It’s a New Dawn, It’s a New Day, It’s a New Life for Me…

New Day

…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.

I have actual restraint in my own home, this lasted for weeks

I have actual restraint in my own home, this lasted for weeks

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

Vegan 'cheesy' broccoli soupOk, 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.

2. Sweat

SweatOr 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.

3. Shower

IMG_20150328_180630Or 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.

4. Clean

CleanTidy 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 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.

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Life is shit, but isn’t it wonderful?

Forty-five minutes ago (at the time of starting to write this) I decided to go on a walk. I’ve been working from home the last two days and not really left the house. I’ve also been procrastinating a lot, not doing a huge amount of anything productive, and today I had too much caffeine. As a result my heart rate has been far too high and I’ve felt fairly anxious all day.

Over the last few days I’ve not been feeling wonderful. I’ve been talking to various friends and family about how if you’re feeling stagnant you’ve got to do something proactive to change that, you’ve got to seek out new challenges and adventures and search for what you’re passionate about. You’ve got to actively live, rather than just exist.

But for all my pep talks to other people, I’ve been feeling a bit down myself recently. I had a bleugh moment several days ago about my age and the fact that even though I graduated a good year and a half ago now I don’t really feel like I’ve done anything since then that I want to do, or even discover what ‘I want to do’ actually is. I became acutely aware that whilst I’m still relatively young, I’m getting older, and I’m not going to be young forever. If I want to achieve anything, I’ve got to start actually working towards whatever it is that I want to achieve. But then I thought: what’s the point?

The following night, somewhere in between sleep and awake, I had the sudden thought that I needed to tell my aunty Dodo something related to what I’d been thinking about prior to that, or that she’d like to know about it. It took a moment before I remembered that she died a few months ago. And, god, wasn’t that like a punch in the chest.

Earlier today I watched a TED talk on Youtube – Pico Iyer talking about The Art of Stillness – thinking it would be an interesting topic to talk about here. In the talk, which I will link to below so you can listen to it yourself, Iyer talks about how the way to develop more appreciative eyes is by going nowhere and just sitting still. He talks about how you need to take moments to reflect on your experiences and where you’re going, you need to sit still and switch off from everything else going on in your life sometimes in order to find out what moves you most and what makes you happy. Iyer says at one point that if you don’t sort your mind out, all you can give to other people is your exhaustion and your distractedness.

I found a lot of truth in what Iyer was saying. One of my biggest self-image problems over the last few years is the constantly recurring idea that I am a boring person with nothing about me that would interest other people. This isn’t true, but this way of thinking stems – I believe – from the constant procrastination and distraction that I’ve used to ignore that I feel dissatisfied with how my life is going right now. If you’re ignoring what you’re feeling, if all your thoughts are going on distracting yourself, no wonder you feel you have nothing of substance to offer anyone else. Life becomes passive rather than constructive or creative.

So, inspired by the talk, I decided to go on a walk this evening and get some fresh air. I chose my favourite 2.5 mile circular route and put on the Les Miserables soundtrack as it had been good while since I last listened to it. Over the course of the first mile I reflected on several different things that will probably make it to this blog at some point (or, I know will make it to this blog as they tie into a post already drafted), but eventually everything came back to feeling stagnant and impatient.

Impatient because I already know that I feel stagnant and I’m not doing anything with life at the moment that I feel passionate about. I’ve reflected on this many times, and I’ve come up with numerous ideas of how I can change this – see my Mission Statement (for Being 23) for an example. As I said in my last post, each journey starts with a single step and we should focus on that rather than being paralysed by the size of the journey, but sometimes focussing on that one step makes you feel like you’re hardly moving. That it doesn’t matter what you do because it’s not making any difference – whatever ‘it’ is.

I thought about how many people I know who feel like this at the moment, and how many tales I’ve read online of people of a similar age feeling the same thing. ‘Quarter-life crisis’ – is this a new thing? I feel like it must be. Growing up you hear about mid-life crises, about people who realise that their lives are half over and they’re not (or no longer) doing what makes them feel alive. But more and more recently you hear people in their early to mid twenties talking about a similar thing, adrift in uncertainty and dissatisfaction with life.

Part of it, I think, is to do with the way society treats growing up. From our early teens, the favourite question is ‘what are you going to do next?’ – what GCSEs are you going to take? And that’s important because that’ll affect what A-levels you take, which is extremely important because your choice of A-levels will influence what you can do at university and what you can do as a job, and do you have any idea what you want to be when you grow up?

No, I don’t. My dad is in his sixties and he has no idea what he wants to do when he ‘grows up’. And now I’m set free in the world where my path is chosen not by what comes next academically, but by what I want to do. Who knows what that is? We’re constantly told to follow our passions in order to lead a happy life, but I don’t know what those are. I’m young. I haven’t experienced enough of life yet, but I still feel like I should have some of these answers down by now. I mean, if in order to succeed you have to know what you want to do all the way back when picking your A-levels, how on earth am I going to “succeed” this late in the game?

My walk wasn’t really working. Yes I was getting fresh air and it was helping my legs recover from the exercise I did yesterday, but it wasn’t making the antsy feeling go away like I’d hoped it was. All it had succeeded in making me do was acknowledge that I wasn’t happy with where my life is at right now and feel frustrated at how slow change seems to be.

A mile in it started to rain. Big, lashing, freezing drops of rain – or maybe sleet, it did snow this morning. Rain teaming so hard I couldn’t see through my glasses anymore and I was quickly soaked to the bone.

I couldn’t help but laugh.

It’s just typical isn’t it? You’re ambling along pondering about how shit life can be, and in retaliation life rains on your parade. Isn’t it wonderful? For the following remaining mile-and-a-half I felt cold, wet, but unmistakeably alive. I could acknowledge that it is OK to feel sad, that I did feel sad, and at the same time as wanted to burst into laughter. Tomorrow’s another day. Life will go on. Things will change.

As I reached the bottom step of the staircase leading up to my house, looking forward to finally being warm and dry, the rain stopped.

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