Category Archives: Quality of Life

Single Minded ~ Quick Inspiration for Single People (without families of their own)…

Ditch the stereotypes:

For some reason, society in general views single adults negatively. Romantic relationships have become something of an ‘idol’, a false ‘god’ that we fall down and worship as the ultimate source of happiness, fulfilment, joy and purpose in life. In magazines, television, film, online and among family and friendship groups, falling in love, getting married and having children is viewed as the purpose of life, and if you haven’t ‘achieved’ this in life, you may be looked upon with pity, while other people attempt to ‘fix’ whatever they think is ‘wrong’ with your life by looking for someone to complete you and fill the void in your lonely heart and life.

Don’t get me wrong, I recognise love, marriage and family as an important part of life, and a gift from God, for the purpose of honouring God. Ever since I was a little girl, I saw that as a big part of my life, but for whatever reason, it hasn’t worked out that way so far. And if I allow myself to be honest, I think I am grateful for this. Still hopeful for the future, but grateful for the present. I am very unlikely to idolize marriage in the way many people do. Christ is first in my heart and mind, and I am so thankful for that. I am more aware of the reality of marriage from my friend’s lives, that they are not always the  ‘fairy-tales’ they once dreamt of, and therefore I am not looking to another person to be emotionally resilient for me, which I have learned to be for myself. Even if you are not a Christian, these lessons still apply.

In times past, and if you have read any of Jane Austen’s novels you will be well aware of the societal norms of the time, marriage was closely related to social class, division of labour, financial stability, life expectancy and gender based roles, and the separation of work and home life. Therefore, to not be married by a certain age would be to have a somewhat insecure place in society and with fewer opportunities especially for women, single women beyond a certain age would generally be looked down upon old maids with no future prospects, and the gossipy societal view of such women would be particularly bleak.

However, times have changed, and although our desires for love and companionship and family for the most part remain, singleness can be viewed very differently in today’s society at least in most Western countries. Young and ‘middle aged’ women and men have more opportunities available to them, generally have longer life expectancy and therefore what was once considered middle aged in the past can still be considered young today.

And yet, some of the stereotypes (for example the single woman alone in an apartment surrounded by cats…where on earth did that come from?!) remain, and may even be ingrained in the psyche of certain generations. For whatever reason you find yourself at your particular age and stage and season of life as a single person, I invite you to ditch the stereotype and lie that your life can’t be purposeful, abundant and fulfilling. We can be a generation that inspires, that views this time and season of our lives as single people, whether it turns out to be temporary or ‘permanent’, as one in which we can be world changers, inspirers, people who put something positive into the world and make a difference.

And if you want to sit in an apartment full of cats, then that is your choice….but it is by no means your destiny! 🙂

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Lunch Bites – bite sized inspiration on your lunch break…

Don’t wait for the weekend!

Do you find yourself trudging through your working week – whether you work for an employer, work from home, or are your own boss – wishing that the weekend would hurry up and arrive already? If so, you may not be doing yourself many favours. Think about how much of your time is portioned up with work, whatever type of labour that may be. If you work a standard 7 day, 9 – 5 work week, then that is a huge chunk of your time. It is wonderful if you love and enjoy your work and find meaning and purpose from it, but I personally think that even if you aren’t doing exactly what you always wanted to, a lot of the value you find in work will come down to your attitude – do you view the challenges and opportunities in work negatively? Or can you view them with a positive attitude? You will have come across people, perhaps the majority of people who always have something to moan or complain about with regards to their workplace, even if they have relatively good conditions. Are you one of those people? Do you tend to comment that you can’t wait for the weekend to arrive? If so, try to look at things differently and if you already do, then find ways to inspire other people…inspire them not to wish their lives away and find the positive in their work day  – and if you can’t find something positive – then be the change you wish to see and create it! Enjoy your day 🙂

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Review your Goals

Well, we’ve made it to May, which means that summer is on its way, and hopefully so too are new opportunities and adventures, be they big or small.

The new year seems to be the most obvious time of the year for most people to reflect and take stock of where they are in life, and where they want to be, to set goals and make plans for the year ahead.

However, I think that each season, and even each new month provides an opportunity to invest in our personal growth and quality of life, by taking the time to reflect on whether the way we spend our time is aligned to our deepest values and purpose in life.

That might sound a little overwhelming, but the thing is, life can only be lived one day at a time, one moment at a time, one breath at a time. And so it brings a kind of comfort in knowing that the little things all add up to build the pattern of our lives in more significant ways.

By looking at each month as an opportunity to reflect and reprioritise, this makes the perhaps otherwise overwhelming task of accomplishing life goals, or living well, much more manageable, fun and achievable.

I don’t know about you, but I find using a planner a helpful, creative and engaging way of doing this. Personally, I use the ‘Tools 4 Wisdom’ planner, and although I don’t always manage to sit down at the start of each month to do so, when I am able, like this month of May, I enjoy adding colour, designs and drawings to the month, creating a colour scheme and a theme, and adding in the details of events, tasks and goals.

Some people prefer to use online methods, or combine these with art journaling or bullet journaling, there are so many ways to create a framework and a structure for reflection that works for you.

I find it helps me to have a positive outlook on the month, as otherwise it is so easy to simply ‘drift’, to wonder where the time is going, or to feel like each day is just slipping into the next and that you’re somehow not making the most of things. It is engaging too, creatively in that the very act of producing something authentic, putting pen to paper, means that you are putting in something of yourself, and appreciating through the creative process, the fact that each little detail is important, and allowing yourself to value each day.

Even the seemingly mundane or ‘ordinary’ days can be extraordinary in their own ways.

Perhaps a good way to move forwards is to bring to mind any goals you had at the start of the year, and reflect upon these and revise them if required. Life changes, and your plans may have to as well, however, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Then each month, choose one key life area, and maybe four or five smaller things that you want to work towards or accomplish. They don’t need to be ‘massive’ goals, like traveling the world or sky diving (perhaps those are ‘ordinary’ goals to you if you are the more adventurous type!), they can be simple yet authentic, and therefore beautiful in their own way – things like read one book, plan to spend time with a friend or family member, write a blog post, work on a particular creative project, make time for self care, etc.

Living purposefully gives us the opportunity to clear away some of the clutter in our lives and minds, to let go of what are unnecessary time stealers, and to perhaps live more simply, deeply and authentically, so that we feel more connected to ourselves, our core values and the people and pursuits in our lives that matter most to us.

Breaking things down and appreciating each small ‘chunk’ of time that we’ve been blessed with is good for our mental health too. Things feel less overwhelming, clearer and easier to prioritise. We can’t do it all, but we can try to spend more time focussing on what matters most, knowing that these little steps in the right direction all add up to a more fulfilling life.

We seem to be, in this generation, constantly ‘plugged in’, and always taking in stimuli from the world around us with unceasing suggestions of what we should be doing, thinking, eating, wearing, feeling, and so on. We also find ourselves caught up in the stream of images, stories, pictures and snapshots of other people’s lives, and that creates a risk of unhealthy comparison, ‘FOMO’ and even mental health struggles such as anxiety, fear, loneliness and depression if we feel that our lives are ‘not enough’ compared to those around us.

Yet, there is a beautiful paradox that reveals that when we disconnect from the noise, we are able to live in a deeper way that is more fully connected. We don’t need to pretend that the rest of the world isn’t there, or to stop engaging with it, but we do need to realise the importance of taking time to reengage with ourselves, our own lives, quietness, solitude and personal self reflection so that the time we spend on this earth is meaningful, authentic and much less wasteful.

I hope you take the time to enjoy something meaningful to you today. Perhaps that is in prayer, a walk in nature, journaling and reflecting, assessing your priorities, spending time with people you love, or maybe even sending out a random act of kindness to someone, even a stranger, who might need the authentic love and care of a fellow human being. Perhaps today, in taking time to connect with what is meaningful to you in your life, you might be inspired to write a blog post that will encourage another precious soul. Take care, think deeply, seek peace and pursue it, and be kind. xx

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“January’s Incremental Improvements”: (1). Eating Well & Enjoyably.

Sometimes I find incremental changes to be far more effective and sustainable than sudden energetic efforts to drastically change a particular area of life. Of course sometimes a large project needs to be planned and undertaken (such as de-cluttering you home, for example), wherein such energetic efforts for a short-term project are necessary and helpful in order to sustain new habits, a new system and new daily routines that will be sustainable in the long term.

However, unlike some, I’m not one to approach healthy eating in this way, and I wouldn’t jump on the January “New year, new start, new diet” bandwagon. From observation, such efforts often seem short lived, ending in discouragement, disappointment and a lapse into old bad habits.

I prefer to make incremental changes gradually and throughout the year, taking time to research healthy options and what will work for me in my life and routine. Overall, I find, small and consistent changes are more sustainable and can lead to a healthier lifestyle, rather than finding oneself struggling under the guilt of not achieving a particular diet or lifestyle goal.

And yet, they busy-ness of life does mean that at certain times of the year, and under certain circumstances, I do better than at others. Therefore, I find January and a new year to be a wonderful opportunity to think afresh about whether I can approach things differently to sustain positive changes and intentions on a day to day basis.

So, with that in mind, a new purchase I have recently introduced into my life is this lovely stainless steel “Bento Box” or compartmentalised meal tray.

Details and pictures from Amazon can be found here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B078RJPTY8/ref=twister_B0771KJXM9?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1

How has this small change helped?

Psychologically: For some, perhaps idiosyncratic and childlike reason, I love airplane tray meals. Therefore, it gives me a little burst of joy to look forward to eating from this whether I’m at work, or at home curled up on the sofa while watching TV.

Portion Control: I am more aware of how much food I am eating, and these compartments certainly help visually in seeing this more clearly than on a standard plate.

Preparing and Maintaining Healthy Eating Habits in a Busy Lifestyle:

As a young, single woman, who works full time, 5 days a week, I often only get home from work after 7pm. This can mean falling into bad patterns of getting ‘quick’ options for food, including ready-meals for the microwave, or occasionally even takeaways when I don’t have the energy to cook a full and healthy meal for myself. This is fine in moderation, however, I’d like to choose the option intentionally, rather than by default because I’m too tired or not organised and prepared enough. However, now I only have to think of 5 things to put into the compartments, which means it is easier to have a healthier variety of food, eat well and be mindful of portion sizes, and save some money. I used to ‘meal prep’ for the week ahead on some weekends, however, this takes time and is something I tended to stop and start as I found it hard to maintain on a regular basis. This way, ‘meal-prepping’ feels far easier and more manageable – at least for me – you may have different and better ways that work for you.

The Verdict:

This little investment has already helped me to make healthier and manageable changes in my day to day life and I feel that I will be better able to sustain these changes than with good intentions alone. What about you? What fun things can you introduce into your life to help make and maintain positive changes? What things do you already do that you can share with the rest of us? xx

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Are you stressed out & drowning in clutter? Believe in yourself and make a change…

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As promised, dear friends, here are the first of a few ‘before & after’ pictures from my big 2018 declutter, reorganisation & spring clean! 

One of the main reasons I am posting this series, other than to help me keep track of my progress, is because I believe from experience that the way we live and use our space can have a huge impact upon our mental health, well being, stress levels and as a result, our quality of life. 

I also want to encourage you, if you are struggling, that I wasn’t born tidy or organised, and from the pictures above you can see that it has taken considerable effort to overcome the challenges of disorganisation, clutter (and depression!), and to create a much happier, peaceful and enjoyable environment for myself and hopefully others.  I also want to encourage you that if you want to make a change, but are currently feeling overwhelmed, not to worry, you’re not alone, and it can be done. 

I’m sure that even looking at the before and after pictures, let alone being in the space, evokes an emotional and psychological reaction in you…the first picture no doubt represents somewhere that you probably wouldn’t want to be, whereas the second, ‘after’ picture is quite peaceful, ordered, inviting and aesthetically pleasing. 

So where do you start? Let me suggest a few helpful hints and tips on your journey…(and for more, check out my previous blog posts in this home & lifestyle series that you can find from my main menu).

  • Know what you are dealing with, and break things down into smaller more manageable tasks. What I mean by this is that you will absolutely, definitely feel overwhelmed and daunted and perhaps even confused if you say to yourself, ‘I need to sort out / tidy / clean / declutter my house / flat’ etc if you don’t have any idea of how you are going to do this or where to start. Even if you feel like your entire living space is chaotic and that you can’t do it, believe me (and the pictures for proof!) that you can. Start with a pen and a notepad, and jot down the key areas or rooms of your home or flat. For me, this would be: the hallway, hall cupboard, my bedroom, small en suite bathroom, spare room (or dumping ground as it was for a long time), main bathroom, open plan living, kitchen, dining area. These can be broken down further, but that will be once you have focused your attention on a particular area. I find it helpful, even if I am doing different tasks simultaneously, to work as much as possible either by room by room and / or by theme.

 

  • Once you have chosen where to start, say for example, the bedroom, think about the  items you use there, what you need, and your daily routine. Then think about how you will create a place for each type of thing. For example, storage of clothes, toiletries, bed linen, etc. Name places, even in your mind, but writing it down initially helps, and be disciplined in how you think about storage.

 

  • Next, when faced with a mess like that above, you will need to lighten your load and begin to declutter, bin, recycle, give away and sort the items that you do have. I found it very helpful to keep myself from getting overwhelmed to set aside some time and to look upon this stage as a game or a puzzle to solve. For example, I would perhaps get a big bin bag and start by identifying and throwing away all of the things I could see that could go straight into the bin. I did the same with items to be recycled and sorted them into papers and plastics. I also went by item type, and created a single (yes, just one!) identifiable storage space in my home that I could either immediately start putting things away in or where I would be able to once I had done more work of creating that space. For example, an easy step was to begin to identify the many plastic bags, take them out of the room, fold them and put them in one single place that I could go to when I needed a plastic bag. I did the same with other bags, and types of items such as scarves, etc. With clothes, towels, etc, I got them all out of the way and put them to one side, after which I washed and dried them and sorted them: some would go to charity, some for storage for the appropriate season, and others would be the clothes that I need for current use.

 

  • Sometimes you will need to purchase additional items to help you  create a system. For example storage organisers, boxes, etc to create order. I have a small / medium sized wardrobe in my room with sliding doors. This can be tricky to make the most of the space available and I know that some people with these cupboards prefer to take off the sliding doors for easier access. I personally like the idea of being able to close the doors as who can guarantee that they’ll always keep their new system tidy?! I found that a lot of space was being wasted because there are no shelves or drawers inside, and any clothes that can’t go on the hangers tend to find themselves heaped in a pile at the bottom of the cupboard. So working from the inside out, I created additional storage space by buying this easy to assemble item as shown above and have organised my clothes and accessories so that the hanger space and the ‘free space’ is utilised. I have taken care to not pack the space full of stuff, which was made easier by getting rid of things when decluttering as well as creating storage space under the bed, by purchasing a very affordable ottoman to go at the end of the bed, and storage bags for underneath the bed, all with a specific purpose for particular types of items.

 

  • You will find that certain types of items just don’t belong in the room that they are in and that you will need to create an appropriate space for in the ‘correct’ room at a later date. You can begin by finding a temporary space to gather items of that type so that they don’t stay in the room that they’re not supposed to be in.

 

  • The whole process can be time consuming, depending on how deeply you are in your clutter, and can sometimes feel laborious, or overwhelming. However, you can do it! A wonderful place to start is with your imagination and inspiration. Daydream about your ideal room, and how you are going to make it that way. Having a strategy will enable you to accomplish so much more and much more quickly, as you work to a plan and don’t get caught up in the emotional baggage of how you got to this state in the first place. Perhaps you only need some ‘fine tuning’ in which case, as I develop my own, I will post guidance and tips on a daily / weekly / monthly / yearly ‘maintenance schedule’. Make sure that you don’t let yourself get overwhelmed. If you read over my previous posts you will find advice on the importance of having a space that you are happy to go to, even the tiniest ‘cosy corner’ so that you can take breaks, enjoy ‘now’ and allow yourself to rest and be refreshed.

It is a process, but if you turn your process into a puzzle to be solved rather than a chore to be endured, you might find that you enjoy it a whole lot more, and create the home of your dreams….right where you are!!! All the very best with your homemaking journey, friends. xx

 

Rethinking Space

Admittedly, friends, it has been a few weeks since we last ventured together in this ‘home improvement’ series, but that’s because I have been busy with the practicalities of this venture, which I hope will bring some benefit and inspiration to you as I share my progress with you. That being said, come and join me in some musings as we together rethink our space…

Throughout the ages, human beings have both influenced and been influenced by the spaces we inhabit. I have no doubt that countless studies have been conducted into the psychology of wellbeing and mental and emotional health in relation to our external environments. How often ‘clichés’ such as ‘a tidy home and a tidy mind’ have depths of truth to them that are well worth exploring as we seek to enhance our well being and the quality of our lives. We might do well to consider the words of John Denver and similar sentiments of many before and after him, “It’s the little things that make a house a home…”. 😉 

I am keenly aware that I myself and anyone reading this (presumably) are blessed with a ridiculous amount of choice with regards to how we live and what we do with our space, in a way that despite our limitations, many others across our little planet find far beyond their grasp to even hope of experiencing. 

Presumably (and please forgive me if my presumptions are inaccurate) if you are reading this, and are a blogger yourself, your concerns relating to choice and living conditions have nothing to do with whether you will be able to maintain a place of shelter, how far you have to walk to the nearest well to obtain safe drinking water, and how many people are able to cram into that one room in your ‘house’ that your entire family and perhaps others have to sleep in. 

Put that way, we may find ourselves asking whether it is selfish, arrogant, excessive or indulgent to make much of the luxurious spaces (whether we had previously considered ‘our lot’ in that way or not) that we are so fortunate enough to inhabit. 

Well, sad to say, it can be all of the above, but equally so, rethinking our space and being faithful ‘stewards’ of what we are fortunate enough to have can have a positive impact on our well being and on the lives of those around us. 

Of course, everyone is different, and some people work well amid their ‘organised chaos’ which incorporates ‘systems’ that only they can understand. Having experience of depression, and the resultant feelings of being overwhelmed by untidiness and lack of order, I am aware that our environments and living spaces can influence our mental well being in terms of contributing, whether rightly or wrongly, to our perceptions and feelings that we are ‘unable to cope’. Conversely, establishing systems, knowing that there is ‘a place for everything and everything is in its place’ makes daily living so much more productive, less stressful, and easier to manage. Knowing that there is a place for my keys and knowing exactly where that place is (and so on for each type of item I have) and that it will always be there lessens, even marginally, my anxiety, my stress levels, and impacts my attitude as I step out of my home into a new day at work or being in contact with the outside world in some way, and means that I am better able to focus on doing things well and communicating well and patiently with people, rather than stressfully and hurriedly struggling through. 

I have found that breaking through the barriers of overwhelm that my big declutter and spring clean initially brought on while being surrounded in a mountain of chaos, has given way to the establishing of order, calmness, happiness to be in my space, which in turn makes me more available to open my doors to the people I love, to be hospitable, to reach out and not only have a place for me to rest, but for others to enjoy, be built up in, and for us all to go out a little more positively and with some clearer thoughts as we tackle the bigger issues in the world whether that be in our jobs, families, relationships or being more aware of others around us. 

Whether we allow our thinking about our space and what we do with it to become a self indulgent occupation, or something more positive has a lot to do with our attitudes, and where we place our hearts and our desires. 

I believe that homekeeping is an art, and even though I live alone, it does impact the people in my life, and if I am so blessed to one day have a family of my own, I believe that striving to maintain a peaceful and calming environment that I haven’t always had is important for creating an atmosphere of growth, wellbeing and good communication as well as orderliness, inspiration and functionality. 

But it’s all very well to be philosophical about it, but what do we do when we find things so difficult? If you have been with me for a while, you’ll be familiar with some of my earlier blog posts in this series, however if you are new, *Welcome* and I hope you find some inspiring starting points to make progress on your own journey in this regard in my series on Home & Lifestyle which you can find in my main menu. 

I will, little by little show you what I have accomplished and learned so far, including some photos along the way. So for now, here is a little glimpse of a space that I have rethought….how does it make you feel to consider what was before, and what has come after? 🙂 Much love. xx

Kitchen – beneath worktop space, before & after (please note that this space has been further updated with the addition of adhesive tiles, & some other decorative and functional pieces…the basket is used as a pantry storage area):

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Quality of Life…everyday….

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Image from WordPress free photo library.

What do those three words make you think of? ‘Quality of life’. (I mean in a general, everyday sense. I understand that there are many people who are or have friends or family members who are living through terminal illness, severe health challenges, bereavements and other major life challenges, which require sensitivity and compassion and an entirety of focus, therefore this post is aimed more generally, while my heart goes out to those who are struggling with the daily realities of such life circumstances).

I guess the phrase means different things to different people, but individually I think you ‘just know’ whether you are experiencing it or whether something is amiss. As explored in previous posts, we often don’t stop and realise what we really need to change until after we ‘burn out’ or struggle to survive our hectic and stressful days. 

As someone who has had a long battle with complex post traumatic stress (notice, I leave out the word ‘disorder’, for we are overcomers and survivors of the brain’s natural coping reactions to severely stressful life experiences that were put upon us), severe clinical depression, resulting in for a few years chronic pain, and also generalised anxiety disorder, therefore quality of life is something I have had to think about a lot. 

I am pleased so say that by the grace of God, and with a lot of hard work taking those small and seemingly insurmountable steps every day for years and years, I feel like I am stronger and in a better place. 

So, ‘quality of life’ in an everyday sense….what does it mean? You know better what it is when you don’t have it. And what do you think about? Is it having time to yourself to rest and reflect? Experiencing exhilarating challenges and exploring new places? Having a peaceful family life, or finding contentment in your situation whether you have people around you or are ‘alone’? Is it being able to “enjoy your achievements as well as your plans”? To notice the simple things each and everyday?

It is a challenge that each of us have to take up to consider this question for ourselves, and then to give ourselves the permission to set about doing something about it for our own sakes and for those around us. I have taken the day off work today. I was getting to the stage of feeling like I wasn’t ‘coping’ so well, and that’s not the way I want to live. And I think with all I have been through, and all that you have been through in your life, it is a question that we need to *regularly* ask ourselves: am I living, experiencing a real quality of life, even in the simple things everyday, and if not, what am I going to do to make the changes I need to make? 

For me some of these changes have taken years to accomplish having had the mountains of post traumatic stress, anxiety and depression to overcome. However simple they may seem, these changes are small victories in my life. And as each gain is made, the quality of life adds up over the years, as does our personal resilience to adversity, just as conversely each detriment adds up, each bad habit, each negative element that we allow to continue in our lives unchallenged. 

Some of these changes for me include working on a better sleep routine, and eating more healthily, and looking after my body and mind. Having a time of morning devotions and prayer and seeking God, giving thanks and praying for myself and others, committing my day to Him and being gentle with myself when I don’t manage this and end up rushing. Taking time to slow down and notice the beauty in the everyday, ‘mundane’ things of life and appreciating what I have got. Taking time to create a peaceful living and working environment even if there are challenges in doing this, small changes can make a difference. Taking breaks, being mindful of my breathing, setting goals and plans, and taking the time to do more of what I enjoy, whether it is reading a book while waiting for the train, colouring during my lunch breaks at work, listening to music, giving myself more time so that I am not constantly rushing from place to place, and taking a day off when I need to if I can. 

I am a great believer that the little things in life really do add up over time. What you are investing in today will impact your future and those of the people in your life in some way or another. Seeds of legacy. So take time to make time for yourself, small or big changes that will help you everyday to live more in alignment with what really matters, taking consideration of the foundation that you are building your life upon, so that you are living and not merely existing. Small steps, after all, lead to changed lives as the years roll by. God bless. x