Sunday, 18 February 2018

Little Things to help your Mental Health - Making a Good Things Jar

I thought I would start a new series of posts on my blog, talking about some of the little things that I’ve found can help with my mental health. Whilst it’s important to seek professional help for mental health problems and access treatments like medication and therapy, sometimes it’s the little day-to-day actions that can get us through the hard times. So I wanted to start by talking to you about something I’ve been doing for quite a few years now, which I find really helps with my depression and anxiety. A Good Things Jar!

I originally got the idea to make one of these from browsing on Pinterest and have been using it ever since. You might see it called a few different things – a Good Things Jar, a Happy Jar or a Jar of Gratitude, but they’re all pretty much the same idea, so you can call it whatever you fancy. All you need to make it is a glass jar (or any kind of tub – whatever suits you best), some paper and a pen. It’s as easy as that! I started off by decorating my jar to make it look a bit more pretty and also so that I could immediately tell what it was whenever I looked at it. I found the ‘Good Things’ label again, on Pinterest and just stuck it onto my jar with a bit of invisible tape. You can find all sorts of printable labels to choose from, or if you’d rather make your own that would work just as well. I also decided to tie a bit of ribbon around the neck of the jar, just because I thought it made it look pretty, but you can decorate your jar in whatever way you fancy.

When you’re struggling with your mental health (or even if you don’t have a mental health condition but are prone to feeling a bit glum) it can often be difficult to see the good things in life. I know when I’m going through a down patch with my mental health, my brain automatically focuses on the negatives – it’s been such a bad day, I haven’t got any friends, I’m such a failure for getting a bad mark on my work… it goes on and on. But actually, even if it has been a bad day, more often than not there will still be something positive to come out of a negative situation. For example, I may have received a bad mark on my essay, but I also received a nice text from my best friend that really made me smile. Or it’s been a really crappy day because I’ve been in hospital having an operation, but actually, that cup of tea I had after surgery was the best cup of tea I’ve had in a while! But it’s these good things that will often go straight over our head, and get forgotten in the space of a few minutes. For some reason, it always seems to be the bad things that we remember and focus on. If I look back at the last week, I can probably tell you everything that went wrong, every time I felt more unwell and everything that I regret doing/not doing. But off the top of my head, I’m struggling to think of anything particularly good that happened. And that’s where your Good Things Jar comes in.

Any time anything good happens, you simply write it down on a piece of paper, fold it up and pop it in your jar. I like to use rainbow coloured paper – a different colour for each month – to make my jar look particularly happy. But you can choose whatever you want. Some people even put other bits and pieces in their jar – cinema tickets, a note from a friend, or a train ticket from your day out. The main thing with this is that it doesn’t have to be big events (although you can put those in there too!) – it’s the little events that you would normally forget that really need to go in your jar. Something as simple as feeling the sun on your face, seeing some beautiful daffodils starting to bloom or enjoying a bubble bath after a stressful day. Then, at the end of the year, you can empty out your jar and remind yourself of all the good things that have happened throughout the year. I’m still trying to decide what to do with all my bits of paper after the year is over, so if you have any ideas please let me know! It’s also a lovely thing to look at during the year whenever you’re feeling down – simply glancing over at my jar helps me to realise that however bad things are in that moment, I know that there is always light in the darkness.

There’s been a lot of scientific research into the power of gratitude and it’s amazing how simply being thankful for the good things can have such a positive impact on our lives. It’s been found to improve our physical health, improve our psychological health, help us to sleep better, improve our self-esteem and increase our overall mental strength. Just by being thankful for what we do have and noticing the good things in our lives! And the great thing is, anyone can do it! I particularly like the idea of a Good Things Jar because I’m quite a visual person and like to be able to have a physical representation of my gratitude. But other people prefer to use a gratitude journal instead, and write three things they are grateful for before going to bed each night. However you decide to notice the good things, the most important thing is that you keep doing it. This quote from Harry Potter is one of my favourites, and I think it really fits with the idea of looking for positives amongst the negatives:

“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of places, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”
Albus Dumbledore

Do you have a Good Things Jar or Gratitude Journal? Or is it something you might do after reading this post? What other little things help you to manage your mental health that I might be able to blog about?

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Enjoying Valentine's Day When You're Single

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock since Christmas, you will probably be aware that Valentine’s Day is coming up next week. Anyone that knows me or who follows my YouTube channel will know that I’m single (I made a video last year about looking for love with a chronic illness) and that I feel pretty crap about it. I like to think of myself as a bit of a professional singleton these days, so I’m well versed at getting through one or two (and the rest!) Valentine’s Days on my own. Now, I know that in reality, February 14th is just another day and that really, we should be expressing our love every day of the year. And I also know that being in a relationship isn’t all roses and smiles. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that it does remind me of being on my own. So I thought I would share a few fun tips for enjoying Valentine’s Day when you’re single.

Celebrate Galentine’s Day

Galentine’s Day is a non-official holiday, celebrated on the 13th February. It’s an opportunity to remember your gals (or pals) rather than celebrating romantic relationships. I love the idea of a day specifically focused on telling your friends how much you love them. Yes, we should be communicating our appreciation for our friends every day, but we all know that that just doesn’t happen. Life gets in the way, and before you know it you’ve gone a few months without seeing your bestie. So why not use this time of year to really show your friends how much they mean to you. You could do something as little as sending them a text or a cute card, or if you’re feeling flush, why not treat them to a special present that you know they’ve been lusting after? Or if you want to go all out, take them on a date!

Embrace some self-love

One thing I do really love about Valentine’s Day is the focus on love. Of course, the biggest emphasis is on romantic love between two people, but if you’re not in a relationship (or even if you are) why not use it as an excuse to show yourself a bit of love and care. I think all of us are probably guilty of neglecting ourselves and putting other people first. And while it’s no bad thing to be selfless, putting yourself first once in a while doesn’t have to be a selfish act. There’s so much being said about self-care at the moment, and I truly believe it’s one of the most important things you can do. There’s a quote that says: “You can’t pour from an empty cup” that really helped me to understand the importance of self-care. How can you be there for other people if you’re running on empty? So showing yourself a bit of love this Valentine’s Day could encompass literally anything – from spending a bit of money on something you’ve been lusting after to running yourself a bubbly bath or setting aside half an hour to read some of your favourite book.

Invite some friends over for dinner

If you enjoy a bit of cooking and you’ve got a few single friends, why not invite them over for a yummy dinner? Now I’ll admit, I’m no Nigella, but it can be good fun to get a few friends over, pick a new recipe (or an old favourite) and cook some good food for everyone. I love that satisfaction you get being able to feed people you care about and, hopefully, getting some great feedback. Or if you’re not a very confident chef, get your friends to come a bit earlier and all cook together – believe me there will be plenty of laughs! If cooking really feels too scary and you’re concerned your kitchen will end up looking like a toddler has emptied the contents of your fridge everywhere, invite your group over for a takeaway instead. It will not only be better than trying to book a meal out (which would cost a fortune and mean you’re surrounded by couples) but it will provide a great distraction, as well as a chance to spend some quality time with people you love.

Remind yourself of the good things about being single

This one is a bit easier said than done, but I promise you it is possible (if someone like me can manage it, then I guarantee anyone can!) Especially this time of year, when the media are trying to remind you of how amazing it is to be in a relationship (they seem to forget to mention the hard bits!) it can be difficult to think of anything else. But that also makes it a great time to try and think of all the good things about being single, and remind yourself that where you are now isn’t all bad. For example, I always remind myself that I don’t have to consider anyone else’s opinion if I want to, say, go out somewhere or spend all weekend curled up on the sofa binge-watching episodes of Friends. I’m not saying that people in relationships don’t have their own free will, but being part of a partnership does mean you have two people’s views to consider. Yes, there are a lot of things I would love to have from being in a relationship with someone, but the fact is, I’m single. So it’s about trying to be grateful for what you do have, rather than feeling sad about what you don’t.

Have a spa day

On the same lines as practicing some self-love, I think Valentine’s Day is the perfect excuse to book yourself in for some much deserved pampering (not that I think you need an excuse – as far as I’m concerned, any reason for a spa day is OK by me!) But I think a bit of indulgence now and again is good for everyone. One of my personal favourites is Champneys - I’ve been to their Forest Mere Spa a couple of times and absolutely loved it both times. But there are so many gorgeous spas around the country – it won’t be hard to find the right one for you. If you can’t stretch to a fancy spa visit, that shouldn’t stop you treating yourself to some pampering. You could go and get your nails done, or book in for a massage or facial with your local beauty therapist. Or you could even do a DIY spa day – dig out some nice skincare bits from the back of your cupboard, light some candles, put on some relaxing music and set aside an evening for pampering yourself.

Buy yourself some flowers

I always think it’s lovely to be bought flowers (not that it happens to me very often!) Whenever a friend or family member has given me a bunch of flowers, I can’t help but smile and feel all warm and fuzzy inside. And having fresh flowers around the house, especially while the weather is still cold and grey, really helps to brighten up the place and lift my mood. But like I said, being given flowers isn’t a regular occurrence, so I like to treat myself to a bunch now and again. Usually mine just come from the supermarket - you can get some real bargains – this week I picked up a bunch of beautiful rainbow tulips from Tesco for only £6! If you’re thinking of treating yourself to some blooms this Valentine’s Day though, my biggest tip would be to wait and buy them the day after. Shops usually put prices up around February 14th, but more often than not, you will go in the day after and find a huge amount of stock still for sale, but at a reduced price – bargain!

Forget about dating apps for the day

I’m terrible for whiling away the hours flicking through Tinder – swiping left and right until that message comes up telling me there’s no-one left in my area (how depressing is that?!) Sometimes it can make me feel like I’m being proactive, but a lot of the time I just end up feeling disillusioned that I’m still single and can’t seem to find The One. So, just for a day, leave the dating apps and websites alone and focus on having some fun. The last thing you want to be doing on Valentine’s Day is scrolling through hundreds of pictures, making yourself feel even worse about being single when it feels like everyone else is out on dates. Plus I’ve found that the V Day seems to attract some ‘interesting’ people to the world of online dating – believe me when I say they are best avoided until the hype has calmed down a bit!

Organise/take part in a Valentine’s Secret Santa

My last tip for enjoying Valentine’s Day when you’re single, is to take part in a Secret Santa. Now, I know what you’re thinking – Christmas was two months ago! But this Secret Santa is specifically for Valentine’s. I’ve been doing this with some friends I met through the chronic illness community for a number of years, and it really makes this time of a year a bit nicer. Someone simply takes everyone’s names and secretly matches you up with a person to send a card (and sometimes a present) to – just like Secret Santa. It means that, even if you’re single on Valentine’s Day, you still end up getting something through the post to open. There are plenty of cute cards out there that aren’t too soppy and are perfect for this kind of thing. If you don’t have a group of friends to do this with, search the hashtags on Instagram or Twitter for Secret Valentine and you’re bound to find someone organising one. You never know – you might even find a new friend (or more!)

I really hope this has given you a few fun ideas to help you enjoy Valentine’s Day this year, whether you’re single or in a relationship. I’ve also filmed a video talking about this, which you can find on my YouTube Channel. However you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day this year, I hope it will help you remember how much you are loved.

What I’m wearing:

Jumper – Primark
Denim Leggings – Next
Rainbow Dr Martens - Schuh

Are you a fan of Valentine’s Day? How will you be celebrating this year?

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Hopes and Dreams for my blog and YouTube

I know this is the kind of post that you would usually see at the beginning of the year, but I’m never one to follow the rules! I wrote my first post on this blog on the 22nd September 2013 – that’s four and a half years ago – where has the time gone?! I also uploaded my first YouTube video three years ago, which just feels crazy because I remember so clearly both of these firsts. I started my blog and YouTube for a number of reasons – I loved reading and watching other people’s content and was looking for a creative outlet to distract me from my health problems. I put it off for so long, thinking I wasn’t good enough to make my own content, but finally decided to give it a go. I just wish I’d started sooner! When I started out, I didn’t really have any goals or plans for my blog or my YouTube. It was just a hobby and my only goal was to upload a post or a video whenever I fancied it.

But as the years have gone by, my life has changed a lot, and so have my priorities for my little spaces on the Internet. I’m coming to the end of my three-year journalism degree, and for the first time I’m looking at my blog and YouTube channels as an opportunity for something bigger than a hobby. The idea of working has always been a difficult one for me because of my health problems. Trying to hold down a 9-5 job is out of the question because I don’t know how ill I will be from one day to the next. But being able to turn my love of writing and creating content into a career that will actually fit around my health problems is something I’m starting to give more thought to. I know it’s not something that will happen overnight, and of course, it will still take a lot of work. But it’s work I’m willing to put in if it means I can create a job that I both love and that I can actually do.

So I thought I would just share some of my hopes and dreams for the future of my blog and YouTube channel with you. Some of them are realistic, while others are pretty out there. But as the blogging world has shown over the last few years – nothing is impossible!

Hit the right numbers

I really don’t want to get bogged down in numbers because I worry that I will lose what initially attracted me to blogging and making videos. But the reality is, numbers open the doors to success. So I would really love to hit 1000 subscribers both on my blog and on my YouTube channel. In the grand scheme of things, 1000 is a pretty small number when you consider the big bloggers and YouTubers out there. But for me, it would be a massive achievement and would hopefully see me on the way to bigger and better things.

Gain more conversation

This kind of links to numbers, but for me it’s more of a qualitative element. I would really love to have more interaction with the people that read my blog and watch my videos. I always think it’s lovely when I watch my favourite YouTubers, read my favourite blogs and look on social media, and you see lots of people commenting and interacting. I have very few commenters at the moment, and it’s something I would really love to see increase. Now I need to get quicker at actually responding to any comments I do get, but it would be lovely to see that number of comments growing too.

Get into a routine

Up until now, I haven’t had any kind of schedule on my blog or my YouTube. It’s just been a case of posting as and when I have the time and energy. But once I’ve finished university this summer, I’m really hoping I will be able to focus on my blog/YouTube fully, and can therefore actually plan my content ahead of time, so you guys know when to expect a post or a video (I can wish right?!)

Work with awesome brands

I’ve been lucky enough over the last few years to work with a few different brands – some quite small, but also a couple of bigger brands. I always find it strange when I check my e-mails to find a brand I recognise asking if I’d like to work with them – it’s one of those pinch me moments when I wonder if I’m dreaming! But through reading other blogs and watching other YouTubers, there’s still a hell of a lot I would love to do. There are so many awesome brands out there that I would love to collaborate with (I’m thinking Disney, New Look, Mac… so many fashion and beauty brands I don’t even know where to start!) Just having the opportunity to get creative with a different set of resources would be amazing.

Get invited to events

I guess this one could be linked back to working with brands, but I would love to be invited to more events. I absolutely love seeing other bloggers/YouTubers go to all these amazing trips and events put on by brands, and it’s the dream that one day I might be at some of those too. Yes, it’s not always going to be easy with my health getting in the way, but a girl can dream right?!


Much like seeing others going to events and parties, I’m always swooning over the content bloggers create when they get to travel around the world. This is either off their own back or through a trip organised by a brand – I’m really not fussy! Travelling and seeing the world with a chronic illness isn’t easy, but I know it is possible and it’s something I would love to do more of. Being able to use travel to talk about the realities of travelling with a wheelchair and chronic illness on my blog and YouTube would be great.

There are so many other little things I would like to achieve when it comes to my blog and YouTube – improving my photography, increasing the amount of content I’m able to put out, meeting other bloggers and making some friends. But these are a few of the ‘big’ ones that I thought would be fun to share with you in this post. So keep your eyes peeled – maybe one day I’ll be doing all of these things and more!

If you’re a blogger or YouTuber, what are your hopes and dreams for your channels? What are your thoughts on mine?