Posted in art, Blogging, creativity, lifestyle, memory keeping, Planning and journaling

Top Tips for a Successful December Daily in 2022

This year, as I’m in a good place with my mental health for the first Christmas in a while, I’ve decided to do another December Daily challenge. I made a TN style journal quite a few years ago and I found it really enjoyable. The finished booklet looks great, and I have loved looking through it this month as a wonderful reminder of the things we did in December 2018. I can’t wait to get started on my 2022 album but I’m trying to make sure I’m well prepared and have everything I need to meet with success. I was amazed by the array of YouTube videos which showed people still working on their 2021 album in September of this year – some of them with pages and pages still to complete! With this in mind, I decided to write today’s blog post which focuses on my top tips to make sure that the process goes smoothly and ultimately, that the challenge is completely by the end of the holiday season (or at least by the end of January 2023).

What is December Daily?

The idea for December Daily was created by Ali Edwards who is a designer, blogger, workshop instructor and author based in the USA. She has a passion for memory keeping, capturing everyday life with photographs, words and decorative elements. On her website she has this to say about the project:

December Daily® is a December mini-album project that documents the 25 days leading up to Christmas. The simple goal is to capture the spirit of December via one story per day.

Since 2007 this project has become one of the highlights of my year and a beautiful community of memory keepers has come together to share their December stories with one another. It’s an awesome way to document and celebrate the season.

Tips for a successful and fun December Daily

As part of the preparation for my 2022 December Daily, I’ve watched lots of inspirational videos, read bits and pieces about the project online in various blogs, and collected a number of tips and ideas. As I explained earlier, I’ve seen quite a number of YouTube videos of people still working on their album for 2021, despite the fact that we’re getting close to December 2022. If I was in this situation, I would be worrying that I’m never going to get there and may have already abandoned the project part way through (and likely with feelings of guilt about all the time and money I’d spent). So, below are my top tips for success, enjoyment and a timely completion.

Start by watching YouTube videos and reading blog posts for inspiration

You already know the main idea behind December Daily but there are so many different ways to approach the project. Well before the start of the month (I began in October!), it’s a good idea to watch a range of videos and read blog posts for inspiration and composition ideas. You’ll find that some creatives prepare a mini album before they begin, leaving space for photos and journalling, whilst others use a 6×8 D rings binder and make up the pages as they go. As well as seeing different layouts, you will also find many variations in shape and sizes of journal. There are pros and cons to all of the different methods, layouts and album sizes, and of course, there is the cost to consider – the more supplies you want to use and therefore need to purchase, the more expense involved.

When watching videos and reading blog posts, I like to make notes and sketch the detail of layout ideas so I can remember my favourites at a later date and seek inspiration from them if I get stuck. I’ve also collected lots of ‘story’ and photo ideas on Pinterest and then copied out my favourites in my bullet journal to refer to throughout the month. I only chosen prompts which are relevant to me and my family situation.

Consider which supplies you want

Before you embark on the project, think about what you might need to complete it. Doing the above should have helped but you might also want to sit down and create a list in preparation for purchasing items. For example, I decided I wanted to do a 6×8 album with some of the pages inside page protectors and some just reinforced with card. I also love the idea of lots of different layouts and photo sizes so I took this into consideration too, again making notes about my ideas. I ordered my album and page protectors pretty early on as when I looked at available options, I noticed some of the ones I liked were almost sold out as they had been released last year. I chose an Echo Park white album with poinsettias, holly, berries, snowflakes and spruce stems on and I still absolutely love it!

6×8 Album from a collection by Echo Park

Other items to think about could be Christmassy papers in 12×12 size or smaller, glittery number stickers for labelling each day, journalling cards, gift tags, stickers, washi tapes, ephemera, ribbons, twine for attaching tags, sequins for shaker pockets, glue sticks and tape runners, maybe even a fuse tool for sealing shaker pockets – the possibilities are endless.

I also made sure I ordered my supplies from a company based in the UK as I wanted to make sure my items were received quickly with no chance of being stung by customs fees. There are lots of resources on Ali’s own website which look amazing, but they would end up being very costly! Although I’m prepared to spend quite a bit on the project, I did create a fixed budget, so I don’t overspend.

Choose your main items from one designer collection

If you want all of your pages to go together really well, it’s best to have a specific colour palette and style throughout. An easy way to achieve this is to choose items from a particular collection or at least from a particular designer. For example, this year, all of my supplies (ordered online using the Craftie Charlie website) are from Carta Bella’s ‘Home For Christmas’ and ‘Happy Christmas’ collections. I also purchased a few bits and pieces from Hobbycraft a few months ago but if these don’t go with my new supplies, I’ll use them for decorating my bullet journal instead.

December Daily Supplies from Craftie Charlie

Think about creating some foundation pages

Before December begins, you might want to consider making some foundation pages. These are pages which are done in advance to give yourself a head start on the project. For example, you might create a cover page which includes a title and the year 2022. You might also have a go at making particularly crafty stuff pages and elements such as shakers (containing sequins or glitter), sewn materials or multi-layer bits and pieces,

You could also create a page which explains your reason why. This is short piece of journalling which says why you’re doing the project and what you hope to get out of it. Is it a way of recording your little one’s first Christmas? Is it a chance for you to have more fun this December? Is it a way of winding down each evening by doing some journalling or is it more of a photographic challenge for you? Again, this is totally personal to you. You might want to watch videos or read about what it means to others, but you may have completely different ideas and reasoning.

This year, as one of her foundation pages, Ali Edwards created a table of contents, and this idea appeals to me too so I might give it a go. You can view her first set up video here. I’ve subscribed so I can watch all of her videos as and when she shares her creative process.

Journal your experiences and how you feel in the moment

I’m going to carry around a very small notebook in my bag wherever I go during the month of December so I can make notes about my experiences and how I feel. This means that even if I don’t do the page for that day straightaway, I’ll still have a record of the key details and my emotions at the time. You could also create a page on your phone using an app such as Notion if you would rather write things down electronically. Also, make sure you take lots of photos so you have plenty to choose from – let your family and friends know about the project so they can help with image ideas.

Above all, have fun!

December Daily is potentially a wonderful and fun memory keeping challenge to do, but it won’t be if you get yourself stressed and worried about getting everything perfect! Remember, there are no right or wrong ways to go about it – it should be completely personal to you and as simple or creative as you want. You may use lots of photos and decorative elements, or you may just do a series of simple journal entries.

The holiday season can be incredibly busy and it’s important to find time each day for rest and relaxation. This may mean working on your daily entry in the evening to help you wind down, but alternatively, it could mean that you make up most or all of your album after Christmas, when you are able to devote a few hours each day to some enjoyable and mindful creating, working at your own pace. If you want to spend most of next year finishing your creative project and this is what would make you happiest, go for it! Whatever you do, keep it fun!

Final words…

I hope you’ve found today’s post useful, and the tips have helped you with preparing yourself for doing your own December Daily project. Let me know if you’re going to give it a go or if you’re taking part in another challenge for the festive season e.g. Blogmas where you try out new and fun things on your blog related to Christmas. Although I’m not doing Blogmas this year, I’ll hopefully find the time to do a few blog posts next month as well – I might even share a few of my favourite December Daily pages as I go along too.

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Posted in life hacks, lifestyle, memory keeping, Mindfulness, TN journaling

Monday Matters: An in-depth guide to Happy Memory Making and Creative Memory Keeping

This month I finished reading The Art of Making Memories: How to create and remember happy moments by Meik Wiking. I actually started it last year, but I put it to one side and picked it up again around the middle of October. I’d forgotten many of the key points and ideas, so I re-started from the beginning and spent 20 minutes each morning, reading and highlighting. This has now become part of my early routine and takes place in a super comfortable chair by the window to give myself a good dose of natural light. And, as one of my current affirmations on my vision board is ‘I use self-development books to help me grow’, I’m working hard to apply my learning and decided it would be a good idea to share some of the ideas on here too. I’m also going to talk about some of my own suggestions for memory keeping such as journalling, photography, scrapbooking, memorabilia displays and memory boxes, plus a few more ideas I found online.

Why are memories important?

Rather than provide my own thoughts on the above question, I collected a few ideas from others to share:

Happy memories are essential to our mental health. They strengthen our identity, sense of purpose and relationships.

Rangan Chattergee

There are important moments that make up our life’s narrative. We remember the defining moments in our lives, the moments that made us who we are, the moments where we became who we hoped we could be.

Meik Wiking, The Art of Making Memories

I love those random memories that make me smile no matter what is going on in my life right now.

The moment may be temporary but the memory is forever.

Bud Meyer

‘Happy memories form the cornerstone of our identity, and can help with combating depression and loneliness,’ says Wiking. ‘They influence our happiness in the current moment, as well as providing a framework for our hopes and dreams about the future.’ Nostalgia makes us happy, increasing self-esteem and strengthening social connectedness, so the more vividly we remember the good times, the happier we are overall.

Meik Wiking

Memories are timeless treasures of the heart.

So how can we create a life full of happy memories to treasure?

Following extensive research conducted by the team at The Happiness Research Institute in Denmark, Meik came up eight keys ingredients for creating happy memories whether they’re of important events such as births and marriages, everyday events such as drinking good coffee and eating delicious cake in a cafe with a friend for the first time in ages, adventures such as moving to a new city, climbing a mountain or going abroad for the very first time or struggling to finish a big assignment but then being delighted with the feedback given by the course tutor. Here’s a brief explanation of each of these elements:

Unforgettable firsts

This is the idea that the very first time you experience something is likely to be remembered much better than subsequent very similar experiences. So, for example, you’re likely to remember your first time on an aeroplane, your very first pet, your first job, your first kiss etc. A great idea then, is to seek out new and novel experiences on a regular basis, the more extraordinary the better. You might like to schedule an evening in your diary or planner to find out what’s available to you and explore different options – you might organise a holiday, choose a new restaurant for a family meal (trying a new food or dish will make it even more memorable), sign up for an evening class (I recommend beginners ceramics) or plan to visit a museum is a nearby town or city.

Make it multisensory

In the classroom, during my years as a primary school teacher, one of the important ways of ensuring all children learnt well and enjoyed activities was to create multisensory experiences. These are the kinds of lessons which stay with them for years and they can still remember well after they’ve left school. This can be applied to memory making too. Don’t just experience things with your eyes, try to make sure you use all of your senses (not just sight) to take everything in. Consider if there are any particular aromas in the air, like the smell of freshly roasted coffee, the scent of cinnamon and winter spices in a pot pourri at Christmas time. Be still and listen for near and distant sounds (either pleasant or unpleasant) such as the drumming of a woodpecker in a faraway tree, the roar of the ocean or music drifting on the breeze. Take time to explore different textures such as soft knitted blankets as you get all cosy after a chilly winter walk, or smooth pebbles on the beach and you sit on the sand. Maybe as you relax and take everything in you become aware of a range of sensations, the chill of winter on your skin or the warmth of the Sun on your face in summer or the crunchy autumn leaves below your feet. Perhaps new or favourite tastes complete the scene -succulent strawberries, crunchy, salty popcorn, the sharp tang of the lemon slice in your chilled glass of Pimms and lemonade. And, as you attend to every detail of your experience, you’re engaging in one of the key aspects of mindfulness which is wonderful for your mental health too.

Pay full attention

It should come as no surprise that experiences are best remembered if you invest your complete attention on them. So, for example, if in the summer you went on a Sunday afternoon boat trip to see puffins, but you spend most of the time thinking about all of the work you have to do on Monday, you’re unlikely to remember key details like the warm sun as it sparkled on the water, the interesting facts the captain shared as you headed towards Coquet island, the joy of spying a line of cute seals bobbing in the water making sure that the boat didn’t get too close, the thousands of noisy puffins flying overhead and diving down into the water to catch sand eels, and the hundreds more birds basking in the warmth after a busy morning fishing. However, if you remain attentive during whole cruise, you’re likely to be able to recall all of the magical trip and how you felt for many years to come.

Keep it meaningful

Meaningful moments in your life are those which are of great significance or value to you, where positive emotions such as gratefulness, love, happiness, pride, warmth, peace and often, a sense of connection with loved ones is felt. These could be ‘big’ milestone moments such as finishing college or university, starting a new job, the day you got married, the birth of a child or buying your very first house. They could also be smaller events or happenings which are really important to you and your personal values, for example, for me as a wildlife and nature lover, sitting quietly with my husband in the hide at Kielder Forest, watching and listening to the woodland birds and then suddenly spotting a red squirrel taking a snack from a feeder is one of my favourite memories which I will cherish for a very long time. As well as making exciting plans to celebrate each of our birthdays and our wedding anniversary, my husband and I also make sure we schedule in plenty of other pleasurable activities and adventures for our weekends such as visits to nature reserves, riverside walks in different parts of the Northeast, trips to the theatre, lunches in various vegetarian cafes and overnight stays in quaint villages or vibrant cities.

The emotional highlighter pen

According to Meik, emotions act like a highlighter pen so experiences involving heightened emotions will stick fast in your memory. That’s why we never forget the exact details of times when we’ve felt really embarrassed (no matter how much we’d like to). ‘An emotional reaction will make experiences and moments more memorable, so the art of making memories means making the emotional highlighter pen work for you.’ This also works for exhilarating, joyful, scary, traumatic, sad and shocking events too. Next time you’re planning a holiday, try to add a few activities to the itinerary which are bound to be emotional highlights.

Peaks and struggles

Some of the milestones mentioned above such as completing your university degree, buying your first home or getting married are highly memorable events, but the struggles, stresses and hard work involved to get there is likely to be unforgettable too. There’s so much involved in planning your wedding day that working full time and having a long to do list of preparations months and weeks before can be so stressful and exhausting that when the day arrives it’s such a relief that it (mostly!) went to plan, and you can enjoy what should be one of the happiest occasions of your life.

Meik shares these happy memory tips:

  • save the best for last – e.g., if giving a few gifts to your partner for their birthday or Christmas, save the most precious / exciting one until the end, when creating a holiday itinerary, do something with the ‘wow’ factor on the last day etc.
  • make the journey part of the experience and try taking the long route – for example, go on a gentle and relaxing boat trip along the river to the other side of the city or hire a bike for the day to cycle around the various attractions, rather than jumping in a taxi.
  • plan something for your weekend that helps it to end on a high note

Share your memories as stories and regularly have ‘remember when…’ conversations

A memory model known as The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve shows that over time our retention of memories decline, unless we take action to keep them. Knowing about and understanding the forgetting curve can be important when we are trying to learn new skills or absorb vital information but how does it help us with remembering happy memories? Well, according to Meik, regularly sharing your happy moments with others as stories can help immensely. This could involve helping loved ones to hold on to past events by retelling anecdotes, having ‘remember when?’ conversations or even sharing funny or interesting experiences from your own childhood. Regularly reminiscing has also been shown to help combat memory loss as we get older too.

Outsourcing

The final ingredient for maintaining happy memories is to outsource them. In business, as some of you may know, this generally means asking a third party to take care of a particular job or task. In memory retention, however, we can outsource memories by taking photos, collecting mementoes, keeping a diary or journal or by sharing to social media, such as Instagram, Facebook or even a blogging platform.

Most of us take thousands of photos each year which are generally stored on our phones or online using ‘the cloud’. Flicking through these images can certainly spark memories but personally, I prefer to use a range of memory keeping strategies and I especially love creative journalling.

Memory keeping ideas

Monthly memory pages

I’ve created a few of these in my bullet journal to help me to remember what happened during the month. I’ve tried to summarise each event in a few lines so I can fit plenty of memories in. Some of them are dated, whereas others are just something that occurred over time such as watching a particular TV series.

Mementoes

A memento can be defined as an object kept as a reminder of a person or past event. It can spark memories or feelings of happiness each time we see it. For example, when my nan passed away, my mum selected two ornaments from her Royal Crown Derby Cottage Garden Collection – a sleeping kitten and a cute little Dormouse, to give to me to keep. They remind me of my nan, her many ornaments which she had displayed around her home and my grandparents’ pet cat called Tibbles. Also, I like the animals which were chosen and the decor on each piece so they’re things that I’m happy to display in my own home.

Other mementoes you might consider include:

  • something from each of your holidays such as a fridge magnet
  • a photo in a frame of special occasions e.g., wedding days, child’s first day at school in uniform, the stunning view from a hill you walked up, the bespoke birthday cake that was made for someone’s 80th etc.
  • hand or footprint casts – you can even get one done of your pet’s paw!
  • your child’s first tooth
  • your child’s first artwork
  • a souvenir from some of your ‘firsts’ holidays e.g., a mini Eiffel Tower
  • newspaper clippings from something important to you that made the local news

Photographs

You’ve probably heard the adage ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ which basically means that one single image can often convey multiple ideas, messages and meanings more effectively than a long verbal description can. Therefore, you could write pages and pages describing particular experiences in your life but sometimes, photographs can be enough to spark your memory. Similarly, if you selected a particular photograph from one of your albums (or located one on your phone) you could use it to tell someone else the story of that particular occasion or spend time recalling the event in detail with whoever you shared the moment with.

Set up a private social media account

Many of you will have an Instagram account which features carefully cropped photos with perfect lighting, filters, captions and emojis. This is the stuff you’re happy to share with people online for likes and comments. What Meik suggests is creating another account for everyday memories which might not be Instagram ready bits and pieces you want the whole world to see but are still part of your experience and would give you pleasure to look at.

Creative journalling

Personally, I like to combine lots of different memory keeping tools and techniques in my creative journals. I use a traveller’s notebook size and like to record days out, holidays, special events, clothing, accessory and home decor purchases, craft and art projects, wildlife sightings, new dishes, snacks and sweet treats tried, anything really, but especially new and novel experiences (as per Miek Wiking’s power of firsts). As well as including journaling and photographs in various sizes I also like to stick in related mementoes such as restaurant menus, tickets, receipts, packaging, lists of wildlife or nature spots – anything that adds to the memory.

December daily

December Daily is a project idea created by memory keeper, Ali Edwards and is a way of documenting the 25 days leading up to Christmas. A few years ago, I had a go at creating a Christmas journal using a range of papers I picked up from my local Lidl supermarket making my own traveler’s notebook size insert. I made a page or two for each day

This year, I’ve bought a Chistmassy 8×8 album and a range of different pocket pages which can be filled with photos, bits of journalling and anything which will spark off festive memories. I’m busy building a collection of stickers and ephemera to use and am enjoying watching different approaches to the project on YouTube. I’ve also printed off lots of different prompts I found online to make sure I record lots of different aspects of the month of December and don’t run out of ideas.

Memory playlists

I’ve not tried this one myself, but it sounds like a really nice idea. In January, you start a new personal playlist e.g. ‘Tunes of 2022’, to which you add your current favourite songs throughout the year and tracks which evoke particular memories. When you listen to your playlists you are transported back in time, recalling memories based on music. Although I’ve not specifically done this, I know that when certain songs come on the radio I’m reminded of nights out at university, hitting the dancefloor, writing out or printing lyrics and learning every single word to sing along, wedding night songs including our first dance, favourite bands and artists we’ve been to see, trips to the theatre, movies we’ve enjoyed and many other fun times throughout the years. In fact, I read some information online this afternoon which suggested that playlists can be a particularly useful tool to create for elderly loved ones to help elicit memories of times gone by.

1 second everyday – video journalling

This is a video recording app (1SE for short) which enables users to create a video journal by recording meaningful one second movies for a myriad of everyday aspects of their lives. Each short video is stitched together sequentially to create a seamless record. So, for example, you might create a series of video during the month of November featuring a book cover of a novel you’re particularly enjoying, the crashing waves at the beach whilst on an Autumnal walk, your nails after applying a pretty nail polish, a finished craft project, coffee and cake at a new cafe you’ve tried, the smile of a friend during a good catch up, the rain lashing against your window that started just after you got home, a new recipe that you’re about to give a go and all of the ingredients lined up along the countertop etc.

Line a day journal

This can be a spread you do in your bullet journal each month which you fill in each day or you can purchase a special notebook that usually has space to record five years’ worth of memories. Whichever format you choose, it is meant to be something that you can quickly complete at the end of each day to summarise things such as events, experiences, things you are grateful for, purchases made, something nice someone said, something kind you did for a friend or a stranger etc.

Final words…

I hope you’ve found today’s post interesting and useful and that it’s prompted you to think about the different ways in which you can create wonderfully happy memories, keep and cherish them. Some people prefer to keep digital records whilst others, like myself, prefer to create tangible journals which can be flicked through and talked about with family members or friends. If you’re interested in finding out more about making and remembering memories, I definitely recommend you check out Meik Wiking’s book. He’s recently re-released it under another name ‘Happy Moments: How to Create Experiences You’ll Remember for a Lifetime’ but the content is the same. I like to buy this kind of book rather than purchasing the e-version as then I can more easily highlight parts I particularly want to remember and then flick through the pages whenever I wish to.

Do you enjoy creating journals or photo albums full of happy memories or do you find yourself flicking through digital albums on your phone and thinking about how you should really print a few of the photos off in case you have an issue with your cloud storage one day?

Posted in hygge, lifestyle, Mindfulness, self care, wellbeing, wellness

Monday Matters: Simple ways to embrace the hygge lifestyle this autumn/winter time

Last week in my blog post, I wrote about the winter blues which many of us experience during the darker months of the year. As part of my practical tips, I talked about keeping yourself warm and cosy. Today, I’m going to take this a little further, looking at the concept of hygge, what it means and how we can embrace the idea to improve our wellbeing during the autumn/winter time.

What exactly is hygge?

According to Oxford dictionaries online, hygge is:

a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture)

Popular Danish author Miek Wiking explains in his book:

Hygge is about an atmosphere and experience, rather than about things. It’s about being with people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe, that we are shielded from the world and allow ourselves to let our guard down.

The Little Book of Hygge

Elements of hygge and creating what Miek describes as a ‘hyggely atmosphere’ include soft textures, warmth, natural greenery – bringing the outdoors in, candlelight, togetherness, being present, comfort, pleasure, peacefulness, sharing and showing gratitude.

Ways in which we can embrace the hygge life this autumn/winter

There are so many ways to bring hygge into your life that whole books have been written on the topic such as Miek Wiking’s Little Book of Hygge. Today, I’m going to give some decor ideas which you can put in place in your home to create an atmosphere of hygge and a number of suggestions of activities you might like to try to evoke feelings associated with hygge living. I hope these will help make your autumn and winter a wonderful time which is full of happy memories and blissful feelings.

Soft lighting

A great way to create a cosy and intimate feeling in your home is with soft lighting. This can be achieved in a number of ways e.g. by using lamps with low wattage bulbs rather than bright pendant lights, dotting candles around (battery operated if you have young children or want to place them somewhere small or in a high traffic area) or mood lights – those ones which cycle through different colours are nice. As well as my little battery-operated set of three candles, we recently invested in a string of starburst lights and we have them hanging from a hook on the ceiling in the corner of our dining area – they look fantastic and are great for ambience when we’re enjoying a homecooked meal.

Chunky knits

Adding chunky knits in neutral colours such as cream, taupe, pale greys, ivory and of white in the living area of your home (and maybe your bedroom) helps to create a feeling of warmth and can be especially useful on chilly evenings. A selection of blankets and throws in a wicker basket or positioned on the arms of a sofa looks great and are close at hand when needed. Choosing different textures also makes for a tactile experience too. We like to have plenty of cushions in a range of different fabrics on our chair and sofa to make them super comfortable.

Greenery and nature

Bringing the outdoors in is another aspect of instilling a hygge vibe in your home. This can be achieved in a number of ways. Collecting nature items on a woodland or forest walk can be great fun – this could include conkers, acorns, pine cones, colour changing fallen leaves, sprigs of holly, spruce tree branches etc. When you get them home, I recommend leaving them giving them a gentle shake outside and leaving them on a white sheet of paper for a while so that any residing creatures can escape.

Displaying photos of scenery, wildlife, yourself and your family out and about in natural environments can remind you of happy times outdoors. You might choose an image from one of your favourite walks, stunning landscapes e.g. hills or mountains, waterfalls and rivers or close ups of nature (macro shots) such as berries hanging from a tree branch, interesting fungi or lichen on a tree etc.

There’s often home decor made from nature items available in home and lifestyle stores which can be picked up relatively cheaply, For example we have a glittery hedgehog made from pine cones and a reindeer which has bark attached to its front and ears. They both really twinkle in candlelight too!

And, if you spend a lot of time on your computer, tablet or phone a lovely idea is to choose a natural scene as your wallpaper or nature items as your screen lock or homepage. You can also sometimes get notebooks with patterned covers which would look great on your desk. This could be winter scenes, cute wildlife e.g. hedgehogs, squirrels and deer or flora such as poinsettias, holly or seasonal trees.

Cosy nook

Most Danish homes will have a cosy nook as a space for relaxation. This is usually somewhere comfortable to sit which has all of the hyggely elements – soft lighting in the form of candles or lamps, blankets and cushions, natural elements – the Danes love wood, tactile elements and a good book or magazine to read. In our living room, we have a gorgeous, swivel chair in a dark pink, soft velvet which is next to the window. There’s a table there with a cute hedgehog coaster on for a hot drink and a selection of books and magazines. We also have blankets nearby on our settee although it’s rarely cold when we sit there as it’s right next to the radiator. Can you think of a place in your homer where you could create a similar cosy nook? What would be your comforting essentials?

Indulgent foods and drinks

Although I recommend a diet which is balanced, varied and on the whole healthy, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the odd treat and as pleasure is another element of the hygge life, I recommend indulging every now and then. Trying new things e.g. different flavours will add to the experience. Why not sample a flavoured hot chocolate such as mint or salted caramel, choose a previously untried dessert from your local supermarket or bakery to enjoy with family or friends or just on your own when you’re relaxing, or pick out a different nice sounding coffee blend instead of your usual? Or, you could have a go at creating a dessert using a recipe you found on Pinterest. I know that my husband and I often tried out new main courses but rarely do homemade puddings. Cooking can be a great way of spending fun and quality time together too!

Togetherness

Family and spending quality time with them is very important to the Danes. The same goes for good friends too. Being hyggely is all about getting together in the home and doing things either as a family on a small scale, extended family or a group of friends. I have lots of ideas for doing this but here are a few to get you started:

  • movie night – pick one of your favourites that you’ve seen a few times so that if you start chatting it won’t matter
  • tv series binge watch – ask everyone to bring a tasty snack
  • games evening – Scrabble, Jenga, Monopoly, Cluedo, Kerplunk, dominoes, card games etc. depending on the ages and abilities of the participants
  • afternoon tea – think tiny sandwiches and mini cakes along with a selection of warm drinks
  • candlelit dinner – intimate dinner for two or with the kids, just make sure you ban mobile phones at the table so the conversation flows!
  • jigsaw puzzle – we like 1000 piece ones which take a while and they’re big enough for more than one person to work on at once
  • pajama party – this could include lots of decadent foods (everyone could bring something to share) and hot chocolate (with a choice of toppings) or beauty treatments such as face packs, manicures and foot spas.
  • holiday preparation – if you’ve booked a holiday somewhere else in the country or abroad, a nice thing to do is get a feel for the place before you go. This could include finding out about things to do there, places to visit, popular food stuffs, traditions and the language. If you’re heading overseas, you might even watch a film or TV series which is set in your chosen location.
  • Photo memories night – why not spend an evening reminiscing over previous times spent together by looking through old albums or journals?

Whichever kind of get together you choose, it should be really informal if you want it to be a hyggely occasion. The Danes prefer slow and simple living, anything flashy is completely frowned upon!

Showing gratitude

Being grateful for all that you have is, according to Miek, another key element of hygge. Why not start a gratitude practice where you spend 10 minutes each morning or evening considering what you’re thankful for. Try to choose experiences and feelings as well as material things, for example, the chance to sit out in the sunshine and listen to the birds in your garden, a text message from a friend asking how you are and if you’d like to meet for coffee next week, a riveting TV drama series that you’re hooked on.

Final words…

I hope you have enjoyed reading my ideas for creating a hygge atmosphere in your home. I haven’t read Miek’s Little Book of Hygge yet but it’s on my TBR list. I noticed he’s also recently released a new book called My Hygge Home – How to make home your happy place and if it’s of the standard of his earlier titles, I’m sure this is well worth a read too. Let me know in the comments if hygge sounds like a feeling you would love to have in your home and which of the ideas you would be interesting in trying.

Until next time, lots of hyggely hugs,

Posted in goal setting, lifestyle, Planning and journaling, Setting goals and intentions

Monday Matters: An introduction to the lunar cycle and using its magic to transform yourself and your life

Last month, I mentioned that I’d started to learn about the moon cycle, the impact it can have on mind and body and how we can work with the energy of the moon to make positive changes to ourselves and our lives. I’ve now finished reading my book, the bestselling Lunar Living by Kirsty Gallagher and feel ready to share a basic introduction to this spiritual practice which makes use of some of my favourite transformative strategies such as making vision boards, setting goals and intentions, creating affirmations, shadow work, reflecting on what you are grateful for and journalling your thoughts, feelings and ideas for self-improvement.

The basic premise

Rather than setting new year’s resolutions at the beginning of the year and forgetting about them by the end of January, working with the power of the moon and her phases involves practices such as regularly reflecting on what you want, setting intentions and working on creating an action plan that helps you to manifest your desires each month. It also includes regularly assessing your progress, thinking about things that are standing in your way and what you can do about these barriers. By doing this, you become clearer about what you see as important to you and what you want to prioritise in your life (based on your values, wants and needs), whilst having a framework of guidance which teaches you what, specifically, to focus on during each phase of the moon to fully utilise her lunar magic. And, of course, by spending time thinking about and visualising your goals along with using supportive and encouraging affirmations, research has shown that these desired results are more likely to come into fruition.

Although I’ve only recently begun to use the moon and her phases as a guide, I’ve always recognised the importance of setting aside time to slow down and reflect on my life including the aspects I want to work on and changes and improvements I would like to make. I’ve regularly made vision boards for my personal life and also one for my business which I have on display in my craft room / office. I’ve also done plenty of journaling about my progress towards goals and any difficulties I’ve faced, plus written my own affirmations to repeat each day. What I found particularly interesting was how, according to ‘moon magic’, our energy levels change throughout the cycle, meaning that there are optimum times for self-care, resting and recharging, periods of great wisdom and clarity which enable us to set our intentions and make plans for working on them, higher energy times when we can celebrate our achievements and show gratitude for what we have in our lives whilst also evaluating our position with a view to recognising what is holding us back and then finally, opportunities for releasing and letting go ready to start the new cycle.

The quote below, which I’ve taken from Kirsty’s book, also emphasizes the control we have over our lives if we tune in to the cyclic and flowing nature of life.

Lunar Living brings us home to ourselves, our dreams and visions and goals, month after month. Working with the magic of the moon is a tool of immense self-awareness, self-care, nourishment, empowerment, manifestation and purpose.

Kirsty Gallagher, Lunar Living

Waxing and waning moon – the science bit

The moon is always whole in the sky but the part that we can see changes throughout each month according to the position of The Sun. When the moon is waxing, the illuminated part is getting bigger in the sky. The moon appears to grow until it becomes full – when the whole of its shape can be seen clearly. Following a full moon, the moon begins to wane, which means the visible surface area gets smaller and smaller until it can no longer been seen in the sky. When the moon is completely invisible it is referred to as a new moon.

The eight phases of the lunar cycle

The new moon marks the beginning of the lunar cycle and is often referred to as the first phase. Throughout the month, our view of the moon changes and we describe this using eight phases or shapes as follows:

  • new moon
  • waxing crescent
  • first quarter
  • waxing gibbous
  • full moon
  • waning gibbous
  • last quarter (also known as third quarter)
  • waning crescent

The New Moon

As I said earlier, this is generally considered to be the first moon phase and is a time for new beginnings and starting afresh. Energy levels will be low right now so it’s important to take time to rest and do self-care activities (I like to write a list of these in my bullet journal that I can choose from). Tune in to your inner world with some quiet meditation and reflective journalling. Set goals and intentions for the weeks ahead, visualising and imagining your inner desires, hopes and dreams. You might also like to spend a few hours creating a vision board of images and words which represent the direction you wish to take as inspiration and motivation. Another good activity is to create a small number of affirmations (3 is ideal) which are based on your intentions and use them daily during the waxing moon. Some examples could be:

  • I release what no longer serves me to make space for new beginnings
  • I am successful and fill my potential
  • I am grateful for everything I have in my life right now

The waxing crescent moon

Spend time looking at your vision board, visualising and contemplating what life will feel like when your hopes and dreams become a reality. Depending on how much work is involved in reaching your goals, you might just choose one or two of your intentions to focus on, writing them down clearly and succinctly. Start to make plans and points of action to work towards your intention(s) – try identifying and writing down small and achievable steps to help you on your way. Gather the necessary resources and gain the knowledge you need to enable you to make a start. Water your seeds of intention and repeat your affirmations daily.

The first quarter

Pause and take stock – are you moving in the right direction towards the intention(s) that you are currently focusing on? Do you need to tweak your plans? Recommit to your visions and dreams and continue with the strength and determination that this moon phase brings. Be open to whatever comes your way. Face adversity with a resolute mind – you can do this! Think about any challenges you are facing – what are they teaching you? Remember, the moon doesn’t do the work for you, it merely guides you on your way and gives you the energy you need to get to where you want to be.

Waxing gibbous moon

The moon is now almost full and becoming more so each night. This is a time of high energy which helps you give that final push towards your goal(s), making the last steps needed to get there. Meditate and reflect on the process so far – what is working? what isn’t? what last minute changes might you need to make? Continue documenting the process in your journal. Practice patience and trust in your ability to succeed.

Full Moon

Photo credit: Mike Petrucci for Unsplash

The moon is completely full in the sky once again – if it’s a clear night go outside and bathe in her light. This is the time of the month where your energy levels are at their peak. If you’ve been working hard towards your goal(s) you should feel a huge sense of achievement. Remember to celebrate every single one of your successes no matter how small. If some things have stood in your way and held you back, make a list of them and think about what you want to let go of or release as the moon wanes. Remember, some new moon intentions take time and lots of work, but as long as you’re heading in the right direction and are trying to increase your awareness of what needs to change then this is a huge positive. Use the full moon creative energy and vibes combined with your intuition to reflect, evaluate progress and maybe come up with new ideas and ways of working.

There are some interesting full-moon rituals in Kirty’s book which sound like they could be really helpful and I’m definitely going to try them at this point in the next cycle.

Waning gibbous moon

This is the start of the second half of the cycle, when the moon loses a little of her fullness each night. Continue to develop your understanding of what holds you back and begin the process of releasing them. Consider your experiences so far and think about what you can learn from them. Are there any difficult conversations that you need to have with particular individuals to discuss what you have learnt, how you feel about something or any changes you intend to make and why.

Last quarter

The last quarter moon falls exactly one week after the full moon. This is the time to work on things you want to release to make way for new beginnings. Think about what or who is holding you back such as illness, negative people or situations, bad habits, self-doubts, fears, procrastination, people pleasing or unclear boundaries etc. Currently, your energy levels will be getting lower so your attention should be directed inwardly so you can rest and quietly reflect on everything that has happened in the process so far.

Waning crescent

The waning crescent is considered to be the last phase of the moon. This is when a small slither of moon is visible in the sky and it is nearly time for a new moon. During this phase, you should consider if there is anything else that does not serve you which you need to release in preparation to start anew. This is a time to slow down, rest and refresh. You might also begin to contemplate what you would like to focus on next.

And then it’s back round to the new moon to continue the cycle.

This is just a small part of what I learnt from reading Kirsty’s book. I also developed my knowledge of the 12 signs of the zodiac and their impact on the moon. According to Kirsty,

Each zodiac sign brings different influences, lessons, opportunities, challenges, positive and testing aspects, traits and a different focus and life area into the moonlight. This helps us to keep flowing with the rhythm of life as we use the different energies, characteristics and symbols of each sign to help us explore, heal and delve deeper into the relevant areas in our own lives.

Kirsty Gallagher, Lunar Living, 2020.

Final words…

I must admit that life has kind of got in the way of some aspects of using the magic of the moon this month as my husband and I went away for a short holiday and I’ve had lots going on in my life. However, I have been working towards my goals and I have made progress, I just haven’t documented it or reflected on how I’m doing. I think it might be time to create a new vision board which includes the spiritual practices I hope to develop so that following the lunar cycle becomes part of my focus every day. I think I might also benefit from setting aside a small amount of time each evening to check in with myself and consider how things are going – creating a dedicated space in my bullet journal would aid this and adding the activity to my running task list for each day of the week will help to cement the habit. Kirsty includes some questions to reflect on during each phase and these would be really useful to answer as part of my journalling. I definitely think if you’re interested in learning more than the very basics of moon magic, then her book is well worth a read and a good one to regularly refer to as you develop your practice.

Previously I’ve been rather skeptical about the information contain in horoscopes and the idea of The Zodiac but I’m trying to be more open-minded with this too. I would love to hear from anyone who is involved in using the lunar cycle to good effect and also anyone who has doubts or reservations about the ideas contained in today’s post.

Posted in compassion, lifestyle, meditation, mental health, Mindfulness, self care, wellbeing, wellness

Monday Matters: Wheel Of Wellness – Spiritual

This week, in my series on The Wheel Of Wellness, I’ll be looking at the Spiritual segment. This section, which is the last to be covered, is all about finding life’s meaning and purpose whilst developing understanding of your personal values, beliefs and morals and using these to guide your actions and inform your way of living. Spiritual wellness does not necessarily involve being a deeply religious person or believing in the supernatural, rather, it is related to the human spirit or soul, as opposed to material or physical things.

A focus on spirituality involves learning to be more self-aware and recognising our existence in time and space. It’s also about becoming more familiar with our personal beliefs and values and how they affect the way we live and what we see as our purpose in life.

We all have a spirit within us which is constantly guiding us, looking after us and showing us the way to go. When we start to tune in to and listen to our inner voice, we’re using our spirit, and this is what can help us to lead a life in keeping with our wants, desires and passions. Connecting with our spiritual side can also help us to feel happier and healthier which I’m sure is something we all want.

Ways in which you can connect to your spiritual self

There are a number of ways in which you can really tune in to your spirit and think about what you really want for yourself and your life.

Quieten the mind – meditation is a great practice to develop but other mindful practices include writing in a daily journal, doing relaxing breathing exercises, taking a walk in nature, doing a meditative activity such as drawing, painting or colouring in, stretching exercises such as yoga, Pilates or mindful movements and praying.

Practise gratitude – identify a number of positives in your life each day, expressing and reflecting on them

Take a Mindful approach – focusing your awareness on the present moment, whilst calmly acknowledging and accepting your thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations is at the core of mindfulness as is a great way of becoming more in tune with your spiritual side.

Consider your personal values – values identify what is important to you in your life and how you wish to interact with the world. When your actions align with your core values you will immediately start to feel more content, fulfilled and satisfied. To help you do this, I’ve created a Pinterest board full of links to core values lists and related activities – try scanning the pages to see what resonates with you. You’ll see so many different ideas and the ones which you choose to add to your personal list will influence your decisions and life choices in many ways including:

  • your job or career path
  • your hobbies and pastimes
  • where you live
  • how you manage your money
  • your friendships, romantic partners and relationships
  • where you shop
  • compromises we are willing to make
  • how we parent our children
  • the ways in which we treat ourselves (both good and bad)

Whilst I was researching this blog post, I came across lots of worksheets, workbooks and exercises to try which focused on your values. One of these invited you to split your values into ‘Valuing myself’, ‘Valuing my relationships’ and ‘Valuing my work’. I had a quick go at this below but added ‘my life’ to the first category:

Valuing myself and my life

compassion, creativity, enthusiasm, open-mindedness, acceptance (self and others), creativity, happiness, health (emotional, physical and mental), learning, intelligence resilience, fun, wellbeing, respect for animals

Valuing my relationships

loyalty, thoughtfulness, love, playfulness, understanding, usefulness and humour

Valuing my work

contribution, commitment, professionalism, achievement, work/life balance

Spend time reflecting on your beliefs – these may have a religious focus or might be related to your core values. Examples of non-religious beliefs could be:

  • family comes first
  • we must take care of our planet
  • honesty is the best policy
  • everything happens for a reason
  • work/life balance is a priority
  • I should always try my best
  • community service is a central part of life
  • the different phases of the moon have particular influences on my life
  • breaking a mirror gives you seven years bad luck

Think about your dreams – not the ones you had in bed over the past few weeks, but your deepest desires and wishes. As part of this, you could do some journalling or have a go at creating a vision board. Afterwards, you might spend time reflecting on small but positive life changes that you could make right now to help you work towards these dreams.

Final thoughts…

Cultivating spirituality has many benefits for your physical and mental health and wellbeing. Getting to know your true self can help you begin to live in alignment with your core values and beliefs which is fundamental for a long and happy life. Psychologically, spiritual practices can develop your understanding of your inner self, leading to a greater sense of purpose. They can help you to think positively and clearly, lower your risk of stress, anxiety and depression and generally give you a better outlook on life. Physically, being more connected to your spiritual side can improve your immune system, help you to fight off illnesses, lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. It can also help you to make better choices in terms of diet and find other ways of looking after your body and your mind, for example by exercising regularly and finding time to relax. The peace and calmness we invite into our lives can also help us to get a restful night’s sleep.

I hope you have found today’s post useful and have enjoyed learning about The Wheel Of Wellness over the last few months. I would love to hear about your hopes, dreams and ambitions for the future and the ways in which you think you can bring these into fruition. In keeping with having an open mind, I’m currently learning about the magic of using the phases of the moon as a tool to develop self-awareness, self-care, nourishment and empowerment to live with purpose and to manifest my deepest wants and desires for life. You’ll see in my next blog post, in which I share my October bullet journal spreads, that this has inspired my theme for next month and provided me with lots of ideas.