Monday, December 11, 2017

101 Ways To Live Better: Stop Spending Money On Shit

Welcome to my 101 series, which explores 101 little things you can do to improve your day to day life, and the world, just a little bit.

Our fifteenth post is: STOP SPENDING MONEY ON SHIT

Did you know there are $30 subscriptions you can sign up for where a bot scans sites like amazon and ebay for items under a dollar with free postage and ships them to you automatically? One a day, every day, so you have the joy of opening packages?

You don’t know what these things are. You don’t need them. However, they are paid for, wrapped in packaging that will become landfill, shipped in trucks, boats and planes that require fuel and create pollution, for… what? For you to have the momentary joy that comes from opening a package? Then what? All that stuff clutters your home, or you throw it out, or you give it away.

This terrifies me. This is consumerist culture at its most extreme. Cutting out even the joy of shopping, of finding, of wanting and just cutting right to ‘having’. A momentary rush of dopamine and adrenaline.

Evolutionary psychologists tell us shopping has biological roots. Particularly if we believe the idea that men are hunters and women are gatherers. Seeking food and resources was vital to human survival, it is a behaviour that evolution has to reward, to keep the species alive. However, fruit and honey has been replaced with handbags, knick nacks, and in my case, fluffy socks.

Acquiring things we want gives us a rush, in the same way calorie dense foods give us a rush, because it is good for our long term survival. However, we have created a world where we can go to huge buildings full of things we want, more than we can possibly have, and we can get that rush whenever we want, as often as we want.

But what we can’t do is house all the crap we have brought. Our crap buying and consuming is not sustainable. It's dangerous. And despite the rush we get, it offers us no long-term benefits. What did you impulse buy in April last year? You can’t tell me. What about June when you were 17? December 5 years ago?

Research suggests you are better off spending money on experiences, not possessions. Read Mari Kondo’s ‘The Magic Art Of Tidying Up’ which will give you a new perspective on how you view the objects in your home and their value.

And if you are going to impulse buy, try and buy things that are helpful rather than harmful. Buy from local, family run businesses. Buy plants and make your neighbourhood greener. By ethically sources, biodegradable things. Stay away from chain stores, plastics and clothes made from unnatural fibres. Buy second-hand, from charity stores. Learn to cook and splurge on exotic fruits and meats (preferably ones without too much packaging) or buy for community kitchens and help cook for people who need it. Impulse buy digital books instead of physical ones, and feed an author, while saving a tree.

But remember, in the long term, you are more likely to remember the great time you had when you hired kayaks and went out on the lake with your family than you are to remember how awesome it was when you brought another dress and heels. You won’t even remember what you were wearing during your best, happiest memories (your wedding notwithstanding, but I honestly can’t remember what a single one of my friend's wedding dresses looked like, all I remember is how happy they looked).

Be happy. Stop spending money on shit. For everyone’s sake.

Monday, December 4, 2017

101 Ways To Live Better: Track Your Successes

Welcome to my 101 series, which explores 101 little things you can do to improve your day to day life, and the world, just a little bit.

Our fourteenth post is: TRACK YOUR SUCCESSES

It's a proven fact that we remember failures and criticisms longer than successes and praises. This awesome TEDtalk by Alison Ledgerwood on youtube discusses some interesting studies about how the human brain processes negativity:

Her findings suggest it is much harder for the brain to convert negativity (losses) to positivity (gains). Which is why if one person tells us our new shirt makes us look fat, and three people tell us it looks great, we’re likely to never wear that shirt again. The negativity carries a lot more weight in our brain.

But what does that mean for our self-perception and our own judgment of our successes and achievements? It means we’re more likely to remember all the times we failed, than the times we succeeded.

I can’t remember every awesome stew I have made—there have been a lot. However, I do remember two stews with crystal clarity. One, where the lid of the pepper fell of and rendered the whole thing inedible and one where I had company over and it inexplicably burned. Both of these failures are profoundly memorable. To me, at least. It's unlikely anyone else remembers either event.

So how do you train your brain away from this negativity? On some level, you can’t. Remembering failure is critical to survival. You have to remember negativity things vividly, so you can avoid them in the future. This is why we can often go off certain foods for life if we are exposed to them right before we throw up. It is a basic survival instinct that is hardwired into being human.

You can’t stop being human, but you can train yourself to be more aware of positive things and pay more attention to them. If you give them more weight, they can start to balance out the negativity you are programmed to hold on to.

There are several popular ways to do this. I think most of us are familiar with the New Year Positivity Jar. If you aren’t, the idea is that you find a large jar and every time something nice happens, you write it down, put it in the jar, and then at the end of the year, read them all out and look back on all the positive moments of the year before.

I love this idea and I think it's great for the whole family, however it is delegating positivity to one day of the year.

I also love gratitude diaries, where every day you write down 1-3 things you are grateful for. If you can’t think of anything to be grateful for, look around and ask yourself: ‘if I woke up tomorrow with ONLY what I said I was grateful for today, what would I write down?’. Suddenly you’ll have a whole list of people, things, places, memories, concepts and experiences to be grateful for. It's about learning not to take things for granted.

I like to keep a notebook, and every time something nice happens, or I achieve a goal, I write it down. However, since it's a notebook and not a jar, I can flip through it every week and remind myself of all the great stuff that has happened whenever I am stressed or down.

However, there is another very traditional way to share and express gratitude and positivity. Saying grace.

Grace has always been about thankfulness. Saying what we appreciate, thanking God for the things we have, thanking each other for the things we have, sharing positivity and time with the family. I think it is a fantastic tradition to maintain, showing as it shows our children how to be grateful and think positively. You can’t just tell them to ‘think positive’, you need to show them by being positive yourself and giving them an internal script.

Take home exercise:

To get you started, open wordpad or get a notebook and pen and write down the following:

- Three good things that have happened to you this year, no matter how big or small.

- Three people you are glad are in your life.

- Five things you are grateful for.

- Three things you enjoy doing, that make you feel good.

The more often you do exercises like this, the more your brain will be trained to reorganize and appreciate the positives. Stay happy!

Monday, November 27, 2017

101 Ways To Live Better: Tidy Every Day

Welcome to my 101 series, which explores 101 little things you can do to improve your day to day life, and the world, just a little bit.

Our thirteenth post is: TIDY EVERY DAY

Life gets on top of us quickly when we are busy. And we are ALL busy.

It can be really hard to keep a House presentable and usually we end up with a complete disaster by the weekend and spent all weekend trying to make the place presentable, only for it to be trashed again by Tuesday night.

I am a naturally tidy person. If things are a mess, I feel depressed and stressed. My house is always well presented, not because I am any kind of domestic goddess, but because it is what is best for me and my happiness.

I’m going to share some tips I use to keep my house tidy all the time, without spending hours on it. At most, I spent five minutes a day keeping everything organized, which I am hoping is about what you want to spend too.

The first and most important thing, is that every item in your house has a place. You can’t put things away if they don’t have anywhere to go away to. This may mean you need to do a really big sort out of your possessions before you can be tidy. I highly recommend the KonMari method. I found her on youtube and listened to a few of her talks before I brought and read the book. I will link to both:

Konmari Your Life: Tidying Tips from Marie Kondo
Organise the World - Marie Kondo
Marie Kondo: "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up"

When everything in your house has somewhere it belongs, the next step is pretty easy. Once a day, (I do this in the morning, but you might prefer to do it before you go to bed) I go from room to room and put everything away. I start in my room and make my bed. Everyone makes their own beds in my house and I don’t put away things in anyone else’s bedroom. That is their space to keep as tidy or as messy as they wish. However, it helps to train children to put everything away once a day young. By three years of age, they should all be able to make their bed and put away their toys.

I find it is better to have filled the dishwasher and wiped down the kitchen before I begin tidying. However, that is up to you too. I can just never feel that everything is ‘away’ if there are plates on the sink.

Once my bed is made, I find anything in the room out of place (clothes on the floor, books, phones, etc) and I put them where they belong. I then move to the bathroom, the living room, the dining room and the study. I don’t let myself get distracted with any other projects. This is not a time for CLEANING, this is only a time for things to be put away.

If you do have to do cleaning, you will find it is much easier when everything is put away where it belongs anyway. And it really is that simple. The real trick is for everything to have a place to go. Otherwise, one random item can stump you for half an hour, as you try and work out where it belongs, or where all the other similar items are stored.

If an item doesn’t have a home in my house, it can’t stay in my house. It really is one the things I take care of right away if I buy something new. Nothing is purchased unless I know where it will go first and the day after birthdays and Christmases is always spend making sure new items have a place to go.

PS: If you find yourself picking up after your loved ones, don’t put their things away. Put them in garbage bags in the garage and if they are still there untouched at the end of the month, I would just throw them out. One of my partners kept leaving his clothes around the clothes hamper instead of in it, but he only had to fish them out of the trash once and I never had to pick them up off the floor again.

The words: “It was on the floor, so I assumed it was trash.” Are very powerful.

Monday, November 20, 2017

101 Ways To Live Better: Be Honest

Welcome to my 101 series, which explores 101 little things you can do to improve your day to day life, and the world, just a little bit.

Our twelfth post is: BE HONEST

None of us like to think of ourselves as liars, however the average person lies, however according to a 2002 study conducted by the University of Massachusetts, 60% of adults can't have a ten-minute conversation without lying at least once. But even that number makes it sound better than it really is; those people in the study who did lie actually told an average of 3 lies during their brief chat. (Source:

However, in most cases, in day to day life, we aren’t lying to be deceptive. We are lying to be polite, or else we are lying because we are scared or want to spare people’s feelings and a white lie will allow things to run smoother. EG: If our best friend asks if we like their new haircut and we think it looks awful, we are scared of making her feel sad with the truth, so we tell a lie.

Maybe we want to avoid a fight, or we feel guilty. The important thing is, we generally lie to avoid a negative consequence, or perhaps more importantly, a negative emotion.

However, it's hard to feel like a trustworthy, honest person if we lie all the time. Even if we ignore those lies, we still know we are telling them. We know we are being dishonest. And its will slowly erode our self-confidence and our self-value.

I’m not advocating being mean. Being honest requires tact and a deep, genuine empathy for other people’s feelings. However, often the results of being honest are not as bad as we think they’re going to be.

Take the friend with the bad haircut. You wouldn’t tell her it looks terrible, that would be cruel. However, telling her it looked good is a lie. Instead, if she seems uncertain, you can say: “It's such a huge change, I think it's going to take a few days for me to get used to it. Do you like it?”

If she’s beaming about it, you can say: “Oh wow! The cut is a bit far out for me, but you look so happy and confident!”

What if your friend asks you if he looks like he has put on weight, and he has? It's better to be honest. I would say: “Yes, but that’s easy fixed. Do you want to go to the beach on Saturday instead of chilling on the couch all day?”

With that answer, you’re being honest, but you’re saying it's not a big problem. You’re even offering to help with the solution.

Of course, the most important person to be honest with is yourself. We lie to ourselves all the time, even though we are in our own heads and we know we are lying. Stop making excuses for yourself. Stop pretending you believe them. If you’re on a diet, don’t tell yourself it's okay ‘just this one time’ to eat half a cake while watching netflix. It's not, you know it's not. Make yourself a healthy snack, do something to keep your hands busy. You’ll feel proud of yourself and your own integrity.

Just like with your friends, be tactfully honest with yourself. Be kind and genuine and loving in your honesty. This isn’t an excuse to beat yourself up, because usually those negative thoughts are lies too.

Soon you’ll begin to learn you are someone you can trust and so will everyone else.

Monday, November 13, 2017

101 Ways To Live Better: Spend Time With Family & Friends

Welcome to my 101 series, which explores 101 little things you can do to improve your day to day life, and the world, just a little bit.


What is the number one thing that people regret on their deathbed? Not spending more time with family and friends. What is the number one indicator for overall life satisfaction and happiness? The quality of and individual’s connection with their family and friends. Why do unmarried men die much earlier than married ones? Because men rarely forge the bond with friends that women do. Single men die of loneliness. Baby animals, given all the warmth and food they need, still die without contact with a parent or surrogate. Human babies, denied affection, show ‘failure to thrive’ and may never learn to walk or talk or even crawl.

Humans are social. Without socialization, we suffer, we even die. However I hope no one reading this blog is at that end of the extreme. I hope you all have friends, if not families, who love you. This blog post isn’t about avoiding death though, its about making the most of the connections you do have with friends and family, so you, and they, live longer and happier lives.

Great connections are like amazing gardens. They don’t happen spontaneously. They require some degree of knowledge and planning, they start slow and ugly and build, with lots of care, time and effort, into something productive and beautiful. They may look effortless and natural, but that is part of the charm. Don’t be fooled, the people with great relationships with family and friends are working on them constantly.

The most important thing is to make time for people. Its a busy age. We all have a lot on. You need to prioritize the things, and people, that are most important to you and tend to those things first. Don’t cancel plans with people unless you are on death’s door. Keep your promises, be reliable, so people understand how much they mean to you.

You should also aim to have quality time. Don’t do the same thing, day in, day out. Go to different places, have new experiences, make time to talk, alone, without distractions or do things you can work as a team. Go beyond the superficial and forge connections that matter to you, in a way that matters to you.

It is also important to remember relationships go both ways. Have standards for people’s behavior. If you are the only one sustaining the friendship and putting effort in, its not really a friendship. You’re just a fan. You don’t have to tolerate that. Put effort into the people who put effort into you. Don’t be afraid to cut someone out of your life if they don’t treat you with love, respect and mutual enthusiasm. Trust me, the moment you stop wasting time on those people, people who are excited to spend time with you will come into your life.

Most importantly, remember this is about being happy around people you enjoy. Its not a mission. Its not a job. Its something you want to develop to be happier and live longer. Take joy in the times you spend with friend and family, be grateful you have them and one day look back on your life with joy.

Monday, November 6, 2017

101 Ways To Live Better: Bulk Cooking

Welcome to my 101 series, which explores 101 little things you can do to improve your day to day life, and the world, just a little bit.

Our tenth post is: BULK COOK
Bulk cooking is a great way to save money and time and stay healthy. The idea is that once a week (or even once a fortnight) you do a big cook up and portion out meals for the fridge and freezer over the coming weeks.

You do all the shopping and cooking on the same day. Then you no longer have to cook through the week, decide what you’re going to eat, or rely on take aways. There is a huge range of meals that can be frozen and reheated and depending how many pots you have, or how fast you are at washing them, you can bulk cook 3-6 different meals in a day. You will need a lot of tupperware to store it all though!

Meals that can be bulk cooked and frozen:

- Lasagna
- Soups and stews
- Pies and Shepperd's pies
- Curries
- Pizzas
- Pasta sauces
- Meat skewers
- Chili

You can look up literally thousands of recipes online and will probably find a lot of options I haven’t listed here.

Like all things, there are pros and cons. So I will outline them here. First the cons:

- If you have a small kitchen and limited pots and pans, you might only be able to do one meal at a time with clean up in between.
- If you have a small freezer, you might not be able to store very much at all.
- Lunch and dinners for two weeks requires at least 28 tupperware or food containers, and room to keep them in the freezer.
- If you have more than one person to cook and freeze for, the space and tupperware needed is even higher.
- You might get bored having the same 4-6 meals twice a day for a fortnight.

However the pros far outweigh the cons in every possible way. Obviously if you just don’t have the freezer space then it might be impossible, however I think it is even worth looking for a chest freezer you can keep in the garage or anywhere else you have space. The long list of pros include:

- Huge amount of time saved.
- Decision making energy saved.
- If you are trying to lose weight, having planned, portioned meals that you can just defrost and eat will be a huge help.
- Meals you make yourself will be healthier and you will know exactly what is in them.
- Buying and cooking in bulk is cheaper than buying small portions for every night. Plus it will cost less to prepare.
- It's a lot more convenient and less stressful.
- There are hundreds of recipe books dedicated to bulk cooking, thousands of youtube videos and hundreds of thousands of recipes online. So even if you are eating the same meals for two weeks at a time, you never have to eat them again, as there will always be new, exciting recipes to try.

Here are some links to help you get started:

Cooking safety:

Youtube searches:

Bulk cooking on popular recipe websites:

Monday, October 30, 2017

101 Ways To Live Better: Quit Your Bad Habit

Welcome to my 101 series, which explores 101 little things you can do to improve your day to day life, and the world, just a little bit.

Our ninth post is: QUIT YOUR BAD HABIT


My father smoked every day from when he was fifteen. I tried to convince him to quit for years, I warned him it would kill him.

He’d say: “We all have to die from something.”

And I’d say: “Pick something less stupid.”

He didn’t. He died of throat cancer at 60. My youngest brother was twelve.

We all have bad habits and if yours is smoking, it has a 50% chance of being what kills you. Even if you don’t smoke, we all have at least one bad habit. Maybe its drinking or prescription drugs. Maybe it's something less harmful like chewing your nails or spending too much time on facebook. Whatever it is, it's called a bad habit because its detrimental to your life in some way.

Your life would be better, however slightly, if you could kick this habit!

Some research suggests the best way to kick an old habit is to replace it with a good one. Our habits fulfil a need. We are seeking some sort of gratification, and the habit gives it to us somehow. We smoke because it feels good. We open facebook because we get a rush. Even chewing our nails feels good at the time, even if we hate ourselves afterward.

You can’t just leave a void when you kick a habit, you need to put something else in its place. Preferably something that also makes you feel good, but is productive in some way. It helps to make a list of small, productive things you can do that make you feel good. The idea being, when you catch yourself about to do the bad habit, you do the good habit instead.

A good example might be, every time you go to open facebook, instead open your manuscript (if you are writing one) and write a single sentence. If you casually go to open facebook as often as I do, you could potentially write an entire novel that way in a few months.

Maybe every time you want a smoke, you can read a few pages of a book. Or every time you go to bite your nails, you can put something away that’s lying around where it shouldn’t.

Sometimes, rewards can be a great motivation to drop a bad habit. Let's say you want to quit drinking. You got rid of all the alcohol in the house, you have replaced drinking in the evening with reading a chapter of a book, and now you want to reward yourself. Maybe if you stay sober for 30 days, you can reward yourself with a spa day. Or those new boots you really need. If you stay sober for a whole year, take that trip to Spain you’ve always wanted. Then when temptation comes along, you can ask yourself: “Do I want this drink, or do I want to go to Spain?”

There are plenty of systems out there to help you quit. The best place to look is often your phone. Search the apps store for motivational and tracking software that works for you. My favorite is Habitica, which I use to promote good habits, rather than punishing bad ones. It works on my phone and my PC and I love it. (

Remember, some bad habits can be dangerous to quit. If you are a drug addict or a heavy drinker, it is best to quit under medical supervision. If any of your bad habits are the result of a mental illness, please speak to your psychologist or health care professional before taking drastic measures to motivate yourself. I want you to be happy, healthy and safe at all times, because I love you guys.