Be kind to yourself

Be kind to yourself you are nice

It’s a brand new year and many of us will have made (and immediately broken) outrageous resolutions designed to make us better, smarter, or more attractive people. And when these fall through, we suffer the mental anguish of failure for not being able to commit. Sooner or later, this all piles up until January is pretty much a write-off and we’ll wish we’d gone into hibernation instead.

It’s easy to look on social media and in magazines and compare ourselves to other people who are seemingly able to do it all. The hardest thing is setting realistic goals and outlining the steps you need to take to achieve them, whilst ensuring that your mental and physical well-being isn’t compromised in the process.

One idea I’ve heard for starting 2018 off on a positive note is to make New Year’s affirmations rather than resolutions. For example, instead of saying, “I’m going to quit smoking,” you could say, “I am quitting smoking”. By turning this goal into something positive and ongoing, you are acknowledging that any big change has ups and downs and you are focusing on that journey rather than the final result. This helps to remove the guilt you would have felt on days where it’s not going well and you are much more likely to succeed over all.

If affirmations aren’t your cup of tea, perhaps a general resolve to treat yourself more kindly would be the perfect beginning to your 2018. No matter how you’re feeling, most of us can afford to be gentler with ourselves and often this will lead organically to feeling more capable of achieving our other life goals! This doesn’t mean luxuriating in a 5 star spa at the weekend (though the occasional pamper session can’t hurt) but rather, getting familiar with your own needs and listening to what your body is saying when you’re pushing it to the limit.

Forgive yourself when you’ve reached the end of the day and there are still jobs on your to-do list; learn when enough is enough. Don’t be scared to ask for help when you are falling behind or struggling.

Equally, start to speak up when you’ve worked your butt off and you deserve acknowledgment. Being kind to yourself doesn’t always mean taking a step back; sometimes it means pushing forwards, recognising your achievements and feeling proud of yourself. It’s pushing negativity to one side and focusing on all that you’ve accomplished.

We all know so many people who are loyal friends, fantastic parents, highly regarded professionals, brilliant academics, powerful change-makers, or spectacular artists. And yet, they feel like failures because they don’t fulfill every role in that list. We can’t be all things to all people and we need to learn to recognise our strengths and the impact that we have in the lives of others without beating ourselves up for the areas we fall down in.

My goal every year is to do more to make myself happy. It’s not a difficult goal and I never fail at it. Some days all it takes is a cuddle on the sofa or a few minutes singing and jiggling in the shower (carefully, of course). And if a day doesn’t go my way then there’s always the next one.

What are you hoping to achieve this year? Have you got any resolutions or affirmations in the works?

7 Days of Happiness

Entry 8 Eight 7 Seven Days of Happiness Week Happy Learning Warwick Castle Challenge Trebuchet German Vitamin D Try Something New Sweet Treat Charity Charitable Adventure

I’ve been trying out different ways to consciously introduce more happiness into my life for a while now. It’s been a lot of fun but pretty sporadic and unstructured which is good, because happiness itself is a little erratic and does as it pleases.

However, to kick things up a notch, I decided to take the ideas from my first 7 blog posts and consolidate them into one intensive week of hard-core happiness. 7 ideas, 7 days, any order I liked but I had to fit them around my day-to-day life and make sure nothing was missed out! I’m going to set myself this challenge after every 7 posts so if you want to follow along at home, this is Week One:

One | Do Something Charitable
Two | Practice Learning a Language
Three | Get Some Vitamin D
Four | Try Something New
Five | Be Childish
Six | Give Someone an Adventure
Seven | Give Someone a Sweet Treat

The night before I started I planned out which activity would fit into which day. It was already a busy week so it was important to be prepared!

Entry 8 Eight 7 Seven Days of Happiness Week Happy Learning Warwick Castle Challenge Trebuchet German Vitamin D Try Something New Sweet Treat Charity Charitable Adventure

Wednesday | Get Some Vitamin D

I concluded it doesn’t matter when you start as long as you can plan 7 consecutive days of happy tasks. I began on a Wednesday.

Getting Vitamin D was the hardest task to plan into the week as it is entirely weather dependent but I was lucky today. The sun was shining and I work just down the road from a park so I spent 50 minutes of bliss, tucked up on a wall with “The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend” by Katarina Bivald. I managed to do this for several lunchtimes this week but as we reach autumn it’ll be harder to get good sunlight so Vitamin D supplements are a must to keep me healthy!

Thursday | Practice Learning a Language

I’ve been learning German with Duolingo and you only have to practice for a few minutes each day to keep the cogs whirring! Thursdays are often a busy day for me so I chose this task and managed to practice for ten minutes as I was getting ready for bed.

Friday | Be Childish

When I was in school I’d spend all my time in the art room so the recent trend for adult colouring books ticks a lot of my boxes. After we’d been out for the evening my boyfriend and I sat down for a couple of minutes at the end of the day and relaxed with our colouring books and a film. I am much better at staying within the lines than I used to be.

Entry 8 Eight 7 Seven Days of Happiness Week Happy Learning Warwick Castle Challenge Trebuchet German Vitamin D Try Something New Sweet Treat Charity Charitable Adventure

Saturday | Give Someone a Sweet Treat

Saturday was a very busy day, packed with happy activities! I had plans to see a friend in the evening and we are both big fans of superheroes, Harry Potter, Disney and junk food so I made us some teeny fairy cakes and decorated them. I have affectionately named them “messy little nerd cakes”. Fortunately she was able to identify the symbols without too much embarrassment on my part! If anyone has any icing tips, I’m all ears!

Entry 8 Eight 7 Seven Days of Happiness Week Happy Learning Warwick Castle Challenge Trebuchet German Vitamin D Try Something New Sweet Treat Charity Charitable Adventure

Sunday | Give Someone an Adventure

My partner and I already had plans to visit Warwick Castle on Sunday as we’d bought a combo-ticket for that and the aquarium several weeks ago. When we arrived I also bought us tickets to see the Castle Dungeons as part of our adventuring. We left, happy but horrified, after a gruesome journey into the dark history of the castle. I want to go back towards Christmas and see how they decorate for the festivities!

Monday | Try Something New

I play hockey fairly regularly and also visit the gym and swim but I decided to join my Mum at her Pilates class and try it out for the first time. I had no idea what to expect and it turned out to be a gruelling hour of arm exercises that would leave me incapable of reaching high shelves for days! I definitely felt the burn and enjoyed it, despite struggling through! I have since discovered that the instructor assumed I was 6 years younger than I am (presumably because my mum looks too young to have a 23-year-old 😉 ) and was taking it easy on me! Yikes!

Tuesday | Be Charitable

Tuesday. Last day! It’s been a lot of fun. I couldn’t manage anything quite as drastic as in my original blog post as I’m still waiting for my hair to grow back but there are plenty of other ways to make a difference. In the last couple of weeks I have had a sort out and given loads of my books, clothes and DVDs to the British Heart Foundation to sell. Some of my stuff wasn’t suitable for selling but would be useful to a local homelessness centre so I popped onto their website today and checked out the section that says what they need and took that list with me to the supermarket. It cost very little to get loads of the items they needed and add them to the pile I was donating.

7 Days of Happiness | Week One

This intensive week of happiness is over but I’ll keep using the ideas from it wherever I can. If you’re interested in giving it a go then just follow the list I’ve made and plan it around your weekly schedule. The best thing about this is that it’s designed to make you happy so if you’re not feeling like doing something or can’t make it fit into just seven days then there’s no pressure and no guilt. It’s all about doing the things that work for you. Let me know if you try it out!

Entry 8 Eight 7 Seven Days of Happiness Week Happy Learning Warwick Castle Challenge Trebuchet German Vitamin D Try Something New Sweet Treat Charity Charitable Adventure

What I have learned about Vitamin D

What I have learned about Vitamin D

The first and perhaps most crucial thing I have learned is that it is called Vitamin D for a reason. Do not naively abbreviate it to both initials and expect to get away with it; if you tell people you are going outside to soak up some VD they will look at you with a mixture of disgust and alarm. This is an easy way to lose friends.

The second thing I have learned is that I wildly underestimated how much of an impact it can have on my health and happiness. The suggestion that fresh air and sunshine could improve my mood and increase my energy levels seemed improbable, and I was doubly dubious about taking this advice from a woman who claimed throughout my childhood that the ice-cream truck only played music when it had run out of ice-cream (thanks, Mum!). This all seemed too much like a clever ploy to get me out of the house for a few hours to be taken seriously.

As an adult (or someone resembling such) I have discovered that my scepticism was unfounded and, thanks to a quick search on Google, I now know much more about how it helps keep the body healthy and strong. For someone with pale skin like mine it is especially easy to get Vitamin D from sunlight; around 15 minutes in the sun is all I need on a daily basis. People with darker skin need more time in the sun to produce the same amount of Vitamin D and they are therefore at a greater risk of a deficiency. If you are deficient it will make it harder for your body to absorb calcium which could result in weak bones and teeth.

An estimated 40-75% of people may be deficient in Vitamin D and yet it takes so little time to get it into your body. If you have to stand outside checking emails on your phone for 20 minutes then do it! You’re getting your own work done and you’re still letting the sun do its job!

In the past I would spend whole days inside and the sun would rise and set, entirely unnoticed, on the wrong side of my window. (It’s worth knowing that, though you can burn through a window, you can’t actually benefit from the Vitamin D producing UVB rays, which can’t pass through glass.) Now I make an effort to spend time outside and it’s definitely improving my days and making a difference to my happiness. On my lunch break I used to move from the office to the canteen and back again but now I take my food out and walk for five minutes up the road to the park. I sit on a wall with a sandwich and a good book (or, more often, my phone) and watch the world and its dog-walkers go by.

Of course, we aren’t all lucky enough to work near a park but a few minutes in the middle of the day to soak up the best of the sun’s rays is all it takes. This can be done anywhere, even if that means a couple of laps around the staff car park. It may not be scenic but if it helps keep you healthy it’s got to be worth it! Even on an overcast day in the park I can still benefit from the sun’s almighty vitamin powers and I get a break and some fresh air so that I’m more lively and productive in the afternoons. Everybody wins!