The Benefits of Superfoods

Eating a nutritious diet rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants is one of the most important parts of living a healthy lifestyle. Whilst exercise is also a key part in leading a balanced life, what you fuel your body with really makes a difference. A great way to know that what you’re eating is full of the good stuff, is by incorporating superfoods into your diet. 

What are superfoods?

Superfoods are considered to be nutrient powerhouses that provide large quantities of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Although there is no strict definition of what makes a ‘superfood’, most superfoods are plant-based due to their nutrient dense organic nature. The term was coined for marketing purposes, so nutritionally speaking there is no such thing as a superfood. But the term has gained hugely in popularity over the past couple of years – so what are the benefits of superfoods?

The benefits of superfoods

The high vitamin and mineral content found in superfoods helps your body to stay healthy and avoid illness. When they’re incorporated into a well-balanced diet, these foods can promote heart health, weight loss, improve energy levels and even help achieve clearer skin. Antioxidants found in many superfoods are compounds that may help delay or even prevent cell damage in the body, they can also reduce the chance of cancer. High levels of fiber present in many superfoods can help prevent diabetes and digestive problems, whilst these foods also regulate metabolism and reduce inflammation.

That sounds great, but what are some examples?

Berries and Fruits:

  1. Acai berries: have a unique nutritional profile for a fruit, being higher in fat and lower in sugar, they’re also loaded with antioxidants and can improve cholesterol levels.
  2. Goji Berries: Native to Asia, these little berries are packed full of good stuff. Even a small serving is high in iron, vitamin A & C and fiber. These berries have been used in traditional medicine to ward off illness and infection and naturally enhance immunity.
  3. Blueberries: Other than being delicious, blueberries are super high in antioxidants – they have even been used for neurological conditions, such as those linked to ageing.

Veggies and Greens:

  1. Kale and spinach: these DLGV’s (dark leafy green vegetables) are an excellent source of nutrients such as zinc, calcium, iron, magnesium vitamin C and fiber. Kale in particular is very low in calories whilst being high in omega-3 fatty acids, which help fight inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and asthma. Although these greens can taste quite bitter but by blending them in a smoothie or soup, you wouldn’t even know they are there!
  2. Sweet potato: the fiber and antioxidants in sweet potatoes can promote the growth of good gut bacteria, whilst they’re also rich in vitamins and minerals, namely vitamin A. Plus who doesn’t love sweet potato fries?!

Nuts, Seeds, Spices and Grains:

Oh, so many good things in this category! Oats, cinnamon, chia seeds, flax seeds, almonds and quinoa to name a few. 

  1. Quinoa: is one of the most nutritious grains out there, comparatively high in protein and fiber to rice or other grains. It also includes plant antioxidants called flavonoids, namely quercetin, which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-cancer and anti-depressant effects. 
  2. Chia seeds: a personal favourite, sprinkled on porridge, granola, in smoothies – this seed is high in omega-3, protein and fiber. It’s easy to include in your diet and great if you eat a more plant-based diet. 
  3. Cacao: unlike cocoa powder, cacao is made by crushing cocoa beans and removing the fat or cocoa butter. Cacao, whilst also tasting great, can lower your blood pressure due to the high quantity of flavonoids, it can also reduce your chance of diabetes, heart disease and inflammation.

Protein and Drinks:

  1. Salmon: is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. Salmon is also rich in vitamin D and selenium (a vitamin hardly anyone gets enough of), it prevents cell damage and can benefit your hair, skin, nails and bones. 
  2. Kefir: is a cultured, fermented milk drink, originally from the mountainous region that divides Asia and Europe. It is similar to yoghurt – but thinner in consistency, drinkable yoghurt if you will. It has a tart, sour taste but is a fantastic source of probiotic, which is great for your gut and digestion. 
  3. Eggs: Other than their amazing versatility, just one egg contains a huge variety and amount of vitamins and minerals. 

Just one egg contains: 

  • 40% of your daily vitamin D requirements
  • 25% of your daily folate requirements 
  • 12% of your daily Vitamin B2 requirements
  • 20% of your daily selenium requirements
  • Vitamins A, E, B12, as well as iron, iodine and phosphorus. 

Eating superfoods alone is not a substitute for a varied and balanced diet, but by incorporating some of these nutrient-dense foods into your weekly meals, you will fuel your body with all the right stuff. What you put in effects what you can put out!

The best independent coffee shops in Exeter

Having explored my University city over the past few weeks I have come up with a list of the best places to check out if you’re ever in town. With the second lockdown well underway, supporting local businesses is key to their survival, so grab yourself a takeaway coffee with a friend! Below are the top five cafes that are still open and are offering great lockdown treats and discounts. 

The Exploding Bakery

You’ll find The Exploding Bakery cakes, brownies and flapjacks all over Exeter and during lockdown they’re not disappointing. With delivery services of salted caramel brownies, Bakewell slices and cheesecake largely all available either gluten free or vegan – there is something for everyone. With next day delivery if you order before midday and free delivery if you order over 6 cakes (easy to do), The Exploding Bakery has got you covered. 

A few of the cakes available to order for delivery

Caffe Espresso

Hidden away on Castle Street, you can enjoy your coffee with a view of the castle. Now they are offering takeaway coffee and cake which you can enjoy whilst exploring Exeter castle, Rougement park and Northernhay gardens, which are all nearby. Another plus is they open at 8:30am, great if you fancy an early morning walk/run or need something to start your day.

The Ridge Coffee Shop

One of my personal favourites, a weekend down to the Quay and a homemade bagel from the Ridge is a great treat. They’re also offering a coffee and a croissant for £6 on the weekends, so well worth the walk. Plus they are open seven days a week: Monday 9:00-15:00, Tuesday-Saturday 9:00-16:00 and Sundays 9:00-15:00. 

No.1 Polsloe

Great for second/third years, this café in the Mount Pleasant area, is brunch heaven- perfect for that Instagram picture. They’re currently open Friday, Saturday and Sunday 9:30-2ish and food is available to pre-order. They are offering coffee, tea, hot chocolate and milkshakes plus pancakes, avocado toast and the original ‘Polsloe Plate’.

Artigiano Espresso and Wine Bar

This coffee shop by day, bar by night is still offering coffee, food and cocktails to takeaway. A little on the pricier side but if you haven’t tried their hot chocolate, you’re missing out! They’re open early but often close at midday, so make sure you head into town early.

A vast array of pastries and treats 🙂

University: A Half Term Review

Isolation, curfews, online teaching and groups of six. Although an accurate description of university so far, it doesn’t cast a very positive light on a new exciting, independent life. Instead, let me rephrase: new friendships, the enjoyment of learning, nights out & the exploration of beautiful places. Yet, reality is somewhere in the middle, always striving for a balance. Every new chapter has its ups and downs; however, this start has definitely been different. 

It wasn’t like I was walking in blind; I knew university life would be unique, it didn’t mean the buzz, nerves and anticipation of a new place were less exciting, just far from ‘normal’. Anyone expecting pub crawls, clubs and large group meet-ups were likely to be disappointed as they were replaced with zoom quizzes, coffee mornings and online lectures. But with expectations readjusted, it has been great fun. In some ways the strange situation has arguably been a blessing in disguise, favouring my more introverted, ‘not-a-fan of large crowds’ personality. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy nights out, but I’d rather be at a pub with some friends – back by 10-10:30pm; than a night ‘out-out’ in a club surrounded by strangers until 4 in the morning. 

But let’s remind ourselves that Uni is not all about going out and getting drunk, far from it, and that this ‘new normal’ has definitely presented some challenges when it comes to making new connections. The surprising incidental conversations you would have after coming out of a lecture, casually grabbing a coffee after a seminar or merely working in the library are more difficult or…frankly non-existent. But equally it is not impossible to meet new people and have a great time, instead it pushes you to be more proactive, arrange to meet someone and go for a drink (before 10pm of course). It builds up self-confidence, makes you manage your time and helps you to appreciate what is on offer. 

That all may sound lovely, but sometimes everything just goes tits up. As Uni introduces you to the ‘adult’ world of cooking, laundry, shopping, budgeting and work deadlines: sometimes you just have pretend like you have your shit together. For me, this moment came at the end of my first week in Aldi – a bad combination of groceries, rain and bus timetables. Let’s just say the afternoon that followed was filled with Netflix and biscuits. 

Besides all of that, this first half of term has reminded me of my love for English, and the joy of learning and engaging with new texts, ideas and people. It has also presented new friendships, great people to make new memories with and encouragement that this new ‘independent adult’ life whilst sometimes daunting, is equally exciting. Having full control over your decisions and lifestyle choices, allows you to shape your future and do things in the ‘now’ which you bring you joy…the hangover is worth it, right?!

10 ways to reduce stress

Your pesky hypothalamus, a tiny control tower in your brain, decides to send out the order: ‘send out the stress hormones’! These stress hormones are the same ones that trigger your body’s ‘fight or flight’ response, where your heart rate races, your breath quickens, and your muscles ready for action. But most of the time you’re not in imminent peril but instead stress and anxiety are at play. However, if left unchecked, stress can give you headaches, insomnia, upset your digestive system, disrupt your menstrual cycle and increase your blood pressure. But thankfully there are lots of simple, easy ways to manage stress; below are just ten.

1. Exercise

Moving your body and putting it under physical stress can be one of the best ways to relieve mental stress. Once the endorphins hit and blood is pumping around your body, it can help reduce anxiety and leave you with a greater self-gratitude and awareness of your mind and body. Anything from HIIT, cycling to a walk in the park. The repetitive movements create a familiar and comforting rhythm as you become more relaxed one step at a time.     

2. Eat Well

Nourish your body by fuelling it with all the good stuff. A sugary snack, or quick pick me-up is conveniently accessible; but by ensuring your body has the correct nutrients and vitamins, will help ultimately make you feel better and relieve stress. I often make myself a simple green juice consisting of spinach/kale, apple, banana, yoghurt, flax seeds and almond milk – plus you can’t even taste the greens and my body thanks me for it!

3. Immerse yourself in nature 

Nature’s benefits are endless, but its soundscape is captivating and rich in delights. Each noise contains its own personal signature, from the bees, birdsong, leaves rustling and breeze in the air. There is something comforting in grounding yourself in the earth and appreciating the simple joys in life. Going out into nature regularly and being able to tune into one’s senses to the songs of the wild is wonderfully uplifting and restorative. Even listening to the natural symphony on your phone can feel harmonious to the mind and body.

4. Listen to music

Playing calm music has a positive effect on the brain and body, it can also lower blood pressure, and reduce cortisol – the hormone linked to stress. For me, the opposite is also true, turning up the volume on your favourite album and allowing your body and mind to feel it out. Have a little boogie, be transported just for a little while. 

5. Talk it out 

Yes, we’ve all heard this before. But talking to a friend or family member can help you to gain a new perspective on the situation and make the big problems seem smaller. By voicing your worries and stresses it allows your brain to organise your thoughts and makes everything seem more manageable. 

6. Meditate

You don’t have to become a Buddhist monk to practice effective and simple meditation. Using apps/guidance such as Calm & Headspace ‘practicing’ mindfulness can help us to recognise when our minds are doing their normal everyday acrobatics and take a pause from that just for a little while. By simply being, and bringing the attention to the breath, noticing when our mind wanders and refocusing our thoughts even for 2-3 minutes can instantly make you feel calmer, and more aware of your mental and physical state. 

7. Write it down

Start a diary and just write. No expectations, boundaries or intention of any readers – just let your mind dictate what ends up on the paper. In the same way that talking to someone helps to visualise your problems, by releasing the stress onto paper – it is out and allows you to reflect on your worries. I like to journal at the end of the day, it’s a great reflective exercise and it also helps me to wind down for a good night’s sleep.

Linked is the Independent’s list of best notebooks so you can start journaling

8. Get a good night’s sleep

Prioritise rest and restoration and establish a relaxing and regular night-time routine. The saying that ‘there is nothing a good night’s sleep can’t fix’ contains elements of truth. By resetting your body and mind, allowing the worries to float away – the morning will come and then a whole new day presents itself to you.

9. Reframe your mindset

Things can go wrong all the time, unexpected challenges arise and relationships change but by trying to turn those misadventures into a wider philosophy of life, one to help you get through the stressful situations and come out smiling, or at the very least, no worse off than before. It isn’t a philosophy for life-changing events, but for everyday hiccups, challenges and misfortunes. It allows us to stop and reflect on the moment as it’s happening and reframe it into something more palatable. 

10. B R E A T H E

We do it all day, every day, and yet we often forget the healing powers of deep breathing. By slowing down your heart rate and lowering blood pressure, breathing deeply relieves stress. Simply inhale through your nose and then exhale through your mouth and repeat. Finding a quiet place to be by yourself can help but just closing your eyes and taking the gaze inwards has the same effect.

June/July Favourites

As the UK eases out of lockdown, I wanted to share some of my favourites as I’ve had more time to read, cook, workout and watch TV! Below are a few of my top picks from the past few months spent at home. 

TV/film

Big Little Lies – Amazon Prime

Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley and Laura Dern– what’s not to love? Big Little Lies is a dark comedy/drama set in a seaside town in California. The story revolves around three women who are emotionally troubled and find themselves involved in a murder case investigation. It’s heartfelt, cathartic, shocking and beautifully crafted; as the violence which underpins the show, is played against the cutaways to rolling, crashing waves which complement the show’s focus on women’s experiences as wives and mothers. Big Little Lies will draw you in, shock you and leave you feeling almost hopeful for the future of female relationships. 

The Morning Show – AppleTV

The show revolves around a successful American morning show, as it navigates the rivalries, tensions and relationships that happen off and on the camera. Jennifer Anniston and Reese Witherspoon star as the two show hosts, as Steve Carrell’s character, Mitch, faces allegations of sexual misconduct with some of the female employees. The show is fast paced, at times a little over-dramatic but deals brilliantly in a nuanced, cogent and absorbing fashion of exploring a MeToo storyline within a broadcast newsroom. It manages to juggle the mix of complicated emotions and motivations swirling among the men and women caught up in this drama about ambition and abuse.

QI Series R – BBC iPlayer

Oh, how I love this show! A panel show all about finding the unexpected answers. It’s light-hearted, funny and in parts informative. Sandy Toksvig is the show’s host and she brilliantly complements Alan Davis, the longest-running contestant and guest. A great way to wind down from the day, thirty minutes well spent.

National Theatre Live – YouTube

In response to the closing of theatres and cinemas, the National Theatre UK decided to broadcast weekly shows to YouTube. Ranging from Benedict Cumberbatch’s Frankenstein, RSC Antony and Cleopatra and Twelfth Night starring the talented Tamsin Greig and A Streetcar Named Desire. It was a great way to explore more theatre in a more affordable and comfortable way, I would highly recommend you check out the collection.

Jack Whitehall’s Sporting Nation – BBC iPlayer

A more recent discovery for me, as comedian Jack Whitehall provides the nation with a much-needed sport rewind of the UK’s greatest sporting moments. It’s an easy, funny and entertaining watch as Jack comments on many great sporting enemies, heroes and everything in-between.

Books

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Rating: 5 out of 5.

One of the best books I’ve read in a while. Owen’s evocation of nature in her descriptive prose and the compelling and compassionate character of Kya; make this book hard to put down. Part murder mystery and part coming-of-age; it’s explorations of love, survival and loneliness are elegantly displayed and written. 

Humankind by Rutger Bregman

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What if we assumed that people are good? “The instinct to cooperate rather than compete, trust rather than distrust”. Releasing a book with the subtitle “a hopeful history” in the middle of a global pandemic seems a brave choice, but the hope which Bregman’s latest work gives out is refreshing. His research and anecdotes are enough to make even Hobbesian cynics feel a little less jaded about humanity – even if they’re not fully convinced. “Sociability is our superpower”, says Bregman, who rejects the veneer theory of humanity, instead he explores how the opposite is true; in search for a better future.

Be Your Own Best Friend by Chessie King

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

This book is uplifting and inspiring, as Chessie’s bubbly, infectious and positive personality shines through. As though you are talking to your best friend, Chessie, through her own life experiences works through the mishaps of life. The artwork is bright and beautifully illustrated – I read it in one day!

Persuasion by Jane Austen 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A classic and yet another Austen! I have already uploaded a review to my blog which you can find here:

The Switch by Beth O’Leary

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

“When overachiever Leena Cotton is ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, she escapes to her grandmother Eileen’s house for some overdue rest. Eileen is newly single and about to turn eighty. She’d like a second chance at love, but her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen.” The switch is now in action. Utter feel-good rom-com, comedy. Easy escapism on a rainy day.

Fitness

I have been really enjoying my fitness during these past few months and the FIIT app and subscription has been great. Classes from cardio, strength and rebalance studios – with expert trainers, it’s so easy to build fitness and feel great after a session. From FIIT I discovered Cat Meffan and her YouTube channel, and her yoga flows have been a great mental and physical release. 

Beauty/Skincare

Ren Clean Skincare: Evercalm Ultra Comforting Rescue Mask

For those times when your skin needs a boost, refresh and a bit of TLC- this mask! Super moisturising, calming and great for easing stress during lockdown.

Kate Somerville: Dilo Oil Restorative Treatment

A super-fancy, luxury face oil – which not only smells amazing but is great for dry, sensitive skin. It is on the pricey side, but will last you for ages as you only need a couple of drops. I add it to the end of my morning and night-time routine. 

Bumble and Bumble: Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil Heat/UV Protective Primer

This is my most recent purchase and I love it! Whilst also providing heat protection from my straighteners, it leaves my hair with a lovely shine – plus it smells amazing!

A Mindful Quarantine

Recently I have begun to wonder, what might happen next? The simplicity of the question doesn’t lead to an easy answer; there is no fairy-tale ending, the story is full of twists and turns. After navigating the strict lockdown period for about 2 months and finally being allowed a bit more freedom, I find myself confused. What is ‘normal’ anymore? How much is it socially acceptable to travel, browse shops and visit friends? It’s not that COVID-19 is a good thing, it’s a disaster and I wish it weren’t happening. But it is happening, and within that reality, we are being forced to reflect on the path we’re on and where it leads, both as individuals and as a society. So, I’m trying to manage the social media expectations to ‘do more’, ‘be more productive’, ‘see more people’ and instead acknowledge that there is still a global pandemic going on. The practice of being more mindful, self-aware and present is more significant than ever — but of course, that is easier said than done. As with many situations, a compromise is needed, trying to put yourself in control of your own narrative. 

There are many benefits of practicing mindful meditation, it can reduce anxiety, improve concentration, aid sleep patterns, reduce the brain’s distractions and increase body satisfaction to name but a few. During the lockdown period I downloaded the Calm and Headspace apps that provide guided meditations, sleep stories and music. Using a combination of both, I have tried to invest at least 5-10mins a day (often before bed), to take some dedicated time for myself. I have to admit at first it does feel a little strange, listening to some person on your phone telling you to ‘breathe’, but 9 times out of 10 after I have tuned in, I feel more relaxed, calm and self-aware of my mind and body. The opposite state of busyness however, is not an evil to be completely avoided and there are many reasons why we feel the need to fill our schedules with such missionary zeal, why we busy ourselves with doing. Most people, myself included, enjoy the sense of achievement, productivity, and control doing gives us. I often find myself wanting to be doing rather than being, because let’s be honest – the present moment can be daunting. It can feel both empty and intimidating. If I can focus on the future or look at the past, I can momentarily side-step the present. The essence of being is difficult to describe, but ultimately, I think it’s about acknowledging what is without wanting or trying to change it. 

As lockdown has forced us to remove ourselves from the busy culture of doing, it has given us a chance to become aware of the fullness and intricacies of our own lives. We become aware of what is truly important to us, what relationships we really value and what passions drive us to succeed. We can also learn valuable lessons from unexpected places and people, living with my own four-legged mindfulness coach – my dog, Muffin, has reminded me of 3 key things:


  1. The importance of a good routine

A good routine provides us with structure and discipline, which helps to not just let the time slip by – falling into a Netflix and snack oblivion. Muffin thrives off routine, such as his morning and evening walks and his pre bed-time sandwich (yes, that is an actual thing). His routine has become a part of the family routine, which helps to maintain some sense of ‘normal’. 

2. There is a lot to be grateful for

Snacks. Walks. Playing fetch. Cuddles. All of these things are all met with such gratitude and joy, he acts as if these are the most excellent experiences of his life. That type of gratitude is contagious, he reminds me to appreciate what and who I have in my life.

3. It is okay to stop and rest. 

Muffin might be old and therefore tire quickly, but the continued importance to stop and ‘do nothing’ for a few hours can not only can leave you feeling refreshed but is sometimes all you the energy for – and that’s ok. 

These small, yet important lessons can help us during this strange period and in our everyday lives. By taking a mindful approach to what might happen next?, acknowledging the balance of doing and being, and learning from those around us – we are ready to face whatever might happen next, because frankly no one knows!


Does life teach life?

What if life teaches life? So that through one experience it teaches you for another. With all of us suddenly in the deep end, as lockdown poses a huge curveball for many all facing different circumstances; perhaps this is the case? As lockdown allows many the time to adapt to change and a ‘chance to reflect’ as the seemingly never-ending days, weeks, months & the era of lockdown present new challenges and a way of life. But does this time actually allow life to teach life? When life decides to throw everything at the blank canvas all at once, making sense of outcome, narrative or journey can be challenging. 

But even if we lose sight of the plan, and the colours on the canvas blend into one – we can still find uniformity in life: a broken heart will always hurt, irrespective of the circumstances & days & months will always pass. Through each new experience, we learn and figure out more about ourselves. Such as through my recent breakup, I’ve learnt I’m stronger than I often given myself credit for & the power of being a little kinder to your body & mind as you heal. By figuring out how we react in times of trouble, adversity and change – we grow as humans. 

But each new struggle & event is new & we will never encounter each pitfall as we were before. We’re in a constant state of renewal & becoming, which is often a positive shift, even if minute – it helps us to take on new & different challenges. As I read in ‘Breathe’ magazine, “we’re in a constant state of flux both as individuals and as a species”. 

Autumn leaves
Winter leaves
Summer leaves

If we stayed ‘static’, ‘stationary’ and unable to learn from our previous experiences, how would we ever grow? But I’m still working on this… with the past months feeling rather static due to restricted travel, movement & normal social interactions – it’s easy to fall into the feeling of entrapment, loneliness; even when surrounded by people at home all day. For me, there are times when I crave busyness, travel, the feeling of a strong purpose or direction. All of which I felt like I could more easily achieve in my ‘normal’ lifestyle. 

But it’s not lost, far from it – I’m learning more about myself & how to cope with anxiety, sudden change, heartbreak & the unexpected – from the seemingly ‘static’. 

Just as Heraclitus, the ancient philosopher poses: we cannot step into the same river twice, because the flow has changed & so the material has moved on. Heraclitus believed the essence of life is change. But it doesn’t have to come from clear obvious movement, such as a geographical shift in nature; but rather it can stem from something small & subtle.

The Constancy of change: Heraclitus’ river

There have been days where I’ve wanted to shut off my phone, drive to the beach, forget everything & just listen to the sound of the waves crashing. My life lately has seemingly gone from one up to down – & merely trying to keep my feet on the level ground some days has been challenging. Practicing & investing in self-care, chatting to great friends, allowing myself time to simply breathe – has given me the space to react to the change. But fearing the change seems strange when the opposite, void of the opportunity to grow is considerably worse – even when merely looking at it on the surface. So how can growth occur without conflict? 

But perhaps the happy medium is, sure growth often stems from conflict and uncomfortable changes in our lives, but it can be self-imposed – you can realise that growth is needed without the need for conflict to force the shift. But does life teach life? I’m not so sure the picture is that black and white; through experiences we learn, but with each new encounter we adapt and although life itself may be the catalyst, the growth comes from self-awareness and the ability to recognise the need for change, even if so unexpected and uninvited. But it is where many of us find ourselves in this strange period of lockdown and so maybe now is the best time to reflect on the change and wonder: does life teach life?

Butterfly’s: nature’s growth into something beautiful

9 women of ages 14-85 answer the same question: ‘What one piece of advice would you give to someone younger than you?’

As I begin to transition into another new chapter in my life, one of greater independence, study and responsibility; and with this extended period of time at home – it has given me the chance to reflect on what I’ve learnt and how much I still have to learn. But learning from others, those who are both wiser and more experienced than myself and those younger with the brightest optimism for the future; I believe is a bit like gold dust. If chosen well, a few words can capture and disseminate the main wisdom gained from someone else’s experiences, allowing us all to benefit from them. 

 I decided I wanted to ask women of all different ages the same question, “What one piece of advice would you give to someone younger than you?” There was something interesting to me about asking people to stand behind just one nugget of wisdom that gets them to reflect deeper about their responses. Now I’ll have to admit my inspiration was taken from a brilliant book by Richard Reed entitled: If I Could Just Tell You One Thing, in which “whenever I met someone remarkable, I’d ask them for their best piece of advice”. When I was thinking about who I wanted to ask, I chose 9 remarkable women most of whom have been an important part of my life in some way. By spanning different ages and generations the material is diverse, and hopefully some of the advice below will help you as well as me. Advice is easy to give and hard to follow, but I guess that is what learning is – it is never a straight line, but one with twists and turns that make the journey infinitely more exciting.  

Angel

Eliza

Sarah

Samantha

Lucy

Joss

Helen

Jenny

Margaret

Angel – 14 years old

“Never give up on your dreams” 

Eliza – 17 years old

“Place yourself in the other person’s shoes – imagine you are the person on the other end of your treatment. If you would be unhappy with it then why is it fair for you to carry on with your action?

It takes courage to go against the crowd and if you decide that you can’t- learn from the experience and reflect; so next time you’re presented with the same opportunity remember the effect your actions have and do something different.”

Sarah – 25 years old

When I think of my younger self, I recall always believing that I was going to do big things and get as far away from my nerdy younger self as possible! The reality is I am probably equally if not more nerdy and I have achieved some things, but I haven’t yet got my J-Lo figure or the financial power of Kylie Jenner. The reality is, I no longer compare to the “celebrities” who live an impossible life. Instead I am content with just finding my own happiness which is far away from the limelight. My one piece of advice to someone younger, …

“Don’t worry what rate everyone else is doing things at, whether it’s buying a house or getting married, if that’s what you want you can get there on your own timeline and feel content that you worked hard to achieve it!”

Samantha – 30 years old

“Make the most of the different opportunities you have in front of you. When you are older, you won’t necessarily have the luxury of the spare time or resources to make certain things happen. So, whether it is auditioning for a school play or starting a new sport or hobby, go for it! Your future self will look back on these moments fondly and you might even make new friends as a result of it.”

Lucy – 40 years old

“Most of the things that worry us day-to-day really don’t matter when you consider the bigger picture. Try to keep things in perspective, especially if you are one of life’s natural worriers! Find something constructive that helps you deal with them, whether that’s talking it over with someone else, or a hobby that distracts you, and save your time and energy for more important things. Life is too short to fill it with unnecessary worries!” 

Joss – 49 years old

“Take every opportunity for an adventure, they will help define who you become and give you great stories to tell.  Work out what is really important to you (this will change over time) and use that to help you make your choices, then don’t worry about making some mistakes – you will learn from every part of your journey.  Stop worrying so much!”

Helen – 50 years old

“Work hard and play hard, and always find a way to remain cool no matter what challenges come your way, pause, reflect, and don’t make any rash decisions….”

Jenny – 73 years old

“…Two of life’s vital ingredients – Honesty and Kindness”.  

Honesty as in not saying you know or understand something just to impress the person you are speaking to.  Admit you don’t and you will be the receiver of knowledge.

Honesty as in not following the crowd to save face but saying what you really believe.  Social media is awash with cruel crowd-followers.  Have your say, if you must, with honesty and kindness – and only in the full knowledge of the facts.

Honesty as in answering a friend’s question not with the answer you know they want to hear but with truth.  If this is going to cause hurt, then the addition of a good dollop of Kindness will help.  Honesty is at the heart of true friendship.

Honesty as in not telling a lie or half-truth to dig yourself out of a hole.  That’s selfish – you can and must cope with the consequences. 

Kindness is wonderful, and only sometimes difficult.  It’s an act of giving – a smile, a helping hand, moral support.  You won’t necessarily receive anything in return, but that’s not the point – it is always enriching.

With Honesty and Kindness, you will play your part in making the world a better place.

Margaret – 86 years old

“Oh, one should not give advice!” “Work hard and keep at it”

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Inspiring women

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Years of experience

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Words of advice

Below are some of my other recent posts, whilst you’re here! …

The Ultimate Book Recommendations From Every Fiction Genre: Pt.3

Feature Image: https://www.readitforward.com/essay/article/17-books-were-excited-to-read-in-2017/ Disclaimer: The links to the book listed, are Amazon affiliate links – so if you are inspired and decide to buy it, I benefit a little too. We’re sharing the love! … Mystery & Crime This is also sometimes called detective fiction. Simply it’s a ‘who dunnit’ narrative. Whilst these books can be … Continue reading The Ultimate Book Recommendations From Every Fiction Genre: Pt.3

The Ultimate Book Recommendations From Every Fiction Genre: Pt. 2

Feature Image: http://www.walsom.com/illustrations/commercial-retail/bookshop-interior-4.html Disclaimer: The links to the book listed, are Amazon affiliate links – so if you are inspired and decide to buy anything, I benefit a little too. We’re sharing the love! … Graphic novel  Some books aren’t defined by their content but by their form. Graphic novels are a visual form of literature, … Continue reading The Ultimate Book Recommendations From Every Fiction Genre: Pt. 2

The Ultimate Book Recommendations From Every Fiction Genre: Pt. 1

Feature image: https://www.brainpickings.org/2012/11/13/my-ideal-bookshelf-jane-mount-thessaly-la-force/ “So, what do you want to do in the future Becky?” Umm…anything to do with books! Recently I have put my serious thinking hat on about what I might want my career and future to look like. When faced with the largest, scariest, open-ended questions such as ‘Where do you see yourself … Continue reading The Ultimate Book Recommendations From Every Fiction Genre: Pt. 1

The ultimate running playlist: why music helps us run better

Running for me is a great stress reliever and is just as important for my mental health as it is for my physical health – but the difference between a good run and a great run can be whether I listen to music or not. Humans are hardwired to respond to rhythm, and it is pretty definitive that music is performance enhancing in terms of its ergogenic effect, it boosts your physical performance, endurance, and recovery. So, it is no surprise that many fitness enthusiasts and runners enjoy listening to music. But in case you need convincing, here are 4 advantages of running to music – followed by my Spotify running playlist: to get you pumped for that next run.  

#1 – It boosts motivation

At the beginning of a run, you have full energy in the tank and listening to an upbeat, motivating song can definitely aid your drive and focus and help you channel a positive mindset. In turn this will inspire you towards higher levels of performance. It is no secret that when you feel good, you’re more likely to push yourself faster and feel good whilst you’re doing it. 

‘Can’t Hold Us’ by Macklemore is a good song to boost your motivation, with its fast beat and positive lyrics. 

‘I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’ by the Scissor Sisters is another fun, positive song to convince yourself this was a good idea, it’s going to be a good run. 

#2 – It improves your mood

Much like motivation, mood can be manipulated to some extent by listening to music during exercise. The combination of ‘happy sounds’ and the positive psychological effect that exercise has on the brain has the ability to shift negative thoughts. Sometimes after a run, I will experience the ‘runner’s high’, where endorphins are triggered which make you feel good and can boost your mood during and after exercise. To experience this, many argue you need to ‘push yourself, but not too hard’, and that tempo running is a great way to increase your chances. So, by listening to music that makes you feel good, you’re more likely to push through and maintain a long-term routine.  

‘Finally Free’ by Niall Horan is a cheesy, feel-good song which always makes me smile when it comes on. What’s not to love about embracing freedom when you’re running?

‘Love on Me’ by Galantis is just one of those songs with repetitive and catchy lyrics and a good beat to motivate you to enjoy your run.

#3 – It helps you to dissociate

By listening to music, it helps you to shift your focus from the stress/worries in your life and the hardness of running- say you’re about to run up a steep hill. By acting as a good distraction and letting your mind wander can give your performance a real boost and make running a more long-term activity. 

‘I Lived’ by One Republic – has a softer pop feel in which I can focus on the lyrics and clear my mind.

‘Got That Fire’ by Royal Tailor has the opposite effect, becoming lost in the driving beat and lyrics, you can let out any frustration and feel the music whilst you run. 

#4 – It helps you establish a pace

However, most of my running playlist I use to help me maintain a good pace, and so is tempo/beat orientated. When it gets to the middle of the run slump, by turning on a beat-driven motivating song, it can really help to make you want to keep going. When we use music in the synchronous mode, it appears that music makes you run more efficiently too, as there are energy gains of up to 7% when you coordinate your movements with music. Essentially, it has a metronomic effect in regulating your stride. This rhythm response, when your body responds the tempo and by finding a song which matches your cadence, you’re more likely to stick to it and it won’t feel so bad. 

(I can’t get no) Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones – is this desired effect, as the repetitive beat and underlying riff helps to keep those feet going.  

‘Take It or Leave It’ by Great Good Fine Ok is super catchy and the chorus inspires me to run that little bit faster, I often find my pace increasing when this song comes on… 

Here is my full running playlist: Hopefully some of these songs will also help you to boost your motivation, improve your mood, help you to dissociate and establish a good pace.

However, not listening to music sometimes whilst you run can help you to be more aware of your breath, hazards around you and lets you listen and react to how your body is feeling better. By adding variety to your running routine, by sometimes listening to slower songs etc for longer runs, or just running and enjoying nature’s sounds – there is no doubt however, that music can help you run faster, better and make it more enjoyable. Let me know what your favourite running/workout songs are, I’d love to know!

Ethical and Sustainable fashion brands to celebrate

The latest fashion trend isn’t seasonal colour or print, but rather it’s the concept of ethical and sustainable fashion. As ‘fast fashion’ is cheap and is intended for short term purposes, with the fashion industry emitting more carbon dioxide than international flights and maritime shipping combined. Whereas, ‘sustainable fashion’ is the simply the opposite, it takes into account the full lifecycle of the product – from the design, sourcing, production processes and transport. It aims to look at everyone and everything affected by it, from the environment, to the workers and communities where it’s produced and where it’s bought.

It’s a complex issue and there isn’t one brand that is currently able to tackle everything, but together many brands are beginning to make a big impact.

Whilst many high-street and ‘fast’ fashion brands are investing in social prosperity and transparency surrounding their products and processes, the question still remains of, does it offset the large ecological footprint they are giving off? Yet although now I am more environmentally conscious of the effect the fashion industry has on our society, I still purchase items from some ‘fast fashion’ brands, because let’s face it – it’s cheaper, more readily available, and more well-known.

However, if people gained more knowledge and received greater awareness of the impact the fashion industry has on the environment, I believe more people would consider making the change to sustainable fashion, or like me just trying to be environmentally aware.

Stella McCartney phrases it eloquently as her goal is, “to portray who we want to be and how we carry ourselves; our attitude and collective path. Our man-made constructed environments are disconnected and unaware of other life and the planet which is why there is waste.” The rise of the trend of, “it’s cool to be kind” has meant that many brands have incorporated sustainability, employee rights, FairTrade and great style. Here’s a small roundup of some of my favourites, (links attached to brand name).

Sézane

The Parisian brand is making an effort to use environmentally friendly materials i.e. those with a truly minimal environmental impact, such as organic cotton. At the Solitaire Paris boutique, they resell pieces leftover from shoots and testing fittings to practice circular fashion, with profits donated to DEMAIN (helping children whose prospects are unfairly disadvantaged). With beautiful broderie tops, midi dresses and fancy belts – it is on the more expensive side but is well worth the cost.

&OtherStories

This brand with to-die-for knitwear, skirts and loungewear- also sells ethical products. To help make your clothes last longer, & Other Stories has developed ‘With Care’, a project with oat-based formulations. Through biodegradable formulations with renewable ingredients these products are efficient yet kind to both fabrics and the environment.

Free People

The brand currently has 300+ earth-friendly wearable products, and another 300+ clean beauty products available online. With a bohemian inspired style with floating dresses, and long-lasting activewear, Free People continue to change the game.

Away That Day

Established in 2018, Away That Day brings eco-friendly swimwear made with 100% ECONYL fibre which consists of regenerated nylon, ocean plastics and fishing nets.  Designed in London and made in Bali, they also aim for wearable and functionality. Supporting one production team in Bali, their swimwear makes you want to go on holiday!

Boden

I have been wearing clothes from Mini Boden, Johnnie Boden and now Boden and when I found out there were environmentally conscious it was even better. All of Boden’s clothing is super high quality and they admit that “there’s more to quality products than careful construction and rigorous testing.” Sustainable fashion is a “journey, and we’re learning and improving every step of the way.”

John Lewis

Although not all brands on John Lewis are sustainable, they have a vast section called ‘sustainable fashion’ where you can browse a large variety of sustainable pieces from different brands. A great way to view multiple styles.

Reformation

Treating yourself to a gorgeous dress from Reformation is not a cheap purchase but is arguably worth it. Many a time I browse through and then remember my poor credit card… They focus on People, Product, Planet and Progress. They calculate the environmental footprint based on the carbon dioxide emissions, water usage and waste to calculate a ‘Refscale’ to understand their impact.

H&M Conscious

Each item in the Conscious collection has an aspect that lessens its environmental impact, like organic cotton or recycled polyester. The best part is that the styles start at just £10 so you don’t have to spend a fortune on sustainable fashion. The H&M Group parent company says overall it uses 57% recycled or sustainably sourced fibres, with a goal to reach 100% by 2030.

People Tree

People Tree have had a long-standing relationship with FairTrade since 1991, their core mission is to make products to the highest ethical and environmental standards from start to finish. Contemporary, versatile designs and playful, exclusive prints inspired by the V&A archives create stylish, innovative and affordable fashion.

The Body Positivity movement: does it work?

There is no question that a movement has been growing over the past few years. A movement where women are waking up to the unhealthy and negative portrayal of body image that the diet and media culture has spun for decades. Now people are beginning to find peace and acceptance with their bodies, creating an uprising of women coming together to share their stories. The movement in and of itself, is a force for good but the messages about women’s bodies can be confusing, misleading and a bit intimidating sometimes.

What does it all mean?

Body Positivity:

Refers to the assertion that all people deserve to have a positive body image, regardless of how society and popular culture view ideal shape, size and appearance. It is the social movement that believes ALL bodies are good bodies. It pushes for representation of a diverse range of body types throughout society and believes that beauty is a social construct that should not determine one’s worthiness of self-love or respect.

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Body confidence:

Refers to an individual’s ability to feel confident in his or her body. A body confident person has a positive body image. However, just because someone is body confident doesn’t mean they are also body positive. Someone can be confident in their body but not hold the belief that ALL bodies are good bodies. All of these nuances can be confusing, such as you could be a self-conscious body positive activist.

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Body Image:

Refers to how an individual sees their own body, by looking in the mirror and making judgments on their appearance – one study defined it as “the multifaceted psychological experience of embodiment.”

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The confusion

Now all of that sounds great in theory, but does it actually work in practice? There comes a confusion which stems from misrepresentation. Some argue that the body positivity movement is not for everyone – often slim people post pictures of their bodies with ‘fat rolls’ and attribute it the body positivity movement. But instead they should arguably be advocating body confidence and self-love.

The message’s about women’s bodies can be confusing, since there is no one ‘ideal’ body or ‘perfect’ woman, despite what the media would have you believe – the conflicting messages of “get healthier, but love yourself for what you have”, “lose weight, but enjoy eating what you want.” The danger is that the body positivity movement has given the women the message that life will only start once we entirely approve our appearances, and no matter of your weight and potential health problems, that’s okay. Body positive activists are forced to contend with a culture that views good health and larger bodies as incompatible.

Body positivity and health

While health should not be measured by one number on a scale, or a narrow criterion of specific characteristics, health experts also point out that you can’t escape the stress that extra weight has on the body, as it can lead to medical complications down the road. Dr. John J. Tomcho, medical director of the Carolinas Weight Management centre, is familiar with a variety of body types that don’t fit a single definition of health. But he does have an overarching concern. “I see a lot of people with a BMI of 40+, and they can come in and get blood work and be absolutely fine, but that pressure of the extra weight…eventually will take its toll”.

The BBC 2 documentary entitled: “Who are you calling fat?”, looks at what it’s like living with obesity. Nine people spend a week living together and while they face the same stigmas about their weight, the way it’s shaped their attitudes differs hugely. From body positivity activists to others shameful and frustrated at their current weight and lifestyle. It is an interesting insight to how people view they body and other’s perceptions of it.

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However, I believe there is a strong misconception that anyone who talks about body positivity or fat acceptance or Health at (every) size is saying, “Oh, I give permission to sit on the sofa and eat crisps all day.”  The idea that body positivity allows people to take part in poor health behaviours is an incorrect interpretation of the movement’s mission.

Social justice movement and encouraging inclusivity

Body positivity is more of a social justice movement, but it is not positive body image. Whether you are underweight, overweight or somewhere in between, problems with body image harm us all and keep perpetuating the idea that being skinny will bring you health and happiness.

Whilst body positivity is a necessary way to tackle to stigma and the harmful messages we’ve been sent for years, embracing a positive body image for me is more important than joining the body positive movement. I am not saying that it’s isn’t a force for good, but in my personal journey – I am focusing on self-love and body confidence rather than positivity.

Activist and actor Jameela Jamil is an outspoken critic of beauty norms and diets, yet she has received much criticism for daring to have such an opinion because she’s deemed slim, beautiful and extremely privileged. We need to call out body positive activists who aren’t inclusive, it can feel like you are damned either way. Say something and you’re too slim/beautiful to be allowed an opinion. Say nothing and you’re complicit/empowering the patriarchy. There needs to be a refined balance and reminder of the movement’s message: it is there to accept all. Yet all social movements risk commodification and body positivity is no different – it focuses on fat versus thinness but there are many other bodies that don’t fit the ‘norm’, ones with disabilities, of different ethnicities, have scars etc. They are all part of the movement just as much as the rise against the media’s typical ‘thin and beautiful’.

Strip away all of the confusion and it’s about accepting the body you have and still striving to have the healthiest body you could potentially have. Rather than categorising bodies, lets try to understand that everyone is different and unique, and we’ve got to work with what we’ve got.

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Top ten tips for surviving online learning

Having now completed two weeks of online school, navigating the inevitable mishaps and fun moments of online learning, I have come up with my top 10 tips for surviving online learning…

1.    Make sure your teacher has a cute pet they can show you to aid your learning

There is no better motivation than your teacher’s or friend’s cute dog or cat making an appearance during your lesson. A small break from learning to show your pet I think is perfectly acceptable and should be encouraged. A good paws-e if you will.

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2.    Make good use of the TEAMS backgrounds to fulfil your holiday mode

Let’s face it we’re all missing our Easter breaks and summer holiday plans to Italy, France and other exotic places. So, making good use of learning ‘on the beach’ and studying in the ‘high mountains’ helps to fill that holiday longing.

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3.    Perfect the excuse for your camera being off…because you just woke up

We’ve all been on a call and someone has their camera off, they sound distinctly sleepy and don’t participate much; we all know they have most likely just woken up. But who can blame them really when there is a large temptation to stay in bed!

4.    Find a place to ‘work’ and a place to ‘relax’

Getting into a ‘learning environment’ is an important step to shift your mindset from being ‘at home’ to ‘at school’. Try to find an area in your house that is different from where you do work. A great learning environment could be your kitchen, lounge or study if you have one. Try to avoid your bedroom, if you can help it.

5.    Get. Out. Of. The. House

It goes without saying that exercising your right to ‘one piece of exercise a day’ is important. But it is even more important now that we’re all staring at our laptops all day. Find an hour in the day to walk, run, cycle or merely stand outside – you’ve got to get that Vitamin D.

6.    Always have your class WhatsApp chat open – so you can all agree it’s not just you who has no idea what’s going on

Please tell me it’s not just me that sometimes has absolutely no idea what a teacher is going on about? Having your WhatsApp class chat open means you can always talk to your friends and share a laugh if things get confusing.

7.    Make sure it’s not just you and the teacher before you join a lesson…that gets awkward

The moment just before you join a lesson, there is always a brief thought of ‘who else is already there?’ Being the first to start a meeting or waiting for others in your class to join can sometimes be a little awkward, unless obviously it’s your favourite teacher, then chat away.

8.    Establish a daily routine

Trying to stay focused on a structured routine and timetable can really help to encourage a positive attitude towards online school. By dedicating specific time to work and factoring in breaks, it means your chance of productivity increases.

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9.    Set realistic expectations

Distractions, technical difficulties and motivation are all factors to bear in mind when attending online lessons and learning. Not being too harsh on yourself if you end up watching Netflix instead of that essay you need to write, is important to finding the right balance between work and relaxation. It is never going to run 100% perfectly.

10. Mute your microphone to limit the ‘interesting’ background conversations

Muting your microphone is not only a good way to focus on what the teacher is saying, but it also limits your chances of people overhearing that awkward and ‘interesting’ conversation your parents are having; or the accidental text message going ‘ping’ or the dog barking.

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