12 Swaps To Make Today.

There are so many things in everyone’s life that we need or want to change. Paint the kitchen, learn a language, lose 50lbs, change the car tyres, get certified as a chef, have children, etc. And a lot of these tasks are long, take hard work and commitment and feel quite daunting.

So here are 12 super easy, super simple things you can swap around in your life today, as in, actually this very day, without much time, effort or money involved. They will improve your health, finances and peace of mind massively, too!

1: Skip the snacks aisle.

Next time you’re in the supermarket, steer clear of the chocolatey, cereal bar and candy aisles and instead linger a little longer around the fruits and greens. Your body will thank you for something a little fresher and more nutrient dense.

2: Clean as you go.

When you’re  waiting for a pot to boil, wash anything you’ve recently used. When you’re making the bed, collect the laundry. When you’re choosing a DVD, put away the ones that are out. The house is so much tidier for just a few seconds’ work.

3: Get a charity box.

Keep it near the door and whenever you find something you aren’t using, drop it in. Then, when you’re next charity shopping or just in town, drop it off. Some charity shops, like the Salvation Army, have bag reward schemes where you get in-shop discounts for your donations, so ask about them.

4: Have tea or water.

Next time you’re ordering or making a hot drink, switch to tea. Next time you’re ordering or getting a cold drink, grab water. It’s healthier and cheaper and takes no extra effort.

5: Turn the TV off.

Try and keep the TV off for an hour or so a day when you would usually watch it. If you watch it whilst sewing, try the radio or music instead. If you watch it for its own sake, try reading or crafting. TV can overwhelm the mind and distract you, so a break is good.

6: Unwind.

Before you go to bed, try and spend some time relaxing, even if it’s just five minutes. Do a little yoga, stretch off, meditate, listen to music. Anything to let go of the day’s stress and ease your body and mind so you’re ready for sleep.

7: Take the stairs.

You won’t always be able to do this. Sometimes you need the quickness of an elevator. But whenever stairs are available, ask yourself if you could take them.

8: Set aside half an hour.

Try and make half an hour free to spend some time with your friends and family. Whether you’re on the phone to your grandma whilst you do the ironing, Skyping with your cousins or sitting to play board games with your friends, try and spend time with the people who matter.

9: Doll up.

Put on some lipstick, trim your hair, paint your nails or pick out something nice to wear. However small, do something to make yourself look good and feel good.

10: Put away the distractions.

Even if just for a few hours, put your phone down, turn off your laptop or TV, put away the kindle and games and try and focus on something or just enjoy the quiet for a few minutes.

11: Read 10 pages.

Reading is good for you. You can learn something, enrich your vocabulary, or, at the least you learn something valuable about the writer or society as a whole. And it doesn’t need to be too time consuming. Just keep a book, e-reader or notebook by the side of your bed and try and read ten pages of something of quality.

12: Doodle.

As I have discussed, crafting is good for you. So even if you aren’t big on art or don’t think you’re talented, try and sketch a little here and there. It can help you refocus, relax or just get your head around something.

And those are twelve things you could change today, without much or any effort, and see your life change a little bit for the better.

What other ways can you think of that you could improve your life easily?

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

How To… prepare a “downer” kit.

Everyone gets a little down from time to time. Maybe you had a bad day, maybe you’re hormonal, maybe something serious happened or maybe you’re just born that way. And when you feel like that, there are things you want and need to help you feel better. As someone who lives with these feelings every few weeks and depressive bouts every month or so, I have more of less perfected the art of the “downer” kit. So here is how I make it.

This is part II of my ongoing “housekeeper’s kits” series. For part I, the household first aid kit, click here.

1: The container.

This is more important than it seems. You will need a moderately sized container, about as big as a large makeup bag or tiny backpack.

But it also has to have at least five compartments, if not more, be soft to touch, easy to open and in a soft, engaging colour like a pastel pink, yellow or green, bright white or something metallic. The reason for the compartments is so that it doesn’t need sorting, because the last thing you need is to dig through piles of things you don’t want looking for the one single thing you do want. The reason for the softness and easy-open is because when you are depressed your hormones are everywhere, which can cause crying (blurred vision and headaches) and wobbly hands (not best combined with fiddly clasps or sharp edges). And the reason for the colour is because you want something you can look at without hurting your eyes if you have a headache and that inspires energy and joy when you look at it.

2: Diet.

Far more important than you would guess. When you’re down you obviously crave certain comfort foods, but you also need to boost your micronutrients. Try keeping a balance of healthy snacks (dark chocolate, mixed nuts, Nakd bars, etc), healthy comfort food recipe alternatives (mac and cheese, pizza, meatloaf, spagbol, etc) and supplements known to help with depression (omega 3, vitamin B complex, St John’s Wort, evening primrose oil) in your bag at all times.

3: Exercise.

Keeping active helps you elevate your mood and distract yourself from depression. But fighting the lethargy can be hard. Make sure to keep some light weights and hand grips for armchair exercise and a yoga video to watch, to help encourage you to do five or ten minutes here and there.

4: Soothing.

Sometimes you’re feeling very shaky and just need to calm down. No appetite, no energy, no drive at all. You’re not exactly miserable at this point. You just look it and feel very tired or anxious. For these times, you need a soothing set. Keep at least two CD mixes or mp3 playlists with the most calming and happy songs you can find or tolerate when depressed. Have some sunglasses in case you need to go outside and even a sleep mask for when you’re home. Keep a bath salt mix in case the urge to soak in the tub strikes you, but the idea of mixing one is overwhelming. An inflatable neck pillow and a small hot water bottle may also help relax you.

5: Mood elevation.

For when you’re on your way up and need something to help you along or when you’ve just got out of rock bottom and need some distraction, keep some entertaining, exciting things around. A short book of jokes, a comedy or action film or some more invigorating music will help.

6: Human contact.

When you’re depressed, depending on why you’re down and how you deal with it, at some point you may not want to be alone. Try and keep a phonebook with names, house, work and mobile numbers and good contact hours for everyone who could help you in your time of need. This is very useful if you ever feel alone, panicked or paranoid and aren’t sure who to call.

Also, if these bouts are regular, try and have someone as your designated “depression monitor”, to call when you’re scared of hitting rock bottom or finding it hard to get out of bed. This should be someone who can just be there for you, encourage you and perhaps drive you to a new and interesting place to help kick you out of the smaller slumps.

7: Pamper.

Finally, you want to have things to treat yourself with. Massage oils, makeup, a hair styling set, a manicure set and some of your favourite childhood sweets would all be good for this area. Anything small and hard to get your hands on when you don’t even want to leave the house.

And that is what to put into a kit to fight depression, whether you’re just feeling a little down because of the weather or so bad you can’t face the thought of leaving bed.

What would you put into your “downer” kit?

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

5 Ways To Be More Independent.

We would all like to be more independent. After all, we live in a world where self-deification is the norm and pride, envy and greed are all justified, as you clearly deserve everything you want.

So whether you’re one of those people who feels worthy of everything they want or need or just someone who wants to avoid relying on those people, we all want to be more independent from others. This isn’t a safe world in which to be completely dependent, after all.

So what are the ways in which we can limit our dependence on others? Here are my top five.

1.- Self Awareness.

Self awareness is the very baseline. It is a raw, amoral, unemotional, rational analysis of who and what you are. Ask yourself these questions and answer as honestly as you can.

Who am I?

What defines me?

What do I add to others lives?

What do I get from others?

What is my purpose in life?

Who chose that purpose?

Am I fulfilling that purpose?

What are my flaws?

What are my shortcomings?

What holds me back?

What are my advantages?

Am I making use of them?

What are my goals?

Are they realistic?

Do they align with my purpose?

What am I doing with my life?

Am I making good use of my time?

How much do I have left?

What are my motivations?What is my priority?What matters most?

Are any of these questions making me uncomfortable? Why?

Did I answer any of these questions dishonestly? Why? What is the real answer?

Go through them again and again until you start to get a feel for who you really are. Face every side of yourself, especially the aspects you don’t like. The less you like them, the more you need to observe them. The parts of you that you least like are the ones you need to be the most aware of.

2.- Self Actualization.

Abraham Maslow defined self actualization as “the desire for self-fulfillment, namely the tendency for him [the individual] to become actualized in what he is potentially.” In other words, it is the desire to become the very best you can be, combined with a striving to become that best.

You cannot be independent without self actualizing. It is the next step from Self Awareness. Once you know who you are, you become aware of your potential. You might not know for sure how well you can do, but you will have an idea. Now you need to hunger for it.

You need to feel that compelling urge, that burning desire to reach the pinnacle of what you can be, to be the best.

Whatever you want out of life, whatever your purpose is, whatever you’re headed towards, you need to strive for it and strive to do the very best you can do.

3.- Self Sufficiency.

Part of becoming the very best you can be is cutting unnecessary dependence. And the biggest form of dependence is when you depend on others for your basic needs.

Of course, you can never actually eliminate the need for others unless you also eliminate others. If you want food, someone has to grow it, pick it and transport it. If you forage wild food you depend on there being wild plants, on having the ability to access them, on being protected from others who might interfere with your ability to forage. In short, as long as there are people, you will need people, even if it’s just to stop the other people from becoming a nuisance to you.

However there are many ways you can maximize your self sufficiency and ensure that you aren’t relying too much on individuals or organizations for support.

Look at where your money, your food, your shelter come from. These are the bare basics. The very first step is to ensure that your food and shelter come from your own money, not someone else’s. If your food and shelter come from your money, consider where your money comes from. Think of how you could use less money to have the same food and shelter. Consider whether it is preferable to work for someone else and get a stable paycheck but rely on your employer for work, or to work for yourself, rely only on yourself and your customers for work but risk earning less.

Some common forms of becoming more self sufficient are gardening, learning basic skills such as woodwork, plumbing or cleaning, installing a renewable energy source and walking or cycling rather than driving.

4.- Self Care.

The other side to reducing dependence is to reduce the need for less essential things. Other people provide company, affection, validation, stimulation. And it’s only natural to need and want these things. But we don’t want to rely on their continual supply. Needing someone else to validate you daily is as much a form of dependence as needing them to feed you is.

Instead, cultivate a form of self love through self care. This should be easier when you are self aware, self actualizing and largely self sufficient. You know who you are, where you are headed, what you want and you don’t desperately need anyone to get you there. This means you already have important, internal sources of validation: your skills, your identity, your goals.

But you need to also spend some time caring for yourself to cultivate this self love. Spending time alone if good for you. Even if it takes some effort at first, try and enjoy your own company. Make your own entertainment. Find books, films, games or hobbies that intellectually and emotionally stimulate you. Consider important questions and matters and reflect on them on your own. Play Devil’s Advocate against yourself.

Show yourself some tenderness. Afford yourself treats, relaxation time, idle hobbies and guilty pleasures.

Basically, learn to live on your own, to live with yourself. You don’t have to do it all the time. But it needs to be an option. You need to be able to be left on your own without pining.

5.- Self Integration.

Finally, I have been continually mentioning that you actually do need others for a lot of these things. You rely on either an employer or clients if not both for your income. You rely on gun manufacturers, law enforcement or other measures for your safety. If you plan on reading to liven your mind, you are relying on the writer, the publisher, the source of the book. You can never cut yourself off from humanity.

So the last crucial step to independence is to integrate yourself well into society. You will always need people. So try and only rely on people worth relying on. Rely on select people minimally and let them rely on you minimally. Establish clear boundaries in your relationships as to how far dependence can go. You want to be an active member of society. But you want to be a self aware, self actualized, self sufficient, self caring one too.

TTFN and Happy Hunting.

Do you view yourself as independent? What do you find yourself relying on too much? Do you find you’re at the other end of the spectrum and too detached from people? What parts of the self awareness questions did you find hardest? What parts of yourself are you fighting to reconcile with? If you feel comfortable doing so, share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

10 Ways to Take Care of Yourself.

We all know and understand the message of looking after ourselves first. Everything from the little reminder during airline safety videos to advice for first time mothers reminds us that you can’t help someone before making sure you’re safe yourself.

But it can be hard to stick to this. Most of us have someone we put at the same level as ourselves, if not before us in terms of wellbeing. All of us have at some point harmed our health by trying to care for someone else. It’s all well and good to say “look after yourself”, but when the time actually comes, all you want to do is give everything to your partner, child, friend, relative or pet. When we try and look after ourselves first we can feel guilty or worried.

So what are some ways we can take care of ourselves when really all we want to do is run around looking after other people?

1. Quiet corner.

This is first because it’s the very first thing you can do. Everything else comes in no particular order, but this is big. Find yourself a nice, quiet corner of the house to call your own and to make comfortable. Try and keep any stressful work away from it and make it pretty clear that it’s your territory and refuge. It doesn’t have to be a room. The bath, a comfy chair or even the garden could do. Wherever you are comfortable, happy and out of the way of household traffic.

2. Eat well.

Eating healthy is vital to looking after yourself. Make sure that you eat food that energizes you and refreshes you, avoid food that makes you sluggish or unwell and don’t eat too much or too little. Eat when you’re hungry and not just when you get the time. Drink plenty of fluids. Don’t let yourself get away with a diet you’d never feed someone else. You deserve as good and healthy a meal as anyone else.

3. Bedtimes.

Set a bedtime and stick to it as much as possible. Sure, you may get up to care for someone who is sick or to put a child back to bed, but in principle, lights out is lights out. Try and guarantee yourself a routine, some proper rest and some bedroom privacy.

4. Dress up.

Make yourself look nice every day. Maybe not dressing to the nines, but wear practical clothes you like seeing yourself in, sort your hair, put on a bit of jewelery, a dusting of makeup, get rid of hangnails and dirty hands. Seeing yourself looking good will boost your confidence and mood.

5. Have a treat.

Even if you’re making sure to eat really healthy, budget properly and stay focused, from time to time give yourself a treat. It doesn’t have to be something massive, expensive, extravagant or anything of the sort. But if you’re the sort of person who will, in a week, buy £20 of chocolate for a loved one and not allow themselves a boiled sweet for the entire seven days, you’ll understand when I say: it really isn’t that big of a deal. Have a little treat. Enjoy it.

6. Get a hobby.

Find something you can do that you love. It might be scrapbooking, painting, dancing, cooking, rappelling, sewing, anything. But find something you love and make a habit of doing it. Maybe you’ll go to a monthly book club or maybe you’ll set aside twenty minutes a day to garden. Whatever it is and however often, take some time to just be you and have fun.

7. Exercise.

No matter how healthy you’re eating, how well rested you are and how little time you have, try and find a few minutes a day to exercise. It will build your muscles, burn through fat, elevate your mood and get you fired up and ready for the next challenge. Maybe you can only manage a four minute emergency workout in the morning. Or maybe you have three hours a week to dedicate to jogging. Whatever it is, do it.

8. Unwind.

Just because you have your quiet space and bedtime doesn’t mean those are the only times and places you can relax. Sit down with the kids and read a book. Watch a film with your partner. Just soak in the bath. Do something once in a while to completely put your mind and body at ease.

9. Get out.

It can be very easy to get locked between work, home, shopping and any other closed spaces, like bars, clubs, gyms, restaurants or friends’ houses. But the great outdoors can help you in many ways. Just looking at plants can relax you, fresh air does a body good and sunlight provides life-giving Vitamin D. A brisk walk in the park once a week could make life so much easier.

10. Laugh.

Laughter being the best medicine is a commonly repeated and mocked expression. But, in reality, it does help. Laughter can provide pain relief, relax you, make you happy and boost your immune system. So find something comical, sit down and have a good laugh. Laugh even at the bad jokes, the inappropriate ones, the offensive ones, the ones you don’t like. Laugh more and you’ll feel better all round.

Do you think you look after yourself well? Or do you always put others first and yourself last? How do you look after yourself? How could you improve? Feel free to share.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!