Move more, make friends and be outdoors. What’s not to love?

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This week’s post has been written by the wonderful Iona! Iona is an Internet friend I made through following each other online and keeping up with each other’s journeys along the way. She is a big inspiration and she takes absolutely stunning photos of her hikes and trips through the outdoors. Today she has kindly written a post all about the positive influence being out in nature has on her and how it helps her gain more clarity and insight on things. This post has been beautifully written and really highlights the importance of doing something that fires you up and lights you up inside in order to allow you to go into other elements of life showing up as your best possible self. 

If you follow my Instagram account (@iona.adventuring) then you will know how much I strive to spend every spare second finding new adventures. People constantly ask me how I have the time to explore so much and I get asked what I do for work that allows so much free time. The reality is that I work full time as a nurse with very unsocial, long hours. I just have to look a little harder for the free moments in my week which I can then fill up with big or little adventures.

 So you may say that I manage to find time to enjoy the great outdoors DESPITE working such long shifts. I actually feel that it is BECAUSE of my work that I crave the therapeutic benefits of spending time outside. The everyday stresses and strains of life can leave us feeling drained and lethargic. Everyone has ‘stuff’ going on and everyone is under pressure at some time or another. The easy option may be to sit down in front of the TV and switch off from the rest of the world. Does that really leave you feeling refreshed and re-energised? Don’t get me wrong, sometimes that’s exactly what I do. However I can truthfully say that the majority of the time my real stress reliever is to lace up my boots, wrap up against the elements and get out into the hills. Even a gentle stroll round a loch. Kick through leaves in a park. Cycle along muddy trails. Dip my toes in the sea. Anything to be outside taking big gulps of that lovely fresh air!

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 It’s these moments with mother nature that I look forward to. When I’ve got a long day at work I’m constantly planning and scheming the next adventure in the back of my mind and that is what keeps me going. Although I know of course that these hours spent in the outdoors are good for my physical health, it’s the psychological aspect of it that also draws me back time and time again. When I’m out walking in the hills I allow myself the headspace to think about the things that have been on my mind. I don’t necessarily come to any final conclusions but it’s good to have the time to actually process my thoughts without the interruptions that everyday life can throw my way.

 There’s something naturally therapeutic about putting one foot in front of the other with no purpose other than to enjoy moving. Not hurrying to get somewhere, not trying to prove something to someone who’s opinion doesn’t really matter. Just moving and enjoying the fact that you can do so!

 We all know about those lovely natural endorphins that are released in the body when we exercise but there’s so much more to it! There’s a sense of achievement I get from planning an adventure and seeing it through. That connection I built with anyone who joins me for a day in the mountains. Not to mention the incredible views from the summit of a majestic Munro! There’s a reminder that however big my problems may seem, being outdoors and surrounded by those huge powerful mountains puts everything back into perspective.

 The mind is so incredibly intricate but it can be easily neglected. From my own experience I find that being outdoors and exercising helps my mind to slow down so I can process everything a little better. In turn it can then catch up with the constant pace and demands of the rest of my body. When some aspects of your life can become overwhelming, trust that some time in the outdoors will give you a clearer perspective of it all. Make a little more time to explore and to move, I think you’ll find that the benefits can become addictive!

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 If anyone would like to join my mountain days then you can find regular updates on the facebook group ‘Iona’s Adventures’. So far I have met some really wonderful people through my online community and it’s amazing to be able to bring together like minded people with a passion for the outdoors!

In her spare time Iona also raised money for the charity Health in Mind by hiking 26.2 miles! (Is there anything this girl can’t do- she’s a superwoman). If you want to learn more about the charity please check out their work through this link.

http://www.health-in-mind.org.uk/

 

Love Your Skin- My Guide to Body Positivity

Today’s post has been written by the WONDERFUL Sarah from Self Love Sarah. She is one hell of a woman. Someone striving to help others love themselves and feel more confident in their own bodies. She genuinely brightens up my Instagram feed EVERY DAMN DAY. I hope you love reading her guide to body positivity as much as I did! Also head over to her online platforms and give her some lovin! 

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In a world where we are surrounded by diet culture, and are constantly told to count our calories, slim down our waists and [add your own body insecurity here], no wonder we find it so hard to love or even be comfortable in the skin we are in!

We are constantly told, whether it’s by the adverts we watch, the leaflets that come through our letterbox or even subconsciously by the diet talk we get sucked into at work, that we are not good enough and we need to change ourselves, and mainly our bodies, to look a certain way. An acceptable way.

Well I call bullshit. It’s time to start a revolution ladies. Time to end the war with our bodies and fall in love with ourselves again.

Body positivity (BOPO) can be seen as one of those woo-woo terms that make people cringe. It is a hot topic right now with the evident rise of the body positive community on social media. However, in my opinion, body positivity isn’t some woo-woo new trend on the internet, it’s a necessity and a right for all women.

So, let’s get clear on what body positivity is and more importantly what it is not:

  • Being body positive is not staring at yourself in the mirror telling yourself you love yourself, but not really meaning it.
  • Being body positive doesn’t mean you have to love every single part of your body all the time.
  • Body positivity is not before and after weight loss photos.
  • Body positivity is not #gains, forcing yourself to exercise in a way you hate just to fit into that little black dress.
  • Body positivity is not promising to love yourself after you’ve lost those five pounds.

So, what is body positivity?

  • It’s accepting your body for exactly how it is in this present moment.
  • It’s showing gratitude for what your body can do, not focusing on what it can’t do.
  • It’s adopting a mind-set that EVERY single body is unique and worthy – and I mean EVERY single body.
  • It’s speaking kindly to yourself.
  • It’s not shaming any body – size, shape, colour, race, age, gender.
  • It’s realising that you are more than just your body. You are your soul. Your body is just a vehicle. But it’s the only one you have. So, love it and treat it with kindness.
  • It’s the freedom to express and decorate yourself and your body however you want to.
  • It’s giving a huge middle finger to the society who tells you that you need to look a certain way in order to be worthy, accepted or loved.
  • It’s accepting that you are enough exactly as you are right now.

If you’re reading this and thinking – this shit is hard! Don’t worry! I’ve got your back. It is hard, which is why I’m going to share with you my top 5 tips for practicing body positivity. And the reason I say practicing, is because body positivity is a practice. It is not an end result. You won’t just wake up one day and be like “Yay. I’m body positive now. I love myself. I love my body. I made it”. Body positivity is a journey, it’s a practice. Some days we will rock at it, some days we won’t. Some days we will have those unkind thoughts about ourselves, and that’s okay.

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So here are my top 5 tips to help you on your body positive journey:

Throw out the scales. How many of you just read this and tensed up? Yep, the first tip is probably the hardest, but it will change your life. Why are you judging your worth and living your life based on a number on a block of plastic and glass? The scales literally just tell us our gravitational pull to the earth? It’s just a number. You are not a number. You are so much more than a number. These scales don’t tell you how beautiful, intelligent, creative, kind, caring, loving and amazing you are. Trust me, getting rid of the scales is such a freeing feeling. Take them out now – preferably with a sledge hammer.

Ditch the diet culture. Want to lose weight? I’ve got the secret – the real secret. Get rid of any diet-culture related influences in your life. Throw away the slimming club magazines, unfollow the people on social media who try to convince you that you need to change or make you feel bad about yourself. Stop buying foods with the words ‘diet’ or ‘light’ in them. Stop meeting up with so called ‘friends’ who only talk about how much weight they want to lose. And after dropping all of this diet-culture deadweight, notice yourself feel instantly lighter.

Connect to your body. Our broken-down relationships with our bodies and with food all stem back to a lack of connection with ourselves. It’s time to connect back to and really listen to our bodies. Our bodies are so freaking clever. Think about everything they are doing right now just to keep you alive – breathing, digesting, pumping blood around body, sending millions of tiny signals all around you – without you even having to think about it. Your body really does know what is best for you. So, start tuning in to what she has to say. I like to connect to my body through yoga, meditation, journaling, getting into nature, self-care pampering and my favourite one – dancing like there is nobody watching!

 Sprinkle kindness like confetti. The way we treat other people is a direct representation of how we treat ourselves. So, if you find yourself judging other women by how they look or having unkind thoughts about other women (hey no judgement from here – we’ve all been there!) then the likelihood is you have these judgemental, unkind thoughts about yourself. Start complimenting other women regularly, cheerlead them, support them, uplift them, empower them. And then notice how your own thoughts towards yourself become kinder.

 Practice gratitude. Gratitude is the new attitude you know? We find it so easy to focus on everything we are not. To focus on what we haven’t got. To change ourselves to be something else. Instead, let’s focus on everything we are and everything we have. Be grateful for yourself and your body and everything it can do right now. When you switch your mind-set from scarcity (lack) to gratitude (abundance), you start to live a full up life and realise you have everything you need right in front of you – including a gloriously, unique, one of a kind body.

So there you have it, my top 5 tips for practicing body positivity. Why not try integrating just one of these into your life? Then maybe two, three? You get the idea! But most importantly, do it with love and curiosity. No judgement or comparison.

And just because you are wonderful, here is a little bonus tip from me:

Be true. Be you. Be kind. Because you are fucking fabulous!

 

(You can follow me for all things self-love and bopo @selflovesarah_ or why not visit me at my website http://www.selflovesarah.com)

The post uni blues no one talks about

Graduation was the best day of my life- hands down. I felt an overwhelming sense of achievement that day that all the hard work and graft I had put in over four years was being recognised and had paid off. I was surrounded by my caring and supportive family who were all equally as proud of me as I was and it was such a special day I hold very close to my heart.

Graduating is an amazing time; a time for prosperity, new beginnings and new adventure. However, when summer is over and a new University year begins you all of a sudden begin to feel very left out. You’re not going back there when a lot of your friends are. Going out drinking mid week isn’t as acceptable now you’re no longer a student either. For the last four years you have had this student label attached to you and if you’re unemployed or working any job you can just to pay the bills you begin to feel like you have lost a community and a sense of belonging.

I also moved home after finishing my studies because I wanted to be able to save money and have the flexibility to move for a job in an instant. I found moving home incredibly difficult. I had lost a sense of freedom. I didn’t like having to report to my parents and let them know what I was up to. I struggled to slot back into the home family environment and really resented the fact I had to do it. I also lived quite some distance away from my friends so popping out the door and walking down the street to grab a coffee and have a catch up was no longer an option meaning I began to feel very lonely too.

Then there’s the job applications. The dreaded job applications. I couldn’t tell you the number of jobs I applied to, the number of enquiries I made and the amount of unpaid work I did to try and get myself a job. It seemed never ending and it seemed like I was failing. I couldn’t understand it; I had done everything right. I had worked hard at school to get the grades for uni, I then continued to work hard in order to graduate with a 2:1 and had worked for several different companies whilst doing so to gain the work experience. I had been on several uni sports teams and committees and volunteered too. All CV boosting skills I had been told. But they weren’t enough and I wasn’t enough. My confidence hit rock bottom. I was embarrassed because my cohorts from university were all getting jobs or travelling the world while all I felt was stuck. Stuck with no way out.

No one tells you how lonely graduating is and how getting a foot in the door in a graduate job is increasingly difficult. I don’t think people appreciate how difficult the transition from student to graduate is and so many of us suffer in silence thinking we’re going through it alone.

But I promise it will get easier. A job will come around and it may not be your dream career (no one really loves their first job) but it will give you the tools and experience to later get into that dream job role you were always hoping for. Remember to step away from the computer and don’t frantically apply to anything and everything. I did so much of that and people can see right through it- they can tell you’re not the right fit for theming their business because your heart isn’t in it. Take time out to do the things you love and remember this is only temporary. It’s a challenge to be faced and it will make you a stronger person.

#Littlegirlsdeservebetter

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A warm welcome to today’s very special post from my smiling moon beam face! I woke up this morning and four words came to the front of my mind: Little Girls Deserve Better. For those who have been following my blog a while you will know I am a self love activist who wants young girls to grow up with more genuine and diverse role models in their lives. I want to be the change that I want to see on this planet! So, I decided to launch the campaign #littlegirlsdeservebetter.

I’ve not always liked my skin and I certainly did struggle with acne until my early twenties. It took a complete knock out of my confidence, I was bullied at school for my imperfect looks and for not quite fitting in with my peers. But this isn’t about me; you don’t need to hear my sob story because the past will not change the future.

Little girls growing up today deserve better than what we were sold when we were younger. They do not need to see very real and natural bodies being slated on the covers of magazines for having a tiny midriff or some cellulite hugging their thighs. They need to see REAL women standing up and sharing something that they want little girls to know.

I’ll start…

“Little girls deserve better. Magazines shouldn’t make them feel bad for having imperfect skin. Little girls should be running around and having fun with their friends and not worrying about the pimples that are on their faces. They should not have to beg their mothers to buy them make up to wear to school because others are being unkind towards their looks. You are beautiful. You do not need to cover your natural beauty. Spots are so normal! Yet we are told they are ugly and something that needs to be fixed. You are young. Go out into the world and be who you want to be regardless of your skin. Focus your energy reading books, studying hard at school, playing with your friends, baking cakes. Do whatever makes you happy and never stop doing it because of a few marks on your skin. You are a goddess and always worthy.”

Be the change that you want to see.

Today I urge other women and men to join me in this campaign. I want it to stretch the globe because little girls everywhere need to hear your message. I want little girls to love the skin they’re in. What do you want for them? What do you believe they deserve? It can be anything that resonates with you. It can be body positivity related; you might think they deserve a more eco friendly planet; you might want them to know their unique fashion sense is special and valued. You might want them to know that having a boyfriend doesn’t make them whole and their independence should be celebrated! Whatever it may be, post a picture and share with the #littlegirlsdeservebetter then tag three friends to send the message out further.

I can’t wait to read all your wonderful stories. I want this to make a difference and even make one young girl proud of herself because she is beautiful on the inside and out.

It’s time to accept the early bedtime- I’ve become everything eight year old me hated

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Let’s go back to when I was eight years old; my sister and I HATED bedtime with a passion. We would be caught sneaking through to each other’s bedrooms to continue playing games and having fun; we would run up and down the stairs complaining to my parents of ailments and illnesses or that we just couldn’t get to sleep! My poor parents didn’t get a night to themselves without one of us kicking up a fuss about the dreaded bedtime routine.

Fast forward 10 years- I was 18 and in my second year of university and still hated sleep. I would go out clubbing four or five times a week whilst studying and working. Sleep was not a priority then either. “Go hard or go home” was the slogan on my 18th birthday sash gifted to me by my good friends. This behaviour continued until I graduated from university and began working a job in a supermarket where I would start as early as 5am and finish as late as 10pm. When I wasn’t prioritising sleep I was getting sick; two rounds of tonsillitis in 6 weeks, and forever run down with a cough or cold. I actually started to think it was normal that my eyes hurt every time I closed them! I knew that something had to change. However, I had never really considered the importance of sleep until my boyfriend suggested I listen to Joe Rogan’s podcast featuring Matthew Walker, a sleep scientist and director of the Centre for Human Sleep Science at The University of California, and he had some really insightful things to say on the topic.

So, today’s post was actually suggested by my better half and is aimed at those of you who think you can survive on six hours of sleep or less and still be productive in your daily lives. This is an opportunity to look at sleep as a way of enhancing performance and not a sign of weakness. I have done lots of research from different avenues and I will link all their references below for you to check out yourselves if you wish.

A lack of sleep impacts decision making or creates what I like to describe as brain fog, where you cannot think straight and simple tasks become unmanageable. Alongside Matthew Walker I have read works by Caroline Webb, a researcher in behavioural economics, psychology and neuroscience. She believes that to function effectively in the workplace you need to carry out three core daily practices- sleep well, practice mindfulness and remember to exercise. Sleep is hugely important because when we don’t get enough of it less blood flows to the prefrontal cortex where our deliberate system is. This means that without enough sleep it is difficult for us to be creative, create intelligent solutions to problems or act quickly and smartly on our feet when we are placed under pressure. She discusses that sleep deprivation differs from one person to another however generally speaking people need between seven and nine hours to function at their best the next day.

Charles Czeisler, a Harvard professor of sleep also explained that through recent studies we have discovered that those who go a week sleeping between four to five hours a night become mentally impaired the equivalent to a blood alcohol level of 0.1%. This means that not sleeping enough is like turning up to work drunk the next day. Can we stop and think about that for a second. Those of us who care about producing high quality work would never dream of turning up to an important meeting drunk but we would argue that we HAD to stay up all night preparing for said meeting. Which in reality is as bad as being intoxicated by alcohol.

Matthew Walker explains that a lack of sleep affects every part of our biology and we have to recognise as a society that sleep is fundamental and should be taken more seriously by businesses, the NHS, and the government. But why has sleep deprivation become such a massive issue over the last 75 years? It is largely down to our lifestyles, the technology we use late at night lights up our brains and keeps us stimulated for longer. We are expected to be fully flexible in our jobs and work longer hours in order to succeed or get that promotion that is on offer. Then once people have finished working for the day and driven their commute home they feel guilty for staying late at the office and not spending that time with their family so in order to make that quality time available they sacrifice sleep instead. Nowadays, we have all the connection we could have ever imagined yet we are lonelier and more depressed. Caffeine and alcohol are stimulants which are more widely available to us and they all impair our quality of sleep.

We also view sleep negatively in western society. We look at those who sleep in as lazy and unproductive. We believe that in order to be successful we must be busy and active. This one is very personal to me because when I was at my lowest point all I ever wanted to do was sleep however I felt guilty doing so because I didn’t want my family or friends to think less of me for not getting work done around the house or missing a social engagement because I was tired.

So, the research shows us that sleep is imperative to making smarter more thoughtful decisions and we should be aiming for between seven to nine hours a night in order to unleash our full potential. This week I challenge you to go old school and set yourself a bed time, get into bed earlier than normal; put the phone on aeroplane mode and read a good old fashioned book. Aim for those recommended number of hours sleep and see the difference it can make to your energy levels, your productivity levels and your emotional and mental wellbeing.

References:

Caroline Webb- How to have a good day: The essential toolkit for a productive day at work and beyond

Matthew Walker: Why we sleep

Czeisler, C. & Fryer B. (2006) A Conversation with Harvard Medical School, Harvard Business Review.

Forever moving forward

Things are changing all around me right now. I’m away to start a new job, friends are moving away to begin their own careers, university courses, or moving in with their partners and growing their lives together. We’re all growing up and adulting pretty well if I do say so myself. I myself am moving to Leeds to begin a graduate job with a nation wide supermarket as a digital marketing trainee which is really exciting as it was one of my favourite topics at university.

However, it’s easy in these transition periods to worry a lot about what the future holds. I’ve never sat with change well, it takes me a little while to accept it and move with the flow. I worry a lot about the ‘what ifs’ and really stress myself out over things that haven’t even happened yet.

Change challenges us to think differently; work with new people in new places, doing new things. It allows us to learn what is really important to us and forces us to find a way to make things work even though sometimes it seems tricky. Everything is manageable if you want it to be. Moving away from home to a new city with no friends can seem daunting but this pushes you out your comfort zone. Maybe you’ll take up that new hobby you’ve always thought about and meet likeminded people there or it’s the kick up the backside you needed to appreciate your current friends and keep in touch with them more regularly. It’s different for everyone.

But change doesn’t have to be scary when I begin to panic about the ‘what ifs’ I am trying to turn it around and think of all the great things I can learn from this experience. Change is what you make of it and often it’s the push you unknowingly needed to personally grow and develop from.

Seasons change and people change. Buds don’t turn into flowers and bloom all year round so we can’t be expected to either. Sometimes change gets us down but we recover and bloom once more.

Have any of you had big life changes happen to you this year? How did you handle it? I would love to start a conversation.

Until Next Time,

XO

Three Life Lessons That Have Made The Greatest Impact On My Life

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My dad has always told me, “we celebrate our successes and learn from our failures,” we never grow if we don’t stop and take time to reflect on the good and bad in whatever we have done. I’ve talked a lot about my recent mental health struggles. However, on reflection without the struggle there are so many things I wouldn’t have learned, which in turn have made me a much stronger woman today.

This week I want to share with you three life lessons which have made the greatest impact on me and are things I try and implement into every single day to develop me further as a person. These three things allow me to regularly check in and reevaluate where I’m at or how I am reacting to a situation and readjust my behaviour for a more favourable outcome. I’m not always perfect, I react in old negative habits sometimes but having a greater understanding of myself allows this behaviour to be less frequent and less futile to myself or my relationships.

Invest in yourself first

Let me ask you a question, how is anyone meant to help you with your low self-esteem/ self confidence/ mental health/ physical health ect if you won’t even do it yourself? Do whatever you can at whatever cost to look after number one (that’s you by the way) before anyone else. For me, it was seeking the counselling that I so desperately needed and working through my own hang ups in order to make progress. By taking the counselling I then further branched out into reading more by different specialists, working with a self empowerment coach and broadening my knowledge and learning about my behavioural patterns more and more in order to stop the bad behaviour from continuing. I still do this every damn day. Pick up a book, watch a TED Talk, read a psychology paper, meditate. Making the time to learn how to like yourself will not only better your relationship with yourself, with your friends and family, your colleagues, everyone who you reach on a daily basis will benefit. What you are putting out into the world will come back to you. I used to tell myself the story that I wasn’t worthy of being loved and I could only attract the wrong type of guy- so guess what? That’s exactly what I got. But when I started loving myself and having higher expectations of myself and others I attracted a fantastic man into my life who I love dearly. So, be careful what stories you tell, they will impact your life until you change them.

Do that project you think you can’t manage

That dream job/ project you’re always thinking about doing but never actually do anything about is only a dream because you’re not bringing it into reality. I never ever expected to be teaching yoga until it actually started to happen. I always day dreamed about doing it one day when the time was right and to be honest there never is a right time. I jumped straight in when my mental health was at it’s worst because I needed something to focus on and to keep me going. That has since launched into a small business I run alongside my day job. I’m also about to move from Scotland to England to begin a graduate scheme in digital marketing and I’m terrified of moving so far away from my friends, family and boyfriend, but it’s an experience I’ll learn so much from.

Do the thing you’re too scared to do. If you fail or find out it wasn’t for you then at least you can tick it off the list and learn so many different things from it. When I paid for my teacher training course I was worried that I might not even enjoy teaching at the end of it. But now I’m actually doing it I know how much joy it brings me and I learn from the different challenges I face every week and I thrive off building my own business and paying myself at the end of the month. If you never work on your own dreams you’ll end up working on someone else’s for them. Remember that.

Tell people you love them every single day

People are scared to put their heart’s on their sleeves these days. We are the generation who plays games when dating someone new and always has to have the upper hand keeping our heart’s closed off so they can’t see when they’ve hurt us. How are you meant to find a lasting, trustworthy relationship on those grounds. If you love someone tell them. Say it even if they don’t say it back and don’t close off when you don’t get the response you were maybe hoping for. I’ve learned that I would much rather put my all into a relationship; tell them I love them and talk about the future and have it all end than never be real, open and raw with someone. At least if it were all to finish you could walk away knowing that you gave it your everything and aren’t left wishing you had said or done things differently. Oh and tell your family it too, every single day because they’re equally as important.

Reflecting is a funny thing. It brings out all kinds of emotions in me but I love it all the same. Reflecting on the good allows me to be proud of how far I’ve come in life and reflecting on the not so great teaches me some of my greatest life lessons. Learn how to catch negatives and spin them into positives, whatever the situation you may be in.

Until Next Time,

XO