Reducing screen time

I can feel myself slipping back into the screen trap, mindless scrolling through Facebook or Pinterest and watching rubbish on TV. Hours can disappear away leaving me with a feeling of negativity because I know I have wasted so much time. Not only that a lot of the content leaves me depressed.

These are some thoughts as to how I can reduce screen time and really make it work for me.

TV

I have my favourite programmes that I invested time in watching and am not prepared to give up, but also find it is easy to lose 20mins here and there just scrolling through adverts. It takes willpower not to automatically switch on the TV, especially if you are not always in control of the remote. I am going to try and set a limit on the number of hours I watch TV in a week by only recording my absolute favourites and only watching recordings so I can fast forward through adverts. If I only allow myself a set number of hours a week to watch TV am I really going to waste it on something I am not that bothered about?

Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest etc

These apps are great for inspiring creativity and keeping in touch with people and news, but they can also have a detrimental effect on mental health and wellbeing. I see certain people who are constantly posting about depression and at the same time appear to spend all their time on Facebook sharing negative posts about politics and social issues. I believe a high proportion of these sort of posts are deliberately worded to stir up emotions, followed by arguments in the comments.

I’ve spent the last couple of years finely tuning my newsfeed, particularly on Facebook. I’ve selected my best friends and marked them as “always see first”. I’ve blocked almost all political and / depressing news stories from my feed by blocking the pages that people share posts from as they appear. I snooze people who annoy me from time to time for 30 days. If after 2 or 3 snoozes they still annoy me I completely unfollow them. Some of these people are lovely in real life but annoying on social media. I’ve also unfriended a few people who I didn’t really know but somehow ended up friends with them.

The downside to this is that I am now spending longer on Facebook because there is more to interest me. I also find that I get neck, shoulder and arm pain if I use my phone too long.

I need to try and set a time limit on scrolling time or only use it when my activities are limited such as on the bus. I could also try to not have my phone in the same room all the time.

Online games

These really are addictive and a complete waste of time, particularly those . Last year I realised I was wasting a lot of time on a game I had spent hours probably weeks of my life playing over several years. I deleted it and can honestly say I have not missed it at all.

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Thoughts on better preparation

Sometimes I focus so hard on one thing that I lose track of everything else. This has happened this week. I have been so focused on the number of steps I’m doing to the point I comfortably exceed my daily goal by the time I get home so I’ve ended up eating tea then crashing on the sofa.

The downside

Whilst I am really pleased how well I have done on the exercise, I have been ignoring all my little daily routines which help to keep me on track. These include:

  • Preparing clothes the night before
  • Preparing food the night before
  • Sorting bags each evening
  • Checking emails, post etc
  • Keeping on top of laundry
  • Keeping kitchen clear
  • Knowing what’s for tea
  • Eating more slow cooked meals to free up time

The downside to ignoring my routines is the last couple of mornings not only have I struggled to get up, I have had to sort out my bags, food and clothes which combined has probably delayed me leaving the house. The knock-on effect is that it takes longer to get to work because the traffic is busier and I have to stay later at work to make the time up.

How do I stay on track?

There is no magic answer to this. I have one or two ideas to try.

  • Do things as soon as I get home
  • Review my to do list more frequently throughout the day so it is in the forefront of my mind what I need to do
  • Not allow myself to sit down on the sofa until tasks are finished
  • Eat my food at the dining table rather than the sofa so I get up again afterwards
  • Trying to stay positive and motivated
  • Resetting myself every day

Fingers crossed I will get back on track soon.

Pressing reset

I started March all keen and roaring with enthusiasm as I began tackling some long-standing tasks that have been weighing on me for months. Unfortunately it didn’t last and over the last few days I have been struggling to stick to the plan and some of my old eating/spending habits have slipped back in. In just a few days I have regained some weight and am suffering from tiredness, insomnia and indigestion.

Getting back on track

The good news is that with almost any plan it is possible to press reset at any point. It doesn’t have to wait until a new year, month, week. Every day is a new day and a reset can be done at any point in the day. Just because the morning has gone down one path, it doesn’t need to continue. It is possible to change direction at any time. Today I find myself needing to press reset and it is actually a good time to reset. It is the spring equinox and apparently the international day of happiness. Equinoxes are all about balance. Day equals night and it is a great time to address all the imbalances in your life and identify what is required to restore the equilibrium.

Asking questions

Today I am asking myself the following questions:

  • Am I happy?
  • Is my home a happy one?
  • Am I getting enough sleep?
  • Am I drinking enough water? Are my consumption levels of alcohol, carbonated drinks or caffeinated drinks acceptable?
  • Am I eating a balanced diet? Are my consumption levels of fat, sugar, fibre, carbs, protein, processed foods, fruit and veg acceptable?
  • Is the amount of leisure time spent in front of a screen acceptable?
  • Am I getting enough exercise?
  • Am I spending the right amount of time at work? Am I taking sufficient breaks?
  • Are my stress levels acceptable?
  • Am I spending the right amount of time with family and friends?
  • Am I doing enough of the things I enjoy?
  • Am I free from any minor little health problems such as as digestive issues, skin complaints, aches and pains?
  • Am I sticking to my budgets?
  • Are my plans on track? Are they working for me?

To any of the questions I have answered no (and I already know there are going to be a few) I will be noting what I need to increase or let go of in order to bring my life back into balance.

Frugal breakfasts from random baking lingredients.

My food cupboard seems to be largely full of ingredients normally associated with baking e.g. flour, sugar, flavourings, syrups, dried fruit, nuts and seeds. Often these were purchased for a specific recipe and have sat in the cupboard ever since (sometimes years).

I have been slowly using up some of these items in my breakfast oats which I either have as porridge or overnight oats. Both of these dishes are very frugal and are often associated with healthy eating. I make porridge with water but if I have yogurt or non dairy milk available then I make overnight oats which is even quicker than porridge and can be eaten on the go.

I don’t find my porridge lasts me all morning unless I add some protein in the form or nuts or seeds and some fruit whuch helps flavour it. I usually soak, dried fruit, nuts and seeds especially the smaller hard seeds like linseed or chia which can pass through the system undigested unless the hard shell is softened or ground. Soaking also seems to enhance flavour.

Some of the ingredients I have used in my porridge so far this year include:

  • Various dried fruits
  • Various seeds e.g. linseed, chia, nettle, watermelon
  • Mincemeat, jam, jelly, marmalade
  • Sugar, maple syrup, golden syrup
  • Frozen fruits
  • Fresh fruits including apples, Rhubarb, banana, oranges, lemons
  • Other breakfast flakes e.g. millet, muesli, barley
  • Cake flavourings like vanilla or almond essence
  • Nesquik powder and cordial (in very small quantities only as they incredibly sweet)

This is slowly helping me declutter my cupboard and provide a varied breakfast each day.

Delicious dandelions: coffee and more

I took advantage of the lovely spring weather in February and did a lot of digging. Before I start a digging session I usually go over the ground and harvest any useful “weeds” so that they don’t get trampled. One plant I seem to have been blessed with an abundance of this year is the lovely dandelion. I find it very hard to throw a single plant away.

Dandelions are especially known for their liver and kidney benefits, but there are numerous other health benefits(1) in addition to the plant’s usefulness as a pot herb.

Over the years, as well as cooking and eating dandelions, I have preserved dandelions in numerous ways:

  • Dandelion leaf vinegar
  • Dandelion root bitters
  • Dried roots
  • Dried leaves
  • Dandelion root coffee
  • Dandelion flower wine
  • Dandelion flower essence
  • Dandelion flower infused oil

The two favourites are dandelion leaf vinegar and dandelion coffee. The first time I tried the vinegar it reminded me slightly of salt and vinegar crisps and I couldn’t get enough of it.

I have found a failsafe recipe online(2) for dandelion coffee and now automatically choose this as my preferred method of preserving the roots if I have harvested enough. The only difference I make is that I chop up the roots much smaller and skip the dehydrator phase so I have a delicious beverage in less than an hour.

My steps are as follows:

  1. Scrub roots
  2. Chop in food processor
  3. Roast at 200°C for 30mins (turning halfway because my oven is not an even cooker)
  4. Return to (clean) processor
  5. Return to oven for 5-10 mins at 180°C
  6. An optional further whizz in the processor (although if it is going to be drunk from a tea infuser rather than a cafetiere, it doesn’t want to be too powdery)

I will be honest in that it is not as good tasting as real coffee, but as I am trying to reduce my caffeine intake and increase beneficial foods, it is an acceptable alternative.

Edible stems?

Up until a week ago I had no idea that the stems were edible, I had made this assumption based on the fact I had seen the sap from the stems recommended for the treatment of warts, plus the green caylxes at the base of the stems tend to get discarded when wine making. However, I came across an article(3) which suggested using them as an alternative to noodles. This intrigued me and following a quick Google search I found references (on more than one site)(4) to the fact that all parts of the dandelion plant are edible. This is something novel that I might attempt to try next month when the flowers are blooming. I have already started collecting recipes for the flowers so it would be a shame to waste the stems.

Caution

Dandelions can cause problems if consumed in excess due to the oxalic acid content and it is a potential allergen in some people. The reference below(5) explores this in more depth.

References

  1. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/dandelion-benefits#section8
  2. https://www.eatweeds.co.uk/dandelion-root-coffee-recipe
  3. http://foragedfoodie.blogspot.com/2017/03/paleo-dandelion-noodles-gluten-free-keto.html?m=1
  4. Such as this https://www.fix.com/blog/dandelion-health-benefits/
  5. https://www.botanical-online.com/english/dandelion_toxicity.htm

Using up herbs – part 1: blending herbs

Before I started harvesting herbs this year I had already run out of space to store them so I took advantage of a spare afternoon and decided to go through some of my older herbs. I don’t worry too much about adhering to storage dates. It’s more important for me to consider how herbs are stored. I try to keep mine in glass jars in a cupboard. If they have lost colour and scent they are probably less effective. I would certainly never use dusty or mouldy herbs.

I decided that some of the older herbs would be fine for general use teas. I made up four teas and one general purpose herb mix for cooking. I’ll list the ingredients at the end but for reference purposes only as these were intended to use up what I had and provide me with free beverages rather than to treat any specific conditions. The quantities were variable depending upon how much was left in the jar and whether larger quantities would be too overpowering. The blander and abundant herbs like nettles tended to be the main ingredients.

All blends got put through my mini chopper until they were a uniform size. I use a tea ball at work (similar to the picture above) and if the pieces are too big it won’t shut properly so the contents escape through the middle; too powdery and it escapes through the fine holes.

All the blends have been OK but nothing exceptional. I had a really good night’s sleep after the stressbuster tea and the goddess tea was probably the most pleasant to drink.

Hopefully I will be following up the using up theme over the next couple of weeks.

Blend #1: Cleansing tea

  • Cleavers
  • Nettles
  • Dandelion
  • Red clover flowers
  • Ginger
  • Calendula flowers
  • Golden rod
  • Ground elder
  • Peppermint
  • Corn silk

Blend #2: Goddess tea

  • Lady’s mantle
  • Rose
  • Motherwort
  • Sage
  • Red clover
  • Nettle
  • Fennel seeds
  • Hops
  • Hibiscus

Blend#3: Winter health tea

  • Elderberry
  • Elderflower
  • Ginger
  • Calendula
  • Nettle
  • Rosemary
  • Peppermint
  • Sage
  • Ground ivy
  • Marshmallow

Blend #4: Stress busting tea

  • Chamomile
  • Lemon balm
  • Vervain
  • Rose
  • Nettle
  • Catnip
  • Betony
  • Orange peel
  • Hibiscus

Blend #5: General pot herb blend

  • Nettle
  • Dill weed
  • Coriander leaf
  • Shepherd’s purse
  • Hyssop
  • Lovage
  • Cajun spice blend
  • Coriander seeds
  • Basil
  • Fennel seeds
  • Marjoram
  • Yarrow

Homemade supplements

In the past I have spent a lot of money on nutritional supplements such as green powders and multi-vitamins.

I am currently working on building up a selection of vitamin and mineral supplements as well as improving my intake through my diet.

Vinegars

One easy hit is to take herbal vinegars in hot water as an alternative hot drink. I find this works well and I am currently taking a combination of lemon balm, nettle, mint, dandelion and horsetail in cider vinegar with a drop of honey. I pop a generous splash in a mug of hot water. It’s a pleasant alternative to tea or coffee although this particular blend is quite astringent.

Powders

As I am new to dehydrating I am intending on creating a range of herbal powders which I will try blending together. These can be added to soups, stews, smoothies and juices to provide additional flavours as well as vitamins and minerals. I have been powdering fruit and veg peelings along with some greens. As soon as the opportunity arises I will be collecting and dehydrating dandelions, nettles, cleavers, ground elder, chickweed and plantain. I’ve found in the past that some herbs including cleavers do not dry at all well yet they are available for purchase in a dried form. This year will be a big experiment on whether they can be preserved better in the dehydrator. I will also be looking at dehydrating more veg including pulp from juicing.

Teas

Some vitamin and mineral benefits may also be obtained through herbal teas. I will be making some experimental tea blends over the next few months.

Vitamins & minerals present in the herbs mentioned above.

N. B. More vitamins and minerals may be present. Where B vitamins are mentioned there will be at least one but not necessarily all present.

Dandelion:

Vitamins: A, B, C, E, K

Minerals: Iron, Calcium, Manganese, Potassium, Phosphorus, Copper, Magnesium.

Lemon Balm:

Vitamins: B, K

Minerals: Copper, Manganese, Magnesium, Zinc

Horsetail:

Vitamins: B

Minerals: Calcium, Zinc, Silicon

Nettle:

Vitamins: A, B, C

Minerals: Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Potassium

Mint:

Vitamins: A, C

Minerals: Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium, Phosphorus, Iron

Cleavers:

Vitamins: B, C, E

Minerals: Calcium, Sodium, Iodine, Copper

Ground elder:

Vitamins: A, C, E

Minerals: Iron, Calcium, Magnesium

Chickweed:

Vitamins: A, B, C

Minerals: Calcium, Magnesium, Manganese, Zinc, Iron, Phosphorus, Potassium

Plantain:

Vitamins: A, C

Minerals: Sodium, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, Copper, Zinc, Manganese, Phosphorus

Disclaimer

I am not a nutritionalist, scientist, herbalist or doctor.

The presence of vitamins and minerals is based on third party information which has not necessarily been verified scientifically.

The information collected has been gathered solely for my own purposes.

Some vitamins and minerals can be harmful if taken in excess or for certain conditions including pregnancy. Quantities present will vary according to preparation methods.

Please seek advice from a qualified herbalist or doctor before preparing your own supplements.