Have We Been Brainwashed into Buying More?

I love stumbling across something random on Netflix and this week I just so happened to stumble across Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things which definitely got me thinking.

Now, I’m not a minimalist at all nor am I a hoarder – for one I’m not a big shopping fan – but the documentary did raise some interesting points about whether or not, over a number of decades being exposed to some fairly insidious advertising techniques, we have collectively and inadvertently bought into a culture of compulsive consumerism.

One of the questions it was suggested to ask yourself was if the goods you are buying are adding value to your life. If they are great, purchase them but essentially, it’s just adding a moment of mindfulness before getting sucked into the next fashion fad and spending for the sake of spending.

I won’t say too much more about the programme as I’d rather people watch it themselves and make their own minds up or head over to the website of the people behind the programme and book:

https://www.theminimalists.com/films/

So, Have We All Been Brainwashed?

Probably – who hasn’t even just once in their lives purchased something, not because it added real value to our lives, but because of the supposed prestige that came along with wearing/owning that item.

I came from a really disadvantaged background where money was very tight – always. It never bothered me until I got to high school and the fact that I was bullied on a daily basis for living in social housing and not having the “right” trainers or clothes with the most fashionable label. My first job was as a paper-girl at 13 (without a bike!) where I trudged the streets for a measly £5.00 per week 6-days a week getting up at 6 am. I knew as soon as I got that job what I was going to buy when I’d saved up enough money – a pair of Adidas trainers. It took me 5 weeks to buy a super discounted pair but I still remember how proud I was when I got those trainers.

Did it stop the bullying? No, the damage was already done but I don’t blame the children who bullied me anymore. They were brainwashed and victims themselves of a culture that celebrates “things” over “people”.

Can We Change the Compulsive Consumer Culture?

Definitely – I think the tide is already turning. So many of us now are realising that we were duped. We bought all the wonderful make-up, clothes, technology, cars, holidays, etc but we still feel unfulfilled. What’s that all about?

I’ve come across so many people recently who have made the decision to turn inwards towards themselves, as well as reconnecting with other people rather than things, and in doing so have found genuine peace and happiness. Once that peace is discovered, the compulsive consumer illusion tends to shatter irrevocably pretty quickly.

It doesn’t mean that we have to live like hermits and give up all our belongings, just a priority re-adjustment on what’s really important and brings more lasting contentment. It also doesn’t mean that we’ll never be sad, angry, hurt, confused or feel unfulfilled at times – it’s about facing those feelings and not quashing those emotions with short-lived and shallow distractions.

Having said all that, this is all just my take on our current culture tendencies, as inspired by the documentary and my own observations. Give the documentary a try yourself and let me know what you think in the comments 🙂

Blog Archives

Summer Solstice Sunset 2019

A Lovely End to the Solstice

It’s 10:25 PM here in Manchester and the sun is just dipping below the Pennines.

Photo doesn’t do it justice; literally took my breath away as I entered my bedroom.

Litha/Summer Solstice Chan
A sacred time for many

Happy Summer Solstice – it’s been a beautiful day and evening x

🌞☀️🌞

Looking for Your Life Purpose?

No Planet B

Maybe this is it. If you haven’t yet watched the thought-provoking Our Planet on Netflix with Sir David Attenborough’s urgent message to us all, I highly recommend it.

Taking Inspiration from Across Generations

Personally, seeing Greta Thunberg and her fellow young supporters making such an impact, I feel pretty inspired to do whatever I can, whenever I can to at least try.

And the amazing thing about it is that it has helped bring new purpose to my life, to see and interact with the world around me in a different way.

Turning Over a New Leaf

It wasn’t always like this for me. I was never brought up in a family or world that really cared about these issues as strongly as they do today. But, as Sir David and his team of scientists make clear, there is still time – just.

I keep seeing the phrase “Every disaster movie starts with the government ignoring a scientist” and frighteningly there’s a lot of truth in that statement.

How You Can Help

If you do just one thing today to help the planet, become more educated on climate change whether by watching the amazing Our Planet or visiting websites such as WWF and Friends of the Earth – you’ll be glad you did.

Ten Things to Do on a Rainy Day

Rainy Day Stuff

Coming from Manchester, England, a place fairly well known for its grey days and rainy weather, and having lived here all my life, I sometimes have to get inventive when the kids are off school and the weather decides to put a dampener on the day.

Out of Term Entertainment

It’s currently half-term and many kids are still off school here at the moment for another week, with the forecast for the rest of the week being “unsettled”.

Whether you’ve got kids or are a big kid yourself, here’s my run-down of 10 things to try on a rainy day:

Go for a Welly Walk

Kids (and big kids!), often love splashing in puddles on a wet day. Take a brolly and wear your wellies, even if it’s a quick walk round the block. It’s a chance to get some fresh air and tire them out – who knows, you might even enjoy it.

Hot Chocolate & Marshmallows

I strongly recommend doing number 1 first and then coming in, wrapping up in some warm clothes and sipping hot chocolate and marshmallows to warm back up again. Very cosy.

Curl Up With a Good Book

Or film, whatever you prefer. You can incorporate number 1 and/or 2 above to make a day of it or just curl up in your jammies!

Spring Clean

Another option is to make the most of the bad weather to de-clutter the house. It doesn’t have to be the whole house, maybe just a room or a DIY job you’ve been meaning to get done. The benefit of doing this on a rainy day is that your not stuck in doors on a sunny day doing it.

Break Out the Board Games

Most of us have at least one board game or a pack of cards lying about the house but how often do we get them out in this digital-age with technology and new games and apps always at our fingertips? Monopoly anyone?

Bake a Cake

Of course it doesn’t have to be a cake – anything warm and cosy will do. Maybe a batch of home-made bread or pie. Kids love to get creative in the kitchen so maybe a home-made pizza and then that’s dinner sorted too!

Listen to the Rain

Many people find it very relaxing to listen to the sound of the rain as attested to by the multitude of apps available for this very activity. Just sitting and relaxing or meditating to the sound of the rain can be very soothing to the soul. Might struggle getting the kids to try this one!

Get Crafting

Again not something you see as much of nowadays with the abundance of technology around us, but I’ve yet to see a child turn down a fun crafting activity. It doesn’t have to be messy or expensive and it can be a fun way for adults to get in touch with their inner child – kids or no kids! It could by Play-doh, Kinetic Sand, painting, gluing and sticking…

Face-Paints/Makeovers

Why not break out the face paints and/or make up and give each other a brand new look!

Paper Aeroplane Tournament

This one’s my favourite, fun for all ages! Of course again, feel free to get creative – it doesn’t have to be paper aeroplanes. It could be a wind-up toy race or an origami competition for example.

So there you have it – my top ten ideas for a Rainy Day. Try one at a time or turn it into a challenge and take them all on. How many can you get through before the rain stops?

Want to be a Superhero?

Calling All Superheroes!

Great – Because now you can! Judging by the success of superhero films, TV shows and comics, pretty much most of us have dreamt of having superpowers at least once in our lives. But, I wonder, if we really did have superpowers, would we even use them?

The Nemesis

Usually, when the likes of the Avengers save the planet from some diabolical threat, we applaud that as a superpower. In real life though, there is a just as diabolical threat facing the planet right now but no superheroes to stop it. The threat, of course, is climate change.

For decades now, we’ve all heard about the damage being done to the planet and gradually matters have improved – but not quickly enough. Now we need to up our game, fast, if the damage is not to be irreversible.

Pick Your Superhero Power!

So, if you’ve ever wanted to save the planet and be a superhero, now’s your chance! Just pick one of the following as your new “superpower” and save the planet:

  • Drive with windows up;
  • Go “meat and dairy free” one day a week;
  • Reuse whatever you can, bags, jars coffee cups, water bottles;
  • Recycle everything;
  • Buy recyclable only where possible
  • Putting lids on pans when cooking;
  • Dry clothes outside;
  • Keep car tyres inflated;
  • Sign an online petition with an organisation like WWF or Greenpeace;
  • Lobby your MP;
  • Walk or use public transport;
  • Turn off lights;
  • Shorter showers;
  • Try zero waste

Imagine if every person on the planet changed just one thing in their lives from this list, what a difference that would make. Wouldn’t hurt to try?

What could you change today to save the world?

What’s Your Favourite Book?

What’s Your Favourite Book?

Too many to choose! I once saw a Pinterest quote that said something like asking a book-lover to choose their favourite book is like asking a mother to choose their favourite child.

So many books, genres, styles of writing, characters, worlds. Is it possible to narrow it down to one? I consider myself a book-lover and the book I come back to time and again to re-read is without a doubt Emily Brönte’s Wuthering Heights.  

Surely, this is what defines a favourite – a tale we return to, no matter how many times we’ve read it, to re-live the lives of our favourite characters, to a world and/or a time we have fallen in love with and to be an intimate observer of our hero or heroine’s highs and lows.

But I think what makes us really resonate with a writer or book so deeply is when a particular phrase jumps out at us from one of its pages and stays with you even after you finish reading the book.  It is these timeless phrases that, for me, define a classic.

My favourite quote from the book itself is the popular:

“Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same”.

Wuthering Heights – Emily Brönte

It is that soulmate, twin-flame energy, between the doomed Heathcliffe and Cathy, that is so reminiscent to me of those other tragic lovers, Romeo & Juliet. The reason why Wuthering Heights endures for me over Romeo and Juliet, however, is the longevity of the relationship and depth of emotion between its two main characters.

Following the twists and turns of Cathy and Heathcliffe’s tumultuous relationship with one another as they grow and begin to navigate their lives according to societal norms, rather than following their hearts is something I’ve been guilty of myself too many times in too many situations.  But, at its heart, Wuthering Heights is a tragic, brutally honest love story, set and written in a time when women were themselves expected to live their lives according to societal norms.  The author herself felt the need to release her book under an assumed male name, (as did her also talented sisters) Ellis Bell, as women were simply not supposed to feel or write “like that”.

Sometimes the best books are the ones where the author’s stories are as interesting as the book itself. It adds another layer of meaning to a story you already love, an opportunity to see the world of the book through the eyes of the world of the author.

What’s your favourite book and its quote? How did it make you see the world differently? Comment below.

Want to Feel Happier?

Happy Vibes

Who doesn’t? I hear you ask, but maybe the bigger question is why we don’t feel happy enough to begin with in today’s modern world.

Of course, there will always be times when we feel sad and upset as a normal part of life’s experiences, such as when we are made redundant or a relationship breaks down, the death of a loved one or an accident or illness.

But what about the other times – when life is in the grey area between our saddest moments and our happiest ones, like a marriage, birth of a child, a new job or some other cause for celebration. When our life is in this grey area, shouldn’t we feel happy most of the time, or certainly not feel “down”. And yet, one of the biggest questions searched on the internet is how to feel happier, suggesting that many of us often aren’t feeling very happy.

According to the United Nations World Happiness Report, Denmark is amongst the happiest places on the planet, with the general consensus being that the Danish culture of Hygge (pronounced “Hoo-gah”) goes a fair way in contributing to this.

Hygge is not something that is directly translatable in English but can be described as a feeling of cosiness and friendliness, leading to a feeling of contentment and well being. Maybe the fact that there is no word for this way of life in the English language is telling in itself.

Examples of Hygge include:

  • Snuggling under a blanket to read in front of an open fire;
  • Picnics with family and friends on a summer’s day;
  • Relaxing in a bath lit by candlelight;
  • Hot chocolate snuggled up with a loved one watching a film together;
  • Sharing meals with friends and family such as warming soups, porridge, stews and pancakes;
  • Barbecues and bonfires;
  • Getting out and enjoying nature;
  • Comfy clothing;
  • Hiking or walking whatever the weather either alone or with friends;
  • Playing board games.

Embracing a Hygge lifestyle means adopting a more leisurely pace in our lives. It requires us to disconnect often from the modern super-fast world in order for us to recharge our batteries by reconnecting with the people around us instead. It means taking the time to switch off from our phones and the virtual world and building, or re-building, our real life support systems with family, friends and our community at large. It is fostering these connections that creates that cosy, friendliness that leads to the path of happiness and well being according to Hygge philosophy.

The beauty of Hygge is that anyone can emulate it all for a relatively low-cost, if not for free.

“The secret of happiness is not in doing what one likes, but in liking what one does” .

– James M Barrie

Maybe another of the reasons we do not feel as happy as the Danes is that too many of us tend to do whatever we like but don’t actually like what we do, to quote James M Barrie.

So, if we want to feel happier not only can we implement these Hygge techniques into our daily lives but at the same time we need to stop and ask ourselves whether we actually like and enjoy what it is we are doing. Even if it’s paying the bills or doing the shopping or running the kids from one after school activity to another, can we make what we are doing more Hygge-like and foster a sense of warmth, cosiness and friendliness whilst doing it? It’s certainly worth a try!

Let me know in the comments of your Hygge activities – besides, what could be more Hygge-like than sharing your positive experiences with others?

When Was the Last Time You Got Excited About Your Life?

Feeling Uninspired?

Not until recently if I’m honest – which is a slightly sobering thought really!

Until having the idea to start this blog only a few weeks ago, I had got very stuck-in-a-rut in terms of my own routine, probably for longer than I’d like to admit. Everything felt “meh”.

Once the idea to blog came it wasn’t long before the next idea as to what to blog about came along too, then which platform to use, how to design it, what to include, what to write, when to launch, which social media, and so on. The momentum built and before I knew it I’d suddenly done all of these things that previously I hadn’t even thought about doing.

I’m not going to lie and say at times I haven’t found some part of the process uncomfortable, or even downright terrifying on the odd occasion, but it’s actually been a lot of fun and pretty thrilling too to see how that initial idea has already snowballed and started to grow. I’ve learnt to do things that are completely new and alien to me such as using Instagram and card readings for complete strangers. It’s also put me back in touch with things I loved doing when I was a kid, writing for fun, designing images and articles and just slowing down and noticing what I’m doing from time to time.

I came across the following quote from the very inspiring Howard Thurman this evening:

“Ask what makes you come alive and go do it because what the world needs is people who have come alive”.

Howard Thurman

So, what makes you come “alive”?

You may know exactly what you enjoy doing that makes you completely lose track of time or you may have no idea. But it’s definitely something we should all do more of, because, to quote Howard Thurman, “…what the world needs is people who have come alive”.

When I was feeling stuck for inspiration, I found it incredibly frustrating that none of my “old” hobbies were holding my interest the same nor were any of my endeavours into new hobbies gaining traction, if I even managed to think of something!

Having said that, the blog idea came to me as I walked back from the shop to buy some milk! Funny what makes inspiration strike?!

If you know what causes your “alive” feeling, comment below – who knows you might inspire others. If you don’t, don’t overthink it. If you have an idea to try something new and it piques your interest, have a go anyway, even if you think you’ll be no good at it or there’s “no point”. The point is to have fun which you’ll either have or you won’t – but you’ll very quickly know if you feel “alive” or not!

And if all else fails, try a walk to the shop for some milk 🙂

Top Tips Towards a More Balanced Life

Feeling Off-Balance?

For a long time, I felt totally adrift in my own life – from the moment I got up every morning, I was constantly rushing. The irony of it all was that no matter how much I rushed, the next day I’d get up and feel the need to do it all again!

Over the last few years I’ve been hit with an overwhelming sense of tiredness that seemed completely excessive and which I have come to believe was stress-induced and entirely avoidable. As soon as I started making an effort to bring a sense of calm to my day on a regular basis, life seemed less serious and became fun again.

Why not try some of the tips below to see if you can bring back a sense of peace and ease to your own life?

Take Responsibility for Your Life

What are the things that you are currently doing that are making your life harder than it needs to be? For me personally, this was over-indulging in alcohol as a “treat” whenever I felt stressed out. At the start of 2019, I committed to massively reducing my alcohol intake from drinking 3 or 4 times a week to less than once a month. Within a month or so, I was sleeping and eating better, had committed to a daily yoga practice and began reconnecting with hobbies I’d previously felt “too busy” to keep up with, as well as finding new ones! As a bonus, after a couple of months of not drinking, I found I didn’t really miss having a drink anyway or enjoy it when I did partake.

Take 20 Minutes a Day Just For You

When I stopped drinking alcohol, I wanted to fill up my time with a way to help me reduce the stress in my life that, up until then, I’d been using alcohol as a way of coping with. This coincided perfectly with the new 30 Days of Yoga programme being ran for free on You Tube by Yoga With Adriene. I made sure that the night before, I’d take a look at the calendar on the Yoga With Adriene website to see how long the session was for and work out whether it would be better for me to complete the session before work, on my lunch or afterwards. Some days the sessions were more than 20 minutes, sometimes they were less and sometimes I didn’t make it to the mat at all despite having the best intentions. I really did try to make yoga a priority however because I knew how good it made me feel afterwards and that it really was making me less stressed and more pleasant to be around generally. Soon I didn’t have to push myself to the mat at all, it became a pleasure. Yes it meant that sometimes tea was later than usual or that instead of flopping down in front of the TV when I came in from work, rolling the mat out instead and getting practice in before I felt too tired. Those, on average, 20 minutes a day of yoga became a way to re-energise and centre myself so that I was more relaxed around my family and friends instead of being in a bad mood, tired and grumpy from never taking any “me” time.

Start a Journal

This came about also at the start of 2019 because part of the 30 Days of Yoga this year recommended keeping a journal. I hadn’t kept a diary, other than for appointments, since I was a teenager so I was cynical to say the least. Despite this, I gave it a go and again found that it was actually enjoyable to get my whirring thoughts down on paper. In truth, I didn’t always manage to jot down an entry daily but for me that didn’t matter – part of feeling balanced was not putting myself under pressure to do any of these things if I really didn’t want to as then it would just become another job to add to the daily “to-do list” – the exact opposite of what I was trying to achieve! It also led to me re-discovering my love of writing and eventually to this blog.

Start, or Re-Start, a Hobby

Cutting out the time I was spending drinking each week left me with a lot more time and energy that up until then I’d been repeatedly wasting. I began by getting back into knitting along with my daily yoga practice which, by then, had also become a hobby. Shortly after this, as the weather improved, I got back into gardening and more recently I’ve started playing guitar again after a very long self-imposed hiatus. It amazes me sometimes how I fit it all in around having a family, a full-time job and now a blog too, especially as only a few months ago I was complaining of feeling too tired to do anything after work or at a weekend.

Get Inspired

Who are the people, brands or organisations that resonate most with you? For me, I’ve never been much of a fan of TV but with the rise of YouTube, Instagram and the like, I find myself catching up regularly with some of my favourite contributors such as Yoga With Adriene, Victor Oddo, Manna and numerous tarot and astrology readers on such platforms. Much of the progress I’ve made just since the start of 2019 has been, at least in part, made easier by following influencers I admire and taking advice they’ve shared with their viewers and applying it to my own life in a way that works for me. On a related note, I’ve started cutting out things that I find depressing or uninspiring. A big example of this is that I no longer watch the news daily. Up until 2019, I would start my day by sitting down in front of the TV and catching up with world events – quite frankly it’s no wonder I felt depressed! I really felt that I would miss something important if I didn’t check in with the 24-hour news stations throughout the day. As it turns out, I now rarely watch the news and still seem to be relatively up to date with what’s going on in the world through updates to my phone that only take a few seconds of my time instead of 30 minutes minimum. I feel so much happier in myself without the news on that I now actively avoid watching it whenever possible.

Of course, these are just a few of what I’ve noticed are really simple yet effective hacks that have worked for me but what about you – in what ways have you managed to balance your life?

New Editions to the Family: Guinea Pigs

28 April 2019

After trying to decide on the most suitable house pets for our family for a while now, today we finally settled on two adorable guinea pigs, who have yet to be named.

They appear to be settling well into their new home although we’re following the seller’s advice to give them plenty of space to relax and get used to their new surroundings before handling them too much.

It’s been a while since we’ve had pets actually. Previous pets have been Chloe Faye’s house rabbit, Thumper, and Lee’s guinea pig, Monster. Now that we’ve settled into our new home, and got an idea for what would work, it seemed a good time to reintroduce pets to our family.

Given the fox family that frequent the garden, these will of course be house guinea pigs too.