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Friday, 2 December 2016

Beating the darker times

In a rare and brief dalliance with daytime television today, I came across an interview with Terry Waite.

It was a name I hadn't heard of for many years, but one I had always remembered, because of this man's amazing strength and tenacity in enduring five years of torture and captivity at the hands of Beirut terrorists.

In the brief snippet on ITV's This Morning, this humanitarian and author was a true inspiration and the words he said that struck me most were these:

"If you allow anger to fester, then ultimately it will end up doing you more harm than those you feel the anger towards.."

In no way could I compare my own experiences to this outstanding man, but yet I realised that this powerful statement could apply to and help every single one of us. Even down to lesser circumstances, such as my dad's road rage and me telling him that only his stress levels would be affected by his rant.

The quote also applies to pain and the way we deal with it. If someone hurts you, whether intended or not, the only way to deal with it has to be to let it go.

Earlier this week my heart broke into many pieces and for a time my life went black (and so did my Facebook profile). Life felt pretty effing sh1t (yes my potty mouth diminishes drastically in the written word for some absurd reason).

But, quickly, I realised the negative contribution that allowing myself to hurt for long would cause. Yes, crying is good, releasing the pain is good. But, dwelling on it or allowing it to fester can only be bad.

So here are some of the ways I've picked myself up off the floor this week and hopefully they might help you feel a little more positive through the dark times too.

  • Exercise - (had to be first now didn't it). I still get a load out of the feel good hormones that exercises produces, so I upped my weekly workouts from three to six and felt better for it.
  • Be silly - act the fool, whether on your own or with friends. In my case it was doing a really silly, loud and crazy version of rockabye baby with my children. It made them laugh their heads off and me smile too.
  • Give yourself something to look forward to. Whether it's a night out at the weekend, shopping trip, or couple of glasses of wine at the end of the day.
  • Be nice - it's so easy to feel bitter, but hate and resentment only serves to make you feel worse more than anything.
  • Keep telling yourself good stuff. Be your own biggest fan. Find stuff that's good about you and keep reminding yourself about it, until you believe it.
  • Catch up with friends. Laugh, joke, have fun.
  • Be pragmatic - look at what you have got, rather than focusing on what you haven't and make the most out of it.
  • Get outside - yes, it's been flipping freezing lately, but wrap up warm and get out for a good walk, take some good, deep breaths and feel your soul cleanse.
  • Do something nice for someone. It always makes me feel better anyway.
  • Dance like no-one's looking. Stick on some crazy tunes and really go for it. Go on, you know you want to ;)
So what do you reckon? This is how I picked myself up this week and what I'm going to keep doing until the pain starts to ease and I don't have to think about how I'm going to feel good anymore.
If, like me, you've found yourself wanting to close yourself off in a dark room and cry your heart out for days on end, maybe try these instead?


Friday, 18 November 2016

Compliments to complement your day

As you all might have gathered from my constant banging on about exercise, getting in a good workout is one of my favourite things to do. And Pilates of an evening I find is a great way to de-stress and set yourself up for a good night's sleep.

So, following a Pilates class recently, I was all ready to head home for my cup of green tea and bed (oh, how my halo chokes me), when another lady who had been in the class approached me. Out of the blue she said: "You really are good at this. I was watching you do some of the exercises and really hope I can do them that well one day."

Just like that. A random compliment from a stranger, who then disappeared into the night without a by your leave. And do you know what? She probably has no idea, but it made my night.

You see, these days, it's so easy to go about our lives oblivious to those around us and even if we do notice something nice about someone, it's rare that we say it. Perhaps, people assume that if you look good, that you know it already, or, if they tell you something nice, then you might wonder what they're after.

But personally, I think I speak for the majority of people who don't have the benefit of walking round thinking how amazing we are and when someone says something nice it can make all the difference to our confidence and self esteem. At least for the next five minutes or so, anyway.

That compliment doesn't have to come from a stranger either. All too often people get so used to seeing their friends and loved ones around them and forget to say when they're looking particularly nice or have done something particularly well.

A compliment isn't a guy staring lasciviously at your boobs, or some sycophant saying what they think you want to hear in order to gain grace and favour. Like with the lady at Pilates, it should be an observation, made freely with no hidden agenda. Something that simply is what it is. And it's these kind of compliments which can make all the difference, not only to the individual, but to society in general. Because genuine niceness and decency is infectious.

It's for this very reason that I compliment my children when they've done something good, or made an effort too. It's in the hope of a brighter future. One where it's ok to be nice to others, to smile, to be happy and make others happy with no personal gain, other than the knowledge that you've done something good.

So, instead of keeping yourself to yourself, why don't you dish out a few genuine compliments today and see how much better it makes you feel!

Thursday, 30 June 2016

It's ok to say how you feel.. It really is!

Been thinking a lot about honesty and transparency these days. Ever since I became a mum, while being a lot more comfortable talking about things like poo and willies (so much so that my non parent friends cover their eyes and ears), I've also seemed to develop a thicker skin. And I think it might be a mummy thing.

So much stuff goes over your head when you've got ten million things to think of and remember at once. Jokes, insults and blatant truths are nowhere near as shocking or offensive as they used to be and I've found myself so much more adept at laughing stuff off.

I think it's something to do with just not having the time to be bothered. And let's face it, when you've been in labour and given birth in the most undignified way, there's not much after that that's going to floor you either.

One thing I do value these days above anything else isn't hiding your feelings for the sake of politeness, but honesty, openness and transparency. Whether I like what I hear or not, I value the fact that people are honest with me.

You don't like me? Fine, I can handle that! You think something I did was wrong or misguided? Do feel free to tell me, because I value your opinion and truly believe that you have a right to feel the way you do. (Unless you're a 70 something tutting at my child for making the slightest sound, as though all those years back your children really were seen and not heard... Really? Were they? I think you might be going a little senile in your senior years my dear 😁)...

But in all honesty, I prefer people to be real with me, no matter what it is they have to say. Wonderful examples of this are my friends, Michelle, Hayley and Ang. Yeah they can be down right offensive at times, but it's their opinion and honesty that comes with it that I value more than anything. It's also the reason why I love them so much. None of it is malicious and there's no back stabbing, in fact 99% of the time we have a laugh.

These are people who would much rather let you know their thoughts than tell other people in the roundabout hope that it will finally make its way to you and I just wish everyone was like it.

All I'll say is be confident in your opinion and if you can back it up with reasoned and intelligent argument, why feel scared to express it?

Honesty, transparency and openness are my buzzwords for this year as I truly believe that taking away the underhanded nature of backstabbing will help people be happier and more positive all round. Ditch the negative vibes, express your problems, deal with them and move on. Problem solved.


Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Why I'm inspired...

Sadly it's become all too apparent in the last year how important it is to make the most of what we have. There was a time when I thought I was invincible. That I’d never grow old and I’d never die (to quote the Lost Boys) but now, only recently people my age have started getting sick, some unlikely to recover, and that’s just not right.

Some of the brightest, strongest, most beautiful, most intelligent people I’ve ever known are being affected by devastating illness and there’s no rhyme or reason to any of it.

No matter who you are or what you’ve done, your time to jump off this mortal plain can hit you right between the eyes, just when you’re not expecting it, so what can you do in the meantime?

I’m always banging on about being good to others. About making the world a better place one person at a time and I still stand by that sentiment. Be inspired to do good and inspire the same in others and together let’s change the world. But there’s something else we can do too and that is to become masters of our own destiny.

Believe that you deserve to be treated decently. Believe that you’re beautiful, because no matter how you look, if you’re beautiful on the inside this will always shine through. Treat others how you would expect to be treated yourself, but this works both ways. If people don’t treat you well, why hang around? If someone makes you feel unimportant, unloved and you’re not liking yourself because of it, do something about it.

Move on. Give that love that you’re so good at giving to someone who deserves it and in doing so become master of your own destiny. Allow yourself to be loved, cared about and respected in the way that you should be. If someone is making you feel less than you are, then that’s their fault, not yours. Have people around you who love you for you. Take the negative influences out of your life and surround yourself with love and laughter. In doing so bring happiness back to your life and begin to notice the beauty all around you once more.

Life is precious and life is short, so do yourself a favour and become master of your own destiny. Believe that you deserve a life and allow yourself to live it.

And back to the title of this post… if you’re wondering why I’m inspired, it’s because of those beautiful, strong, courageous people out there that I mentioned earlier. Those who I might not be able to have a coffee with for very much longer. They are the ones who have inspired me. To help myself as well as others and to start feeling better inside.


Monday, 16 March 2015

The Fast Diet Kitchen – one of the great secrets to dieting success!

Ok, so I’ll be the first to admit it, I put on more than a couple of pounds on over Christmas and wasn’t happy with the flabby outcome. Yes, I was probably only just on the wrong side of the healthy/ overweight line, but the fact is I didn’t like what I saw.

So, in delightfully tacky tradition, I made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight and get fit and healthy at the same time – in turn making myself feel happier with my over all appearance. But how to do it? We all know that it’s harder to lose weight the less you weigh and those last few pounds are the hardest to get off, so how was I going to make a real difference?

Well firstly HIIT!! No – I wasn’t hitting myself – HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. I chose Jillian Michaels’ punishing 30 Day Shred to push myself through every morning for 20 minutes and while hating it most of the time, loved the results on my body afterwards and the overall feeling of well being that it gave me. In fact, I went past the 30 days and am still doing it now! And Pilates once a week - lovely, lovely Pilates - now my favourite way to get a lovely stretch, relax and six pack of an evening!

But, what about food? I knew that my love affair with chocolate and sugary cakes and sweets had to come to an end, but would this be enough to lose some serious weight? Probably not. So, having found out about The Fast Diet I thought I’d give it a go. The Fast Diet or 5:2 Diet involves eating fairly healthily, but pretty much what you like for five days a week and fasting for two by having no more than 500 calories on your fast day. By harking back to many centuries ago, when food wasn't in regular supply, the body is conned into thinking it's in a potential famine situation and gets leaner and tougher as a result. Sounds easy enough, but it’s really actually quite hard getting three meals a day in that total 500 calories!

So someone told me about The Fast Diet Kitchen, which provides you with a series of healthy ready meals to assist you on the fast days. Every calorie is counted and the meals – a soup at lunchtime and an evening meal - contain some really healthy ingredients so you know you’re getting the right stuff into you on your fast days as well. To be honest though, diet food? I thought it would taste vile, but I was actually quite pleasantly surprised.



Yes, some of the meals weren’t to my taste, but the majority of them were lovely. I particularly liked the aromatic chicken curry and the beef and ale casserole – they were really yummy and I couldn’t believe that each meal was loads less than 300 calories! So basically, for a few weeks I had a breakfast of around 100 calories on my fast days, then chose a soup and evening meal to add up to a total of 500 calories.

Yes, fasting took some getting used to the first few times and to start with I was quite miserable on my fast days, but gradually my body got used to it and I actually felt healthier on the fast days than the other days!

I also found that exercising and keeping busy on the fast days helped with the hunger pangs too. As the weeks moved on I really started to notice the difference with a combination of HIIT and fasting and guess what? I have actually lost 10kg in two months!! That’s a flipping stone and a half in old money!!

The Mummy tummy (or so I called it, even though my oldest is now two) is no more and I feel so much better for it! Even the jeans that never used to fit me and sat in my wardrobe for years are now too big!

I don’t know how long I’ll be able to make it last for – hopefully I’ve made a fitter and healthier change for life now, but all I can say is it most definitely worked and I’m mega impressed! So thank you Jillian Michaels and the Fast Diet Kitchen – I love you both!

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

10 things I'll be teaching my children

As parents we strive for the best for our children; and as good parents we strive for them to be the best they can be. I'm not talking horrendous pushy stage mums, trying to force their children into achieving their own unfulfilled dreams. I mean instilling and encouraging the right values and attitudes in our children, through setting a good example ourselves.

While schools give education - maths, English, science etc - I still believe that it’s the parents’ role to invest time and energy in raising their children to be half decent contributors to a positive and happy society. So here are some things that I think are important.

1) Be assertive – the other day, my son told me he was sad at pre school that no one came to play with him. So I suggested that if no one came to play with him, maybe he could try going to play with them. In life we can't expect things to come to us, but likewise, we should be positive and confident about going for what we want to achieve.

2) Confidence – some of the nicest children I've ever met come from military families, not only because they're polite, but because they are also some of the most confident children I've ever met. Believe in yourself and your ability and others will too.

3) Self defence – the world we live in can be a cruel and horrible place at times. I plan on equipping my children with the knowledge and ability to defend themselves both physically and mentally should disaster happen.

4) Good manners – it may sound old fashioned, but I really value hearing and seeing good manners both in children and adults. I also believe that a well mannered person will get further in life, be more successful and achieve more.

5) Tenacity - don't give up if you fail at the first hurdle. Believe in yourself and your ability. Keep trying. Most of the world’s most successful people didn't get to where they are straight away and it wasn't handed to them on a plate. Tenacity is the best way to succeed.

6) Self belief – too often children are criticised or put down by adults much more than they are praised. If your confidence is damaged from the start, what chance do you have? Praise the things your children do well and encourage them, this way they they will believe in themselves and be more likely to succeed.

7) Kindness – sometimes I just think there’s not enough kindness and caring in the world. I plan to teach my children to be kind to others and be helpful where they can. Hopefully by doing so they will be positive contributors to a good community.

8) Compassion – in a similar way to kindness, I want my children to think from another's perspective as well as their own, and try to understand about the feelings of others. When someone is hurt, for instance, I want them to be the ones who help. We’ve just had Martin Luther King Day, so, as he said: “Somebody must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate and the chain of evil in the universe. And you do that by love.”



9) Value of learning – we all know that a good education can help you be successful in life. But that's not just about doing sums or reading Shakespeare, it's about going into the world with our eyes open and sucking up all it has to offer. I want my children to be keen to learn, have understanding of its importance and to love learning too.

10) Thoughtfulness – in the early stages of child development, it's obvious that to a young child the world revolves about them and that's all part of the development process. But as they grow, I want to encourage them to think about their actions and the effects it will have on others. Somebody once said to me: “Engage brain before body,” and I think it's probably some good advice.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I'm a perfect parent, far from it. But I do think that with a bit of effort, patience, time, faith and understanding on my part I can give my children the best possible start in life and by doing that give them the opportunity to be the best they can be.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Banish negativity; bring the happy

Someone once told me that full time mums (and dads) can be more susceptible to depression and loneliness than you might imagine.

It's easy to see why when you think about it, after all, parenting can be a hectic and pretty tough job, not to mention being more tiring than tiredness itself.

We often spend most of our days caring for our small people, with little or no adult interaction. And, while we're focusing on developing tiny minds and characters, we're spending little time on keeping our own brains active.

Before having children your brain might have been used to being permanently part of the adult world. Then, when you became a parent, chances are, things became very different. It's understandable that, as parents, we might therefore feel a bit lonely and isolated at times with such a big change to our lives and mindset taking place.

Clearly, if you're suffering from depression in the real sense of the word, then it's important to seek professional help and guidance and there are loads of treatments and therapies out there that can help, so please don't be afraid or embarrassed to go and see what they are.

If you're just feeling a little flat, unhappy, isolated or low and those negative thoughts are far too frequent, there are things you can do to change it.

I've been really into the concept of bringing the happy lately, and with Blue Monday fast approaching this can't be a bad thing, so…

Make that choice… it's not the easiest thing to do at times, but the first step is to choose to be positive rather than negative. There's no point doing things to be more positive if you don't really want to.

Exercise regularly… Exercise is a big way for me to bring that happy and keep it there. When I'm feeling a bit low, a HIIT workout or brisk walk in the fresh air goes down a treat for boosting my energy and mood. If you join an exercise class, it's also a little escape to the adult world for a change and a chance to meet others.




Bring someone else's happy… I can't quite work out out whether Blue Monday is supposed to be January 19 or 26 this year, but basically it's a Monday in the middle of January, when we're supposed to feel the worst that we’ll feel all year. The idea is to do something nice for someone else on this day and by making someone else happy, hopefully you'll do it for yourself too.

Banish the misery … All too often we find ourselves thinking negatively about someone or something and quite often it's a sub conscious thought that we’re not even aware of. Try and identify negative thoughts when they happen and turn them around. Avoid negative people and influences in your life and focus on the good things. Look for the positive in any situation and it's guaranteed to be more productive.

Music is food for the soul… A tune that makes you feel happy, whether it's something that makes you want to dance, or makes you feel peaceful and content, has to be a good thing.

Stop comparing yourself to others... If you can find a way to be happy with who you are or become comfortable in your own skin, this is a great positive step. Stop comparing yourself to others, what they do, what they look like etc, and start focusing on the good things about you.

Set small, achievable goals… Don't be unrealistic with your goals and then beat yourself up when you don't achieve them. Focus on what you can do or achieve. Then feel good about the fact that you've achieved it.

Share the positivity… While we might say that people who are overly positive can be annoying, the chances are the effect they will have on your life will be a good one. Try and be the person that brings positivity to the world. A good start is a smile.