12 Months of Simple Living: End of Year Thoughts

It’s been a year of this transformation journey and as January 2018 arrived, I thought this would be a good opportunity to reflect on each month and what impact, if any, it has had on the way I live my life now.

1. | January – Vegetarian |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two | Vegetarian Recipes

If there was ever going to be a controversial challenge it was this one. With opinions and beliefs splitting people world wide on the subject, it was always going to be harder for a previously strict carnivore to “try out” being Vegetarian for a month and then blog about the short lived and not hugely successful experience. But this journey is my own and now I can see this short lived month really did have an effect on my view, and now my lifestyle choices. However insignificant they might seem, they are still small steps toward a healthier life and a better world.

Since January, I’ve found myself increasingly choosing the vegetarian options whether it is in my work canteen, at home or out to eat with friends. I put this down to a change in my attitude towards meat as a result of understanding the vast amounts of waste, the damage to the environment and the inhumane treatment of animals all for the sake of corporate greed.

From a health point of view, I am so much more aware of the fats and greasiness of meat and how much heavier it sits in my stomach, I do tend to feel a little odd when I eat some types of meat now. It does make me wonder what sort of diseases we are potentially exposed to by eating meat.  That’s not to say I don’t crave the odd steak now and then but I am so much more aware of  trying to choose organic, free range, grass fed meat.

Having said that, I do want to aim to be even more veggie and I have concluded that being a full time vegetarian would be the ideal lifestyle choice and probably is how we were once meant to be. Not that any of my life choices are ideal- we’ll see!

Note: Spiralizers interest me now more than ever before!

 

2. | February – Forgiving |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two | Part Three
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This one has to be the hardest of all as it’s a continuous battle and a continuous cycle. Choosing to let people off the hook when they have wronged you seems unnatural to our human instincts and makes us feel like a doormat sometimes. But this doesn’t have to be so. I am continually reminding myself that forgiveness does not mean reconciliation; if you are continually wronged, don’t let them wrong you again. But love them and show them kindness anyway.

I can definitely see improvements with the way I handle disagreements, knowing that just because we have differences of opinion doesn’t make us bad people, just unique individuals who handle things in different ways. I try to respect another’s perspective even if I disagree.

I still struggle with letting things go quickly, but I can usually get over it after taking a breather. And with my long term grievances, it will always be a battle to maintain forgiveness but I will keep trying.

 

3. | March – Positivity & Thankfulness |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four
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This challenge is one that went beyond my natural disposition. I’ve grown up in an environment of complaining, from my family to the culture of the UK, so trying not to was a real difficulty. Being thankful for everything, including the bad times, just opens your eyes to how blessed you really are. Blessed you have arms and legs, and eyes and ears, blessed you are able to use them, blessed you have food, shelter and a job. There’s actually a lot to be thankful for!

I really struggle, still, to see the glass half full rather than half empty but I am working on it. A good way to start thinking a bit more positively is by writing a diary of your week noting, at various points of the day, how you felt – happy, sad, angry – and to what degree out of 100% you felt those emotions. When you look back, you will likely realise you have a much happier life than you initially thought. This is because our minds get conditioned just to remember the negative and not the positive.

Try it out and let me know how it works for you!

 

4. | April – Stick at It |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two | Part Three
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This challenge  actually made me realise that my problem wasn’t so much giving up on things, as feeling like giving up every time something gets tough. Also it was about believing in my ability to achieve what I set out to do.

Through going travelling, something I needed to do for myself but was afraid to, it helped me build confidence in myself. I’m trying to maintain this confidence now that I am back; it’s actually the mundane things in life that knock the confidence out of you.

I have found myself being a little braver and taking those risks even if I might fail, but there’s still work to be done!

 

5. | May – Exercise |

Navigate: Part One| Part Two | Part Three

This one’s gone out the window! Seriously, I don’t like doing any of it – classes annoy me, I don’t even know where to start in the gym, I HATE running, going for walks in the cold British weather is not up there on my fun list… so what can I do?!

I know I have to exercise, I know it’s very important for mental and physical health, but I just need to find something I actually enjoy doing.

I am working on it!!! The only classes I do quite enjoy are yoga classes, so I will try to keep those up at least. Any suggestions? Let me know!

 

6. | June – Meditation |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two

A very interesting challenge, in that, I thought this would be the easiest, but it turned out to be much harder than I thought.

I enjoyed it when I did it, but I found that I had to make time for it, rather than try to fit it in my day.

I haven’t kept it up on a daily basis but have naturally found myself meditating on life, faith and positive thoughts when on my own and spending time enjoying the beauty of Nature.

“Beauty is the purest feeling of the soul. Beauty arises when soul is satisfied.”
― Amit Ray

 

7. | July – Water |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two
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A challenge that you either understood completely or didn’t get at all. Fellow water haters, I confess, I was doing so well and then I reverted… But I have a plan to get me back on track!

Drinking water has always been at the bottom of my to do list, and something happened when I realised, in my sugar free month, that (some) wines only had naturally occurring sugars; I started drinking more wine… And more… Not like an alcoholic, but just like with my dinner and in replacement for water…

Okay jokes aside (sort of), I just struggle in this already damp and wet, cold English weather to feel thirsty. I feel somehow I’m absorbing so much water just through breathing damp air. And even when thirsty, I’m so cold I opt for a dehydrating cup of tea (that’s right, tea is a diuretic so you ultimately lose more water than you take in).

But the plan? I bought this from Kikki.K and I intend to use it.
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New Year, new pee… I mean me.

8. | August – Say Yes |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two
Climb every mountain

This challenge was certainly the most adventurous and the most rewarding, delivering me to exciting new places, giving me more out of life and connecting me with the best people the world has to offer!

It’s an attitude that takes courage and takes self-belief. You need to be a risk taker, taking chances when there may be disappointment. Worst, you need to be prepared to be disappointed.

I have definitely carried on with this type of attitude, but I have to remind myself. I am naturally cautious and if left to my instincts, I would let opportunities pass me by. I struggle with disappointment and so when I am let down it hurts, a lot! But life is not going to get more interesting, fun or exciting if you don’t take risks.

I hope 2018 will be a year that I don’t hold myself back with my own self-doubt, but a year which I open my eyes to opportunities and take them with both hands!

 

9. | September – Slow Down |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two

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Image Credit: ryangoggin.com

This one is harder to keep up when life just gives you busy schedules week on week. Certainly, my technology diet assisted with this and I naturally slowed down in most aspects of my life.

I have since had to remind myself to enjoy beautiful moments, the first full moon of 2018 for example, and a stunning sunrise the following morning.

Slowing down ties in with meditation, with reducing social media and other time fillers and many other parts of my yearly challenges.

I hope to carry on a slightly slower, more purposeful pace into 2018.

 

10. | October – Sugar Free |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner | Dessert
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This is the challenge I am most proud of. It was complex and required a lot of effort; cooking, reading ALL labels, turning down tasty office junk food etc. But I smashed it!

I honestly saw the health benefits (especially when I returned to sugar), I realised the effect that sugar had on my asthma!

Sadly, the return to sugar has been a full submersion due to the time of year, but I would like that to change in the new year and I’d like to greatly reduce my intake. If not for my overall health, for my asthma (which has suffered greatly due to the return to sugar and all the other factors that trigger it).

I will proudly say though, that I have not returned to putting sugar in my tea!

 

11. | November – Technology Diet |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two
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Being cut off from the world of social media came with mixed feelings… It was strangely freeing but at the same time isolating.

Yes, I missed out on social events, life updates from all my 900+ facebook “friends” (ha! I have more than you! JK) and ultra-hilarious memes, BUT I gained an independence, learned a new language (slash carried on learning Spanish from all my years of dabbling) and met people in more organic ways.

Being back on social media, I actually am not as bothered anymore… It’s sort of an effort to post so I’m doing it less. And I’m only really scrolling through facebook for the “12 times you failed at life” style posts, because … they make me giggle.

So, although I won’t keep off social media, I think I have struck a balance along the way.

 

12. | December – Volunteer |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two
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What a feel-good way to end the year; by volunteering! I honestly got such a sense of achievement by helping these charities in the skills that I had to offer. I really cannot urge you enough, if you have any spare time, to give some of it to a charity of your choice. You will form new friendships, new connections and it can even help you gain more skills.

One thing that is overlooked when people are looking for jobs but lack the experience, is volunteering. The way I gained my administrative experience was by volunteering for the Lifetrain Trust. So if this is where you find yourself, just go for it – if not to help, then to look better on your CV. But you will feel good when you see the contribution you have made to these charities.

Charities do amazing work, and I will be more than happy to give more of my time to volunteer during 2018!

 

So that’s it, my end of year update! Let me know how you have found my challenges and if you have a resolution for 2018!

Thanks for reading!

Ciao!

X


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December Month 12: Volunteering (Part Two)


Challenge: Volunteer
Charities: The British Red CrossThe Natasha’s ProjectBe@titudes
Total Hours completed: 23
Thoughts: “Doing nothing for others is the undoing of ourselves.”
― Horace Mann


The Final Challenge: To Volunteer

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Getting myself started with volunteering wasn’t as simple, quick and easy as I thought. The thing with volunteering is, the opportunities to do so are there but you do have to look for them. Most charities really need long term commitments and not one off days here and there. But I found this site useful in finding opportunities nearby that fits my skillset and availability.

Thankfully I have some good connections and so it wasn’t long before I had booked myself up for a few days. My workplace pay for up to 5 days a year of volunteering leave so I can volunteer without fear of losing out on a day’s work. I was able to take advantage with 2 of those days.
Tip: If you are thinking of volunteering, why not ask if your work place would be open to doing the  same? Charity has become a very important part of our society, especially to businesses and you will be surprised at how supportive your place of work can be towards you volunteering.

 

How did it go?

As promised, I gave time to Be@titudes, giving two of my Saturday mornings to hang out with Rosemary and be that extra pair of hands. It was there that I found out how much of a help it has been that the Duke of Edinburgh awards have included voluntary work as a mandatory. Two lovely girls were also giving up their Saturday mornings to help in the shop and really seemed to be enjoying it!

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Image Credit: http://www.facebook.com/DorkingBeatitudes

If you have a spare Saturday and want to do something good for the local Dorking community, consider volunteering here!

I was also lucky that Val (my partner in crime for all of my challenges) volunteers regularly at the The British Red Cross and so was able to contact the manager directly and arrange a time for me to come along.
I was given free reign to arrange the Bridal window as I please and organise the bridal room. I was also able to bring in my pre-loved wedding dress and donate it. I hope you think I did a good job:

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If you are getting married, try popping in to the Red Cross, you will be surprised at the quality of the Wedding dresses in stock; some are even brand new!

Even if you aren’t getting married, pop in anyway – I put out some (otherwise) expensive designer bags and shoes yesterday; Ugg, Cos, Ted Baker and more! I may have nabbed a cheeky deal myself… shopping and working, what could go wrong?!

Sadly, I couldn’t volunteer at The LifeTrain Trust this time, but I will be doing so in the new year which I am looking forward to!

I was, however, able to volunteer my time from home by doing some admin work for The Natasha’s Project! This has been particularly good because it means I can fit it around my job and social life so it doesn’t feel as if I’m giving up an entire day. If you have any skills around fundraising, social media, general admin or even if you have some connections that will help this amazing charity to get some secure funding then get in touch!

 

The Conclusion


Success rate: 100%
Hours given: 23



Will I carry on volunteering?
 Definitely! I already am looking at doing some hours with the LifeTrain Trust in January and I will continue to support Be@titudes, the Red Cross and the Natasha’s Project.

What can we do? Get involved! Give some time to any of the charities that I have supported this year, or any causes that are close to your heart. Whatever you do, whether it is giving a sandwich to a stranger, or lending a hand to a friend in need, the reward is the same; a little light of kindness in a broken world.

If you can’t give time, you can always give dolla $$. Many companies are starting to do charity matching, whether they match a certain monthly contribution you decide to make to a charity of choice or they may match an amount that you raise for a charity through an event up to a set limit. Ask your employer about this!

Or if, as the new year looms, you are feeling super inspired by my 12 months of simple living, why not give yourself monthly challenges and wager your time/money to a charity for when you (inevitably) balls up!

I hope you have enjoyed following my year! Here’s to an amazing 2018!

X

 

December Month 12: Volunteering


Challenge: Volunteer
Charities: The British Red Cross,  The LifeTrain TrustThe Natasha’s Project, Be@titudes
Thoughts: “Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.”
― H. Jackson Brown Jr.


The Final Challenge: To Volunteer

Why Volunteering?

Having had different charities each month benefit from my failures by reaping financial reward, it made sense to close the year by giving my time to some of these Charities.

Volunteering has always been something close to my heart. Growing up in West Africa, poverty and need was not something alien to me, and one of my favourite things about the culture of Ghana, was the willingness of the people to share with one another. It was not unheard of for people to show up at a friend or neighbour’s house in a time of need and expect to be fed, housed or even have money lent to them. For all it’s flaws, the Ghanain culture is an open and giving culture and teaches you that what you have is not yours alone; it is by good luck if you are well off and it is your duty to share this with your friends, your family, and even strangers.

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The welfare system we have in place here in the UK, although necessary and a God-send for so many, seems to put a distance between our connection to need and our understanding of how we fit in in terms of giving. Here, if someone needs, it’s the government’s duty to provide. In Ghana, if someone needs, it’s the family’s duty to provide. One common way this is done is by having “house girls” or “house boys”; a distant relative or friend of a friend of a friend could approach you and in exchange for food, shelter and sometimes even school fees, they will cook and clean and look after your house. My Granddad has helped many a person in this way, and the most recent girl, Baawa, has just graduated from university as a nurse!

 

Where, Who and What?

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Sleeping outside of St. Albans Abbey to raise money for the homeless one Christmas

I have chosen a number of charities that I feel are close to my heart for various reasons. I have supported these charities throughout my year’s challenge except for one; The British Red Cross.

The British Red Cross help people in crisis. Part of a global voluntary network, they respond to conflicts, natural disasters and individual emergencies.
They help vulnerable people in the UK and abroad prepare for, withstand and recover from emergencies in their own communities.

 

The Natasha’s Project is a charity that a good friend of mine has worked to set up. It is a merger of two things she has been passionate about for as long as I have known her; dance and putting a stop to human trafficking. They travel around the country to raise awareness of human trafficking through dance and to help restore trafficking victims through dance workshops.

The Lifetrain Trust assist young people of underprivileged backgrounds providing them with the skills and give them the opportunity to build a life they have chosen rather than the one they were destined for; seek further education or qualifications and to say no to anti-social behaviour.

Be@titudes are a children’s shop, with a play area for children to use their imaginations and interact with one another while parents relax, shop or share stories. It’s intention is to be a community project, making it more affordable for low-income families to be able to obtain necessary baby and young children’s clothes, equipment and toys. It’s a project focused on bringing people together, where all local parents and children are welcomed in.

 

The Plan

What I plan to do is give as much of my time as possible to each of these charities, if they are happy for me to do so. I have already accumulated 3 hours of assistance that I must give Be@titudes from last month’s challenge, but the rest is our of the spirit of goodwill… after all – it is Christmas!

I’d like to take the opportunity to remind us all of how blessed we really are, and though some of the things we have gone through may seem too much to bear, we must always thank God that things are not worse. There is always someone better off than we, but more importantly, there is always someone worse off. Let’s do what we can to help, when we can and the world will be a better place.

“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.”
― Barack Obama

Happy Christmas X

November Month 11: Technology Diet (Part Two)


Challenge: To give up Social Media
Charity: Be@titudes
Total time accrued: 3 hrs
Thoughts: If social media is used correctly, it connects us.


 The Eleventh Challenge: Less Technology, More Reality

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What I Expected to Happen…

There’s a certain stigma around social media, I’m not sure whether it’s due to the fact that we live in a transition period where we have a spectrum of generational extremes.
On one extreme, we have a generation of people who come from a time where there was no internet… contrary to popular belief, these are not people who have time travelled to live among us, the internet is still a fairly new thing.

On the other extreme, we have those who were born pretty much with the iphone X attached to their hand from the womb.

I am in the weird middle ground where I remember a time where not everyone had the internet and when we finally got the heavy, clunky, space consuming technology in our home, we all gathered around it in awe. But nobody really knew what to do with it.
Over time, growing up with it, I discovered Neopets (anyone remember that?!) and dabbled in html, then discovered MSN, then MySpace, Hi5, Babble and all the rest of the strange social sites. Again, nobody quite knew what to do with these!

I even remember when the new Nokia 3310 came out and the popular kids in school were the first to get their hands on it, snake was the shit back then.

So in this spectrum of extremes, there has been a stigma that has naturally developed in the adaptation period where those of us who remember the times before the internet cannot understand those who’s lives totally revolve around the internet. And some of us who have adapted, still feel a pang of guilt when we realise what an importance it is on our lives now, when there was a time where it did not exist in our lives.

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In short, detoxing from social media, although not entirely eliminating technology (most significantly, the internet) from my life, I expected it would reduce my dependency on this virtual world and give me a better connection with reality. I expected it would free up that two hours a day we supposedly  spend on Social Media to do some of the things I keep putting off. I thought that without the distraction and the procrastination, I would pursue some of the hobbies I enjoy more.

 

What Actually Happened…

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I don’t think you need to have a lot of life experience to know that, things don’t always work out as you plan them in your own head. Even when you have total control over it. So in short, it didn’t quite go as planned… this is pretty much how it went.

  1. Daily checks from concerned friends that I am coping without their minute by minute life updates – I was not.
  2. Regular jokes on all the exciting goss I am missing out on – #severelyjel.
  3. People trying to show me videos/memes and me covering my eyes.
  4. Lots of debates about what Social Media even is and whether there are any loopholes to my challenge.
  5. People wondering what I even do with my life. I also wondering the same.
  6. My social life dying a horrendous death as I miss out on invites.
  7. My mum and grandma thinking I am dead because I haven’t posted in a while.
  8. Limited people to talk to as I don’t have anyone’s number.
  9. Finding other things to distract me from doing all the things I supposedly always wanted to do but just “never found the time”.
  10. Serious reconsideration on whether or not it’s actually worth taking photos anymore if I can’t insta them.

Okay, sort of joking on that last one but this challenge has been a real eye opener for me, and taken the ownership of my decision making back onto me. I’m not a “victim” to social media, it’s not and never has stopped me from doing anything and I am not as dependent on it as I thought – it definitely got easier as time went.

Sure, I did use it as a “filler” activity a lot of the time, browsing pointlessly through facebook or instagram. But having removed this distraction, I found other things to pass the time, like browsing pointlessly through my photos.
However, the good part to having to find an alternative “filler” activity, was that some of the things I defaulted to were actually helpful. For example, in my bored moments, I would find myself checking my online banking and browsing through what I’ve bought which is a healthy habit to build.
I also found myself going back to the duolingo app regularly and learning Español which does happen to be one of the “things I’ve always wanted to do but put off”. So that’s a definite win (45% fluent apparently – the app don’t lie).

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Doing the challenge has made me realise how social media can really connect us. Those who care about us do want to be able to get little updates on our life and see how we are getting on. I didn’t anticipate my mum and my grandma both actually becoming seriously concerned because they hadn’t seen me post in a while, maybe that’s a reflection on just how much I used to post (which I think may go down now) but I also think for them, it’s a nice way of them staying connected to us albeit from a distance.

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I hadn’t anticipated how disconnected I would feel from others and how isolating it could be for me being off Social Media, because prior to this month, most of my communication was done through these apps. I quickly discovered that I need to keep more phone numbers because I literally had like barely anybody! But also, it’s easier for people to crate a group or an event on facebook and invite those who they want to attend, so that they don’t have to repeat themselves. So I may have missed a few invitations… sorry guys!

 

The Conclusion

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Success rate: 3 Failures
2 mins each on 2 occasions where I needed to extract travel photo’s from my blog and 20 seconds when my BFF showed me a meme from his instagram!
Cost per fail: 1 hour per day.
Hours accumulated for charity: 3


Will I stay off Social Media? Definitely not. Having said that, I am less bothered and so I will be posting less (I think) and would like to stay out of the habit of checking my phone constantly.

Am I like super connected to mother nature and spiritual and enlightened since being off Social Media? No but I now have more options on how to distract myself and procrastinate should I require it.

I’d love to know what other people think, especially those who have done a Social Media detox, let me know in the comments below!

Excited for my final challenge; Volunteering!

X

November Month 11: Technology Diet


Challenge: To give up Social Media
Charity: Be@titudes
Total time accrued: 0 hrs
Thoughts: Do more things that make you forget to look at your phone.


The Eleventh Challenge: Less Technology, More Reality

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My most controversial and most difficult challenge yet, why on earth would I want to go on a technology diet?! And what even does that mean?

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To quote Social Media Today, “Astonishingly, the average person will spend nearly two hours (approximately 116 minutes) on social media everyday, which translates to a total of 5 years and 4 months spent over a lifetime.”

That’s just us on our phones flicking through youtube, insta, twitter, snapchat and facebook, it doesn’t take into account how much time we spend watching TV, browsing the web, playing online games, other phone apps etc. And personally, I think they’re being generous, I’m definitely on there more than two hours some days – and teens now practically live their lives through social apps.

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Now, I’m definitely not a techno-phobe and I don’t think technology is evil that is destroying our lives. In fact, I think the opposite, if used correctly social media (and technology in general) is a very useful tool for the advancement of mankind and an empowering tool for those who otherwise would not have a voice. But, having said that, if used incorrectly it can be a tool for destructive, addictive and anti-social behaviour.

 

Why? Why? Why…. ???

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So why am I doing this challenge?

To see if I can! To measure exactly how reliant I am on Social Media and see if maybe getting out of touch with technology might put me more in touch with reality.

Why only Social Media, why not all technology?

Because in the modern age, I would be unlikely to be able to survive without technology. Although, having lived in Ghana previously, I certainly know a trick or two on survival when technology fails. But everything from electricity (a.k.a being able to turn the lights on, heating, cooker, fridge etc.) to vehicles (i.e. getting to work every day, getting to the shops to buy food etc.) is technology. And although I would love to experiment with going back to Sa Pa and living in the mountains with Mama May, this challenge is only for 30 days and I do intend to resume normal life afterwards (but more in touch with reality and less attached to Social Media).

I toyed with the idea of banning all screens completely, but then I realised I work in front of screens all day. Being realistic, it was far more feasible that I cut out an element of technology that I have relied on every day – that just so happens to be Social Media.

 

The Plan

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So for one whole month… that is 30 whole days, I will be deleting Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Linked in, Pinterest and after much deliberation, Whatsapp! If you need me, you can write a letter to me, or use that ancient really outdated form of communication – telephone calls. Eeew, what even is that? Isn’t that just for PPI?

If I find myself checking Social Media on the sly, I will be donating in hours rather than pounds! Because Social Media eats up so many hours of our life, I’m going to be claiming some of those hours for good. These hours will go towards my final month; Volunteering!

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For every day I sneak in Social Media, I will give an hour to volunteer at Dorking Be@ttitudes. They are a children’s shop, with a play area for children to use their imaginations and interact with one another while parents relax, shop or share stories. It’s intention is to be a community project, bringing people together, where all local parents and children are welcomed in.

I love projects like be@ttitudes, because they give a safe environment for children and parents to visit and interact when they may otherwise have been sat alone at home in front of a screen.

No idea how this will go, or what I will do to entertain myself, but for now it’s au revoir le Social Media!

X

P.S. This post was scheduled in advance and I will not be posting again until 1st December!