Monday, 28 December 2015

Thoughts On Reinvention

Where would we all be if we weren't constantly encouraged and reassured by the notion of reinvention, of creating a new image for ourselves? I always associate the time after Christmas with the warm feeling of being able to start afresh, making the most of new gifts given and making promises to yourself about how you'll learn Russian, finally become a vegetarian and start volunteering. As a child I would make a list of hundreds of things that I wanted to do in the New Year, no, that I had to do in the New Year, otherwise I would stay the same unimpressive me. Though it seemed motivational at the time, I think that kind of behaviour encouraged a sense of self-loathing in me, scrutinising every part of myself and wanting it to change. This frustration with myself would often lead me further away from my goals, rather than closer, because I didn't feel good enough to achieve them.oxford eve 3
Jumper - Rotita
Jeggings - Uniqlo
Shoes - Hunter via TK Maxx
Beanie - Commando (out of stock)

Usually I write a post at the end of every year analysing it, and concluding about what I want to do in the next year. I'm not sure if that will cut it this time. Every year is ups and downs and this one has been no different, but the one thing that seems significant about 2015 is that both my world view and perspective have really changed.

This year has opened me up to everything, to the importance of friendship, to the importance of showing vulnerability and showing yourself kindness as well as others, both of which I have written about here and here. 

Next year I am 23. I don't know whether I thought I would be in this place aged 23 a few years back, and there's still so many exciting projects I want to work on and things I want to do with my life. Your early 20's is a confusing and overwhelming time and it's one I imagine I will look upon fondly in the future, and I want to be able to enjoy it, and live fully in it, without being constantly hard on myself and putting pressure on myself to be better.

Better can be a really vicious concept. I see this quote kicking about the internet: 'Life isn't about finding yourself, life is about creating yourself'. I ate that up a few years ago, thinking I could mould myself into the shape (not just physically but mentally) that I wanted to be. To some extent I think that is true, but it's also exhausting. One of my favourite songs, Two Step by Dave Matthews Band (don't roll your eyes) includes the lyrics: 'Celebrate we will, Because life is short but sweet for certain/We're climbing two by two/To be sure these days continue/These things we cannot change'. I really relate to these lyrics, because I think in the pursuit of perfection, and with a grass is greener mentality, we sometimes forget to just enjoy what is there. You can jump from goal to goal, from university to job, ticking boxes, and forget who you are in the process, and forget that life itself is incredible and overwhelming at times.

oxford eve 4

In the past I have forgotten to truly appreciate the fact I have a stable family dynamic, that I have wonderful, hilarious and supportive friends, that I am from a city that I am basically in love with, that I work at a job that is stimulating. I have put my work out there and lamented how it didn't get the response I was hoping for, instead of just being proud of the fact that I was actually making stuff and writing something, just putting something of yourself out there is enough. 

I have written about learning to accept myself before, but I really had no idea what that entailed until now. I accepted myself conditionally, on the basis that one day I would learn to stop being so emotional, that I would fit into a size 8, that I would achieve specific goals. These kinds of thoughts don't cut it, and they just leave you hollow. It sounds clichéd, but you don't live in the now because you're always hoping the future is better, that you will be better.

Before the clock strikes 12 on NYE I'm going to sit down and consider what I really want for myself next year, other than learning swahili and eating more kale. I'm going to set myself realistic goals but also tell myself that my life doesn't depend upon those goals being reached. It's been hard to learn, but ultimately your worth is intrinsic and not based on exterior successes. You should go after goals because you're passionate about them and want the best for yourself, but be mindful that life is more than goals, whether they be relationship or squad related. 

I'm going to take this opportunity to be excited about the year ahead and what I could be getting up to, but I don't think it's about reinvention anymore. Its about embracing life as it comes, realising that happiness is not an end goal, and that it's all just part of a process. This is just a reminder to be gentle and not be hard on yourself, and that sometimes acceptance of the good and bad parts of you is better than reinvention.

What are your hopes for 2016?

Thanks for reading!

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Sunday, 20 December 2015

41 Ways To Be Kind To Yourself

One of the principle messages of Christmas is to spread kindness to those around us, but often we can forget to extend that kindness to ourselves. I find it quite a stressful time of year because there seems to be a lot of pressure to enjoy yourself as much as possible, and when the New Year rolls round, we are encouraged to make New Years resolutions, and shape our now bloated selves into something better than we have been before.

When we put so much pressure on ourselves we forget to actually treat ourselves with kindness. We forget to actually enjoy our lives in the pursuit of something that we feel will be the end goal, the job offer, relationship or project that will make us happy.
aa girl 2

I think that next year I'm going try and treat myself with kindness and care, rather than focus on strict resolutions that encourage me to be hard on myself. I wanted to share some of the activities that always make me feel better. Kindness doesn't have to be an extravagant act, and as a result I've tried to not make this list overwhelmingly about spending money as I know this isn't possible for everyone. Some of these points may seem very obvious to you, but I always find that it helps to be reminded of the importance of day to day tasks when taking care of ourselves. Basically this is all just one big 'friendly reminder'.

It's also important to note that I'm not trying to make these out as cures for depression or anything. They are just ways that I find helpful when getting out of a slump and feeling more motivated to enjoy life.

1. Get out of bed

Do you ever find yourself, on a day off, scrolling through tumblr in bed? This might be fun for a while but it's better to actually get up and moving, so you don't end up feeling, um, stale for most of the day!

2. Put on an outfit you love

I know that if I'm going to meet a friend or to a gathering that I will make an effort with my outfit, but when I'm having a quieter day I might neglect this. But wearing a great outfit always makes me feel more like myself, as style is important to me.

3. Wear some exciting socks

This one probably sounds a bit daft, but there are so many novelty patterned socks out there, and it always makes me feel a bit happier about my day when I've got some interesting footwear on!

kindness 1

4. Take a bath

I always find it interesting when people say that they prefer showers over baths, I'd much rather soak in the tub any day! Having a hot bath can relax your muscles and is a great way to indulge yourself, perhaps on a lazy Sunday. 

5. Cook a meal

My friends will probably laugh at this because I am notoriously not a cook, but I've actually found recently that cooking can be very therapeutic. Try a pasta sauce, risotto or soup, and you might find that the process of cooking something delicious for yourself feels really good.

6. Bake something

This isn't something I am an expert on, but I have been informed that baking is a great way to be kind to yourself, and it usually ends with cupcakes, so...

7. Go for a walk

Getting out of the house is so, so important, particularly during the holidays. Take a 20 minute walk and soak up your surroundings!

8. Take a photo of something pretty

I love using instagram and it's always fun to share something beautiful that you have seen. Whether it's flowers, fruit or a landmark, taking a snap makes you appreciate the world around you more. 

9. Look at photos/videos of your favourite animal

If your favourite animal is a cat, then the internet is truly ready for you. I've genuinely had my mood lifted by stumbling upon a video of a dog winning a world record on a skateboard. The best and most adorable way to be kind to yourself.

10. Go to a charity shop

I absolutely love charity shopping, something that has been passed down by my family, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to have a rummage and maybe find something a bit different and most importantly, cheaper than high street stores. It also feels good to buy something great and give money to charity at the same time, so it's a win win.

11. Go to a pound shop/dollar store and buy something fun/cheap/ridiculous

Whether it's confetti, a plastic skull goblet or a minion themed facewash, you can find some great stuff in pound shops. If you live near one take a trip down there and see if you can find anything, and if not, they always have chocolate!

12. Have a cup of tea or coffee

Tea drinking is something of a ritual in the UK. It really is one of the most soothing things you can do in my opinion. If you can, find yourself some good quality coffee, herbal tea or hot chocolate and just savour it away from your laptop or phone for 20 minutes.

13. Light some candles or incense

This is a very significant act of self care for me. My mum always lights a lot of incense and candles at home so it's quite a nostalgic, relaxing practice for me. Candles can be expensive but you can often find cheap ones in Primark and on Ebay, and remember to blow them out before you leave the house (self care does not equal burning the house down). 

14. Wash your face/brush your teeth

This seems obvious, but if you're having a relaxed day or you are hungover, you might neglect to do this. I always feel at least 50x better after I've done this because I'm more ready for the day (and I don't feel completely gross). 

15. Have a cry 

Crying is very strongly associated with negative emotions. But sometimes we cry because we want to let off steam and take some of the weight off of our shoulders. If you are crying constantly, then you might want to go and see a GP, but otherwise crying can be therapeutic.

16. Print out your favourite pieces of art and put them on your wall

Being surrounded by images you love can be reassuring and motivational. I have Picasso, Alexander Mcqueen gowns and the fashion photographer Tim Walker on my wall! If you don't have access to your own printer, try your local library, a friend's house or ask if you can use your printers at work.

17. Listen to an audiobook/podcast

Sometimes we might feel too tired to read. I've grown up listening to audiobooks and it's one of my favourite activities. There is audible if you want to buy some audiobooks, and loads of podcasts such as Serial and Welcome to Nightvale which are free!

18. Reorganise your bookshelf/desk space

Getting rid of the clutter is a productive way to spend time, and I personally really love reorganising my belongings! 

19. Take some time out to focus on breathing/meditate

Meditation can sound really daunting, and when you first try it, it's hard. Someone said to me the other day that 'our body loves positive and negative thoughts but hates the neutral'. Shutting your mind off from all your worries takes time and practice, but the benefits are significant. We often forget to feel aware of ourselves and our existence and it's important to come back to that. There are so many resources out there to get you started, such as this articles on the ten best meditation apps.

20. Ring or message a friend

Even if you're just checking up on them, this will probably not only make them feel good but it will remind you of the people around you, particularly if you're feeling lonely.

21. Ask a friend out that you haven't seen for a while

I'm not the most proactive person in the world, but sometimes if we don't reach out to others they might get the wrong idea that we don't want to hang out with them. Ask out a friend for coffee/a walk and it will hopefully make you both feel good.

22. Go to a museum or gallery

If you live near a city, you have no excuse not to immerse yourself in some culture, as many galleries are free! Whenever I am sad my dad always tells me to go the British museum, and at first I was scornful, but when you think about it, seeing incredible artefacts and history reminds you that there is something bigger than yourself and your mind, and makes you more aware of this beautiful world we live in. 

23. Buy some flowers or plants

Having some plants in your house can really help your space feel refreshed. If you live near a market you can get some really lovely flowers for some great deals!

kindness 2

24. Change your bedding

This is such a simple but effective one. Changing your duvet cover can feel a pain, but getting into a fresh bed is one the most simple joys in life. 

25. Clean something in your house

I find that the idea of cleaning seems about as attractive to me as pulling my toenails out, but when I actually start doing it it's a weirdly therapeutic form of exercise!

26. Cover your room in photos

Having photos of your best moments/best friends around you is always a great reminder of how awesome life can be. You can use Polargram to print out your instagram photos or Photobox to bulk order photo prints. Often they have great deals on that mean you get a load of photos for only a couple of quid, so keep an eye out!

27. Go online and treat yourself to something small (or big)! 

Have an Amazon wishlist? If it's payday, treat yourself to something small but significant, like a paperback or a bath bomb. 

28. Dye your hair

I know this isn't for everyone, but a new look can really give you confidence and a boost. If you don't want to make a huge commitment, you could try colour shampoos such as Bleach Rose to add a non permanent tint to your hair.

29. Go through a family album

I love looking at baby pictures and old family holiday photos when I'm at home. If you're feeling low about your life, it sometimes really helps to see yourself as a child, because it might remind you that you were a person before something bad happened to you, that you have a lot of potential, that you looked frankly adorable in a pixie hat. 

30. Put up some bunting/fairy lights

I know this sounds very twee, but fairy lights have such a calming effect for me and I love to lace them around my room!

31. Read something relaxing

Don't let people tell you that certain books aren't worth reading or aren't academic enough. Let yourself have a guilty pleasure, as these are often the books you enjoy the most! Hell, if you want to read 50 Shades of Grey or Twilight, I'm not going to stop you. I personally really like reading autobiographies or magazines when I want something more relaxing. 

32. Create a playlist of your favourite songs

Music is a really important part of my life, and I find making playlists really therapeutic. If you don't have a spotify subscription, youtube works just as well!

33. Draw something

If you're lucky enough to be a good illustrator or even if you're self-proclaimed terrible, drawing can be really fun. Maybe find an image on the internet to copy and see where it takes you!

34. Get a fake tattoo

Anything that makes us appreciate our bodies a little bit more is a winner for me. There are so many fun fake tattoos out there and you can genuinely get some beautiful ones if you can splash out a bit more.

35. Try yoga

I know, it's the age-old stereotype. But yoga can help our bodies and minds, and if we have the opportunity to do it we can really reap the benefits. Yoga classes can be pricey, but I know that at least in London you can find low-cost yoga for as little as £5 a class or by donation. Search around your location and take yourself along to a beginner's class!

36. Eat some grapes

You know in films where people are lounging and having grapes fed to them? There's a reason for that, grapes are the ultimate in (mostly affordable) luxury.

37. Watch half an hour of your favourite comedy

I feel like comedy shows are made for self care. Many of them clock in under 25 minutes and so they're perfect for taking yourself out of the work zone for a short amount of time, when things start to feel overwhelming. My favourite feel good show at the moment is Parks and Recreation, it's so cheerful yet wickedly funny! 

38. Find some therapy

I realise this won't be relevant for everyone, but many of those who are struggling and can't afford to pay the huge costs of therapy don't realise that there is something on offer out there for them. Google 'low cost therapy' in your area and see if you can get yourself on to a waiting list. Some of these therapy sessions can cost as little as £5. 

39. Collect postcards/trinkets and make a scrapbook

Scrapbooking feels like it might be a dying art, but it's a great way to collect memories of past trips and cool objects! Remember when Amelie discovers the time capsule box of a little boy's toys in her house and it changes everything? Hopefully it will be like that for you in 20 years or so.

40. Listen to music in the shower

Nothing puts me in a better mood than doing this in the morning.  Blast some of your favourite music whilst you're showering and you'll probbaly feel 100x more ready for the day!

41. Tell somebody you love them

Because you know, we're all so busy that sometime we forget to say the obvious, and remembering that you have people around you who you love and who love you is awesome.

What do you like to do when you want to be kind to yourself? Please let me know below and I'll add it to the list!

Thanks so much for reading!

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