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My eco-friendly lunch kit

October 6, 2019
eco-friendly lunch kit

Bringing my lunch to work

I recently started a new job and along with understanding my role and the organisation; I’ve been getting to grips with a new working environment too. We have kitchen facilities but no cutlery or crockery.

I want to get better at bringing my lunches in. This is partly due to financial and health reasons: it’s expensive and I struggle to find healthier options when I’m out and about. However, I also feel conscious of all the packaging the food I’m buying comes in too given that I’m trying to reduce plastic waste.

Up until recently, my only option has been to make sure I keep a few wooden forks in my desk (thanks M&S) so I don’t have to use plastic forks from our work canteen. This is why I was really pleased when Global 1rst got in touch with me seeing if I wanted to try their eco-friendly wooden cutlery set. Its handmade from sustainable mahogany wood and is washable after use (not dishwasher safe). The size also means I can keep them in my locker comfortably along with the rest of my eco-friendly lunch kit.

I also now make sure I carry around a reusable cup with me, a stainless steel water bottle and a lunchbox. There is an initial investment and eco-friendly products aren’t always cheap because they’re made out of better, more durable materials. However, given that you reuse them and coffee shops often give you a discount if you have your own cup, then they start to pay for themselves.

My next step is to start investigating different food suppliers to see if I can reduce plastic packaging. I work long hours and so supermarket home deliveries have been a lifesaver. However, I want to explore some different options and see what else is out there. Any tips, let me know.

My eco-friendly lunch kit essentials

  • Reusable coffee cup – I like keep cups. I love their design and as I’m a black coffee drinker; I find the cups are better insulated so they don’t burn my hand.
  • Stainless steel water bottle – there are so many brands out there for lots of different prices. I have this Chilly’s one.
  • Stainless steel lunch box – look for ones that don’t leak. I bought one from Black & Blum
  • Reusable cutlery – such as from Global 1rst

Some of the products reviewed in this blog were gifted but all my opinions are my own.

nature

6 ways to connect with nature when you live in a city

August 28, 2019
ways to connect with nature when you live in a city

One of my dreams in life is to be able to open my curtains and look out on to a view of green fields without another house in sight.

Where this plan falls over is I actually love living in London. I really like being able to nip out to a coffee shop and having a choice of which one I go to all in a 5 minute radius. I like going to the theatre, galleries, street food markets and generally feeling like I have a choice in what I do. I’ve built up friendship groups here, a career and now I’m starting to make friends through my son’s nursery and build a family life here too.

I spent nearly every weekend in my early years in the Peak District and I think it must have been then that the need for green seeped into my bones. I like wild open spaces and not being able to see another soul in sight. I enjoy the feeling of insignificance realising there is something much more powerful than yourself. And just so you realise how much of a nature lover I am, yes, I have hugged a tree. You should try it.

I’ve learnt over the years that I need to create a balance between my city lifestyle and need for nature. It’s hard to describe the feeling but without it, I’m like a little plant that shrivels up without sunlight. This is why I’ve found ways to still connect with nature even though I live in a city.

How nature impacts our wellbeing

Research shows I’m not the only one who feels a boost in wellbeing around nature.

Studies from back in the 1980s showed that patients in a hospital room which looked out on to greenery recovered from surgery quicker than patients who didn’t.

It’s not just our physical health but our mental wellbeing too with research from the University of Derby for the Wildlife Trust showing nature makes us happier too.

As much as research tells us, we should surround ourselves with nature, it’s not always possible to up sticks and move to a more rural part of the country. For some of us, our families, friends and livelihoods are in cities and there are elements of this way of living we enjoy.

This is why we need to be mindful of making sure we do get the balance right and still connect ourselves with nature even though we live in a city.

Here are some ideas to help.

6 ways to connect with nature when you live in a city

1. Find local parks close to your home and work

Thank you Nicky for that most basic piece of advice I hear you inwardly sigh. However, please bear with me. A study by Fields in Trust shows there is a direct impact between spending time in parks and your physical health.

The good thing about London is you don’t have to walk too far to find a spot of greenery even in the financial district. Someone once they were old plague pits and that’s why they can never be developed – however, google hasn’t confirmed either way if that’s true.

Decent parks aren’t just confined to London either. Sheffield, my home town has plenty of green spaces (greenest city in Europe FYI) so it’s worth reaching them out wherever you are.

I personally like a more unkempt space than your usual well-manicured Victorian affair. If you’re in the UK, the Wildlife Trust have information on nature reserves. They also offer volunteer opportunities too.

2. Treat yourself to some plants

One of my biggest light bulb moments in my adult life was realising most of my plants died because I overwatered them and not from drought.

Look at the top soil and check if it’s dry. Only water, if it is. You will thank me.

Gardening tips aside, even the smallest of spaces can handle a few plants indoors. If you have a garden or some outdoor space then even better.

House plants have a really boost to our wellbeing and are even said to help us recover quicker from illnesses.

3. Visit botanical gardens and garden centres

If you told younger me, I’d get my kicks from visiting my local garden centre, I’d have laughed in your face before hotstepping it onto the nearest dance floor.

TBF though, my local garden centre looks like it’s been designed by Pinterest. It’s incredible.

I also really love visiting botanical gardens and there tend to be some brilliant ones in larger cities such as the one in Cambridge shown in the photo above. There is something about being in a botanical garden that immediately relaxes you and makes you feel calmer.

4. Become more aware of your eco-system

It’s becoming increasingly easier to forget where our food comes from. We buy it pre-packaged, pre-prepared and without a trace of earth. It’s not always possible because of time, money and outdoor space to be able to grow our own food or buy organic fruit and vegetables from farmer’s markets. However, I do think it’s good to be mindful of where our food comes from.

Do you need to buy pre-chopped apples sealed in a plastic bag or could you just buy an apple?

5. Look around you

I was once staring out of a meeting room and saw a beekeeper stood on a roof tending to his hives. I never knew people were making honey right in the city of London.

It’s worth making an effort to unplug from your phone and look around you. Once you get into the habit, you start to notice communal vegetable gardens in blocks of flats, allotments slap bang in the middle of cities and observe wildlife around you too.

6. Stand in bare feet on the ground

There’s a theory known as grounding where you feel more connected to the energy of the earth when you stand in your bare feet.

In our modern times, I don’t know if it’s more to do with the fact we’re used to wearing shoes so there’s a novelty effect? What I do know is, as soon as I’m on a beach, the first thing I do is take my shoes off and walk barefoot in the sand. There’s something very freeing about it. I also love standing barefoot in my garden whilst I potter around watering the plants. So the next time you’re in the park, give grounding a go.

6 ways to connect with nature when you live in a city: Peckham Rye park
travel

21 best things to do in Peckham

August 23, 2019
Best things to do in Peckham: Bussy Building and Copeland park

Peckham is in the London Borough of Southwark in Southeast London. It’s surrounded by East Dulwich, Nunhead, Camberwell and Bermondsey.

It’s been described as the new Shoreditch but actually I think it’s better than that. The chains haven’t quite moved in yet and Peckham Vision have campaigned for redevelopments to be meaningful rather than multiple new build flats. This is why Peckham has become home to an eclectic mix of hipsters and old Nigerian communities where rooftop bars and shops selling dried fish sit side by side.

Here are 21 of the best things to do in Peckham.

Peckham Levels

Peckham Levels began life as a multi-storey car park. It was saved from dereliction and opened in 2018 as workspace and cultural destination. It includes a street food market, bars, yoga studios, hairdressers, as well as co-working spaces. Every level is painted a different colour and as a result there will be at least one influencer photo shoot happening on the stairs.

It’s situated on Rye Lane and the entrance is to the side of the cinema.

best things to do in Peckham: Peckham Levels

Bussey building and Copeland park

Bussey building started life as a cricket bat factory over 100 years ago and was used as an air raid shelter in WW2. The entrance is next to Kahn’s department store on Rye Lane.

It was saved from demolition by Peckham Vision and now the building and surrounding area play host to rooftop bars, nightclubs, yoga studios, art galleries, co-working, gyms and even a sake distillery.. You name it, this place has it.

Copeland park also has regular vintage markets and is home to Peckham Festival in September each year.

Peckham Rye common and park

Yes, Peckham has a bustling high street but it’s also incredibly green. It’s really important to me to be close to nature and I love having so many green spaces on my doorstep.

The biggest park in the area is Peckham Rye common. It’s 113 acres of grassland, playgrounds and ornamental parks. It’s about an 8 minute walk maximum from Peckham Rye train station. East Dulwich and Nunhead stations are also reasonably close by.

The adventure playground is suitable for kids of all ages and includes zip wires, mini trampolines and a water play area amongst other things.

The cafe does a decent pizza and is also licensed so there’s something for everyone.

PeckhamPlex cinema

I can’t believe there is a cheaper cinema anywhere in London than the PeckhamPlex. All tickets are a fiver to see any film including new releases. I think you may have to pay an extra pound for 3D.

I genuinely think the last time I paid £5 to see a film was Titanic in the 90s.

Where to eat in Peckham?

Peckham is a foodie’s paradise and I have made it my mission to try ever single restaurant – purely in the name of research you understand…

I would advise booking on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday because Peckham does get really busy – especially if you’re a big group.

To be honest, I could have given another 6 or 7 recommendations because there are so many brilliant restaurants. However, in the name of keeping things concise, here are some of my favourites.

Mr Bao

Mr Bao is a Taiwanese style restaurant on Peckham Rye specialising in bao, steamed buns and other asian dishes. There’s something for everyone on the menu including vegan choices. The staff are really helpful and always so friendly to my 2-year old.

They’re also opening a bar next door and by the looks of things, it’ll be opening soon.

Miss Tapas

Miss Tapas is an amazing, laid back tapas restaurant on Choumert Road offering authentic Spanish food and wine.

Fun fact, Miss Tapas is the wife of Mr Bao, no really… I’ve even bought pottery from Mr Bao’s Mum (she’s amazing FYI).

The Begging Bowl

The Begging Bowl is probably one of Peckham’s best-known restaurants. It’s on boujie Bellenden Road, which is home to some great boutiques, restaurants and street lamps designed by Antony Gormley.

The Begging Bowl specialises in modern Thai food. It’s fresh, utterly delicious and well worth a visit.

Persepolis

Persepolis is a Persian cafe and shop on Peckham High Street. It’s no frills, cheap and does great food.

The shop sells Middle Eastern groceries including herbs and spices. It’s also BYO at night and has a private dining area for groups.

Yadas

At first sight, Yadas looks like a disused railway arch but appearances can be deceiving….

It specialises in Kurdish food and is super tasty. The restaurant is BYO and has very reasonable pricing. You don’t pay a corkage charge, which makes it a great place to go as a group.

It’s so cool that every time I go, I feel like I’m in Berlin.

Coal Rooms

The Coal Rooms is just outside the entrance to Peckham Rye train station. It’s in one of the old railway station buildings and offers a range of fish and meat cooked over a charcoal grill. Their Sunday lunches and brunches are legendary, but I actually love their midweek dining menu. Make sure you try their Fatboy potatoes.

Best bars in Peckham

Frank’s Cafe

Frank’s cafe is one of the best-known rooftop bars in Peckham. It’s situated on top of Peckham Levels and has stunning views over the City.

It only opens during summer and is so worth a visit.

El Vermut

Technically, this is in Nunhead but a) it’s one of my favourites and b) it’s on the Peckham borders so therefore I think it can be included.

It specialises in Vermouth but also has other great Spanish wines along with cheese and meats.

Peckham Springs

Peckham Springs is underneath the railway arches just by Peckham Rye station on Blenheim Grove. They sell cocktails, craft beers, food and put on events such as plant markets and record fairs.

Four Quarters

Four Quarters or as it’s known locally, the arcade bar is on Rye Lane. It has old arcade machines as well as a range of craft beers. Its a fun place and there’s usually a DJ on at weekends downstairs.

Where to shop in Peckham

DKUK

DKUK is a hairdressers with a difference: haircuts are in front of art. They charge gender neutral pricing based on length and complexity of the cut.

Find DKUK on Queen’s Road Peckham.

Little Sister

Little Sister is a vintage shop in Holdren’s Arcade on Rye Lane. It’s the last shop towards the back. Go there for reasonably priced and well-curated vintage fashion.

D.A.Y

D.A.Y is a Scandinavian inspired boutique on Bellenden Road. It sells a range of Scandinavian designers and has both women and men’s clothing.

Sage Flowers

There wasn’t a florist in Peckham and so I would have to go to East Dulwich if I wanted to buy flowers (I know, #firstworldproblems). This is why I was really pleased when Sage Flowers opened on Rye Lane. The women that own the shop are really friendly and run the occasional workshop so it’s worth keeping an eye on their instagram.

Traid Peckham

It might seem a bit odd to include a charity shop in a list of recommendations, however, Traid Peckham is really worth a mention. They have a great range of clothes and I always manage to spot something. It’s cheaper and more sustainable than buying new so I feel I can treat myself.

Art galleries

South London Gallery

The South London Gallery is on Peckham Road and has a rotating collection of contemporary exhibitions. There’s also a great cafe and beautiful garden to relax in.

Copeland Gallery

Copeland Gallery is in Copeland Park and has a variety of exhibitions on from photography, to alternative degree shows to sculpture. It’s free to get in and worth keeping an eye on.

How to get to Peckham

Peckham has two railway stations: Peckham Rye and Queen’s Road Peckham. They’re about a 10-15 minute walk away from each other. It’s also served by numerous buses and Nunhead and East Dulwich stations are also about a 15-20 minute walk away.

Peckham Vision

To find out about the incredible work of Peckham Vision, please visit their website or their pop up space in Holdron’s Arcade.

soul

How to find your purpose (and make your soul sing)

August 20, 2019
How to find your purpose (and make your soul sing)

Feeling lost and drifting 

Three years ago (not quite to the day) I went on maternity leave for a year. This was the longest time I’d ever been away from work and I felt it would be a good time to think about what I really wanted from life. I gave myself two objectives: one (and obviously the most critical) to nurture my son; and secondly to use the time to find my purpose.

I had been feeling like I was drifting for quite a while and wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with my life. I had low level dissatisfaction with work: it wasn’t amazing, but I wasn’t crying in the toilets either. I felt like I had changed and my job wasn’t quite the right fit for me anymore. I needed to understand what it was that would make me happy.

This is why I wanted to go on this voyage of self-discovery and really try to understand what makes my soul sing.

Now, spoiler alert, I didn’t find my purpose during maternity leave. A) I had a newborn to look after so didn’t have the time and B) l never had a lightbulb moment where suddenly everything fell into place.

I’m saying this to illustrate that finding your purpose is a journey and may not happen overnight. It’s a process of exploration.

Here’s what I learnt along the way.

The world isn’t your oyster

For a self-help/self-development/wellbeing blog, it might seem discouraging to say the world isn’t your oyster. Surely that’s going against the grain of everything I say?

Well yes and no. I believe if you really want to do something, then you should throw everything at it. Life’s too short for coulda, woulda, shoulda.

However, if you’re floundering around like a fish washed up on the shore waiting for the tide to sweep you back into the sea, then sometimes you need to be able to focus on what you need in that moment in time. Otherwise, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with too many choices, which leads to indecision.

So focus on your needs, then your wants. Be pragmatic. 

What I mean by that is in my situation, as much as I’d like to spend all my time with my son pottering around my local area, it’s never going to be a realistic option for me. I’m the breadwinner and financially, I have to work to support my family. Momma’s gotta make rent and all that. 

I also genuinely like work. I enjoy being around people from different backgrounds and learning from their experiences. I also have a reasonably creative job and it’s important to me that I can using my brain in that way.

So whatever I did had to support those needs (financial) and those wants (being creatively fulfilled). 

It’s important to recognise here that we quite often think finding our purpose means finding a job we really like (I realise my examples above reinforce that..). However, I personally feel it involves taking much more of a holistic look at our lives overall to understand what gives us meaning.

Sometimes, there are ways of getting what we want in other ways outside of employment. Plus, whilst work can give us external validation, it doesn’t always give us the inner fulfilment we need.

This is why it’s important to check in on yourself and reflect on what your needs are because they change throughout your life – and your purpose will do too. Our lives all develop and evolve.

What makes you tick? 5 probing questions to ask yourself

I often think I’d like to move to a small holding surrounded by goats and sheep; yet the reality is I’d find that life really hard. I don’t mind getting up early but truthfully a 4am start in winter isn’t my jam.

This is why it’s important to ask yourself what really makes you happy?

Take some quiet time to yourself and sit down with a pen and paper. Write down your feelings in response to the following 5 questions.

1. What comes easily to you?

2. What makes you feel energised when you’re doing it?

3. Where would you like to be in the future? Write down how you want to see your future self.

4. When did you feel the happiest in life? Write down all the occasions you felt true happiness.

5. What would you do if you stopped holding yourself back?

Now reflect on what you’ve written to see if there are any common threads or thoughts. Does anything spark your interest or make you want to explore it more?

Can you use what you’ve written to create a vision for your life? How about putting some goals to help you put this into action? Are there steps you can take first?

The best way is just to start 

Do you ever have an idea and then immediately think of several reasons why it wouldn’t work?

Well, stop that. Stop that right now. 

I only really started promoting this blog (by which I mean sharing links on Twitter) back in June. For ages, I felt stupid and embarrassed that someone I know might read it. 

I had other reasons for writing initially. I wanted to write about something I felt passionate about and use it as way to hold myself to account. But the more time I spent writing, the more ridiculous it seemed to not share it. Otherwise, I may as well just be writing a diary.

So I started to share links and take my blog a bit more seriously and funnily enough, the only thing that happened is more people now read what I write. No one has said: this is the worst thing I’ve ever read or judged me. And if they do, so what? It’s just their opinion.

It’s easy to let our fears of being judged stand in our way. We’ve already decided it’s a disaster and so don’t even start. Whilst this is our way of trying to protect ourselves, we also don’t let ourselves grow and look for new opportunities. 

Please remember it’s just an annoying voice in your head and not your reality so try not to let it hold you back.

It’s ok to change your mind

Sometimes I think we feel the idea is the destination and once we have that cracked, the rest will fall into place. This is why we end up feeling so indecisive at the beginning becuase we feel we have to get it exactly right.

However, our lives don’t stay still: they transform throughout our lives so we don’t need to have the answers right away. This is why I feel like it’s important to try different things to see what makes you happy and sets your soul on fire.

It’s funny how sometimes life has a way of gaining momentum once you start putting thoughts into action. It’s like a chain reaction takes place and opportunities start coming your way.

“Life’s what happens when you’re busy making other plans”

John Lennon

What if your real purpose is just to be you?

Imagine a world where you feel truly connected to what you need and that you can live your life based on your needs. Where you trust your instincts, follow your intuition and make decisions based on what feels right.

Your true purpose is to live your life without limiting beliefs and wondering about the what ifs. It’s about learning what’s right for you, not worrying about what other people are doing and putting thoughts into action (or recognising its ok to stay still). It’s about being happy with the decisions you make in this moment in time and recognising you can shift and change in the future. We’re ever evolving.

Your real purpose in life is just to be you.

mind

How to silence your inner critic

August 17, 2019
How to silence your inner critic

I’m far too busy judging myself to worry about judging you.

Quite often (and generally in a work context), I will be talking out loud and a voice will start in my head saying, ‘stop, you sound ridiculous, Just stop before you embarrass yourself any further’.

This voice tells me I look too fat in my clothes, that I’m ageing and wrinkled. It likes to analyse situations and tell me where I’m going wrong. This can be in the moment or after the event – it doesn’t discriminate. It points out my inadequacies and then really hones in on what I could have done better. It only focuses on the negatives, never the positives and really enjoys making me feel bad about myself.

This voice is my inner critic.

If things don’t go my way, my inner critic will tell me it’s because I’m stupid / useless / annoying / a bad person (delete as appropriate). And when things do work in my favour, my inner critic will still find a way to put me down. It’s the last kind of person you want on your team.

I’m sure all of us have an inner critic, particularly as it’s impossible to go through life without experiencing self-doubt at some point. However, if this situation does apply, then I need to meet you and discover what you’re doing differently to the rest of us..

The difference is for some of us, our inner critic can be debilatating and it can stop us from reaching our full potential.

This is why we need to learn how to silence it (or at least put it on mute).

Why the critical voice in our head stands in our way

Listening to our inner critic point out our every ‘failure’ fundamentally leads to low self-esteem and feelings of poor self-worth. It’s hard to feel confident when a little voice is telling you you’re not.

My inner critic tends to be at its most vocal when I’m feeling a bit down about myself anyway. This then becomes a vicious cycle because the lower our self-esteem, the more our inner critic attacks what confidence we have left.

Our inner critic helps us build up patterns of limiting beliefs. This is where we tell ourselves we’re not good enough or a course of action wouldn’t be right for us. Our limiting beliefs are defensive mechanisms where we try and stop ourselves from getting hurt or looking foolish. But ultimately, they stand in our way and don’t let us take new opportunities or progress.

The important thing to remember though is that your inner critic isn’t real. It’s just a stupid voice in your head.

How to silence your inner critic

The best short term way of getting rid of your inner critic is to become aware of it. Remind yourself it doesn’t mean anything. Recognise it’s unhelpful and try to dismiss it as just that.

Longer term, mindfulness and learning how to calm your mind will help to silence your inner critic. It helps us to observe our thoughts and let them go whilst recognising they’re not our reality.

Gratitude also helps me. It makes me feel more positive about myself, in control of my own life and can recognise the good things that are going on (rather than just the bad).

The better I feel, the more able I am to tell my inner critic to pipe down.

wellbeing

What is resilience (and why do you need it)?

July 28, 2019
What is resilience (and why do you need it)?

What is resilience?

Resilience is the ability to be able to cope with or navigate your way through difficulties and crisis.

It essentially means you’re able to either bounce after a crisis or adapt to new circumstances.

Resilient people are able to understand what their body and mental state need and put in processes or modify their behaviour accordingly.

Why is resilience so important?

It’s a fact of life that we’ll all experience setbacks and challenges in life.

Whilst it’s true, some people will have more difficulties due to their circumstances of birth; it’s impossible to go through life without some form of hardship.

The loss of loved ones, relationship struggles, ill health and financial issues are all common themes we’ll probably all experience at some point.

Being resilient doesn’t make us impervious to stress or hurt. It just means we’re more able to cope, in spite of challenges that may be thrown our way.

It’s a sign of emotional strength.

Can you become more resilient?

The good news is resilience is something you can build.

Ironically, the more difficulties you have, the more you can develop your abilities to be resilient. You start to understand your emotional needs and put coping strategies in place.

I come from baby boomer parents and one trait I sometimes see in that generation is their emotional intelligence isn’t hugely strong. They were born in post-war years to people who had lived through horrific events and as a result a lot went unsaid.

If I had an emotional problem, I didn’t have anyone to talk to about it. No one would have tried to help me or come to my rescue. They just didn’t understand.

I sometimes felt a bit envious of people whose parents would drop everything to give them emotional support and take care of them.

But now I look back, I realise that it made me very self-sufficient. On the flip side though, I struggle to ask for help when I need it and find it hard to show vulnerability.

I also feel my experience is quite common in people of my age and I see similar traits in my peers.

I think it’s only in recent years we’re starting to develop the language to talk about our emotions and understand our feelings.

Although the term ‘self-care’ is sometimes mocked, essentially it is the act of understanding our needs and putting that support in place. Even when it does mean opening up and asking for help.

7 ways to build resilience

So how can you build resilience to help you through difficult times?

  1. Remember that a crisis is not forever even though it may feel like it at the time. Life ebbs and flows and we have hard times as well as good.
  2. Change is part of life. There are 2 types of change: change that happens to us; and change we create for ourselves. Change that happens to us is harder to navigate because it can make us feel that we’re not in control of our own lives. Accept there are sometimes events and issues completely out of our control and consider what you are able to change yourself.
  3. Look for opportunities for self-development. Difficult times help us grow and can make us more empathetic. It’s worth reflecting on challenging situations once you have some distance and thinking about what we learnt or how the experience may have changed us.
  4. Understand that this is part of human experience – not just about you. I had my fair share of shitty times growing up and it knocked my self-esteem and made me feel powerless. I now realise I wasn’t singled out by the universe for some special negative attention; it’s just one part of my history and not my whole life.
  5. Try to keep things in perspective where you can and remember everything is relative. However, I do also think it’s important to feel your feelings and just because one person sailed through a similar situation doesn’t mean you should to. Our ability to cope with challenges is dependent on how we’re feeling at that moment and what else is going on in life. It is worth though trying to remind yourself that this won’t be forever.
  6. Be positive (where you can). Again, I’m not suggesting there’s always something to feel positive about – sometimes there really isn’t. Try to remember things will get better.
  7. Don’t let anyone dull your sparkle. Yes, I know it’s an inspirational quote cliche – however, hear me out… Let’s be honest, so many of our problems can generally be put down to the actions and behaviours of other people. Try not to let them grind you down and remember you, my friend deserve better than this.
travel

Tavira with kids: a family travel guide

July 24, 2019
Tavira with kids

Tavira is a sleepy town on the Eastern side of the Algarve (the less busy side).

It was recommended to me as a nice place in Portugal to visit with kids by my friend and ex-work colleague who lived there a few years ago.

I wanted to go somewhere not too touristy where we could spend time relaxing as well as having things to do (without worrying about losing our child in a crowd).

Tavira with kids

Tavira is a beautiful little town with a slow pace of life. It’s small, mainly pedestrianised and there aren’t too many cars noticeably around.

It’s also really easy to walk around. There are cobbled streets adding to Tavira’s charms. However, they’re easily manageable with a buggy.

What to do in Tavira with kids

The Roman Bridge

The town is separated by a river and a Roman Bridge. This is one of the most picturesque spots in Tavira and the scene of many a photoshoot.

I can’t say your little darlings will wow at the view or have a moment of reflection thinking life doesn’t get much better than this.. However, it’s buggy friendly and my son enjoyed running from side to side.

There’s also a great ice cream shop over the bridge with lots of choice including fig, the local flavour.

Terrapins in the band stand

We got a great tip about taking our son to look at the terrapins and koi carp in the pond which surrounds the band stand.

My son is a big animal fan and he absolutely loved seeing the terrapins swimming around.

It’s a completely free activity to do in Tavira with kids and offers a bit of shade away from the midday sun. Win. Win.

Band stand with terrapins. Tavira with kids

Tavira castle

Tavira castle is uphill along cobbled streets. We (ok, my husband…) managed to push our sleeping toddler and make it there. It’s well worth it for the incredible views.

There are also steps leading up to the castle in the town by the Islamic museum, which offers a much quicker route.

21 churches

Tavira is also famous for its 21 churches. I would check opening times in advance before you visit as they’re not always open.

This is why we only managed to see one..

Tavira island

Tavira island is 11 kilometres of white sandy beaches. It is stunning, trust me.

You need to take a ferry, which in the summer months runs from the river side. It costs 2 Euro for an adult return and takes about 20 minutes.

We didn’t take a buggy but I did see people who had so I think Tavira Island is doable with kids of all ages. There’s also a boardwalk once you get to the Island.

Where to eat in Tavira?

Pausa is a delicious tapas bar on the edge of town just behind the river. I spotted it after seeing some French people had reserved a table thinking the French are never wrong about food.

Turns out my stereotyping of an entire nation was correct. The food was utterly delicious and although not cheap compared to other places, still worth it. The portion sizes are also massive.

I ate the most delicious grilled sea bass at Os Arcoz down by the river. The food was great and the location even better.

Roman Bridge - Tavira with kids

We also ate at a local’s place down by the river at the less touristy end near the Tavira island ferry terminal and next to a boat shop. Yes, I do realise how ridiculous these instructions sound (Michael Palin I am not) but I’m still dreaming about the stuffed pork cheeks now.

There are obviously 100s of patal de nata spots. We liked Veneza near the Roman Bridge where I’m reliably informed a glass of wine costs 2 euro (aka my kind of place..).

Where to stay in Tavira?

Usually we stay in an Airbnb but this time I wanted something really simple and not have to worry about finding keys and buying food.

We stayed in the Vila Gale, which was in a great location close to the town and near the ferries to Tavira Island during the summer months.

The rooms were great, staff super helpful and the breakfast was incredible with nice touches such as fruit grown on their own farm. There’s also a decent pool area with sun beds and towels.

I also saw a sign for Bea’s bed & breakfast and while I can’t vouch for the rooms, it was in a good location overlooking the river.

What to buy?

Tavira has some really beautiful shops selling handicrafts and pottery.

I really loved a shop called Kozii, a textile shops which sells clothes, accessories and home furnishings. Yes, I did treat myself to a scarf and earrings – well I was on my ‘olidays..

Getting there and away

We flew into Faro and took a taxi to the station (costs 10-12 euro). We then took a train to Tavira (3.20 euro), which takes 45 minutes and has beautiful views of salt flats and the coastline, followed by a taxi to our hotel (3 euro).

It sounds more complicated than it actually was and its a journey I’ll definitely do again.

wellbeing

Get started with essential oils

July 6, 2019

The power of smell can have a real effect on our wellbeing; helping to reduce stress and lift our mood. It’s linked to our limbic system, which is part of the brain that controls mood and emotion.

One of the easiest ways of doing this is through essential oils, which are a concentrated scent of the plant they come from.

However, there are over 90 commonly used essential oils, each with their own health benefits so the choice of what to buy can be overwhelming.

How do you know what’s going to be right for you?

Then, what do you do with them?

Here’s an introduction on how to get started with essential oils. 

how to get started with essential oils
Essential oils contain the scent of the plant they come from

How do you use essential oils?

There are several ways to use essential oils: topically (where they’re applied directly through the skin); inhalation; and in beauty and household products. 

Here are a few ideas to help you get started with essential oils.

Diffuser (inhalation)

One of the easiest ways to use essential oils is with a diffuser. All you need to do is add a few drops of essential oils into water and the scent fills the air. There are various products on the market; I use this bamboo diffuser which works really well and turns off automatically when the water runs out.

Massage (inhalation and into the bloodstream) 

Add a few drops of essential oil to around a tablespoon of carrier oil such as sweet almond, jojoba or coconut oil for a full body massage.

I also add lemongrass to a carrier oil and use to massage my legs to increase circulation after spotting some potential varicose veins (the aging process is so fun. Sighs…).

Candles

There are so many essential oil candles on the market. However, look for ones that are essential oil based rather than the scent. Essential oil based candles are more expensive but they’re not made out of synthetic chemicals and so are much better in my book. Try looking on Etsy for ideas.

Beauty products

One of the easiest ways to create a home spa experience is to add a few drops of your favourite essential oil into a hot bath. Job done. For added luxury, also add 1-2 cups of epsom salts (to help ease achy muscles) and a tablespoon of carrier oil (to soften your skin) and then mix before you get in. 

Household cleaning

Sweet orange cleaning spray

Did you know a number of essential oils are a natural disinfectant? Tea tree oil, eucalyptus, lavender or any citrus fruit based essential oils can be used for general household cleaning. Just mix into a spray bottle with water or white vinegar (the cheap stuff).

I also love this DIY natural fabric conditioner with mandarin which leaves your clothes smelling better than any shop bought products. I promise. 

Treating minor ailments 

Cuts and grazes, plus insect bites can all be treated with tea tree essential oil. Always make sure you dilute with a bit of water before using to avoid your skin becoming irritated if it’s particularly sensitive.

What are the best essential oils to get started with?

I would always advise people to think about what scents that you’re attracted to. I’m not naturally someone who goes for rose or more floral smells, however, I love citrus and woody smells like sandalwood. 

Here are some ideas to help you get started with essential oils.

Please note, each of these oils have several uses so I’ve just highlighted some of them.

Eucalyptus 

Use for coughs, blocked noses, as a rub for aching muscles and as a natural disinfectant. 

Fill a sink with hot water and add a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil to steam away a blocked nose.

Lavender

Use for almost everything: skin and beauty products, household cleaning, headaches, sleep, mood enhancing and can even be used for sunburn.

Try adding a few drops to your pillow to help with sleep.

Sweet orange

One of my personal favourites. Sweet orange is said to help lift your mood and give you a sense of calm. As it’s a citrus fruit, it can also be used for cleaning products because its antimicrobial (gets rid of bacteria).

Add a few drops of sweet orange essential oil with bergamot and water into a spray bottle for an uplifting mood spray.

Bergamot

Bergamot is an invigorating essential oil which reduces stress and tension. It can also help you fight tiredness.

Mix with lavender in a diffuser and enjoy a moment of calm.

Peppermint

Use for digestive problems, colds and bronchitis.

Try spraying around ant invasions (not at the ants themselves…) to discourage them from coming into your home.

Tea Tree

Can be used to treat insect bites, cuts and on your skin and hair to reduce oil.

Add to water and put into a spray bottle for a natural insect repellent.

Basil

Basil is a calming essential oil, which is great for mental fatigue and to help you relax.

I make my own hydrating body spray with lime, basil and mandarin similar to that of a well known beauty brand… Recipe is here.

Lemongrass

Lemongrass is another of my favourite essential oils. It’s so multi-purpose and I love the smell. It’s great for the nerves, can be used in household products (its antimicrobial), and is great for the skin also.

Use as a natural deodorant by diluting with water. It’s also supposed to be good for cellulite (mix with a carrier oil and massage affected areas.

Rosemary

Use to help reduce stress and boost the immune system.

Massage 5 drops of rosemary essential oil into your scalp to help your hair grow.

Juniper

Use for digestive issues, skin problems and heartburn. It’s also good for helping to balance out emotions.

Add a few drops into a carrier oil and use as a massage to help reduce fluid retention.

How do you create essential oil blends? 

Essential oils can be used on their own or blended together.

Here are a few basics to help you get started with essential oil blends.

Oils from the same family tend to blend well together. For example, flower based essential oils (rose, geranium, jasmine); herbs (basil, rosemary, marjoram); and spices (cinnamon, ginger).

Spices and citrus blend well together, such as ginger and lemon, cinnamon and sweet orange.

Woody scents and citrus work well. Examples are rosewood and bergamot, cedarwood and lime.

There are some oils which dominate and take over any scent combination. These are: peppermint, fennel, tea tree, clove, thyme and camomile. Although camomile may be lightened with lemon.

Menthol and flowery scents don’t tend to work well together.

Here are some essential oil blends to try

Uplifting energy blend

2 drops eucalyptus; 2 drops peppermint; 8 drops lemon; 1 drop cinnamon leaf; and 1 drop cardamon oil.

Memory enhancer for studying blend

1 drop clary sage; 6 drops lemon; and 10 drops rosemary oil.

Relaxtion blend

1 drop lavender; 1 drop ylang ylang; 1 drop bergamot and 1 drop patchouli oil.

Sleep inducing blend

10 drops sandalwood; 10 drops lavender; 15 drops bergamot; 2 drops ylang ylang and 3 drops frankincense oil.

What are carrier oils?

Essential oils are highly concentrated so only a few can be applied directly to the skin without being diluted. They can either be diluted with water or with a carrier oil.

A carrier oil is also essential for massage as otherwise it would be painful on the skin and muscles.

Here are a few different options to help you get started.

  • 1. Grapeseed. This is a popular and easily available oil of a medium texture made from grape seeds.
  • 2. Almond. It’s more expensive but very kind to the skin with a delightful aroma.
  • 3. Apricot Kernel. Recommended for use on the face and neck, light and easily absorbed.
  • 4. Sunflower. A popular choice for body massage as it contains Vitamin E and easily available.
  • 5. Soya. Especially good for oily skins and easily absorbed.
  • 6. Avocado. More expensive but rich in texture and ideal for dry skin, containing Vitamins A and B.
  • 7. Wheatgerm. This is made from the germ of the wheat and contains Vitamin E. Excellent for dry skin but very rich – it may be used in combination with another lighter oil to prolong the life of the oil.
  • 8. Sesame. Again very rich with a nutty aroma. Best used in combination with another lighter oil.

Where to buy essential oils? 

Always buy essential oils from a reputable brand because some of the cheaper products can be mixed with other ingredients so they’re no longer pure.

I buy either Baldwin’s or Tisserand essential oils.

What’s the best way of storing essential oils?

Essential oils should be kept in dark brown glass bottles and away from direct sunlight.

Keep the lids on tight.

If stored properly, they should keep for 1-2 years.

Things to note

There are some essential oils which aren’t advised to be used on young children or pregnant women so I would always check best practice first if this applies to you.

I’ve also added some affiliate links to products, which I’ve bought myself and have been happy with. I’m not saying this is the only place to buy them from – am just sharing in case its useful. 

I often think the power of smell is underrated compared to other sensory experiences such as listening to music and the impact it can have our emotions. However, research shows essential oils can reduce feelings of anxiety and aid sleep and they’re a reasonably cheap way of lifting your spirits.

I hope you find this post useful.

self-care

What is self-care and why do you need it?

June 18, 2019
What is self-care and why do you need it?

What is self-care?

Self-care is the practice of looking after yourself to protect and/or improve your physical and mental health.

It means ensuring that we’re aware of and are actively taking care of our needs.

It’s impossible to go through life without stress or issues that we need to deal with. We all have to navigate work, family and relationship challenges that are sometimes completely out of our control.

Self-care is the act of understanding that these things have an impact so we can better take care of ourselves.

Why you need to practice self-care

Self-care sounds very simple in theory, however, the reality is that it’s often something we overlook. We can be so busy doing things for other people, we forget about looking after ourselves too.

Yet, in order to be able to do our jobs properly and care for others, we need to be in a good physical and emotional state. We need energy and balanced emotions; otherwise, it’s easy to feel frazzled, snappy or simply run down.

The emergency drill on planes always tell you to put your oxygen mask on before helping someone else. I’ve never really understood this; thinking my first reaction would be to save my child (and then remove my high heeled shoes to go down the big slide – joke). But the reality is, you can’t save anyone, if you can’t breathe. You need to equip yourself to make sure you can look after everyone else.

I appreciate that’s quite a bleak example; however, hopefully the message behind it makes sense. You have to look after yourself to be the best for everyone else.

you can’t pour from an empty cup

Self-care and understanding what your mind and body needs means you can protect and preserve yourself. Fundamentally, it will give you more energy and help you feel better able to deal with challenges as they come along. Practising self-care doesn’t make us selfish; we’re just recognising we have needs too.

When we don’t take care of ourselves, we’re more likely to feel fatigued and get physical symptoms, such as headaches and stomach issues.

Self-care helps us to create that balance.

How to start a self-care routine? Carry out a self-care audit

The best way to start a self-care routine is to recognise you need to think about yourself too amongst, everything else that’s happening in your life.

We all have different issues happening at different times in our lives so it makes sense that what we need from a self-care routine will be unique to all of us.

Try to reflect on where you are currently. Ask yourself questions about how you’re feeling. Are you tired? Are your emotions hard to deal with? Do you think you’re suffering with signs of stress such as feeling teary, snappy or down?

I created this self-care audit template so you can work through it and see what areas you could focus on. All you need to do is reflect on some of the questions and see if there are some simple changes or actions you can take to look after yourself better.

Often we don’t see the toll that stress or life challenges are taking on us until it’s too late, so identifying potential triggers helps us put self-care strategies in place. As a doctor would say: prevention is better than cure.

It’s also important to remember, your self-care routine will need to adapt and change depending on what else is going on in your life so check in with yourself regularly.

20 simple self-care ideas

quick and easy self-care ideas
  1. Practice self-compassion and talk to yourself as though you’re a friend and not a critic.
  2. Run a bath. Yes, I know a hot bath with candles is a self-care cliche. However, it’s a great way to take 20 minutes out for yourself and rest your muscles.
  3. Remember done is better than perfect. Give yourself a break.
  4. Get into good sleep patterns.
  5. Create and reinforce boundaries.
  6. Take time out for yourself. Go to a yoga class, read a book – anything that’s just for you.
  7. Drink more water.
  8. Go for a walk. Fresh air and exercise are always beneficial.
  9. Practice mindfulness which has proven benefits on improving mental health. Daily meditation will help with stress relief and calming an overactive mind. Try Andrew Johnson or the Headspace App.
  10. Talk about your feelings and try not to let things build up. I appreciate this is easier said than done so think about journaling and write about your feelings instead.
  11. Are you eating properly? My diet turns to custard when I get busy. I don’t have the time to buy food, never mind cook it.. Try to plan in advance with a few frozen meals so you have something nutritious to eat when time is minimal.
  12. Choose a couple of things each day to tick off your to do list. There’s only so much you can do in a day so try to break down tasks, rather than feeling a failure for not achieving the unachievable.
  13. Have a digital detox. Ever fall down an Instagram rabbit hole and wonder what you’re doing with your life? Yes, me too. Think about switching off your phone once a week or after 8pm.
  14. Prepare in advance. There is a saying that says: ‘a Sunday well spent, brings a week of content’ and it’s true. I find if I plan for my week ahead, then life runs a lot smoother.
  15. Learn to say no. I often find myself saying yes to things out loud even though I’m saying no in my head, which is utterly ridiculous. It’s a hard habit to shake but an important one.
  16. Keep a gratitude diary. I feel I bang on about my gratitude practice a lot but it’s one of the easiest ways to change your neural pathways and help you feel more positive about life.
  17. Focus on your own personal growth. It’s hard to go through life without picking up some emotional baggage. It’s good to focus on your own self-development and become more self-aware as a result.
  18. Put yourself first. If you’re tired and you don’t want to go to something, then don’t go. You’re allowed to rest and recuperate.
  19. Celebrate your successes. I’m great at beating myself up when I feel I’ve messed up and terrible at congratulating myself when I’ve done well.
  20. And lastly, breathe. Even focusing on your breath for a minute will help calm your thinking.

wellbeing

365 days of happiness (or how to make yourself happy)

June 12, 2019
365 days of wellbeing

365 days of happiness

Jacqueline Pirtle believes happiness is a practice and wrote ‘365 days of happiness’ sharing daily guidance to help you be happy.

She teaches mindfulness, gratitude and visualisation techniques to help retrain our thought processes and create a positive mindset.

The idea is you work through the book doing one practice a day. The teachings are short, easy to digest and don’t require any pre-planning so they’re really easy to do each morning and help set you up for the day.   

Can you really make yourself happy?

Of course, there are times when happiness is harder and I fully believe it’s important to feel your feelings rather than trying to bury them. Pirtle agrees with this too and offers advice on how to look at those emotions and recognise their benefits.

However, there are times when nothing is going badly; it feels like nothing is going particularly well and life is just a bit blah. This is when a mindset change can reframe how you see life and help retrain our neural pathways.

And this is where ‘365 days of happiness’ comes in…

I’m generally a positive person by nature. However, I can spiral downwards when I’m tired; I eat bad food, avoid exercise and then feel miserable because I’m not looking after myself properly. It’s a chicken and egg situation and one I feel more motivated to change after reading ‘365 days of happiness’.

Anyway, enough about me…

6 lessons I learnt from reading ‘365 days of happiness’

How to be happy

  1. Remember that everything in our universe is vibrating energy. This includes rocks, trees, animals and ourselves; anything and everything you can think of. We may be vibrating different frequencies, however, we’re still all connected in some way. It’s quite incredible really and makes you realise that we’re all part of something bigger. Every thought, action, emotion and word is energy and vibrates at different frequencies. We can tune our energy to a different frequency and change our state of being with it.
  2. Wake up smiling and saying, ‘this is already and will be the best day ever’. Remember every day is a new day and a chance to start over. Making a decision that this will be the best day sets the tone and your intentions for the day. It shifts you into a frequency of excitement and creates lots of positive energy.
  3. Visualise how you feel when you’re happy. Ask yourself, ‘how do I feel in my high for life frequency’ and ‘how happy am I in my radiant frequency’? Visualise your answers often and it will shift you into a feel-good frequency.
  4. Pirtle also asks you to imagine yourself as a hotel owner and to think about how you would care for your guests, how you would check in with them and create an experience that they would enjoy. She asks that you recreate that experience for yourself. So check in with yourself and ask how you feel, what you need right now and how you can serve yourself better? This feels like the ulimate self-care and worth remembering for people who tend to put themselves last.
  5. Have a YES or No day where every decision you make, you make with clarity. There are no ‘probably’ or ‘maybe’ or ‘I’m not sure’ answers only YES or NO. If you can’t clearly say YES then it’s a NO. This will help you stop overthinking, second-guessing, or falling into the trap of catastrophising and help focus your thoughts to make decisions that are good for you.
  6. Take time out for yourself to be happy and create a moment of stillness to invite happiness into your life. This could be as simple as looking out of a window with a cup of tea. Give yourself a moment to think about how you feel and invite happiness into your day. Check into your happiness in the morning, afternoon and before you go to bed and remind yourself that it’s there.

365 days of happiness’ was gifted to me. However, all reviews are my own opinion. I don’t receive any commission if you decide to buy the book.

Want to read more on the science behind happiness?

https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/happiness/

and

home

DIY natural fabric conditioner: a how to guide

June 5, 2019
DIY natural fabric conditioner

At the risk of sounding utterly boring, I’ve got sick of seeing my washing machine clogged up with the old residue of fabric conditioner. I’m also not convinced it’s great for the environment or our clothes. However, I really like the smell and so I’m not quite ready to give up my fabric conditioner addiction. I do try to buy more natural products but even then I’m still worrying about all the plastic packaging. This is why I’ve been determined to try to make a DIY natural fabric conditioner at home.

I’ve tried putting a few drops of essential oils into the washing machine, as well as using a homemade fabric spray afterwards. It’s not quite the same though.

After searching for a while online, I decided to give this DIY natural fabric conditioner a go using only three ingredients that I had already at home. They are epsom salts, bicarbonate of soda and essential oils.

Anyone else starting to realise that you can make almost anything from bicarbonate of soda or am I just really late to the party?

Anyway..

To make DIY natural fabric conditioner you will need:

  • 1 cup of epsom salts
  • ¼ cup of bicarbonate of soda (or baking powder if you’re in the US)
  • 10-15 drops of essential oils. I went with sweet orange because I love the smell and it’s also supposed to be an uplifting scent. I think I was feeling a bit fed up on the day… Really any oils would work so next time I think I’ll try lavender and lemon to mix it up a bit.

I buy my ingredients from Baldwins, a natural goods store and a health food shop near where I live.

Mix and pour into an airtight storage jar.

To be completely transparent, mine does stick sometimes. It may be that my jar is letting in air? Or more realistically, it might be that commercial products tend to have anti-clogging agents… Regardless, it does work just fine after a quick stir.

mind

How to practice gratitude

May 6, 2019
how to practice gratitude

Gratitude practice changed my life

I’ve previously about how gratitude practice changed my life. It turned me from perpetually being a ‘grey sky thinker’ to seeing the positives in life.

I had gone through life feeling like the odds were stacked against me. 

Good fortune and luck were things that happened to other people. I was great at seeing the negatives in any situation which helped back up my theory (let’s face it, none of us like to be wrong…). My train was 2 minutes late: this always happen to me. Didn’t get the call for a job interview: that’s just typical. 

In pretty much any situation, I found it easy to dissect what was wrong about it, I just struggled with thinking what was right.

I first learnt about gratitude after reading the Secret and falling down a Rhonda Byrne / self-help book rabbit hole. I decided to give it a whirl for a few weeks and here I am 7 years later with my cup still half full.

For me, the greatest change has been to stop sweating the small stuff and to notice the positives more. I feel happy when I’m running late and my train is equally late too. I look for opportunities in situations, rather than being a naysayer and I’m much more in control of my feelings instead of being led by them. 

However, the main benefit is, I feel much happier overall.

Now, that’s not to say I find positives in every situation. When my Dad died very suddenly, I can’t say I found anything to feel particularly grateful about. I could barely function. However, a few years on, I can see the experience has changed me for the better. I have a deeper level of empathy and understanding towards other people, which just didn’t exist before. Obviously, I wish my Dad dying had never happened – but I guess as it did, I’m grateful I learnt something along the way.

What is a gratitude practice?

Gratitude practice involves regularly paying attention to the good around us, such as being around nature, meeting friends and time spent with family. 

It’s looking out for those small moments and feeling grateful for them. The cheery smile from a stranger or enjoying a really nice meal. 

Happiness is a feeling we can cultivate. So the more regularly we practice feeling grateful, the more aware we become of the good around us and the happier we feel.

Most of us take our lives for granted (a roof over our head, regular access to food, good health) and we forget to recognise it. Gratitude helps us remember this and all the other positives in life.

The science behind gratitude

There is a lot of science behind practising gratitude and the benefits it brings to both our physical and mental wellbeing. Researchers have found it helps with sleep, moods and overall physical health. 

There is also evidence that it retrains our neural pathways in the brain. Our neural pathways carry messages to and from the brain and are created by learnt behaviour so most of the time we don’t know we’re doing it. They’re not just physical responses, but emotional and behavioural too. 

Think about when you cross the road. In my case, I’m generally listening to music or a podcast and am pretty much in a world of my own. However, I still know to press the button and wait for the green man before I cross. I’m not diving into the road because I’ve done this task so many times my brain knows what to do.

Ever felt anxious when you know you’re going to have to navigate a tricky conversation? That’s because your brain knows this might result in conflict and so has sent that message to the brain and your emotions are heightened.

In the same way, if you’re always noticing negative events and situations, then your brain starts will send messages as soon as these things take place so you’re more aware of them. 

By focusing on feeling grateful when good things happen, then your neural pathways will send happier messages and you’ll be more aware of the positives in life instead. 

4 ways to practice gratitude

Here are 4 ways, I practice gratitude.

1. I follow a process I learnt by reading ‘the Magic’ and keep a gratitude journal where I write out 10 things I feel grateful for and the reasons why. I then read it back and say ‘thank you’ 3 times.

2. I use an App called Gratitude Plus. This sets a daily reminder, which prompts me to fill it in. This is great for being on the go and I use it on my commute.

3. I try to pause throughout the day and feel grateful for small moments. 

4. I reflect on the day before I go to sleep and pick out things that happened which I feel grateful for. It takes seconds and is a really nice way to end the day.

Please note, I’ve included links to Amazon for books that I’ve read. I’m not not suggesting you use this store over another – it’s just to be helpful. 

home

How I’m moving towards chemical free living

April 30, 2019
chemical free living

My interest in natural and chemical free living really started after my son was born. Spending more time in the home, meant needing to clean more often and I became much more aware of the number of products on the market, all promising different things.

We now have cleaning sprays for every room in the house, plus different ones for your shower, bath, sinks and toilet. Each one promises to create a cleaner experience, eliminate all germs and leave your house sparkling. I’m a marketer’s dream and can pretty much be persuaded to buy anything – but even I started to question how different these products really could be.

I also started to think about how necessary all these chemicals actually are. Now, I’m not a scientist or chemist so I don’t have any research to back up my claims, but there just seems something wrong with needing to wear gloves to use cleaning products inside your own home. How healthy can that be? I can’t imagine all those fumes are good for us.

Impact on the environment

The reality is cleaning products contain a number of chemicals that are harmful to our waters and marine life. Every time we clean, we’re rinsing all these chemicals down the drain and they eventually end up in the sea. Plus, they come in plastic bottles, which as we all know isn’t great for the environment so where possible we should aim for better alternatives.

There are a number of eco-friendly products around and if you buy in bulk or do refills, then this cuts down on all the packaging. Although this is very dependent admittedly on where you live. There have also been times when I just haven’t had the money to pay that little bit extra for better products.

However, there are a number of ways we can keep our homes clean and germ-free using entirely natural products which can be found easily.

Here are a few chemical free living ideas

Did you know vinegar is a natural disinfectant and citrus fruit peel has anti-bacterial properties? You can make an antibacterial, disinfectant white vinegar and citrus fruit cleaning spray so easily and it costs less than a pound.

Tea tree oil is often used as an ingredient in beauty products and is known to help with oily skin and acne. It makes an excellent cleaning product too. Mix equal quantities of tea tree oil to water and use it to get rid of black mould.

Want to make a nice linen spray? Add lavender essential oil to distilled water (you can buy it online easily) and spray away. Lavender is an antiseptic as well as having stress-relieving, sleep boosting and anti-anxiety benefits so it’s helpful in a number of ways.

Possibly the greatest natural product out there is bicarbonate of soda. You can use this for practically everything (and not just baking cakes): brightening up white clothes, unblocking drains and cleaning fridges, cookers and microwaves. You can even add it to your bath and your skin will be silky smooth.

Overly clean houses and our immune systems

Research shows the best method of cleaning germs from your home is using elbow grease and hot soapy water. To further eliminate them, then use the vinegar and citrus fruit spray afterwards. As much as we’re told we just need to spray down our kitchens, worksurfaces etc, the reality is that using cleaning sprays are no real substitute for hard work. You’re just adding chemicals unnecessarily into your home.

Improvements in sanitation have increased our life expectancies and helped us live healthier lives. But, we do also need to remember that overly sterile environments are not good for developing our immune systems either. We do need to come into contact with germs in order to build our resistance to them.

Whilst I’m not suggesting giving up cleaning altogether, I am saying next time you’re wondering what cleaning product to buy, ask yourself if you actually need it at all?

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DIY Natural dishwasher tablets with only 3 ingredients

April 26, 2019

One of my bugbears with dishwasher tablets is the amount of packaging they have. I appreciate the manufacturers wrap them separately to stop tablets from attracting moisture and crumbling. But it just seems like such a waste. Who cares if you have to throw in a few crumbs for the final wash.

Even the ones that dissolve are made from plastic (PVA – polyvinyl alcohol) aren’t what they seem. They aren’t biodegradable and leave molecules that linger in the environment.
Plus all the chemicals that are washed away with the water equally don’t make me feel good.

This is why I’ve been determined to try and find a natural way of using my dishwasher. I’ve tried various methods with varying success… One batch turned out perfectly and then melted in the heat…

This method uses soda crystals, bicarbonate of soda, salt and citric acid. Citric acid helps to bind the minerals together in hard water and improve the effectiveness of the other products. My best advice is to be really sparing when adding water.

DIY natural dishwasher tablets

How to make DIY natural dishwasher tablets

You will need:

1 cup of soda crystals
1 cup bicarbonate of soda
1 cup of kosher salt (I used Maldon for this because I had it to hand – but in future, I’m going to look for a cheaper alternative)
½ cup citric acid
Drops of water
I also add in a few drops of antibacterial essential oil for added cleaning power: lavender, citrus fruits, rosemary etc
Silicon ice cube tray and a mixing bowl

DIY natural dishwasher tablets ingredients

The method:

Mix all the ingredients together and add tiny amounts of water until the mixture stops crumbling and binds together.

Firmly pack the mixture into the ice cube tray and leave to set for a few hours.

DIY natural dishwasher tablets in silicon ice cube tray

Take out of the silicon and store in an airtight jar somewhere cool.






wellbeing

How to stop being a victim and take responsibility for your own life

April 22, 2019
Stop being a victim and take responsibility for your own life

Stop being a victim

Confession time: I was the world’s biggest victim. I felt everything was stacked against me.

The reason why my relationships failed? That was down to my turbulent childhood and not having good role models. Why I never got promoted at work? That was because no one appreciated my efforts. If someone spoke down to me, well, that was because there was something about me that made them think it was ok. I didn’t come from money and had no safety net to fall back on so I couldn’t follow my dreams.

I felt life wasn’t fair.

Life isn’t fair

The truth is, life isn’t fair. Some people are born into exceptionally difficult circumstances. Sadly, the situation of our early years wrongly has a massive impact on our life chances. Our health: mental and physical can also be a lottery and completely outside of our control.

I’m not saying this to try and illustrate life can be much harder for other people so just suck it up. If someone had said this to me, I would have felt even more useless and misunderstood. Plus, there was truth to how I was feeling.

I’m using it to illustrate that we all will deal with issues: some people more than others. It’s what you do afterwards that really counts.

Please note, afterwards is a very long time so don’t use that to beat yourself up either.

Truth in your feelings

The truth is a lot of my feelings were valid.

It’s harder to understand what a healthy relationship is when you didn’t grow up around many of them. I had quite a black and white view: relationships are either good or bad and I didn’t really understand they require work.

I also had zero confidence so whilst people speaking down to me is absolutely their responsibility, I just didn’t know how to navigate it.

I had the self-awareness to realise these issues were the root cause of most of my problems.

What I didn’t realise was they were things I could change.

Changing the narrative in your head

Where I was going wrong was to use how I felt as the story of my life.

I would never do well because I lacked confidence. I was really good at identifying situations or events that backed up how I felt. However, I never reflected on when I’d done well.

The reality was that on paper, I was reasonably successful. I perhaps hadn’t fulfilled my full potential, but, I wasn’t doing too badly either. I just didn’t realise it.

I was letting my feelings dictate the course of my life by telling myself they were fact.

Take responsibility for your own life

I was a bit late to the party in realising the only person with responsibility for my life was me.

I started to stop searching for someone to come and look after me and decided to make myself happy instead.

The biggest and most simplest change I made was my gratitude practice. I’ve written about this in previous blogs and how it completely reframed my thinking. I stopped focusing so much on what was wrong with my life and saw what was good.

I also realised there were certain things I was telling myself that maybe weren’t true anymore. I’d always said I was bad at public speaking and so avoided it like the plague. I would always let other people take the lead at work and pull out of job interviews if they had presentations involved. I decided to stop saying no, and you know what.. it’s really not that bad. Yes, I still feel self-conscious but the narrative in my head has changed.

This made me realise there were more things I was hiding behind that were no longer the case.

I always think it’s important to think of change as a sliding scale involving small incremental steps.

We would never expect to run a marathon overnight without any training; yet we expect to become different people overnight and then have feelings of self-loathing when we don’t.

Change is gradual and often there is progress where we don’t even see it. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s a journey.

I’m never going to be the world’s most confident person and that’s ok. I think about it far less and look at it when it’s an issue.

I also recognise the buck stops with me. I’m no longer waiting for someone to pluck me out of obscurity. I don’t need the external validation as much as I used to. Plus it’s up to me to manage my own life.

Sometimes it’s worth drawing a line in the sand to say, this was then, and this is now. The past is the past. It doesn’t determine your future.

home

DIY natural bath salts and how to make them

April 10, 2019
DIY natural bath salts

I know it’s a self-care cliche but a bath always makes me feel better about life. It’s a moment of ‘me time’, allowing me to be fully present (rather than overthinking) and helps soak away some of the stresses of the day.

I used to love treating myself to really luxurious bath products. I felt it was a nice indulgence for someone with a busy life. If I’m also being really being honest, I liked the look of them in my bathroom too. Hello, working class aspirational roots…!

However, I started to question why they included so many chemicals, all the packaging and how good for me these products really were.

So for the last couple of years, I’ve made my own natural bath salts using only a few ingredients, essential oils and flower petals for that ultimate luxury bathing experience.

Not only does it feel great, this DIY natural bath salts is good for our health too. It’s completely chemical-free and uses only a handful of natural ingredients: Epsom salts, Himalayan salts and bicarbonate of soda. I add essential oils for an extra wellbeing boost and flower petals just because it makes the bath look so pretty. Homemade doesn’t need to look homemade after all. 

Epsom salts help boosts our body’s magnesium levels. We need magnesium for energy, regulating blood sugar levels and helping with healthy bones amongst much more. It’s also good for sleep, stress and reduces swelling and bloating. 

Himalayan salts are a detoxifier and help remove toxins from the body. They are also a natural mineral and work to counteract the electromagnetic energy we get from using technology. 

Bicarbonate of soda will make your skin silky smooth and also reduce any inflammation. 

I add essential oils  which add scent and have a host of different benefits depending on your needs. I tend to go for lavender to help with relaxation and sleep. 

These bath salts make great presents too.

How to make DIY natural bath salts

This is for lavender and rose petal bath salts. 

You will need:

  • 2 cups of Epsom salts
  • 1/2 cup of bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 cup of Himalayan salts
  • 5-10 drops of lavender essential oil
  • Dried rose petals (a small amount goes a long way)

The method:

Simply pour all the ingredients into a jar. I use a funnel for this. And then shake…

That’s it. Enjoy!

wellbeing

How to rise above it

April 5, 2019
How to rise above it

Do you know someone who is ‘challenging’? Do they actively try to put you down? Blank you? Or just generally make life unpleasant. Are there ways we can stop this from affecting us and learn how to rise above it?

I think we all come across people in our day to day lives whose behaviour doesn’t sit well with us. They’re the ones that seem to dislike you for no real reason or create conflict unnecessarily. I imagine most of us have experienced people who are difficult for no known reason or seem to want to make trouble.

It’s hard not to overthink these situations or let it affect your own sense of self by wondering if it’s something about you that enables people to behave badly. I’ve spent too much time either making excuses for someone’s behaviour or letting it affect my confidence. The fact is we are all accountable for our own behaviour and sometimes it’s just not ok.

Whilst I do think there are times we project our own insecurities on others, there are other situations where we need to remember: it’s not me, it’s you.

How best to handle toxic behaviour?

We all need boundaries and to learn how to recognise when they’re being overstepped. We don’t have to put ourselves in situations that makes us feel uncomfortable. If they’re friends or relatives and you feel the relationship is toxic, then I would suggest limiting contact or removing them from your life altogether. But what do you do if it’s a work colleague? Or a partner’s friend? Or someone that it’s just not that easy to avoid?

How do you rise above it?

Rising above it means you don’t let yourself be controlled by other people’s negative behaviours. It doesn’t mean you’re weak or are allowing bad behaviour (please note, I’m not suggesting this for harmful situations); it just means you are not letting someone else’s toxic behaviour affect you.

It’s important to remember that how someone behaves says much more about them, than you. You can’t control other people’s behaviour, you can only think about how you respond.

4 ways to rise above it

Sleep on a difficult situation. You may find that it matters to you less the following day, or that you are calmly able to say something.

Reduce interactions with negative people and increase them with positive people who make you feel good about yourself. Life’s too short to spend with people who make you feel miserable.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Ever had a sleepless night replaying a scenario in your head where this time you had the wittiest comeback putting someone in their place? Yes, me too. The reality is, it doesn’t matter. Who cares who had the last word? It’s point-scoring and isn’t going to resolve anything.

Remember people who pick faults are usually doing it as a way to deflect attention from their own shortcomings. It’s a defense mechanism and really they should have the emotional intelligence to look at themselves. Try to ignore them and just focus on being the best version of you.

mind

Are you suffering from imposter syndrome?

March 17, 2019
are you suffering from impostor syndrome?

A few years ago I got promoted at work. Despite being more than qualified, I spent the first year waiting to be pulled into a meeting room and told, ‘we’ve made a terrible mistake’. I lived in a state of panic and regardless of any positive feedback, I still couldn’t relax and enjoy my new role.

My experience is not uncommon. I’ve heard of chief executives googling how to run a company and high profile celebrities talking about feeling like a fraud. It’s so well known, it has its own terminology: imposter syndrome. This is where you believe you’re not good enough despite evidence to the contrary.

What is imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is a psychological phenomenon where feelings of self-doubt and low confidence levels are so intense they make you feel like a fraud. Researchers say it’s more common in high achieving women. However, statistics show 70% of millenials have experienced imposter syndrome at some point.

Whilst I think it’s a far nicer character trait to be under confident and overachieving, as opposed to overconfident and underachieving, the reality is that imposter syndrome can stop us from realising our true ambitions without us really realising it.

So what can you do to overcome it?

  • Awareness of an issue is generally the first step to overcoming it. Take notice of your feelings, thought processes and whether you feel a fraud for no real reason.
  • Try tracking your achievements so you can look back and see how far you’ve come. Some people keep a compliments folder or write lists.
  • Recognise lots of other people feel this way and you are not alone. It’s a sign that you care.
  • Open up to friends about how you’re feeling. Their perception is likely to be different to yours and it might be useful to get an impartial view.
  • Focus on adding value in the short term and remember you won’t feel this way forever.

wellbeing

Retraining your neural pathways (and what that actually means)

March 5, 2019

What are neural pathways?

Our nervous system consists of neurons (nerve cells) that transmit nerve signals or messages to and from the brain. The path which this information travels along is called a neural pathway.

Our neural pathways are developed from childhood. As a baby, we learn to smile through our parents or caregivers smiling at us. We learn not to touch a hot pan from being burnt in the past. They help keep us safe and secure.

Our neural pathways aren’t just responsible for our physical responses but our emotional ones too. We develop habits through them: both positive and negative and they determine our responses to situations because of experiences in the past.

How do we retrain our neural pathways?

The brain is often described as a muscle and although biologically it’s not, it can be trained in a similar sort of way through repetition. This is in the same way as going to the gym or undertaking regular exercise.

So how exactly do you start?

The best place to start is to identify the patterns you want to change. This does take an element of self awareness and understanding patterns and behaviours you would like to create.

The next is to spend a decent amount of time practising the change you want to make. The perceived wisdom is it takes 66 days for a new habit to take effect and for your neural pathways to redevelop.

In the same way that it takes time for your body to change as a result of exercise, retraining neural pathways also doesn’t happen overnight. However, with time, you will see changes. I spent my 20s and some of my 30s feeling awkward and shy. I would clam up when I met new people but then laugh and joke with my friends. People thought I was standoffish and over the years I realised I was giving the wrong impression. I made a conscious decision to be friendly to new people. The more I did it, the easier it became. It’s now second nature to me.

Many of us go through life feeling like our confidence is holding us back and our previous life experiences have affected our future. Retraining our neural pathways gives us the opportunity to reset the balance. Yes, it takes practice but one that is potentially life-changing.

mind

Kindsight and why you need it

January 9, 2019
kindsight and why you need it

Ever spent hours ruminating over something you said and wished you’d used different words? Or do you look back at the past with regret at something you did with the hope you could turn back time? It sounds like you could do with some kindsight.

What is kindsight?

Kindsight is the practice of looking at the past in a much gentler way. It suggests you reflect upon events and situations and ask what you were learning, rather than using the past as a stick to beat yourself with. For people who struggle with the idea of letting things go (such as me), kindsight is a way to look at what those events were teaching you and then move on.

Kindsight as you probably guessed is a portmanteau of kindness and hindsight. We use hindsight as a way of understanding a situation or event after it has happened thinking about what we would have done differently had we been aware of certain information. It can either be used in a slightly passive way or as a way to beat ourselves up. Kindsight in a sense is taking more responsibility and thinking about the learning – not in a blaming way – but to help us reach a sense of closure.

We can also use kindsight to understand that we can’t always predict or control other people. I have a strong sense of justice and sometimes feel stung when I feel things haven’t been resolved properly. However, I’m not a judge or a jury; it’s not for me to determine how other people should be dealt with. Likewise, waiting for a perceived injustice to be acknowledged also puts the control firmly with others and leaves you powerless: you are left waiting for someone to recognise your feelings, which realistically may never happen. Kindsight helps us to reflect on those situations and accept the behaviours of others is out of our sphere of influence.

Why do we struggle to let things go?

We often use the past to confirm the stories we think about ourselves. It helps us reinforce where we think we’re not good enough or what our perceived weaknesses are. However, it’s very easy to pick out selected memories that reinforce our self-limiting beliefs (whilst selectively forgetting about the ones that don’t). Human beings don’t like to be wrong. This is why we find it so easy to remember moments which clarify our negative thoughts about ourselves.

Benefits of kindsight

  • It helps us reframe the past in more of a positive way
  • It enables healing (by not blaming)
  • We learn from situations and events but in a gentler way. We’re enquiring into what we learnt and not telling ourselves what we should have learnt
  • It gives us a deeper sense of understanding
  • It provides us with acceptance.
  • It gives us closure with kindness
  • And helps us to move on.

We are all much more than the sum of our pasts. It is only the present that matters.

self-care

10 quick and easy self-care ideas

July 31, 2018
quick easy self-care ideas

Self-care for when life gets busy

I fall into bad habits quickly. Lack of time means I reach for junk food instead of eating a more balanced diet and rushing around means I forget to think about my needs altogether. When life gets busy, self-care tends to fall to the bottom of the to-do list. The irony being that when life gets hectic, we need to look after ourselves more than ever. There are only so many hours in the day, and of course, there are times when self-care can’t be prioritised. So here are 10 quick and easy self-care ideas to consider for when time is short.

10 quick and easy self-care ideas

  1. Prioritise small life admin tasks. I’m the queen of procrastination and push any small admin tasks as far down the list as I can. It’s easy to delay something that isn’t urgent but the reality is, it still hangs over you as something to do. Give yourself sense of achievement and stop the list from building up.
  2. Declutter. There is a lot of evidence which shows a clearer space is good for the mind. It gives you room to think and breathe. Prioritise one room at a time and objectively clear things you don’t use or need anymore.
  3. Take time out from social media. Sure, social media can be fun. However, it can also be a time hoover and leave you with feelings of inadequacy. Switch your phone off for a set period of time and always unfollow or mute anyone who doesn’t make you feel good about yourself.
  4. Check in with your body. How are you really feeling? Do a full body scan and notice signs of aches and pains. Do you need to rest? How is your mood? Understand what your emotions are telling you.
  5. Breathe. There may not always be time for mindfulness practice but there is always time to breathe… Take 3 deep breaths and use the moment to pause and reflect in a busy day.
  6. Pay it forward. This may not sound like a self-care strategy, however, doing random acts of kindness helps uplift us and feel more positive. Try leaving a bottle of water for a homeless person in summer or buy a coffee for the person in front of you. Small acts can make a big difference.
  7. Gratitude. My gratitude practice often falls to the bottom of the list when I get busy. During those times, take a few minutes out of the day to notice what you feel grateful for.
  8. Walk outside. We should all try to have 15 minutes outside to make sure we’re getting enough Vitamin D. I try to take some time away from listening to music and really notice the world around me. It’s important to see the beauty in everyday life.
  9. Give yourself permission to take time off. I will sit down to read a book and within minutes get up to start putting the washing away or some equally innocuous domestic task. I struggle to make time just for me. It’s important to remember, we all need breaks and no one’s energy is limitless.
  10. Do something just for you. I know baths and candles are a bit of a joke when it comes to self-care. However, there is something in the idea of taking time out just for yourself. We all deserve a break.
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