Monthly Gratitude: March

Hello to instalment number 10 of Monthly Gratitude!

This month has not been easy on the world and whilst I won’t talk about it in any detail (or much at all really), this post does allude to it because it’s kind of unavoidable. Gratitude is a beneficial practice regularly anyway, but in times of difficulty, it’s a simple but effective practice to help lift your spirits.

So here goes my list for this month…

1. Free Eurostar. We took advantage of the Eurostar sales months ago and bagged ourselves a trip to Brussels for a few days, not at all expecting to have to cut it short. Whilst the situation didn’t really seem to be an issue on our outbound trip, the shops, restaurants, bars and attractions all closed on our second day. Thankfully, Eurostar amended their ticket policy to allow anyone travelling home to get an earlier train for free which I am so grateful for. Being in a different environment is tricky with so much uncertainty, so being in a different country was definitely affecting my mental health.

2. The ability to work from home. We are in an age where lots of people can fortunately continue their day jobs at home. It might mean taking over the dining table with your laptop and books or having conference calls from your spare room, but mostly I can do my job from home the same as I would in the office. Some aren’t so fortunate and are either unable to work or having to go out to their place of work and my heart goes out to everyone in that situation. I really hope that those able to are doing our bit by staying home if we can, and that this passes as quickly as it seems to have swooped in and changed our daily lives.

3. The NHS. I’ve seen first-hand the life-saving work that the NHS do when Dean fell seriously ill a few years ago. I’ve shared my gratitude for them before and raised money for the department that particularly cared for him (more on that here) but I wanted to share my gratitude for the wider NHS system and the people who are on the front line at the moment.

4. The beautiful weather. We might be limited on outings but the blue sky and sunshine certainly help when you’re looking for positivity and motivation. We’ve been flinging the windows open and working by the window to get as much natural light as possible.

5. Positive social media community. The beauty of social media sometimes is the Mute button and the Unfollow button. You can tailor your feed to the people and the posts that you want to see. Whether you go to Instagram for an escape or to interact with like-minded people, it can be such a beautiful place when everyone comes together and supports each other.

6. Technology. On a wider scale than just social media, technology is the bridge to the outside world right now and I couldn’t be more appreciative. Instagram direct messages, WhatsApp video calls, Xbox Live to play games with friends; it’s amazing how we can socialise from our sofas!

What are you grateful for this month?

Why I’ve Stopped Watching the News

I might have muted words and phrases on Twitter but why can’t I stop myself from searching about it on Google? I keep reassuring myself and when I say it out loud, it does sound irrational, but why can’t I stop thinking about it?

It’s the reason I can’t watch House MD even when I have the slightest cold or any aches and pains, and I’m sure I’m not alone when I say it’s something I’m currently struggling with.

Health Anxiety.

I feel like as a Brit, maybe the panic is something I should be used to by now.

“It’s snowing… Quick! Everybody go home from work and school or we might be stuck here forever behind that one inch of snow that might only stick for one day, but everybody paniiiiiic!”

I don’t really watch the news anymore because it embeds a fear in me that my brain already compiles for itself. I’ll scroll the BBC News app if I’m feeling particularly brave but otherwise, I’m quite happy in my Netflix and Instagram bubble. My theory is that if it’s something I really need to know, the news will reach me somehow.

Some news, however, seeps through on more than a need-to-know basis and that’s when it gets tricky. A pandemic illness, a worldwide drama, perhaps affecting multiple regions and countries. I might not fit the criteria or be in the right area but if the internet is panicking, should I be panicking?

No. The answer is no. I think.

Oh the irony of worrying about my physical health having a negative impact on my mental health (and in turn, sometimes, physical health!)

So I shut myself off from it all. I take a break from social media, mute keywords on Twitter and delete all the shortcuts from my home screen. I even write on my Instagram stories that I’m taking a break, only to come back a few days later when I realise that the platform for pretty pictures and uplifting captions (certainly amongst the people I follow) might actually help rather than hinder (because social media isn’t all awful and scary). I decide that the app I’ll leave for a while is Twitter, but then Google notifications start pinging to tell me how terrifying everything is and it feels like even though I’ve closed the door, it’s now lurking at the window, still trying to get in.

I open the door to peer out into the daylight and there it is: “Oh, were you just about reaching rational thoughts? Well, here’s the thing, you should still be worried and here are ten reasons why…”

There’s no escaping it when it has the outside world to roam around in, in the same way you can’t mute keywords on your Google app. A not-so-ideal realisation for anyone in this predicament.

One thing that helps is talking. Hearing other points of view, particularly from Dean who is the honestly the best person to balance out my irrational worries (no, you’re biased). Even saying what I’m thinking out loud helps me hear the sheer irrationality of it, for a while at least.

The trick is not to Google it, not to even dip my toe in the sea of scaremongering, clickbait article titles. It’s okay to open the door, to step outside into the daylight, but a ship cannot sink if it does not let the water in. I try to work on my resilience, remind myself of the reasons why my nearest and dearest are not panicking (even my Mum, who is more of a worrier than me) and therefore why it’s okay to have those thoughts, but not to let them sink my ship.

Bad things happen in the world, scary things happen in the world (I’d be naive to think they don’t), and if I switch on the TV to the news at tea time, I’m going to hear them all and that might just be the wave to try and write off my vessel.

I’ve taken solace in reading not only the Harry Potter series to lose myself in a magical novel, but also in life stories from authors such as Matt Haig and Fiona Thomas, who explore the worlds of anxiety and the effects of technology on an already troubled mind. Taking out a library membership might have been one of the best things I’ve done for my mind. Not only does it force me out into the fresh air to collect a reservation or return a due item; it has also led me to these authors that have opened my mind and helped me feel somewhat at ease that I’m not the only one that experiences these feelings and that all thoughts will pass.

Whilst reducing my screen time has led my Instagram following to drop and my blogging to take a back seat, it has also opened my mind to what I think might be my favourite genre of book to read. In the same way that I have found like-minded, lovely, uplifting people on social media, I’ve found like-minded people and their thoughts on a physical set of pages.

I don’t think it’s realistic to try to live a life without hearing negative news stories or nerve-wracking goings on in the world, but I do think it’s possible to filter out the unhelpful and let in the need-to-know and the uplifting. If I can be selective with the people I choose to associate with and the events I go to, there’s no reason I can’t be selective with the information I consume too.

Monthly Gratitude: February

It’s month nine and we’re still going strong with the monthly gratitude! Having a series is certainly keeping up my motivation to write, even when there’s no weekly post, wanting to share a monthly gratitude roundup is the one staple on The Girl in Flat 26.

The year has started well and there are a fair few things I’m grateful for. Writing these lists is certainly a good way to lift my mood as well as recognise all the fun things that this year has brought so far. I definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a pick-me-up!

Cinnamon pretzels. I don’t eat pretzels often but we went to a German-themed Brewery festival and the ticket included a pretzel and half-stein of beer. I mean, I was sold at pretzel!

My dentist and her assistant. After not having been to the dentist for longer than I dare to admit, we finally registered at our local dental practice. Whilst we were able to go to our checkups on the same day, Dean was at work when I went back for some minor treatment. Thankfully my dentist and her assistant talked me through the process and they were very understanding.

The helpful man in IKEA who told us where to find the bedroom drawers we were looking for and a shortcut! We might have got a little bit lost initially (who doesn’t in there?!) but we still made it to the bedroom drawers that we wanted in record time and spent less than one hour in total in there (despite wanting to buy all the showrooms we walked past). It was after work on a Friday and I’m just really glad we made it out of there at a reasonable time for dinner.

Fun Saturdays and Lazy Sundays. This is the general layout of my weekend and I’m happy with that. Have all the fun on a Saturday and then rest and recharge on a Sunday!

Living close to the library. I’m on book three of the year and it’s all thanks to my new library membership and whilst they don’t necessarily have all the books I want at my local branch, I realised you can reserve books which opens so many new literary doors!


What are you grateful for this month?

 

Monthly Gratitude: January

Is it too late to say Happy New Year?! I took some time out from the blog and from social media, quite unintentionally, but it was a nice break. Sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves to create “perfect” content and post at a certain time every single day, and it can become exhausting. Like any activity, whether it’s your career or just a hobby, we all need a break once in a while.

That said, I’m back on the blog and I’m here to share my monthly gratitude with you! This recurring post serves as a reminder to myself and to anyone who reads this that there are always reasons to be grateful, even if they are seemingly small. It’s about celebrating the small wins and finding positivity in gratitude.

1. Living and working within very close walking distance to a library. One of my goals this year is to read more and I whizzed through one of Matt Haig’s novels for free thanks to the local library. It was very quick and easy to sign up (start online and complete registration in person) and now I can reserve, renew and search the library all online.

2. The NHS. I sought advice from a pharmacist, used the 111 service, went to a walk-in centre, and to a doctor’s appointment in January and I was very content with the service. I’m just about back on my feet and I’m very grateful for that!

3. Planning new adventures. January can be a bit of a blue month, the festivities are over and everyone wants to get in shape and save money. One remedy I’ve found (as well as the tips I shared here) is to book your next adventure: Ryanair or Eurostar offers coupled with AirBnB can make budget breaks super easy! It is wonderful to have something to look forward to.

What are you grateful for this month?

How to Beat the Post-Christmas Blues

Christmas is such a beautiful, festive time that has a very long build-up yet is over very quickly. It’s not uncommon for Winter weather to already have an impact on mental health which means that the post-Christmas blues couldn’t come at a worse time. Believe it or not though, I’m not here to talk all doom and gloom, I’m here to share some ideas to help lift spirits that work for me.

Get Active.
Red January is the perfect opportunity to raise money for charity and get those muscles moving after having been slumped on the sofa watching Gavin & Stacey and eating Christmas chocs. It’s really up to you what you do, but the premise is getting active every day throughout the month of January in partnership with Mind charity for mental health. Exercise has been proven to improve mental health and I know that personally, I don’t need to buy a bike or a gym membership, even just a walk around my local area can lift my spirits.

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Harness an Attitude of Gratitude.
This one is a monthly occurrence for me but it certainly helps in the times that I’m struggling more with my mental wellbeing. Sitting down each morning or evening to write down 3-5 things that you are grateful for can help you dig deep for reasons to feel a bit more positive.

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Recognise Your Emotions.
It’s absolutely okay to be sad and experience those emotions rather than pack them deep and trying to be positive all the time – that’s exhausting! Sometimes I watch a sad film and just let myself cry because I know that’s what’s needed, other times I might talk to someone I trust because the one thing that I know will help is a listening ear.

How do you combat the post-Christmas blues?

Monthly Gratitude: December

We have not only reached the end of the calendar year but of the decade, can you believe it?! Personally, I’m trying not to put any pressure on it because it’s quite overwhelming for me, I’m just taking each, day, month, year as it comes. It is exciting though, and I hope it’s a healthy and happy year and decade for you!

December is a mixture of emotions for me, and perhaps for others too. I love Christmas and the build up to it, but I struggle with Winter, the short daylight hours and harsh weather conditions.

Gratitude helps me through this. There are always reasons to be grateful and there’s always a way to find them. Here are mine…

1. My Secret Santa gift. I’m pretty quiet at work so to receive a thoughtful and relevant gift from my secret santa was such a pleasant surprise. Gin, candles and a chocolate orange – you can’t go wrong!

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2. The ability to see my family over Christmas. Not everyone has the chance to see family over Christmas, perhaps they live far away or perhaps they’re working. Family is a huge deal for me and Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without them. My Dad almost had to work but he managed to reshuffle it so that we could all spend the day together and it was the best news when I found out!

3. The cold but dry and bright weather that we’ve had in the last couple of weeks. Rainy days can really lower motivation so when it’s at least dry and there’s a bit of blue sky, it does make it easier to get up and outside!

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4. The blogging community. There are many times that I’ve considered deleting my blog and from the blogging community on social media, I know that I’m not alone. Not only that, I interact with people on Instagram who post uplifting content, real life content to remind each other that it isn’t always rainbows and butterflies, and that’s absolutely okay. We may not have met but there are people who really lift me up and the support is truly humbling so I want to take this opportunity to say thank you for reading my posts, interacting with me online, sharing my content and making the blogging world a lovely place to be.

Wishing you all the success and joy in 2020. See you next year!

Blogmas: Twenty-Five Ways to Say Merry Christmas!

1. Merry Christmas! (UK/USA)
2. Nadolig Llawen (Wales)
3. Nollaig Chridheil (Scotland)
4. Nollaig Shona Dhuit (Ireland)
5. Joyeux Noel (France)
6. Feliz Navidad (Spain)
7. Boas Festas (Portugal
8. Buon Natale (Italy)

9. Frohliche Weihnachten (Germany)
10. Il-Milied it-Tajjeb / Festi t-Tajba (Malta)
11. Boldog Karacsonyt (Hungary)
12. Frohe Weihnachten (Austria)
13. Vesele Vanoce / Vesele Vianoce (Czech Republic & Slovakia)
14. Laimingu Kaledu (Lithuania)
15. God Jul (Sweden/Norway)
16. Prettige Kerstdagen (Netherlands)

17. Kala Christougenna (Greece)
18. Milad Mubarak (Morocco)
19. Häid Jõule (Estonia)
20. Hyvää Joulua (Finland)
21. Glædelig Jul (Denmark)
22. Gleðileg jól (Iceland)
23. Milad bayramınız mübarək (Azerbaijan)
24. счастливого Рождества
schastlivogo Rozhdestva (Russia)
25. Priecīgus Ziemassvētkus (Latvia)

Are there any languages you can add to the list? Let me know in the comments. Hope you have a beautiful, heartwarming day!