These are some of the things in my life that make me feel happy and top up my battery-levels. They don’t have to be hugely life-changing actions or expensive, awe-inspiring events – sometimes it takes something simple to provide that feel-good, happy-to-be-alive moment.
1. Get on your bike
Even though I live in the stunning New Forest with over 200 miles of cycle track, and I know it’s good for me, it’s sometimes hard to make the effort to go for a bike ride. Yet every time I do, I feel good about myself and life in general. So many boxes are being ticked – being outdoors in the natural world, pumping blood around the body and keeping trim, cycling with friends, or simply taking time to tune out and give the thinking brain a rest. And I have so many ideas for my work when I’m cycling – they seem to pop up from nowhere.
I also love listening to podcasts or the playlist I’ve put together of my favourite cycling tunes. Achieving the technical know-how to make these things happen through my phone was a real challenge that took time, but it’s now paying off. ‘Desert Island Discs’ and ‘The Moth Hour’ are two favourite radio podcasts I love to listen to.
2. Yoga for body AND soul
I try to do yoga every day, ideally when I get up. A friend told me about Adriene’s 31 Day Yoga Revolution on Youtube – a short guided yoga practice for each day of January, and I gave it a go. By Day 6 I was hooked, and I’ve repeated the 31 days many times since. Videos are typically half an hour long, and this practice is so good for us in so many ways; each day we are mindfully being fully present in the moment as we follow Adriene through the day’s practice, taking care of our bodies so that over time, the cumulative effect adds up to more strength and suppleness. In addition, we are being kind to ourselves, and learning so much from hearing her words about the focus for that day – be it strength, stillness, forgiveness or fearless practice, to name just a few.
It is a constant learning process, aiming to be fully present in the moment for just this short time I’m giving to myself each day – but so important to offset the constant busyness and multi-tasking of modern life with time to still our mind – a kindness to ourselves.
3. Nurture and Grow Plants
I love my house-plants and the feel they give to my home. I enjoy finding the right pot for them and especially love concrete, and geometric-patterned pots at the moment. Tending for a house-plant and keeping it looking at its best is a form of mindful nurturing that increases our own wellbeing – watching over it, feeding and tending it as it grows; in time, we have a living thing of beauty that brings us on-going pleasure. My latest acquisitions include two cheese-plants which I adore. I once spotted a discarded piece of leaf in an Ikea bin that seemed to have tiny young plants attached to it. I took it home, planted a baby and now have a beautiful succulent that in turn produces dozens of babies along its leaves. It shoots these off periodically, to take root and give me many more new plants, which I can grow and give away to friends.
Plants reduce carbon dioxide as they photosynthesize, drawing it from the air and replacing it with oxygen. They increase humidity levels and decrease dust, purifying the atmosphere and reducing our chances of catching airborne infections like colds. They are also beautiful and architectural and add character and warmth to any room.
4. Pick flowers for your home
I deliberately planted my garden to provide me with flowers and leaves for picking and displaying around the house. I have come to love wandering through the garden, secateurs in hand, selecting blooms and stems for my vases. I always have a vase of flowers in my bedroom, and in my therapy room, and love seeing the variation in what the garden provides through the year. There are very few weeks in the depths of winter when there is nothing to pick: some plants, such as vinca, (periwinkle), seem to bloom continuously throughout most of the year. I can’t help photographing the most beautiful vases of flowers and texting them to people I know.
5. Bake bread
I’ve enjoyed baking bread for many years, but more recently, my passion has grown towards sourdough; an ancient artisanal practice that uses only flour, water and salt, harnessing the natural yeasts that are in the air all around us in the ‘starter’ mixture that I feed each day until it is lively, frothing and ready to use.
The process of baking sourdough loaves can take 2 or 3 days – the key is to get into a rhythm; working from home allows me to periodically check my dough, letting it rise through the day, or at night in the fridge. Feeding people with sourdough feels like a real achievement; it’s a challenge, and has not been without its setbacks, but the wait has been worth it – there’s nothing like the tangy, full taste of sourdough, or the pleasure on the faces of those I feed it to. I bake sourdough loaves for lunch on my writing workshops and participants always come back for more.
If all of these things give me so much pleasure, the process of writing about them, and sharing these ideas with others, only heightens the experience! There’s something about getting things down in black and white that allows us to really ground what we’re thinking and feeling, maybe allowing us to find out new things about ourselves. Regular writing in a journal – your experiences, thoughts, ideas – in fact just about anything that’s significant to you is guaranteed to bring more calm, mindfulness and creativity into your life. And what’s more, there’s a cumulative effect that leaves you with your own personal biography; something you can re-read in the future, helping you to come to better understandings of yourself.