things that this modern society offers to us that just doesn’t feel “yogi” enough.

And yet, I showed up on my mat almost daily, I practiced mindfulness and kindness, and I studied and spent the time to become a yoga teacher. I started to question why I was so afraid to be me, exactly as I was. That I could practice yoga and still enjoy other activities that make me just as happy, and balanced. So guess what? I started calling myself a yogi. And I started working on being unapologetic for also calling myself a wino. And a Netflix binge-watcher. And a music lover. And a frozen yogurt feen. Because perhaps then, I could start finding my peeps. You know, like those people who love to be healthy and active but also can stuff 4 cookies in their mouth at once? Yeah, those are my people.

Here’s a compilation of 5 yogis who weren’t afraid to share their confessions, either. Each of them sways a little from the yogi tracks and I love them all the more for it. I hope you do, too.

The witty author of this post made me giggle and nod emphatically at the similarities that we so closely share. Like yelling at drivers, and not always listening to her body. I bet you’ll find similarities, as well!

Confessions of a (Temporarily Fat) Yogi

about Trina Hall
Really interesting read (and video!) about this yogi who purposely gained weight after talking with another yoga instructor friend about weight issues. She learns some amazing lessons along the way.

Quirky new Instagram account takes yoga off the mat and into the real world
about Jordan Berger

This guy is actually one of my favorite yoga instructors at my home yoga studio, Power Living! He teaches yoga and also works for an alcohol company; doesn’t get more “balanced” than that! Check out his crazy awesome photos on Instagram of yogis in the real world, doing their thang.

Confessions from a Stiff Yogi

by Ricardia Bramley
What immediately drew me to this article was that she was a gymnast growing up (like myself). Being inflexible is something that deters so many people from trying yoga. But let me ask you this: would you not go to school because you can’t read? Go to yoga and practice your flexibility. Or, just show up to yoga and do what you can, flexibility shmexibility! You’ll be the same as 96% of the people in your class.

5 of the Most Creative and Unusual Yoga Trends
by Elise Moreau

I had to throw this one in here, because I am a huge fan of people who push the boundaries and create something new from an old(er) idea. Like Doga. Yep, Doga!

The Inside Scoop on what it’s like as an American Expat Living in Australia

Three months ago, my husband and I got rid of most of our belongings, packed  our suitcases and moved across the world to Australia. I must have scoured hundreds of websites to figure out what to expect. What should I bring? What should I leave behind?

To preface this, my husband and I are both pretty tech savvy (he’s worked in the tech industry for the past 10 years, and I make a living via an online business). We live a healthy and balanced lifestyle. We both stay active regularly, enjoy eating nutritious food, and love binge-watching Netflix in the evening over a glass of wine. So umm…pretty normal.

If you’re anything like us, this is perhaps what you can expect as an American with plans to move to Australia, or vice versa as an Australian moving to America. This blog post also applies if you are already an American expat living in Australia because frankly, this is a moment where we can bond over our frustrations and excitement living in this beautiful country. Last but not least, you may also love this blog post if you’re just darn curious what the heck it’s like for some person to pack up all of their belongings and move to another country!

THINGS I MISS BEING AN AMERICAN IN AUSTRALIA

The other biscuit

Much to an American’s surprise, a biscuit here is actually a cookie. Think sugar and flour and yumminess. Yep! Much to my dismay, you won’t find (American) biscuits anywhere. What you may find are scones, which are similar to (American) biscuits. However, you will not find biscuits and gravy.

Driving (and walking) on the left side

I was nervous about moving here and having to drive on the left side of the road. But I figured I wouldn’t be driving, so it wouldn’t be too bad. What I didn’t realize is that people also walk on the left side of the sidewalk. Back home, you might not even realize it but, we totally favor the right side of the sidewalk. Therefore, it only makes sense that Australians favor the left side of the sidewalk. And let me tell you, walking in the Sydney CBD (that’s “downtown”) at 5PM on a Friday will make you get it right quick.​ I mean, left quick. 😉

Amazon

Oh, Amazon. How I miss you. It’s not that you can’t get items shipped to you here. But, there is no Prime 1-day or 2-day shipping here. Sometimes you do get lucky and get your package delivered in 1 or 2 days, and it’s always really exciting when that happens.

Starbucks

Guess what? Australians are addicted to coffee. And it’s not Starbucks. When I first moved, I was looking for familiarity (and free wi-fi) and I was shocked that there wasn’t a Starbucks on every corner. Apparently, Starbucks tried to make it happen but, haven’t had much success yet. And on the note of free wi-fi, Starbucks here also have free wi-fi, but you have to type in a PW they give you at the counter and, you are limited on the Gigs you can use before they cut you off, circa 2008.

High-Speed Wifi

Speaking of wi-fi… The Airbnb we stayed in when we first moved to Sydney told us we had 1GB of data we could use per day. Hello, I use that much before my morning tea! And it was so incredibly slow; I couldn’t download a photo while I was streaming a show. It was connected to a phone line; They call it ADSL. When we moved to our new home in Manly Beach, I thought, “No matter what, we are getting high-speed unlimited wi-fi; I don’t care how much it costs.” Well, it turns out it is expensive and actually really hard to obtain. Everyone, and I mean (mostly) everyone, just accepts that ADSL is standard. Circa 2008. But we put our foot down and found the one company that offered cable internet (Telstra), paid an arm and a leg to get it installed, and now I’m thinking about running a side hustle where I offer high-speed wi-fi to anyone who is interested (or desperate) to have legit wi-fi.

Expensive Beer and Liquor

Beer and liquor is so expensive. I am talking about imported and local. If you go out to drink, you will more than likely pay $18-$30 AUD for a cocktail (that’s about $13-$22 USD). There are good deals during the week, so don’t you worry! As for beer, you can’t easily find a decent 6-pack of beer for under $18 AUD (that’s about $13 USD). Luckily, you can usually find deals for beers when you go out to bars and restaurants. And the best news? There is so much good local wine, and totally reasonable.

Opposite Seasons

Although there is something pretty neat about experiencing a warm North-facing view and seeing the water spin counter-clockwise, I have to say watching friends from back home in the States bathing in sunlight on a boat while we deal with our second winter in a row, is sort of well, miserable. Granted, Sydney winter is a ton more mellow than a Seattle winter, but there’s something to be said about enjoying four seasons in a row…Having two winters in a row was just tough. That said, the build-up for summer is AMAZING. I am so friggin’ excited for a Sydney summer at the beach!

Mexican Food

This is a cuisine that is almost unheard of here. Luckily, Mexican restaurants have been popping up slowly (we have a Mexican restaurant within walking distance called Chica Bonita). However, I would say that it just hasn’t tasted the same. Also, you can’t purchase fresh pico de gallo at the grocery store. Argh.

Hot Sauce

Did you know that Sriracha only showed up in Australia a couple years ago? My expat Canadian friend told me this, and I was so thankful we showed up after it arrived! In general, the flavor “spicy” is not a thing here (unless you’re talking Thai food).. You ask for hot sauce at pretty much any restaurant, and they give you a blank stare or a really old questionable bottle of some no-name sauce you’re not sure of. Australians just don’t know spicy like Americans do.

Alaska Air, Southwest, and Virgin America

What I’m getting at is, if you fly domestic in Australia, you have very limited choices. You either have Qantas or Virgin Australia, which are exceptionally expensive. Or, you have a plethora of extremely cheap airlines, such as Jet Star and Tiger Air. Your flight price will look reasonable, but then they charge you for everything. To assign yourself a seat, you have to pay $15. To bring two carry-ons over 7kg (about 15lbs), you also have to pay. To drink their water on board, you have to pay. It’s ridiculous! Alaska Air, where are you? I miss you!

THINGS I LOVE AS AN AMERICAN LIVING IN AUSTRALIA

Tim Tams and Tea

Australians may not have good Mexican food but, they have Tim Tams and Tea (The Tim Tam Slam) and it’s about the best thing I’ve ever eaten. It sounds like Target in the States now has Tim Tams! I’m sure you can also find them at World Market. Make sure you follow the tutorial. The first time I tried it, I had been instructed by an Australian but, she wasn’t with me when I actually did it. I totally bombed the experience. The second time I did it? Nailed it, and Oh. My. God.

Australian Accent

Because I am totally in love with the way Australians talk! You know what’s funny? The American accent stands out to me now. I smile really big when I hear the American accent somewhere around me, because it feels a bit more like home. We also hang out with some British expats and it’s safe to say I love the way they talk just as much as I love the way Australians talk. One funny note is that many Australians have said that when they were younger, they wished they could talk like “the people in the movies and TV shows” talked. But it seems that as they’ve gotten older, they’ve lost interest in having the American accent. Don’t know what that’s about, sheesh.

Free Range Eggs

You know when you pay $12 at a farmer’s market in America so you can get truly free-range eggs that have really fluorescent yellow yolks so you know they’re good and delicious? Yeah, that’s all eggs here. You go to your local grocery store, and you’d be hard-pressed to find an egg short of brilliant yellow.

Biscuits

Because yes, biscuits are cookies here, and I love cookies.

Koalas, Kangaroos and Penguins

There’s something so special about finally for the first time in a lifetime meeting these “exotic” animals I never thought I’d meet outside of the zoo.

BYO (Bring Your Own)

OK, this one is sort of funny because it does technically exist in the States. As in, you go to a restaurant and bring a bottle of wine and pay a corkage fee. However, the first time we went to a restaurant here that served BYO, there was something so novelty about it. Most places charge less than $3 PP to bring your own bottle. Our new favorite thing to do is pick up our favorite bottle of $8 McGuigan‘s Red and go out for Thai food.

Public Toilets

You know how in the States, you rarely use a public bathroom? Here it is totally normal and there are actually a ton of them. The ones in the CBD are a bit sketch (after you use them, you close the door, and then it sprays the entire inside with some antibacterial mist) but, if you’re in a pinch, there’s actually options here.

Wine Bottle Screw Tops

Pretty much every (good) bottle of wine in the States has a cork, not a screw. And in fact, I would argue that the belief is that screw top wines aren’t as good. Here in Australia, it’s the exact opposite. We have seen exactly one wine bottle with a cork, and perhaps hundreds (ahem) of wine bottles with a screw top. And I haven’t missed the act of trying to track down a wine opener one bit.

Free Coin Exchange

In the States, you have to use Coinstar to get rid of coins, unless you want to spend hours stacking coins into those round wrappers. Am I right?! Here in Australia, banks have coin counting machines and they are free. This is probably because Australians have a $2 coin, which really adds to how many coins you get when you spend cash. Oh and speaking cash, there are still a ton of places that are Cash Only. WTF.

The Weather

We live in Sydney, so we can really only speak to here. But let me just tell you, Sydney is amazing. We literally live on a whitewashed beach (I believe San Diego would be the closest example in the States, or perhaps Key West), and my husband Jason takes a ferry to the CBD everyday. We have only experienced the Sydney winter and it’s been between 17-25 degrees Celsius everyday (that’s 64-80 degrees Fahrenheit). There have been rainstorms and they only last for minutes at a time. The summer is supposed to be amazing with 25 degrees or higher everyday.

Coffee

I had to include this one as an ode to my husband Jason and pretty much every Australian. I don’t drink caffeine (health reasons), so I’m the odd woman out. Australians love their coffee and are actually very picky about it. You don’t find much automatic coffee machines over here; they love drip. Jason is an avid coffee drinker and his drink of choice is a Long Black.

Here’s some other interesting facts that didn’t make the top 10, but still you might now know about Australia. I only found these out when I moved here!

  • At a restaurant, an appetizer is actually called an “entrée”. You call your entrée a “main” here.
  • Screens on windows and doors are very uncommon here. So are double-paned windows. Ironic for a place full of insects and critters, isn’t it?
  • To convert to Fahrenheit, you multiply the Celsius by two, and then add 30 (ex: 20 degrees Celcius x 2 = 40 + 30 = 70 degrees Fahrenheit). It’s not exact but, it’s close enough.
  • There are wild cockatoos here. They look exactly like your neighbor’s exotic cockatoo. But they’re wild and hang out on your balcony.
  • Cilantro is called Coriander here, and Bell Pepper is called Capsicum here.
  • At a restaurant, you say “Take away” instead of “To go”. They actually look at your funny if you say the latter.
  • Clothes dryers are really uncommon! Clotheslines are like, normal here.

What are some things you have discovered as an expat? Or were surprised by in this post? Comment below and help me expand the Balance + Vine community!

How to experience freedom in your own life

“May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.”  – Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu, Yoga mantra

It is Independence Day in America, and it was Independence Day for Canada just this past weekend. As a recent expat from America now residing in Australia, this is the first time I am deeply aware of my roots. Call it homesickness, I am reflecting upon what it means to be celebrating this day of Independence from literally the other side of the world. And what it means to celebrate freedom.

What does it mean to be free? And how do we ourselves enjoy the same freedom as America (and other countries) celebrate? Because I don’t know about you, but I often feel chained. Do you feel chained to a job, to a home, or to a lifestyle or habit perhaps? Sometimes I very much feel held back by limitations in this world.Although being held back may feel external, I know that the shackles holding me are actually very much internal. Because what is actually holding us back from our freedom, from our power, from our celebration is what binds us inside. And it’s not the job, it’s not the home, or the lifestyle or habit; what binds us is not necessarily the external factor, but really is our reaction to it.

So how we do rise above the shackles? Dig deep. We first must figure out what we are bound to. Because it more than likely is not the job, the home or the lifestyle or habit. It’s usually something deeper. Ask yourself, are you bound to fear? Are you bound to not feeling good enough? Do you feel shackled to feeling unloved?

Therein lies our freedom. To discover what binds us, become aware of how it plays into our world, and moment by moment, thought by thought, think of ways to overcome it.

One way to overcome it is by projecting into the world what you feels binds you. For instance, in my own life, I feel shackled by never feeling good enough. I fear putting myself out there in a big way, because I greatly fear that I will be criticized and told I’m not good enough to shine. This is a huge realization for me. Perhaps this may awaken a realization in you or, perhaps what binds you (if at all) is something different. But what I recognize is that because I feel not good enough, I’m going to do everything in my power to help others recognize they are good enough. To shine a spotlight on them and let them know how important they are in this world, how good they are in this world. Because perhaps if I see it in others, then I can start to see it in myself.

This works with anything, truly. “May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.

​Are you chained to the fear of not having enough money? Perhaps turn it around, and ask yourself, how can I help others feel secure financially? Donate or volunteer your time.

Are you chained to feeling unloved? Ask yourself, how can I love more? How can I project my own love into this world? Call someone up and tell them how much they mean to you. Write a love letter a day for a full year, to every person you know. Even celebrities, family members, friends, even enemies (a-ha!).

Are you scared of being lonely? Then help others feel less alone. Adopt a pet, call a friend you haven’t talked to in some time, or chat it up with a person sitting alone during your lunch break.

Above all else, remember that you internally choose your freedom. Freedom doesn’t choose us. We as individuals have the power to be free within our own minds. We just have to become aware of what truly binds us, and from there we can choose to free ourselves of it.

Shine bright.

Your Freedom: Between Stimulus and Response

This past week was unique for me. The last blog post I wrote talked about the balance between sthira and sukha (strength and ease), and in honor of that awareness, I chose to take a step back from my go-go-go lifestyle. I made sure to meditate every day, attended yoga and relax with a book at least once a day. On the weekend, I focused mostly on having fun, enjoying the company of my husband and friends, and yes, drinking wine.

But here’s the ironic part. There wasn’t actually that much that changed externally. The activities I just described are pretty common occurrences for me. But what did change was my reaction and response to the activities.

Because of my new awareness to make sure to find “ease” in my day-to-day, I responded to the ease differently. Which made it that much more enjoyable. Instead of relaxing with a heavy feeling of stress because I was thinking about the next project or the thing I had to get done, I chose to react differently and instead responded with tenderness and love for my body and mind.

If you don’t know about Victor Frankl, he was an Austrian psychiatrist and a Holocaust survivor. A Holocaust survivor, YES. He recognized that when the external world appears in front of us, it is not necessarily what is in front of us, but how we react to it that makes it what it is.

Think about that the next time a car cuts you off in the fast lane. Or what about when a friend or partner says something mean to you? Is there another response, another reaction you could see yourself choosing? That is our power. That is what makes humans unique. The ability to choose how we react to our external world.

I most certainly will never say there is not external stimuli in this world that doesn’t affect people negatively. I see the discrimination on the news, I hear about the violence happening, and my reaction is often sadness. At the same time, I must accept that I have the freedom to react differently; you have the freedom to react differently. Yes, you can choose sadness and you can choose hate, but you can also choose compassion and love. ​

How to Have a Successful Work from Home Day

“Working from home, I’ve got ideas in my head and a desire to succeed. But well, I also have Netflix.”

When I had my corporate Monday thru Friday 9 to 5 job, my favorite day of the week was Wednesday. Why, you ask? Because it was my work from home day!I loved every minute of it. I would sit on the couch in my pajamas, play Netflix in the background, and answer e-mails and generally be as lazy (physically, not mentally!) as possible.

When I quit my job in April 2016, I couldn’t believe that I got to make every day a work from home day. It was like a dream come true!

Little did I know working from home five days a week is a lot different than working from home one day a week. After just one week of designing from the couch, my back was in knots, my hand was getting arthritis, and I felt like the laziest bum on the planet.

If anything, this past year of being self-employed has taught me about how to work from home in a mindful and healthy way. In a culture where it is becoming more common to have work from home days, it is important to understand how you can make the most of these days, so that you are not only productive in your responsibilities but also taking care of yourself.

And no, I will not be suggesting naptime. Sorry. 🙂

Here are some tips and tricks I would recommend to anyone who has the opportunity to work from home. You could be self-employed, employed by a company, or even Moms and Dads who stay at home could perhaps learn some tips here!

Decide on a habitual schedule and stick to it

You don’t have to have a mundane same schedule every day. However, in general, I recommend choosing a morning ritual, as well as an active ritual.

  • Morning Ritual: For my own morning ritual, the first thing I do when I wake up is drink a glass of water. This is a great way to hydrate and give you energy first thing in the morning. I then brush my teeth, wash my face, and moisturize my skin. I eat a protein bar, change into my active clothes and head out the door for either yoga or running or [fill-in-the-blank] activity. When I return, I shower, get dressed and boil a cup of tea with honey to get my workday off to a great start.
  • Active Ritual: Getting active and sweaty helps you get out of the house at least once a day, and not to mention all of the other benefits of being active! I recommend choosing a few fitness classes a week that you like to go to. If you choose M, W, and F at 7:30am, then hold yourself accountable to those times.

Shower Everyday

This can be more important than you even realize. Showering gives you a fresh (pun intended) perspective on your day. Being clean makes you feel more presentable. One big callout: waiting until 4pm so you shower before your partner comes home is not technically the same thing. 😉

Change out of your PJs

Believe me, I know how comfortable they are! Sometimes I still wear my PJs because they just feel so much better! However, I find that I always feel “less productive” on the days I wear PJs. It is a psychological shift from feeling cozy and introverted (ready for bed) versus feeling productive for your day.

Work from a Desk or Table

Again, I know how comfortable the couch is! However, there is a couple good reasons why this lowers your productivity and in general is tough on your health. First and foremost, most couches are not set up for you to have proper alignment in the spine. This leads to back, neck and shoulder pain. Also, if your computer, keyboard and mouse are sitting on/next to your lap, they are not set up for correct alignment. This can lead to wrist, hand and shoulder pain quite quickly. Boo! On top of that, if you are listening to background TV noise, I would argue that typing an e-mail is never worse than when you are listening to something else. I have gone back and read e-mails I wrote when I had Netflix on and, you would be amazed at the typos!

Drink Water

I am a firm believer in drinking water. That said, I always forget to drink water. Does this ever happen to you?! What I do to counteract this is, I have a 16 oz mug that I keep next to my computer (and me) at all times. When it is empty, I know that is the time to get up and fill it. No excuses. No e-mail or phone call is more important than water. I bet I have 30 more ounces of water per day just because of this simple habit.

Set your Alarm

This is sort of silly but, it works. Set your alarm or calendar to go off every 1-2 hours (depending on what feels best for you), and let it be a gentle reminder to get up and do something else. Even if it’s just to walk to the other end of the house, or step outside for a quick jaunt around the neighborhood or grab a cup of coffee. I find that the best ideas I have are when I am away from my desk. When I come back to my desk, I have more clarity on what I want to accomplish in the next couple of hours. Works like a charm!

Keep in mind, I have many times rearranged my habitual schedule to accommodate a special occasion or appointment. Don’t worry about changing it up; just as long as in general you are sticking to a schedule. Remember, it’s all about balance.

Working from home is a pleasure, and we are so lucky to live in a day and age in which working from home is even a possibility. Above all else, I recommend you look at it as a way to balance a healthy lifestyle: get your work done, and turn Netflix off. Or at least on low. 🙂