My Affirmation For The Year Ahead

And just like that it's 2020.

The first few days of a brand new year always play host to a flurry of new years resolutions and exclamations of 'new year, new me'. And I often find that this can cause us to feel pressure to self-scrutinise and make all sorts of changes in our lives. But who says the turn of a new year needs to be given so much significance?

Whilst new year goal setting may be a fab practise for some people, personally I know for me they won't be all that positive. I don't want to enter 2020 with a whole heap unreachable goals and quests which may create a lifestyle that feels a little bit like a pressure cooker.

So I've decided this year to take a more positive stance to new year goal setting and focus my efforts on creating an affirmation I want to shape my year around.

In the latter end of 2019 I began to grow my awareness of affirmations and the power they can have in creating positive thoughts and an overall positive lifestyle. If you're not clued up on the whole affirmation malarkey, it's simply an empowering phrase or sentence we repeat to ourselves over and over again throughout the day. Repeating your affirmation regularly works to alter your mentality and trains your brain into believing the statement. It can be anything, from something simple like "today is going to be a good day" to something more significant to you and your current priorities. 

So I've decided to create my own empowering affirmation to set the tone for the year ahead, in line with my continued focus on creating a positive lifestyle that supports my mental wellbeing. 

So what's my affirmation for 2020?

My affirmation for the year ahead is 'I can just let it be'.

This affirmation is one whose roots lie within one of my favourite songs of all time; a song where the lyrics really resonate with me and hold significant meaning in my life. That song? Let It Be by The Beatles.

Basing an affirmation around musical lyrics may seem trivial to some but it is a song which has spoken to me since I was a child and ultimately I believe we should look for a deeper meaning behind music and lyrics and use them to inspire and motivate us in our daily lives.

For those unfamiliar with the history of the song, the lyrics stem from a dream Paul McCartney had, in which his late mother appeared to him and told him that "it will be alright, just let it be".

I have chosen an affirmation to combat this and clear my mind of thoughts which have no positive purpose in my life. Instead of letting myself overthink and dwell on things, I'm going to consciously choose to repeat the affirmation 'I can just let it be' and fill my mind with positive thoughts which can rewrite my mindset.

I am someone who is prone to overthinking; prone to letting my anxieties consume my thoughts. Often the situations we overthink are ones we have zero control over which means that allowing these thoughts to control our mind is a completely futile practise. The affirmation of 'I can just let it be' aims to let me focus my mind on the fact that I can't control these events and that's ok, as sometimes in life we just need to let things be and see how they play themselves out.

Have you decided on an affirmation for 2020?

Chatsworth Christmas Market

Is there really a better way to get yourself in the festive spirit than immersing yourself in a Christmas market?

A couple of weeks back my mum and I visited Chatsworth House (a gorgeous stately home in Derbyshire) to soak up the festive atmosphere at their gorgeous annual Christmas market. It's something I've been longing to go to ever since I moved up north so it was ever so exciting that this year we got to make the trip.

The market took place this year between 15th November and 3rd December and it played host to over 100 stalls selling unique gifts, handcrafted decorations and festive food galore. Set against the stunning backdrop of the beautiful Chatsworth House, you wander around a multitude of wooden chalet stalls which are all decorated with an abundance of pretty lights and trees.

You park a fair way away from the market itself and then jump on a tractor trailer (which is decked out in it's Christmas finery of course) and it whisks you off towards the festivities. It doesn't look like much on the approach but as soon as you stepped through the entranceway, you were transported to a winter wonderland that was buzzing with festivity.

Something you cannot fault is the festive atmosphere. Each of the traders were absolutely lovely and so keen to have a good chat with you. There was live music from some very talented people, including an oompah band who managed to drag people away from their Christmas shopping to watch and join in with their rendition of well known holiday tunes.

One of my favourite things about Christmas markets is the unique shopping opportunities they provide to support local businesses, both through the gifts you buy and the locally made festive delicacies you enjoy. 

I was able to buy a whole sleigh worth of beautiful pieces, from handmade decorations to deck the halls with, to locally made cheeses and brownies. Several items on my present to-buy list were ticked off too, which made it a successful day all round!

Have you been to a Christmas market this year?

The A to Z of Festive Things To Do This December

Well folks, there's no denying it, the Christmas period is well and truly on its way. We've opened a weeks worth of doors on our advent calendar and Christmas trees are starting to pop up here, there and everywhere.

To avoid getting yourself lost in a sea of wrapping paper and mince pies, I've written an A to Z of things you can do to get in the Christmas spirit this December. From Secret Santa to festive movies, it's all in there, so there will definitely be something that will jingle your bells.

A is for Advent Calendar
Advent calendars are a classic festive tradition and a great way to count down the days until Christmas Day itself is here. Whether you go for a classic chocolate calendar or prefer something a little more swish, such as a beauty calendar, they're a perfect daily festive treat to get you in the holiday spirit.

B is for Boxing Day
Ah Boxing Day, a day centered around rest, food and all of the festive telly they couldn't fit into the Christmas Day scheduling. I love a good board game on Boxing Day; something that gets all of the family involved. But however you choose to spend it, I hope it's a good'un for you.

C is for Carol Concert
When I was a child, my school choir used to sing in my city's cathedral carol concert every year and it's embedded in me the idea that Christmas isn't complete without a good carol concert. Find somewhere in your local area where you can join together with your friends and neighbours for a good ol' sing song to celebrate the holidays.

D is for Deck The Halls
We've now reached the point where it is socially acceptable to go all out and cover your home in Christmas joy. Pop your tree up, throw some tinsel about the place and make your home look like a proper Santa's grotto.

E is for Elf
You can't beat a good Christmas movie or TV special, especially when it's watched next to a burning fire and enjoyed with a steaming mug of hot chocolate with all the trimmings. If Elf doesn't jingle your bells, you have a whole host of festive classics to choose from. Love Actually is my personal favourite!

F is for Friends
One of my favourite quotes at this time of year is "Christmas is not about presents, but about presence" and that just sums this point up. The holidays are a perfect time to catch up with friends, be it for a festive meal, a tipple or two, a Christmas shopping trip or anything in between.

G is for Gingerbread
There are four main food groups during the holiday season: turkey, chocolate, cheese and gingerbread!

H is for Hot Chocolate
Winter is the best time of year for hot drinks, especially hot chocolate. The UK coffee shops are smashing it with their festive picks this year; I'm particularly partial to a Starbucks Toasted Marshmallow Hot Chocolate with all the trimmings!

I is for Ice Skating
When Winter comes around once again, ice rinks start to pop up here there and everywhere and they make a perfect way to spend a festive afternoon. Bundle up in your cosiest clothing and let any Christmas stresses melt away as you skate around to some fantastic festive tunes.

J is for Jumper
Friday 13th December is this years Christmas Jumper Day for Save The Children. It's a lovely way to get in the Christmas spirit whilst doing your bit for a wonderful cause. You could go down the traditional route, pick something sparkly or embrace the truly daft and ugly; the choice is yours.

K is for Kisses Under The Mistletoe
Are mistletoe kisses actually a think outside of the fictional world of TV and films? Who knows! If they are, I hope you get the opportunity to meet that special someone under the mistletoe this December.

L is for Lights
Is there anything more beautiful than Christmas lights? A lovely festive tradition is to have a long drive around your local area, checking out all of the lights the community has decked out their homes with.

M is for Market
Is there really a better way to get yourself in the festive spirit than immersing yourself in a Christmas market? You can't beat perusing a traditional German market for some festive gems whilst enjoying a delicious treat or two.

N is for Neighborly Cheer
Christmas is a time for giving; a time for spreading joy. This isn't just in relation to your family and friends but also your wider acquaintances and a great place to start is with your neighbours. I grew up in a very close-knit community, where everyone swapped hand-delivered Christmas cards and there was even the odd home-baked festive treat thrown into the mix. What a wonderful way to spread the Christmas spirit. 

O is for Ornaments
I've already mentioned popping your Christmas decorations up, but a fantastic festive tradition is to treat yourself to a new ornament to celebrate each Christmas. It might be a piece from a traditional Christmas market or maybe just something which catches your eye at a local garden centre; whatever it is, give it pride of place in your 2019 holiday decor.

P is for Pyjamas 
No matter how old you get, you're never too old for a good pair of Christmas pyjamas! Christmas jim jams are a bit of a tradition in my family; my sister and I get a new pair each year to wear on Christmas Eve and into Christmas morning. 

Q is for Quiet Night In
At this time of year, last minute shopping and other Christmas craziness can unleash your inner stressed Susan, so it's important to have a little bit of a break and a good ol' breather. Schedule in a pamper night or cosy movie night in; anything which will calm your mind.

R is for Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree
It's December, it's time to defrost Michael Buble and start jingling your bells to all of the classics. Is there really a better way to get in the Christmas spirit? Alexa... play Mariah Carey.

S is for Secret Santa
Secret Santa is a fantastic cost-effective gift-giving solution for groups, be it with friends, work colleagues or even family. There are lots of websites and apps that take away any hassle and sorts all of the allocations for you, such as Elfster and DrawNames.

T is for Traditions
Traditions really shape Christmas and each family has their own special festive practices they do year after year. Some are traditions we've inherited from generations gone by and some are ones we create for ourselves. Whether it's opening a small gift on Christmas Eve, attending a local carol service or wearing matching pyjamas as a family; it's the little things that really make Christmas.

U is for Unwrap
I'm not sure what's better: unwrapping gifts or watching other people unwrap the gifts you bought for them!

V is for Visiting Family
The true beauty of Christmas lies with the company you choose to spend it with. Often, the Christmas period plays host to catch ups with family you haven't seen all year and it can be so wonderful.

W is for Winter Walks
During the cold winter months, many of us stay cooped up inside but wrapping up warm and venturing out into the great outdoors is a wonderful way to spend a December morning. It's also a fantastic self care practise during a time which can be rife with stress and anxiety.

X is for Xmas
Couldn't not include the big day itself on this list, could I?

Y is for Yule Log
Chocolate yule logs are yet another festive treat that are a true crowd-pleaser at every festive shindig. A perfect alternative to the traditional Christmas cake for those among us with more of a sweet-tooth, it wouldn't be Christmas without enjoying a piece (or seven) now would it?

Z is for Zzzzzz
The festive period can be busy busy busy and it's tempting to fill every minute of the day with lots of festive antics, but make sure you give yourself a good ol' break this December! Keep some space back solely for self preservation; nothing but rest and relaxation.

What are you planning on doing this month to get into the Christmas spirit?

5 Wellness Podcasts You Should Be Listening To

Not so long ago I would have not labelled myself as a podcast fan; I was too busy jamming out to my favourite music to even consider the world of podcasts. But my boyfriend likes to fall asleep to the sound of something so I started to research my own podcasts to avoid having to fall asleep to the latest football and gaming news!

Although this was a slightly unconventional introduction to podcasts, it opened up a whole new world to me and now I've fallen through the rabbit hole into the wonderful world of podcasts, I can't get enough! As I'm sure you can imagine, I'm a sucker for anything that fits in the wellness/mindfulness category but I'm also not one to shy away from some true-crime or book related rambles.

Podcasts have played a huge role in my wellness and mindfulness journey so far and they've not only taken on a key role in my self care routine but also in my self soothing routine when my anxiety is going haywire.

So whether you use a podcast to keep you company on your commute, to help dwindle away anxieties, to help you drift off into a blissful sleep or anything in between, here are five of my current favourite wellness podcasts.

Happy Place
Happy Place is the podcast hosted by Fearne Cotton, which features a whole host of famous faces, all with unique stories to tell. Each episode introduces someone different to share the positive changes they have made in their lives to 'unlock their inner happiness'. Guest stars have included Zoe Sugg, Dawn French, Gok Wan, Emma Willis, Matt Haig and even Stephen Fry, all sharing their unique stories, experiences and how they've overcome bumps in the road. I adore this podcast as I find it to be an extremely soothing listen and one which provides real thought provoking material, something I gravitate towards with podcasts.

Pressing Pause
Pressing Pause describes itself as 'the podcast for overthinkers' and is hosted by Gabrielle Treanor, a woman who has such a soothing voice it's like a cuddle for your ears and I am put at ease as soon as I press play. Each episode is around ten minutes long - making it the perfect companion for your morning hot drink - and covers a whole host of topics surrounding wellness and mindfulness.

Get Your Glow Back
I have also been loving Get Your Glow Back, hosted by author, chef and nutritional therapist Madeline Shaw. This podcast is actually targeted at mothers, helping them to navigate motherhood as  whole, but a good portion of the episodes focus on general wellness and loving yourself so it has been a good listen, despite me not currently having children. Each episode features a guest from a different background, sometimes professionals working in fields relating to wellness and sometimes women sharing their own stories. The episodes also vary in length, so it's easy to find one which fits you and the amount of podcast-listening time you have.

In The Moment Magazine Podcast
Take the In The Moment magazine - a beautiful publication focusing on mindfulness, wellbeing and general calm living - and pop it through your headphones and you get this podcast. Each episode has a different host discussing a key aspect of calm living; there was even a series of 5 minute episodes coaching you through meditation. I find this podcast to be a good listen for when I'm winding down before bed, exactly the moment when my thoughts can sometimes start racing and my body just needs to calm down.

Live Life Better
The final wellness podcast I want to mention today is Live Life Better, hosted by Melissa Hemsley in connection with Virgin and Penguin Living. Live Life Better is a very uplifting and comforting podcast focusing on self-improvement in all aspects of life. I can only describe listening to an episode as like listening to a conversation with friends over a cuppa. My favourite episode focused on creating a clutter-free life for yourself but there are a whole heap of topics for you to dip your toes into. This is a podcast I've only recently been introduced to and sadly there haven't been new episodes for a little while so I'm not sure on it's future, but it's definitely worth exploring episodes gone by.

Have you got a favourite wellness podcast? I'd love to hear any recommendations you have!

On Learning That Life Isn't A Race

As I write this, we're in the midst of graduation season. My social media is full to the brim of photos of people all dolled up in their graduation gowns and you can't open instagram without seeing a boomerang of people throwing their caps in the air. This year it was the turn of the people I went to school with, including my best friend. And I won't lie... it felt pretty crap.

I suppose a bit of context is needed here for anyone who isn't familiar with little old me and the path life has led me on. I'm twenty-one and just about to start my third year at university. I finished sixth form in 2016 and it was fair to say my A Level experience was far from perfect. I was, to put it rather bluntly, mentally ill for at least my second year of sixth form and it was a small miracle I sat my exams in the first place, let alone passed my A Levels and got a place at uni. But in the midst of all the turbulence I was facing as a result of my mental health, I had decided I wanted to take a year out of education to focus on me before my academic journey continued. So I took a gap year, managed to secure a full time job in a school and watched as the majority of my peers headed off to university. I followed a year later and if you fast forward a couple of years, here we are.

It's hard to pinpoint exactly why I was feeling so negative about seeing the people I grew up with graduating. It would be hard to say there wasn't a twinge of jealousy there. Perhaps it was jealousy surrounding the fact that the people I grew up with had reached this big academic milestone and I hadn't. Perhaps it was because, for them the hard work was done. There was almost a feeling of regret in the air; regret that I had taken a gap year and put myself one step behind my peers.

These emotions almost seemed silly because, when taking my gap year in the first place, I had always known I would graduate a year late. It's something I honestly thought I had come to terms with, until the moment when I saw everyone putting on their caps and gowns.

I wanted to be there; I wanted to be graduating; I wanted to be achieving this significant thing with everybody else. But I wasn't and it made me feel like I was lagging behind and honestly, like I was less of a success.

But it's not just about graduation; when I look around me, everyone is in different stages of life. 

I look at people I went to school with, at current and old work colleagues and at my uni friends; all people who, despite being the same age as me, are at completely different points in their lives in terms of relationships, home, career; the whole shebang. Some have successful jobs, some have bought houses, some have graduated; some have even grown small humans inside them.

Sometimes it feels like life is a 1500m race and I'm still walking my way around the first lap.

But I recently look a long hard look at the situation and thought... Chlo it doesn't really matter. It doesn't really matter when other people graduate, or what degree classification they get. It doesn't matter what the girl you used to sit next to in maths is doing with her life, or when the popular kids bought houses. It all doesn't matter. What matters is my journey.

I'm taking life at my own pace; crossing each stepping stone when suits me and not taking a blind bit of notice about which stepping stone the rest of the world are on. Because I'm just doing me. Life is this crazy journey which shouldn't be rushed. Every step should be appreciated and enjoyed.

Look at life as a walk up a mountain. There are a hundred and one different paths up the mountain, some which are steeper and a little harder to climb, some which may even result in rocks being thrown down at you. Some paths may be direct and some may take you the long way. Each one of these paths is different but they all get you to the top of the mountain in the end. And you'll look back down at the path you've followed and wouldn't change it for the world, because you've achieved something great. Scrapping my metaphor for a minute, this achievement may look different for each person; for some it may be a career goal, for some it may be marriage and children, for some it may be financial stability, for some it may just be happiness. We are all walking up our own paths, at our own paces and towards our own end goals; the focus should be on ourselves. Yes at times our paths will cross with others, but your only focus should be on your individual journey and enjoying every second of it.

"Life isn't a race, find joy in the journey."