Thursday, 5 May 2016

Self-esteem versus Self-Compassion: Love Yourself Right!

When you miss out on a job prospect or the man of your dreams turns you down, how do you react? Do you let yourself feel defeated, beat yourself up with thoughts like "you're not good enough, anyway"; or do you accept the situation, give yourself a hug, and move on? Or, perhaps, do you feel angry - how dare they not recognise how amazing you are?! There's a difference between self-esteem, which we've all heard of, and self-compassion - which isn't as well-known.

You may think that having high self-esteem is always a good thing. It's the fuel that makes you get out of bed and ready to kick some ass. In the 80's, America was swept by the self-esteem movement - the idea that, if kids had high self-esteem, they could face life's challenges and rise to any occasion. You might have heard of stories where teachers were forbidden from marking papers with crosses, to avoid the risk of damaging a child's self-esteem. What actually happened, some argue, was the production of a generation of self-entitled brats with massive, unfounded egos - who couldn't handle the merest hint of criticism. There's a great article about it (and Jersey Shore) here.

In the world of Psychology, some researchers are arguing that the downsides of having high self-esteem is a great deal of narcissism and lack of empathy for others. Our generation get accused of thinking we're special and wonderful all the time, but it's clearer to see in others. We probably all know someone who poses for countless selfies, who obsesses over their clothes and make-up, and who seem to only talk about themselves. Despite having high "self-esteem", those people are often the most sensitive when it comes to criticism, too - their ego may be big, but it's fragile.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

5 Mindfulness Tips for Busy People

Mindfulness, an ancient idea rooted in Buddhism but based on a very simple concept - stop, perceive, feel.

These days, our brains take in so much more than our ancestors' ever did- all the information and adverts

Finding inner peace at work can be tricky...
can make us feel like our brains are going to explode. Rates of depression and anxiety are increasing, and many believe it's because we just can't deal with the "modern world".

Thanks to this, more and more people are discovering mindfulness and meditation. The results are apparently amazing in every circle - less stress, a clearer head, better emotional control, reduced anxiety and depression.

But how does mindfulness fit into a world that's so fast and demanding? If you looked up mindfulness and thought "Well, I don't have time for that!" then read on. You don't have to dress in robes and spend two hours on a mountain, chanting; there are a few simple ways that you can incorporate mindfulness into your every life, without compromising your time.

Save your future self from melt-down (and all those stress-related diseases) by taking time out from your thoughts and focusing on the here and now.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

How to Cut Your Internet Argument Addiction

You know how it goes. You're idly flicking through your news feed, or you scroll to the "comments" section at the bottom of a news article. Some of the comments are nice and innocent enough, some make valid points; but there's somebody who has said something so ignorant, so disgusting, that you feel your blood start to boil. Perhaps their comment has bypassed most peoples' attention, or perhaps there is already a vicious battle going on by the time you stumble across it. There are misinformed, ridiculous comments being made - and you know exactly what to say to them. You might even have a few facts to back yourself up. You click "comment" and find that you might even need to register with this website in order to have your say...

STOP right there! Before you get your virtual knickers in a twist, take a deep breath and think about what you're about to do. How often in a heated, online discussion do you see somebody saying "Wow, I really see your point. Thank you for putting it that way!" (without sarcasm) and politely shaking hands with everybody, thanking them for the intellectual exercise?

Friday, 1 January 2016

7 Ways to Start Simplifying Your Life

Let me ask you a simple question: what do you think of when you read the word "simple"?

Pic from

To some, a "simple life" might sound unpleasant, boring or even a sign of poverty. However, to a growing number of people, simplifying and downsizing means many things: it's a statement against a system that helps the rich get richer and the poor grow poorer, a step away from consumerism and towards a deeper, perhaps spiritual appreciation of life, as well as being a great way to save money and reduce stress.

If you're unsure about why simplifying is a good idea, check out my recent post 5 Reasons to Simplify Your Life.

Through future blog postings I hope to help show you some of the various ways in which you can de-clutter and simplify your life, as well as bringing your awareness to some of the individuals and groups across the globe who are already embracing a more authentic, compassionate, simple and sharing-based lifestyle.

For now, here are some starting points for some of you who want to take a step back from the stress and clutter of modern life and start to simplify. I've gone with the theme of areas of your life (physically and otherwise) where you can start to act.

1. Your Kitchen

You'll see from other posts that I'm a big fan of cooking your own simple, vegetarian, healthy food. Ideally, you should aim for local, seasonal vegetables, avoiding things that have been flown halfway across the world, as simplifying also means doing things like reducing your carbon footprint.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Are Your Beliefs About Talent and Skill Holding You Back? The Difference Between Fixed and Growth Mindsets

My mother has lived in Wales for nearly 40 years. Despite 85% of the local population speaking
Naturally talented, or the result of hours of practice?
Welsh as their first language, she still can't hold up much of a conversation in the language (sorry Mum!). While she partly blames this on my refusal to speak Welsh to my “English mummy” during childhood, another reason that she likes to give for her lack of linguistic prowess is - “well, I was never very good at French at school”.

I've heard things like this from all kinds of people; “Oh, I can't do that – I'm hopeless at writing essays”, “Well, I can't sing”, “I'm really bad at sports.”

These statements are given with the same casual matter-of-factness as if we were telling each other about our nationality or eye colour. Yet we surely know plenty of people who have taken up a language, hobby or job and picked it up pretty well, and we all know that nobody comes out of the womb able to play classical music on the piano or speak ten languages.

Let me ask you this: have you ever stopped yourself from doing something because you didn't think you could do it? This might mean you gave up at the first hurdle, or that you didn't even start.

Sometimes, we expect to get things right the first time, and when we try and don't succeed we get frustrated and give up. I've certainly tried new things, like a new exercise class or trying to understand a complicated piece of information, and given up as soon as things got tough, thinking "well, there's something I'm no good at!". Underneath this kind of thinking is an assumption that if we can't get things right at the beginning, we must not be made for that activity - so we stop, or don't even try.

This isn't true of everybody - there are some who will keep on trying. The psychologist Carol Dweck argues that there are two types of mindset - the fixed mindset, and the growth mindset. The mindset that you have could determine how you behave towards challenges and even predict how happy you are.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Making hummus from scratch

Mmm, hummus! Originally from the Middle East, hummus has gained popularity in Western countries over the last few years - probably because it's delicious, healthy, and completely vegan and gluten-free. Whether you use it as a dip (sliced raw peppers are great), a sauce, a toast topping, salad dressing or anything else you can think of, the good news is that it's easy to make at home, too.

You can buy cans of chickpeas in most supermarkets - Aldi does a can for only 37p! However, if you have dried chickpeas on hand, it's pretty easy to use them, too (this will help you avoid any preservatives used in the canning process). You WILL need to plan this around 14 hours before you actually want to eat the hummus, though! Also, you'll need a blender or food processor.

All you need:
Either 1 can of chickpeas OR 125g dried chickpeas
2 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp of tahini (available from health food shops or supermarkets - it's made of sesame seeds)
1 lemon
A pinch of salt
3 tbsp olive oil

1. Soak the chickpeas overnight (12 hours), with at least an inch of water covering them.

2. Drain the water and fill a saucepan with a fresh batch of water (again, 1 inch covering them). Add a pinch of salt and bring to the boil. Leave on a medium heat, simmering, for 90 minutes (yeah, sorry guys!) - keep checking back to make sure there's still
enough water in the pan. If not, add more, otherwise your chickpeas might start sticking to the pan and burning.

3. Throw the chickpeas, garlic, tahini and olive oil into a blender or food processor. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze its juice into the mix.

4. Blend! You may want to add water, as this will create pretty thick hummus. However, if you accidentally add too much water, you can thicken it again with chickpea flour, if you have any. Also note that leaving it in the fridge for a while will help to set it and a slightly less runny consistency.

Optional - if you want to add some exciting flavour to your hummus, add it to the blender! Ideas include sweet chilli sauce, a whole chili, turmeric, cumin, lime juice, tomatoes, coriander or mint!

Leave refrigerated and serve as you like. A lot of restaurants add a load more oil on serving, and use it as a dip for breads - mmm!

Friday, 14 August 2015

"Why Can't I Be Happy?" - The Dark Side of the Positive Thinking Movement

Be happy! Cheer up! You’ve got to strive towards happiness! As you trawl through shelves of self-help
Barbara Ehrenreich promoting her book Smile or Die
paperbacks, the message is the same: you’ve got to become happy. Happiness will make you live longer, improve your health and prospects, magically make everything better and perhaps even land you your dream job.

The pursuit of happiness has long been defined as a basic part of being human – it’s even a constitutional right. When you break it down, whether we’re trying to climb the career ladder, find a partner or fill our day with fun, we’re all striving towards the same goal – happiness. But is there a wrong way, or a wrong time, to strive for happiness? Could there be a dark side to this modern obsession with being happy?

Psychologists are starting to question whether actively chasing happiness might actually be causing us to become unhappier. Think about it; while there may be times that you wouldn’t expect to bring joy (such as the death of a loved one or when you lose your job), when things are going well but you just don’t feel right, you might find yourself asking “Why can’t I be happy?”