May Chang essential oil

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Looking for a bit of a mood boost and pick-me-up, I remembered this mysterious-sounding ‘May Chang’. It’s also known as Litsea, ‘chinese pepper’, or exotic verbena – although it’s not related to verbena, it can be used in place of melissa (lemon balm) oil. Giving it a sniff, it’s a fresh citrusy scent, not quite as sharp as lemon and sweeter than lemongrass, with perhaps a slight spiciness.

As with most citruses, may chang has uplifting properties, and is used for mental fatigue and lethargy. It can help combat depression, clearing the head if you’re feeling anxious, stressed, or foggy-headed.

May Chang blends well with: other citruses (bergamot, grapefruit, lemon, lime, orange, etc), as well as basil, clary sage, geranium, ginger, lavender, marjoram, rose, rosemary, and ylang ylang. It can be used in place of lemongrass, for a slightly more subtle lemon scent.

Combos tried:

  • 3 may chang, 2 marjoram, 1 tangerine – light, sweet, and cheery

Want to try:

  • Calm and clarity: 5 bergamot, 1 may chang, 1 rose, 1 neroli
  • alternatively: 3 geranium, 2 bergamot, 1 may chang, 1 rose
  • Refreshing: 4 sweet orange, 3 may chang, 3 spearmint
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Geranium essential oil

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geranium-1906554_960_720This one always reminds me of turkish delight, even though that’s more of a rose thing. It’s one of my favourite florals, which isn’t necessarily saying much as I’m not a fan of flowery-sweet scents as a rule, but I do find it quite happy and uplifting. I’m learning to balance the sweetness with something like a citrus or spice (e.g. black pepper).

Geranium essential oil is used to combat stress and depression, as well as for general relaxation. It blends well with, among others: bergamot, lavender, rosemary, chamomile, patchouli, and citruses including lime, orange, grapefruit, and lemon.

Combos tried:

  • 2 grapefruit, 1 lime, 1 geranium – fresh and spring-like
  • 3 rosewood, 2 geranium, 2 mandarin, 1 patchouli – nice depth of scent, with almost a little of everything
  • 2 orange, 2 frankincense, 1 geranium

Want to try:

  • 2 lavender, 1 geranium, 1 rose

Bergamot essential oil

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I always think of bergamot (which I absolutely refuse to pronounce with that last ‘t’ – urgh! As well say ‘buffit’ instead of ‘boufay’! ;)) as ‘my’ essential oil, as it was possibly the first one I ever tried – or rather, had used on me, blended with black pepper for a muscle-soothing, calming and uplifting massage.

Bergamot is part of the citrus family, alongside the more obvious orange, lemon, and lime, etc. I do seem to be keen on the citrus oils – I like the zing and uplifting nature of them! I find bergamot a bit less sharp than the others, with a sweeter, softer scent that I really like.

Bergamot is used as a mood enhancer, lowering anxiety and stress, and confidence booster, and also said to help with headaches and muscle tension.

It blends well with the other citrus oils, and various online sources also suggest trying cedarwood, clary sage, frankincense, geranium, jasmine, neroli, lavender, rosewood, sandalwood, and ylang ylang.

Combos tried:

  • bergamot and black pepper
  • 2 drops bergamot, 2 drops grapefruit, 1 drop neroli – lovely! From blend 4 on this list of suggested ‘happy’ blends
  • bergamot, lemon, orange – classic mood-lifting citruses
  • 5 drops bergamot, 3 drops grapefruit, 2 drops peppermint – ‘wake up’, and it really does! Lovely balance of sweet and sharp
  • 2 bergamot, 2 lavender, 1 lemon – a nice soothing mood-lift

Want to try:

  • bergamot, frankincense, lavender in equal amounts (from here)

Lemon essential oil

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lemonBeen a while since I started this category, but as I’m getting back in to using my oil burner and a bit of aromatherapy, thought it was high time to get back to it!

Today’s oil burner mix is from a google search for ‘uplifting essential oils’, which brought me to this Liz Earle page. I’m currently using a mix of 3 drops lemon, 1 bergamot, and 1 lavender – and it’s lovely! Lemon can sometimes seem a little kitchen cleaner-y, but this is very well balanced and refreshing.

Lemon oil is a citrus and thus generally held to be refreshing, energizing and uplifting, and good for aiding concentration.

For blending, citruses tend to go well together, so lime, orange, neroli, bergamot, etc. The list from other sites seems to include almost everything – lemon seems to be quite the versatile one! I like the idea of matching it with spicy (ginger, black pepper) or earthy scents, or to add a bit of zing to balance out florals (geranium, rose, ylang ylang).

Combos tried:

  • lemon, orange, lime – very refreshing!
  • lemon, bergamot, orange – more classic citrus combos
  • 3 drops lemon, 1 drop bergamot, 1 drop lavender – uplifting and nicely balanced
  • 1 lemon, 2 bergamot, 2 lavender – a more soothing version of the above

Postcard from Habitica (1)

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I’ve been meaning to write about Habitica (formerly HabitRPG) pretty much since I joined back in May 2015. Has it been that long?! Wow! And still going strong as a wonderful motivation and organisation tool for me! I’ve started so many posts, and failed to cover even half of what the site is about – but then, there is a wonderful wiki so I’m giving up try to repeat a whole site’s worth of information in one post! Instead, I’m going to focus in on how I use the site.

First off, in one line, what is Habitica? It’s a motivational site, a set of lists (split into habits, dailies and to-dos) that you create to suit yourself, and using ‘gamification’ – in the form of an old-school Role Playing Game set up – to reward you for completing the tasks you’ve set yourself.

habitica-lists

a quick peak at some of my list items

The to do list is the most obvious, and this is the best format of such that I think I’ve found – for me. This is because it’s one huge list to which I add absolutely everything I need/want to get done, whether NOW, or just eventually, or something in between. It sounds like it should be unwieldy, and yet it works for me. When I complete an item, I tick it off so the list stays full of still-to-do items, plus I get a happy little ‘ta da!’-type noise and those gamification points: health, skills mana, gold, and maybe a random item. Of course, this isn’t going to work for everyone, but it utterly appeals to my inner geek! 🙂

Dailies are the ones that you ‘have’ to complete or else your in-game avatar loses health, so ideal for reminders (e.g. ‘take tablet’) and things you really want to enforce as a daily habit. My advice for this is to make the daily the smallest possible unit of the habit you want to create: if it’s meditation, for instance (which is on mine, but ‘ticked off’ already for today), set the goal as just 5 minutes. You can always do more – I usually do! – but this way even on your busiest days you can still ensure you’re touching base with the habit.

The actual category Habits are theoretically for things you’d do more than once a day, but for me are more things I want to do but don’t mind if it’s not every day. I’ve also discovered along the way that while there are positive and negative habits (separately, or a plus/minus on the same item), negatives really don’t work for me – I don’t find it motivating to ‘punish’ myself for not doing something, and just seeing a negative item on the list reminds me of it, which is less than helpful!

The challenge that’s kicking me to actually write this post is #HabiticaResolutions – how this all helps me to keep my New Year’s Resolutions. Well, I didn’t have set goals like that, tbh, but in terms of a lifestyle I’m continually trying to create and improve, I still absolutely love Habitica. It lets me keep everything in one place, with just enough filters (via custom tags, or Habit headings (like the ‘mind’ in the screenshot above, which is accompanied by ‘body’, ‘organisation’ and ‘hobbies’) ) to keep it a little bit tidy.

The gamification element isn’t going to work for or even appeal to everyone, but if it does then there are several different ways to use it. For me, daft as it is, I enjoy collecting the pets – these are ‘random drops’ as you complete tasks, with a large collect-them-all page… yeah, it’s silly, but hey, if it works! 🙂

habitica-pets

I hope to be writing a lot more ‘postcards from Habitica’, but there’s your brief overview. The site rocks, I’ve barely scratched the surface of what there is to customise your best motivational version, but personally I love it and the control it helps me feel I’m keeping over my scanner-scattered life! 🙂

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I get to go tick off a big ‘to do’ item – perhaps I’ll find a dragon egg as a reward! 🙂

Fancy trying meditation?

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Looking back at 2016, and I think one of my successes was maintaining a meditation practice. It wasn’t always perfect, but I did manage something close to 350 days out of the year – not bad!

I also hit a personal record ‘streak’ of 122 days in a row. And then I forgot one Saturday – argh! Not for an obvious reason, like being super-busy or stressed – in fact, I was probably too chilled out that day. Oops!

The silver lining to this, however, was that I was no longer tied to the app I’d been using – Calm – which, while good, was blown out of the water by the one I’ve since switched to: Insight Timer.

I’m not here to sell that to you (not least cos it’s free!), but one of the things I’m loving about it is the 365 Days challenge. I think there’s something like 140K people signed up already worldwide, which is pretty amazing! And yes, it’s as obvious as it sounds: try to meditate every day for a year 🙂

2020mfpTo help with this, each day has a new podcast. The first 20 were a series, 20-20 Meditate for Peace, which I finished this morning (having missed the first two days of January due to daft ‘traditions’ which don’t lend themselves to this whole idea of fresh starts!). While a little too ‘new agey’ for my tastes (yes, I meditate; no I don’t need to have chats with my own ‘higher self’. Hmm), I got a lot out of this. That’s perhaps surprising given I have been meditating for quite some time now, but there’s never a wrong time to go back and have a refresher on the basics.

More, I decided to use this building practice – it started with 1 minute on day one, 20 minutes on day 20 – as a way to get back into seated postures. I usually meditate in ‘corpse pose’, which is great for deep breathing, imo. But I’ve always looked at those pictures of folk sitting crossed legged for hours, and wondered how on earth they could do that. It’s not the legs that get me (although I decline the full lotus position of feet above knees!), but the back. So, 20 days of building up I’m hugely pleased to say my posture is WAY better!

There are a hundred benefits to meditation – and posture is now one of them, for me! – so if you fancy giving it a go, I do recommend the 365 Days challenge. The next couple of weeks are due to focus on different roots of meditation practices, and will then explore different types. So, an encouragement to stick to a routine, but also a great way of learning more about this whole thing. And I’d suggest that if it hasn’t worked for you before, trying out the different types – breathing, walking, or even eating meditations have been mentioned! – there’s almost certainly going to be something that suits.

Namaste, as they say!

TIL 30: September Learning Challenge

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It seems appropriate to end this challenge by looking back over the month and what I’ve learned. Not just the javascript, or voice in writing, or stress management, but overall.

After the initial enthusiasm for the idea, I confess I was dubious about how sensible it was: did I really need the stress? And my ‘need’ to mix it up and do several topics – not sure that was okay (as if it matters!) or the best for me, tbh. Then again, I am a scanner after all 😉

But very quickly I was impressed about what a difference it made to my usual love of but scatter-gun approach to learning. First, there’s that push to keep going and not start skipping days. I’ve done some javascript before, for instance, but never leaving off for more than a few days powered me through the material fast enough that I hadn’t started to forget the beginning 😉 In fact, that speed of moving through things was quite impressive – I’ve covered a lot in the month, more than I would have without the challenge.

The real eye opener, though, was the daily blogging – not my usual thing, but it really focuses the brain when you know you have to explain things! I gained a few new readers, too, which was interesting!

I’ve also had to let go of a bit of perfectionism. Were all the blog posts brilliant? Hah! But they got done – and sometimes that’s the more important thing.

The last week has been tough, since I’ve had a cold and then Inktober starting – definitely know now to stick to one challenge at a time! But I’m really glad to have reached the end, with 30 posts to show that yup, this September I learned some things! 🙂