This morning I woke up relatively early, and it being Sunday I decided that the best way to spend the start of my day was away from any phones or laptops. This allowed me to have a good long read of the latest issue of Darling magazine, which arrived a week or so ago now but I’d yet to flick through properly. One of the main themes that came across whilst I was reading was that of gratitude and appreciation – there even being a whole article dedicated to the topic (A World Framed by Gratitude by Ashley Abercrombie). This took me back to the last time I thought in depth about gratitude – back in January 2014 on a completely different blog – and I wanted to share what I wrote back then with you now.
I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude over the last few days. It started when the actor Tyler Hoechlin tweeted a link to this TED talk by David Steindl-Rast, the topic of which is “If you want to be happy, be grateful”.
This resonated with me, particularly the parts about taking a moment to stop and observe the world around you so that you don’t take everything for granted. It’s not something I do very often, if at all.
Boy, did that change today!
…And I’m feeling good.
Today, ladies and gentlemen, we are going to be talking about fresh starts.
I originally planned to have this written and uploaded last week, straight after Easter. Like Christmas and New Year, Easter for many of us is another time of overindulgence, and my weekend was no exception. Whilst I didn’t eat all my chocolate eggs in one go, my usually balanced diet flew out of the window in the face of cheeses, pâté, pizza, roast dinners, chocolates – to name but a few. To be fair – as I had to remind myself on the third day – I wasn’t completely overeating. The quantities of all of the above were much larger than my usual intake of them, but the portions were nowhere near as big as they might have been a few years ago.
It just made me feel generally like crap. I was genuinely sad when I realised this, and annoyed my family trying to demand sympathy:
“You want us to feel sorry for you because eating this stuff makes you feel bad? Just don’t eat it then!”
“You don’t understaaaaaand!”
My diet when I’m away from my family is completely different – my own fault entirely because when I’m around them I have no self-control and tend to think “I’m on holiday”, not because they force junk down my throat. I generally feel good and very comfortable when eating the way I do at home, but that changes when my eating habits change during visits to my parents.
But far from feeling happy that I had been right all along, in thinking I’d found a diet and lifestyle that worked a lot better for me over the last few years, I just felt sad. A tiny part of me was hoping that I’d kind of just been being a “pretentious foodie” when professing my love for date, cashew and cacao “chocolates” over regular chocolate, or that my aubergine and mince bake sits better with me than regular lasagne, even if the latter holds a fond place in my memories.
I do still occasionally want to binge on all those now-oft-deemed “unhealthy” foods! I just don’t want to feel terrible afterwards. But I did, and I was also feeling a bit down in the dumps about life in general (it happens sometimes).
I needed a fresh start.
The thing about fresh starts is that people often decide they should coincide with an important day of the year – New Year’s Resolutions, for example, or a significant birthday. And if it’s not one of those times, often you just start feeling a bit miserable about the way things are heading and hope that they’ll change at some unspecified point in the future.
But in the immortalised words of Nina Simone – it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me.
You have the ability to start over any day you like, you can feel good, and to help here are five small things you can do to shake yourself up and feel fresher:
1. Eat something green
Ok, it doesn’t have to be green. But make yourself a much healthier meal than usual (we can all do it), and one that makes you feel fairly refreshed or ‘lighter’ afterwards. There are plenty of delicious and easy healthy recipes out there that can give us a bit of a boost and still feel fairly indulgent. Personally I made the above vegan ‘cheesy’ broccoli soup, and felt better than I had in days afterwards.
Or if you don’t sweat, just move in some way! Literally shake the cobwebs off. I’ve been doing Jillian Michael’s Shred It With Weights workout recently, it takes just 25 minutes and gets my heart rate up far more than a 25 min jog does (mainly because I’m unable to jog for 25 minutes, and so alternate with walking). If I don’t really want to work out one day but make myself start and finish, I feel so good and proud of myself afterwards. But if you don’t want to do anything that strenuous, go for a walk and take in some fresh air! Do some yoga! Do anything to get the blood flowing and your muscles stretched out a bit. Shaking things up physically will help you de-shake (that’s clearly a word) things mentally at the same time.
Or take a bath – use some of those left-over secret-Santa gifts from the last few years or the bath bomb/bath salts you’ve been saving for a special occasion. Take longer than usual – do the whole routine. The cleaning and the exfoliating and the conditioning and the moisturising afterwards. Feel cleaner and fresher and more pampered than you have done in a long time.
I should probably point out that this list isn’t in any sort of order. If it were, shower would probably come last. But as it isn’t, we can continue.
Tidy up your environment a little. It doesn’t have to be a lot for it to make a huge difference to how you feel. Make your bed. Wash the dishes. Throw a load of laundry into the washing machine. Wipe down the kitchen surfaces. Put away those clean clothes that have been lying on the sofa for about a week now. As much as I liked to claim that it wasn’t true when I was younger and that “I understand this mess, it’s organised chaos – this way I know where everything is!”, whoever said ‘tidy house, tidy mind’ was onto something. Buy yourself a cheap bunch of daffodils for your kitchen table. If your environment feels fresher, you’ll feel fresher.
5. Do something different
Do absolutely anything that you don’t normally do, so long as it’s something that puts a smile on your face. It could be as simple as painting your nails if you don’t often do that (mine are now a very shiny turquoise). If you’re stuck for ideas, I love to browse the Sad Trombone List over at GalaDarling. You’re tired of your old routine, so break it up. Go to a different coffee shop. Plan a dinner that you wouldn’t normally try. Draw a picture and pin it on the noticeboard. Re-arrange the furniture. Buy and light a scented candle. Take a break for an hour – turn your phone off for an hour, sit in a room with no technology and read a new book for a short while. Get the paints out. Go to a museum. Usually wear jeans and a t-shirt? Wear a summer dress or a button-down with rolled-up sleeves. The possibilities are endless!
Shake off the cobwebs and set yourself up for a fresh start. You can now tackle anything. And that’s not because you’ve done any of the above steps. That’s because you can tackle anything, and you can achieve anything, you just needed to break out of the rut you were in.
It’s all you, and you’re doing great.
Sometimes the best way to get rid of the old is to create something new, and that’s exactly what happened when I first made this vegan cheesy broccoli soup. I’d bought a box of vegetables just over a week earlier, and my original plans for the purple sprouting broccoli had gone awry – mainly due to my own laziness. It was starting to look a little cheerless, if not downright despondent, so I decided to play around with some things I’d heard about vegan ‘cheesy-ness’ substitutes and chuck it into a soup.