7 easy ways to make a difference

7 little ways to make a difference

When the whole world seems uncertain and out of control, it can feel like nothing we do will make any difference.

It can feel like our tiny actions won’t make any kind of impact on the world.

But really, the opposite is true.

Our little acts of kindness, no matter how small, will put that bit of good into the world which will spread from person to person.

So if you want to do a little something to make a difference to those around you, here are 7 ideas you might like to try.

 

1. Smile at people you meet

Whenever you’re out at the shops, on the school run, or walking in the park, make a point of smiling at everyone you pass.

It’s such a little thing but it can have a huge impact on someone else’s day.

You might be the only person they see that day, and your friendly smile can give a moment of connection that can make a big difference to how they feel.

 

2. Believe in people

If someone in your life tells you they’re trying something new, let them know that you believe in them and support them any way you can.

It might be that they’re learning a new language or a new skill.  They might be starting a new fitness plan or trying to eat a healthier diet.  It could be that they want to change careers or start their own business.

Whatever it is, get behind them.

Give them a boost when things get hard.  Offer to workout with them.  Send them recipes for healthy, delicious meals you find online.  Look out for job opportunities in the field they want to go into.  Talk up their new business to everyone you know and share their posts on social media for them.

 

3. Give out genuine compliments

Any time you think something nice about someone, make an effort to actually say it to them instead of keeping it to yourself.

Tell them their hair looks amazing and that their new coat looks great on them.

Let them know you really enjoyed something they recommended to you.

If you see their child do something kind or thoughtful, tell them what you saw.

It takes so little to say something nice, but it makes everyone involved feel happier.

 

4. Support a small, local business

Next time you need to buy something, see if you can get it from a small, local business instead of a big chain.

Businesses all over the country are really struggling at the moment, and small businesses especially are fighting to stay afloat.

So wherever you can, try and buy from these places.

If money is tight you can still support small businesses by telling your friends and families about them, liking and commenting on their social media posts, and sharing their content on your own social media pages.

 

5. Carry out a random act of kindness

Each week try and do a random act of kindness, either by yourself or with your children.

These acts of kindness can be as small as letting someone go in front of you in the queue at the supermarket, but they put so much good out into the world.

If you don’t know where to start then pop over to my post 31 ideas for random acts of kindness which should give you some inspiration.

 

6. Top up your shop

If you can afford it then pop an extra item or two in your trolley each time you do a food shop, then donate these items to your local food bank.

Some supermarkets have donation stations near the exit so you can pop things straight in as you leave.  Or you can keep a box at home where you put a few bits in each week then take it to the food bank yourself when it’s full.

It’s worth asking the food bank what items they especially need before you go shopping, because sometimes there are specific things that are needed that you might not think of like sanitary products.

 

7. Offer help to your neighbours

If you have neighbours who you think might be struggling at the moment, then see what you can do to help them.

They might have been shielding a few months ago and still feel nervous about going to the shops.  So when you head out to the supermarket or to town, ask them if they need you to pick anything up for them.

Or it might be that they live alone and don’t see many people, so might really appreciate you taking the time to have a chat a few times a week.

Being a good neighbour and offering support and help when you think it might be needed doesn’t take much, but can make such a big difference.

 

None of the things on this list take much time, money, or effort to do, but they’ll all make such a difference to other people’s lives.

There’s a quote that I really love that says,

“No act of kindness is too small. The gift of kindness may start as a small ripple that over time can turn into a tidal wave affecting the lives of many.”

I love this idea that even the smallest act of kindness can have a huge impact on the world.

How many of these things do you do already?

Are there any other little things you do that make a big difference to the people around you?

Look after your mental health this winter

5 ways to look after your mental health this winter

Winter can be a really tough time of year for a lot of people.

The darker, colder days can make it so much harder to manage mental health issues, and even bring on more issues like seasonal affective disorder.  And that’s in a normal, good year.

This year with the pandemic, the constant threat of lockdowns, and not being able to do so many of the things that would normally help get us through the long winter months things will be even harder than normal.

One positive to come out of this year though is that people are starting to be much more open about their mental health issues.  There’s a lot more awareness of the issues people face, and more conversations are being started that let others know they’re not alone.

And with this understanding there’s also more and more research being done into the things we can do to help take care of ourselves and our mental health.

If you’re worried about your wellbeing as the days start to get shorter, then here are 5 things that you can try to help look after your mental health this winter.

 

Spend time outside

When the seasons change and it starts to get colder and darker outside, it can be so tempting to hide away indoors in the warm.

It’s so important though to make an effort to get outside as much as possible.  Spending time outdoors in the fresh air and natural light has so many benefits for our mental health, as well as our physical health and general sense of wellbeing.

Studies have found that spending time outside can help improve our moods, reduce feelings of stress and help us feel more relaxed.  It’s also been found to help with anxiety, depression and seasonal affective disorder.

If you can’t go out for long walks then try wrapping up warm and taking your afternoon coffee out to the garden to get some outside time that way.  And if actually going outside is too hard, then try spending time by an open window where you can see the sky or some greenery in your garden.  You can also get a lot of benefits by bringing the outdoors in, by buying houseplants, or growing herbs and flowers on a windowsill.

 

Take care of your physical health

Our mental health and physical health are so closely linked, it’s important to take care of both to feel well, in every sense of the word, over the winter.

Eating a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables can not only keep our bodies healthy, it can also help improve our moods, help up think more clearly, and give us more energy.

It’s not all about fruit and veg though.

Making sure you stay hydrated is also really important for helping us feel alert and clear-headed.  Water is the best option when it comes to drinks, but fruit juices, milk and squash are also great if you want something a bit more interesting.

You can also help boost your mood by making sure you get enough protein each day.  Protein, found in foods like lean meat, eggs, and beans, contains amino acids that help our brains regulate our thoughts and feelings.

Exercise is also a great way to boost your mood and improve your general wellbeing, thanks to the hormones that our bodies produce when we move our bodies more.

 

Get a diary

Spending a bit of time each day writing in a diary can make a big difference to your mental health.

Studies have shown that journaling can boost our mood and our sense of wellbeing, as well as help with feelings of stress and improving our working memory.

Writing down how we’re feeling can help get it all out of our heads, and gives us a bit of distance from the emotions.  It helps us work through and process everything, which in turn helps us start to let go of those feelings and feel calmer.

If you’re not up to writing about your thoughts and emotions in this way, then you could try a daily gratitude diary instead.

Each day write down three things you’re grateful for.  They can be really small things, like having 5 minutes peace to enjoy a hot drink, the fact that your new fabric conditioner made your clothes smell nice, spotting a perfectly shaped leaf on your walk.  Anything.

The simple act of focusing on all the good things in life that we have to be thankful for is so powerful in boosting our mental health.

 

Stay connected with friends and family

One of the things that has the potential to really have a negative impact on our mental health this winter is not being able to see and/or have physical contact with our loved ones.

When we can’t visit people in person it’s even more important to find other ways to stay connected with them.

Make time each week to have a video chat with a friend, call your parents as often as you can, send text messages and comment on photos and posts that your friends put on social media.

As well as keeping in touch with friends and family, make a point of connecting with people you do get to see in the real world.

It doesn’t have to be much, just a smile and a hello as you pass someone when you’re out for a walk.  These little interactions can mean so much, both to you and the other person.

 

Be conscious of what you consume

Not in terms of food, but in terms of everything you take in from the news and from social media.

There is so much being shared online about the pandemic that can leave us feeling stressed, anxious, angry, confused and a whole host of other emotions.  If you do find yourself starting to feel any of these things when you read the news, then try making a conscious effort to limit how much time you spend scrolling news sites and consider muting certain words on social media so you don’t see those topics in your feeds.

Social media in particular can be harmful to our sense of wellbeing.

It could be that seeing other people not following current guidelines leaves you feeling angry or upset, when you’re being so careful to limit where you go, what you do, and who you spend time with.

Or it might be that it seems like other people are coping so much better, based on the things they share on social media.  I know that I can so easily fall into the trap of comparing my life to the seemingly perfect ones I see other people sharing on Instagram, even though I know it’s all staged.

If you’re finding it hard to handle seeing everyone’s highlight reels, then it might be worth deleting the apps from your phone for a bit, or at the very least limiting yourself to just one scroll through them each day.  And if you need to, go through all the people you follow and either unfollow or mute the accounts that make you feel anything other than happy.  You don’t owe anyone a follow, and you’ll feel much better when your feed is full of things that bring you joy.

 

I know that there’s no quick fix for mental health issues. 

If you really find yourself suffering at any point, then please do reach out to someone.  Speak to your doctor about all your options, and be open to trying different things to see what works for you.  Some people find that talking therapies make a big difference, while medication works best for others.

Hopefully though the tips in this post will really help with supporting your general wellbeing and mental health over the next few months of autumn and winter.

 

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
Importance of Vitamin D for keeping the whole family healthy

The importance of Vitamin D for keeping the whole family healthy

We all know we need to eat a balanced diet and get a variety of vitamins and nutrients to keep our bodies healthy.

But how much do you actually know about the benefits we get from each different vitamin?

There are quite a few vitamins and nutrients that I know are good for me, but I don’t know what specific effect they have on my body.

One vitamin that we’ve been hearing a lot about in the news recently is Vitamin D.

It’s an essential vitamin that has so many benefits for the whole family, and one that we all need to be making sure we get enough of over the winter months.

 

Vitamin D is quite often referred to as ‘the sunshine vitamin’ because our bodies produce it when our skin is exposed to sunlight.

From the end of March until the end of September most of us are out in the sunshine enough that we can get all the vitamin D we need from sunlight.  During the rest of the year though it gets much harder.  Our skin isn’t exposed to natural sunlight in the same way and so it’s much harder for our bodies to produce this important vitamin.

We can get some vitamin D from a small number of foods including:

  • red meat
  • egg yolks
  • oily fish such as salmon and sardines
  • fortified foods such as breakfast cereals

These foods don’t give us all the vitamin D we need though, so the Department of Health and Social Care recommends that we should all consider taking a vitamin D supplement in the autumn and winter months.

There are specific supplements for babies, children and adults that ensure that everyone gets the correct dosage, although formula-fed babies shouldn’t be given supplements because formula is fortified with vitamin D.

You can easily buy vitamins online and have them delivered to your home, or you can pick some up on the high street or at the supermarket when you do your food shop.

 

The reason it’s recommended that we take supplements to make sure we get enough vitamin D in the autumn and winter months is because it plays such an important role in keeping us healthy.

Vitamin D helps us maintain good bone, teeth and muscle health.

It works alongside calcium, promoting its absorption in the gut.  This is turn allows for normal mineralisation of the bones.  In other words, we need vitamin D alongside calcium, for calcium to be able to properly do its thing.

This is why it’s so important to make sure our children get enough vitamin D, as their bones and teeth are still developing.  And it’s just as important for us as we get older to help prevent issues with weak bones and muscles.

 

Vitamin D also protects our immune systems so we can fight off infections, colds and flu viruses, which is especially important at the moment with the coronavirus spreading along with the standard seasonal viruses.

A study carried out in Denmark led researchers to believe that vitamin D is an important part of a complex process in which T cells become ready to help fight infection.  The findings from the study suggest that taking vitamin D supplements can boost immunity, and that people who have a vitamin D deficiency are more susceptible to infection.

 

Making sure the whole family gets enough vitamin D can also help everyone avoid health issues such as feeling run down and tired, depression, hair loss and slow-healing wounds.

So in the coming months when we’re all staying inside more and not getting the exposure to sunlight we need to produce vitamin D, it really is worth looking at taking a supplement and getting more vitamin D rich foods into the family’s diet.

 

Disclosure: this is a collaborative post

Fun ways to enjoy time outside this autumn

4 fun ways to enjoy time outside this autumn

The days might be starting to get a little cooler, and the evenings a little shorter, but that doesn’t mean we all need to start hibernating.

Autumn is a great time of year to get out in the fresh air and enjoy all the beautiful colours that nature has on display.

If you’re not sure what to actually do outside at this time of year though, other than enjoy an autumnal walk in the park, then keep reading for 4 fun activities you can try.  The best part is, these are all things you can do by yourself or in small groups so you don’t have to worry about how safe they are while we’re in the middle of this pandemic.

 

Horse riding

Whether you’re a complete beginner or have a fair bit of experience, horse riding is a great, fun way to get out in the fresh air.

If you’ve never done it before and think it’s a hobby you’d like to really give a good go, then take a look to see what places there are local to you that offer horse riding lessons.  If you’re not sure you want to commit to lessons then you might be able to find somewhere that does horse riding experiences so you can do it as more of a one-off.

Who knows, you might completely fall in love with all things horse-related and start dreaming of having your own stable and horses!

 

Stand up paddle boarding

If you love to spend time in the water in the summer months, then don’t let the change in seasons stop you from enjoying water-based activities.

Get yourself a wetsuit and you can happily carry on swimming, surfing and body-boarding into autumn.

If you fancy trying something different though, you can give stand up paddle boarding a go.  More and more places are starting to offer lessons and it looks like so much fun, and a great way to spend time on the water without necessarily even getting wet!

 

Go on a photo walk

If you’re looking for something a bit more creative to do outside this autumn then grab your camera and take yourself out on a photo walk.

Autumn is a great time of year for this, with loads of seasonal elements to look out for and photograph.

If you’ve not done one before, a photo walk is just what it sounds like – going for a walk and taking photos along the way.  You can take photos of anything interesting that catches your eye, or you can give yourself a theme to work to, like the colours of the rainbow.

 

Head out for a bike ride

This is a great idea for something you can do by yourself or with your family.

There are so many cycle routes popping up all over the country, so take a look and see if there’s a new place you can check out.  And if you’re not all into bike riding then you can mix things up with scooters, skate boards and roller blades.

Just make sure that everyone has a well-fitting helmet to wear, and think about getting knee pads for young skaters.

 

Hopefully one (or more) of these ideas will get you excited to head outside this autumn, and possibly try something new.

What do you most like to do at this time of year?

 

Disclosure: this is a collaborative post

things to try when life feels out of control

3 things to try when life feels out of control

We all have times in our lives when things feel out of our control.

Chances are that at several points over the last few months you’ve felt that you have no power over what’s happening to you, and that life in general is out of your control.

At times like this it can be hard to see a way forward and all too easy to get into a negative spiral of believing there’s nothing you can do to make things better.

The thing to remember is that there is always something you can do to feel a bit more in control again.

These 3 ideas are a great place to start when you feel like life is out of your control.

 

Focus on what you CAN control

When life feels out of control, or something happens to you that you can’t do anything about, one of the first steps you can take to feel a bit better is focus on the things that you can control.

No matter what is going on in your life you can always control the way you react.  You can choose hope over despair.  You can choose to grab every single moment of joy instead of focusing on the sorrow.

You can also look at what you can control in your immediate environment.  Declutter and clean your room or your home.  Tidy up your desk and do a digital declutter of all the files and photos on your computer and your phone.

If you want to you can take it a step further and think about what you can control for the future.  As morbid as might sound, setting up a funeral plan with someone like Heart of England Funeral care can bring a strange sense of peace knowing things will be done the way you want should the worse happen.

You might also feel more in control of things if you set up life insurance and savings plans to start creating a sense of stability for the future.

 

Offer help to other people

When something bad happens and things feel out of your control it can be all too easy to turn inwards on ourselves and get completely caught up in our own feelings and worries.

A great way to fight this is to turn your attention to other people.

If other people are affected by the same situation as you, then see what you can do to help each other.  Offer your skills, knowledge and support to people you know are also struggling.

 

Write it down and talk it through

When life feels completely out of your control or you’re facing a stressful life event it’s normal to feel a huge range of emotions.

The best thing you can do to help process them all is to get them all out.

Get all your thoughts, anxieties and feelings out instead of mulling them over and over in your head.

If you’re not ready to share how you’re feeling with anyone else then you can tackle this by writing it all down.  Get a notebook and a pen and just write down everything you’re thinking and feeling.  Don’t edit yourself. Don’t worry about making sense or being grammatically correct, just get it all out.

If you can manage it though, talking it all through with someone else is an even better option.  Find someone you trust will simply listen to you, with no judgement, and talk with them about how you’re feeling.

And once you’ve done all that try and fit in some mindfulness activities each day to keep your mind calm and focused on the moment, rather than letting it drift back to the same thoughts and worries.

 

Disclosure: this is a collaborative post

Fun ways to get your creativity back

3 fun ways to get your creativity back

If you’re a creative person, whether you do something creative as a job or as a hobby, chances are at one point or another you’ll hit a creative slump.

You’ll feel completely uninspired.  Your paintbrush will sit idly in your hand, waiting for you to make the first stroke on the canvas.  The blinking cursor on your computer will mock you at the top of an empty page while you try and push past writer’s block.  Your camera will sit gathering dust as you try and find some inspiration for pictures to take.

When it happens it’s so frustrating, but there are ways to push through it.

Here are 3 things you can try to get that creative spark back.

 

Give a new hobby a go.

If you’re feeling completely uninspired with your usual hobby or creative endeavour, then spend some time playing around with something new.

Let go of the pressure to be creative and just have fun doing something different.

There are a few ways you could approach this.

You could stick with creative hobbies that are just in a different field.  So if you’re a photographer struggling in a creative slump, then you could try picking up a paintbrush and learning how to paint watercolours.  And if you’re a writer suffering with writer’s block then you might give knitting or crocheting a go.

Another option is to try something completely different.

Learn how to make your own cheese at home.  Join an online bookgroup and read books you wouldn’t normally choose.  Create a vegetable patch in your garden and see what you can grow.

The idea here is that by picking up a new hobby you can get inspired again.  You’ll be fired up to learn something new, thinking differently, which will help spark new, creative ideas for your original hobby again.

 

Be a tourist for a day.

When you’re feeling seriously uninspired it can help to do  things that break up your normal routine and get you looking at things with fresh eyes again.

A great, fun way to do this is to be a tourist for a day.

You don’t even have to travel to do this, you can spend a day being a tourist in your own town and still get the benefits.  Think about the places you would take a visitor in your town, any museums or art galleries that have interesting exhibits, parks or pretty green spaces for taking walks in, and restaurants or cafes that serve the best food and coffee around.

Go and visit these places, and try to look at them as if you were seeing them for the first time.  You’ll notice things you’ve never noticed before and come home feeling full of inspiration.

 

Take a break and head outside.

If you need your creativity back in a hurry, and don’t have time to learn a new hobby or spend a whole day acting like a tourist, then this might be the trick you need.

Stop what you’re doing, and head outside for a quick break in nature.

Various studies have shown that there are huge benefits to spending time outside.  One study in particular found that just 25 minutes walking through a park is enough to give your brain time to rest, reset and increase cognitive function.

Time spent out in nature has also been shown to increase our ability to perform problem-solving tasks, as well as improving our concentration and increasing creative thinking.

So head out for a walk in the park or the woods, let your mind wander and see what inspiration will strike when you get home.

 

Have you ever tried any of these ideas to get out of a creative slump?

What do you normally find helps when you need some inspiration?

3 steps towards better self care

3 steps to better self care

Self care.

It feels like a bit of a buzzword, but it is so important for our wellbeing.

The problem is, it can be ridiculously hard to make it happen.  Especially if you’re a parent.  Especially at times like this when the world is scary and uncertain and it feels like there are a million and one more important things to deal with.

But it’s at times like this that it becomes even more important for us to make time for self care.  We need to make sure we’re looking after ourselves so we have enough to give to look after other people.

It can be easier said than done though, so if you’re really not sure where to even begin with self care, here are 3 steps you can take to get you making time to really look after yourself and your needs.

 

1. Be mindful

I’ve written about mindfulness a few times before, and that’s because there are so many ways we can benefit from it.

When it comes to self care, mindfulness is a great place to start.

Because until you check in with yourself and work out what it is you truly need, you can’t do anything to get those needs met.

 

So find a place you can have a bit of peace and quiet for 5 or 10 minutes.

Then sit.  And notice.

Notice the sounds you can hear, the things you can smell, the sensation of the ground beneath you.

Let go of all other thoughts and just focus on what you’re experiencing in that moment.

 

When we’re still like this we can start to become more aware of the needs that we have that might not be being met.

Even if it’s just to realise that you have a real need for a bit of peace and quiet each day, just to breathe.

 

2. Shift your focus to the positives

You’ve probably heard this before, but it’s worth repeating – what you focus on expands.

So if you’re always focusing on the negatives in life, all you’ll end up seeing is the bad stuff.

Our brains are naturally wired to see the bad, scary, dangerous things in the world.  The thing is though, we notice and focus on these bad things, which strengthens the neural pathways in our brains for that sort of negative thinking, so we start noticing more and more bad things.

The only way to fight this is to create new, more productive neural pathways around positive thoughts.

I wrote about this the other day in a post about helping our children practice brave thinking.

When something good happens, or we feel good about something during the day, we need to soak it in.  Really feel those good feelings.  Even better if you can then replay it all in your mind later in the day, or as you’re falling asleep.

The more you notice all the joyful, good things around you and the more you think positive, happy thoughts, the more you’ll strengthen those neural pathways and the better you’ll start to feel.

It’s all about letting yourself feel joy.  Reminding yourself that you are worth spending time on to experience those positive emotions.

 

3. Start to play again

Most of us think that play is just for children, but it really depends on your definition of ‘play’.

When you reframe how you think of play so that it simply means doing something that you enjoy, purely for the pleasure of doing it, then you realise how important it is for all of us.

We all learn so much through play, no matter how old we are.  And doing something that we love, that we can fully immerse ourselves in so we get into a state of flow, or that lights us up inside is possibly the ultimate act of self care.

 

So once you’ve spent a bit of time mindfully noticing what you need more of, and started to train your brain to seek joy and all things good, look to see where you can fit playing into that.

If you’re feeling starved of creativity while staying at home with your family, then see how you can fit some art into your day.  Get out the paints and sit with your children and make pictures for the sheer joy of creating something again.

Think about the things you used to enjoy when you were a child or a teenager and see how you can bring those things back into your life now.

If you always had your head in a book but never seem to have time to read these days, make a point of heading to bed with a novel instead of Netflix a few nights a week.  It might be that you loved being part of a sports team as a teenager, in which case you could look and see if there’s a local adult team you could join and train with.

 

Self care doesn’t always come easily.

It takes time and effort and is all too easy to push to the bottom of your list of priorities.

But it is so, so important that we shuffle it back up to the top.

Just follow these 3 steps:

  • Take time out to be mindful, to focus on what you’re feeling and experiencing, and to notice what it is that you need for yourself.
  • Retrain your brain for joy and positivity, so you start looking out for these things and making them a priority.
  • Play.  Make time to do the things you enjoy, the things that light you up, for no reason other than the fact that they make you feel good.