When Everything Is Broken

Everything has gotten a little bit out of hand, hasn’t it? The EU is broken. America is broken. The economy is broken. The Labour party is broken. The Conservatives are miraculously unbroken, which means that everything else in the UK is likely to be broken very soon. It feels like the past month has been a constant cycle of bad news layered on bad news layered on bad news and it’s hard not to feel as though everything is spinning out of control.

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I don’t know how to fix this level of broken. I really don’t. I don’t know how we get back from this, although I’m sure we will, somehow. I don’t think I’m alone in feeling helpless or powerless, and for the most part, I express this by turning into a giant howling ragemonster. But that’s not totally sustainable. And I’m gonna be honest with you guys, I’m tired. I am rage overtired and it’s making me want to melt into a little despondent puddle on my living room floor. Here’s what I’m doing to stop that:

I’m Surrounding Myself With My People

My Twitter is something of an echo chamber, filled with people who broadly share a lot of my beliefs and values. There are good and bad things about this, but right now, it’s exactly what I need. When it feels like the world might be populated exclusively by terrified, hateful people, it’s quite wonderful to be reminded that there are kind, soft, brave, generous people out there too. My entire Twitter community has banded together, some organising action and protest, some sharing sweet, fluffy news stories among all the chaos, some just offering a much needed hand squeeze. I purposefully surround myself with people who inspire me and god knows, I need a bit of inspiration right now.

I’m Doing What I Can

When you’re fighting a mess as big as this one, it’s easy to feel so paralyzed by the enormity of it that you end up doing nothing at all. When the entire world seems to be crumbling around you, where on earth are you supposed to start?

I’d say, start anywhere.

When the Conservatives won the general election last year, I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t let their brutality turn me cold or cynical. I promised that I would respond to their cruelty with kindness. I’m trying to do the same thing now. I give a tiny amount each month to the Trussell Trust and Centrepoint. I buy the Big Issue whenever I have enough change in my purse. Last week, I took a huge suitcase of supplies to the amazing Sisters Uncut, who are occupying an empty council house in Hackney and running free breakfast clubs for local kids.

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Realistically, not one of these things is going to fix all the things that have been broken. Realistically, I probably haven’t made any difference to the big picture. But maybe, somewhere in the UK, someone is eating a hot meal or sleeping in a warm bed or a child is going to school with a full tummy because of me. And that’s no small thing. Among all the headlines and the statistics and the political turmoil, people are hurting. Change can be slow and while we fight for it, people are hurting. There is nothing insignificant about reaching out a hand to someone who needs it, if you can. I can’t fix this mess. I’m not powerful enough or brave enough or clever enough. But I’m lucky enough to have things to share. So what I can do is be kind. And I intend to keep doing that for as long as I possibly can, hoping that some day, all of our tiny baby steps might add up to something bigger. How do you eat an elephant? One damn forkful at a time. Maybe we can eat the Tories the same way.

I’m Giving Myself a Break

More than once in the last month, I have felt like I was drowning. More than once in the last month, I have lain face down on my living room floor because I didn’t know how else to express the hopelessness I was feeling. It is so, so important that we are all fighting the good fight right now, but my darlings, you are of no use to anyone if you’re completely burnt out. I am giving you permission, right now, no matter how grim things get, to switch off. To turn off the news and binge watch a series of Pretty Little Liars. To do a happy dance in the street because you caught a Pikachu in the local park. To go see Ghostbusters and furiously tweet about how much you fancy Kate McKinnon. Just because there are bigger, more important things to worry about does not mean that you don’t get to be happy. Not allowing yourself to be consumed by all this badness doesn’t make you selfish or ignorant. It looks like we might be fighting this fight for a very long time to come, so we need you strong, my love. Take care of yourself. Feed your soul as well as your anger. Keep that little light inside you burning, whatever it takes. Take my hand, and we’ll fight together.

Tiny Acts of Self Care for When You Just Can’t

I write about self care a lot. I started this blog to chart my decision to choose happiness, at a time when I didn’t feel like anything could ever make me feel happy again. I write to remind myself why I made that decision, and how I continue to make that decision. And sometimes I think maybe I’m helping other people to choose it too.

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A lot of people seem to be struggling right now. I think that happens a lot in the springtime. Things start to change and for better or for worse, change always dredges up the dirt that’s lying under the surface. And when you’re struggling, every single step you take feels heavy and impossible and pointless – even the ones that you know might help. How are you supposed to summon the energy to start an inspiration journal when you can’t even face taking a shower or cooking a proper dinner? I’ve been there, and I promise it gets better. But until then, here are a few teeny tiny little acts of self care for when you’re genuinely not up to joining a yoga class, starting a healthy eating plan or taking up knitting.

Put On Some Clean Socks

I’m not even joking, I feel like a new woman when I’m wearing clean socks. If I’ve been travelling or if I’ve had a really rubbish day at work, I come home and put on a pair of clean, comfy cotton socks. Boom. Ready to face the world again. I told you they’d be teeny tiny. But it helps.

Breathe

Go somewhere warm. Lie down on your back with your arms by your sides. Close your eyes. Concentrate on your breathing. Don’t try to alter your breath – you don’t have to be doing deep, mystic, yogic breathing, just let your body do its thing. Cry if you feel like you have to. Let your thoughts come and go and try to be gentle with them. If you feel like you’re working yourself into a frenzy, stop. Being still works for some people, being active works for others.

Make Your Bed

Okay, this can be a hard one, I know. I wrote an entire post shortly after starting this blog about how the hardest thing about feeling like the world is falling apart is dealing with the fact that it actually isn’t. You still need to wash your clothes and pay your bills and do your dishes. Pick just one thing. Decide to go and make your bed right now. Or empty your bins. Or wash your dishes. Let yourself take pride in having done it. Self care isn’t always a bubble bath or a trashy movie. Sometimes, it’s doing the thing that has to be done, even when it makes you hurt. You’ve got this. I promise, you’ve got this.

Cuddle Something

I’m a very tactile person and I sometimes feel like I get an actual high from a good hug. Hey, if people are allowed exercise highs, I’m allowed hug highs. But if you’re not into touchy feely people, it doens’t need to be a person. Cuddle your dog. Dogs are great, and they always know when you’re sad. Wrap your arms around a big pillow, or around your duvet and give it a big squeeze. I have no idea why this works, but it does.

Wash Your Face

This is similar to the clean socks in that it makes me feel like a brand new person. I’ve obviously internalised the idea of a clean, fresh start very literally. Grab a facecloth, run it under a very hot tap and place it over your face. Breathe in that steamy goodness. Enjoy the feeling of something warm and soft on your skin. Now wash your face in gentle little circles. No vicious scrubbing, we’re loving ourselves, remember?

Come take my hand, my darling. It’s okay not to be okay. Recovering from depression or anxiety doesn’t mean that you have to be a gigantic hose of positivity and hope all the time. It’s okay to feel rubbish sometimes. It’s okay to just survive, if that’s all you have the strength to do. Look after yourself, survive, give yourself the chance to fight again tomorrow.

A Hot Date With You

During the summer, the boyfriend headed back to Ireland to spend a weekend with his family, leaving me on my ownsome for a few days.

An artist's impression of me on my ownsome.

An artist’s impression of me on my ownsome.

I like to think of myself as kind of a Badass Woman but here’s a secret: when Niall goes anywhere for more than a couple of days, I tend to get a bit pathetic. Not full on sitting by the window in a crinoline, waving my handkerchief, but definitely a bit sad and mopey. This is combined with the novelty of having the flat to myself, having lived with Niall for five solid years. This combination of factors means that when he’s away, I’m generally to be found in my pyjamas, eating slices of cheese, surrounded by dirty plates, watching the worst movie available on Netflix. And that’s an awesome way to spend a day! But after a whole weekend of not seeing the outside world, I tend to feel a bit less awesome. So this time, I decided I wasn’t going to do that. I decided that instead, I would go on some super hot dates…with myself.

I washed my hair and painted my nails and put on my brightest lipstick and wore my fancypants patterned tights. And you know what? I looked hot. I would totally date me. Dressing up for yourself is kind of great.

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The coolest thing about your significant other being away is that you can relish doing things that they totally hate. So, I headed for Leicester Square, marched up to the half price ticket hut and bought myself a ticket to see Wicked that evening. £40 lighter and deliriously excited, I skipped off for what turned into a very boozy lunch in the sunshine with my friend Suzanne. I guess this is technically cheating on my spending-time-with-me plan but hours of girl talk is one of the things that I so deeply miss about sharing a flat with a load of people, so I’m totally counting it. After lunch, I wandered slowly along the Southbank, pausing every five steps or so to gaze at the river and share a romantic moment with myself. It was glorious. I arrived at Wicked, literally bouncing with excitement. At first, it felt pretty weird being by myself and I was sure that everyone was staring and pointing and such, but that evaporated as soon as the lights went down. I bawled and beamed my way through the entire show without once having to worry about whether my date was bored…I knew she was loving every second.

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The next evening, I did something even scarier: I took myself out for pizza, wine and a movie. There’s a little Italian in Stoke Newington called Trattoria Sapori that does pizza, a drink and a movie for £12. Every day, I walk past it and every day, I peer wistfully in the windows. So this day, I decided I’d go. I booked my ticket, confirmed that it was just for one, took my seat, confirmed that it was just for one, confirmed with the couple who came in after me that I wasn’t saving a seat, it was just for one, confirmed with the waiter that I was by myself…turns out that people aren’t used to seeing a gal out on the town by herself. Again, it felt pretty weird to start with but I was starting to quite like my own company. I struck up a conversation with the couple beside me, ate an entire pizza all to myself, didn’t stop to check whether my companion wanted to head home or whether I could order another glass of wine.

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Of course, when my boy came back, I threw my arms around him and didn’t let go again for about three days. But if you’re not used to spending time with yourself, I’d absolutely recommend it. I’m big on being comfortable in your own skin, so it was pretty strange how not comfortable I felt hanging out with myself at first. I’m so used to having other people to bounce off of and chat to that I wasn’t sure me, myself and I would have much to talk about. A lot of the time when we talk about love, we talk about someone else completing us. And that sounds nice in theory but in practice, it’s much nicer to be a whole person and have someone else compliment that. In fact, when you’re a whole person, there’s a whole lot more of you for them to love. I know, I know that’s a little long to fit on an inspirational quote instagram. I’m working on it.

The Happiness Project: September 2015

The Happiness Project tracks my efforts to live a happier life by relishing in the little moments of joy. Inspired by Only Do One Thing, I’ll be doing monthly roundups of my favourite happy moments from the month. Part one can be found here!

I think we’re just going to have to accept that this is going to be late every single month. But it seems fruitless to make myself miserable about a blog being late because you were too busy doing the happy-making things that the blog is about. September was a bit of an odd month, to be honest. Lots of glorious highs, including my first ever cruise, but lots of wandering around listlessly and feeling a bit aimless. So I was very grateful for my happy things. They help me to put a little bit of sparkle in each day, even when I’d really rather sulk.

Here’s what September brought!

Cosy up.

I could have cried with happiness when this came up as a nudge. I hate the cold, dark nights but I absolutely love the chance to come home, light my candles and wrap myself in a duvet. Double points if I have a pot of soup on the boil. Triple points if I have a glass of wine in my hand. On this night, we went hell for leather and, inspired by that Edinburgh cafe that went viral on Buzzfeed, made ourselves hot chocolates with a big scoop of caramel ice cream in. Yes, you do have to drink it quickly otherwise it gets cold. Yes, it is delicious. Yes, you should try it. Get a spoonful of ice cream, dunk it under the hot chocolate and shove the whole melty mess in your mouth.

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Eat the most delicious thing you can imagine and enjoy every bite.

Oh, Only Do One Thing, you don’t have to tell me twice. In my house, virtually any disaster can be soothed with the question “Shall we make meatballs for dinner?”. Once, on a particularly bad day, Niall literally scooped a miserable me off the sofa and gave me a piggy back to the shop, chanting “Meatballs! Meatballs!”. Based on the Londoner’s lovely recipe, these meatballs are best eaten scalding hot on a huge hunk of crusty bread.

Not the most photogenic dinner but definitely the most delicious.

Not the most photogenic dinner but definitely the most delicious.

Love fiercely.

This nudge made me giggle because I read it while on a totally packed bus, which I had had to get on because I was running late, having run back from my front door to give Niall another kiss goodbye. I love him fiercely, with all of my heart, every single day.

Book tickets to something.

This was a good one! I love having something to look forward to, so booking things always makes me happy. We fancied getting a bit of culture about ourselves, so we booked to see a panel featuring Yanis Varoufakis speak about alternatives to austerity. I know, check us out. It was most excellent. The man can talk.

Practice stillness.

This nudge just so happened to fall on the day of my first yoga class in months. I’m planning a whole post about why I love this class, so I shan’t say too much, but basically it’s amazing to spend a whole hour really being present in your body. To go “Oh hey body, so that’s what you’re doing now. That’s great. Well done you. Well done us. That’s how far we can go? Awesome, let’s rest there for a while”.

Non-Only-Do-One-Thing Happy Stuff

These weren’t nudges, just things that made me happy!

Going on a friend date.

Me and one of the girls from work finally broke the office-friend barrier and went out and drank a frankly obscene amount of wine. We talked about vastly inappropriate things and laughed until my face hurt and when we got peckish, we ordered a baked camembert each and a bowl of curly fries. It was glorious.

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Going on a Fiona date.

Again, I’m going to post about this, so I shan’t post too many spoilers. But Niall went away for a long weekend to visit his family, so I got all dressed up and took myself on not one but two romantic dates. If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?

What made you guys happy in September?

The Happiness Project: August 2015

The Happiness Project tracks my efforts to live a happier life by relishing in the little moments of joy. Inspired by Only Do One Thing, I’ll be doing monthly roundups of my favourite happy moments from the month. Part one can be found here!

Hiya pals! It’s time for another Happiness Project roundup! I appreciate that it is no longer August and so this is officially late. I’d love to say it’s because I’ve been swamped being busy and important but truthfully, I’ve just spent most of September so far drinking wine and watching Luther. And it’s been wonderful. No regrets.

So what did I get up to during August?

Picnic, Famous Five style.

This was the very first Only Do One Thing nudge of the month and I was utterly delighted. There’s a gorgeous park near me and I like to drag Niall around it at every available opportunity. We loaded up with sandwiches, apples, crisps and lashings of ginger beer (the kind that the Famous Five weren’t allowed) and parked ourselves on the grass for an afternoon. It was blissful. Apart from the bit where a big green spider dropped from the tree we were leaning on and dangled in my face. That bit was rubbish. But 10/10 for boozy picnics in the sun with my favourite person.

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Good news, I saw a turtle. Yes that is an Elf reference.

Good news, I saw a turtle. Yes that is an Elf reference.

Play air guitar like you mean it.

Man, every single day. My mum instilled the value of occasional dance breaks in me at a young age. There is very little that isn’t made at least a bit better by shaking your thang to You Shook Me All Night Long.

Challenge someone to a game.

I badgered Niall for about a bajillion years to play Monopoly with me because I love board games. He was all like “Oh, I don’t know, I don’t really know how to play Monopoly”. He ended up with SIX HOTELS and I ended up with £60. You better believe I threw all the Chance cards at him and flounced off. But up until that point, it was a totally brilliant way to spend a lazy Saturday. I’m already bugging him for a rematch. Love a board game, me.

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Hang out with an animal.

There is a little white cat who lives in our courtyard and I stop to pet him every time I see him. On this day I sat down to play with him for a little while and he climbed into my lap and started batting my pigtails and then went to sleep. I LOVE HIM AND I’M PROBABLY GOING TO STEAL HIM DON’T TELL ANYONE.

Non-Only-Do-One-Thing Happy Stuff

These ones weren’t nudges, they were just happy-making things that I did this month.

Bought myself a fancy cupcake and had 3pm afternoon tea at my desk.

Sure, I had one eye on my inbox but everything is better with half a cupcake in your mouth. Next time I’ll do a full cake stand with scones and stuff, see if anyone says anything.

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Took a detour on my way home to nosy down a pretty lane.

I walk past this lane every day and always wonder what lives on it. The answer was pretty fantastic: a creperie, a vintage clothes shop straight out of the movies, a million antique shops and general pretty things shops and more cobbles and flowers than you can shake a stick at. Definitely dragging Niall to the creperie for breakfast some time.

Made homemade peanut butter.

Okay, okay, my contribution to this was largely licking the spoon. And by largely, I mean entirely. Seriously though, this stuff is to die for.

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Overall, August was a pretty tasty month. Let’s hope September lives up to it! What made you guys happy during August?

Helpful Thoughts

So mindfulness is really having a moment, huh? It’s a word that, for better or worse (probably worse), I sort of zone out. It’s not that I don’t think it’s a good idea, it just always seems to come from the lips of women who spend their time talking about “toxins” and making sweet potato brownies, which by the way, are a MASSIVE HEARTBREAKING LIE. Awesome if you’re into it, but I struggle to see it becoming a part of my world. It seems like it’d be a lot easier to be mindful strolling down a beach at sunrise, freshly picked coconut in hand than it is standing at your sink at 10pm, chiselling cereal off the bowl that you didn’t soak this morning and trying to summon the fortitude to wash your damn hair.

I don’t live an especially glamorous or zen life. But one thing that I do believe in in a big way is happiness.

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Happiness is, at base, the thing we’re all striving for. It is the very definition of everyday magic. It doesn’t matter what you are doing, if you are bringing joy to yourself and others, you are succeeding (within reason guys, not condoning flagrant selfishness). One of the most important things I learned during my CBT was that happiness isn’t something that just happens. It’s something you choose. And sometimes, it’s really bloody hard to choose. I’m a pretty positive person overall but sweet jesus, I can sulk. Ask Niall. There’s something wonderfully maudlin about nursing a good grudge, even if it’s actually making you miserable. I’m not sure why this tendency is so strong because given the choice, who wouldn’t want to be happy over being miserable? I think it stems from that old chestnut where we’d all rather be right than happy. Everybody loves playing the martyr. But actually, the more I think about it, the more I feel like that’s a huge waste of time. The number of brilliant days I’ve wasted stroppily waiting for someone to recognise their perceived slight and apologise doesn’t even bear thinking about.

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Me being livid that Sophie is attempting to feed me a kumquat.

So whatever is to be done? Well, I’ve collected a bunch of principles that help me to live a happier life. I call them my helpful thoughts. Again, this is probably a throwback from my CBT, which focuses on getting rid of unhelpful thoughts and self talk. They’re basically affirmations for people who don’t do affirmations. And I promise, they’re just as relevant when your face is squashed against an oily rush hour bus window as they are on top of a mountain doing sun salutations. They’re specific enough to be helpful (to me anyway) but vague enough that they can be applied in a bunch of big and small ways to lots of different situations. I hope they help bring you some happiness.

“There’s no rush.”

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Little meaning: I sometimes feel like I’m in a hurry to get everywhere, all the time. I walk at an uncomfortable pace, even if I don’t have anywhere to be, driven by the innate feeling that I should be really busy. Sometimes tiny, insignificant things can happen to slow me down and this has an actual physical impact on me. A webpage takes more than a second to load. Someone walks slowly in front of me when I can’t overtake them. My kettle takes too long to boil. My phone charger gets tangled around the leg of my bed. When stuff like this happens, I can feel myself getting physically angry. I get hot. My heart starts thumping. My skin itches. And for what? For the loss of a couple of seconds. When I feel like this, it’s easy to see that too much stress is probably gonna kill us all. Every so often, I force myself to slow down and take my time. Whether that means taking a deep breath as the woman in front takes forty years to get her suitcase off the tube, consciously walking slowly or taking an afternoon to make an apple pie.

Big meaning: I am a huge worrier. “What, you? Fiona, surely not!”, I hear you cry. Alas, it is true. I am constantly measuring myself up against every arbitrary standard I can find and finding myself wanting. 30 things to do before you’re 30? Oh god, only seven years until I haven’t done these and am a TOTAL FAILURE. That girl has a book deal, so why have I been stuck on 5000 words of my novel for about a million years? Maybe I should buy a house. Maybe I should become an investment banker. Maybe I should get a sensible haircut. Maybe I should have a five year plan. Goals are awesome, and seeking inspiration from the people around you is awesome. Working yourself into a frenzy because you feel like your life is a failure at 23? Not awesome. I constantly have to remind myself that not only is my life not a failure, I barely even have a life yet. In most people’s eyes, I’m still pretty much a child. I’ve got so much time, and I’m wasting it by worrying that I’m not using it effectively enough. How utterly dull it would be if all the good stuff happened in the first 25 years. What on earth would you do with the rest? There’s no rush. Good things are coming, and they’ll get here in time.

“Let it go.”

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The little meaning and the big meaning for this one are pretty much the same, just on different scales. Remember the aforementioned sulking? This often means that a single, tiny bad experience can ruin my day. But here’s the thing: sulking about it doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen. In fact, it means that I’m letting a bad past ruin a potentially happy present. Take a deep breath, make like Elsa and just let it go.

Bus running late? Let it go. Stand on your favourite makeup palette? Mourn, and then let it go. Friend made a mean comment? Confront them or let it go. Boyfriend didn’t do the dishes? Confront him or let it go. Embarrass yourself at work five years ago? Everyone but you has forgotten, so let it go. Forgive others, forgive yourself. I stopped keeping a diary because reading my old rants was helping me hang onto grudges that would otherwise be completely forgotten.

Obviously I’m not saying that you should be a pushover. If someone is treating you badly, you absolutely should not let that go. But I think all of us waste so much time being angry about things that really don’t matter that much. Take your time, process your feelings but don’t hold onto them after that. None of us are strong enough to carry all the baggage we’re dragging around. Ditch that old unhappiness. Travel light.

“Be here, right now.”

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This one really came to the forefront when Niall and I were long distance. Every time I saw him, I would ruin the last day by spending the entire time with one eye on the clock, becoming increasingly miserable that we’d be apart again soon. And the truth is, that deadline was coming, whether I had an eye on the clock or not. Being gloomy didn’t stave it off, it just wasted time that could have been spent making memories. I spend a lot of time with my eye on the next amazing thing. And a lot of the time I really have to stop and look around and remind myself that actually, this moment, right here, could be amazing if I let it. You know those awful people who talk to you at parties while constantly searching the room for someone better? I’m doing that, but with my life. And that is uncool because my life is lovely and excellent and fun and complicated and wonderful just as it is.

“What are you waiting for?”

affirmations self careLittle meaning: Stop saving your best stuff for later. I mean, don’t totally blow your load and spend all your money and burn yourself out or anything. But wear your pretty dress, even if all you’re doing today is cleaning out the fridge. Use that fancy, expensive candle your aunt gave you. Dance like a mad person when that song comes on, even if it’s in the background of a car advert. Sing in the shower. Make the cake. Ask them out. Book the holiday. If you’re gonna be living in the moment, why the hell not make the moment as wonderful as it can possibly be? Some of my best decisions have come from asking myself “why the hell not?”. This includes organising Take Back the Beach, going on holiday to Iceland, writing a book and bullying Niall into getting back together with me after he casually made the worst decision of his life. What have you got to lose? As someone very clever once said, none of us are getting out of here alive, so you might as well live while you’re here.

Big meaning: Again, the big meaning is really just an extension of the little one. Stop waiting for someone to give you permission. I’m like a labrador when it comes to desiring approval. I want someone to come along every so often, take a look at my life and say “Yes, well done, this is correct”. When really, correct is a great big massive lie. Not everyone is going to understand you and the decisions that you make. The only correct life is the one that makes you happy. Don’t try to find the textbook in the choose-your-own-adventure book. Do what feels good. Your life is yours and everyone else can just deal with it. Unless you’re Donald Trump, in which case, you should probably take a long, hard look at yourself.

I’m not going to pretend I’m perfect and live in a constant state of peace and serenity using these statements. They’re guidelines, not magic spells. But they’re a handy little map for the kind of person that I want to be and the kind of life I want to live. So take them, use them if you like. And have a ridiculously, beautifully happy life.

The Happiness Project: July 2015

Welcome, lovely ladies and gentlemen, to a brand new feature on the Escapologist’s Daughter: the Happiness Project! A little while ago, I stumbled on a website called Only Do One Thing, which gives you one tiny thing to do per day that could turn a bad day around. And I thought, why not give it a go? So, I’m going to follow their little nudges and at the end of each month, I’ll do a round up of the fun stuff that they’ve encouraged me to do.

I’m an absolute expert at turning fun things into new excuses to feel guilty and berate myself over (hence why I don’t keep a schedule for this blog), so I’m not going to beat myself up if I don’t manage to do it every day. But we’ll give it a go and see how happy I can get!

Are you ready for July’s highlights?

Schedule some serious time to look at the moon.

Girl, please. Scheduling time to look at the sky is a fundamental part of my day. Whether it’s watching grey clouds bruise a blue sky, watching the sunset paint my bedroom with golden light or gazing at the moon, wondering who else is looking at it too. And yes, it does make me happy. There’s something about the enormity of the sky that makes me feel like I should relax, because we’re all so tiny in comparison anyway. In one of my favourite books (The Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks), a girl comments to her date that the size of the sky makes her feel insignificant. He points out that when compared to something of that scale, everything is insignificant, and by that logic, them being there together looking at the sky is the most important thing that has ever happened. For the record, if you say this to me, I will marry you immediately, no questions asked.

Buy flowers for someone.

I was thrilled as when this nudge came up. I know they’re silly, really. But I love getting flowers and I love giving them. So I send a lovely bunch of orchids to my best friend Ruth, who I don’t get to see much since we live on opposite sides of this island. And I bought myself a big handful of freesia for good measure.

Snip20150730_1I got my text from Ruth being delighted with her flowers and went about my day, pleased as punch with myself. And then I got home to find these waiting for me:

Snip20150730_2I texted Ruth to find out whether Niall had rumbled me. He hadn’t. And as far as I know, she doesn’t even know the Only Do One Thing site exists. Having never sent flowers to each other before, we both spontaneously sent them to each other on the same day. Spooky. But wonderful.

Make something from scratch.

This was a good one, because it was one that I totally couldn’t be bothered doing. I was hot and tired and I would much rather have sat on the sofa and rinsed a few episodes of Gossip Girl. But I didn’t.

Snip20150730_3How do you like them apple pies? It may have been significantly too hot to make pastry, but I rolled up my sleeves and did it anyway. It turns out that getting out of your own head for a while and doing something that takes a bit of time and effort is really great for soothing jangled minds. In a world where we’re constantly rushing around, even when we don’t have to, it’s kind of nice to do something that only works if you do it slowly.

Wear your best underwear, just because.

Ahem. Done. In fact, I did it twice.

Enjoy this picture of a baby camel.

babycamel-hero2You bet your ass I enjoyed this picture.

Complete this sentence: “Love is like…”

Love is like coming home.

I can’t wait to see what August has in store!

Broke Folks’ Guide to Self-Care

Money can’t make you happy. But a lack of it can make you pretty unhappy. Being skint sucks. It doesn’t matter how cool being poor becomes, how many warehouse bars you open, how many pairs of ripped jeans you buy, the realities of actually having no money are pretty horrible. Even if you’re not actually living in poverty, which I never have been, thank goodness, having to obsessively count your pennies and swither over every purchase you make can take a nasty toll. And it’s easy to forget about looking after yourself when you’ve got bills stacking up. But honestly, self care is the most important thing. The most important. If you don’t take care of yourself and be kind to yourself, you’re going to burn out. Here are some of the things that I do to keep myself happy and healthy, even when my budget looks bleak.

1. Get the basics right.

Eat five pieces of fruit and veg a day. Drink two litres of water. Get eight hours sleep. Take 10000 steps.

Getting the basic stuff like this right is probably the easiest and most effective way of improving your physical and mental health. All of the things I listed up there are things that aren’t hard to do, they just take a little bit of effort. I know that I need to micromanage myself, or I would never do anything with my life. So I bought a 1.5 litre bottle for my desk. I fill it up in the morning and I make sure I finish it before I leave work. I have a pedometer which allows me to see exactly how much or how little I’ve done. When I’m feeling particularly organised, I make myself little lists where I can check off each glass of water or portion of fruit and veg. I’m basically a gigantic toddler, but I know how to make that work for me.

2. Make your space beautiful.

flowers decoration wellbeing

Not loving your home is absolutely rubbish for your state of mind. Your home should be somewhere that makes you feel safe and happy and…well…at home. But on a budget, a lot of us aren’t exactly living in Buckingham Palace. I’m really lucky that I found a beautiful flat in London, but I’ve dealt with some horror stories in the past. A university halls room with salmon walls, a resident tarantula and a carpet worthy of a penny arcade. A flat where the mouse infestation stopped us worrying about the seemingly unstoppable cracks in the ceiling and walls. An endless parade of heinous mouldy bathrooms. It might seem like putting lipstick on a pig, but dress your home up. I promise, it’ll make more of a difference than you’d think. I have an enormous, brightly patterned bedspread and it makes me smile every time I look at it. I love to buy fresh flowers and put them in my bedroom, even if it’s just a 95p bunch of daffodils in an old peanut butter jar. I put photos of people and places that I love on every surface, on pinboards, on the walls. A set of fairy lights across my desk took my halls room from magenta nightmare to cosy boudoir. Candles can change the whole feel of a room. Surround yourself with things that make you feel happy and peaceful. And try not to worry about that weird stain on the wall.

3. Move your body.

Most of the time, there is nothing that I want to do less than move my body. I sometimes think I was destined to be a large shrub rather than a person. And this only gets worse when I’m feeling low. But my very wise mother, who taught me most of the clever things that I know, taught me that everything feels better after a little dance in your kitchen. Grab your laptop and put on a song you love. You Shook Me All Night Long, Little Bitty Pretty One and the Power of Love (the Huey Lewis one) are my guaranteed brain pleasers. Now start dancing. Really dance, with your arms flailing about and everything. If you’re feeling down, this will probably feel totally contrived to start with, like some awful teambuilding exercise. But persevere, by the end of the first song, you’ll be loving it for real. Nothing gives me a bigger boost more immediately than an emergency danceathon.

4. Don’t move your body.

We spend most of our lives rushing around, doing a million things at once, competing with each other to be the most busy. This, shockingly, is not very good for you. Spread a blanket out on the ground. Put on one of those 10 hour meditation music mixes on Youtube. Lie down. Close your eyes. Take deep breaths. Let your mind wander. Don’t feel guilty about pressing pause for a little while. It’s amazing the good that taking ten minutes to be still and shut the hell up can do for you. Some of my best epiphanies come from lying on my floor with my rabbit licking my forehead and wondering whether he can start eating me yet.

5. Go outside.

clissold park london

Fresh air and sunlight and exercise and pretty things are all totally good for your wellbeing. Know where you can find all of these things? OUTSIDE. I know, outside sucks. If I was a shrub, I’d be an indoor shrub. But once you get off the sofa and through the door, outside is actually sort of great. If you live near a park, go and take a wander. Trees are good for the soul. If it’s a nice day, take a picnic. Food tastes better outside. Bonus points if the park has a pond or a lake…being near water makes me instantly about 42% happier.

6. Treat yo’self.

One of my favourite things in the world is a really scalding hot shower. Yes, I know it’s bad for my skin, but you can pry it from my crusty old hands. Buy yourself a really incredible smelling shower gel and take time to relax in the shower. I’m still eeking the last out of a Rituals shower gel I got for Christmas, but Dove and I Love have genuinely gorgeous scented products for brilliant prices. I’m a sucker for anything scented with peach, orange or jasmine. Cover yourself in gorgeous bubbles, close your eyes and pretend you’re in a Japanese spa. This is one of my top everyday pleasures, and I refuse to berate myself or feel silly for taking joy in such an insignificant moment. There are no little pleasures. There should be no guilty pleasures. Don’t be afraid to take happiness at every available opportunity. A lot of people might make fun of this, but that’s only because being cynical is the easiest way to pretend that you’re smarter than everyone else without actually having to learn stuff. Cynics suck. If people are trying to dim your happiness, it’s usually because they’re unhappy themselves. I will never stop being delighted by hot showers, long, long hugs, swipes of red lipstick, lazy cups of tea. I know I bang on about this all the time, but that’s because it’s important. Happiness is a choice, and you should choose it every single time you can. It’s also a habit, which you need to practise. And the more you practise, the easier and more reflexive that choice will become.

7. Feel grateful.

gratitude wellbeing

This one comes right off the back of the last one. Just because happiness is a choice doesn’t mean it’s an easy one. It is so, so tempting to mope instead. This seems like a fundamental flaw in the human psyche, but it’s true. We would rather be right than happy. We would rather be the martyr. We love a moan. For the past two weeks, I’ve been having a really rubbish time. With the exception of a completely life changing holiday, I have been miserable. Every little thing that could go wrong, did. Over and over again, and it really wore me down. These things pile up, and they can really get to you. So on my lunch hour, I went to a cafe, bought a hot chocolate and made a list of things in my life that make me happy. They ranged from travelling to new places, to having freckles, from Facetiming my mum, to baking apple pies. And actually, I found that I had a lot to be grateful for. I filled two notebook pages. Nothing had changed, the crappy things had all still happened, but suddenly the good was shining through. Lying on the floor like in number 4 is also an excellent time to have realisations like this. I don’t want to sound self righteous, or like I’m suggesting that if you’re unhappy, it’s your fault. It absolutely isn’t. And I’m no Pollyanna, it took me a fortnight of sulking and some very good advice before I got my head back on properly. But you can choose to see things differently. It’s really hard, and requires a bit of sacrifice, but it’s possible. Give it a go.

Life can be hard. It can be really, really hard. And when it is, it’s tempting to think of yourself as unimportant, and spend time focusing on everything else. But taking the time to do something good for yourself is so, so vital. You are important. You’ve got this. You deserve to be happy. Be gentle with yourself.