On celebrating ourselves: I made it into a magazine!

I’ve never been particularly vocal about success or one to enjoy self-promotion, and inherently I have tended to downplay my achievements at risk of being perceived as self-important. I was taught to be humble and let evidence speak for itself, hence I let my actions speak louder than my words and I let the proof be in the pudding. To this day, this virtue remains incredibly important to me, and you’ll never catch me shouting about something I cannot evidence!

I’ve always been completely turned off by arrogance and consequently I think I’ve had a fear of coming across as self-absorbed. I’m sure you will relate to knowing that person who has the upmanship attitude (*eye roll*). Who always talks a damn good talk but seldom has accolades to match; that annoying person who always has to do one better than you, been there more times, achieved more or even on the flip side, has it completely worse than you. I was always too aware of the draining effect of those people to ever want to be perceived as one! I often wonder whether downplaying our success is part of the nature of being British? As a nation we are  generally modest and tend to depreciate the positives (and arguably amplify the negatives; there’s nothing quite like the good old moan about British weather)

Since embarking on a journey of self-development I’ve learned that you can be both humble and self celebratory. Being proud of yourself should not be perceived as  showing of – we should lift each other and fully celebrate our achievements and accolades. On reflection I really have achieved a lot of great things in the past that I should have been so much more proud of myself about.

To cut a long story short, I recently went on a work related trip where I was interviewed by Bosnian lifestyle magazine Gracija about being female in a male dominated technology field. The intention was to publish this on their website as part of a wider project, but little did I realise they would love the interview and publish it as a double page spread in their actual magazine – which just so happens to be the largest print media in the Western Balkans! Such a big deal and somewhat pinch me moment. So you know what…

I am so damn proud of myself!

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Alas it still feels somewhat alien to me to self-congratulate, self-promote or be proud of myself. But I am. Not for the article, but for the work I do & having the balls to do the interview in the first place (I was pretty nervous!) and for generally speaking out as a woman in a male dominated field. To let my female voice be heard.

Here is the article, if you happen to speak Bosnian! (I am currently waiting for the translation) 🙂

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It feels good to celebrate myself and I urge you to all do the same!

Over and out.

xx

 

My 2018 motto

The words below were written on the back of a sugar packet in a cafe I found in Spain last Summer.

el tiempo no se detiene mi espero por nadie, asi que no detengas tu vida por pequences, sigue adelante porque en este momento eres lo mas viejo que puedesser y lo mas joven que nunca volveras a ser jamas

It essentially means that time stops for nobody so you shouldn’t let the little things bother you. Enjoy life because at this moment you are both the oldest you can be and the youngest you’ll ever be. I found it when I was going through a tough time and it really stood out to me. It also reminds me simple things I love about life: good coffee, sunshine and embracing culture, and of course being surrounded by people I love.

So it’s going to be my motto for 2018.

What’s yours?

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Three simple tips to make 2018 your best year yet

As 2017 comes to a close it’s natural to reflect and begin planning the year ahead. Personally I’m not really into making solid new years resolutions but I do like to take stock on things going well and reflect on areas that I want to improve. I definitely don’t wait until January 1st to make changes though – reflection is something that should be incorporated into your life continuously. Read about my 2017 reflections here.

A majority of New Year’s resolutions are made post-Christmas binge and spending extravagance, so it’s natural that a majority of these reflect a feeling of wanting to save money, be healthier or lose weight. Easy to do when you feel like you’ve overindulged, but once the initial Christmas week bloat has subsided those good intentions go straight out of the window.

With that in mind I wanted to share three simple tips on how to have a great year. No resolutions, no restrictions, just some easy to implement self-development approaches that can help you to make small but longstanding changes.

Reflect

What went well this year?

Reflecting on both the good and bad can help you consolidate your self-worth, steer bad habits and build on good behaviours 

This can usually be broken down into a few areas such as work, personal life, social life, relationships, etc, depending on where your priorities lie. Did you achieve something that you didn’t think was possible a year ago?

Reflecting on your year may seem a daunting task but all it really requires is taking time out. You don’t need to be a top analyst to stop, clear your thoughts and think about things in a reflective and reflexive manner. However you choose to reflect try to do it when you have some real peace and quiet in order to really listen to your inner voice. Trust that. If you feel that you find it easier to dwell on negative things and less inclined to praise the positive, then this reflects a state of mind that is automatically attuned to focus and on the bad. It’s a bad habit and I bet you’ll also find it easier to remember negative events, situations where people have wronged you or hold on to grudges. If this resonates with you then I would perhaps consider focusing on changing this bad habit. It serves no good purpose.

Over the period of a year there should be one or two (if not more) highlights, but if they don’t jump out make sure you reflect even when you do not feel there is anything to particularly stand out. What are the positives of your year? What moments were you truly happy? How did you feel in those moments? If all else fails, ask yourself What are you grateful for?

Next, think about the behaviours which underpinned these positives. These are the behaviours, habits and activities that you want to build on and keep incorporating in the new year. As for the lowlights, or the things that didn’t go to plan, how could the situations be improved going forward? Those behaviours are things you want to inject in your life more.

Project

Where do you see yourself in a years time?

Write yourself a list, letter or goal of something you wish to have achieved by December 31st 2018. 

This is your north star and will essentially guide you in your behaviours for the new year. If it is a specific goal then break it down to it’s constituent parts and plan to incorporate small changes or steps that amount to the larger goal. Remember to set goals that are SMART (Specific Measurable Attainable Realistic and Timely) as these are the most achievable. For example, if losing weight is your goal then set a SMART goal and break it down into a number of steps or smaller goals. i.e. drinking 2 litres of water a day, or taking the stairs instead of the lift. Start small to build the foundations and consolidate with congruent behaviours. Don’t overwhelm yourself with unattainable goals as they’re likely to have a rebound effect.

If you write about something less concrete such as ‘being healthier or happier’ then again break this down into actions and/or behaviours that you can incorporate which will subsequently amount to the overall aim. E.g. smiling at people, letting go of the need to be right or reducing toxic people from your life. Read my post about that here.

Prioritize

What activities do you already undertake and what behaviours/habits do you have nailed down? List as many as possible – for example, going to the gym twice a week, having a weekly catch up with your friend, or a 10 minute meditation session every morning. List these in order of priority so that when you feel overwhelmed, too busy or stuck in a rut, look at your list of actions or behaviours that are the most important to you. Continue with the most important and prioritized activities at times when you are overwhelmed and cut the rest.

If you would like me to write more in detail about goal setting and behaviour change let me know. 🙂

Do you make resolutions?

Thanks for reading 🙂

Getting into the Christmas Spirit: my fave to dos

It’s a Christmas to do list!

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Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, it really is good to get into the festive spirit. Aside from all the get togethers, presents (and stress!) at the heart of it Christmas should be about sharing and caring. The time of year when most people take some time out to relax and spend it distraction free with loved ones. As things start to slow down a little (mentally, not physically) some of my favourite things to get into the spirit of Christmas!

To do: Festive sports

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The perfect time to try a new winter sport. How about trying Ice Skating at a Christmas market? Somerset House in London is beautiful, but any outdoor skating rink is perfect.

To do activities list: Ice skating, winter walks, indoor/outdoor skiing or snowboarding, sledging, christmas decorating.

To go: Christmas Cities & Markets 

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Mulled wine, market food and crowds of festivities? There’s just something special about a Christmas market that brings people together. I also love to get dressed up and go out for Christmas drinks with the girls.

Top UK cities: Manchester, London Winter Wonderland, Belfast, Birmingham, Bath, Liverpool, Leeds, there are tons spread out across the UK. 

Overseas: I hear Copenhagen, Prague, Amsterdam, Berlin (or anywhere in Germany), Tallinn, Paris, again, tons spread out!

To watch: Christmas Films

I’ve already watched Home alone 1 & 2 and Love Actually. But others I recommend are The Holiday, Bad Santa and Christmas with the Kranks. Christmas is the perfect time to watch some nostalgic TV and films. What are your faves?

 

To bake: Festive treats  

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I really like the idea of making personalised treats for stocking fillers as I think it’s just that extra bit special when somebody goes out of their way to make something. Last year I made biscottis which were delicious! For the ones above I followed a standard biscotti recipe and then to make them more festive I added pistachios, cranberries and grated orange peel.

To make: Christmas DIY 

There are tons of DIY ideas out there. One year I made a wreath when I had a craft day. Other nice things to make are decorations, candy canes, potpourri, jewellery. They also make great gifts!

To practice: Self love

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One thing I think is seriously neglected at this time of year is taking care of ourselves. Year round it is so important to take the time out to relax and look after our minds and bodies, but especially at this time of the year when we become super busy, our stress levels rise and our bank levels drop. It can be hard to find free time so just remember to practice being grateful and express thanks to keep you grounded when surrounded by such abundance. Also try to take a bit of time out to unwind – visit your favourite coffee shop, read a book, have a pamper evening or take yourself to a quiet spot to clear your mind. Manchester Central Library (above) is amazing for peace and quiet.

As well as loving yourself, practice extending that love to others. Express kindness to people you meet (regardless of being cut up in traffic or in a queue :-P) as you really do not know what is going on in the minds or lives of others. Instead of falling into the trap of becoming bitter, senseless or unappreciative, just remember that everybody is feeling just as stressed out. So forget the nitty-gritty of who buys what and who owes who, and don’t allow yourself to be pulled into the dramas that crop up at this time of year. After all it’s the time to forgive and forget.

Top tips: Daily gratitude, smile at people and have an open heart. Why not donate your time to a good cause? This time of year it would be good to donate a jumper or coat to the homeless. Share your time with people and fill it with good things

..and of course to complete the list: a spot of indulgence!

IMG_2635Festive foods, party spreads and Christmas dinners. This was an incredible spread we made last year. I think we can all learn to ditch the guilt on that one day of the year (or week!). Enough said.

Have a very Merry Christmas

xoxox

Tips for living in the now

One thing I’ve learned about being too wrapped up in the past and/or future is that it conjures up emotions of guilt and anxiety, respectively. Overthinking about something in the past can lead to feelings of resentment and guilt; whilst being too focused on the future is a breeding ground to invoke anxiety or fear. It’s self-destructive yet startling to see the number of people who live this way.

I’ll refrain from throwing around overused quotes such as Live for the now or You might not get tomorrow because whilst true there overuse waters down their meaning, in my opinion …But being absentminded isn’t productive and certainly doesn’t lead to living a fruitful life full of happy thoughts.

Living in the moment and being focused on the now stems from teachings of mindfulness, and if there was one book I would recommend  Eckhart Tolle: The Power of Now. This book really changed my thinking around creating a more mindful approach to my everyday life.

Why?

Increase your joy for things happening around you in the moment, find the extraordinary in the ordinary and simply starting to love life for what it is – and not resenting it for what it’s not. It’s the idea of living a fulfilling week rather than waiting for the weekend.

Increase your self belief  Doing rather than thinking about doing  is much more fruitful for squashing those nagging feelings of self-doubt. People often worry about things in the future because they waste too much time worrying about what could happen.

Learn to love what is by letting go of what was and not focussing too much on external goals.  The more time spent ruminating over something that caused grief, the longer the time spent wrapped up in a cycle of negative thinking. On the other hand, focusing too much energy on end goals stops you appreciating life now. Goals are great to have but don’t kid yourself into thinking that you will suddenly become happier when you lose that weight, buy that car or land that job. When you get there, if your mindset is still future focussed you’ll feel a sense of dissatisfaction and end up simply yearning for the next goal. Sure as hell not reaping the rewards of all of the work paying off.

My top tips for focussing on the now:

  • Practice gratitude: what are you grateful for?
    • Practice being grateful. Gratitude has been shown to boost feelings of happiness. Simply start your day with taking note of something that you’re greatful for, be thankful or text somebody you appreciate. It needs to be genuine though and not forced. It could literally just be that the sun is shining. You’ll start to appreciate things in your life a lot more and actually start to feel grateful for who you are and the great people you have in your life.
  • Pay attention: to other people, to your thoughts, to your feelings and the environment
    • Delete the crap from social media. Seriously stop wasting your time scrolling(!). Life is busy and those hours spent absent-mindedly scrolling Instagram or Facebook add up. Imagine actually using that time on being productive or taking care of yourself, instead of investing time reading about what everybody else is doing.
    • Be mindful. Do you notice what’s going on around you? Do you look up when you’re walking? Smell the fresh air? Or put your phone away when you’re in a meeting/with friends?(!) The amount of time I see groups of people looking at their phones rather than chatting to each other in cafes is startling! I notice this because I look around 🙂
    • Smile at strangers. Simple but effective. We are social beings, so make eye contact with people. Connect. In real life.
    • Eat slowly and taste your food! It takes your brain 10 minutes longer than your stomach to notice feeling full.
    • Check in to your body. Meditate and be mindful of your body, move with purpose, notice areas of tension and learn to slow down.
    • Breathe. Deeply.
  • Practice acceptance
    • The 5 minute rule. Something that’s caused grief? Give yourself 5 minutes to be upset and have a pity party, then tell yourself no more!
    • Stop worrying. A simple tip. If it will not matter 5 years from now do not waste for that 5 minutes worrying about it.
  • Be spontaneous 
    • Remember the last time you were spontaneous, how great did you feel? You don’t need to go booking a crazy spur of the moment trip (especially not if you’re using a credit card) but stop, breathe and ask yourself what would make you feel happiest in that moment.
    • Stop waiting for the weekend. It’s great to have things to look forward to but don’t focus all your energy and effort waiting that you forget to appreciate what you’re doing right now.

Hope this brings a little positivity to your day! x

 

 

 

Thursday Thinking: loving yourself

It was World Mental Health on Tuesday but it still feels that we are a long way off reducing the stigma that surrounds issues of this kind. However, raising awareness and generally pushing people to open up more is a big step in the right direction.

It really should be a priority to take care of ourselves and look after ourselves our minds. Loving yourself is part of that parcel.

You should go and love yourself. Yes I did just quote Bieber 🙂

Working on your self-esteem can be great for all aspects of your life. You feel better in your own skin and actually start to believe in yourself and in turn this translates to a more improved, healthier and happier you. Even the notion of feeling positive can have such a vast impact on improving your quality of life. Who doesn’t want to feel more positive, happier in their skin and be in better health?

What actually is Self Esteem?

From a psychological point of view, self-esteem is the subjective feelings that a person attributes to themselves about their own worth or value. People with high amounts of self esteem believe they are good, worthy and deserving of love and good things, whilst people with low amounts believe the opposite to be true. Of course this is over-simplistic as we fit somewhere along the continuum,  and as with all aspects of our lives it’s more intricate and interconnected with the context, time and situations changing how a person views themself.

We all have a self-esteem lens through which we see the world based on psychological makeup, life events and our upbringing. We are inclined to interpret the world in line with our beliefs we seek out those examples that provide evidence to support our views and disregard those that do not fit our biases. For example, the person who is inclined to think negatively might received 10 compliments and 1 piece of criticism (or what they may interpret as such) yet ignore the praise and be fixated on the negative. It fits with their perception of their self.

Whilst self-esteem is somewhat learned from being a child you can help yourself if you feel like you want to boost it. However, replacing negative views or a negative lens does not happen overnight. Building self-esteem is the same, it’s all part of an ongoing process of self-development. As with any process of building any new habit, it takes time, determination and process. But trust that process. Believing in yourself is SO IMPORTANT for a healthy and happy life.

Below are my ways to boost self-esteem.

Talk about believable positive affirmations.

Positive self talk and affirmations are powerful tools that relatively easy to implement. But the key is whether you believe them or not. Telling yourself something unrealistic such as that you had a great day when you feel down in the dumps will not make you feel better. Telling yourself you are beautiful when you don’t truly believe it only leads to feeling worse! The key is to remove the permanence in the statement and you might be more inclined to believe it. e.g. replacing ‘I am beautiful’ to ‘I look OK/good/great today, I particularly like my x/y or z today’. Don’t kid yourself into positive self talk that you simply do not believe. Be more realistic.

Making lists about yourself is a good start. Write down qualities that you believe to be true and start there. Make a list of your strengths: are you friendly, creative or caring? Or list your greatest achievements, or things you admire about yourself. Are you really stuck, merely list 5 things you could do to help someone else. Re-read these lists. These lists can be your positive self talk.

Accept compliments.

This might be a learning curve but when you receive a compliment, write it down. Not all the time. But when you receive a compliment that makes you feel good, or is about something that you don’t usually feel positive about or that has taken you by surprise. Re-read your list/book of compliments and try to find extra evidence! Better still, turn these compliments into positive affirmations because they are based on real life evidence. You might not believe your own thoughts but I bet you’ll believe in other people’s words.

Challenge negative thoughts. 

When you find yourself slipping into negative talk, e.g. I’m useless, I did a bad job, I look terrible write these down.  Imagine that your best friend/partner/mother said this about themselves, what would you say back? What would a more reasonable thought be? If you feel comfortable share these with others and get their objective views. Replace the permanence and subjectivity with a temporary statement or find the objective evidence. This can help you to take a step back and realise where your disordered thoughts lie. It might be that objectively speaking really are not fat, or last week you received praise ‘My boss said thanks on that job, so it must have been good’. Find the evidence in the world that you might have overlooked. You really are not a failure and you are not useless. Do you have a job, a degree, certificate in something, friends, family or a roof over your head? You really are not a failure.

You have power to boost your self-esteem and choose to think positive thoughts 

Replace bad habits with good ones

You always have a choice of feelings

🙂