Day 19: No.

I’ve been thinking a lot about boundaries and protecting myself from my incessant ways of filling-up my diary. There are so many things I like doing and groups I like to be involved in that a seemingly empty week can all of a sudden become jam-packed and a little suffocating.

On the whole the things I book-in are good things but I do have a tendency to get ahead of myself and I sometimes accept things that I actually would rather not. Not necessarily because I don’t want to do them but more because it can be challenging and therefore quite stressful to fit them in.

What’s more, I have in the past struggled (and still do somewhat) to say no, for fear of hurting someone’s feelings or coming across as less than what I think the other person wants me to be. In situations where I have had the courage to say no, I have often followed it up with a lengthy explanation in an attempt to clarify that I’m not “a bad person” and that I’ve a reasonable reason to say no. In both situations I recognise that I’m focusing on someone else’s potential future feelings more than the reason why it’s not right for me to do the thing. All of this impacts negatively on my own health and wellbeing and something has to give.

There’s been a lot on this topic in magazines and on social media lately. And even just last night our Women’s Wellbeing crew had a working dinner and we talked about the importance of creating boundaries to ensure we don’t overlook our daily lives and families in the pursuit of doing great and powerful work. Nobody can pour from an empty vessel!

So, right now, for me, self care is about remembering that “no is a complete sentence.” I don’t have to demonstrate why I’ve said no in minute detail. I’m not a bad person for saying no. If someone else thinks I am then that is for them to deal with, not for me. Likewise, I won’t be snapping “no” and walking off with a bad attitude and forgetting my manners. My interpretation of this is more that I need to feel free to not take on things that aren’t for me both graciously and with confidence, and like all things it will take some practise. 

A quote that comes up on my social media feed quite regularly really inspires me to be better at refining what I do and how I spend my time and perhaps it will help you too: “I am learning to love the sound of my feet walking away from things not meant for me.”

I love this quote. 

I love this quote. 

Day 18: What’s in a scent?

Smells are so powerful. They can transport us through time and space in a moment and evoke such strong emotions.

The aroma of freshly prepared foods and drinks whets the appetite and plays a huge role in our eating experience. The smell of food that is deteriorating can set alarm bells ringing to protect us from making a bad choice that could affect our health.

There are some common favourites such as freshly ground coffee, roses, sea air and cut grass. I particularly love the smell of seaweed on the beach, the scent of peonies in the garden, rosemary cooking with the Sunday lunch and sandalwood in my oil diffuser. These aromas relax me and boost my mood but many great smells invigorate, excite or help us recall memories.

I use essential oils around the house and this oil diffuser has become a well-loved piece of equipment. It’s also got a soft light, which adds to the sense of calm and relaxation as the sun goes down.

What are your favourite scents and why? How can you get a fix to boost your mood in some way?

Soft light on my oil diffuser. 💛

Soft light on my oil diffuser. 💛

Day 17: Phone a friend

Today, why not make contact with someone you’ve not been in touch with for a while? Perhaps you’re due a catch-up and life has been hectic for you both lately? Perhaps it’s a elderly relative who would love to hear your news? Perhaps it’s someone you can share a problem with? Perhaps it’s someone you always end up laughing with?

You know what you need to do for you and how you’re feeling just now and quite possibly that person has popped into your head just as you’ve read this. 

Reaching out to those we care about and who care for us strengthens bonds that help us feel secure and connected. With the busyness of life we can often neglect relationships that mean a lot to us. It is impossible to keep on top of everything. So don’t read this and feel guilty, see it as a wee reminder to put some time aside for a catch-up that fits you and your schedule. 

We can’t see everyone face to face but why not pick-up a good old fashioned postcard or two (it is summer after all!) and let your loved ones know you’ve been thinking of them? Who doesn’t love receiving post from friends?

Take some time to pen a note to a friend or family member. 

Take some time to pen a note to a friend or family member. 

Day 16: Alfresco dining

What could be better than devouring something tasty out in the fresh air? I love eating outdoors whatever the weather, but it is certainly hard to beat during the summer months. 

Picnicking offers appeal through the strong sense of community it generates and the benefits of the surrounding greenery or seascape further enhance the experience, making everything just taste better to me!

We had lunch and dinner outside yesterday and it was good for the soul. Eating informally and watching the world go by is a perfect way for me to relax. 

This time of year offers more opportunity for outside dining and often right throughout the day, from morning through til night time. I love eating breakfast outside on the weekend when the weather’s good. It’s the loveliest way to wake up and prepare for the day. 

And don’t forget that a coffee in the car watching the rain with the window open a crack isn’t just as good but it does come a close second if weathering the elements just isn’t going to work for you. 

Cheese & oatcakes in the pop-up tent.

Cheese & oatcakes in the pop-up tent.

Porridge on the deck in the sunshine. 🥣 🌞 

Porridge on the deck in the sunshine. 🥣 🌞 

Day 15: Go green

According to the World Health Organisation, 

“Green spaces also are important to mental health. Having access to green spaces can reduce health inequalities, improve well-being, and aid in treatment of mental illness. Some analysis suggests that physical activity in a natural environment can help remedy mild depression and reduce physiological stress indicators.”

I can see and feel the positive impact on our family of being out walking in the forest. We are invigorated yet calmed at the same time. It’s a special place and somewhere we like to go regularly.

Whether it’s garden, field, hill, mountain or forest getting out in the fresh air and amongst nature can bring a whole range of health benefits. 

Which is your green space of choice and do you get out there as often as you’d like to? If not, how could you remedy that?

I ❤️ 🌲 

I ❤️ 🌲 

Day 14: A morning routine

Something I’ve noticed about myself in recent years is my tendency to start the day with social media. Depending on what I find I can end up in some unnecessary Instagram rabbit hole before I’ve even put my feet on the carpet.

It can have its upsides but generally speaking, when I do that the start of my day ends up being led or dictated by someone other than me.

What’s more, there are increasing reports on how the light from screens impacts our health and the effects of social media on the brain in a number of studies seem to be less than positive. That said, I’ll not be stopping using social media but I certainly seek to manage how I use it throughout daily life. The key thing for me is that I know I don’t need it at the very beginning of my day.

For the last couple of months I have made three changes to my morning routine. They are small and simple but they have had a really positive effect on me.

1. As soon as I wake up I drink a small glass of water, so I reach for the glass now rather than my phone. Having spent several hours asleep the water starts the rehydration process and as I can be prone to forgetting to drink water during the day this gets me off to a good start. Remember that every single process in our bodies requires water in some way!

2. I then set the timer on my watch for 7 minutes and perform a short restorative yoga session in bed. I move slowly and hold the postures for around 30 seconds each. I am working on my hip flexibility at the moment so this is the focus for me just now.

3. Only after these things do I check my phone for notifications, emails and news updates only. No scrolling and looking at unnecessary stuff before getting up and getting on with my day!

I believe that if I start positively and with the right mood and intention, whatever happens during the day I’ve already accomplished something. That in itself is motivating.

With this in mind, do you think there’s anything about your morning routine that could be tweaked for the better? However long you have in the morning you can make the time work for you. Even setting the alarm for 5 or 10 minutes earlier than usual can give you a boost and make you feel differently about your day.

Reach for the 💧  rather than the 📱 .

Reach for the 💧  rather than the 📱 .

Day 13: Treat yourself

The idea of what constitutes a treat will differ from one person to the next. Something I’ve been reflecting on for some time now is how the concept of food and drink treats also differs from other treats we might gift ourselves. 

If we treat ourselves to a massage, some extra me time to read alone or a trip to the theatre, all those things generally have a wholly positive impact on our lives (excluding any financial costs that might come with them 😉). We feel less stressed, more relaxed, we have a cultural experience or learn something new.

When it comes to food and drink treats, on the whole they are only really treating our tastebuds and fooling our brains into feeling happier or more relaxed for a short space of time. The most common treats are calorie-dense, nutrition-poor and not only have very little positive impact on our health but they can actively contribute to health complications if consumed regularly or in large quantities.

So the question I’m asking is, is it therefore really a treat at all?!

How often do we treat ourselves? When I was growing-up treats were for the weekend, for birthday parties, special celebrations, summer holidays and the like. They didn’t feature continually throughout the week, all year round.

Nowadays we might treat ourselves because it’s Friday night. But what if treats also carry on into Saturday and then Saturday night too? Perhaps getting through Monday deserves a treat and Thursday is the new Friday so perhaps we should start the weekend treats then? Wednesday is hump day so that might need a treat to help us through and all of a sudden treats aren’t treats at all they are just the way we eat. What’s more, the sense of reward has probably worn thin so are we just saying it’s a treat to square the circle and help us to explain away our food choices?

It might make it easier to consider differentiating between actual treats and what have become daily habits. Actual treats are less frequent, significant, well-earned and special. Daily habits are where we’re explaining away our choices of consuming food and drink that tastes good but isn’t good for our bodies.  

Regularly cracking open the wine after a tough day at work could be viewed as a common example of temporary self-medication to help us feel happier or less tense. Now, it’s not the end of the world, I’m sure most of us have done it but if we are regularly using our idea of treats to avoid dealing with something then all other things being equal, that something is likely to still be there the following day, week, month etc except we might be several pounds heavier with potential health complications to boot.

I’m not writing this to preach about what any of us should be eating but to invite us all to question our own relationship with food and drink and whether or not it is a healthy one. 

From a self care perspective let’s ask ourselves if we are treating ourselves too frequently, perhaps to the point that it has just become the way we eat?!

A brownie big enough for four! 🤗

A brownie big enough for four! 🤗

Day 12: Everything in moderation

There’s a beautiful quote by Oscar Wilde that I really love: “everything in moderation, including moderation.”

There is no doubt that moderating our excesses helps to keep us on an even keel. Too much of anything can create problems for us, even if they are seemingly positive things. 

So whilst my daily posts are about positive steps to improve small areas of our lives, let’s also recognise that sticking two fingers up to the wholesome choices is sometimes what’s got to be done. Allowing ourselves to take the foot off the gas, to eat the indulgent food, to binge watch some trashy television, to not go to the event we were supposed to or to not do whatever the socially-expected thing is, IS ALL OK. 

To me, self care is about tuning-in to the things that our bodies and souls need at any given time. What matters is that we don’t slide into a funk of harmful habits or allow a stream of unhealthy choices to mask what’s really going on for us and inhibit us in dealing with it.

I might be writing about all these things but do I do all of them every single day? Of course I don’t - I’m a human being! However, I try to do many of them more times than not and for some just doing them a few times is more important and productive than never doing them at all. 

Starting something steadily with good intention and a realistic, positive attitude is more likely to foster an enduring good habit than if we race head-on into an idealistic “new me” campaign. Cutting ourselves some slack, not aiming for perfection and getting back on the horse afterwards, rather than thinking all is lost is the key to making lasting changes.

Found this on Facebook & thought it summed it up well. 🤣

Found this on Facebook & thought it summed it up well. 🤣

Day 11: Flowers for that special someone

I think flowers are a wonderful gift to receive and I reckon I’m not alone given that there are approximately 15,000 floristry businesses in the UK, according to the British Florist Association!

Flowers as gifts can convey such strong sentiments. Their beauty, scent, shape and size can paint so many different meanings and different varieties will hold special memories for each person.

We often buy flowers for others but how often do we treat ourselves to them? Perhaps a supermarket bunch if we happen to see them now and then?

Today, why don’t you treat yourself to a beautiful bunch of flowers and think about what you might want to say to yourself in the process. What do you wish for yourself? What do you thank yourself for? What can you celebrate about yourself?

If your budget allows then head to a florist. If it doesn’t then pick something nice from the supermarket next time. Or (my personal favourite) hand pick a posy from the garden. I like the variety and clash of colours I get and there’s no budget required too! 😉 

The picture below is a gorgeous arrangement my mother-in-law made with flowers from our garden on the weekend. ❤️

My mother-in-law’s beautiful arrangement with garden flowers.

My mother-in-law’s beautiful arrangement with garden flowers.

Day 10: A healthy snack

We should not underestimate the impact of the small things we do for ourselves each day. Often we don’t even think about them, especially if they are part of a daily routine and we have done them repeatedly over time. 

Making oneself a cup of tea or coffee is actually an act of self care but one that frequently gets swallowed-up by busy-ness, routine and/or habit. If we slow it down and put aside ample time to enjoy the process of making and drinking it, all of a sudden having a cuppa has become a little bit of me-time and an opportunity to nurture oneself. 

Taking the cup of tea one step further, why not prepare a healthy snack?

So many snacks we find in shops are sugar-rich, nutrition-poor so organising a treat that fills us, nourishes us and tastes great can leave us feeling really good about ourselves. 

It doesn’t need to be gourmet - some favourite fruits and a herbal tea are fantastic: lots of antioxidants, vitamins, fluid and calming herbs. Done! Drop me a line if you’d like some snack-spiration! 😆😋

Heath & Heather echinacea tea & plenty of fruit. ❤️

Heath & Heather echinacea tea & plenty of fruit. ❤️

Day 9: Embrace the mundane

A lot of people have commented on the view from the window in our kitchen. Funnily enough it’s often the same thing that they say: “I bet you don’t mind washing-up with a view like that”. I love the view all year round and do spend time just looking out but the truth is we have a dishwasher and so whilst there are a few things that can’t go in it, in reality I don’t spend a lot of time at the sink looking at the view. 

However, we’ve just spent the last ten weeks away staying in a place without a dishwasher and with much less crockery and cutlery. I have actually really enjoyed having less things and going back to washing-up the traditional way, regularly after each meal. 

I recently read that the path to contentment isn’t to get rid of the jobs you’d rather not do but to find a pleasure and a purpose within them. I am going to get back to washing-up at the sink and enjoying the view whilst I’m at it! There’s also the added bonus of using less electricity so there’s an environmental benefit too.

What daily chores do you have on your list that with a bit of tweaking or a fresh perspective you could turn into more enjoyable activities?

A sink with a view. 😊

A sink with a view. 😊

Day 8: The power of an early night

Who doesn’t love the rare occasion when you get between the sheets way before the usual bedtime? I am posting this now because I fell asleep very early last night after an overnight flight filled with broken naps. 😩 Last night’s sleep was great, but what if I headed to bed early when I was feeling good and just because I rate sleeping?

What if I prioritised sleep and recovery over the television or social media scrolling, doing jobs and “having an evening?”

From a sports perspective it is vital to the growth and development of the muscles. Without rest and good sleep an athlete who eats and trains well risks not maximising his or her own performance potential. This applies to daily life too though - we can move and eat right but the rest and recovery is the third pillar in the holy trinity of feeling good and “performing” in life.

Recovery time gives the athlete’s body an opportunity to adapt to the stress of exercise and to replenish energy stores and repair tissue. This is the same for the brain too where it works to organise thoughts and learnings and processes events while we sleep. Anyone who has had any period of reduced sleep or insomnia recognises the impact sleep has on the health of our entire body and our sense of wellbeing.

So why has going to sleep got such a bad rap over the years? It can’t all be down to Bon Jovi’s laid back approach to catching the zzzzz “when I’m dead!” 😏 Society’s preoccupation with being busy, not looking lazy, appearing like we’re managing to do all the things, struggling to make room for me time and the possibility of 24-hour communication through smartphones probably all play their part amongst many other factors.

I am realising more and more that whatever stops me from going to bed at a good time really needs to be worth it. And by that I mean it has to be better than or equivalent to the sense of wellbeing I get when I awake from a restful night’s sleep, knowing that I have given my body a real treat, one that it would thank me for if it could speak.

Perhaps you’ve got your sleep schedule nailed and if so, well done - keep at it! But if you think it could do with a bit of a tweak why not join me in a challenge this week...? 

For the next week I will be in bed by ^insert time here^.

I might read, do some restorative yoga postures or meditate but I will be commencing the body and mind rest that nourish me. 

Notice how you feel over the week and if you like, drop me a line to let me know how you get on. 

Pretending to sleep so I have a picture for the blog 🤣.

Pretending to sleep so I have a picture for the blog 🤣.

Day 7: Joining up the dots

Sometimes the solutions to our problems are right under our noses but it’s not always obvious. It is possible that some niggles that aren’t bad enough for us to seek medical assistance could well be improved or alleviated by looking at our diet, relationship with food and associated routines and habits.

I am very keen to see how I can make adjustments to my lifestyle to improve how I feel and how my body works. There’ll be things I can’t do but if I can assist my body and mind in some small way with some good choices I am making the most of the control I do possess.

If you have a niggle or two and are wondering if you might be able to heal yourself, a simple food log could be the beginning of joining-up some dots for you.

The food log I have drawn-up below is really easy to use. Take a sheet per day or create your own using the headings referenced.

Every time you eat or drink jot down:

✏️what it is & a rough quantity (either in weight or size or cups),

🗺where you are when you consume it, 

😋how hungry you felt before & your mood after consuming it on a scale of 1-10 (1 being not at all hungry/negative or low mood & 10 being ravenous/really positive or happy),

📝any other information you think is relevant i.e. date in your cycle/associated symptoms for women, symptoms of those niggles we talked about earlier or any significant happenings in your life e.g. stressful events or injury/illness.

After a week or two you will have a source of really useful information. By looking at the times and places you usually eat, how food makes you feel and the actual food choices themselves you could well open the lid on the source of some of those niggles and at the very least might open your eyes to some habits that could be worth stopping or some potential deficiencies in your diet that you may need to work on. 


Day 6: Deep Calm

I’ve received lots of comments and messages on the book I recommended yesterday so I thought I’d share a tech recommendation with you today for those of you interested in building some more peace and stillness into your day. In keeping with the theme of mindfulness I want to tell you about my meditation experience with the Calm app.

Before I start I want to point out that this isn’t an advert for Calm and I haven’t been paid to blog about it.  My review is entirely based on my positive experience and I’m keen for others to discover it too.

I first found out about it last year. It had been popping-up on my Instagram feed for some time. The adverts looked good and eventually I clicked to see if it lived-up to expectations.

Needless to say my 1 week’s free trial turned into full membership and I’ve not stopped telling people about it since. 

So why do I like it so much?

First of all, with the app I now don’t need to think too hard about working meditation into my life - there’s a daily meditation waiting for me each morning that I can choose to use if I’d like to.

If the topic of the day doesn’t suit or I’d like to do some extra work there is a catalogue of themed meditations that cover all sorts of subjects, from stress and anxiety to focus and dealing with different emotions. If I’m going through something specific or need help with a particular area it’s a great source of support.

Sometimes guided meditations aren’t exactly what I need or it’s more a relaxing background noise that I’m searching for. The Music section of the app has chilled music created especially for it, nature sounds and soundscapes to suit all moods. You can even have a crackling fire or a powerful waterfall playing away on your phone. 

The sleep tab is literally a dream too 😉. It’s packed-full of gentle music, lullabies and bedtime stories for grown-ups (some of which are narrated by celebrities for some additional fun and sparkle) so there’s always something soothing to choose from, regardless of how I’m feeling.

Last of all there is also a section dedicated to children. With music and meditations aimed at youngsters of different ages it can be something that a whole family can benefit from. 

In all of this I do recognise a slight irony of a meditation phone app helping us with issues that may well have been exacerbated by the phone itself in the first place. But as a tool, prompt and source of brilliant information and support it is a truly great asset. 

Meditate tab of the Calm app.

Meditate tab of the Calm app.

Day 5: A mindful moment

I’d like to share something from an excellent book I’ve not long finished reading. The book is called Mindfulness Plain and Simple, A practical guide to inner peace by Oli Doyle.

You can’t go far without hearing mindfulness mentioned in some way and this book cleverly lays out how it can really impact how we live our lives.

The first chapter is entitled “What is wrong with us? The real cause of suffering.”

Doyle talks about how despite making changes to our environment, how we look and how we behave that happiness can still feel out of reach for many of us. He states that “we are lost in our thoughts, they consume our attention most of the time, and they are made up of scary stories about what will happen in the future, or pain and guilt about what happened in the past.”

This struck me hard. I am most definitely an overthinker. Whether I’m beating myself up for something I did or didn’t say or going through the motions of a discussion I might have in the future, none of it is actually happening. It is all in my head. Perception is reality, I know, but given that I have control over what goes on in my head it means I can be free to create my reality. Obvious and not so all at the same time!

Can you honestly say that you live in the moment? Do you have a tendency to live in thoughts buried in the past or in events yet to happen? How much energy do you expend on these things that you cannot change or that might never come to pass? 

Are we actually creating or enhancing our own unhappiness? And what can we do to reduce that, even just a little? 

As with meditation when thoughts pop into our heads and we acknowledge them and come back to the meditation exercise we can do the same in daily life. Each time I feel like I’m slipping into an unhealthy rabbit hole of past or future thinking I give myself a bit of a nudge now and ask myself how productive my thinking really is.

Sometimes it’s good to go over things or imagine what you might do in a certain situation to either process information or consider how we feel but to live in that space replaying old stories or acting out imaginary meetings really brings no positive outcome.

I’ve got a lot of practising to do but I feel like reading this has given me a swift kick up the backside to control my wayward thoughts. Perhaps it might be of use to you too?


Day 4: A sink with no plug

I came across this description of our bodies in relation to storing water whilst studying for my nutrition qualification.

The body can and does store a number of different nutrients but in general, water is not one of them. The phrase “use it or lose it” is actually quite fitting. It plays a vital role in so many functions of our body and because we can’t store it we can’t go for long without it. If we exercise, are unwell or the weather is warm we require more fluid to compensate for extra water loss.

Thankfully the majority of the food we eat contains water, for instance some fruits and vegetables can be around 90% water but the advice is that we should be keeping on top of a daily fluid intake via drinks too. However you go about deciding what your daily fluid intake is remember that whilst fresh, clean, unadulterated water will always be considered the best choice, all fluids count towards this. So tea, coffee, milks, fruit juices and squashes all count. Fizzy drinks and energy drinks do count too but are often loaded with sugars, caffeine and other additives which all bring with them other considerations.

So how can we make sure we’re staying well-hydrated whilst keeping things simple and interesting? Here are a few tips that might help:

💧Drink little & often & not just when you realise you’re super-thirsty - maybe even set a regular reminder on your phone if you’re prone to forgetting 

💧Carry a water bottle with you when you’re going to be out & about to prevent you getting stuck without a drink

💧Remember that caffeine is a diuretic so if you’re struggling to keep hydrated reducing the amount of caffeinated drinks you consume could help

💧Make up a jug at the start of the day that sits out on the counter so it’s quick & easy to grab a glass of something

💧Add fruits, vegetables or herbs of choice along with ice to fancy-up tap water

💧Ice cubes made with berries or herb leaves inside look pretty & add to the flavour of the water too

💧Make ice lollies with fresh juice & fruit 

💧You can even blitz-up some lemon & ginger in a juicer & add it to water for a fresh & nutritious squash

There are so many ways to get fluid in during the day. Write to let me know your suggestions. Happy drinking!

Fresh grapefruit, rosemary & ice with sparkling water.

Fresh grapefruit, rosemary & ice with sparkling water.

Day 3: Movement is a healer

We read it in magazines all the time about how exercise can make us feel better. Frankly, there are times when I’m not feeling well and it’s the last thing I want to do. Sometimes our bodies need to focus energy on getting well and not on the stresses that come with exercise.  I do recognise that it is not a remedy for everything.

That said, I’ve noticed recently how much exercise is helping me deal with stress and hormonal changes that I am going through right now. 

For the last 2 years or so I’ve been experiencing increasing symptoms associated with perimenopause. Many people’s first reaction when I say this is “you’re a bit young for that aren’t you?” I guess it depends on how you look at things. I started my cycle relatively early, I’ll be 40 at my next birthday and in general the perimenopause can last for up to 12 years. With all that considered, I’m probably not that extraordinary. 

I’ll not list my symptoms but want to focus on the ones that disrupt me the most, namely periods of anxiety, regular headaches, insomnia, hot flushes and low mood. 

These aren’t constant and are clearly connected to my cycle. At their worst I don’t feel at all like myself but when the worst point subsides I recognise that that’s my chance to try to improve where I’m at.

Yesterday was one of those moments and once I was dressed for the gym I already felt a good bit better. By the time I was through the door talking to people I felt better again. I wondered how I’d get on in the workout but putting less pressure on myself freed me up to go with the flow and just do my best. I really enjoyed it and ended up having a great session. 

The activity allowed me to be mindful - to forget what was bothering me; the social interaction buoyed me up, made me laugh and feel the community around me, and the sense of achievement I got afterwards helped boost my mood. It was a great decision and I am grateful for the wonderful support I have around me.

My choice of exercise won’t necessarily be the same as yours. We all have different preferences and limitations which make it a personal choice but there is always something you can do. Work out what your capabilities are and start there. It might be doing some seated upper body work at home with two cans of beans but it’ll be better than doing nothing, especially when you feel the sense of accomplishment at the end. 

Back squat focus captured by Hassan Fardan.

Back squat focus captured by Hassan Fardan.

Day 2: Vitamin Sea

It is said that Hippocrates was the first to use the term “Thalassotherapy” when describing the healing properties of sea water. We read so much now about the many benefits of sea swimming to the skin, circulation, immune system and general wellbeing, to name just a few. 

The power of the sea is pretty inimitable. It’s strength and persistence offer resolve in the face of difficulties, it’s cool water (in Northern Ireland anyway 😉) refresh and invigorate and its beauty distracts, allows reflection and reminds us of our roots in nature. 

Salt water really feels like a physical and emotional cure-all to me.

So whether you’re a swimmer or a paddler, a beach-chiller or a walker, a rock-pooler or a stone-skimmer, getting down by the sea can be a wonderful act of self-care. 

If you’re keen to have an extra reason to get down there, in Ballycastle we have a group of likeminded souls who get in for a dip as often as they can. Let me know if you’d like to join Swimrise. I can add you to the WhatsApp group so you can join the movement. The sense of community on top of the sea water benefits makes it all the more restorative.

And if you’re not in the area, why not set-up a group of your own in your local stretch of water? You might be surprised at how many people want to join you! 

A slightly warmer sea than what I’m used to!

A slightly warmer sea than what I’m used to!

Day 1: Summer project

I have had a tendency in the past to make a lot of plans, to sign us up for things that end up being a struggle to juggle and often find myself lacking in time to do things that I really want to do.

This year I have booked the children into just a few activities, have arranged some much-needed friend and family time and have only some work commitments in the diary. Outside of that I’m keeping things open and we’ll just go with the flow (and the weather, of course!)

But what I am scheduling each day is something just for me that I can work on over the course of July and August. Perhaps you’d like to join me?

Summer holidays often end up being about making sure everyone else is having a good time or just basically trying to get yourself to the end of it without people falling-out or losing one’s sanity. What if we saw the weeks ahead as an opportunity to get better at something? Learn a new skill? Read more books? Find out about a topic that interests us? Deal with some emotions that have been holding us back? It really could be anything.

This summer I am going to commit fifteen minutes a day to learning some Arabic. I started a few months ago and then got out of the habit of doing it regularly. A short burst each day will help me keep on top of it and will accumulate me approximately 16.5 hours of learning over the holidays. Given that the time is going to pass anyway I think it will be time extremely well-spent.

There have been a lot of studies conducted on the positive impact of adult learning on health and wellbeing, not least its effects on self-confidence, self-esteem and happiness. So why not give it a try? There’s nothing to lose, really!

Having a small summer project can help boost our self-esteem.

Having a small summer project can help boost our self-esteem.

​Saucy slowcooker shoulder of lamb

Serves 4-6 people

I am using my slowcooker most days in order to cook flavoursome, healthy dishes for the family and to have plenty of leftovers to send to work with my health-conscious husband each day.

Quite a lot of my recipes are made with ingredients I happen to have in the store cupboard rather than from recipe books. This is one that turned out so delicious that I just had to write it down.


1 shoulder of lamb

2 tbsp curry powder of choice (I used a mild one to be family-friendly)

2 tbsp mango chutney

1/3 cup red lentils

1 cup of stock

Small carton of tomato purée

1 carton of chopped tomatoes

1/4 red cabbage, shredded

1 carrot, grated



This really is so simple. It’s just a case of assembling the ingredients and letting them cook...

Put the lentils and mango chutney in the bottom of the crock pot.

Shred the red cabbage and grate the carrot in on top then sit the lamb on top of them.

Season the meat and sprinkle on or rub in the curry powder. Smear on the tomato purée then pour in the chopped tomatoes and pour over the hot stock.

Put the lid on and cook for 8 hours.

I served with couscous that I made with stock, seasoning and smoked paprika but you can serve with rice or bread too. The meat falls away from the bones and the lentils and vegetables take on some of the liquid to thicken the sauce.