Simple Coffee

We got rid of three coffee makers, including a Keruig, and we now have two. A Melitta black plastic pour over, and a French press.

In the past I have broken at least three glass presses, and they have a tendency to cool the coffee too quickly anyway. I started thinking that since those are known issues somebody has come up with a solution. They have.  Double-walled stainless steal French presses.

Picture of Insulated Stainless Steel French Press
Double-walled Stainless Steel French Press

For now I am keeping the Melitta since it takes up practically no room, but we have been using the French press exclusively. We gained a lot of counter space in our small kitchen, and it saves on electricity.

After I turn off the burner, I put the press down where I boiled the water to keep it hot as it seeps. I wonder if I could just boil the water in the press itself with the filter/plunger out? I don’t see why not unless it would not hold up to the heat for some reason.

These come in various sizes, from different manufacturers.

I am very satisfied with this, and do not miss the Keruig at all.  We had long ago gone to the reusable basket anyway because the cups were so expensive.

I really enjoy finding ways to simplify my life.  So far, every single step of the way has not only made things simpler, it has also made them better.

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Get Simple

I am really trying to get rid of all the unnecessary, excessive, and obscuring things in my life. Make it simple. Minamalism.

I thought I would share two simple changes I made.

The first was taking every toilet paper hanger down. Nobody used them. There was always an empty roll in the hangers with just the tube and a shred of paper. And then you had to figure out where you might find more. Problem solved:

Toilet Paper Holder
Toilet Paper Holder

How about socks? Are you tired of sorting and trying to match up socks? Do you have a clothes basket someplace that’s filled a quarter way up with single socks for which there is no known match? I threw all my socks out,  and purchased 12 pair of socks for $10. I use them for everything including running. There are some blend – not cotton. After about 3 years or more they started to get holes in them, so I went out and purchased a new package of the very same style.

I don’t even have to fold them up. I just stick them in my drawer and grab two when I need them. Problem solved:

Pair of black socks
Plain Black Socks

WillPower: The Book

The single best nonfiction book I have read this year, and maybe the best one I have read in three or more years, was Willpower:  Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy F. Baumeister, and  John Tierney published by The Penguin Press in 2011.  I will save you the trouble and provide you the Amazon link here.  According to Wikipedia Roy Baumeister is the internationally known “Francis Eppes Professor of Psychology at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida.”  You can also visit his faculty web site.

This book offers remarkable insight into the obstacles we face when losing weight, exercising, and otherwise trying to lead an organized, healthy, fulfilling, and productive lifestyle.

I always highlight, and write notes when I read, if the book is intriguing. I then go back and take notes.  I have not done that yet, but below is a list of the most memorable, and useful items, that I remember from my first visit. In no particular order:

  • although we can increase our capacity for using willpower, it is also something that can be depleted.  When it is depleted you make bad choices you regret later.
  • making too many decisions too fast can deplete willpower. This phenomenon is known as decision fatigue and is related to the next item:
  • willpower requires energy (our brain is 2% of our body but consumes a whooping 20% of the total calories we burn).  If our energy is depleted our willpower, along with other functions, decreases.
  • we can have too many goals.  It is not a good idea to have a large  laundry list of goals (and goals are not to be confused with tasks).  Finishing a degree, writing that novel, and remodeling the house, while you are trying to lose weight is probably not a good idea.
  • organization is the friend of willpower.  The more organized you are the less stress, and cognitive energy, goes into finding things, doing things at the last minute or missing deadlines, and worrying about what has not been done.  Unfinished business, commitments, and obligations creates an “open loop.” This leads to yet one more item:
  • I personally think that it is essential to have some kind of organizing system like the Getting Things Done (GTD) system of David Allen which postulates the aforementioned “open loop” problem.  Tame your tasks. Unfinished business creates an open loop and we often have lots of little, and big, unfinished tasks, commitments, and promises. We are into something else, or maybe two other things, and suddenly remember another thing we forgot to do because we have no system of keeping track of what needs to be done, and what has already been accomplished.  That is known as a todo list my friend.  Get one, and love it.   The GTD system is specifically mentioned in the book and I have had fantastic results with it so far and I am just in the early stages of learning it.  I will be reviewing that book next since I am still reading it.
  • avoid having to make too many decisions and especially trivial ones.  Make a decision, and unless it is a disaster or obviously the wrong one stick with it.   Either have yogurt or egg whites for breakfast and stop worrying about it. They are both good choice.  Wear the gray or black socks.  Does it Preplanning meals, workouts, and activities is a best practice.  You can be flexible but don’t fret too much about first world problems or matters that well, don’t matter.
  • habits are your friend.  If something is habitual you don’t have a chance to think about it.

I also think that reducing clutter (in all areas of your life), and practicing some degree of minimization is helpful.  Everything is connected.

The book is not the complete instruction manual for building willpower I was hoping for.  It was also written in 2011, and I am sure there has been a lot of good research since then.  But, it is entertaining, and filled with lots of great information that you can apply.  I will be investigating the phenomenon of what we call willpower from the psychological and neuroscience perspective to try to see what best practices are being developed.  It is a fascinating and useful field.

Calm Energy: How People Regulate Mood with Food and Exercise — a review

This is a review of  Dr. Robert Thayer’s last book (b. 1935 – d. 2014). Dr. Thayer was a psychology professor at  California State University, Long Beach.  He was an internationally known mood scientist, and his book is worth a look.

Dr. Thayer’s book explores the relationship between a depressed mood and over eating, and  not having the energy, or not feeling like, exercise.  His premise is that we often eat to help regulate our mood, and that even a moderately DSC_0002depressed mood drives us toward inactivity.  Paradoxically we do not have the energy to exercise, and use food to elevate mood creating a feedback loop.  While written in 2001 Dr. Thayer had already identified technology as something that has contributed to a rise in chronic background stress over and above what occurred previously.   Now I am going to tell you why you should read it.

I think the science clearly shows that our mood does effect when and how we exercise, as well as when and how we eat.  This book provides some great advice, and I will mention just a few things:

1. Sleep.  Get enough of it.  Lack of sleep has an adverse effect on mood.  Not only do we perform poorly when we have not had enough sleep, it does contribute to a negative mood, and to poor eating habits.  I am working very hard to get my own sleep regulated, and I suffer for it when that does not work out.

2.  You can use exercise to reduce the urge to snack.  Here is a quote:

If one of the reasons we snack is for the pleasure it gives us in the form of increased energy and reduced tension, and if exercise also gives similar pleasure through its effects on our moods, then it ought to be possible to substitute exercise for snacking, at least in a limited sort or way. pg. 79

He cites research that shows exercise can suppress appetite, and is particularly effective for when we cycle through our periods of low mood which happens periodically as a matter of course.

There is a lot more good information in the book.  Dr. Thayer has started us down the road into understanding how self-awareness can help us to not only be more aware of what is happening with our bodies, but also to  begin learning how to take evasive action to avoid the negative things in our life.

I am predicting that in the future we will find out that  learning how to control our moods will be a critical part of our fitness arsenal.  Running is nothing more than a tool for me, and one of many, no matter how much I like it.  And remember, at least for me, this is not just about  staying fit. I am not in it for the six-pack.  Not at 58 years of age.  It is about leading a sane life, with joy, vigour, and pleasure in every moment that we can.  I am also continually amazed at how everything is connected.  We cannot ignore one thing at the expense of another.

Live long and prosper. And get some sleep!

Mike

Mindfulness, Minimalism, and Fitness: What do they have in common?

To me fitness is not an end into itself but a tool for better living.  My path to fitness started with diet, evolved to include fitness, from there to mindfulness, and finally to minimalism.  I forgot to mention the very beginning  of all this was getting away from a cigarette addiction. What do all those things have in common?  Getting rid of what you don’t need.  Eliminating what is either harmful or burdensome.  Eliminating the foods you don’t need,  the weight that holds you back and breaks your health, the excessive stress and relentless pace of modern life, and then finally all that “stuff” we don’t need.  Travel light.

Tomorrow I am giving a presentation on mindfulness at the Lake of the Ozarks for the Missouri chapter of the National Association of Social Works (NASW).    You can find the  presentation here as a PDF file.  It is subject to change – a work in progress.