It is one thing to keep clear of mind and high of spirit, or at least relatively sane, while roaming the mountains of Spain. Did you know that experiencing beauty – for example, looking at a spectacular view – reduces the level of inflammation in the body? The Gaucín views are to live and die for, reaching across the lush Genal valley, the mountains of Bermeja and Crestellina, all the way to, and over, the Mediterranean Sea, were the Rock of Gibraltar and the Moroccan Rift mountains appear in the distance. Every night, the elderly people of the village come out of their houses just to look at it – standing in awe, silently taking in the constantly shifting colours of the sun, the sky and the landscape. When asked if they ever tire of it, one of them said “Never. It’s always new.”
We’ve been back in Sweden for some weeks now. Despite the fact that we left reluctantly – or, more accurately, kicking and screaming – it was nice returning to our friends, our comfortable bed and the city of Gothenburg. I was also very enthusiastic about getting back to my yoga classes and weight lifting. Even working again feel fine. I’m involved in several projects very close to my heart, such as an investigation on honour related violence, and preventing discrimination against lgbtqi-people. Still, I miss the Gaucín views to bits. I also miss the scents of the mountainsides: oregano, mint and the sweet, caramel-ish, overwhelming fragrance of ripening figs. The prospect of living in the village permanently very much holds its appeal, especially with the realisation that winter is coming.
Unfortunately, my current everyday life does not entail the privilege of hiking for hours and hours in gorgeous greenery, basking in the afternoon sun and having dinner al fresco. I do feel the stress of city- and work life creeping up on me. Therefore, I thought I’d share some life-hacks aimed at keeping at least some of the vacation zen while returning to work.
Daily meditation. There is loads and loads of evidence showing that meditation does wonders for your immune system, pain levels, emotional state, creativity, productivity, social capacity and much more. I meditate for some thirty minutes a day, usually just before lunch. My experience, is that meditating oftentimes turns a bad day into a good one, since it immediately relieves stress and can help you get perspective on small and big issues occupying your mind. Trust me when I say it’s not just for dirty hippies.
I do a classic, vipassana meditation, which means sitting still with eyes closed, focusing on the sensation of your breath. Here, you can read up on the philosophy behind it, and some other techniques, should you require more tangible instructions. For the moment, I’m also trying to master the art of head stand, and thus add some upside downing after the meditation. The head stand is very meditative in and of itself, since it requires great attention – which, in my case, is easily achieved due to fear of falling over and knocking my teeth out. Done correctly, this asana also offers a brilliant core workout.
Journal writing. Millions of girls can’t be wrong – writing a diary is, in fact, very good for you. Every morning, I make short notes in three different categories: “intentions”, “concerns”, and “I’m thankful for…”. In the first category, stating my intentions, I put things like “I’ll have a productive work day”, “I want to take a long walk in the nice weather” or “Keep calm and carry the fuck on!”. In the second, I put any worries, like “I have a terrible cold”, ” I didn’t sleep well” or “The zombie apocalypse may very well come today and I hope it will because the world is a nasty place and I see no point in being alive any longer”. In the last one, I put mundane or existential things for which I am grateful – being in a loving relationship, living in a nice apartment, having slept well or looking forward to seeing a friend later that day.
In the evening, I write a few lines about the passing day – what I did, and how it felt. It isn’t an evaluation as to whether I met my intentions; just a simple description. Then, I once again list things that I’m thankful for, but now, in greater detail, referring to the events of the day: “I had a delicious lunch.”, “The yoga class was very challenging, which was exactly what I needed!”, or “At least this bitch of a day is soon over”. Then, I track some things of importance to me, placing them on a scale from one to ten – for the moment, the level of pain from my chronically crappy back, my mood and my sleep.
The journaling is more satisfying than I expected before taking it up. When Kristoffer introduced the idea, I was reluctant. Now, I’m convinced that just noting your intentions will aid their fulfillment; keeping them in the back of your head, subtly guiding your actions throughout the day. I also feel decidedly more appreciative of the little things in life. In addition, journaling every morning and evening makes a nice ritual.
Uncompromising eating habits. I travel a lot for work, which means hotel stays and long days. Up until now, I’ve settled for the food available wherever I go, hoping to be able to put together something reasonable ketogenic at the nearest lunch buffet. Since I try to stay clear of vegetable oil, dairy, processed meats and most food additives, this would mean a great deal of compromising.
Now, I’ve embarked on the admittedly eccentric path of bringing several days worth of food with me. For the two-night trip that I’ve just gotten back from , that meant four home-made hamburgers and no less than 280 grams of herb butter. That is indeed an obscene amount of butter, but, as I’d like to stress whenever I get a chance, butter is really one of the most nutritious things you can eat. I did get some broccoli at the grocery store, but that’s it. Instead of feeling bloated, and annoyed at having spent a fortune on food I didn’t enjoy, as I usually do when returning home from a trip, I felt better than ever. My wallet was, might I add, also very happy.
Of course, these hacks do not by far compensate for missing out on the sunsets of Gaucín, sitting still for many hours and sleeping lightly in a hotel room of doom – but they’re quite something. So far, we’re only halfway through August, though, so I’ll have to get back to you with the progression and some additional tricks.