Happy Bloody New Year – It feels amazing to be writing for the first time this year and with a feeling of hope that had really started to fail me as I limped over the 2020 finish line, there were no party poppers or clinks of champagne glasses, I went to bed, and woke up in 2021. Simples.
As an infrequent but annoying sufferer of the dark days I often dread January, it’s like I panic about its arrival even before its made its presence known, but for years the blanket of darkness always loomed and it sucked, but not this year! I liken the darkness to one of those ‘old fashioned’ magic tricks, you know the one where there is an empty box, then someone places a blanket over it and 'voila', a person appears in the box.
Well that person is me
I immediately think of Ron Burgundy crying out his 'I’m in a glass case of emotion' line – except in my version it doesn't quite attract the same level of humour. I can see people living round me, I even respond, completely normal to most, yet I feel nothing, no love, no sadness, just numb to the core. When it came last year, I decided to take positive action so I wrote in my journal, which I am very bad at updating, but love the idea of. I captured what happens when the lights go out for me, how I feel, how I behave, how that impacts others and what I need to do about it. Now to be clear I am no expert here, but this worked for me and it might for you too. Or was it actually a pseudo thing? Anyway who cares, I have found over the years that when you are a positive person that usually wears a smile, the minute that smile fades people make assumptions and that has definitely impacted me, hence the importance of surrounding yourself with the right people who get you!
However it did get me thinking about how my daily habits and space were impacting how I felt – this is when I found the book - The 5AM Club by Robin Sharma – which totally resonated with me and is absolutely worth a read. Personally I haven’t always been a fan of ‘self-help books’ that capitalise on rhetoric of 'how to live your life better'. In the wrong hands those type of books can be dangerous as they can leave you feeling worse than you did before. But then there are the exceptions and this for me is one, with a stand out quote which appears right at the beginning;
‘Do not allow your fire to go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet and the not at all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the little you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists. It is real. It is possible. It is yours’ – Ayn Rand
So often we allow the negative voice in our heads to talk us out of our dreams, this book reminded me of the days where staring up at the stars filled you with delight, running in a park made you feel alive, and how chasing butterflies was magic – does that need to change as we get older? For me absolutely not.
‘The lamp of your creativity, your positivity and your intimacy with greatness grew dim as you began to worry about fitting in, having more than others and being popular’ – So freaking true.
As a full time employee and a small business owner I have to switch from corporate to creative and sometimes that is hard and you get stuck between the two worlds. For some it’s easy, but I love both worlds for different reasons, I just don’t always have the ability to switch off from the other and that’s when my head can feel completely overwhelmed.
So how do I cope with this, what tried and tested methods have brought balance to my world? Not all the time I might add, Mr Milk certainly has stories of adult tantrums, but I will insist that these are simply releases of emotion.
Exercise (Yoga for me please)
Any form of exercise really, but jumping out of bed before your 'inner voice' talks you out of it and makes you think that hitting snooze for the tenth time is good for you. Anything that gets your heart beating a little, and yes yoga absolutely does this! Yoga with Adriene and the FWFG community have been instrumental for me on my journey, but I also love local yoga communities. Kat Rooney Yoga and CALM Yoga studios both have beautiful pay as you go practices that have been a god send to me during recent months, I have really enjoyed the live online sessions so they are definitely worth checking out.
I love the colour green, it reminds me of the outdoors which is where I draw inspiration, my happy go-to place always. Indoor plants have been found to benefit both our emotional and physical wellbeing. They improve your mood, reduce fatigue and lower stress and anxiety. If like me you are a serial plant killer I find that succulents are a really great option, they are low maintenance and look fab in any space, including your desk space. Martin Cox Living gifts have the most beautiful range, I have ordered their plants so many times for friends and they never disappoint!
A good friend of mine bought me a Wabi-sabi book a few years ago and I loved it. Wabi-sabi - is the view or thought of finding beauty in every aspect of imperfection in nature. It is about the aesthetic of things in existence, that are ‘imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It offers an escape from the modern worlds obsession with the relentless pursuit of perfection and accepts imperfections in a more meaningful way. I can highly recommend the book by Beth Kempton if you want to know more, but this is one of the key experiments I found useful:
- How does your physical space make you feel? What is your favourite thing about it? What would you like to change?
- What kind of objects do you own more of than you need?
- What accumulation habits do you have ? What life habits might these be reflecting
- What kind of items do you own that you treasure and could you use more of in your daily life?
- What particular aspects of Japanese beauty and soulful simplicity inspire you? How could you bring these ideas into your own space?
Remember beauty is in the heart of the beholder, when you realise you are perfectly imperfect already you have less need for things to boost your own self-image and soulful simplicity is a source of delight
Who hasn’t seen the craze that followed after the Netflix launch of ‘Tidying up with Marie Kondo’ along with ‘Get Organised with the Home Edit’? – Skips were hired, trips to the local refuse centres increased and out went the items that didn’t make our hearts smile (Or in my case they got moved to the garage because I don’t like throwing good things out). I have also had my own personal experience with a stylist - Donna Tweedle Stylist - If you do not follow her already then that’s one thing you can do today. I was lucky enough to attend a workshop and have a personal consultation with Donna which included a wardrobe edit and it changed my world, I now understand so much more about what I wear and why I wear it. So after losing a little confidence in recent years these consultations have refocused me and my confidence has slowly started to return.
She is a dreamboat! A clear space equals a clear mind.
Find The Light
Introducing natural light into the rooms of our homes improves our mood and reduces energy consumption. Not all of us are lucky to have huge windows with floods of daylight beaming through, if this applies to you try swapping heavy fabrics for lighter fabrics to change your living spaces. Add mirrors to rooms to reflect the natural light, by introducing multiple sources into a space you can really change the balance and make the home feel much brighter.
Last year I really started to understand the power of aromatherapy, I am probably late to the party here, but a good friend of mine had a NEOM diffuser and it brought all the calm to a space. Silly really why I hadn’t thought of it before, most of us would have experienced the moment that we walk into a spa, not the one where we worry about our wobbly bits before we go in for a relaxing massage, but that instant feeling of relaxation. Diffusers with a gentle mist or a candle scented with oils do more than simply smell good. Lavender and rose geranium are two scents that are proven to calm the nervous system and the smell of eucalyptus is perfect for when you are suffering with congestion. I always pop a few drops of essential oils on my yoga mat when I feel slightly under the weather or when I need to feel that extra calm. Southwood Living do a great range of oils and I have recently found the brand Flomacy and fell in love instantly - they are both most definitely worth checking out. The acknowledgment of the connection between mood and health and how we can utilise nature to improve our emotional wellbeing can make a huge difference.
We live in a society that prides itself in the acquisition and accumulation of 'stuff', with consumerism eating its way through both our pockets and our environment. Throw out what you don’t need, keep what you do! Minimalistic doesn’t mean cold or empty, it is about taking a more considered approach to your lifestyle, not buying things you don’t need to simply 'keep up' with everyone else – Instagram can often leave us feeling like we need more, but we don’t really. The windows you see on Instagram into people’s lives are only a small, well organised, often perfectly constructed snapshot of a moment in time – it often isn't a true reflection of the reality surrounding that little window.
A short time after my dad passed we had a neon sign designed by Light Up North that simply said 'Music Feeds The Soul' – you won’t often find a time in our house where music isn’t playing. We fell back in love with vinyl, before it became cool again and have been collecting ever since. 'For every situation there is a song that fits' – I had this engraved on my daughters IPOD many moons ago and it still works for us today. I like to have music on first thing in the morning and I often go to bed reading a book with the music on. From Led Zeppelin to Kate Bush, our collection has it all.
For many years I was always drawn to dark rooms, deep blues and off blacks with pops of colour, then using Wabi-sabi techniques I started to document how I felt in each space. It was then that we started the transition to a neutral palette and I haven't looked back. But getting that balance isn't easy, so much depends on the size of the room and the amount of natural light in it, so companies such as Lick Home where you can stick the testers on the wall are great. Greens, blues, and earthy muted tones along with warm whites are a great way to give a space all the cosy feels to help calm the mind.
Whatever is your happy, do that!
So that’s a wrap for the first blog in 2021, If just one of my tips helps you then I will be very happy! We have lots in store for Milk Home this year so stay tuned and hold on tight. My current vaccine prediction is sometime in September, giving me just enough time to lose some of this roundness