redefine the rules

**For details on why I have decided to publish Become the Best You on the blog, please read this. Should you wish to buy the book, you can do so here** 

Have you ever had to redefine the rules when you felt a relationship was becoming toxic?

The best example of successfully redefining the rules I can personally give comes from the period of time that my husband and I were giving our relationship ‘one last try’.

As I’ve already mentioned we had a very rocky year in Cambodia and came home to the UK separately. We quickly found jobs and flat shares and started living life as singletons. Our future looked non-existent but neither of us were prepared to properly walk away. Without anything changing we started seeing each other again about two months after returning, and I moved in with him and his flatmates few months later.

By then we were already back to the old routine of drinking until all hours and partying hard at the weekend. I treated him horribly. We argued loads and I fought with his flatmates. It was an ugly time. One of the only periods of my life that I look back upon and feel utterly ashamed of. Within three months I’d decided enough was enough; we were to break up ‘for good’. A few weeks after we went our separate ways I hit rock my rock bottom. This is when I woke up to myself and realised that I had thrown away the one person who truly loved me, and always had my best intentions at heart.

I spent the next three months working hard on all the self-improvements I’ve spoken about here in this book, and was adamant to get back together with my then ex-boyfriend and make our relationship work. He was less enthusiastic. I had burnt him badly and he wasn’t going to be as free and easy with his heart. If we were to give things one last try it would be on his terms; he would call the shots. If I was serious about making it work then I had to respect his wishes.

It turned out to be the best thing that happened to us, because I was no longer in control and able to make more bad decisions. Above all else he said we had to take things slowly. We had been living together from the day we met, and he wanted us to remain living apart for the foreseeable future. We would only see each other at the weekend and concentrate on work and other commitments during the week. We would not waste our time drinking all night and being hung over. We would spend quality time together and do interesting things such as take trips out of London, visit exhibitions and go to nice restaurants.

The key to our success was that we both wanted it to work out as much as the other. Within a few months we had redefined the rules of our relationship, and six months after getting back together we moved into our first home without flatmates. It was the making of us, and the rest as they say is history. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that we would not have had a future together had both of us not been willing to change.

redefine the rulesOther relationships where you might have to redefine the rules

Scenario: Your parents divorced while you were young and both remarried while you were in your teens. You get on well with one step-parent but have never particularly warmed to the other one and vice versa. Now that you are an adult they exclude you from family gatherings and you feel you don’t get to see your parent as often as you would like.

Solution: If you want to have a better relationship one of you needs to be the bigger person and hold out the olive branch so it might as well be you. If you want your parent to be an active part of your life it is vital that you get along with their partner.

Start winning over your step-parent by being conciliatory and doing nice things for them. Invite them out to lunch or cook for them. Make it clear that you’re sorry for your history and want to make it better by getting to know them. Be willing to accept responsibility for your part in the problem, and leave the ball in their court. Most people want to get on with their family and will relish the opportunity to make amends.

Scenario: Your relationship with a good friend has become very one-sided. You feel you are always doing the things they want to do, on their terms. You are always going out of your way for them, but they are nowhere to be seen when you could use some support.

Solution: It sounds like the other person is behaving quite selfishly. They genuinely might not have realised they have hurt you, so in the first instance try and talk to them about how you’re feeling. If you want to continue with the friendship then start seeing them on your terms instead. Make it abundantly clear that you aren’t going to only do the things they want to do anymore. If the other person doesn’t cooperate then you might have to ask yourself whether the friendship is worth salvaging.

Scenario: You have become close to a work colleague and often go out socialising together. Secrets get divulged over drinks and this information could be used against each other to get ahead in the workplace.

Solution: Firstly it’s important to always maintain your integrity by doing the right thing. As tempting as it might be, you must never use this type of information to further your own career. If you suspect the other person is doing so then ask them outright and see what they say. If trust has been lost then it’s wise to stop drinking together, because leaving yourself so vulnerable when it comes to your professional life is too risky. If you feel you could have an out of work friendship then go for coffee or lunch instead. It will be obvious pretty quickly whether this person is a friend or just a drinking buddy that you could do without while you are going through this process.

Choose your friends wisely and you won’t have to redefine the rules

The best thing about friends and partners is that we get to pick who they are – unlike our family where we have no say in the matter. I strongly believe that the people we meet on our journey through life help to determine our fortune along the way. As long as you have good people around enhancing your happiness, your life will always be a success in its own right.

If we really are the average of the five people we spend the most time with, then you’re unlikely to get very far by spending your days with people who sit in grotty basement flats smoking weed, eating junk food and playing computer games.

If you spend your time wisely, working on becoming the best possible you, then you’ll attract good people into your world. To break the cycle it is absolutely imperative to surround yourself with the most fantastic people you can. They will help keep you on the straight and narrow when times get tough, and stand on the side-lines cheering you on when you need encouragement. Once you have established who the decent people in your life are – the true keepers – ensure that your conscience is always clear by being a great friend to them. Listen attentively, never gossip and be a good secret keeper. Do everything you can to keep hold of them because surrounding yourself with amazing people will help keep you on track. Having good influences around will also help you to recognise the bad influences that make your life harder work than it needs to be.

redefine the rulesHave a look at the list below and see if you have some people in your life that do these things. A genuinely good friend would NEVER do any of the following things:

– Gossip behind your back and share your secrets
– Steal your boy/girlfriend, money or possessions
– Encourage you to make bad choices
– Turn their back on you during a crisis
– Stir up trouble with other friends
– Intentionally set out to cause you pain

When partners bring you more heartache than happiness, family aren’t being supportive, and ‘friends’ aren’t being very friendly, it’s advisable to put some distance between you.

How much you miss them once they aren’t around will be an indication of how long you need to stay away from them. We cannot change people, but we can change the way we interact with them in the hope that they realise the error of their ways and make necessary changes themselves. If they want a place in your life they need to earn it.

Lets assess your inner circle

We are going to carry out an exercise to pinpoint the people in your life who perhaps do not have your best interests at heart. Please ensure that you are alone, in a quiet peaceful place.

On an A4 sheet of paper write down all the people you frequently have in your life. List everybody from your parents to your partner, family members, friends and colleagues. Draw a line down the middle, write names on the left and leave the right side blank. Give yourself an inch of writing space per person.

– Now write down how each person made you feel the last three times you saw them:
Very happy, Happy, Indifferent, Sad, Miserable.

– Now write down how much you argue with these people:
Every time you see them, Often, Occasionally, Never.

– Now write down how much respect you have for them and their opinions:
Lots, A Little, None.

Faced with a result that looks like this: [insert name]: Miserable, Often, None – can you really justify keeping them in your life as is?

redefine the rulesNow lets reassess your inner circle

I don’t know about you but over the years I have had numerous relationships with people that have made me miserable. Family, friends, lovers, bosses, work colleagues. What I’ve learnt the hard way is that we cannot control another person’s thoughts or actions. We do, however, have complete control over how we allow them to make us feel. If change needs to happen for your relationship to thrive then it’s up to you both to do things differently.

Absence can make the heart grow fonder, so you may just need a little distance from the other person. Be completely transparent from the very start and explain to them that you need time to clear your head. It could be as little as a few days or as long as a few months.

If they love you they should understand and be supportive. However, if they make your life difficult while you are going through this process, their behaviour could answer the all-important question: Are they a keeper? If the answer is yes then it’s imperative that you redefine the rules of your relationship by telling them that things cannot carry on as they are if you are to have a future together. It’s not so much a set of rules, rather clear-cut boundaries.

Here are some suggestions:
– See and speak to the other person on your terms. If they call you all the time simply stop taking their calls and phone them back when it’s convenient for you. Ditto texts, email and social media.
– If the other person is argumentative and picks a fight every time you see them tell them that you aren’t in the mood and have to leave the room. Creating distance when things get overheated will allow you both to cool down.
– Start meeting on neutral territory. This means that you aren’t always doing what the other person wants to do. It also means you can leave any time you want.

Redefine the rules by saying NO more often

Sometimes we need to push back a little in order to work out what we really want. Whether it’s in a social capacity, the workplace or within your own family, saying no is empowering. People often take advantage of those they know will say yes to everything but rarely give them the respect they deserve. Working to anyone else’s schedule but your own will make you feel miserable long-term, so start saying no. There are many ways we can politely say no, while at the same time offering the other person a solution to the dilemma.

Here are some examples:
– I’m so sorry but I can’t come out tonight, I’m absolutely shattered after a hectic week at work. How about lunch on Sunday instead?
– I’m afraid I’m unable to lend you any more money. I am flat out broke! In fact I could really use you paying back what you already owe me.
– I won’t be able to come over to your house this weekend; why don’t you come to mine instead?

redefine the rulesA suggested plan of action to help you redefine the rules of a toxic relationship

– If after assessing your inner circle you feel that some people do not have your best interests at heart, put some distance between the two of you. Ensure you are completely honest with the other person from the start, that way you will know that your conscience is clear and you haven’t done anything wrong. It’s only through secrets and lies that things become messy.

– If after your time apart you both want to try again then great, but take things slowly. Don’t rush straight back to where you just were. Take your time and rediscover why you love this person and can’t live without them.

– If after your time apart you feel the relationship does not have a future, consider a longer-term break from them. We will talk about toxic relationships in the next chapter.

– Bullying in the workplace is completely unacceptable. If a colleague is making your life a misery then consider reporting them to Human Resources.

– You should never stay in a relationship that is damaging to your physical or emotional wellbeing. If a partner, friend or family member is abusive in any way at all they should be reported to the appropriate authorities and dealt with accordingly.

**For details on why I have decided to publish Become the Best You on the blog, please read this. Should you wish to buy the book, you can do so here** 

How to form good habits

bad habits

On the surface big problems can seem overwhelmingly difficult to get passed. They are so much easier to tackle by being broken into small pieces and dealt with one at a time. When we make our problems smaller they become more manageable and simpler to conquer. None of us are saints, and part of breaking the cycle means overcoming bad habits and facing our problems head on.

In this chapter we will identify what things need to change, and how you can successfully change them. In the same way that you’d write a list of New Year’s resolutions, I’d like you to create a wish list of all the things you would like to change about your life. Everything from overcoming a classic ‘bad habit’ to wanting to find a new home or job. These will be your personal goals.

Form good habits by devising a list of personal goals

To give you an example of how this would work in real life I have written what my own list of goals would have looked like when I was going through this process, along with all the things I had to do to achieve them. They are listed in three phases because although it wasn’t clear to me at the time I now see that my goals were all linked.

My first goal was to cut down on drinking. It’s now plainly clear to me that without doing so I would not have been capable of achieving the rest of my goals. What I had to do and what I would advise you to do is pick the biggest, scariest one first because you will probably find the rest will naturally follow and things start falling into place after you have conquered it.

good habits

Cut down on drinking

After Reykjavik I realised I needed some time completely off alcohol, and when I first embarked on my period of abstinence I had no idea how long it would last. I wasn’t sure if I’d pushed the boundaries so far that there would never be just a couple of social drinks ever again. I fully embraced abstinence though and it was exactly what I needed to start thinking clearly and making better decisions.

Three months was enough of a break for me. After that I slowly reintroduced alcohol over the following three months by going out occasionally and having one or two drinks. It was during this time that I properly the learnt the self-control I desperately needed.

It was tough but over time I got out of the mindset that I was drinking to get drunk, and began enjoying good quality red wine or a well-made gin and tonic.

Stop spending time with people who add no value to my life (drinking and clubbing buddies)

Once I stopped drinking I realised how much of my time was spent socialising with people who did not enhance my life, so I simply excluded them from it. They were surprisingly easy to cut out and didn’t fight very hard for my friendship.

Once I told them I wasn’t interested in partying anymore they stopped inviting me out.

I used to feel immense pressure to be sociable at work, but even this was easier to cut out than I thought it would be. After I made it clear I was off the sauce my colleagues soon lost interest in me. I thought this would upset me, and I’d feel left out, but it was a welcome relief.

Stop taking drugs

This naturally followed the two points above. Once I had removed bad influences from my life and stopped drinking, I had no interest at all in going out clubbing. This meant not taking drugs anymore.

Instead I spent lots of time at home. I read books, watched great TV, reconnected with good friends and most importantly became happy with my own company.

The first few months were really hard because I knew that I’d hurt people and in the cold sober light of day I felt embarrassed and ashamed of my behaviour. This was an essential part of the process though because it allowed me the time and perspective I needed to figure out who was worth keeping in my life.

good habits

Eat better

I had fallen into the trap of buying most things pre-prepared due to lack of time so I went back to basics. I started ordering my groceries online, planning what I was going to eat for the week and cooking everything from scratch again. Not going out drinking and clubbing meant that I had loads more time on my hands for the important things in my life.

I also started taking my own food into work which as well as being healthier saved money.

I quickly had more energy and didn’t feel tired all the time.

Start exercising again

I found some suitable DVDs and set aside a few time slots per week to establish a home work-out routine.

It quickly became a part of my weekly schedule and I fell in love with exercising, whereas I had previously seen it as a chore, something I should be doing but didn’t particularly enjoy.

It gave me a great confidence boost when I most needed it.

Stop wasting money on unnecessary things

I naturally saved a fortune when I stopped going out partying.

I started shopping for clothes and other essential items in charity shops or heavily reduced sales. I became mindful of weighing up my wants against my true needs and realised that I didn’t need a lot of the stuff I thought I did.

I still buy clothes second hand nowadays. Not only does it save money but it’s friendlier to the environment.

good habits

Find a new job

I stayed in the same job for seven months after the Reykjavik incident. Not because I wanted to but because I was not capable of doing something new until I had conquered the first phase of my list.

During this time I did a lot of thinking and realised what I wanted more than anything else career-wise was to work for myself, so I set up a small food business. Looking back I rushed into it, and I paid the price by being left bankrupt and having to liquidate the company within its first year. I view this as a positive experience overall, though. It taught me some very valuable life lessons, especially where money is concerned.

I went back to admin afterwards and have been working part time since having children. I currently work two days a week in a job that I enjoy for a company that values me. I still aspire to work for myself again someday, but next time I’ll ensure I have a water tight business plan.

Form good habits by becoming dedicated to the cause

Making my changes and establishing good routines took me about six months, during which I learnt that patience really is a virtue. My list was quite a tall order and trying to do it all at once would have been be near on impossible. I focused my energies on one goal at a time and I’d suggest you do the same. By working on them this way you are more likely to succeed.

To stay on track ensure that you continually recognise your efforts and reward yourself justly. Begin by setting yourself daily targets, and progress to weekly targets once you are comfortable with what you need to do. Think of a nice little treat for yourself when you meet or exceed your target, as you’ll be one step closer to achieving your goals. By doing this you are holding yourself to account as well as recognising your hard work. This is another way to make yourself feel good and will provide a confidence boost.

Here are a few tips for staying on track

Ensure that your targets are high enough to count but low enough to attain as it will help keep you motivated. If your targets are too high, or you try to do too much at once you could be setting yourself up for failure. This in turn could lead to losing interest in your goals altogether. Don’t trip over the first hurdle and fall for this common mistake.

Whether you are in the market for a new job, home or hobby ensure that you do your research and find out as much relevant background information as you can beforehand. You can never be too prepared for a job interview, so do your best to woo your potential future employer with your knowledge on the company and role. These small details make all the difference at the hiring stage.

Rejection is tough but you must not be beaten by it. There is always work for people willing to put in the effort. Someone will always let you sleep on their sofa if they can see that you are serious about changing your life. As long as you are honest and have integrity most people will want to help you as much as they can. Recognise when you are being given a lucky break and make the very most of every opportunity.

The best thing about ditching bad habits is that it frees up space in our lives to form good habits. Ultimately we want positive habits that boost our self-esteem and make us feel great, not habits we wish we didn’t have hanging over our heads making us feel rubbish about ourselves.

good habitsForm good habits by eating well

When I was growing up I ate a diet consisting mainly of processed junk. I was that kid scoffing chocolate and drinking coke on their way to school. Not knowing the first thing about cooking I ate budget ready meals and fast food for years when I left home. After seeing the photos from my 21st birthday party, and being shocked by how much weight I’d put on, I knew it was time to change my eating habits.

It didn’t happen overnight but during the next couple of years I taught myself how to cook, and moved towards cooking from scratch being the rule rather than the exception. Nowadays I create recipes and write about them on my blog. Good food is an integral part of my family’s life; I love to cook and never see it as a chore. I view uninterrupted kitchen time as therapeutic and calming, something to truly look forward to.

Ask yourself whether you eat well or have fallen into bad habits with food? Do you cook from scratch or buy everything pre-prepared? Do you eat lots of sugary treats and processed carbohydrates? What we eat can have a huge effect over our entire wellbeing, and a diet consisting mainly of natural foods will provide energy, wake up a previously foggy brain and help us think straight. Once you get into good habits where food is concerned it quickly becomes second nature and you’ll wonder why you haven’t been eating this way all along. I have yet to meet a person that hasn’t benefitted from cleaning up their diet.

I am not a qualified food expert, however, having been on both ends of the spectrum I feel that not knowing how to do something as important as cooking is not a good enough excuse. If you need inspiration it can be found everywhere by watching celebrity chefs, reading food blogs, watching YouTube videos and buying cookbooks. Local councils in the UK often have free cookery courses available to all, so it’s worth checking out your council’s website. If you’re a complete beginner you will almost certainly have some kitchen disasters along the way, but don’t be put off by them. As long as you learn from every single mistake you can put the knowledge to good use next time. As with anything else in life, persevere and you will get better.

good habitsIf not having the time is what’s stopping you then make the time by ditching the non-important things we discussed at the start of this chapter. Batch cooking and freezing is a fantastic way to ensure that you always have good food to hand without having to cook every day. You can pick up tin foil disposable containers from any supermarket. Set aside one afternoon every other weekend to be in the kitchen, make several large pots of food and freeze them into ready meals that can be pulled out whenever you need them. Choose easy recipes that will cause you the minimum amount of stress. Simple soups, stews and curries are a great place to start, and can be economical too, saving you a fortune in comparison to shop bought equivalents.

Fat burning: Get your body to burn fat for fuel instead of sugar by swapping the carbs at breakfast time for something more nutritious and substantial. When our body burns fat it stabilises our blood sugar levels which (among other things) means not getting hungry again so quickly. One of my favourite meals to start the day with is two scrambled eggs with half an avocado on the side. Why not try it and see how long it keeps you going for?

Snack swap: If you are quite partial to sugary treats and processed snacks in between meals, opt for more natural alternatives. Nutrient dense foods such as organic nuts or plain live yoghurt will provide you with energy for longer.

Read carefully: Live by the rule ‘the fewer ingredients the better’. Start scrutinising every single label of every item of food you buy that isn’t in its natural state. Once you see how many unnecessary added ingredients are sneaked into processed food it is likely to be a massive turn off.

Form good habits by exercising

The happy hormones (endorphins) that are released while exercising are a brilliant way to start feeling great about yourself. There are plenty of things you can do to gently kick start getting fit, but you have to be disciplined. Set aside three time slots every week, at any time of the day that suits, solely for this purpose. Once it has become a good habit you’ll find that it has blended into your weekly routine. Below are some suggestions of how to get started. Please ensure you always wear appropriate clothing and get the go ahead from your GP before you start a new exercise programme.

Walking: Using your legs instead of the car or public transport is a great head start to give yourself. It’s completely free and kind to the planet; what’s not to like? Also try taking the stairs instead of using the lift wherever possible.

Running: If you’ve always fancied running but never had the legs for it, check out the Couch to 5k running program. Running is a great way to get your endorphins flowing, and like walking costs zilch! The secret of the success of Couch to 5k is its gentle introduction to getting started. When you first physically get off your couch you alternate between walking and running very small distances. This slowly builds up your capabilities and after eight weeks you will be able to run 5k or 30 minutes non-stop.

good habitsCycling: If you already own a bike then use it. If you don’t but quite like the idea of it then borrow one or pick up a second hand bike to see if it’s for you.

Going to the gym: Especially if you are able to access a subsidised membership, going to the gym is a great way of staying out of trouble. Make sure you actually use it though and get your money’s worth.

Classes: From Yoga to Zumba most local areas have sports and fitness classes run from leisure centres and halls. Some even offer a free taster session to see if you enjoy it. Make sure you are serious before signing up for a block of lessons though, otherwise it will end up being a waste of money. Check out local directories for details. These classes are usually low cost and can be further reduced if you are studying or out of work.

Boot Camps: Many parks have boot camp classes being run from them, usually by independent personal trainers. They are often not very expensive but they’re great fun and can be really effective. Do a web search to find one near you.

DVDs at home: If you can find a DVD that you like then exercising at home is another great way of getting into shape. Once you’ve paid for the DVD it’s completely free, and no-one else is around to watch. Search online to find the perfect workout for you.

Take up a sport: Whether you really enjoyed playing sports when you were younger, or want to take one up from scratch, connect with a local team and see if you can join them next time they train.

Allow extra time: If you’re having an off day and feel you just can’t be bothered try putting on your running/training/gym clothes and see how you feel then. Perhaps you just need a little extra time to warm up.
Work out with friends: Team up with a group of friends and start your own boot camp in the park taking it in turns to lead the class. With the added incentive of not wanting to let the rest of the group down, you can keep each other motivated.

Variety is the spice of life: Give something new a go every now and then. If running is usually your thing try a bit of yoga. If you take classes at the gym try something different at home to see if you like it.

good habitsForm good habits by making further lifestyle changes

Smoking: A basic internet search will present you with the various techniques designed to help you give up smoking. Your GP will also be able to talk to you about local quitting programmes that are often completely free of charge. In addition to whichever one you choose, why not try putting the money you would have spent on cigarettes into a jar each day and reward yourself with a nice treat after six months? If you currently have a 20-a-day habit there will be a sizeable amount in that jar. Maybe even enough for a little holiday somewhere.

Drinking: Speaking from experience, my drinking buddies were also people I had to disassociate myself from when I became serious about changing my life. Often these people are the reason we go out drinking or partying all weekend and end up spending the following week feeling like crap. By distancing yourself from the toxic people in your life you won’t be going out with them and therefore won’t spend the week feeling rubbish. Toxic relationships are just another form of bad habit to break, we will talk about them more in the next two chapters.

Giving up vices: If you have real addictions that are ruining your life then you will need to get specific help. As you are reading this book I’m going to trust that you want to change. Now you need to put everything you have learnt to good use and actually do some changing. Find a rehab centre, counsellor or group therapy session to suit your needs. Above all else learn self-control.

Money troubles: If you are stuck in a financial rut, spending everything that you earn and then some, you will need to devise a strict budget and start living within your means. Think about the bigger picture and how the stuff you think you need makes you feel once it’s been purchased. Needing something and wanting it are not the same. Learning to distinguish between our wants and our needs is a useful life skill to have. Once you are able to do so you will probably come to realise that you didn’t need a lot of the things you originally thought you did. You just wanted them. If you are in debt and concerned about paying back what you owe, speak with a free debt advisory service. They will be able to guide you through your options, and help you to formulate a debt management plan.

Hobbies: If you want to channel your energies productively then blogging can be a great hobby. It’s completely free and can lead to endless opportunities. You could start a blog about becoming the best you. It could document your progress, acting as a fantastic keepsake to look back on and be proud of.

good habitsA suggested plan of action

Devise a set of personal goals that you would like to achieve, and get serious about making them happen. Remember to break them up into bite-sized manageable chunks, and keep your targets realistic. Think of a suitable reward to treat yourself with when you achieve your goals.

How long it will take you depends on your starting point, but over time learn how to cook good food from scratch. Once it is a regular habit it will start becoming easier.

Exercise regularly and get your endorphins flowing. Whether it’s going for a short jog, taking a class or training in a gym, moving in any way is almost always better that not moving at all.
Don’t beat yourself up for the occasional calorific meal or a couple of missed work outs, as long as it’s not too often. It’s important to allow yourself to have a blowout every now then and a little indulgence once in a while can serve as a great pick me up. Especially if you are sharing the moment with loved ones.

The term “clean eating” might feel overused, but I make no apologies for my love of it. For my little family, this means eating unprocessed, mostly organic food, and making almost all of it from scratch. I say mostly because it’s unrealistic to cook absolutely every single thing for the five of us, every single day. We have our pre-made cheats, but I scrutinise the labels to ensure there are absolutely no hidden nasties. I only have a handful of brands I truly trust, and my kids love the Organix range which comes with their no junk promise.

mostly organic

Eating mostly organic doesn’t have to break the bank 

I’m not exaggerating when I say food is everything to us, and top of the priority list for me is sourcing the very best quality ingredients. There’s no denying that eating mostly organic is expensive, and as much as my children are convinced otherwise, we all know money doesn’t grow on trees. I like to ensure I find the most cost effective ways of making our food without it being debilitating price wise.

Farmers Markets: My favourite place to buy organic food is from farmers markets. Although there will undoubtedly be stalls selling very expensive goods, there are also little gems to be found. I have access to a weekly market as well as a monthly one, and the main fruit and veg stall is run by the same people. Eating seasonally comes with a whole host of benefits, plus compared with supermarket prices, it can be a real bargain. I’ll often pick up double the amount of veggies for half the price of what they would have been pre-packaged and covered in plastic.

Bulk Buying: I can’t advocate more for buying in bulk, which always saves money. There are plenty of suppliers to scope out, in order to buy dry goods by the kilo, for a lot cheaper than they would be in smaller packets. The top of our kitchen cupboards are crammed with tins of coconut milk and packets of coffee and nuts. It’s also worth stocking up when the supermarkets have offers on your favourite products. The offers go live on a cyclical basis, and most will be doing some great deals right now for Organic September. In addition, both of the main budget supermarkets have brilliantly priced ranges of organic food.

Quality Meat: I order our free range meat from a London based butcher who delivers within the M25. They only sell ethically reared meat from the best British native breeds. The animals are reared on independent farms and smallholdings, and are always free from growth hormones, antibiotics and cruelty. I think it’s up to us all to start waking up to the devastating consequences of cheap meat. Personally I’d rather eat much less, but ensure it’s absolutely top quality.

mostly organic

What led me to a clean eating, mostly organic diet?

As I’ve mentioned before, I started coming away from refined sugars and processed food in 2007. This is a long time in faddy diet terms, but clean eating shouldn’t be a fad. It should be about making gradual life long changes, which lead to a healthier you.

My own journey began after being diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and doing a ton of research into my new condition. I learnt about insulin resistance – which means my body doesn’t absorb carbohydrates the way it should – as well as the glycemic index (GI).

GI correlates to the amount of carbohydrates a food contains, and how they affect blood glucose levels. Everything we eat is considered either low, medium or high GI, and the lower GI the better for an insulin resistant body like mine. High GI foods are typically heavily processed, made from white flours and refined sugars. Medium GI foods are less refined – things like oats and other grains. Low GI foods tend to be meat, fish and some fruit and veg.

Healthy alternatives   

I took baby steps in those early days. I started buying more organic ingredients and made healthy swaps, such as using organic wholemeal flours and natural sweeteners. Rather than cooking from scratch being a weekend only occurrence, it became every day life. Once I’d established good habits in the kitchen, it got easier and easier. Now, eleven years later, this mindset comes without the slightest effort. Food should lift us up and revive us. It shouldn’t zap our energy leaving us feeling rubbish.

Here are a few of my failsafe recipes:

I only use raw organic honey or organic dried fruit to sweeten my baked food. Over time I’ve created some fabulous recipes with very little natural sugar in them. Check out these delicious paleo brownies, which contain just 1.5tbsp honey in a batch.

If you’re in the market for pancakes, but want to also boost your veggie intake (YES!) then you will love these. They’re my ultimate free from everything except taste pancakes.

For a superb savoury winter warmer, you can’t beat a good beef stew! I’ve challenged many over the years to make this dish and not have nice things to say, and no-one has yet. Check out this blog post for four easy paleo one pot meals, including a vegetarian option.

Do you have any great tips on eating organically? Tweet them to me @MummyTries 

**Disclaimer: this is a sponsored post. For my full disclosure policy, please click here.**

**For details on why I have decided to publish Become the Best You on the blog, please read this. Should you wish to buy the book, you can do so here** 

How do we find inner strength?

Although writing a rigid life plan could potentially backfire and set you up for disaster, having an idea of which direction you want to head can only be a good thing. If you are aiming for fortune and/or fame, then it’s wise to have a back-up. Being talent spotted in the street or winning £100 million on the lottery carry the same kind of odds, and are almost definitely not going to happen to you or anyone you know. It’s time for a realistically optimistic outlook, and to see what you are capable of achieving. Stop getting bogged down with the problems and instead start figuring out the solutions!

Have you fallen into the trap of thinking money will solve everything? I can safely say that although money can make life more comfortable, money alone will never guarantee happiness. It is absolutely imperative to become a happy person first and it’s utterly pointless pinning all your hopes on an elusive windfall. Even if millions did land at your feet they would mean nothing if you were not happy beforehand. Once you like yourself, are surrounded by good people, and are content with your life, you will be rich in your own right. In this chapter we will talk about all the things I have done over the years to boost my own happiness; I hope they work as well for you.

inner strength

Find inner strength by having a sunny outlook on life

A positive mental attitude is essential if you are to break the cycle, and although it doesn’t come naturally to a lot of people it will get you far. However, there is absolutely no point in putting on a brave face and adopting an air of positivity unless you genuinely believe in it. Positive thinking is addictive and infectious. Once you are emanating happiness, others around you should soon follow suit. Over time I’m sure you will find yourself really enjoying the new positive you and won’t have to work so hard at it any more.

I used to think that people who were always happy must be faking it and putting it on for the benefit of others, but now I realise otherwise. I was the one who wasn’t capable of true happiness back then because my life was in such a mess. I was the one who wasn’t able to be happy every day and I assumed everyone else was the same. But we’re not. When we assume, we make an ASS of U and ME, so it’s always best to try and gather the facts instead. By not assuming you might be pleasantly surprised to find some situations aren’t as bad as you thought they were.

Find inner strength by waking up to social Media

It’s becoming widely known now (not so much in 2014 when I published this book) that social media can be very fake. In the world of InstaBook people rarely post photos of themselves looking like they need to go on a diet or buy acne cream. For the most part they are trying to create the illusion that all is fabulous and they have the trappings of a ‘perfect life’. Even though in our heart of hearts we know it’s all being put on for show, it is so easy to end up thinking everyone else is faring better than we are. Ask yourself how much of your time goes on social networking sites and how they make you feel as a result. If you feel they’re a lifeline and provide you with nothing but happiness then great, you don’t need to change anything. If you end up comparing yourself to others and it causes you sadness then we need to think of a solution.

Completely coming off any social network can feel like a big statement which most of us are not prepared to make, but scaling down the amount of time we spend on these sites can be really beneficial. I used to feel the need to check my feeds hourly but I can now easily go an entire day without looking at all. I got bored of the same people posting the same things; the silent stalkers; alpha mums and pushy parents. For me it was another habit that needed to be broken. I feel social networks have their place, but they are also a time-suck and I know I’m better off without the constant distraction. Although at first it was strange, and sometimes people would assume I knew things because they had posted them publicly, I got used to the new situation pretty quickly. I have come to the conclusion that genuine friends will want to share their lives with me in real life, and they won’t hold it against me if I don’t comment on every single post.

inner strength

A simple strategy for cutting down

Make it less easy: Delete the apps from your phone or tablet as it can be too tempting to click on them every time you have a spare five minutes. By having to log into an actual computer you are making it more difficult to be permanently ‘plugged in’.

Cold turkey: See if you can last an entire day without logging in at all. I promise you the world will not stop turning, and you might find that it’s a surprisingly liberating experience. You could post about your plans and challenge your friends to do the same. It could be fun to see who is willing to join you, and who was able to last the day.

Little by little: When you feel ready to cut down begin with logging in three times a day, then after a week cut down to twice a day and after another week cut down to once. By gradually reducing the time you spend on these sites you should still feel part of the loop, and not that you are missing out on anything important.

Find inner strength by consuming information wisely

While you are going through this process I’d like to highly recommend not watching what I call ‘scheduled junk’ (aka Reality TV). Would it be the end of the world if you didn’t know who got to the final of the latest so-called talent contest? Does it really matter if a new series of people sitting around a house all day has just started? Or that a handful of Z list celebrities are eating spiders in the jungle? What do you really get out of these shows? What’s in it for you?

Rather than letting others dictate how you should be entertaining yourself, take back control by making quality viewing choices. Don’t just watch what everyone else is watching because you’re worried you might be left out of the conversation. These shows are addictive because they are intrinsically linked to the advertising industry. Advertising is big business and millions are pumped into the industry every single day to make their job as sleek as possible. They exist solely for one purpose and that is to sell you stuff! Adverts are full of portrayals of the ‘perfect life’ which can leave us feeling inferior and gloomy.

While you’re at it ditch mainstream news, papers and magazines as well. They are full of shocking and depressing stories. They can leave unwanted thoughts and images in our heads, which are detrimental to our happiness. If you want to keep yourself well-informed you could scan a reputable news website instead. I’m not saying for a second that you shouldn’t know anything outside of your own life and live in a bubble, but I think being selective about the information we consume is a good idea. Rather than waste your time and money on trashy TV and magazines, start spending it wisely.

Here are a few suggestions of what you could do instead:

  • Read a book that you’ve been wanting to read for ages but haven’t got round to. Reading books in their paper form can be a magical experience which is not replicated on electronic devices. Browse your local library or charity shop for free or low cost options.
  • Work your way through a boxed set or good film that you’ve been wanting to watch but haven’t had the time to. Catch up channels and streaming websites are full to the brim with fantastic telly, and many of them do not have adverts.
  • Use your spare time productively by learning valuable life skills. Be it cooking good food, taking better photographs or turning your hand to DIY, practise often and you will get better. You can then share your new found skills with the people you love and respect.

Find inner strength by controlling our thoughts

While I was feeling my worst, negative thoughts and flashbacks to dark memories used to take over my mind. They would muddy almost everything else I tried to think about, leaving me anxiety ridden and stuck in the past. During the recovery period after my second breakdown I realised that if I didn’t learn to control my thoughts they would eventually end up controlling me.

It took a few months of diverting my mind elsewhere every single time I had these thoughts, but I trained myself to switch my brain off and think of other things instead. It was a huge problem for me, so I made it my mission to change it, and I can honestly say that I can’t remember the last time I felt it was an issue. The simple distraction techniques detailed below worked really well for me. Try one of them next time you need to banish unwanted thoughts from your head.

  • Close your eyes, concentrate on your breathing and picture yourself on a memorable holiday or during a fantastic experience. Transport yourself there and remember how happy you were in that moment. From now on this becomes your ‘happy place’ and it is always accessible, ready to pick you up whenever you’re feeling down.
  • Recite something familiar in your head such as the lyrics to your favourite song, dialogue from a movie or a passage from a well-loved book. This works in the same way that counting sheep can help falling asleep. Mundane tasks such as these will take your mind off the unwanted thoughts.
  • Look into the mirror, smile and tell yourself that you will not think about those things. Instead you will think about the good stuff going on in your life. Divert your attention to happiness, plain and simple.

inner strength

Work Hard

No-one I know was ever given amazing opportunities unless they deserved them. Dream jobs do not fall into laps; it is up to us to make them happen. Rather than getting upset about not being recognised or rewarded enough, work harder and figure out how to set yourself apart from the crowd. Make yourself shine through with your confidence and capabilities. Take on extra projects and get yourself noticed by the people that make the decisions. Become an integral part of the team by making yourself as indispensable as you can.

Start thinking about what you really want to do with your life. If you’re feeling unsatisfied at work then move role or company, don’t resign yourself to a crappy career path just because it’s easier to stay where you are. Look up careers advice online and seek some guidance from an expert.

Think about the answers to the following questions; we will talk about this more in the next chapter.

  • Can your current employer offer you another job in-house or would you need to leave the firm to progress?
  • Would you need extra qualifications or training for a more desirable role? If so, could you gain them while working or would you need a break from the workplace? If so, could you cope financially?
  • Is it worth thinking about moving abroad for the best opportunities?

Educate yourself by gaining knowledge on any subject matter that interests you. This is where the internet really comes into its own, because there will always be a blog, forum or website based around whatever it is that you want to learn about. If you are out of work then see what others are up to and get inspired. There are many incredible initiatives crying out for input from good people willing to work hard. Consider offering some assistance to a start-up or a charity for free to gain some valuable experience. Working for a company that excites you could ignite your own passions. It might also lead to paid employment eventually.

A suggested plan of action

  • Think of your happy place as often as you can, especially as a way of banishing unwanted thoughts.
  • Switch off and tune out from mass media by only consuming information that will enhance your life. Don’t be dictated to by television companies, tabloids and trashy magazines.
  • There is a famous quote by Theodore Roosevelt that is worth remembering: ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’. Stop comparing yourself to others because it’s a pointless exercise. Instead feel safe in the knowledge that no-one has the ‘perfect life’, we are all flawed in some way or another and everybody has problems. While you are lusting after another person’s life, there will more than likely be someone out there lusting after yours. Forget about everyone else and concentrate on becoming the best possible you.

PAW Patrol Live! “The Great Pirate Adventure”We went to Wembley yesterday to see PAW Patrol Live! “The Great Pirate Adventure”

Not that I thought for a second that it might, but it did not disappoint! The children were absolutely enchanted from the second we took our seats until leaving the arena, and continued buzzing about the show for the entire journey home. Most children have a favourite TV program when they’re four, like Freddy is. It will supersede all other programs, and never fails to raise a smile. No matter how glum mood levels are, PAW Patrol is his go-to happy maker. Yesterday he was clad head to foot in his PAW Patrol get up, including undies! The sheer joy which emanates from this kid when he’s wearing his Chase costume literally makes my heart sing.

We saw PAW Patrol Live! “Race to the Rescue” last year, which you can read about here. As you can imagine the excitement about seeing the pups on stage again was palpable. I probably don’t need to tell you how catchy the songs were, or how fabulous the outfits were. My wriggly little man stayed in his seat and was totally captivated, which says it all really.

I asked Freddy what his favourite part was. “Everything!” he replied, with the biggest smile on his face. Six and a half year old Clara’s reply was much more detailed, but is essentially a massive spoiler. At nine, Polly is of course far too old for PAW Patrol, but secretly enjoys it when it’s on the telly and especially on the stage (don’t tell her I told you that). It’s safe to say they had a blast.

For full details of the show, please check out the PAW Patrol Live website, or follow them on social media:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

PAW Patrol Live! “The Great Pirate Adventure”

What to expect from PAW Patrol Live! “The Great Pirate Adventure”

Ditsy, loveable Mayor Goodway has been tasked with getting Adventure Bay shipshape for a huge Pirate Day celebration, when disaster strikes. Poor Cap’n Turbot falls into a mysterious cavern and it’s up to Ryder and the PAW Patrol to rescue him. Marshall, Rubble, Chase, Rocky, Zuma, Skye and newest member Tracker have to save him. In the process they happen upon a secret pirate treasure map leading them on an awesome experience.

The fearsome crew have to travel over land, across high seas, and under water in search for the treasure. They plan on giving it to Mayor Goodway, but naughty Mayor Humdinger also wants to find the treasure. He vows to find it first and keep it for Foggy Bottom. The pups set about saving the day the PAW Patrol way by using their problem solving skills, teamwork, and trademark heroism. They prove once again that no job is too big and no pirate pup is too small.

PAW Patrol Live! “The Great Pirate Adventure” includes two acts and an interval, and lasts around 90 minutes. The innovative costume approach helps bring everyone’s favourite pups to life on stage, and their vehicles and pup packs feature heavily throughout the adventure.

PAW Patrol Live! "The Great Pirate Adventure"

Confirmed UK tour dates for PAW Patrol Live! “The Great Pirate Adventure”

Saturday 28th July – The Playhouse, Edinburgh
Thursday 2nd August – Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle
Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th August – SECC, Glasgow
Wednesday 8th August – Echo Arena, Liverpool
Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th August – Manchester Arena, Manchester
Wednesday 15th August – Fly DSA Arena, Sheffield
Saturday 18th August – Arena Birmingham
Wednesday 22nd August – Motor Point Arena, Cardiff
Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th August – The SSE Arena, Wembley, London
Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd September – Windsor Hall, Bournemouth International Centre
Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th September – Brighton Centre, Brighton

A few tips

There is a lot of merchandise on offer to purchase at the venues. If you’re trying to save money and your child(ren) already have tons of PAW Patrol toys, take some with you. That way they’ll have something to wave in the air and hold during the show.

Work out where the toilets are as soon as you arrive, so you can quickly dash there mid-show if needs be.

Check the venue policy on drinks, because you might only be allowed to take in sealed bottles.

Make sure you check in advance for other events going on around the venue. It can put a real damper on things after having a great time at a show when it takes hours to get home. If there are other events happening at the same time, you can avoid the mad rush at the end by leaving during the last song.

Take snacks, because, you know, kids 😉

**Disclaimer: we were given complimentary tickets in exchange for this blog post. For my full disclosure policy, please click here.**