In defence of public holidays

Melburnians were out in force on Friday for the public holiday they were given in order to prepare for the Australian Football League Grand Final.

No one would argue that it’s a pretty ridiculous reason to be given a public holiday, but judging by the number of people I encountered on my bike ride around the city, it was evident everyone was taking full advantage of it.

Predictably, industry and business groups were not happy with decision, warning of a ghost town and productivity loss.

But Premier Daniel Andrews defended his public holiday, highlighting the positive impact the time off would have on families. I tend to agree with his reasoning.

While small businesses and some industries may have suffered and lost money in paying staff penalty rates, can a cost be placed on people’s health? Shouldn’t we place importance on work/life balance as well as the economy?

I like to think of public holidays as large-scale giant mental health days. For those who can get a day off, it provides the time to do something you enjoy, to spend time with people you care about or to just do nothing.

Research conducted to coincide with Go Home on Time Day, found that the hours Australians work in overtime in a year adds up to almost $110 billion. Not paying their employees for this extra time is surely a benefit business is already reaping.

Melbourne was glorious for the public holiday on October 2.

Melbourne was glorious for the public holiday on October 2.

The sunny weather obviously has an impact on the number of people being active on the public holiday; there were groups of cyclists, joggers and couples running together. Families and groups of friends were taking up real estate on any patch of lawn available for picnics and barbecues. Others left the city for the water, the highways to the coast and river much busier than they would have been otherwise.

Watching everyone enjoying this free day made me think of how important it is to be forced to not work. Despite our image to the contrary, Australians really don’t like not working.

We are a nation of workaholics. The latest Roy Morgan figures show Australia’s full-time workforce has about 21 of days of leave accrued.

So a few forced public holidays scattered throughout the year is, in my book, a public service.

What do you like to do on a public holiday?

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Bound to the big chains? Here are some alternatives

When I left Katherine in the Northern Territory I vowed to never again visit a large supermarket chain. After four years of visiting the same store I was sick of its sameness, its uniformed vegetables and gaudy promotions.

In Australia, the two largest supermarkets have a monopoly. They dominate the grocery space and convince us, the consumers, that there are only two options when it comes to deciding where to do the weekly shop. It’s worth being aware about the activities of these companies before making a decision on where to spend your money.

Luckily, there are more than just two options.

Shop local

I’m spoilt for choice with three butchers, a veg and fruit store, deli, bakery and more just a five minute walk away. Now, I know many people aren’t lucky enough to have this abundance of choice, but even travelling that little bit further is worth it. Many think individual shops will be more expensive, but often no more so than the chains. What’s more you get quality products and friendly customer service. It’s also important to support local businesses otherwise one day we won’t have the choice.

Markets

Markets are not only a treasure trove of produce, but also a great way to interact with the people who make or sell your food. My local farmers market has a particular veggie stall we love. It sells the most amazing vegetables that are the complete opposite of what you find in the supermarket; purple, white and orange carrots, juicy leeks, fresh green broccoli and beetroot of all shapes and sizes. Undercover markets are also great alternatives to the big supermarkets. We usually just buy what’s in season and then make up recipes from what’s in the fridge during the week.

Broccoli? No a delightful green cauliflower from the veggie guy at the markt

Broccoli? No, a delightful green cauliflower from the veggie guy at the market

Community food groups

Community food groups are springing up everywhere – from regional towns, to inner city suburbs. Often run by a few eager volunteers, it’s a great place to pick up bulk products like rice, flour and beans, as well as veggies. Food swaps are also another great idea to get you inspired to make more of your own food and to enjoy what others have created. Find a swap meet near you using the Local Harvest map. Also check out your local council website for listings, as well as on Facebook.

Online shopping

This is a space that’s only going to keep growing. There are already plenty of companies offering to send you boxes of organic products, gourmet meals and Paleo ingredients. There are also schemes like the Goodness Me Box, which send you a surprises box of health food goodies each month for you to review. Reviews earn you reward points which then go toward your next delivery. For a more complete shopping experience, Aussie Farmers Direct will service most of Australia delivering Aussie-made products to your door.

How do you like to shop?

Yes, it’s possible to be mindful on the cheap

It seems the price tag associated with mindfulness is increasing . From $1000 a night meditation retreats to the pressure to wear the latest designer yoga pants, it’s no wonder some dismiss it as something only to be enjoyed by wellness bloggers and celebrities on Instagram. Thankfully, there is a way to reap the benefits without going bankrupt in the process.

Art for the non-artist 

I was born without the artistic gene – I struggle to draw a stick figure, but recently I’ve found my outlet. I received some adult colouring books for my birthday and have since created quite a few masterpieces. Aside from getting you to slow down and focus, it also makes you practice being imperfect (it’s ok to go outside the lines) and to be creative (like giving a person a purple face).

A true masterpiece - right?

A true masterpiece – right?

Two birds, one stone

Sometimes on a packed tram there’s simply no room to pull out your book, and I find constantly scrolling down my Twitter feed makes me scatty and anxious. To try and chill out I’ve begun listening to podcasts. I find I can zone out from the guy coughing up his lung next to me and I sometimes even learn something.

Bend and stretch

I’ve done yoga on and off over the years but I’m no devotee. I’m not a fan of the chanting but I don’t mind the stretching and the excuse to close my eyes for an hour. I’m lucky my work offers yoga at work and I found even one session a week reduces my neck and back issues and stops me from worrying about the small things at work. Oh, and the teacher always reminds me to breathe which can’t be a bad thing.

Get help to stay still

I’d been keen to try meditation but hadn’t got around to it until my partner had trouble sleeping. I downloaded the free Australian-made app, Smiling Mind and we’ve both found it pretty useful with different levels and exercises to try. I find it stops me dwelling on work or the episode of Penny Dreadful I just watched before I head off to bed.

Treat your kitchen as a haven

I’m no gourmet cook but I love to potter around in the kitchen and find it quite soothing. I have a few favourite recipes that I now make most weeks and that I know will turn out ok, including my own yoghurt and granola. I’ve also recently begun making soda bread, using a few different recipes, like this one.

Get your hands dirty

An explosion of weeds in our front garden after a wet winter forced us to finally take the plunge into gardening beyond a few pots of herbs. Weeding is rather therapeutic and digging up deeply-buried roots is a fantastic way to relieve any frustration. Best of all it forced me outside to get some Vitamin D and fresh air.

What’s your favourite way to be mindful?