I love mornings, new weeks, new months, new seasons and new years – all for the same reason: the prospect of novelty, catarsis and minimalist experiments. The first day of every month, we evaluate the passing month and make plans for the following.
My primary aim during the month of August was getting back to my meditation routine, which I let slip during spring and summer. I also wanted to stay off coffee completely. The results are quite satisfying. I did manage to get back to meditating for half and hour each day and I do feel more present, centered and content for it. Coffee is a tough, beautiful bitch and I had some on three or four different occasions. It impairs my meditation and sleep a lot, but it also gives me a very strong sense of direction and makes for an alarming productivity. The trick is not to overuse it, because then the positive effects bleaken. The first week of October work will be insane, so my goal is to save myself for that week to be able to reap the full, caffeine benefits when I need them the most.
The minimalist experiments of September are twofold. I’ve decided to try the so called carnivore diet, which means I’ll only eat animal protein sources, salt and butter. The hardcore carnivores won’t eat butter. Some neither cook the protein sources nor use salt, but I settle for a slightly less extreme variant of an admittedly extreme way of eating. The aim is to explore a range of physical and emotional effects: will my stamina, strength, focus, sleep, mood and general wellbeing increase or decrease? I’m also curious to evaluate the social and economic impact: will I spend more or less money on food, and will the limitations of the diet have adverse effects on my social life? I’m convinced that eating vegetables is a good idea and will return to doing so after one or maybe two months of this experiment; possibly by doing a slow, GAPS-inspired reintroduction of one vegetable after the other in order to observe their respective effects.
The second September experiment is limiting screen time even more than we already do. I recently heard a Swedish physician refer to a study showing how the mere presence of a mobile phone, sitting on the table within sight, will disengage us from social interaction. The sole awareness of the phone being there, no matter if we pick it up or not, makes us less interested in talking with the person sitting next to us. Our friends and family members seem less appealing than the screen for purely biochemical reasons; our brains are effectively hijacked by the constant and quick rewards of the screen. The bombardment of colour, movement and sound of the online world engages our ancient brains more than the bleaker, slower offline reality has the capacity of doing, thus making us lose interest in, say, people of flesh and blood. If you speak Swedish, do listen to this.
Our new household policy on screen time is:
- No social media after 4 pm.
- No screen time whatsoever, including TV, after 8 pm.
In order to help our monkey minds adhere to this, we’ve taken some measures. We’re no better than our brains, so we’ve cleared out a shelf in our linen cupboard where we’ll keep our phones so we won’t even see them when they’re off limits. On this shelf, we put all chargers for phones, headphones and computers, creating a permanent low-tech docking station. This serves two, minimalist purposes: no chargers spread across the apartment, and no time wasted arguing about who misplaced the charger.
Before, we used a laptop for watching Netflix, listening to Spotify and the like. Today, we got a Chromecast instead, thus clearing the space needed for the docking station. The downside of a Chromecast would be that you control it with your phone. In order to avoid being sucked into social media when watching Netflix at night, we repurposed an ancient, discarded phone to serve only as a remote control for the Chromecast. This phone is too slow to use as a smartphone, but when stripped of all apps but the ones we use for entertainment, it’s good enough. And, importantly, it has none of the apps that we could be lured into sideways when using the Chromecast.
Have you ever looked at your phone to get the time, then gotten trapped by social media, only to put the phone away twenty minutes later, still wondering what time it is? Maybe even twice? This is exactly what we wanted to avoid by using an old, discarded phone devoid of distractions.
I’m very excited about both of these experiments and about September: a new month and the advent of autumn.