How to improve your morning routine and have a more productive day

Morning routine

I’m not a morning person. It’s a major struggle for me to get myself out of bed in the morning and start my day with any kind of positivity or productive outlook. I always find one way or another to procrastinate; checking my phone, instagram, facebook, even watching a few YouTube videos, and before I know it an hour would have easily passed and I’d still be in bed. It’s especially hard now that I work from home and strictly speaking don’t need to get up at a specific hour. But overtime I’ve learned to become more responsible over my time management as I wasn’t getting anything done and realised I needed a major habit overhaul. Today I’m going to share a few tips and tricks that I’ve used to improve my morning routine and start my day on a more positive and productive note.

Don’t hit the snooze button.

To be honest, you are not going to feel more rested from an extra five or ten minutes of restless sleep.Trying to sleep on snooze time is actually pointless because more often than not you end up lying half awake in bed and dreading the moment when the alarm will eventually go off. Set just one alarm and put it far away from your bed so that you need to get up and out of bed to turn it off.

Leave your phone alone

This is probably what I struggle with the most. It’s a new day and you’re curious to find out what’s been going on with the world during the past 7-8 hours. I often open Facebook and Instragram first thing in the morning and start scrolling, which can easily lead to an extra 45 minutes in bed just mindlessly looking through photos and posts. Starting your day with an act of procrastination does not feel good, and most importantly it gives your mind no chance to think freely without the influence of social media. Stay away from your phone in the morning to allow your mind a fresh start to feel creative and productive without exposing youself to social media overload. Charge your phone overnight in the living room or the kitchen if you need to and just get a real alarm clock instead. I promise you will thank yourself for giving your mind a break and a fresh start in the morning.

Drink a glass of water

Our body gets dehydrated when we sleep as we spend up to 8 hours straight without any water intake. Drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning replenish the water that your body lost during the night and makes your feel refreshed and awake.

Exercise

Waking up and jumping into any kind of exercise, whether it is a relaxing yoga, pilates, or a morning run, wakes your body right up and give you a boost of endorphin that makes you feel happy and energised. It is also nice to  get exercise done and over with first thing in the morning because it allows you to tick an important task off your list and you don’t have to worry about finding time to exercise during the day.

Get Dressed

This might seem pretty obvious but for someone who works from home there is always a temptation to just stay in your comfy dressing gown or pyjama until lunchtime. This invariably makes you feel like a bum and lazy, and more often than not results in a much less productive day. Getting properly dressed with your hair and makeup done makes you feel put together like a productive member of society, which will prompt you to act like one. When you dress for the day, even if the day involves working alone at home, you feel more confident and ready to take on any challenges life throws at you.

Eat Breakfast

Many of us think we have no time in the morning for breakfast and tend to skip it altogether, which is such a bad habit. By mid morning we are guaranteed to feel lethargic and cranky for not having any foods in our stomach and as a result we won’t be able to concentrate on getting any tasks done. Make sure you eat breakfast in the morning. If you don’t feel like cooking in the morning or you don’t have time, just plan for something easy that will still give you enough energy to last until lunch time. A bowl of yogurt with muesli or granola with some fruits like banana or berries takes no time at all to make and can even be prepared the night before to store in the fridge ready for the morning.

Make a big cup of tea (0r coffee)

I am a major tea person. I literally can not  function in the morning until I’ve made myself a big cup of tea. It’s such a relaxing morning ritual to be able to take time to enjoy and indulge in a morning cuppa. These little moments can set a positive tone and put you in the right mood for the day.

Write Morning Pages

I always make a point of starting my day writing my morning pages. If you are not familiar with the morning pages, there are plenty of information online that can give you more insight into this wonderful technique. The morning pages allow me to clear and empty my mind of anything that’s been bothering me or been stuck in my head and blocking other creative thoughts. This simple act of  writing down all my thoughts freely without any censorship helps me jump into the day with a clear mind more receptive to embrace and express my creativity.

Write a list of tasks for the day

Before you get on with your day, write down a list of tasks that you need to accomplish that day (or tasks that will make you feel good to accomplish). These can be anything from exercise, catch up on emails, grocery shop, take blog photos, promote on social medias etc. This will give your day a structure and make you feel more focused to gear your day towards accomplishing these tasks. It is also very satisfying at the end of the day to be able to tick off each task that you have completed and see what you have achieved in a day.

Tackle the hardest or most important task first and get it out of the way.

There is no point drawing it out or putting it off, just get it done and over with and you will feel much better knowing that the rest of the day will be easier and more manageable. When you make a list of tasks that you need to get done for the day, do the one that you hate the most first, and you will be free of worries and ready to take on the rest of your day.

The first few hours of your day can have such an impact on how the rest of the day follows. So try a few of these suggestions and make an effort to improve your morning routine. Once you stop treating your morning like an inconvenience and start greeting it with a smile and positivity, the day will likely smile back at you :)

Do you have a morning routine that you swear by?

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5 Effective Ways to De-Stress

how to de-stress

Stress, unfortunately, is something that each and every one of us has to deal with throughout our life whether we like it or not. Stress impacts everyone in different ways and everyone copes with stress differently. I’m probably one of the worst when it comes to stress; I tend to stress very easily, sometimes about absolutely nothing at all. Over the years I’ve managed to find ways to deal with my stress, and although I am by no means claiming to be an expert, there are some methods that I’ve found most effective for me whenever I find myself in a mental pickle.

1). Take a long deep breath. When you are stress, your breathing pattern change. Typically, an anxious person takes small, shallow breaths or in the worse case hyperventilate, which can prolong feelings of anxiety by making the physical symptoms of stress worse. Fortunately,  we have the power to deliberately change our own breathing, and scientific studies have shown that controlling your breathing can help manage stress and stress-related conditions.

Practice abdominal breathing technique, which is especially useful when you are in the middle of or heading into a stressful situation. With one hand on the chest and the other on the belly, take a deep breath in through the nose, ensuring the diaphragm (not the chest) inflates with enough air to create a stretch in the lungs. Pause for 5 seconds then take a long, slow exhale through your mouth. Do this for about 10 minutes and as your oxygen intake is increased, your mood and overall feeling will start to improve.

2). Go for a long walk. I am lucky enough to live in a countryside with a parkland area right outside my doorstep, and I’m also lucky enough to have my little dachshund that I go for a walk with every day. If you live in the city, that doesn’t mean you have to be deprived of this leisure. The simplicity of walking means you can do it almost anywhere; find a park near you if you live in the city or if there is none close-by then walking around the block where you live still does the trick. Taking a long walk not only gives you that daily dose of exercise that you need, but scientists have also discovered that walking briskly or jogging activates soothing neurons in the brain, and these neurons help dull feelings of stress, anxiety and even depression.

Getting out and spending time with nature and breathing in fresh air have also been linked to stress reduction because it allows you time to slow down, clear your mind and reflect, which I can totally relate to. Whenever I feel anxious or stress, I just grab a leash and take my dog out for a long walk and as soon as I step out, breath in the fresh air, and take note of the beautiful nature around me, I can physically feel my body relaxes and unwinds.

3). Exercise. Whether it is running, cycling, yoga, pilates or working out at the gym, regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. Exercise helps deplete the stress hormones and pumps up your endorphins, your brain’s feel-good chemicals, which help us cope with stress better.

My favourite exercise at the moment is Pilates, which I am absolutely obsessed with. Like Yoga, you engage the mind to move the body as an integrated whole in tandem with your breathing, allowing freshly oxygenated blood to pump through the entire body, which triggers the production of endorphin and serotonin. The result is an almost euphoric sense of total well-being, not to mention that Pilates is unmatched in the arena of total body toning and conditioning, and nothing, I mean nothing, helps you create powerful abs the way Pilates can.

4). Create a calming atmosphere. Make a cup of tea, light some candles, put on some soft music, and ideally put away your phone and laptop. Classical music has a particularly soothing effect as it slows your heart rate and decreases levels of stress hormones, but any music that you love will flood your brain with feel-good neurochemicals and banish those stress away.

I love a good old cup of tea but whenever I feel stressed, I always switch to green tea. Green tea contains theanine, an amino acid found in tea plants, which makes you feel relaxed (it’s also what gives green tea its unique flavour). Green tea is also very low in caffeine – and everyone knows what caffeine does to stress levels! Stick to green tea whenever you are stressed, and you’ll soon start to notice a difference in your mood.

5). Engage in your favourite hobby. When you invest time in a creative hobby, similar to when you pick up a good book, your mind has a chance to take a break from stress-inducing activities and jump into a fun place with no deadlines, rules, or pressure. If you don’t have a hobby or have not yet found something you enjoy doing, now is the time to explore.

I have a few favourite hobbies that I like to do whenever I need to unwind; knitting, reading, writing, and recently I’ve even been loving colouring books! Knitting is amazing at combating stress as it involves repetitive motions, which is scientifically proven to reduce stress, soothe anxiety, and even protect your brain from aging. The repetitive motions of knitting has been shown to carry similar benefits to meditation as it requires your mind to solely focus on the motions and takes your mind off other worries or stress.

Similarly, doing something that shifts the focus of your mind from something stressful to something engaging and creative will tremondously improve your mood. Pick up a good book that you can lose yourself in for an hour or two or do some colouring in! I’ve recently become quite addicted to grown up colouring books, which are extremely intricate and detailed, where I can get lost in for hours and makes me feel wonderfully calm. Grown up colouring books are great because when we focus on the activity of colouring, it calms the mind and takes our focus away from worries, whilst stimulating our senses and creativity.

What are your favourite methods to de-stress?

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How To Be Both by Ali Smith: book review

How to be Both Ali Smith

If there is one thing I learn from all the literary prizes and commendations received by Ali Smith’s novel ‘How To Be Both’, it is that we can so easily fall prey to the bells, whistles and buzz words of a good media campaign.

‘How To Be Both’ was marketed as a genre defining, a creative work of ‘literature’ that is bending all the rules, a novel of ultimate importance in the literary world. The book hailed the rebirth of stylistic originality, while Ali Smith has been described as ‘a literary genius’. Well that’s just all fine and fabulous, but the problem is, I absolutely hated it (shock horror!) and I don’t know a single person who ‘genuinely’ liked the book.

‘How To Be Both’ is composed of two stories, with the novel’s main selling point being that it can be read in two different ways. We have a story of a teenager called George, who exists in contemporary England, and a story of an Italian Renaissance painter named Francesco del Cossa. Depending on which copy of the book you happen to pick up, will determine which narrative of the two you will read first (half of the books were printed with the story of George first, and the rest were printed with the artist’s story first). The order in which each story is read is supposed to alter the entire reading experience, making it completely different from one to another.

When this book was recommended to me, I was encouraged to pick up a copy that starts with George’s narrative. The two narratives are linked, one might say through an intertwinement of love, grief and art. George and her mother had taken a spontaneous trip to Italy to see a fresco that her mother became intrigued with, painted by del Cossa. As it turned out this was George’s last trip with her mom, who passed away soon after, which led to George’s subsequent fascination in del Cossa’s life as a way to remember her mom and possibly as a way to deal with her grief.

Both George’s and Francesco’s narratives have stream-of-consciousness prose, which is not an easy read (to say the least) and requires ‘a lot’ of concentration; it’s definitely not one of those books that you’d take with for a fun holiday read. George’s teenage thoughts move lightning fast between the present and past memories, while Francesco’s half of the novel follows a bumblebee’s flight pattern, darting forward and backward through memories of childhood and old age. Yet the writing style in each section is very different. Francesco’s narrative is stylistically experimental; more poetic and fragmented, and although there are some very creative and thought-provoking prose, I found this to be completely nullified by the abstract style of writing that Ali Smith adopted for Francesco’s monologue, which is not only confusing and extremely laborious to read, but flows poorly and not in a style believable to the setting’s time period. Reading George’s story first (which was not easy to begin with), all of a sudden seemed to feel like a reward compare to Francesco’s half second, which felt like the ultimate punishment.

After finishing this book, I couldn’t help but wonder about the way the judges who sit on literary prize panels make their decisions these days. Do they make decisions based on the merit of a work, or do they make decisions based on the fact that they, like everyone else, get so caught up in the supposed newness of an idea, which they desperately want to see as genius, that simply isn’t there?

I know that I am not alone in seeing Ali Smith’s ‘How To Be Both’ as far from the genius it has been claimed to be. I think what we have now is a large proportion of the reading public who are too worried about coming across as ignorant, or that they somehow just ‘didn’t get it’. So they smile, nod and perpetuate the marketing jargon which makes us all think that ‘How To Be Both’ is the second coming of the novel, all so that their supposedly ‘more learned’ friends won’t think them stupid. In my opinion there are a whole lot of disappointed book buyers out there who have spent good money on something that they were told was going to be brilliant and ultimately left them a little more empty than before they’d read it.  

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Winter Snow

winter scene

Winter snow

winter snow

winter snow

Last weekend we finally had our (belated) Christmas wish granted. I was woken up on a Sunday morning by the sounds of laughter and squeals of delight from my neighbour’s children running around in their back garden. But it was only when I heard the magic word ‘SNOW’ that I lunged out of bed to look outside the window. Everything was blanketed in gorgeous white snow, it was like waking up to a perfect winter wonderland.

I remember when I was younger, snow was more common and something to be expected every winter, especially during Christmas. I have vivid memories of crazy snowball fights at school, where if you weren’t careful you would get ambushed coming out of classes, and dragging sleighs up and rode down the snowy hills with friends just before we break for Christmas. But in recent years, we are seeing less and less of snow and it becomes something we yearn and hope for every winter. So this morning when nature surprised us with such a magical scene, you could truly feel the excitement in the air.

Everybody was out enjoying the snow. Families with young kids riding their sleighs, dogs running around like mad (Lucas, my mini dachshund included!) in the snow-covered field. Laughter could be heard from everywhere. You couldn’t have asked for a better atmosphere. It also makes me feel a little sad that moments like these are becoming rarer and rarer. Climate change is more real than ever and it is slowly but surely starting to affect our lives. It won’t go away unless we make a conscious choice to make a change and actively do something about it. It doesn’t matter how small the action, it will still make a difference as long as we start.

Hope everyone in the UK got to enjoy the lovely snow over the weekend!

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