Inspirational book tips: from Ikigai to Gratitude

Ikigai and gratitude, two words you’ll be hearing a lot this year. It is all about living mindfully and finding one’s purpose, meanwhile appreciating the little things in life. It’s always nice to have some recommendations for new books to read. At least, that’s what I think. Browsing Amazon or a bookshop in town sometimes makes me feel a bit overwhelmed, not knowing what to choose. Since it is the start of the year and self-care and making my life more peaceful overall are themes that currently interest me, I thought I’d share some titles of books I found at The Book Depository that may inspire you as well.

Ikigai : The Japanese secret to a long and happy life

Hector Garcia. Hardback, 208 pages. Price 11,27 € order

Ever heard of the word Ikigai? We all have an ikigai apparently. Even if we don’t know it yet. Ikigai translates as ‘a reason to live’ or ‘a reason to jump out of bed in the morning’. It’s the place where your needs, desires, ambitions, and satisfaction meet: a point of perfect balance, and perfect fulfillment.

On the Japanese island of Okinawa, people live longer than anywhere else in the world. There, finding your ikigai is considered the key to longevity – and to happiness. The Okinawans know that all lives are valuable; for them, your ikigai is the lens that will help bring your value into focus.

If you want to uncover your own ikigai, then this book will help you do this and equip you to change your life. It encourages you to leave stress and urgency behind, and throw yourself into finding your purpose, nurturing your friendships, and pursuing your passions.

Kindness : The Little Thing That Matters Most

author: Jaime Thurston. Hardback 224 pages. price 8,41 € order

An act of kindness, we all have it in us but in our busy lives we often forget how much of a difference you can make by doing it. And how much effort is it? Spend a minute doing something for someone, give a compliment, give up your seat on the bus. This book aims to motivate and inspire you to do more of these little acts.

It uses the voices of those who have been helped by the author’s charity – 52 Lives – to ground the ideas in real life action. The book is themed around 52 simple actions you can do to spread kindness. Interspersed throughout are nuggets of science explaining the positive effect kindness has on the brain and on the heart. This book is a call to action for people to live a more connected, fulfilling life. With inspirational quotes and personal stories this book will give you all the motivation you need to start spreading a little kindness – it’s free after all! Learn to live a life of kindness by following Jaime’s infectious positivity in this charming gift book.

The Art Of Gratitude

Meredith Gaston. Hardback, 200 pages. 18,50 € order

Being grateful for the little things in life can create a huge shift in your happiness and general well-being, when you practice it daily. The art of gratitude is the art of embracing and drawing joy from small moments and pleasures, and being open to inspiration and abundance, joy, peace and love. It’s an art that illustrator Meredith Gaston is well practiced in and uses in her daily life. In this book Meredith’s explores the different aspects of gratitude, adding tips, exercises and inspirational quotes, all beautifully illustrated with water colours.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Gail Honeyman. Paperback, 400 pages. 10,39 € order

This book intrigues me and I can’t wait to read it! We all get into comfortable habits, think we’re fine and happy with what we have – and often we are. But what if change really is a good thing? What if stepping out of that comfort zone is not as scary if we think?

Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live. She leads a simple life. Wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend. She is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.

One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.

Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?

  • Winner of the Costa First Novel Award
  • No.1 Sunday Times bestseller and No.1 New York Times bestseller
  • Soon to be a major motion picture produced by Reese Witherspoon


Self care and listening to your inner voice

I don’t usually do New Year’s resolutions, but this year I decided I would. Or rather: I want to set an intention. Self care. I have seen the word pop up regularly in the past year and I always thought that wasn’t meant for me. I also didn’t quite know what it meant. Pampering? Having your nails done? Spa days? No idea. Others obviously needed all of that for themselves for some reason. I didn’t, because I’m fine – I told myself, and not selfish like that. But you know what? Resilience needs fuel too. Self care is not selfish. It is about setting healthy boundaries and listening to your own needs.

Self care and pouring from an empty cup

I am probably not the only one, but I have given so much of my energy and focus to other people in the past few years that I am running on empty. My body and mind are telling me to take a break. And what do they say again about pouring from an empty cup? Exactly, you can’t. For years I kept pushing myself, just a little bit further, because I didn’t want to let people down or because I felt I “shouldn’t pity myself and just get on with it”. Handle it, woman! Making commitments even though my inner voice told me to go and rest. Saying ‘no’ is not an easy thing when you love what you do, but also have a natural urge to please and look after people.


Stop being your own worst enemy

You sometimes forget that your body and brain are not machines and that you deserve your own kindness too. I really am my own worst enemy sometimes. Ignoring my tiredness and making myself believe I am not that tired. My excitement and enthusiasm taking over as usual and there I go again. Go, go, go! But there’s only so many hours in a day. And by the way, I am also a mother of two small boys. Life is busy indeed. Does this sound familiar? It probably does.

Self care is looking after yourself….for once

I am turning 40 this week. Yesterday I was only 23, right? Time goes so fast. I see my face changing, some wrinkles appearing. The frown in my forehead is now permanent (I blame the kids! ;-)). I guess it’s maybe common midlife musings, but I have realised that I am not immortal. When you’re in your twenties and your thirties you feel life will never end. You bounce back after a night out, you can deal with a bit of tiredness. Turning 40 shouldn’t be such a big thing and I truly am grateful for having made it to this age healthily and without too many life hurdles. It is not given to everyone. But I believe I need to make a couple of small changes to my lifestyle in order to keep my health. Self care is one of them.

Trust your inner compass

So what does this mean to me? Sure, a pampering session will be lovely, but self-care is much more than a day at the spa. It is about caring for the inside. My mental health as well as my physical health. Listening to my body, my signals from the inside. I need to stop ignoring my inner voice, because my inner voice is my compass and she is always right
.

self care tips

Self care is honouring your inner voice

Yesterday I started a job in Valencia at a call center. I lasted until mid afternoon. I pushed myself into thinking “it would be good for that extra bit of money”, “to have colleagues” and “to have a permanent job”. When I applied, my inner voice was already protesting. What did I do? I ignored her. Yesterday morning while still doing the training for the job, my inner voice was protesting again, but my rational brain was telling her to shut up. It wouldn’t be that bad, it was a good thing to have work and a bit of routine. But you know what? I am so glad that I let my inner voice make the decision for me this time.

Sometimes you need little reminders!

Halfway through the afternoon calling session, my inner voice took over and shouted at me: “Why the hell are you doing this to yourself? You didn’t come to Valencia to do this kind of work! I know you hated it twenty years ago, what makes you think it would be any different? You don’t need to do this! It is making you miserable! For goodness sake, woman, I thought you want to do this self-care thing? Not really getting anywhere with this, are you?” Yes, I whispered, you are so right. Thank you. I put down the headphones and told my manager I was going home. I had the most wonderful stroll in the sunshine, in the park. Today I am focusing on my writing again.

Not being busy is something I need to learn and I expect many of you will feel the same. It is such a badge of honour in the western world to always be busy. With work, with stuff. Being idle is seen as a sin, mostly by ourselves.

Self-care is setting healthy boundaries

I also need to learn that it is OK to say ‘no’. Saying no is not about being horrible to people, it is about setting healthy boundaries. Breaking commitments is not a nice thing to do, so it is much better to say no right from the start if you are not sure to begin with. It is no use to anyone if you commit to something and say you will come/help out/do something if your inner voice is already warning you at that very moment. Say you will get back to them tomorrow with your answer, that you need a moment to think about it – this is totally fine. Be honest. To others, but mostly to yourself. If your inner voice is warning you, she will only become louder down the line, until you feel totally resentful to whatever it is you committed to.

We are enough

So what am I going to focus on this year to improve my inner peace and mental health? I am going to release the pressure for a start. Stop expecting so much from myself. I don’t need to achieve and be brilliant at everything. No need to prove anything to anyone. I am enough. I will also allow myself to rest. To take the time. To stop rushing around. It will be hard for me, I know, but it is necessary. I will also address some old pain and trauma trapped inside of me, which – again – I have ignored for years because I felt I should “just get on with it”. I guess I will try and drop the guards. Be confident in showing my vulnerability and not always covering up my feelings with a smile and an “I’m fine”. Be assertive but kind. Strong but soft. Who’s joining me?

Book Tip

The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook : A Proven Way to Accept Yourself, Build Inner Strength, and Thrive.

Are you kinder to others than you are to yourself? More than a thousand research studies show the benefits of being a supportive friend to yourself, especially in times of need. This science-based workbook offers a step-by-step approach to breaking free of harsh self-judgments and impossible standards in order to cultivate emotional well-being.
PRICE: euro 16,88

Journaling ideas for a bullet journal or art journal

Do you like the idea of journaling? Many people do, but some just don’t know where to start. You got a pretty notebook, a set of pens. Now what? Journaling, sketching and doodling doesn’t come natural to everyone.  The thought of filling all those blank pages can be quite alien and even feel a bit daunting. But there is no right and wrong in journaling, because it a private thing. Diaries used to have a lock on them for a reason! Nobody would even dream of taking photos of their diary pages and sharing them with the world (and I am certainly glad I never did, haha!). Today I am sharing some journaling ideas to help you get started.

Why keep a journal? What is it for?

Know that feeling when your head bursts and you feel it all gets a bit much? Journaling can really help to focus the mind when things feel overwhelming, so it is a great tool for keeping mentally healthy. Write down what bothers you or the things that you find important and often it suddenly looks a lot clearer when you see it written down.

FOCUSING THE MIND – SEEING THINGS CLEARLY
STORING AND EXPLORING CREATIVE IDEAS
RELAXATION – MINDFULNESS EXERCISES

Journaling can also be a good way to keep ideas in one place, whether it is for a new business concept or for an artwork that you want to create in the future. Using words combined with images is a very powerful tool to visualise something you want to achieve. It feels a lot more ‘real’ when you start putting ideas and dreams on paper.  Of course keeping a journal can also just be a lovely way to relax and take a bit of time out of a busy day.

journaling ideas

Getting stuff off your chest and visualising dreams

I started writing diaries when I was about eleven and I never really stopped. In my early life it used to be a ‘dear diary’ kind of thing. I wrote almost daily about my thoughts and feelings and it must have helped me get through the years of adolescence. A sort of outlet at the end of the day, getting stuff off my chest. I remember writing pages and pages late at night in notebooks. Do teenagers still do that? It made me develop my writing skills, that’s for sure. As life got busier with work and eventually family, I stopped keeping a daily diary, but always found that journaling helped me focus and visualise my dreams whenever I had ideas for the future. Sticking pictures on pages, doodling, making lists. It makes ideas come to life.

Lesson 1: NO PRESSURE

It doesn’t matter if your journal doesn’t look Pinterest-worthy, it is not meant to be an artwork. And it certainly shouldn’t give you stress and pressure to make those “perfect, beautiful journal pages” you see online. I’d say, ignore Pinterest all together, just start. Write stuff down, stick some pictures in, anything. As long is it gives you joy and it is meaningful to you, you can do whatever you like.

NOBODY WILL JUDGE YOU. YOUR JOURNAL IS PRIVATE

Nobody will judge you, nobody will think you wrote or drew something silly. Nobody has to see it. The main purpose of your journal is for you to have some fun, jot down ideas, keep inspirational images you found, and make it your own personal, private space. Perhaps pencil down some things you’d like to focus on this year. Places you’d like to visit, films you’d like to watch. As a reminder to yourself. Sure, write down goals if you feel you need that kind of push, but hey, be kind to yourself. Life is busy enough, right?

Just start.


Bullet journals and Art journals: what’s the difference?

There seem to be two different types of journals popular right now. ‘Bullet’ journals and ‘Art’ journals. The first type is a bit like a pretty, highly organised diary with months and days and timelines drawn in beautiful letters and it usually features plenty of lists (‘bullet points’), with the purpose to keep you focused on goals and tasks. You can also add lists of your favourite things or the things you are grateful for. Art journals on the other hand are more like a sketchbook in diary form and often feature collages, paintings and little creative experiments, combined with words and text. Of course you can choose whichever you like and you can do a bit of both in one journal.

Not great at drawing? Keep it simple and just write lists, words or quotes that mean something to you. Image: Productive and Pretty
A Bullet Journal often has the dates clearly written and lists drawn on the page. Lists can be anything from to-do-lists to ‘favourites’. It can be a nice way of capturing this moment in your life, the things you enjoy right now, so you will remember in the future. This one has a lot of drawings in it, but of course you can just keep it simple and write lists without the drawings. Image: My Inner Creative
An Art Journal usually has plenty of collages, painting, sketches and drawings (also called ‘mixed media’) as well as quotes and affirmations. Image: ontapfortoday.com

Journaling Ideas to write and draw:

Ideas really are endless when it comes to journaling, so my list are only suggestions. Anything that makes you smile is a good start.

  • Something that made you happy today. It can be a simple as a cup of coffee in silence.
  • A poem you read somewhere that you love
  • Funny quotes from your (grand) children
  • A quote you find inspirational
  • A cut out image from a magazine (or make a mini collage)
  • Things you wish to achieve this year
  • Everything that brings you joy
  • Your favourite songs, books,  food, places, activities
  • A list of people you love and what you admire in them
  • A memory from childhood that makes you happy
  • Reasons to be grateful
  • An affirmation that will make you feel good when reading it
  • Words, images and drawings that make a new idea come to life
  • Drawings, doodles and sketches


Examples of Affirmations for journals

If you believe in the manifestation of positive thoughts and creating your own reality by focusing on what you want in life, then affirmations will be a helpful tool. Write down an affirmation to work on your self image, your self belief or a more positive attitude towards life. The more you write down a certain phrase, the more it will stick. Can’t find the right words? Here is a list of different affirmations you could pick from for your pages if they resonate with you.

Choose an affirmation that you like and want to focus on and write it down in the middle of a page. You can draw a border around the words or fill the rest of the page with drawings if you wish. Doing the additional drawing helps you focus on the affirmation more and let the words really sink into your subconscious. It’s a bit like meditation, you take time to loose yourself in the moment.


Borders and dividers

A wish list, a poem, a quote, a little bit of random text on a page – it will look prettier with a border around it. Doodling borders is not hard, it can be as simple as repeated lines or dots along the page. Drawing patterns like this can be quite meditative too. Here are some journaling ideas for creating pretty borders around the pages.

journaling borders

It’s your journal, you can cry if you want to

Last but not least, your notebook is a dumping ground to have fun in! Do you want to write down all that makes you sad? Go for it it, it may give air. Do you want to remind yourself of all that is good in your life? Try it, it may make you smile. Or do you want to explore your creative talents? Get the pencils, paint, stamps, scissors and old magazines out and go crazy. Journaling ideas are endless and the pages are all yours.

Journals have no rules, unless they have ruled pages.

December blues, the sadness of being far away from loved ones

Do you feel it too? End of year sadness and December blues? I don’t know if it is the darkness, the cold, the fact that another year has passed way too quickly or that you realise that you haven’t seen friends or family for a very long time. End of year melancholy. Homesickness for a home that it no longer yours. It’s not easy when you have moved away.

A comfortable coat that no longer fits

I’ve been an emigrant since I was 26. That is almost 14 years now. Fourteen years away from my motherland, the soil I grew up on. I almost feel like a tourist now when I visit. A strange combination of familiarity and foreign-ness. When I arrive back in the area I was born in, it feels like an old, comfortable coat, but after a while I also realise it doesn’t fit me anymore.

And now I uprooted for the second time ten months ago, finding my feet on foreign soil yet again. It’s been very exciting both times I moved country, for very different reasons. The first time around I moved to Scotland to be with my love and subsequently stayed more than twelve years to build up a life together, get married and start a family.

pexels-photo-461985.jpeg

December blues and juggling family

This year we moved to Spain, because we both desired a new adventure, more sunshine and a different lifestyle for our family. And because well, a change does one good and all that. Good decision so far? Yes, although it’s not a permanent holiday like some people cheekily put it. School settling in dramas, language barriers and navigating the bureaucracy are just a few of our struggles this year. But hearing my little boys babble in Spanish to their teacher and the babysitter fills me with pride.

And now it is almost Christmas. Everyone who has family living far away will know this dilemma: where will we be spending Christmas this year? With my husband’s parents living in Wales and mine in the Netherlands, this has always been tricky. And then when your own parents decide to separate, things get even more complicated. Families, eh?

pexels-photo-714915.jpeg

Looking back and standing still: another year has past

In Spain it doesn’t get any easier. Flights are a bit longer and not necessarily cheaper, despite more of the low cost airlines flying in our direction. So it’s a puzzle. This year we are actually skipping the family Christmases all together and are flying back to Scotland. Catching up with as many friends as we can possibly cram into two weeks. But it feels funny and these decisions are never without guilt. But then that is also the case when you decide to celebrate Christmas with one family and not the other. How do you juggle this issue?

So yes, December blues, although not in a depressive kind of way. Just reflecting. Taking a moment to stand still and be thankful.

This month most of us will reflect on the past year and all the things that have happened. The good times, the crappy times, the parties, the holidays, the busy work weeks, the day-in-day-out kids routines, the weeks that flew by. All the people you met, the new friends you made, the people you said goodbye to. The pets you have lost or that came into your life. The houses you moved out of. The things you felt really bad about, but didn’t matter in the end. The things you failed to do, but everyone has already forgotten about. Another year gone. Kids are growing up too fast, parents are getting older. What will next year bring?

More moments together. That’s what makes life meaningful.

This is a (Spanish) video that speaks more than a thousand words, even if you don’t quite understand what they’re saying. Friends and family speaking fondly of each other and how much they enjoy spending time together, and admit they don’t do this enough. At the end of the video the filmmaker tells them how much time in their life they actually have left together if they continue to see each other as often as they do now… Yep, a lot less than they thought. Days rather than years. Hours rather than days.

 

The tricks of the mind and how they hold you back

How is your day going? I am feeling a bit overwhelmed today. Trying to get my head around becoming self employed in Spain but the bureaucracy is really daunting, as expected! Being self employed in the UK is a breeze compared to here. A tax return in English is one thing to get your head around…but in Spanish? And that four times a year, with VAT and very detailed book keeping plus big fines if you make a mistake or are a day late! Eeeek! I really feel I don’t want to do it anymore. Anxiety is kicking in.

anxiety in expats

Discovering yourself

I have not felt like this for years, thought I had left all that insecurity behind by now. I mean, I’ll be 40 next year. But no. Everything feels very wobbly all of a sudden. My steady foundation has turned into jelly and I am trying to find my feet. I guess we all go through these phases in life. You feel pretty safe and secure for a while, in control even, you think you know who you are. Got life sussed. Then BAM, you get presented with a brand new set of challenges that make you question all your values and what you stand for. It can even reveal sides of yourself you never knew you had. Anxiety for example. It is confrontational to say the least. It spices things up in life, yes, but it is tiring and emotional. Oh, and did I mention the language barrier? All part of the roller-coaster of moving countries.

anxiety in expats

Leaving the comfort zone

I remember how I felt 13 years ago, on the brink of emigrating first time around. I had not yet moved to Scotland, but I had flown across from the Netherlands for my very first job interview in English ever, which I was not quite fluent in yet. It went SO bad that I wanted to dug a great big hole right there. I was very nervous, struggled with the language and felt so small, embarrassed and stupid. Out of my comfort zone in front of three people asking difficult questions. I remember afterwards I cried and thought, stuff that, I am just going to work in that cafe over there serving tea and cake! I am not good enough for these types of jobs, way too scary. Of course, a few months later, another job came up and I got it. I was so proud of myself for biting the bullet and putting myself through it again. Another daunting interview. I still feel how happy I was when they called me to say I was hired.

So here I am 13 years later in Spain and I feel exactly the same. Happy but anxious. Excited but lost. Scared. Throwing up the barriers. I want to give up, not put myself through the complicated mill of freelance life in a foreign country. I want to hide under a large sun umbrella hoping it’ll all go away.

Monsters in my head

I am creating great big monsters in my head and keep thinking:”What if I screw up, what if I don’t know what to do, what if I don’t earn enough and can’t pay the monthly fees? What if I fail?” I need to remind myself I am not the first one who has done this and that there is help out there. There is no failing, only trying. But right now I just want somebody to hire me to serve tea and cake. Por favor?

Let them play! The sacredness of free play in childhood

Is it just me, or is being busy a badge of honour nowadays, not just for adults but for children too? Parents ferry their children around from one after-school activity to the next. They go to piano lessons on a Monday, tennis lessons on a Wednesday and art classes every Friday afternoon. Already exhausted new mums are putting themselves through the hassle of baby swimming lessons. Parents seem to be afraid that their brood misses out on becoming the next Einstein or Andy Murray and want every free moment in their kids’ lives to be ‘educational’. Otherwise learning apparently does not happen. And then there is of course peer pressure. How about some calm parenting?

Just playing freely without a grownup in charge almost seems rare in the lives of modern children. What ever happened to ‘freerange parenting’? Surely, most of us were brought up like that and it did us no harm. No constant supervision, no constant entertainment, no constant demand to achieve and produce visible results. Freedom to just be a child.

Today I want to make a plea for the return of mindful neglect.

mindful parenting

It is almost impossible to arrange a play-date on a weekday, because most kids have extra-curricular activities every day of the week, on top of homework. Why? Does it really set them up to become incredibly good at anything? Develop a life-long love for learning? The full diary in their young lives perhaps teaches them that life really just is a busy to-do-list.

Calm parenting: give the gift of time

When I was little I was a stubborn little girl who didn’t want to do any activity outside school whatsoever. Not that my parents didn’t try and encourage me. They did. I just did not want to do it. No tennis, no ballet, no music lessons. Go away. Not interested. And you know what, for my parents’ attitude I am grateful. They may not have pushed me to take private sports and music lessons, and I was unable to play the piano like fellow twelve year olds, but instead they gave me time. Time to play and to be bored. Time to figure out what I like. The opportunity to learn how to feel happy in just my own company.

Natural curiosity, taking action when ready

When I was about 10 years old I eventually asked my parents if I could join the local gymnastics club. I also wanted to do art classes on a Wednesday after school. I chose my own interests, when I myself was ready and motivated. Until that moment I sat quite happily at the kitchen table drawing. No adult intervention whatsoever. I played with Lego and my barbies, built dens with my sister or played hide and seek with the kids next door. As a teenager at fifteen I discovered a forgotten guitar in the attic and taught myself some chords. I have been in bands ever since. I didn’t have to be ‘exposed’ to music lessons from an early age. No, that doesn’t make me special, and maybe I would have enjoyed music lessons at 5, who knows, it just shows a different approach to parenting. Letting things be. I was always going to find the things that interested me. And having time to figure that out, made me love it even more.

calm parenting

So what am I trying to say with all of this? I believe (but who am I but a mother with a humble opinion) that the rise in anxiety among even primary age children, comes from somewhere. Whether it is a crazy busy schedule, too much competition, high parental expectations or watching too much rubbish on Youtube (let’s not go into that, right), I strongly believe in free play.

Keep free play sacred

So much playtime has already been taken away from them in school, with kids as young as 3 years old learning how to write their name and do simple maths. It makes no difference academically if they would start at 6. As parents we can at least try and make free play outside of school sacred. Have them join football or do ballet, sure, if they want to – but also build in that bit of calm at home. Downtime. No matter if they lie on the floor yelling that they’re bored. Don’t worry. Bored is good. It serves a purpose.

Calm parenting. The importance of free play

So much research says unsupervised playtime in childhood essential. It is more important for the development of social skills than any adult led workshop or extracurricular class in childhood. Still, as a society and as parents, we believe we’re at risk of falling behind academically. Learning to read and write and count is important and schools have their role to play. But children will struggle to become independent, happy and well balanced adults at the end of childhood if they never get a moment to themselves. How will they know how to be at peace with themselves without the need for constant reassurance, distraction and entertainment from outside?

calm parenting. the importance of free play

As a mother of two boys I try each day to be a good mum. Each day I wonder whether I did and said the right things and not screwed them up. It is not easy figuring out calm parenting and finding the key to motherhood. Still, instinctively I feel underscheduling is the way to go for my family. I want to encourage a calmness in my boys and an appreciation of the little things in life. I want them to be creative, resourceful and contented. Soulful living, right?

Calm parenting and creating resilient children

I hope to see more unstructured play in the park without helicopter parents trying to join in. Unstructured play in the garden without a well meaning parent leading some kind of Pinterest activity. Building Lego without the instruction book. Making stuff out of rubbish without the help of a grownup. Letting siblings quarrel without immediately trying to solve their argument. Letting them figure it out for themselves before intervening.

No pressure. Trust. Mindful neglect. Conscious neglect with the sole purpose of creating happy, mentally stable, sociable and resilient children. Kids with empathy. Kids who know the world doesn’t only revolve around them. Good humans. It seems a no brainer and common sense, but we have forgotten how to put it into practice. Or we are afraid to put it into practice. Because all the other kids…

calm parenting. the importance of free play

Children are naturally curious. They don’t need to be taught how to learn. They know. Children have a natural desire to discover the world for themselves. Give them that space. Even though you as a parent may think your child is not learning much at a particular moment and you feel you need to teach them stuff, their brain is working hard. If they have questions, they will ask them (oh yes they will!).

Calm parenting: lead by example and stop overscheduling

Children learn by example and copy our behaviour. What example is a stressed out, tired parent making life way too busy?  Instead, show calm. Just be. Say nothing. Trust your child in his or her own learning. Silence and time are essential ingredients for stimulating creativity and imagination and they are so precious. Childhood is short, please let’s not take away the magic.

Further reading

An article that really resonated with me:

Why are our children more entitled than ever before?

Some great blogs and Facebook pages on the topic of free play and parenting:


@playcounts

playcounts.com

@amotherfarfromhome

@theteachertom

6 Simple and Minimal Ways to Style Your Home

Minimalist living. Have you tried it? I have seen lot of bloggers and social media influencers pop up lately who talk about minimalist living. We all own too much, don’t we? It is suffocating. And where on earth do you leave all the stuff? I would love a house with less clutter myself. One day. Today on the blog have blogger and stylist Lisa Ramirez of  Casa de Rami (www.casaderami.com) sharing some ideas with us. She’s done it. She’s cleared the clutter and feels so much better for it! How did she do it?

minimalist living. scandinavian white kitchen
Image: Pixelbay

Lisa Ramirez Casa de Rami
Lisa from Casa de Rami

Lisa: I went through a major transition of ridding my home of all the unnecessary, so my family could live a more minimal life. This new way of living helped me realize that I was in fact over cluttering my home. I owned too many items that no longer served a purpose or fit in with my own style. Much of it was sadly the result of overbuying when my husband and I purchased our first house a couple of years back. Back then we felt the need to have to fill every room to the brim. But after downsizing to a smaller space, I learned that it’s not about how much you have, but what you have, and how you style it to serve multiple purposes.

From overbuying to downsizing

Styling your home in a way that makes you never want to leave is the number one goal for most of us. Displaying items and decor that speak to our personality and make us happy instead of feeling overwhelmed. Having a space that welcomes and comforts us, and doesn’t make us want to turn around and walk right back out. Those are the goals. But where do you draw the line between over doing it and getting it just right? In a society that constantly screams “More, more, more!”, how do you keep the balance between minimal & straight up too much. Here are some of the things I did to create a more minimalist home.


1.Clear out the clutter

This can be a fun process! Letting go of physical items is freeing. The more you toss, the more you gain. Make a plan and get going! Go through cupboards, closets, the basement. If you’re a family of four, you probably don’t need twenty plus coffee mugs, right? Pick through them, get rid of the ones that are chipped or broken and keep the good ones. Same for dishes, bowls, silverware. If you haven’t used an item in over six months, do you really need it?

Minimalist living. White kitchen
Having a minimal amount of serving ware allows you to be able to display it nicely on an open shelf or glass cupboard. Image: instagram.com/mariloubiz/

Go through your drawers, donate clothes that no longer fit you, and toss the ones that are too broken or stained to fix. Same for shoes, and accessories you no longer use or care for. And if you share your home have others do the same. If your kids are too young to decide, do it for them, ESPECIALLY when it comes to their mountain of toys! The more you clear out, the less you have to maintain and clean up. After the clutter is gone, you’ll be left with a new found appreciation for what you DO have – all of which serves a purpose, and you’re more than happy to keep and display in your home.

 

2. A place + purpose for everything

Now that you’ve cleared out the clutter, you should be left with only that which you truly need, and those unique + special items you love. Display them and use them. Everything should have a spot it calls home. Whether you want to display them on a shelf or keep in a cabinet, choose a proper place for each every single item.

Minimalist living. Clear the clutter
Clear jars aren’t only stylish, but just as functional. Image: instagram.com/lorewilbert

 

 


3. Display what you love + what makes you happy 

This part should be easy seeing as how you should only be left with items + decor that you love & enjoy. Display it all proudly. Style it with other items that pair well and create a cohesive balance. You want it to not only look good, but to also create a vibe of simplicity & calm.

Minimalist bedroom hygge
From the sweet message above the nightstand, to the stylish hats on the wall. It’s all being displayed in a way that says “these are some of my favorite things”. Image: instagram.com/cynthia_harper_

 

 


4. Take your time sourcing new items

After your big clutter purge, you may realize that you’re left with almost zero to no decor items. That’s OK! That’s actually a really good thing. That means you never really cared for what was in your home, and now you can start building a collection of items that will create the character and space your style speaks to. But try not to buy it all at once. Sometimes when we try and do this either at one particular store or online, we get easily overwhelmed because of all the choices that are out there. Take. Your. Time. You don’t need to fill your space in record speed. It’s not a race, but a journey. Pick out pieces little by little. Think it over, and you’ll see that your efforts will create the space of your dreams!

Minimalist boho living. The bedroom
Everything seen here has taken well over a year to source and put together. Our bedroom is finally coming together because we took our time to decorate and style it based only on what we truly love and makes us happy. Image: @casaderami

 

 


5. Cohesiveness is key

Creating an environment that has balance & simplicity is the perfect way to harmonize a space. Pieces that blend well in terms of color, style, texture & pattern help unify a room and bring it to life.

Minimalist interior design tips
From the bright whites & neutral tones, to the pops of dark blended with wood & greenery. It all creates a wonderful cohesive vibe. Image: instagram.com/cynthia_harper_

 

 


6. It’s all in the details

Details are what tell the story of your home. A picture of your family, an inherited heirloom sitting on the mantel, a worn out dresser that’s been given a hardware upgrade – it all speaks and lives in your home. This goes back to displaying only that which you love and makes you happy. You want to be able to look around your home, and have guests look around too and think, there’s a beautiful story to be told here.

Make it cozy, make it warm, make it inviting, make it yours.

Minimalist interior style tips
At a glance, there’s a majestic sense of history in this room. From the old fashion piano, to the vintage candlesticks on the mantel. Your home should tell a story. Image: instagram.com/mariloubiz/

For more inspiration from Casa de Rami:

www.casaderami.com
www.instagram.com/casaderami
www.pinterest.com/casaderamiblog


Book tips on Minimalist Living and Decor

Decluttering at the Speed of Life : Winning Your Never-Ending Battle with Stuff. 12,66 € ORDER

DECLUTTERING TIPS

Minimalist Living Now : Decluttering and Organizing Your Home in a Weekend. 7,64 € ORDER

Easy Minimalist Living : 30 Days to Declutter, Simplify and Organize Your Home Without Driving Everyone Crazy. 9,34 € ORDER

EASY MINIMALIST LIVING

How to be Happy. Interview with author Jacqueline Pirtle

How to be happy? Walk into a bookshop and you’ll find shelves full of books on happiness. We’re all looking for tips and tricks to lead happier lives with less stress and more focus. I recently stumbled across 365 Days of Happiness, a new publication full of daily inspirations to help you mindfully work towards living a more vivid experience of daily happiness. It is a rather, excuse the pun, happy book, with bitesize tips to start the day and focus your mind. Perfect for those of you who are not into heavy duty personal development books, but just need that little reminder each day that life really is OK.

I interviewed Jacqueline Pirtle, life coach, healer and author of 365 days of happiness and asked her about the book and what makes her happy.

Jacqueline Pirtle 365 days of happiness book


Jacqueline, happiness is a hot topic right now. Everyone seems to want a piece of the cake. What makes your book different?

Happiness is a great hot topic, yes! I believe that happiness is not something you do, but something you already are. It is about finding it inside of you. You are happiness and happiness is you, you two are never separate, but always one, so wherever you are, that is where happiness is too. To me this means that everyone wanting to be happy in fact means that people want to be more themselves, more of their truthful being. A beautiful way of living and experiencing this physical life.
My book is different in the way that it teaches mindful happiness, so no matter your circumstances, nothing has to change for you in order to be and live your happiness. You just have to start.

Are you a happy person by nature of did you become happier with time? What drives you?

I certainly have a very happy nature, but honestly I have my backpack of traumas,
hurts, health issues, worries and ups and downs too, just like everyone else. It is
part of living this physical life. The importance is how I look at, and feel about all these experiences. I believe that everything always happens for me, never to
me. Which makes everything and everyone always a gift for me, no matter what.
That creates a pressure-free way of living, where being happy and happier

is possible. Feeling good drives me. That is happiness for me.


Jacqueline Pirtle 365 days of happiness

You are originally from Switzerland, have lived in various other countries and now live in the US. Do you see big differences in happiness per country? Can you give examples that have inspired you or perhaps shocked you and given you a wake up call?

I love to travel and to really open myself up to every new place; to live and learn
what it is all about… every country in Europe that I traveled to was different and had
different values to teach. Every state in America I traveled and lived in
is different and teaches wonderful values. Every different country in Asia that
I traveled to had golden wisdom to teach…

I love to really, really experience every single thing and make it part of who I am. Here are a few: in Switzerland I learned about feeling safe, that staying private is nice, and to celebrate beautiful nature. Italy taught me about the essence of living a life full of beauty, food, and laughter. In the US I learned about thinking “big,” that “everything is possible,” and to “just go for it.” In Asia I learned about mindfulness, deep-ness, kind-ness, and whole-ness. In Madagaskar I learned about simplicity, nature, and smiles. And on every beach I was, I learned about simply “breathing” and “being.”


Happiness...you have to choose it, commit to it, and want to be it._


Are you ever miserable? When feeling low, what do you do to cheer yourself up?

Miserable is a strong word… But yes, I do have times when I am not feeling good. But even that realization of “I am not feeling good” makes me feel good, because I know that it is a gift for me. For example: If I don’t feel good in my body, it is my body’s gift of telling me, “Hey, you are not taking good care of yourself!” This realization gives me the
chance to shift again to feeling better. If I don’t feel good emotionally, the gift
lays in looking at what old believes and feelings I can release. Either way, when I don’t feel good, I make sure to love that moment and do whatever it takes to shift to feeling good.
The key is to acknowledge that you are not feeling good without any judgement,
then to accept, respect, appreciate, thank, and love the “what” or “whom” you are
not feeling good about. Then out of that pressure-free and resistance-free space

you can shift yourself to feeling better with whatever you need to do for yourself.

I believe happiness has a lot to do with counting your blessings and not sweating the small stuff. If you had to bake a cupcake of happiness, what would be your three main ingredients?

Gratitude. Love & Kindness (counting it as one). Excitement.

Jacquline Pirtle is not only an author, she also works as an energy healer, mindfulness & happiness coach.Find more about here on www.freakyhealer.com

365 Days of Happiness is available on The Book Depository. Order the book


*Disclaimer: in return for writing this interview I received a free copy of the book. I only review books and products that I feel suit the topic and ethics of my blog. This book made me very happy!


Get the juices flowing: Five easy ways to boost your creativity

Are you an artist, musician, designer or otherwise creative person? Then you probably know that feeling, that no matter what stage in life you are at, whatever job you have chosen or lifestyle you are leading, if you have a creative streak in you, it just has to come out or you feel itchy. Still, sometimes you feel the burning desire to create…. but you can’t focus on anything or don’t know where to start. Perhaps you wanted to write that book, become better at playing the piano or continue to paint after you finished a great art course last year. But you didn’t. Another problem many creatives have – and I see you nodding – we all have too many things on the go but none of them are finished. And then there is procrastination. Here are five easy tips to boost your creativity and help you get motivated again!

Five easy ways to boost your creativity


1. Create a Pinterest Board with 12 projects for a year

Oh, I see you thinking, oh dear Pinterest, the ultimate station of procrastination! Yes, I know, we all spend too much time on it, drooling over interiors, recipes and pretty stuff. But there are some useful pins on there, really and they can boost your creativity. Try creating a brand new board and only pin creative ideas or projects on there that you know you are able to manage and finish. Perhaps a super easy sewing project, a simple printmaking technique you always wanted to try or an idea to upcycle a piece of furniture.

Choose 12 pins and give them a name: ‘Project January’, etc. That way you can focus on one easy creative task each month and you know there is a new one coming the next, which will hopefully give you enough of a drive to complete them. You know that each finished project will give you a great sense of accomplishment, so don’t be over ambitious and pin wisely.


Five tips to become more creative


2. Start a creative journal

Draw, stick, paint, collage, collect and write. Journals are wonderful little books to help you to boost your creativity, try out different art techniques and visualise ideas. The nice thing about journals is, is that each page offers a new opportunity, a fresh blank page. There is no right or wrong, it is your personal journal, do what you like. Nothing in your journal has to be of great quality, it is a place to dump your thoughts, your scribbles, stories, mind maps, save cut out images and other items that catch your eye, and it will be a lovely thing to keep. You can refer back to it in the future if you need some inspiration or a reminder of creative ideas or genius brain waves.

I did a wonderful workshop called ‘Creative Sketchbooks’ last year with artist Fenneke Wolters-Sinke at Fenfolio in Scotland, who showed me that you can be truly free in your journals. She taught me how using old illustrated books offer a great basis for multimedia techniques using stamps, paint, scrap paper, fabric and collage techniques among others, with the existing text and pictures making an interesting base layer. Do you have an old illustrated book lying around you no longer use? Give it a go! What is the worst that can happen?


Creative journal example with scrap paper, cut outs, layering and drawings
This is one of my own creative journals, using an old children’s storybook instead of a blank sketchbook. These are pages I did together with my 6-year old son, who also enjoyed the activity!

 

Creative journal example with scrap paper, cut outs, layering and drawings


3. Start an Instagram account

Just like a paper journal, Instagram can be your own personal dumping ground for things that catch your eye, by taking snap shots of them and posting them on your Instagram page. You can make it public or keep it private, that is up to you. Perhaps you have a love for textures, or a certain colour. Or maybe you have always wanted to do a photographic series of vintage cars? Of people? Of plants? I recently started another account myself, taking pictures of colourful street art and other things that catch my eye in Valencia (@coloursofvalencia).

Instagram shows all your images in a grid and it can give you a real boost seeing your ideas and images all together, forming an overview of your creative journey. You may find a certain theme emerging. It also encourages you to go out and take plenty of photos. If your account is public you may even get fellow creatives commenting and you could discover some other interesting accounts giving you more ideas in the process.

patrick-tomasso-88398-unsplash.jpg


4. Set up a Mastermind meet-up with other creatives

This is a slightly different idea, which you may or may not like, but could be interesting to try! I have seen it work very well for women in business, who come together once or twice a month for coffee and discuss their challenges, certain topics and things that are perhaps keeping them from moving forward. Many times they end up collaborating, giving each other fresh ideas or pointing each other to contacts in their networks. I don’t see how this could not also work well for people feeling a bit stuck in their creative lives.

You could pick a topic each time or even plan a visit to local galleries to get fresh ideas and boost that creativity. Hook up with two or three creative friends or contacts you know that could benefit from a Mastermind meet-up and get the ball rolling. If anything, you’ll expand or revive your social circle, which can only be a positive thing.

roman-kraft-669711-unsplash.jpg


5. boost your creativity by Switching off the internet and mobile phone

Hold on, not just yet! But you get it, right? And yes, I did just encourage you to start a Pinterest board and and Instagram account. Guilty! But we can all admit that we are probably spending way too much time online, wasting an enormous amount of hours scrolling through pointless posts and photos of people we hardly know on our Facebook timeline, chatting on WhatsApp, and doing really not much at all that stimulates our brain, let alone our creativity. It is a worldwide addiction that prevents us from picking up that brush, the neglected guitar or switch on the sewing machine. Even reading a real book.

Let’s all try and break that habit, myself included! Be more mindful, go for a walk to let new ideas flow into your mind. Once the wifi is off, what else is there to do that makes us happy? Yes, plenty! You can start small, by choosing one day or night a week and dedicate this to creating. I promise you, you will be proud of yourself.

Do you have any other tips to boost creativity? Please share them below or on the facebook page. Happy creating!


haley-powers-370168-unsplash.jpg



Mindful Walking: Finding patterns and textures

Have you ever tried Mindful Walking? To take the time to look at the buildings, walls, nature, patterns around you when you are walking from A to B?  I can’t believe how much I was glued to the seat of my car back in Scotland, totally missing that connection. I am doing a lot of walking and cycling right now since moving to Spain. It is really energising, as well as making me much more aware of my surroundings and being in the moment. What have you noticed today on your travels?

Mindful walking. Noticing textures


ground hog day

We are all so busy rushing from home to work and back, dropping off the kids, picking them back up, going home, cooking dinner, bath time, bed time, squeezing in an exercise class if we’re organised, and then it all starts all over again the next morning. Ground hog day. Days fly by, life seems monotonous, we’re being lived by our never ending to-do-list. Sounds familiar? I bet it does.

Mindful walking with children

the joy of just walking

Do you remember how you used to enjoy the little things as a child, walking slowly beside your parents, kneeling down to study a bug on the pavement, staring at the clouds, noticing funny shapes in them? Running your fingers along the textures of the walls and fences, touching leaves, rocks, sand, just to know what it felt like. No rush, just taking it all in. We didn’t need a mindfulness course to learn how to do this, as a child is is your second nature. We must have lost it on the way somewhere.

Mindful walking. Finding calm and patterns

mindful walking to reduce stress

Do you own a mindfulness book? Signed up for yoga classes, fancy going on a meditation retreat? All these things are all super popular right now and why? We must be stressed out and out of balance. We’re seeking a solution to feel in control again, to feel alive and in the moment. Nobody enjoys feeling under pressure all the time. Life is rushing by and we want it to stop. But rather than scheduling in another organised activity in your busy diary, why not just put on those walking shoes  and go outside for a little walk?

Do some mindful walking straight after the school run, in your lunch break, after dinner. Feel the fresh air, breathe. Even if it is a ten minute stroll around the block, your mind and body will thank you for it.

mindful walking in nature

Mindful Walking. Eight tips on how to start

mindful walking with toddlers