10 things that make me happy

I’ve had a bit of a down few weeks, so I thought I would share with you a list of ten things that make me happy, or help to improve my mood. Maybe these will also help you too! If you have other things that make you happy, please comment them below!

1. Spending time outdoors

Throughout lockdown I have gone through ebbs and flows of spending time outdoors and then locking myself away – this happened at the earlier stage of the pandemic, and I am a lot more comfortable being outside now. But living in a flat with no garden has made me realise how important it is that I spend some time outdoors every day, regardless of how long I am out there for. This morning I took myself for a walk first thing and it really helped to improve my mood.

2. Morning coffee

For me, a morning is not complete without a coffee. After waking up, I make sure to drink a glass of water first but then head straight to make myself a coffee. I like to drink this slowly whilst reading the news or my book, and then I will have breakfast after this. I drink my coffee strong and with oat milk – if you’re interested!

Image: Violet Daniels

3. Podcasts and listening to the radio

I often do either of these things when I’m doing something mindless – like brushing my teeth, doing my skincare or washing up. I’ll often stick a podcast on or listen to BBC Radio 4. Sometimes I also listen to something before I go to bed, as I find it quite calming. I did a whole post about podcasts a while ago, but I have also been enjoying Michelle Obama’s podcast more recently and a podcast called Writer’s Routine.

4. Journalling

I do bouts of different kinds of journaling depending on what I feel like. Sometimes I spend more time doing long form, stream of consciousness writing, butother times I just simply write my thoughts and what’s happening in the world. I find putting pen to paper as a physical act very cathartic and it makes me happy to see I have nearly filled an entire Moleskine just throughout lockdown!

5. Some form of routine

I don’t have a strict routine I make stick to everyday or a particular routine I have at night or in the mornings, but I do make myself a to-do list each day, just so I have something to stick to. I might write small things down like ‘wash my hair’ but also things like what writing I want to work on that day, or more mundane tasks. I don’t always stick to it, but having some kind of routine, and idea of what to be doing makes it easier to fill the days.

Image: Violet Daniels

6. Writing

A very obvious one, but nonetheless one of the main things that makes me happy. Writing this blog and other articles has kept me sane for the past hundred days or so of lockdown. Having been off work for nearly five months, I had to start writing so that I had something to do with my days and something to wake up for. More than anything, I think this period has made me realise how much I love it and that seeing my work online gives me such a sense of achievement and happiness.

7. Reading (shock, horror!)

This is in the same vein but very much the source of most of my happiness. For as long as I can remember I have preferred to escape into other worlds and other people’s minds, rather than delve into my own, and this has been confirmed again during lockdown. There’s nothing more comforting than curling up with a book. Reading regularly is now one of my firm priorities and I never feel guilty about it.

8. Baths

Recently I have been indulging in long, leisurely soaks in the bath whilst I have more time on my hands. It has been so therapeutic during the long evenings and especially after a run as it can help to ease the soreness of my muscles. I use this time to listen to podcasts and read, but also to take care of myself. I have realised as well that taking the time out for me is never something I should feel guilty about it.

9. Going offline

Like many people, I have become even more addicted to my phone than ever before in recent months. However, I have been trying to schedule in afternoons, evenings or even days where I don’t go on social media or spend time on my phone, unless I have to reply to a message. As someone who is naturally quite insecure and can feel quite negative about themselves after spending time on Instagram or even Twitter, it has been really important for me to take time off.

Image: Violet Daniels

10. Taking care of myself

This may seem a bit strange but I do find it easy to forget to take care of myself. By this I mean forgetting to wash my face and take care of my skin, treat my hair to a mask, or do a face mask. I haven’t worn make up in months but instead of spending time doing that, I’m actually taking the time to moisturize my body and stick to a regular skin care routine. Although my skin is still problematic and I haven’t gotten to the route of the problem – forming the habit of taking care of myself makes me happy.

This was a bit different to my usual posts, but I hope this may have been beneficial and that you enjoyed reading it! The book reviews will be returning soon.

Hope you are all keeping safe and well,

Violet xxx

How Lockdown changed my reading habits

Are you leaving lockdown wishing you had read more? The experience of lockdown across the world lead to a kind of ‘reading revolution’ as we all had more time on our hands, but will this continue?

Our reading habits may have changed for better or for worse during this period, but in this post I am going to share with you how lockdown altered my habits, with the hope that it may encourage you to reflect on yours.

1. Treating reading like a job

This could be interpreted as positive or negative, but lockdown meant that I have not been at work and I had to take up something to fill the empty days with.

I started reaching out to people, became a member of NetGalley and all of a sudden had more opportunities to review books for people and companies. Working to deadlines and reading less of what I wanted has made it feel like more of a job, but definitely not a chore.

Reading has therefore, become more like a job, but one I have come to love.

Image: Violet Daniels

2. Abandoning TBRs

I love making lists of any kinds and I have always had some form of TBR going.

Having more review requests has meant I have strayed away from my personal TBR list, which I have come to realise isn’t a bad thing.

Reading habits change all the time and so do the books we want to read, sometimes it feels counterproductive to have a list to stick to. Sticking to this wholeheartedly could close down books we expose ourselves to. Everyday we learn about new books and it becomes easy to stray away from our reading plans. But so what?

I still have my TBR but I am definitely not following it strictly.

3. Realising less is more

Lockdown has played havoc for my concentration. I have found that I can only read for 15-20 minutes at a time before I start to lose focus. But on the other hand, I find myself actually picking up books more times in the day – so they probably balance each other out.

Previously, I used to try and read as much as I could in one session, as I probably only had one opportunity every day to read whilst working. But now with my time being more flexible I can read less but more frequently, which I like.

Image: Violet Daniels

4. Diversifying my reading choices

The exposure of the Black Lives Matter movement has made me realise how white my reading choices are.

I am now making a conscious effort to read more by authors of colour, especially women of colour who are majorly underrepresented in the literary industry. I am aiming to read at least one book written by a BAME author per month in an effort to diversify my reading habits.

Last month I read My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite and this month I aim to read An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. These are small actions but a step in the right direction, which I would encourage everyone to take.

5. Using a Kindle more

As I am receiving more books to review, these are usually in the form of e-ARCs which means I am using my Kindle a lot. I’ve also been reading outside more and Kindle’s are perfect for this.

They are lighter and easier to hold whilst being out and about and I have been enjoying using it. Obviously, it’s no replacement for the physical book, but definitely a game changer for being able to carry so much reading material on the go.

6. Books are my perfect form of escapism

Some people watch TV, films or play video games to switch off, but I read. I think I have always known this, but lockdown has really shown I do turn to alternative worlds to escape the present.

Whether it’s fiction or non fiction, I have found reading takes me away from the present and the unrelenting news cycle that can cause havoc for anxious people like me. It is perfect one to one time, a form of self care, and a break from everything that is going on.

So those were reflections on how my reading habits have fluctuated during this period. I think it’s important to remember that habits will always shift during our lives. We should never beat ourselves up if we don’t meet our own standards or stray away from our goals, but acknowledge it when it’s necessary and go from there. Have your reading habits changed, if so, how?

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Isolation day 95: heatwave, ‘independence’ day and insomnia

Just thought I would write a quick update, I’ve been incredibly quiet on here this week, only publishing one blog post. We are experiencing a heat wave here in the UK and while I like the sun, it also makes me feel very lethargic.

The heat and accumulating tiredness from nights of lost sleep has sucked away my motivation to write. The previous few weeks I was writing several things in one day and I felt full of motivation. In reality I did see the ‘crash’ coming, I thought I would reach a point where I couldn’t bring myself to punch the keys or pick up a book. It’s strange how some weeks go.

My sleeping habits are all over the place from experiencing bouts of insomnia. One night I will oversleep, getting between 9-10 hours, and the next I will under-sleep and get 4-5. I can’t seem to strike the balance. I guess the key thing is to keep to the same wake up time, but that’s not always easy. This morning I had to force my eyes open to prevent myself drifting off and over sleeping again. Strangely, the heat doesn’t seem to influence my sleep, it all seems to be in my mind.

The lockdown announcement last week has been playing on my mind. Boris Johnson, our Prime Minister, has effectively called July 4th our ‘independence day’ despite the rate of infection still at a level rate, not actually declining fully and still higher than our European counterparts. The news has been showing us scenes of overcrowding on beaches and endless queues for Primark. The vast majority of the public seem to believe the pandemic is over. Partly, I don’t blame them as the government is reinforcing this message. It doesn’t help that our PM has told people he wants to see the return of ‘bustle’ in our cities and towns and denies the possibility of a second wave. It’s all very worrying.

I couldn’t bring myself to do a PMQ’s review this week as I’ve found the political situation too draining – I will try again next week. I don’t want to pressure myself to do it religiously, but I do want to get better at writing short, snappy political analysis.

Although I keep telling myself that it is pointless for me to worry about everything – as these political decisions are out of my control, I can’t help but sometimes loose sleep over it.

I have woken up a bit more motivated and with more energy today so I am hoping that over the weekend I will get some more blog posts out. I have a review of The Sacrifice that should be going up tomorrow and a few other things in the pipeline.

Also, I have now made a Medium account if anyone would like to follow. I might be publishing original content on there or just re-publishing posts, I haven’t quite decided what to do with it yet!

I hope you are all doing well and continuing to stay safe.

Violet x

Isolation day 87: retail, furlough, brain fog, and podcasts

England is taking its first tentative steps forward, nearly three months on from an unprecedented, national lockdown. Tomorrow will see the opening of “non-essential” shops, as the great British people prepare to flood the high streets during a pandemic which is yet to disappear.

As I sit here writing this, I do wonder what will be going through those peoples’ minds as they make trips into local towns and cities across the country, acting as if the pandemic has magically gone away. It’s safe to say I will not be in a rush to visit shops any time soon.

Many major high street retailers will be adopting the “quarantine items” approach and storing things for 72 hours to kill off the virus. Many shops will not be allowing customers to try items on, and instead encouraging them to take them back to their own homes and bring back if need be. This all seems so comical to me. If the queues for McDonald’s reopening are anything to go by I think the turn out for retail will be just as crazy…

Meanwhile, my furlough has been extended for the time being, I have no definitive date for going back to work but expect it may be between July-August. It feels so strange to realise I have not been to work since the end of March. The world feels so different to the last time I got on that commuter train and made my last latte. I’m pretty sure I won’t even know how to operate the coffee machine when I return… (sorry to my boss if you happen to see this!)

These past few weeks have been pretty rough. I almost feel as if I’ve had this cloud of fog over my brain. Any time I have go to do something, I have found a million excuses why I shouldn’t or just put it off for as long as possible. I feel like my attention span is now worse than ever and I find it hard to concentrate on anything that makes me think. I still feel like there’s a thousand things I could be doing that I’m not. I actually plucked up the courage to send pitches in for national news outlets but have heard nothing back which is disheartening. However, I know that I can’t give up and I need to keep trying. It’s annoying though because the piece was quite “time-sensitive” and I can’t re pitch it as it just wouldn’t be relevant now. I find that half the battle is getting the article idea in the first place.

Sitting in the park

I’ve been lax with exercise too. At the beginning of lockdown I was taking the daily exercise allowance quite seriously and would go for walks most days, however, since it has gotten busier outside with the loosening of the lockdown, I now feel more worried about going outside. I do generally feel like most people are acting like the pandemic is over and the virus has just disappeared. It worries me because you can never predict how anyone is going to behave, I actually wrote a piece for empoword journalism about this. But I am managing to at least get in one run a week – this week I actually managed two so I guess that’s pretty good going.

Day by day, the political response gets worse. What worries me more than anything is the sheer lack of integrity and accountability that Boris Johnson shows. When he even bothers to turn up for the daily conferences (which now seems to be like a weekly thing) he doesn’t answer the questions, he silences the scientists and offers no valid information for the public. His treatment of the Black Lives Matter movement has been diabolical, it took a prompting from the leader of the opposition at PMQ’s for him to even address it, and even when he did it was shoddy and half hearted. I can never agree with Conservatives politically, but at least some in the past haven’t been so full of hypocrisy. It really worries me.

I’ve recently re-discovered the value of podcasts and how great they are to listen to whilst you are doing other things. I love cooking but sometimes I just get a bit bored chopping and waiting for things, but now I tend to pop something on to keep me entertained. I also listen to them in the bath a lot – which I am still having loads of. They make me happy and content which is what I really need right now.

For some unforeseen miracle, we managed to get our hands on some flour – the first time in about three months. I have since made two batches of Irish soda bread – as we’ve got the flour but still no yeast – and have been enjoying the taste of fresh bread. Although maybe a little too much, because on the second bake I basically ate the whole loaf to myself which resulted in a carb induced coma for the rest of the day. I wouldn’t recommend.

My bread, not perfect but something

I am actually really proud of my blog at the moment and how far it has come since the start of the year. In January when I properly started I could count the amount of followers I had on two hands, and now I am fast approaching one hundred. I know that isn’t much in the grand scheme of things but I think it’s mad that so people want to hear what I have to say. And I am so pleased that I managed to save up enough to get myself a new laptop – my old one was so clunky, heavy and slow and now I have a really fast laptop which feels lovely to type on. Getting it at this time was definitely a good idea.

Anyway, I’ll stop rambling. That was my isolation update. I thought I would be doing more of these but I guess I didn’t realise how “samey” the days would be.

Hope you are all keeping safe and well 🙂

Isolation: day 62

Image: Pixabay via StockSnap

It’s hard to believe the last time I wrote one of these, we were only a couple of weeks into lockdown. We are now two months in and things are very different, but also the same.

On that routine I always wanted to get into – well guess what, I never did. And I stopped beating myself up over it because the allure of productivity and the pressures to be busy all the time is so mentally draining, that whilst being swept up by it you can lose the reason why you wanted to be productive in the first place. I’m done with the concept and discourse surrounding it, especially during these times, when to just get through it should be seen as productive enough.

So what have I been doing? I’ve still been reading and writing, albeit not doing the kind of writing I want to do as I’m struggling to find the motivation to write about anything more ‘serious’ than book reviews – but that’s okay. I have been able to use this time to focus on my blog and regularly posting – I hit 60 followers yesterday which is somewhat of a milestone for me, as I started off with about twelve at the start of the year! Thank you to everyone who has followed me and given me kind words of advice and encouragement 🙂

I’ve lost the will to exercise. I seem to go through weeks where I am really motivated – for example, one week I went running twice and did other workouts too, but the past couple of weeks I haven’t been doing much apart from long walks. We are going through a hot spell in the UK and it really doesn’t make me want to go out and exercise, and it gets so stuffy in the flat that I don’t feel like doing it inside either. These may sounds like excuses (lets face it they probably are) but hopefully I’ll be able to get back into it soon.

Photo by Elina Sazonova on Pexels.com

I’ve been trying to be more mindful of what I am eating – I was previously just eating the amount I would usually eat, but then I realised I wasn’t nearly doing the amount of daily exercise I used to. As a Barista I tend to spend eight hours of the day on my feet but now I tend to spend them on the sofa… I’ve been doing intermittent fasting a couple of times a week just to become more conscious about what I’m eating and I think it has helped. I don’t weigh myself or anything because I find that mentally exhausting. But I’ve come to be more accepting that gaining weight over this period is completely normal and I’m not going to beat myself up over it (and neither should you!)

The government guidelines have gotten even more confusing. We have now been advised to, “stay alert” rather than, “stay at home” however, I am finding myself staying at home more than ever because there are so many people out that still don’t take social distancing seriously. I get anxious even at the thought of going to my local park so that’s a write off. As we are now allowed to drive out of where we live to exercise, we have been going on long walks in the countryside – which I have loved as there’s very little people and when we do bump into them, they are kind and move out of the way.

There’s still no real clarity about when retail and hospitality will go back to “normal” – the government have proposed June or July as a guideline but that’s subject to changes in the data. As I use public transport for work I’m pretty sure I’ll be one of the last people to go back but who knows what will happen.

I still find it crazy how we are seeing 300-500 deaths a day, nearly two months on and people are still not taking the virus seriously. I get that we have to learn to live with the virus but at the same time, it’s so easy to just be respectful of others and simply step out of the way when you’re out and about – it seems to have become a thing of the past where I live.

I’ve been thinking more about what I want to do with my life, I haven’t had any “revelations” as such but I think more than ever I do want to pursue my MA in Journalism. I’ve been listening to podcasts about freelancing and writing in general and it has made me realise just how many aspects of journalism there are out there. I’ve deferred my place for a year, partly because I don’t know what’s going to happen with the course this year – as so many UK university’s have decided to teach online until 2021 already. I’ve decided to use this year to try and get as much writing experience as I can and read about the industry more generally.

I guess that’s my little update on still being in isolation in the UK. Expect some more reviews soon, I now have a speedy new laptop so it doesn’t take half the time to do something on my blog now!

Anyway, if you’re reading this I hope this chatty post finds you safe and well, wherever you are, Violet xxx

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