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A Box of Happiness

May = Mental Health Awareness

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Our mental health is the foundation on which the rest of our mind, body and soul functions. If you’re struggling with mental health the rest of you is surely going to suffer alongside it. Which is why our mental health is one of the most important things to look after. Its also the hardest thing to talk about for some reason, we feel ashamed if we suffer in this way. But the reality is that its something so many people have to battle with on a daily basis. 

From mild anxieties to depression and beyond. Neglecting to take care of these issues and seeking help when needed means they can spiral out of control very quickly.

Talking about it is a fundamental necessity. To get it into the open, to know that it is not shameful. To help each other and to remove the shroud of guilt surrounding mental health in this country. The last few weeks I have seen a small number of people telling their stories, encouraging others to do the same and that needs to continue. We need to stop the depression shaming that goes on, telling people to pull themselves together and get on with it is not helpful. Would you do that to somebody who was suffering with an injury? No, you would comfort and care for them until they are back to full health and that’s what needs to go on with mental health problems. But I also believe you need somebody who enables you to carry on functioning rather than sinking further in to that black hole that wants to consume you.

I don’t have a personal story to tell but I see what can happen in people that I love and care for, as somebody who hasn’t been in that position it is so difficult to understand what is going on in that persons head. So, it takes a gentle hand, a caring smile and a listening ear. To not push, just wait, just be there when they feel ready to speak and listen with no judgement.

I believe I am lucky to know when I am overwhelmed, when things are getting too much and I have learned to take time for myself in various ways. To know when to take a step back from the world and retreat in to my cocoon, my safe place. This weekend for example. In social situations I am a social person, but I enjoy my quiet sanctuary of home too. This weekend we had family to stay and spent a few days super busy, walking to the beach, running around and playing in that fresh sea air. There was no quiet sanctuary for me. By Monday evening, I felt the strain, the mental and physical exhaustion. Some people love to be surrounded by others, its how they function but for me I need to wind down in quiet solitude. So once the kids had crashed in their beds also exhausted, I ran myself a hot bubbly bath, grabbed my crystals and incense and had an hour floating in the tub. I felt the strain melting away, my breath easing to normal, the overwhelm shrinking back.

Life can be extremely stressful, especially when unexpected and uncontrollable events happen. It is human nature to want to be in control but that is not realistic. We all need to learn those coping mechanisms for when these things happen. Some people go in to action mode, trying to fix the problem, seeking solutions. While others may bury their heads in the sand. The important thing is learning your own coping mechanisms and what works for you. For me, I take a little time out, to clear my head and with that clear head allow a solution to form or realise that the situation isn’t as bad as it seems. And the way I do that varies, but it almost always involves being alone. Only then can I develop that self awareness needed. A little self care, a walk by the sea to allow the crashing waves to put my otherwise overactive mind in to a meditative state, a bubble bath with essential oils, a good book to take me to another world.

Meditation and mindfulness are wonderful ways to take care of that need to be calm when life gets a little crazy. Which is why May’s Box of Happiness is a mindfulness and meditation box. To help others learn more about and begin to practise these techniques that they may have otherwise never considered.

I would love to hear from others. How do you take care of your mental health? What do you think needs to be done to improve mental health awareness?

 

The Lost Art of the Duvet Day

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I used to prescribe my teenage self regular duvet days, once a month.
A day to stay in bed, read books, eat ice cream and chocolate and just be me.
With no pressure from the outside world to do anything else.
No homework, no housework, nothing else other than what pleased me.

Then life began to get in the way, all the responsibilities that adulthood brings; the work stress, the children, whether I’ve paid the bills, is there food in the house? The mum guilt of whether I have cuddled my babies enough that day, do they feel loved, are they happy?
The multitude of items on my to-do list increasing day by day. There appears to be no time for those duvet days that made me feel so refreshed and relaxed.

Now, after many years out of practise I have lost the art of the duvet day. I cannot sit still. I can possibly manage a duvet hour but even then there are ten thousand things running through my brain that I just MUST get done. I put the kids to bed and then do the housework, or study, or check my work emails, or make a few orders. I actually find it impossible to sit and watch a film from start to finish.

So, I ask you, how do we as busy adults learn to switch back off again?

That is something I plan to rediscover and I hope you will come along with me for the journey. Follow my journey on Instagram @aboxof_happiness

We all have self-care thrown in our faces every where we look these days but it really is so important to take that time for yourself to recharge. Are you putting the most stress on yourself? Does the kitchen sink being empty of dishes really make a difference to your life? Probably not.

Today I prescribe a duvet day. Or tomorrow, or the next day but schedule it in. Work out a time when you can just be at home on your own, not doing the dishes, or scrubbing the floor. But just spending time with you before you burn out.

This morning, I had a meeting scheduled which was cancelled for the second time this week. At first I was a little put out that my entire days plans would alter (for a control freak this is hard to handle!), but then I figured this was a serendipitous moment that would allow me to start the day with a whole new slate. I could make a dent in that giant to do list, but instead I made a big pot of coffee and sat in my giant bay window which was awash with sunshine. The only sounds were the seagulls soaring high above the sea. That quiet, a mug of coffee that I would get to finish before it got cold (I lie, it did get cold, mainly because it was a mug made for giants!), the vase of roses on the windowsill. I felt a huge sense of gratitude, that life, although imperfect was pretty perfect in that moment. And this is the switching off that I need, that thing they called mindfulness. We all need to slow down and appreciate these little things instead of always striving for perfection.

So, take that duvet day, take a moment for mindfulness and be grateful for everything that IS perfect right now, in this moment. Stop rushing from task to task on that list, it will still be there in a few hours and you will have the calmed mind that will be able to tackle each thing just a little more effectively.

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New Beginnings

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It’s February and despite the snowy weather there are signs of Spring all around us.
We also just celebrated the New Year AND 2 weeks ago I turned 30. In 8 weeks I finally complete my business and management degree.

The world just smells of fresh new beginnings. And with that A Box of Happiness will also be getting a new lease of life.

It’s time to shake things up and really get this Happiness Revolution going!

If you are a follower of my Facebook page you will already know why I started A Box of Happiness and that purpose is still very real. I want to do just a little bit of what I can to help others, to make them feel special, cared for, loved. My initial intention was for my boxes to be purchased as a little self love but it has emerged as something more than that. More and more of you are sending boxes to friends with lovely little notes inside (they are my favourite ones!) or when they are having a tough time, you also want to put a smile on another persons face. That is exactly what A Box of Happiness is all about and I am so glad that my wonderful customers feel the same way.

SO over the coming weeks you will be hearing more from me, as I feed and cultivate this little business in to the special thing it is just destined to be. But, I will need your help!

I need to know what you love about A Box of Happiness and also what could be better? What else do you want to see from our little corner of happiness? I want this blog to become a community of self-care, love and wellbeing so let me know what you would like me to blog about! I’d love to hear from you with your suggestions and little pearls of wisdom so ping over a quick email to zoe@aboxofhappiness.co.uk

Valentines Day is fast approaching and we have some beautiful items for the February boxes including handmade champagne and raspberry truffles so pop along and grab one for yourself or treat someone you love.

 

The Power of the Mind

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The mind has amazing power over our lives, our emotions and has the ability to do amazing things. Ever noticed how having a pessimistic outlook can change the course of the day? Think about this….You wake up, stub your toe on the door, spill the milk on the floor while making your breakfast – there are two ways it can go. You say angrily, ‘It’s going to be “One of those” days’ and so it is and you have a hell of a day. Or you tell yourself to snap out of it and take 5 minutes over a coffee to recharge, get some positivity and travel to work noticing all the beauty around you, the sun shining, the birds singing and spend the rest of the day upbeat.

As Buddha said ‘The mind is everything; what you think you become’ which as an article in breathe magazine (issue 8, page 16) shows, through research on the placebo effect – if we expect something to happen it will bring about that expected result be it positive or negative as ‘the brain is in control’ (Newlyn, E, 2017, Breathe Magazine, Issue 8, Page 17).
In the same article Emma Newlyn gives some great advice about creating your own placebo effect to give your life a little boost of positivity, if you’re a naturally pessimistic person this may take a bit of practise but will be well worth the effort for your mind, to alleviate low self-confidence and negative feelings. She recommends using the mind power you waste on worrying to turn it around into a positive response, focusing on something good and so occupying the mind in a more positive way to ‘take the body out of its cycle of stress’.
You can also use the power of the mind to visualise an image of what you want to achieve, this is something I do regularly when I struggle to sleep. Imagining how a situation will go, or at least how I would like it to go. Try it the next time you have a job interview or presentation. See yourself sat in your smart outfit, confident, smiling, answering the questions with ease. You will go in there with a little bit more positivity, a little more confidence and who knows you may even get the job.

Give these bits of advice a try and let me know how it works out for you.

In my next post I will be sticking with the theme of mind power but focusing more on positive affirmations and how words can shape your life, emotions, wellbeing and self- confidence.

This blog post was inspired by Issue 8 of Breathe Magazine – if you haven’t seen it I would highly recommend grabbing a copy, there’s so much wonderful advice surrounding a variety of topics that all lead to increased wellbeing.

 

New Start September

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September sees the beginning of many things, the beginning of autumnal weather, the beginning of a new school year – in our house that is starting Year 2 for the 6-year-old, starting pre-school for the 3-year-old and starting my third and final year of my business and management degree at a brand-new university, with brand new people! New beginnings and big changes like this can be daunting and a little frightening for some but taking on new challenges, learning something new and making new friends opens our minds up to new and wonderful things as well as boosting self-confidence as you realise how adaptable you really are. Nothing amazing happens if everything always stays the same, does it?

The dark nights closing in on us and the weather turning a little more chill makes September a great time for setting some new goals and assessing where you’re at with the goals you set at the start of the year. How close are you to achieving them? Is there anything you can do now to make sure you achieve those goals before the end of the year?
Your goals can be anything that makes YOU happy, as big or small as you like. They can be short term e.g. get up a little earlier tomorrow morning or long term e.g. Run the London marathon in 2020. The important thing to bear in mind is not just the goal but how and when you will achieve it. So if you were to plan to run the London marathon in 2020 you would think about what you need to do to actually achieve that, you would most probably train regularly, improving your fitness and health in the time leading up to it.

Doing that one thing for you is a great way to practise some self-care and improve your general wellbeing.
I am somebody who regularly sets goals and reflects on how far I have got to achieving them. And today I set some new ones. I turn the big 3-0 in January and would love to be fit and healthy and rock an amazing dress to celebrate.

Goal ONE – Be fabulous at 30.
As I am starting my third year of uni I will graduate next year and with what I have achieved in my studies so far am on track to graduate with a first. I think about this often and so that’s another goal.
Goal TWO – Graduate with a first.
I have been trying to pass my driving test for 2 years now, I now have to start again with my theory test as I have sadly failed a few times and left it so long my theory expired! I don’t want to beat me, I need to pass my driving test.
Goal THREE – Pass driving test!
Now that I have decided my goals I need to decide what small steps I need to take to achieve them. Little steps on a regular basis will make it easier to achieve.

Why not share your goals for the next few months, next year or even your 5 year plan and the little steps you need to take to get there? Grab a notebook and make it your goal diary, set those goals, reflect on your progress and smash them!

Summer Survival!

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So the summer holidays are in full swing and how are they going for you?
I’m finding working from home with two kids aged 6 and 3 really quite stressful and I have had some shouty moments which always make me feel so guilty, although I am sure many of you can relate.

We have had rain one minute then sun the next which doesn’t help!

It has made me realise the importance of self care even more, I think of it as a moment to refuel and replenish your soul for the next day. Which is why I have regular quiet candle lit bubbly baths. Recently I posted about this on my Facebook page and it was interesting to see how others liked to take a moment for themselves as they differed greatly. Some ladies liked to get active playing netball with their friends or taking the dog for a jog. You can check out the post here.

My mind has as usual had so many wonderful ideas running around it and I am looking forward to getting some of them in to action over the next few weeks so I hope you will keep tuned in to my Facebook and Instagram accounts to keep a track of them. They include floral foot spas, travelling garden retreats and sunshine in a bottle!
But in the meantime, why not grab yourself a “mums summer survival kit” including foot soak, a face mask, bath salts and calming herbal tea!

LemonMint Foot Soak

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How beautiful has the weather been these last few days? I know many of you will have struggled to cool down with the heat but that’s where our LemonMint foot soak comes in, it is most definitely our product of the month.

If you follow us on social media you will have seen this delicious creation featured in the June Box of Happiness! (Order yours before Friday!) Its also been a big seller on its own, its available through our Etsy shop by itself or make a create your own box and request it in the notes section!

Its a beautiful mixture of Himalayan pink salt and Epsom salt (for fantastic detoxification), lemon peel, peppermint and essential oils of lemon, peppermint and eucalyptus. I chose those oils for their anti-bacterial, cleansing and refreshing properties but they are also great for anybody that suffers with allergies. So if you’re a hay fever sufferer try inhaling deeply while using the soak for some relief. It truly is an amazing way to soothe tired and hot achy feet after a long day.

Lemon and Peppermint are such a beautiful combination, they are fresh and inviting and leave your tootsies tingly fresh!

Breaking the Stigma Around Mental Health

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Today I attended the BuyYorkshire event at Leeds Royal Armouries where I had the pleasure of seeing Alastair Campbell talk about mental health.

Wow, what an inspiration. His talk was honest and frank about his own mental health issues, the way he recalls his episode of psychosis as though it happened just yesterday. Describing the feeling of his mind being made of glass – smashing into thousands of shards. Hearing what he describes as a ‘cacophony’ of voices and noise in his head.
The talk highlighted some very important points, things we can all do to break the stigma of mental health.

Stop being afraid!
Stop hiding from it.
“Be open, be proud” because just about everybody will be affected by mental health problems at some point in their lives and there isn’t anything to be ashamed about.

The stigma can only be broken with honesty on the subject and things are not going to change unless we do something about it. As Alastair points out there is a huge gap between the care we receive for physical health and mental health although both are just as important as each other for us to be healthy and happy. He describes psychosis as on par with being in a horrific car crash, being thrown out of the front windscreen – in that situation you would be given immediate care, however somebody suffering psychosis is expected to be seen within 2 weeks before they receive treatment in the UK.

We all need to break this stigma and push for change just like people before us pushed for womens rights, racial equality and gay marriage.

I always say we need to be the change we want to see in the world and this works in so many ways.

The end of the talk saw an opportunity for a quick Q&A, the most interesting question on the subject of mental health was how each and every one of us could take a call to action from the talk to which Alastair replied “Don’t avoid it, don’t look the other way”, if you see somebody in distress ask them if they’re OK. Just that can mean so much.

Be the change you want to see in the world, break the stigma and join our Happiness Revolution!

Aim for Progress NOT Perfection!

By | Health, Wellbeing | 3 Comments

Just a quick pep talk for you on a sunny but windy Tuesday afternoon about something I have come to realise over the last few years. And that is that we don’t need to aim to be perfect at everything, progress is what we should be celebrating!
I have always had goals I wanted to achieve and also an idea about the kind of person I wanted to be. The image I wanted to convey to others. I wanted to be seen to be a good mum, I wanted to be slim, healthy, fit. I wanted a nice, clean, perfect home. I wanted the great job, nice stuff, I wanted to get up early every day and be as productive as I could be. I wanted my own business, I wanted to go to college and finish my degree. I wanted lots of friends and a fantastic social life. I wanted happy, healthy, clean children who were angelic. I wanted the perfect marriage, a nice car, my own home.

Now just take a look at that list. Its pretty long isn’t it? That list is exhausting – physically and mentally. Because, realistically all of those things on that list take time and energy. One thing I found was that I couldn’t possibly have every single thing on that list to a ‘perfect’ standard. But you know what? That’s OK!!

I stopped putting this pressure on myself to create this perfect image. Because that is not what’s important in life. The most important thing in life is just happiness! And who can be happy when every day they are feeling like they have failed because they haven’t managed to achieve their impossible ideologies of perfection?

Once I had realised this I completely scaled back all of those things I was trying to achieve, I have prioritised which things are truly and honestly important to me. I say to ME because to other people they would be completely different. The only things that matter to me are being happy, having a happy family and a happy home and it isn’t the things inside that home that are going to make me happy. Its the people inside it, their happiness as well as my own. The only person that can control my happiness is me. So less pressure to always be perfect because the most important thing is that we try. I may not get all the household jobs done every day, but that’s OK. I may not feel like getting up early on a morning, but that’s OK. I may feed the kids pizza on a regular basis, but hey, that’s OK!!

Absolutely go out there and reach for the moon but don’t feel so bad if it doesn’t work out, just keep on aiming for progress, a little bit at a time and don’t put so much pressure on yourself!