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.
Help your anxious child uncertain times

How to help your anxious child in uncertain times

As a general rule I think it’s best to be open and honest with our children about life and the world around us.

The problem with this is that, during uncertain times like this, I have to admit that I don’t know all the answers.  That no one knows the answers.  I can’t tell my children when the parks and swimming pools will be open again.  I can’t reassure them that they’ll be back at school and hugging their friends by a set date.

For anxious children this level of uncertainty can be really hard to cope with.  It’s hard for all of us to deal with I think.

The main thing to remember, for me as a parent, is that we’ve never been in this situation before, so no one really knows how to handle it or what the best steps to take are.

We’re all just doing our best, trying to reassure our children as best we can while keeping them safe as best we can.

There are some things we can try along the way though, that might help our anxious children in these kinds of uncertain times.

 

Practice mindfulness together

Mindfulness is a great tool for people of all ages to help with anxiety.

It’s all about slowing down and paying close attention to the world around you and to how you’re feeling.

A great way to practice this with your child is to go on a mindful walk together.  This is actually something that Rhys was asked to do as part of his school work recently and it was such a lovely thing to do together.

When you go out on a walk, stop now and then and just be still and quiet.

Ask your child to pay attention to all their senses and notice the different things they can hear, smell and feel.   You can get them to sit and put their hands on the ground, or take their shoes and socks off and stand barefoot for a few minutes.

This is great for helping us feeling more grounded and connected with nature, which has a really calming affect on our bodies and minds.

 

Keep to a simple daily routine

All of our normal routines have been completely turned upside down since the schools closed and we all started working from home.

Some children will have adjusted to this really easily, but for anxious children it will be really unsettling.

So try and create, and keep to, a new simple daily routine for them to bring back a sense of predictability to their days.

This doesn’t mean have a packed schedule each day, but keep a few things that are consistent and predictable each day, like going for a walk after lunch and having a bath and then reading together at bedtime.

 

Do kind things together for other people

When we’re feeling anxious it can be really hard to stop the worrying thoughts running through our heads.

So try and help your anxious child break this cycle by taking the focus off themselves and their thoughts by doing something kind and helpful for someone else.

Get them to make a card and then write a thoughtful message inside to send to a friend of relative.

Let them paint another rainbow to stick in the window to make passers-by smile.

Help them record a video message to their grandparents about what they’ve been up to during this time apart.

When we do kind things for other people it makes both them and us feel good, and it’s a great way to feel like you have a bit of control in uncertain times.

 

Focus on the things you can do

When everything feels out of our control it can be really scary.  So really try to focus on the things your child can do and can control.

Things like choosing to do something kind or helpful for someone else is a great place to start.

You can also talk to them about how, in the current situation with coronavirus, they can help protect themselves and other people by washing their hands properly, coughing into their elbows and limiting their contact with other people for a while.

 

Acknowledge and normalise their feelings

It’s so important to reassure your child that whatever they’re feeling at the moment is completely fine, valid and normal.

Let them express to you how they’re feeling, and encourage them to sit with those emotions for a bit instead of brushing them aside.

They might be feeling scared, angry, sad, hopeful, helpless, happy, nervous, and all sorts of other emotions, possibly all in one day, and that is just fine.

 

Add in positives

Once you’ve acknowledged what your child is feeling you can help them again by ‘adding in’ a positive to go alongside it.

So if they’re feeling scared and anxious about the current situation you can encourage them to add courage or strength to that emotion.

If they’re sad about not seeing their friends, help them to also be happy and grateful that we have the technology now to be able to video chat with them.

It’s not about taking away from what they’re feeling, but adding in more positive, helpful emotions to guide them through.

 

 

When the whole world feels strange and everything feels uncertain, we’re all going to feel more anxious than usual.

But hopefully some of these ideas and strategies will help if your child, or you, are finding it all particularly hard.

Do you have any other tips for things that help you or your child when you’re feeling anxious?  I’d love to hear them in the comments if you do.

How to stay healthy at home (2)

How to stay healthy at home

We’ve been keeping safe at home for weeks now, and it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster to be honest.

One thing I’m really aware of though is trying to keep us all well, both physically and mentally.  This is such a strange time, that none of us have experienced before and we’re all just doing what we can to cope and manage and get through.

If you’re looking for small things you can do to keep healthy and well while at home through this situation, here are some ideas for you.

 

Eat well

As tempting as it is to spend this time just eating comfort food and all the tasty things you’ve been baking, try and make an effort to balance things out with some fruit and veg.

Tinned and frozen fruits and vegetables are just as good as fresh if you’re struggling to get to the shops regularly.  And it’s worth looking around to see if any local companies are offering deliveries on fresh produce.

The more goodness you can sneak into your meals each day, the better you’ll feel.

We’ve started making meals like bolognese and casseroles with all sorts of extra veg added in, and if you chop things up nice and small you can probably sneak it past the children as well.

 

Keep moving

We might not be able to head out to the gym at the moment, but that’s no real excuse to not do any exercise at all.

If you’re really not feeling energetic then even going for a walk with the family will make a difference in how well you feel.  And on the days you want to push yourself a bit more you can go out for a jog or a bike ride.  I’ve seen quite a few people doing the coach to 5K thing lately which looks great if you want a structured programme to follow to get you running.

If you’re normally a regular gym-goer and working out is a big part of your life, then you might find that workout supplements help to keep you on track, and you can find all sorts of home workouts online if you’re not able to follow your normal routines.

 

Cut out bad habits

One great way to get and stay healthy during this time at home is to look at your not-so-healthy habits and see what you can do to improve them.

If you’re a smoker then this could be a good time to try and quit.  Some people might find that going cold turkey is the best approach, but for others that is too much of a struggle.

Another option is to reduce how much you smoke, or try switching to using a vape pen instead.  The NHS and PHE advice at the moment is that vaping is at least 95% less harmful than smoking cigarettes.  So it could be worth looking at an online vape shop to see what options there are that can help you make the switch.

 

Get enough sleep

If you only do one thing on this list to stay healthy at home, make it this one.

Try to get the sleep you need.

Various studies have shown that our immune systems are suppressed when we don’t get enough sleep, and we need our immune systems to be as strong as possible at the moment.

So try and keep to a regular bedtime, and get a good night’s sleep as much as you can.  If you’re struggling to fall asleep at the moment then this post I wrote recently might help.

 

Hopefully with these ideas in mind we’ll all be able to stay healthy and happy at home.

 

Disclosure – this is a collaborative post

ways to be more thankful

5 simple ways to be more thankful

There is always, always something to be thankful for.

I’m pretty sure I’ve shared that quote before and it’s one that I always love to read because it helps bring things back into perspective when life is hard.

If you’re having a rough day, or week, then it can start to be a struggle to see all the good things in your life.

So for those times, here are 5 simple ways to start to notice the good and be more thankful again.

 

1. Take mindful pauses

There are a million and one things to be thankful for in our everyday lives, we just need to slow down and notice them.

So, as you go about your day, stop and take notice of the things around you now and then.  Savour the smell of your cup of coffee in the morning, and how the warm mug feels in your hands.  Slow down on your walk around the block, look up at the trees that are full of life again and look down at the flowers popping up here, there and everywhere.

When you notice that something is making you feel happy, stop and pay attention to exactly how you’re feeling, what your senses are taking in and what thoughts are running through your mind.

These mindful pauses throughout the day can make a huge difference in how much you appreciate all the little things in your life.

 

2. Notice and say thank you for the things your family do

Over time it can be so easy to take all the things your partner and your family do for granted.

And when you also do loads of things for the family without really getting any thanks for doing it, you can end up a bit resentful of then thanking them for the things they do.  Or is that just me?!

The thing to do here, is break the cycle.

Be the one to notice all the little things that your family do for each other, and make a point of thanking them.

All the little, kind, thoughtful actions that can so easily go unnoticed – be the one to notice them and acknowledge them.  Do this with no intention other than to make the other person feel appreciated and to help you see how much they do that you can be thankful for.

If it’s noticed enough for them to start thanking you too, for all the things you do, that’s a huge fringe benefit!

 

3. Focus on what you have

There’s an old saying that what you focus on expands.

If you spend all your time and energy thinking about what you lack, what you’re missing in your life, what you’re jealous of other people having then you’ll always notice more and more things that make you feel that way.

So instead, start to reframe those thoughts to focus on all the good things you do have.

Replace complaints with gratitude.

 

4. Send thank you notes

One way to really get yourself into a thankful frame of mind is to actually go out and thank people.

Letting people know that you appreciate them and the things they bring to your life is a great way to make everyone feel good.

It can be a handwritten letter or card in the post, a phone call, an email, a text, a video message, or any other way of reaching out to someone.  Just make the effort to say thank you.

 

5. List three things each day that you’re thankful for

This is a habit that I keep starting and stopping and starting again, and really want to commit to doing on a daily basis.

At the end of the day, jot down three things that you’re thankful for.

The thing with this is that, at first, it’s quite easy.  You list the big things like your family, your friends, your children.

When you keep going though it forces you to look more at the little things in your life that you’re thankful for, unless you want your list to be the same every single day.

You become aware of how thankful you actually are for clear blue skies, or that earthy smell of rain after a long dry spell.  The cup of coffee that you got to drink while it was still hot, in relative peace.  A text message from a friend that really made you smile.

 

When we start to slow down and really notice what we have in our lives, we start to see quite how much we have to be thankful for.

Even during the hard times.

If you look, and keep looking, you’ll find that old quote is true.  There is always, always something to be thankful for.