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I’m looking for the easy life these days. There’s enough going on in my mind and heart that I’m really happy to simplify as many areas of my life as possible.

I’m not interested in complex Rules for Living my Life, confusing advice about what I should and shouldn’t be eating, contradictory information about the type of exercise I should be doing.

It sometimes gets too much, then I get overwhelmed and then I get stressed. Sound familiar?

A couple of hours on Facebook or surfing the net or watching TV gives us plenty to digest.  Sometimes it’s fun, distracting, entertaining and educational. But mostly it’s too much.

We are in information overload. Where does all that information we read, watch and absorb go to? Does it enrich our lives or does it numb, overwhelm, or paralyse us?

One thing all this information gives us is ideas for how to live our lives. But often times we interpret it as you are not good enough and you must improve. Sure, nothing wrong with self-enquiry but self-improvement is a different beast.

Self-improvement can be a seductive animal, tempting with the promise of a better You. It shames with images of the undesirable Before photo and dangles the possibility of a grander After photo. Who can resist?

But self-improvement has a sting in its tail. It requires your compliance and your willingness to hand over a part of your Real Self in exchange for a promise note. It asks you to change, let go, be another version of yourself.

Self-improvement becomes the boss, and you the slave.

But at the end of the day, you still need to feed the family (or yourself) and manage your stress levels. On our road to self-improvement, we still need to live and be in the Real World.

We still need a way to manage the rising anxiety when our mind wanders to the stressful parts of our lives.

We still need a way to talk ourselves off the cliff when our challenges become too much. We still need a way to allow the thoughts and the stress and the worry and the anxiety to be there without consuming us.

With my need for a simple, under-complicated life, I realised there were two powerful things I could do regularly to help myself.

Meditation and Meal Planning – the two M’s.

Meditation is kind of like exercise. You know you should be doing it, you’ve heard it’s good for you but damn it takes time and committment. And you know it can be uncomfortable and hard work. So why do it? Well, meditation is like gym for the brain. And just like a regular gym, some of the results show up straight away (calm mind) and some take time.

And it’s the results that take time to show up that can be really interesting.

Can you imagine how you might be in the world if you had a daily meditation practice? It might include better health, lower stress levels, clarity of mind, mindful food choices, calmer parenting, more loving relationships and strengthened intuition.

Personally, I like to meditate 15-20 minutes each morning, as soon as I wake up. But you can split it into 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the afternoon. And all you need do is set the timer on your phone, sit upright in a comfortable position, close your eyes and breathe.

I like to either follow my breath or repeat a mantra (like ‘Here Now’, ‘Let Go’ or ‘I Am’). When your mind wanders, which it will just gently bring your attention back to your breath.

Meal Planning, like meditation, is a gateway exercise. Meaning that when you do it, the benefits go beyond just knowing what you’ll be eating for the next couple of days.

I find that meal planning helps with stress levels, budgeting, family communication and healthy eating. And like meditation, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy life more!

There are no right or wrong ways to meal plan. Even just planning a day ahead can be hugely beneficial. Some people like to allocate meals to nights of the week, others like to have an overview of what they’re going to cook for the week and keep it flexible.

The key to meal planning is to make it work for you.

The appeal of self-improvement lingers and I know how easy it is to be an information junkie. I stopped watching television several years ago and I do my best to avoid ingesting information (radio, web, paper) that doesn’t make me feel good.

But it’s all still there. Knowing this means knowing myself means looking after myself. Which means remembering to meditate, and when I’m really on my game, remembering to meal plan.

Do you meditate? Meal plan? If not, would you like to do either of these? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

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