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."

Finding Happiness In Your Own Personal Style

In the age of social media we so often find ourselves being told by celebrities and influencers what we should and shouldn't be wearing. When you scroll through social media (Instagram - I'm looking at you especially), you're all consumed by the world of trends and style/beauty expectations. Magazines are rammed full of pages telling you what you should and shouldn't be wearing this season and half the time I find myself saying "Really? Is that really a trend?".

People have a real tendency to follow the crowd and dress solely in the style that everyone's advocating because that's what's 'in'. As a result of this, you often find yourself getting sucked into styles and trends that aren't exactly authentic to your own true style.

The purpose of this post is by no means to slate anyone who promotes or chooses to follow fashion tends. I want to try and eliminate the pressures created by the fashion industry and encourage people to take a step back from the world of fashion influencers and glossy magazine covers and truly embrace who you are and how you truly want to look.

Finding your own personal style can be a long road and you may go around the block a few times before you find something which is authentically you. Something which just matches your personality to a T.

I've made a conscious effort to only buy pieces which truly bring joy to my wardrobe, rather than just those which you're more likely to find on the popular pages of fashion websites. In doing this, I've forged my own style in which I feel confident, happy and inspired.

The style I've gravitated towards very much reflects who I am as a person, it's personal to me and this adds a whole other layer of confidence. My personal style is very vintage-inspired; lots of tea dresses, mini skirts, floral patterns and collared shirts. I take inspiration from fashion from the 50's and 60's and the nature of these styles flatters the natural curves of my figure and puts focus on my waist; one of the parts of my body I'm most confident about.

I guess the message I'm trying to get across is embrace trends, by all means, but don't find yourself all consumed by them to the point you're not staying true to your own personal style. Be you and only you.

4 Books I've Read In 2019 So Far

In 2019 so far, I've been on a MAJOR roll with my reading and boy am I loving it. I was blessed to receive some cracking titles in my stocking at Christmas (and boy does that feel like a long time ago) and I've been loving getting my nose into them slowly but surely as the months have gone by. Don't get me wrong, it's not been a piece of cake to find time to sit down and have a good ol' read without the feeling that I should be doing 1001 other things instead, but I've been taking my own advice - from my 'How To Find Time To Read in 2019' post - and making time for this favourite hobby of mine.

I've been reading a good blend of new picks and firm favourites, and today I've tried to pick four of the titles I've read in the first part of the year which I haven't previously introduced you to. This is not only to add a bit of variety to my book posts but also so I can pretend that I haven't just been re-reading the Harry Potter books for the umpteenth time.

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
Sarah's Key is a hard-hitting piece of historical fiction which centers around the real-life event of the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup in 1942, in which over 13,000 Jewish people were arrested, held in in-humane conditions and then shipped off to Auschwitz. Much of the story focuses on the complicity of the French police in the round-up, something which has been very much forgotten by history

The titular character is ten year old Sarah, who is arrested along with her family at the start of the novel. Unaware of horrific reality of their arrest, and under the impression that they will be freed after a few hours, Sarah locks her four year old brother in a hidden cupboard before they leave. She vows to return and rescue her brother, and the novel follows her story as she desperately tries to keep this promise following her arrest. The novel interweaves the story of Sarah with that of Julia, an American journalist living in Paris and researching the events of the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup ahead of the 60th anniversary. Whilst I did find myself initially getting tired of the chapters focused on Julia - no doubt fueled by my emotional connection to Sarah and eagerness for the author to continue her story - as the novel went on and her connection to Sarah's story grew more explicit, I began to enjoy her character and what it brought to the story as a whole.

Sarah's Key is a hugely emotive and poignant novel that I simply could not put down. It's beautifully written and the historical element was truly fascinating. This was the first novel I read in 2019 and it's a story that is going to stay with me for a long time to come.

Valentine Joe by Rebecca Stevens 
We're back in historical fiction territory now and heading back to world war 1 and the battlefields of the Ypres Salient with the novel Valentine Joe by Rebecca Stevens.

Valentine Joe tells the story of fourteen year old Rose who visits the Ypres Salient with her grandad in search for the grave of his uncle. When visiting a cemetery she is drawn to the grave of Valentine Joe Strudwick, a soldier who died in 1916 at the tender age of fifteen. From this moment a slightly supernatural twist is added to the novel and Rose finds herself time-travelling back to 1915 where she interacts with the young soldier himself, taking on the role of an angel on the battlefields with a goal of changing his fate.

It was the setting that really enticed me to read this book as I've been lucky enough to visit Ypres (a beautiful town in Belgium) and the surrounding area twice before as part of my history studies. One significant location is Essex Farm, once the location of an advanced dressing station and now a cemetery and the final resting place of over a thousand soldiers who died on the surrounding battlefields. The concept of the story centering around a cemetery which I myself have visited really added an extra dimension of emotion to the novel. And just when you think your heart has been touched enough you find out that Valentine Joe was a real soldier; a real fifteen year old boy who gave his life fighting to give the world the freedom it has today.

Valentine Joe is definitely written with a younger audience in mind but even as an adult I found it to be a really enjoyable read. I did find that due to it being a shorter novel, in order to accommodate younger readers, it lacked the detail I was craving it to have. Yet it still managed to be a truly touching and heartwarming tale and one I'd really recommend if you're after a slightly shorter read.

The Girl In The Red Coat by Kate Hamer
A few months back I raided a whole heap of charity shops with my favourite book-hunting sidekick - also known as my Nanny - and, after noticing a 50p sale, left with my arms laden with lots of juicy new reads. One of these new books was The Girl In The Red Coat, a mystery thriller by Kate Hamer. I know the phrase 'don't judge a book by it's cover' is one of much importance to book-lovers, but I must say that it was the intense scarlet cover and the emphasis on the colour red in the title which initially caught my eye.

The Girl In The Red Coat shares the emotional journey experienced by Beth, who sees her own worst nightmare come into fruition when her eight year old daughter Carmel goes missing at a local festival. The chapters alternate between the narrative of Beth, as she hunts for her daughter and tries to learn to adjust to life with a piece of her missing, and Carmel, as she finds herself at the hands of strangers in a completely alien place.

Hamer has created a truly fascinating character in Carmel and it was her character's quirks that propelled me deeper into the story. I won't lie, I felt less initial attraction to the character of Beth but this did grow as the story progressed itself. I found the use of alternating perspectives carried the story well but did struggle, especially towards the ending, with the frequent jumps in time which left me with a number of questions about the occurrences we weren't privy to. I'd love to know what you think of this element of the story if you've read The Girl In The Red Coat; you know me, always up for a literary discussion!

(bonus points if you've spotted that my book is upside down in this photo - smooth Chloe, smooth)

Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land
Good Me Bad Me is a dark and intensely gripping psychological thriller which marked Ali Land's debut novel. I rarely tread into the land of thrillers but I was both thoroughly impressed and highly unsettled at the same time!

Meet Milly, a fifteen year old girl who has just been given a new identity; a new family; a new life. Why, you may ask? Her mother is a serial killer.  After turning her mother into the police, Milly begins to learn to navigate her new life but the ghosts of her horrific past loom over her and she struggles with the war that's being fought inside her head between the 'good' and 'bad' parts of her psyche.

The story is told solely through Milly's eyes; combining her internal thoughts, snippets of dialogue  and the heavy presence of her mother's voice inside her head. It explores not only Milly's new life but the build up and event of her mother's trial and the impact it has on Milly, who is forced to relive not only the heinous crimes she witnessed but also the horrific abuse she suffered at the hands of her mother.

Good Me Bad Me is an extremely well written novel which focuses on the psychological aspect of the crimes and their repercussions, sparing the reader from having to hear any of the gruesome details of the murders. The constant twists and turns and gripping pace make it so compelling, to the point that I actually devoured the whole book in one go. Who needs a life when you can stay in all day and read about serial killers hey?

I'm currently reading The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris and I'm already insanely in love with it! No doubt you'll hear me talk all about it when I've finished it.

Have you read anything good recently?

My Calm Island

Recently I have been trying new mindfulness and calming technique in the form of creating a 'calm island'. The idea is for you to create a paradise in your head; a setting of true serenity designed to help you get into a calm state of mind. In times of mental turbulence and panic you can let your mind take you to your calm island and find yourself starting to unwind into a calmer state of mind.

Over the past week or so I've been creating my own idea of paradise in my head, picturing every detail whenever I'm feeling anxious and focusing my mind on adding new details to the island. Nothing is too much or over the top; your imagination is endless. 

On my calm island you'd find endless forests for me to walk my dog through, with beautiful autumnal colours and wildlife galore. After trekking for miles, you'd come to a clearing and find yourself looking at a giant oak tree. Hanging off one of the tall branches is a rope swing; the kind that just fills your heart with nostalgia for your childhood.

Days would be spent in a heated infinity pool with a view over the coastline and then I'd retire to a luxurious hammock surrounded by fairy lights where I could read to my heart's content.

I'd live in a beautiful beach house on a clifftop, full of cosy furnishings and hidden reading nooks. A huge roll top bath sits by a window will rolling views across the island. The bed is covered in the softest sheets and fluffy pillows; always at just the right temperature. 

There would also be miles of roads for road trips galore; the kind of road trip were you drive along with the roof down and the wind blowing through your hair, screaming along to all of the classic songs.

What would you have on your calm island?