Day 39: Own it (I haven’t got time)

How often do you say to yourself or to others “I haven’t got time”? I found I would say it a lot more than it was probably a true and accurate reflection of the situation. 

Let’s face it, nobody likes to let anyone down and on the whole we don’t want to upset anybody either. “I haven’t got time” (or variations of this sentence) are usually half true in so far as we have busy lives and it can be difficult to juggle all the tasks and responsibilities. But how many times do we actually want to say instead, “I’ve only got a finite amount of time available and this is not a priority for me?” Whilst saying this could actually come across as rude or insulting in the first instance, we could also reflect upon the white lie being told and see that as rude and insulting too, no?!

How much better would it feel though to just say “I’m sorry I can’t make it” or “I’m afraid I can’t make time for that right now”? Saying, “I haven’t got time” is actually a bit of a cop-out but more importantly it subconsciously allows us to believe the story that we are victims to time itself rather than being able to manage it appropriately for ourselves and live within its limits.

Yes, we’ve got jobs to do, chores to work on, people dependent on us but we do have control over how we run our day, and how we prioritise the people and activities in our lives. 

This is not supposed to be a guilt-trip or a finger-wagging exercise, by the way. This is me reflecting on how liberating it is to be honest with ourselves about not wanting to do stuff. Of course, sometimes there are things we might do against our true desire to suit others or because our involvement is genuinely needed but I’m not talking about those things.

I am not saying we should all become less charitable and start being overly direct or harsh with others but rather when we’re going to say no to something, let’s not rush to blame time and instead feel empowered by our prioritisation and decision-making. If we want to do something but think that time doesn’t allow us, let’s check our priorities and ensure that the other things stopping us from doing the thing are well worth the sacrifice. 

And above all, at the very least, let’s stop telling ourselves stories about time alone being the reason why things are or aren’t happening. The things we really want to do usually get done. We just have to ask ourselves “how much do we want it?”

Time is not the enemy!

Time is not the enemy!

Day 38: Be kind...to yourself

What’s your inner self talk like? Do you tear strips off yourself or are you your biggest fan?

I know I’m very quick to refer to myself as “stupid” or an “idiot” when I make a mistake, do something accidentally around the house or forget something. I wouldn’t dream of saying that to anyone else! So why do I do it to me? I am also a bit of a worrier so I spend a lot of my self talk being concerned about things, running possible future issues through my mind or looking for risks to be aware of.

So with this in mind, Scott Trurow’s quote becomes all the more powerful: 

“Who are we but the stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves and believe?”

What this says to me is I am what I chose to believe I am and the words with which I describe myself and the stories on which I focus are the foundations of who and what I become.

Connected to this is the concept of mantra. One definition from The Oxford Dictionary is “a statement of slogan that is repeated frequently.” Mantras can be used to embed or manifest information, so we become what we repeatedly tell ourselves we will become. Some people create personal mantras, which according to destinyodyssey.com is “an affirmation to motivate and inspire you to be your best self.... Its purpose is to provide motivation and encouragement to you when you need to focus your mind to achieve a goal.” 

The relationship we each have with ourselves is the deepest of all relationships that we have. The majority of conversations we have in our lives are in our heads, with ourselves!

So what do you say to yourself? Do you support yourself and buoy yourself up, put yourself down and convince yourself that things are terrible or perhaps you limit yourself and put obstacles in your own way? 

We can’t control the comments of others but we can control our own. The chats we have with ourselves are often the harshest and the most limiting words that we hear. And sadly, all too frequently we choose to believe them.

Have you stopped to consider how you talk to yourself? It could be interesting to reflect upon your words and style. Would you speak like that to a friend or loved one? How would you feel if you overheard someone speaking in the same way to someone else? Perhaps you might create your own personal mantra you repeat to yourself each morning to get yourself in a positive frame of mind? I’m going to give it a go and see how it affects me, my beliefs about myself and what I do.

What do you say to yourself when nobody’s listening?

What do you say to yourself when nobody’s listening?

Day 37: (Late) Mid-summer check-in

So we’re well over half-way through the school summer holidays here and the same goes for the #summerofselfcare How is it going? Are you managing to carve out some time for yourself? Have you made any small changes or tried something new that has felt beneficial?

Writing this blog is as much about my own self care as it is about seeking to share ideas. I believe that establishing a dialogue about caring for ourselves can be powerful and can be enough to start a positive movement of support and understanding.

I don’t sit here thinking I’ve got it all together and that everyone should be doing what I do. I like exploring different things and when I find things that work for me I want to talk about them. I don’t believe that doing all the things I post about is the answer to self care but I think that offering up suggestions and points for consideration can support others in establishing what self care means for them.

Some topics go deep, take for instance saying no, forgiveness and liberating ourselves from old thinking. Some are lighter touch, such as improving our snack choices, making more time to pamper ourselves or heading to bed earlier. Each area will have a different significance for each of us at different times in our lives. I am aiming to cover the breadth of this awesome topic by the end of the summer but will undoubtedly not catch everything.

I am hugely grateful to those of you who have taken time to comment and share and get in touch with me on the topics I’ve covered so far. It is a pleasure to interact with you and it’s a boost for me to know that people are engaging with my content and finding it helpful. Please get in touch if there are any areas you’d like me to include before the summer’s out. But in the meantime have a check back over the summer so far and consider what you’ve done for you and how it’s made you feel. Is there anything you still want to work on and what will you do over the next couple of weeks and beyond to keep self care at the heart of what you do?

Self care: Are you getting what you need?

Self care: Are you getting what you need?

Day 36: Small actions, big results

There are countless ways that we can make a difference to the state of our environment on both a local and global level.

It’s easy to think that we shouldn’t bother because what impact could little old us possibly have? However, some small acts performed by one person can have many positive repercussions not only by virtue of what they are but by setting a good example to friends, family and other generations, and becoming a springboard for future green activities. 

There has been a lot in the press about how unless we make enormous full scale changes that we’re not going to make enough of a difference but the following quote from Anne Marie Bonneau and the Zero Waste Chef gives me a little hope: “we don’t need a handful of people doing it perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.“

This restores my faith. I do believe that doing our bit will make a difference. For instance, purchasing patterns will communicate messages to big businesses and in turn could change how they make decisions about produce, products and packaging.

Just choosing a few products that have less packaging compared to our usual choices will immediately mean that there’s less plastic in the local area, less in landfill, less in binbags to be ripped apart in the street for the wind to blow rubbish away into natural habitats.

So outside of considering how we buy food, especially fruit and vegetables, what other small things can we do to make a difference? Why not consider investing in some of the following?

Washable & refillable coffee cups

Washable & refillable water cups & bottles

Reusable cutlery & straws for lunches on-the-go

Fold-away shopping bags

Mini refillable bottles for toiletries or soap bars.


I find I often have the intention but forget to take the item with me so devising a system or a reminder is going to be an action of mine. I’m going to put a note on the door or by the coat hooks to help me to remember to pack things for when I’m out and about. Keeping shopping bags in the car and a fold-away one in my bag so they’re always accessible could be a simple action that makes all the difference.

Growing your own can make a difference.

Growing your own can make a difference.

Day 35: Nutritious homemade treats

This is one of my go-to recipes for when I want something sweet but I also want to keep on top of my nutrition. They’re a great post-gym nite too!

The original recipe came from a supermarket magazine some years back but it was such a long time ago now I can’t recall which one it was. 

Ingredients

100g oats

100g peanut butter

50g honey

50g dried cranberries

Method

Melt the peanut butter and honey in a large pan over a gentle heat until fully combined.

Add the oats and dried cranberries and stir thoroughly until all completely mixed in.

Take small lumps from the mixture and roll into balls.

Place the balls on a tray and then pop in the fridge to firm-up.

These keep really well in a sealed tub or jar in the fridge. 

Why not add some spices or replace the  cranberries for another dried fruit? Or what about some melted dark chocolate drizzled over the top? Mmmmm.

Peanut butter & cranberry bites.

Peanut butter & cranberry bites.

Day 34: Slowcooker bone broth

Keeping with the theme of gut health from yesterday I thought I’d share my slowcooker bone broth recipe.

When bone broth started appearing everywhere I looked some time back I have to admit that I was extremely sceptical. “What is bone broth anyway?”, I thought to myself. “Surely it’s just stock? And we’ve been making that without a moment’s thought for forever?!”

So I did a bit of research to see if what had become a bit of a fad or buzz word was really all it was cracked-up to be...

I used bonappetit.com to help me understand the difference between a broth, a stock and a bone broth. Here’s a very quick summary:

Broth

Meat cooked in water for a short-medium length of time, producing a thinner consistency liquid.

Stock

Meat-stripped bones cooked in water for a medium length of time.

Bone broth

Stock cooked for a much longer time, also using meat-stripped bones, producing a thicker consistency where the collagen-rich gelatin has leeched out of the cartilage and bones. It is this that is heralded as being good for our skin, hair, nails and gut health.

Whilst they are all variations on a theme, the bone broth claims to offer greater health benefits. 

So where the thought of having to be near the hob for several hours is really very off-putting for me I did a little digging and have crafted a very lazy slowcooker version. 

Ingredients

Carcass & any unwanted parts of the slowcooked chicken

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

2 carrots, chopped into chunks

2 celery sticks, chopped into thick batons

1 small onion, roughly chopped

Piece of fresh ginger (for its anti-inflammatory benefits & because it’s tasty)

Boiling water to cover the ingredients.

Method

After cooking a whole chicken in the slowcooker remove the meat from the bones and leave all unwanted bones, skin and juices in the crockpot.

Add the vinegar and stir, allowing a few minutes before adding the remaining ingredients.

Don’t peel the carrots or ginger but roughly chop everything and add to the pot.

Cover the ingredients with freshly boiled water, pop on the lid and turn the slowcooker to high and allow to cook for a few hours. 

If you have a muslin or fine cloth then line a colander and sit it over a large bowl in order to drain the bone broth. I use a sieve on top of a colander to ensure the broth is clear and golden.

It should set in the fridge like a jelly with a fat layer on top. It doesn’t look particularly nice but see past that to all the deliciousness inside. You can add it to soups, stews, ragouts, curries and even just drink it as it is (warmed-up of course! 🤣) If you pour it into several smaller sealable jars the bone broth should keep for a couple of weeks, sealed by the fat layer on top. If you put it all into one larger tub then you may only get a few days from it. It freezes well too though.

Bone broth with stir fried vegetables.

Bone broth with stir fried vegetables.

Day 33: Gut health

We read and hear a lot about it these days and rightly so, the health of our gut influences a great many elements of our overall health and wellbeing. 

The balance of our gut microbiome has a direct impact on key bodily functions and systems. Digestion, mood, immune system, weight, blood sugar, cholesterol, inflammation and blood pressure are all impacted by the balance of “good and bad bacteria” in our intestine.

Research suggests that gut bacteria affect our brain health too, so by positively changing our gut bacteria balance we may actually be able to improve our brain health.

Not only do we know more about the power of a healthy gut from research conducted but this information actually has a great deal more relevance to us these days. With increased use of antibiotics (which aren’t good for the balance of our gut bacteria) and increased accessibility of processed and high sugar foods, our diets include more items that fuel the bad bacteria and reduce the good bacteria that help to keep us healthy. According to healthline.com, “a diet high in processed foods and added sugars can decrease the amount of good bacteria in the gut.”

There are a lot of pre and probiotics for sale to assist with the development and maintenance of a healthy gut but these do come at a price and with varying levels of quality. I’m not an expert so cannot recommend which are the ones worth seeking out, however, as with vitamins and minerals it is usually best to aim to get our quota through our food wherever we can. Did you know that there are a lot of natural pre and probiotics that you probably already eat or can easily include in your diet?

Probiotics

These are live microorganisms that have health benefits once consumed. They are usually beneficial bacteria that can provide benefits to the body and brain.

Some probiotics have even been shown to improve symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression.

Probiotics in the following (but not limited to):

  • Yoghurt

  • Kefir (Milk & water-based)

  • Sauerkraut

  • Kimchi & fermented vegetables

  • Sourdough bread

  • Miso

  • Kombucha

  • Pickles

  • Some cheese, including Gouda, mozzarella, cheddar and cottage cheese.

Prebiotics

These are types of dietary fibre that feed the friendly bacteria in our gut.

Prebiotics in the following (but not limited to): 

  • Dandelion Greens

  • Jerusalem Artichoke

  • Garlic

  • Onion

  • Leeks

  • Asparagus

  • Underripe bananas

  • Mango.

So if you think your gut could do with a boost why not have a look at these lists and see where you could up your intake of tummy health-promoting foods?!

Homemade fermented veggies 🤗💚

Homemade fermented veggies 🤗💚

Day 32: Green fingers

I’ve already posted about the health benefits of being out in green space but did you know that gardening is also supposed to be a great healer?

According to eartheasy.com gardening can have positive effects on stress, self-esteem, heart health, hand strength and dexterity, brain health, immunity regulation, depression and mental health. 

I know for sure that time spent in the garden relaxes me and helps me find a sense of calm in my day. Light gardening and nurturing of plants is gentle exercise and evoke a sense of gratitude within me, which are real mood boosters.

Heavier garden work can be a great workout and a real opportunity to be mindful and present in the moment. That said, unless you are keen on outdoor work, it may not be your idea of a fun way to spend the afternoon 😉. 

Still, I’ve got big plans to get back in the garden and 2020 is most definitely going to be the year of the garden for me. In the meantime I’m going to incorporate short bursts of weeding and tidying into my week to get my fill of fresh air and earthly nourishment. 

Out in the garden. 

Out in the garden. 

Day 31: Lagom

When my friend Ciara thrust a book about hygge into my hands some years ago and said, “read this, you’ll love it!”, she most definitely had me figured out! I fell in love with the concept right there and then and have tried to build many elements of the multi-faceted Scandinavian cultural principle into my life ever since. I ran a 1-day workshop on it a while back to share my interest with others and help people find ways of  incorporating it into their lives too.

But if hygge wasn’t already great enough, I then discovered Lagom. As my blog topic for the season is self care I think it’s pretty fitting to introduce Lagom into the mix.

According to Linnea Dunne, Lagom can be summed-up as “the Swedish art of balanced living”. Much like hygge, it cannot be translated into the English language in one word but basically means “just enough”, so not too much, nor too little. It can be applied to all aspects of life and is hailed as a key factor in the success and happiness of the Swedish nation. 

Applying it to food, work or money is pretty straight forward but the real beauty of it lies in its application to situations, community and society as a whole where balancing acts are performed, fair exchanges made and codes respected and rarely abused.

It makes me reflect on the fantastic Wilde quote I used earlier in the summer about moderation. Lagom embraces the Friday night treats and weekend late nights in order to balance out the healthy eating and sensible bedtimes of the week. It looks at both sides of the coin and honours them with appropriate measure. 

“If you know what’s just enough, why go overboard?”

This quote really resonates with me, particularly in relation to habits I’d like to stop. To me it says, “don’t stop having the treats or staying up late, just don’t do it all the time!” I can apply it to so many other parts of my life and I find it really helpful.

The benefits of Lagom are listed in Dunne’s book and include the following:

Improved physical space as a result of more conscious consumption and therefore less clutter;

Improved mental space due to taking a step back, observing a work life balance and being present in the moment;

Improved finances as a result of consuming in line with needs, with the planet in mind and by being thrifty;

Improved connection to community through shared responsibilities.

It’s hard to find anything not to like about it really. 

Are there ways in which Lagom already features in your life? If you’re interested to read more I can highly recommend Linnea Dunne’s book. It also makes a lovely gift. 

Lagom your life! This is a great read. 

Lagom your life! This is a great read. 

Day 30: 10 tips for a blissful bathtime

Ok, so I waited until 30 days in before I mentioned bubble baths! 😉 When I first started The Woman Next Door I sold a variety of homemade products, including hand scrubs, body oils, bath salts and bath tea bags all made with natural ingredients. I thought I’d share my top 10 tips to make bathtime a little more luxurious without forking out a fortune or adding unnecessary unpronounceable additives to your bath.

Milk: Well it was good enough for Cleopatra, right?! Rather than donkey milk though, why not add some oat milk to your bath water? Not only do the natural oils in oats have moisturising properties but they have skin soothing benefits too!

Flowers: Just making a bath look luxurious or special can give us a greater sense of taking care of ourselves. Adding the heads of some fresh flowers or a handful of dried flowers (I particularly like lavender and rose petals) can make the bath look really pretty and also add a natural scent to the water.

Essential oils: I find their scent alone so powerful. Adding just a few drops of your favourite essential oil to the running water as you fill the bath not only scents the water and offers you all the wonderful properties that your chosen oil gives but it fills the air of the bathroom with a spa-like aroma that can transport you to another place. My favourites are peppermint, eucalyptus and ylang ylang.

Oils: Apricot kernel oil and coconut oil are lovely things to add to a bath. You don’t need much and the coconut oil also adds its gorgeous scent. 2 things to note though, whilst oils offer moisturising properties they also make baths and feet slippy and can leave a bit of a cleaning job behind so beware!

Seaweed: We’re lucky enough to live by the sea so grabbing a few handfuls of seaweed to bring home is relatively easy for us. Seaweed has stress-relieving properties and can help with skin conditions and irritations. I just love the calming smell of the sea too. But if you don’t fancy bringing the sea home then Sea Haven do fantastic seaweed baths at the harbour in Ballycastle. 

Epsom salts: It is claimed that these have muscle relaxant properties so are great for aches and pains and post-workout. Usually available in chemists but you can buy large bags online very reasonably.

Sea salt: Salt has the power to heal and soothe and even just a couple of tablespoons can add to the benefits of your bath.

Bicarbonate of soda: I included this in my bath salts as it has skin soothing properties that can help with irritations and skin complaints.

Simple bath salt recipe: 3 tbsp Epsom salts, 2 tbsp sea salt, 1 tbsp bicarbonate of soda, 4 drops of essential oil of choice, handful of dried flowers.

Bath teabag recipe: To make a small jar of mixture mix 2 cups of fine oatmeal with a handful of dried flowers and several drops of your favourite essential oil. This keeps for a couple of weeks in a cool, dark place. Use the small bouquet garni muslin bags you can buy for cooking to make your teabag. Fill the bag with some mixture then ensure it sits under the flow of the tap water so it starts to infuse before you get into the bath.

Baths that are pretty AND good for us. 

Baths that are pretty AND good for us. 

Day 29: Speak your truth

I’ve been toying with this topic for a couple of weeks now but a brilliant meeting I had this morning with a super woman brought it back around to the front of my mind. We had been introduced by a mutual friend who believed there were some synergies between what we both do and are looking to do in the future. She wasn’t wrong!

As we chatted about our work and life’s twists and turns I found myself talking about how I’ve come full circle with The Woman Next Door.

You’ve maybe heard me say before that I never set out to become a jam maker - I refer to it as a happy accident. When I established the blog, initially just on Facebook, it was intended to be a food and lifestyle blog: a channel for me to share my passions, namely food, gardening, health and fitness.

The jam making became an exciting plot twist that has allowed me to work with hundreds of wonderful people and interesting businesses. The creativity and effort I have literally poured into the jars over the years has been significant. The support from private and commercial customers alike has been at times overwhelming. I look back on all the small achievements with pride and recognise how they have opened up so many doors to me and my friendship and professional networks.

But in the last 12-18 months during which I have returned to a greater focus on health, both in the events and activities I have participated in and the blog posts I have written, I recognise that I’m coming full circle. Here I am, back where I began, wanting to share my passion in health and wellbeing and this time wanting to actively take it one step further to actually support others in their own journey to good health.

The development of Women’s Wellbeing that was initiated by Jenny Morris of Wise Sole Reflexology has provided me with another platform to talk about the importance of moving and fuelling our bodies and minds to greater health and wellness. I am excited about what we might achieve with this group. Initial feedback from our first 2 events and from the content we are developing on social media has been really positive. There is work for us to do!

I am now pouring so much of myself into my nutrition training too. It is so interesting and I’m loving getting into the detail. Things are really feeling like they’re fitting together in so many ways.

I do reflect upon the jam detour of the last few years and wonder how it happened, especially when I have now come back to a point where I’m keeping it small and limited to very few outlets. It wasn’t my plan at the outset but I’m so glad that I took the opportunity as I did. It has been a big part of my journey but now it needs to play a smaller role to allow me to focus on what is truly inspiring and meaningful to me. Letting go of it feels strange as there is so much of me in the products but I have a more pressing purpose that I need to pursue and I feel as though it’s all coming together just as it’s supposed to.

What truths do you need to speak? Are you being true to how you feel and what is right for you at this time? What needs to shift to enable you to speak your truth?

📸 Islander Visual

📸 Islander Visual

Day 28: Pear & apricot flapjacks

These are a healthier take on the traditional flapjack as the recipe does not include butter or sugar. This is my version of a recipe that I regularly make from a lovely book by Dale Pinnock, The Medicinal Chef. His recipe uses apple, cranberries, cinnamon and pumpkin seeds. This version was born when I wanted to make the recipe but had to improvise with what I had in the cupboard!

There is enough to make 2 x 20cm square trays of flapjacks in the recipe below. They’re so tasty that 1 batch just isn’t really enough. They’re great for lunchboxes, post-gym fuelling, tea breaks and even breakfasts. They are full of great nutrients that can boost digestive and circulatory processes too. 

Ingredients

4 tbsp coconut oil

2 tbsp honey

4 pears, cored

360g oats

4 tsp mixed spice

2 tbsp dried, chopped apricots

2 tbsp mixed seeds of choice 

Method

Gently melt the coconut oil and honey together in a large pan.

Whizz-up the pears in a food processor, smoothie maker or with a stick blender until they resemble apple sauce consistency.

Stir the puréed pear into the oil and honey mixture. 

Once combined stir-in the oats, mixed spice, apricots and seeds until the wet and dry ingredients are completely mixed together.

Press the mixture into the 2 tins that have been greased and lined as required. Then bake in the oven at 180 degrees for 30 minutes or until they are brown on top. 

Allow to cool before removing from the trays and slicing. 

Pear & apricot flapjacks.

Pear & apricot flapjacks.

Day 27: A summer read

We’re almost half-way through the school summer holidays here. Perhaps you’ve already got through a few books? Our children certainly have as they’re participating in the library’s Big summer read again.

I tend to read non-fiction, mostly health and wellbeing-related. That said, when I do settle down to a novel I really get hooked and love the escape it offers me.

I found a Reader’s Digest article online that discussed a fascinating study conducted in 2016 by researchers at the Yale School of Public Health. They reviewed 12 years of data about the reading habits and health of more than 3,600 men and women over the age of 50. They discovered that people who read books of any genre for as little as 30 minutes a day over several years were living an average of 2 years longer than people who didn’t read anything at all. The research also went on to conclude that between 2001 and 2012 the readers of that group reporting more than 3 hours of reading each week were 23 percent less likely to die than their peers who read only newspapers or magazines. 

As with all studies they are open to interpretation but it certainly gives me food for thought.

Many of the books I choose because there is something in them that I want to know or learn. I guess my aim for reading is often self-development. A friend of mine recently said that she’d started reading again for the first time after having children (her children are a similar age to ours) and she was thrilled to be reunited with that sense of escapism that reading for pleasure was giving her. I’m about to start Michelle Obama’s autobiography. It was a birthday gift from my husband. I’ll let you know how I get on but I am already excited at the prospect of reading purely for pleasure and no other reason!

My summer read.

My summer read.

Day 26: What type of laugh do you have?

Mine’s a cackle! 🤣🧙🏼‍♀️But how good does it feel to have a really big belly laugh?! Many say that a sense of humour is one of the factors that sets us apart from other species and makes us human. It is certainly quite hard to beat the feeling of the giggles taking over - genuine mindfulness when our whole body senses and reacts to something in the present moment.

I love the different types of humour or comedy that exist. Some tickle me more than others but it’s such an exciting and expressive art form. Without doubt it is the genre of entertainment that I consume the most on television. 

According to research conducted by helpguide laughter can boost immunity, reduce anxiety and tension and strengthen relationships, among many other things. There are some interesting facts and tips for introducing more humour into your day at the following link https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/laughter-is-the-best-medicine.htm

For now though I’m going to ensure I watch and read some more comedy during my week to see how it impacts me and my health. If you decide to try it too let me know how you get on. 

Laughter is the best medicine. 😂

Laughter is the best medicine. 😂

Day 25: Out out

A proper night out can be a great tonic. Some dear friends and I went out this week to check out The Salthouse hotel, a gorgeous new hotel in Ballycastle.

So many laughs and problems shared with delicious food, a beautiful setting and stunning views. It really was just what everyone needed.

A night out, especially somewhere new, whatever the preference or budget can be a real treat for the senses. New foods and surroundings give us a sensory boost and mindful moments and when you’re experiencing them in your local community then you’re giving back there too and that’s a doubly wonderful thing. 

Out out with friends. 😊

Out out with friends. 😊

Rib-eye steak with peppercorn sauce.

Rib-eye steak with peppercorn sauce.

View from the restaurant.

View from the restaurant.

Day 24: Decluttering

Are you a tidy person? I don’t think I really am. I have to work at keeping the house tidy and I’m sure my version of tidy is really quite loose! I love a pile. I have numerous tidy-looking piles of stuff around the house 🤣.

I recently read that that our state of mind can be impacted by our enevironment, meaning that an untidy space can affect us negatively. I know that if I’ve let clutter get out of hand I feel more stressed. That said, the clutter also builds-up as a result of stress and overstretching myself beyond the ability to keep on top of jobs around the house. 

We often hear the advice about doing things little and often. If we tidy a bit every day then we keep on top of it all. In theory this is a wonderful thing and I try very hard to keep at it. However, as with all good intentions I fall off the wagon here and there and then find myself scaling the north face of a pile of admin or several “washing sandcastles”, which for those of you tidy folk are piles of washing that have been turned out from the basket onto the bed. As the work builds-up I’m less inclined to want to do it and have to wait for the moment of motivation. Once it arrives I crack on and get it done and feel great for having sorted it. Everything looks tidy again and I feel good about myself.

Today’s task is to seek out the drawer/cupboard/room/car/shed that could do with decluttering and see how good you feel once you’ve done it. Even a small space can make a difference so get clearing-out! 

Tidying away the clutter can make the space look new again. 

Tidying away the clutter can make the space look new again. 

Day 23: Dance & sing like nobody’s watching

Or listening in my case too! 🤣 Dancing and singing really have the power to lift our mood, regardless of whether or not we possess any skill.

I can’t help myself when a good song comes on the radio. I’m sure anyone passing the window would get a great laugh if they could see me. 

It can be so liberating to move one’s body with no inhibitions. Sadly as adults many of us feel the need for the assistance of alcohol before we finally loosen-up and break out some moves. Some of us won’t even dance at all! Wouldn’t it be great if we could regularly recapture the genuine joy and freedom we enjoyed as children when a favourite song came on?!

It is claimed that the act of singing releases both endorphins and oxytocin. These are associated with feelings of pleasure, the alleviation of anxiety and stress and enhanced feelings of trust and bonding. In addition to the numerous physical health benefits that dancing offers, improved coordination and moments of real mindfulness can also have positive impacts on our mental health and wellbeing. 

So if you don’t dance or sing regularly, get the radio on or dig out some favourite music and get your juices flowing! Whether it’s in the kitchen, in the shower or maybe in the car a few moments of singing and booty-shaking can provide a great boost.

If you pass by the house at the right time (or wrong time depending on your perspective 🤣) you might get to witness me belting-out some Girls Aloud on the assault bike!

At our lovely friends’ wedding last year! Thank you Karen & Chris for the 📸 ❤️

At our lovely friends’ wedding last year! Thank you Karen & Chris for the 📸 ❤️

Day 22: Just do one thing

I kept the pace slow this weekend. Rest and treats were the name of the game. My energy was on a low ebb, as was my will power!

Getting up yesterday morning was tough. I’ve been struggling with my sleep again so when my alarm went off it didn’t feel like I’d been asleep for long enough. Sometimes putting my feet up is what I need to do in that scenario but I could see that it wasn’t a good idea for me on this occasion. I had taken the weekend to rest and had eaten a lot of less nutritious food and to continue that on was actually going to do me more harm than good.

So despite feeling a bit overwhelmed with what the day held I committed to getting up and doing one thing. I went up and made our bed. It took a matter of seconds but all of a sudden I could tick it off. Then I made the children’s beds. Tick! Then I collected-up and sorted some washing. Tick. Putting the washing on took just a moment and by then I had several ticks on the list and I felt far more motivated than in the ten minutes previous.

Now, it wasn’t the most productive day (I’m posting this a day late for a start! 🤣) but that doesn’t really matter and it most definitely ended up more positive than how it began. Just starting one thing, however small, can lead to a steady flow of further accomplishments and without realising it the overwhelming magnitude of the list fades and therefore so does the inertia.

On the days when the lists are too long or the pressure feels too great just starting something or selecting a handful of small tasks or focus points can be the beginning of turning a day around. 

Remember that if everything on the list is a priority then you’re actually prioritising nothing! 

And all of a sudden I’d done 10 things! Thanks Sally Laverty for the snap from a meeting some months ago. 😊

And all of a sudden I’d done 10 things! Thanks Sally Laverty for the snap from a meeting some months ago. 😊

Day 21: Girls’ (or guys’) night in

I love a night in at home with friends. It’s like a little bit of therapy for me sometimes. Open conversation, lots of laughs, drinks and maybe some good food if I’ve got myself organised. 😉

Sometimes being out feels too much but you don’t want to miss out on the connection with your pals. Chewing the fat with your chums in a relaxed environment without the distractions of other venues is really hard to beat.

Studies claim that connections with our close friends increase serotonin and oxytocin, the bonding hormone. Other research shows that in times of stress, we not only experience the fight or flight sensation but we also release oxytocin, enabling us to connect with others. As we age and our responsibilities increase it can prove tricky to maintain these connections however, the sense of nurturing and validation that comes with being at ease with our friends is so powerful and very much worth working at.

When was the last time you had the crew chez-vous 😉 for a big night in? Don’t wait for a “special occasion”, every day is special so get them round!

Veggie tacos, chocolate loaf with Tia Maria whipped cream, fruit-infused water & a simple, homemade table centre.

Veggie tacos, chocolate loaf with Tia Maria whipped cream, fruit-infused water & a simple, homemade table centre.

Day 20: Peace amongst the books

Reading is a delightful escape. But I think actually being amongst lots of books in a library is one step better. I love the calm and quiet but I also feel a sense of excitement and potential with all the choice, knowledge and creativity around me.

According to research carried out for The Reading Agency there is “strong evidence that reading for pleasure can increase empathy, improve relationships with others, reduce the symptoms of depression and improve wellbeing throughout life.” That sounds pretty good to me!

If that’s not enough alone to encourage you, with all the changes to local libraries over recent years, showing there is clear demand for yours is a great way to support community services continuing-on well into the future.

I was impressed by the great selection of health and cookery books in our library. For a relatively small one there is an excellent choice. 

So why not treat yourself to some peace and quiet and not just get lost in a book but go and get lost in your local library?! It doesn’t cost a thing and you could be doing the community a long term favour too! 

There’s always something interesting to pick-up & flick through.

There’s always something interesting to pick-up & flick through.