Try this to stop living for the weekend

Try this trick to stop always living for the weekend

How often do you find yourself living for the weekend?

Waking up on a Monday morning with that sinking feeling, and then counting down the days until Friday?

Even as a parent when you don’t really ‘get’ a weekend the same way you did before your children came along it’s still all too easy to see Monday to Friday, full of work and school runs and after school clubs, as something to just get through until you reach the weekend and can have some fun.

But no one really wants to live life this way do they?

If you want to make a change and stop living for the weekend, then try this little trick.

Try this trick to stop living for the weekend

 

Make a plan to do something every Wednesday that you’ll really look forward to.

You could plan something for the whole family, or something that’s just for you.

And it doesn’t have to be the same thing each week.  Just make a point on a Sunday to plan something to look forward to on Wednesday.

If you’re not sure what sort of thing to plan, then try thinking about what it is about the weekend that you look forward to so much.

Is it the fact that you have a night off from menu planning and cooking with a takeaway on a Saturday night?  Then switch things up and make Wednesday takeaway night instead.

Or if it’s the fact that you can lie in and catch up on some sleep, then make a plan to have a bath and an early night mid-week.

 

Here are some more ideas to stop living for the weekend and to bring a bit of joy to the middle of your week:

  • have a picnic dinner in the park
  • go out – it might be a school night but you can still head out for a few hours to the cinema or a quiet drink
  • go for a family walk to watch the sunset
  • call a friend or family member for a good catch up chat
  • take the day off from household jobs – let things slide for a day and just relax a bit more instead
  • go out for lunch with a friend or with your partner
  • go bowling after school
  • have a bbq in the garden and make s’mores for pudding
  • have a movie night at home
  • do some exercise you really enjoy – find a yoga or dance class to go to
  • cook a new recipe for dinner
  • let the children cook something for dinner
  • try an escape room – you can go out to one, or get a kit to do one at home
  • go for a swim
  • book the day off to just do whatever you want, or use some flexi to finish early instead of rushing off for the school run

 

The whole idea here is to think about things that you enjoy, things that feel like a bit of a treat to you and that you wouldn’t normally do midweek.

Then make a plan to start doing them.  On a Wednesday.

Make the whole week that bit more fun and bring that weekend joy into the middle of the week.

So you’re not just waiting out the week and living for the weekend.

 

What’s the first thing you’re going to plan to do on a Wednesday, either with your family or just for yourself?

How you can make a new habit stick

How can you make a new habit stick? Try this little trick.

If you’ve ever tried to build a new habit into your life you’ll know how hard it can be to make it stick.

Even when it’s something you really want to do, or something you know will make you feel so much better, it can be really hard to actually commit to it long enough for it to really become a habit.

There is a trick you can try though to really boost your chances of getting any new habit to stick.

 

It’s all about habit stacking.

This is basically where you stack the new habit you want to build into your life on top of one you already do almost automatically.

Think about the things you do as part of your normal routine.  Things like:

  • Get out of bed
  • Boil the kettle and make coffee
  • Have a shower
  • Brush your teeth
  • Take the kids to school
  • Put the baby down for a nap
  • Have lunch
  • Pick the children up from school
  • Make dinner
  • Put the children through the bath
  • Put the children to bed
  • Lock up the house
  • Turn off the lights
  • Go to bed

All of these things are habits that are so ingrained in your life that you don’t really think about them.  They’re things that you just do.

Psychologically speaking, they’re things you’ve done over and over again enough times that the neural pathways for them are incredibly strong and the actions are almost automatic.

One of the reasons we find it so hard to stick with new habits is that it takes time for new neural pathways to form in our brains and, as our brains are generally quite lazy, we fall back on old habits that are already nicely ingrained.

So we stop going for a jog after the school run and go back to sitting down with a coffee instead, because that habit has already been well-established in our lives and our brains.

 

By tying a new habit in with one of these established actions you basically cheat the system. 

Instead of your brain having to work to form new neural pathways for these new habits, you sneak them in to existing ones.

So if you want to get in the habit of drinking more water then you would build this in on top of one of your existing habits.

It might be that you decide that before you brush your teeth in the morning and the evening you’ll have a glass of water.  You’re already in the habit of brushing your teeth twice a day, and this action then becomes the trigger for your new habit of drinking a glass of water.

Instead of just promising yourself you’ll ‘drink more water’, which is really quite vague, you start to tie that new action in with something you already do at a pretty set time each day.

It’s all about finding an existing habit that you can ‘stack’ your new one on top of, in a way that works for you and your life.

You could try things like:

  • When you turn the shower on in the morning you do 10 sit ups before you get in.

The action of turning on the shower, which is something you do without really thinking about it, becomes the trigger for the new habit of doing 10 sit ups.

 

  • After you turn the tv off before bed you do a quick clean of the flat surfaces in the living room.

The action of switching off the tv becomes the trigger for the new habit of clearing away clutter.

 

  • After you take your shoes off when you get home from the school run you change into your workout clothes and do an at-home exercise class.

The action of removing your shoes becomes the trigger to get changed and get active.

 

You can use this habit stacking method with any new habit you want to build into your life.

Just look at the things you do every day, almost on auto-pilot, and find something you can stack your new habit on to.  Doing this will help you stick with it long enough for the neural pathways to form in your brain and the new habit become automatic in it’s own right.

What new habit do you want to start?  Leave me a comment and let me know!

Simple ways to be more productive

3 simple ways to be more productive

I feel fairly confident in saying that I’m not the only one whose productivity has taken a hit in the last year.

With the children being at home for such a big chunk of time, and all the juggling of school work and family life that came with that, it’s not really a surprise that a lot of time I’ve felt like I don’t know where to start.

When there’s so much to do and so many things to keep on top of it can be really hard to get motivated and I’m terrible for procrastinating when things feel overwhelming.

If that sounds familiar to you, then hopefully these little tips will help get you going and start to boost your productivity.

 

Limit your to-do list

One thing that is almost guaranteed to lead me to procrastinate is a huge to-do list.

It’s incredibly hard to know where to start when your list is a mile long.

So take some of that pressure off and limit your to-do list to 3-5 tasks a day.

You can keep an on-going master list where you keep track of all the other jobs, but each morning go through that list and pick out the most important things that need to be done that day.

A short list will help keep you more focused on what needs to be done, takes away the overwhelm of feeling like there are a hundred things to do, and also gives you that satisfaction at the end of the day when your whole list is completed.

 

Keep a notebook handy to keep you focused

That master list that I mentioned in the first tip?  Keeping it nearby when you’re working is key to staying productive throughout the day.

This way, the next time you’re working on something and you suddenly remember you need to book the supermarket shopping or put a load of washing on, you can write it down on your list and get back to what you’re doing.

Then when you next take a break you can tackle that task, or schedule it in for tomorrow if it’s not urgent.

This way you stay in the flow of the work you’re doing and you can complete it faster.  When you try and multitask and jump from one job to another (even if it’s just for 5 minutes to put a load in the machine) you break that flow and things ultimately take longer.

 

Follow the ‘one-touch’ rule

This rule.  I have been trying to follow this rule for years and I’m determined to keep trying because it is so good when you manage to stick to it.

When you’re dealing with the post, make a point to only touch things once.

So open up that letter, decide what you’ll do with it (reply, file it, bin it) and do it straight away.  Don’t open it, read it, then put it to one side to deal with later.  It’ll just haunt you.

It’s the same with emails.  Don’t open them unless you have time to deal with them there and then.

This rule can also be applied to things like forms and messages from school.  Instead of looking at them and thinking “I’ll deal with that later”, sort it right away.  Fill in the form and put it in your child’s bag to go back to school, make a note of that fancy dress day on the calendar, or get that £1 coin straight away and put it in an envelope ready to donate.

Whatever it is you need to deal with, this rule of only ‘touching’ things once can make a huge difference in productivity, as well as make life less stressful because you’re not adding to your to-do list by thinking ‘I’ll sort that later’.

It is still weirdly hard to stick with though, but well worth trying!

 

Have you found that you feel less productive lately?

Do you have any other quick tips to boost productivity that really work for you?

 

Essential ingredients for making the perfect healthy morning smoothie

The essential ingredients for making the perfect healthy morning smoothie

If you’re thinking about starting the morning on a healthier note, then you’re probably wondering how to make the perfect healthy smoothie. Smoothies are a great way to ramp up your intake of fruit and veggies, and are great for picky eaters who may struggle to eat all of their five-a-day otherwise. 

The great thing about smoothies is that you have the freedom to put pretty much whatever you want in them, meaning that every breakfast can be refreshingly different. But with that being said, there are some guidelines that you can follow in order to create the perfect healthy morning smoothie:

 

Liquid base

Although fruits and vegetables are naturally quite watery, your smoothie still needs a liquid base to prevent it from being too thick or gloopy. The more liquid you put in, the more watery your smoothie will become, so you can tailor your recipe to personal preference.

The amount of liquids you use will also depend on what type of fruits and veggies you use, since fruits like blueberries are going to give out more water than a chopped banana would do.

It’s up to you what type of liquid you decide to use in your smoothie. Some people just use water, while others opt for a creamier taste with either dairy or dairy-free milk. Almond milk makes a great healthy liquid base for your smoothies. 

 

Fruit 

The type of fruit you decide to include all comes down to personal preference, though some fruits tend to blend better than others. Bananas, mango, melon, grapes, and berries are all perfect options for your morning smoothie, and you could even get creative and make some amazing flavour combinations. 

If you like your smoothies ice cold, then why not use frozen fruit? As a bonus, it’s normally already chopped into size, saving you the preparation time.

 

Vegetables

While some people might grimace at the idea of vegetables being in a smoothie, if you do it right, you’re not even going to taste them. Vegetables provide essential vitamins and minerals while having the bonus of not being as sugary as fruits. 

Leafy greens such as spinach and kale are great for adding to smoothies, since they don’t have an overpowering flavour and cannot be tasted once they’re blended with everything else. Other options include sweet potato, courgette, and cucumber. 

 

Protein/ Flavouring

Lots of people like to add protein to their smoothies, particularly if they’re planning on exercising on that day. You can get protein from nuts or seeds, or add in a protein powder of your choice. Protein powders also help to flavour your smoothie.

If you’re looking for a delicious, low calorie flavouring option, then why not consider Shake That Weight? They offer low calorie shake powders in a range of tempting flavours, from chocolate orange, to caramel, making them the perfect addition to your healthy morning smoothie. If you’re looking to lose weight, then these shake powders can also be great by themselves as a meal replacement. 

Disclosure: this is a collaborative post

Ways to reduce the stress of working from home

3 ways to reduce the stress of working from home

Before the pandemic came along I think most people used to think of working from home as ‘the dream’.  Everyone had these images in their heads of working from their sofa, staying in their PJs all day and generally feeling pretty relaxed while getting things done.

After the past year though, with so many people suddenly having to make working from home their reality, a lot of people have realised it really doesn’t match up to that dream.

There are loads of benefits to working from home, and it can be the perfect solution for getting a better work/life balance, especially if you used to have a long commute to an office every day.  But it can also bring a lot of stress for a lot of people.

If it’s looking like you’ll still be working from home for a while, and you’re finding it quite stressful at times, then these 3 tips should help make life a bit easier.

 

Set clear boundaries

One of the biggest issues people face with working from home is finding that your work life and your home life sort of blur into one another.  It can be hard to make a clean break from your working day when your office is the kitchen table.

So do whatever you can to start creating boundaries between your working day and the rest of your time at home.

Set clear times for when you’ll start and finish work each day, and then stick to them (no more ‘quickly’ checking your work emails from your phone in the evenings!).

If you miss the way that your commute gave your some down time to move from work mode to home mode, then try popping out for a walk round the block when  you sign out for the day.  Or create a new habit like popping the kettle on and having a particular type of tea at 5pm to mark the end of your working day.

 

Get everything in good working order

If you’re going to be working from home for a while yet, then it’s about time to deal with any little niggly issues you have with your home working set up.

Most of us rely on the internet to be able to get our work done, and a slow or unreliable connection can make things really stressful.

If you don’t think you’re getting the internet speeds you should be from your provider, then try using a company like SpeedCheck to see what speeds you’re actually getting.  If you’re not getting what you’re paying for then have a chat with your provider and ask them to sort it out for you.

You can also look into getting a signal booster to make sure your wifi reaches all the different corners of your home, so you can still check your emails on days you want to work from the bedroom.

Now is also a great time to look into getting a decent desk chair and making sure your desk is set up properly to look after your back.

 

Manage your time

Chances are you’re being left a bit more to your own devices while working from home, without your manager wandering round the office and checking in quite so much throughout the day.

So take a bit of time to properly plan out your day and make sure you’re managing your time as best you can.

This could include things like using the pomodoro technique to work in timed blocks and then making a point of taking a quick break to stretch your legs, get a drink, or have a chat with a friend.

It’s also really important to make sure you take a proper lunch break each day.  Move away from your workspace to eat and, if you can, get a little bit of exercise.  Just a 10 minute walk after you’ve eaten can make a big impact on how good you feel.

 

It might not always be easy, but planning out your day, setting clear boundaries around your working hours, taking regular breaks, and sorting out your kit can really help ease some of the stress of working from home.

Do you have any other top tips to make working from home easier?

 

quick ways to feel happier today

12 quick ways to feel happier today

If you’re looking for a quick pick-me-up, something to help you feel a little bit happier, then this post is for you.

I’ve put together a list of 12 things you can do, that don’t take much time or effort, to feel happier, and you can get going on most of them straight away.

 

1. Start your day with a hug

Make a habit of having a hug with your partner, your child, or your cat first thing in the morning and you’ll get a lovely little happiness hit to get your day off to a joyful start.

Hugging people we love (and stroking our pets) causes a release of that wonderful happiness hormone serotonin, as well as dopamine and oxytocin.

It doesn’t take long either, research has shown that hugging for just 6 seconds is long enough for significant amounts of serotonin and oxytocin to be released.

 

2. Move your body

We all know that exercise is good for us.  It keeps us both physically and mentally well, and really can make us feel happier thanks to the endorphins that are released when we work out.

It can still be hard to get motivated to do it though, even when we know all the amazing benefits of exercising.

The key is finding ways to move our bodies that feel fun to us.  Whether that’s dancing around the kitchen to 90s tunes, or chasing after the kids in a game of stuck in the mud in the park.

Find things you enjoy that get your heart pumping and enjoy the happiness benefits that come with it.

 

3. Practice gratitude

Every day take 5 minutes to write down 3 things you’re thankful for.

You can do this in the morning as you drink your coffee, or last thing at night before you turn off the light and go to sleep.

A study carried out at the University of California in 2003 found that people who regularly wrote gratitude journals reported feeling more positive about their lives in general, more optimistic about the week ahead, and happier all round.

 

4. Do something kind for someone else

A really lovely way to get a happiness boost is to do something nice for someone else.

Look for ways you can include random acts of kindness into your day, from smiling at people you pass on your walk to buying a bunch of flowers for your partner.

 

5. Laugh

It might sound strange to laugh to make yourself feel happier (rather than laughing because you’re already happy), but studies have found that smiling and laughing, even when they’re fake and forced to start with, can give us a happiness boost.

So try spending a few minutes doing the silliest, most over-the-top fake laugh you can muster and see how it makes you feel.  Or try a laughter-yoga session on your lunch break to give you a boost for the afternoon.

My favourite way to bring on the giggles though is to watch something funny, like bloopers from my favourite TV programmes.  The old Friends bloopers still make me crack up every time I see them, especially the one where Ross plays the bagpipes.

 

6. Try something new

Mixing up your routine is an easy and fun way to add more happiness to your day.

Try a new cereal for breakfast, walk a different route home from the school run, start learning a new skill, or give yoga a try instead of going for a run.  When we do the same things day in day out we can really start to feel stuck in a rut, which isn’t the most cheerful place to be.

Giving something new a try and doing things differently can help build new neural pathways, bust us out of that rut and give us a great boost of happiness.

 

7. Embrace your inner child

Think back to the things you used to love doing when you were younger, and make time to start doing them again now.

It might be drawing or making things with your hands, skipping in the garden, or slowing down, lying on the ground and looking for shapes in the clouds.

Whatever it means to you, find time to just play once in a while, you’ll feel much happier for it!

 

8. Spend some time in nature

There are so many benefits to spending time outside, and a boost in happiness is one of them.

So try and spend a bit of time outside every day.  Go for a walk in the park on your lunch break, or take your child out to the woods and see what natural treasures you can find.  Even if you just spend a few minutes barefoot in the grass in your garden you’ll get the benefits of ‘earthing‘.

 

9. Listen to music

A really quick way to inject some joy into your day is to play some music that makes you feel good.

Pick a song that would get you up on the dancefloor at a wedding, or one that brings back memories of amazing nights out with your friends, and play it nice and loud.

 

10. Buy yourself some flowers

Studies have shown that having flowers in our homes can help us feel happier, less stressed, and more productive.

So treat yourself to a bunch of your favourite flowers and put them somewhere in your home where you’ll see them regularly throughout the day.

 

11. Savour something you love

When you need to take a break, make it a real break.

Stop what you’re doing and give your total focus to something you love.  Whether it’s a particularly good cup of coffee, your favourite chocolate bar, or an episode of your favourite TV programme.  Whatever it is you enjoy, give it your full attention and really savour it.

 

12. Wear something that makes you feel good

Whether it’s a particular outfit that always makes you feel confident, a special piece of jewellery, or even a perfume or body lotion that makes you feel good, put it on now for a boost of happiness.

Stop saving these things for a special occasion.  If they make you feel good then wear them as often as you can!

 

Ways to boost your mood

9 little ways to boost your mood

I have to be honest, I don’t like the word ‘coronacoaster’ and I’m loath to use it in this post, but I have to admit it does a pretty good job of describing how life has been for the past year.

There have been so many ups and downs, so many moments of hope and community spirit and unexpected joy, followed by moments of frustration and despair and grief in all its forms.

If you’re in one of the dips at the moment, there are some small things you can try that don’t take too much effort or energy but can really help to give your mood a little bit of a boost until things start to even out again.

 

Have a little dance party

Put on your favourite music, turn it up loud and have a dance around.

A study carried out by university researchers at York and Sheffield found that dancing to music for just 5 minutes is enough to give us a happiness boost, as well as improve our creative-thinking patterns.

And if you choose upbeat songs from the past that bring up a sense of nostalgia, so much the better.  Songs that take us back to fun, joyful moments in our lives have been found to give us a dopamine boost and make us feel happier.

 

Have a cwtch

An incredibly quick way to get a happiness hit is to have a hug with someone; so grab your partner, your child, or your dog and have a cuddle.

Studies have shown that hugs, cuddles, and cwtches help our bodies produce both oxytocin and endorphins, which make us feel happier.

The more hugs you can get in a day the better, because they can also help boost your immune system, make you feel less afraid, lower your blood pressure, and help you communicate better.

 

Watch something silly

Get on YouTube and find some videos to watch that you know will make you laugh.

It might be a compilation of babies laughing, or the internet classic of animals doing silly things (my children have discovered these recently and think they’re hilarious!).

For me it will always be TV and movie bloopers.  They crack me up every time.  It’s something to do with seeing the actors break character and the laughter that follows is always so infectious.

If you’ve not seen the clip of Jennifer Aniston in hysterical laughter in the bagpipe scene in Friends, you need to go and watch it right now!

 

Go for a walk in nature

I know going for another walk might not feel like the most fun thing to do right now, but there are quite a few great reasons for getting out there anyway.

A study at the University of Vermont found that visiting an urban park gave people a happiness boost that lasted up to four hours after they left.  The effect of spending time outside nature was so strong that the researchers said it was equivalent to the mood-boost that people get at Christmas.

Loads of other studies have found the same thing – spending time out in nature makes us feel happier, calmer, and just better all round.

 

Call your ‘feel-good’ friend

You know that friend or family member who always manages to put a smile on your face?  The one who just always seems to be upbeat, and whose energy is infectious?  Grab the phone and give them a call, or arrange a zoom get-together with them.

A study at the University of Warwick found that we can pick up moods from other people, so making the effort to spend time with happy people really can make us feel happier too.

 

Do some random acts of kindness

Even the smallest act of kindness towards someone else can give us a boost of happiness.

Doing nice things for other people, from tweeting about a positive experience with a small business to adding a few items to your weekly shop for the local food bank, can make a big difference to how happy you feel.

So get together with your family and come up with a list of random acts of kindness you can carry out together – I’ve put together a list of kindness ideas if you’re not sure where to start.

Getting your children involved will boost the whole family’s happiness levels – studies have shown that just watching acts of kindness gives us a dose of oxytocin (the love hormone) which helps lower stress and anxiety levels as well as helping us feel more connected to our loved ones.

 

Wish others well

If you need something even smaller than a random act of kindness, try simply wishing people well.

Literally, as you pass someone on your next walk try giving them a smile and thinking to yourself that you wish for them to be well and happy.

A study carried out at Iowa State University found that offering kindness to others, even if it’s just in our thoughts, can reduce anxiety and increase happiness.

 

 

Give yourself a treat

Find something that feels like a little treat to you, and then make time in your day to indulge in it.

It could baking a cake to enjoy with your family, or getting something special in for dinner with your partner.

It might be curling up for half an hour with a good book and something chocolatey.

Maybe it’s a bubble bath in the middle of the afternoon or painting your nails in a pretty new colour.

It doesn’t really matter what you choose, as long as it is something that you love, something that you really enjoy and that makes you feel good.

 

Curate your social media feeds

Social media has a strange way of making us feel bad about ourselves, our homes, and our lives in general if we’re not careful.

So give yourself a happiness boost by curating your feeds.

Go through all the accounts you’re following and either mute or unfollow any that make you feel ‘less’ in any way.  Then find new accounts to follow that will bring a dose of joy to your feeds.

Whether it’s cute animals, inspiring quotes, honest and funny parenting stories, pretty interiors or bright colourful images, find the things that make you feel happy when you scroll past them and fill your feeds with them instead of the things that drain you.