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I had an epiphany.

That’s right. I had an epiphany. You might have noticed that I haven’t been here for a while. What with starting my new job, moving to a new house and coming out of a nearly three-year relationship, sitting down and writing a personal blog post just didn’t quite feel right. I have just wanted to be all go.

I felt like my life should be 100% all the time – I didn’t want grey.

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At first, I thought this was really positive. I was going out every weekend, meeting new people and experiencing things I had never experienced before – not all positive in hindsight.

Reflection seemed like a bit of a waste of time.

It wasn’t until everything started to calm down and become the norm that I really started to evaluate things and reflect on the personal growth and development that has been taking place for me over the past few months.

When I left University and started my ‘new life’, I thought I knew exactly what I needed in order to become ‘happy’. I had painted an idea in my mind about what being happy meant to me. It hasn’t been until I have started to reflect that I realised that my fabricated idea of happiness was quantitative.

Bloggers talk about followers and readers a lot, but when I finished University, I genuinely believed that these numbers would bring with them my happiness. Of course, the nature of my job means that numbers are an essential part of my day to day life, but I was struggling to separate that with my own personal happiness and success. Not only was I focused on my Instagram follower count, but I was also focused on the numbers I saw on the scales, the number of Tinder matches I was getting, the number of plans I had made that week… I had reduced my entire happiness to a number. To the outside world things were looking great, but in reality, I could feel myself slowly slipping back into older, unhealthy thinking habits.

I didn’t want to write on here anymore because I didn’t want to see how many readers I had got that day and feel disappointed. I had forgotten something important – I never used to write for other people. I didn’t train for other people. I didn’t work day and night for a history degree for other people. I did it all for me and because those things made me happy, regardless of the ‘numbers’ that might have been attached to them. The things that made me happiest had nothing to do with numbers.

I realised that my idea of what I needed to be happy was way off and, truth be told, I was already pretty happy without forcing anything.

It took being away from the things that do make me happy to have an epiphany about what is important to me. I stopped consistently training, I stopped reading, I stopped learning for learning’s sake. Everything I was doing was for the purpose of validation because I genuinely believed that happiness and validation were the same thing.

Organic personal growth and change are great, but I have found that trying to make a difference in my life artificially was only moving me further and further away from the person I know I am. I was trying to squeeze myself into a mould that I just don’t fit.

I am grateful for this period in my life. It has more certainly been necessary because it has taught me that I didn’t need a huge move or huge nights out. I didn’t need to post every waking moment on Instagram or worry about external validation. Happiness was, in fact, a good book. It was coffee with friends. It was writing blog posts that I loved. It was learning.

I found my happy.

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So, I guess this is an ‘I’m back post’. I am back, not only to blogging but to me.

Jamie x

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22 Things I’ve Learnt By 22.

I turn 22 tomorrow. Part of me is excited because, you know, presents but the other part of my wishes everything would just SLOW DOWN. The little 8 year old inside me still can’t quite comprehend that she’s an adult now, going to work and renting her own little house. When I first moved in I wasn’t ready for it, but I had no choice but to learn and learn FAST. That has often been the case with most of the lessons I have learnt throughout my 22 years on this earth. Life comes at you quickly and sometimes you just have to go with it and hope for the best. 

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Started from the bottom…

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Now we’re here.

  1. Always have a sanitary towel in your bag. You never know when mother nature is going to come-a-calling and you should always be prepared. After a few accidents and more than a few girls asking me if I had one spare in bathrooms, I learnt my lesson.
  2. You’re not going to ‘like’ everyone, but that doesn’t mean you cannot get along. Back in year 8 if I didn’t like someone they were automatically my worst enemy. As I have grown up I have learnt that I don’t have to ‘like’ someone to get on with them. It doesn’t mean they are bad people or that we have to be enemies, it might just mean we’re different and that’s okay – you’re not going to like everyone.
  3. Not everyone is going to like you. Following on from number 2, not everyone is going to like you and guess what? That’s okay too.
  4. Bitching says more about you than it does them. When I was younger everyone bitched about everyone. It was cruel and unnecessary. I learnt overtime that bitching about people said more about me than it did them. If you have a problem with someone the only way to resolve it is to speak to them.
  5. Pee after sex. This came as a shock to me but yes, pee after sex. Nobody wants a water infection.
  6. Relationships should be 50/50. You should never have to bleed yourself dry to maintain a relationship. Relationships should be an equal balance of give and take.
  7. Always have a bottle of water in your bag. Hydration really is key! Plus, bottled water is expensive and bad for the environment.
  8. Water looks a lot like vodka and lemonade – just keep your mouth shut. If you don’t want another drink just order tap water. Trust me, no one will notice and you’ll thank yourself for it the next day.
  9. Endings are a part of life. Endings aren’t always nice but they are a part of life and symbolise growth and change.
  10. There is no shame in vulnerability. I used to think that in order to get anywhere in life I had to be hard faced and emotionless. Remember all the Facebook quotes glorifying this? Turns out, there is no shame in vulnerability. In fact, I have grown up to find it an endearing quality in others. Without vulnerability I found that life was very lonely.
  11. Sex and self respect do not correlate. When I was younger I firmly believed that sex and self respect went hand in hand but overtime I have learnt that that is not the case. People have both self respect and sex – the two do not correlate. If they are happy and safe then it really doesn’t matter how many sexual partners an individual chooses to have.
  12. You’re going to need anti-ageing creams sooner than you thought. Okay so I haven’t got wrinkles and I’m not greying just yet BUT there is no harm in erring on the side of caution. I have recently brought myself an anti-ageing eye cream to help with early signs of ageing. Kind of expected that to be a purchase I made closer to my 40’s but there you go…
  13. Coffee is cheaper if you just make it at home. Yes I know this is obvious but honestly you will save SO much money if you cut down on your coffee shop habit and just make it at home.
  14. The laundry is not going to wash itself. Turns out it was Mum who did it! Who knew?
  15. You are your own priority. I spent a long time trying to be a people pleaser and it got me nowhere. The more I tried it seemed the less I was liked. I learnt that your happiness should be your first priority. The more I put me first, the more I found people like me who loved and supported me for who I am.
  16. Things hardly ever go to plan. Literally EVER. You really have just got to roll with every new opportunity. As a self confessed ‘planner’ this came as a shock to the system but hey, that’s life for you!
  17. Not everyone has the same heart as you. Sometimes people can be cruel and work from a different moral compass to yourself. Take lessons from these people should you come across them and remove them from your life. Do not sacrifice your inner peace for anyone.
  18. Mum knows best. It didn’t take me long to learn this but it did take me a long time to accept it. Mum’s really are always right. My Mum knows me better than I know myself and her advice always come from a place of selfless love.
  19. You don’t owe ‘looking pretty’ to anyone. Don’t want to wear make up? Don’t. Can’t be bothered to wash your hair? No worries. It took me a long time to learn this but you don’t have to ‘look pretty’. You do not owe being ‘visually appealing’ to someone – you are worth so much more than that.
  20. Heartbreak hurts but you get over it. I have had my heart broken. One time I never thought I would EVER get over it but I did. I still think about that person from time to time but it is usually with fondness. Heartbreak is a part of life. It sucks but you’re going to be fine.
  21. Dry shampoo is a gift from the gods. I thank the gods for the day dry shampoo was invented. Honestly the day I learnt I did not have to wash my hair every single day was a wonderful one.
  22. You’re never alone, even if you feel like it. There are times when I have felt very lonely but I have learnt that I am never alone. In a world where anyone is just a phone call away and friendships with your online pals are as real as friendships with those you have known in person you really are never alone. I promise.

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My last celebration living at home. 

I hope I never lose the little 8 year old inside of me who still jumps in puddles and will go out of her way to do the hop scotch on her route home from work. I might be an adult but I always want to be a child at heart. I always want to keep hold of that youthful, carefree fun whether I’m 22 or 82. Happy Birthday to me. 

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“We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public’ – Bryan White.

Jamie x 

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What been brought up by a single parent taught me.

I don’t remember ever living with my Dad. My parents got divorced when I was about 6 months old. Throughout my childhood I had a pretty sporadic relationship with my Dad and so, for roughly the first ten years of my life, it was just me and my Mum. There are lots of stereotypes that surround single parent families that which I hope to prove are often not the case. Of course a single parent household brings with it difficulties, however, I have not only managed but I have thrived and learnt so many valuable life lessons through being bought up by my mother alone. These lessons have helped me become a braver, stronger and more independent person.

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The first thing I learnt through being bought up by only my mother, is that your mother is the best and most loyal friend you could ask for. For the last 20 years, my mother has not only been my mum but has also been the best friend I could ask for. When I was growing up it was very difficult for Mum to juggle a social life whilst bringing up a child, which meant our relationship became as much friends as it was mother and daughter. Because of this, all my life I have had someone to confide in about anything and everything. Whatever I am going through, I never feel like I have to face anything alone and there are no conversational boundaries in our household, literally anything goes! Contrary to stereotypes surrounding single parent families, this relationship meant I never needed to go through the ‘rebellious’ teen stage and never felt the need to go behind my Mum’s back. Don’t get me wrong, there were and still are moments when my mother very much takes on her authoritative role but luckily this isn’t that often.

Through my life I have always adopted the philosophy ‘say yes and figure it out later’. Now, I’m the first to admit that this has sometimes left me in some pretty sticky situations but it has also opened doors for me that I never thought were possible. Each time I agree to something, whether it goes well or not, I take something away from it and develop as a person. I entirely put this attribute down to my single parent upbringing. I have never once seen my Mum give up. She might not know how to do everything at first, but she can turn her hand to anything when she needs to. My Mum admits that bring me up alone meant she had to improvise a lot, but she figured it out.

Despite research showing that children who grow up without fathers are more likely to be unhappy, my upbringing taught me very different. From watching my Mum thrive, I learnt from a young age that happiness should always be my main priority. I have sometimes struggled with this, as I think everyone does, but having this message instilled in me from an early age helps me immensely when dealing with tough situations. My Mum’s experience taught me never to stay in a relationship you’re unhappy with – you’ll be so much better off on your own. In every aspect of your life you should always respect yourself enough to walk away from something that is no longer helping you grow, whether that be a relationship or a career.

This brings me to the last and most important thing I’ve learnt from being bought up by a single parent. Be brave. No matter how hard things get, and things will get hard, things will always get better. They might not get better over night and sometimes it will seem like everything is against you, but give it time. Walking away from something (or someone), tackling new challenges alone and remaining positive and focused during your hardest times, is scary. But you can do it if you’re brave enough to. It’s okay that things aren’t ‘perfect’ all the time, in fact, things never will be ‘perfect’, but appreciate everything that is there in front of you and always try your best to give back.

Being bought up by a single parent has never made me lack faith in love or feel any bitterness. My Mum and Dad still have a good relationship and, when I turned 12 years old, my mother married my now step-dad who I love and consider, not only part of my family, but also a friend. If anything, I have seen the strength of love people can have for each other and the strength we have inside us. Looking back on my childhood now as I leave my teenage years, no part of me feels like it was lacking anything.

I will forever be grateful to my mother for giving me so much love and being the strongest role model I could have ever asked for.

Jamie x 

Is Technology Helping Or Hindering Our Relationships?

A few months back I was involved in a Twitter chat about Travel. We were discussing the impact that social media had on travel and whether that impact was positive or negative? I have to admit I was torn. Here was the answer I gave:

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It really got me thinking – if technology was able to have such profound impacts on a travelling habit, what is it doing to our relationships? In short, is technology helping or hindering relationships?

My initial thought was immediately a positive one. Living away from home and being in a long distance relationship, technology allows me to maintain relationships with those I wish were closest to me but can’t be. I am able to feel close to them, hear their voices and see their faces. It is the same with friends back home. Even now my friends from University are just a phone call away and I can always count on the group chat for a bit of motivation when I’m feeling down, usually in the form of ‘YASSS QUEEN SLAY’ (It’s kind of like I get to be a drunk girl in a toilet whenever I need it).

Other relationships that immediately came to mind was my relationship with other bloggers and people I have only ever come across through the world of social media. I have come across some wonderful people and genuinely feel as if I have a much wider support network than I would have had without social media. Naturally not every encounter is genuine one but that is surely the same when you meet people face to face. You can never truly know another persons motive and I think that not being face to face definitely makes it even harder, but online interactions have taught me a lot about the impact words can have on another individual and I have become a lot more considerate and empathetic.

However, there are certainly cons to the impact our ever-advancing technology is having upon of social interactions and consequently the relationships that we make. A very interesting (and important) point was raised in the chat by @wanderingpram.

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If we apply this reduced need to be social to relationships we can certainly see how technology has the potential to seriously hinder them. Sure, it is great that answers are now only a few clicks away but that means google becomes the local sat in a bar or the person walking down the street who looks like they know where they’re going. We avoid interaction because it is no longer necessary to the point that when interaction is necessary we recoil in fear. Being told by google that your search was unsuccessful is a lot easier than the feeling of rejection that potentially comes from face to face interactions.

Last year I secured a place on the News UK Summer Internship where we had to opportunity to visit Unruly a marketing and advertising agency based in London. When there we were given a tour of a ‘house of the future’. This house had everything! The mirror could tell you if your outfit matched and what Zara shoes would go best with those black trousers – ‘They’re currently in the sale, would you like me to order them for you?’ The fridge would order your butter for you if you were running low, the bath would run itself if you needed a soak – the house did EVERYTHING, all you had to do was log in. What might surprise you is that this ‘house of the future’ was actually a house of 2020 – 2 YEARS AWAY! Obviously the vast majority could never afford technology like this but it would be there as an option for some. This level of technology meant that you would literally never have to leave the house should you not want to. You would never have to interact with anyone again apart from the person who delivered your groceries that your cupboard ordered for you when you were running short.

Technology and the impact of social media is certainly not black or white. In fact, it’s kind of a messy grey sort of colour. The sheer pace at which technology is developing terrifies me. In the house of 2020 I was simultaneously in awe and horrified. I never want to be in a situation where I don’t have to leave the house. Face to face social interactions and fulfilling and allow us to develop as individuals. However, interactions on social media too have allowed for me to develop patience, empathy and a willingness to be proven wrong. Just as with everything in life, it seems to be a case of small doses. As Sirius Black ever so wisely said (how do I manage to bring everything back to Harry Potter?):

“We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”

The impact technology has on relationships, whether it helps or hinders, is ultimately down to us. What matters IS the part we choose to act on.

Technology can never rival the closeness of face to face interaction, but the reality is that is not always possible and when it isn’t I am grateful for technology being there to give a helping hand.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this, let me know in the comments below! 

Jamie x 

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Men And Mindfulness.

2018 has been something of a moment for mindfulness. The mindfulness market generated huge $1.2 billion in 2017 alone and 4 in 10 of our American buddies over the pond say they meditate at least weekly. A recent study from the University of South Carolina has shown that mindfulness is more than just a hipster trend to be practised by Instagram #fitspos – in fact, we could all use some mindfulness in our lives. The study has revealed that practising mindful movement can play a role in reducing stress, anxiety and depression. “When people were both more mindful and more active than usual, they seem to have this extra decrease in negative affect,” said Chih-Hsiang “Jason” Yang, who conducted the study. With around 2/3 more women practising mindfulness than men, where are all the mindful men and why are fewer men than women jumping on the mindfulness bandwagon to better mental health?

Is it time to hold off on the weight training?

Maybe mindfulness simply does not work for men?

A study conducted by Brown University back in 2017 revealed that men might not get the same benefits from mindfulness as women. The study showed women experienced increases on scales measuring mindfulness and self-compassion whereas men did not experience any measures of experiential or self-acceptance. However, how much of this came down to the different emotional expectations placed upon the genders? Dr. Willoughby Britton, reflected upon the disparity stating how, “while facing one’s difficulties and feeling one’s emotions may seem to be universally beneficial, it does not take into account that there may be different cultural expectations for men and women around emotionality.”

It seems, therefore, the problem is not with biology but with culture. Whilst women are expected to be honest and open about their emotions, men have been condition to well, ‘take it like a man’ making it no surprise that man are less likely to be diagnosed with a mental health issue, despite the fact 3 our of 4 suicides are men. With women being encouraged to weight train as much as they’re encouraged to roll out their yoga mats and downward dog, men have a much more prescriptive work out routine deemed as acceptable. A man heading to the gym to practise mindfulness and yoga begs the question do you even lift, bro? Yet, in their research, the University of South Carolina noted no discrepancies between the genders – both reaped the benefits of mindful movement.

Perhaps, it is time men joined the mindful movement?

Fear not, being ‘mindful’ does not have to mean sitting under a tree with your legs crossed in search of the elusive meaning of life. Who has time for that? In fact, previous studies have highlighted how we need to rethink our approach to mindfulness so that men can enjoy the same results as seen by women, Dr. Britton noted. Simply opting to take a walk can provide a good opportunity to be more mindful of your breathing and surroundings, which has been shown to boost the wellbeing of both men as well as women. According to researchers, participants reported being less stressed while they were on their feet and moving than those who remained sedentary and those who took the time to practise mindful thinking saw an even greater benefit in their mental wellness.

Mindfulness doesn’t have to be complicated in order for you to reap the benefits. Even just one introductory session has been shown to encourage not only psychological but also physiological benefits in men, including helping to monitor heart rate, blood pressure and aortic blood pressure. Mindfulness has also been shown reduce seizures and to help men suffering from prostate cancer, with a study conducted by the Northwestern University how intervention from mindfulness medication led to significantly greater resilience and less anxiety when going through treatment.

Culture has dictated that men should avoid emotions, however, perhaps it is time to look beyond gender stereotypes and begin embracing the benefits of mindfulness. The real question now is; do you even Bandha, bro?

Jamie x

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Sources:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180621112007.htm

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00551/full

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170420113801.htm

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180423135048.htm

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/05/160526185426.htm

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180215110337.htm

http://businessresearcher.sagepub.com/sbr-1946-105603-2878495/20180129/the-meditation-industry