Curious Incident

This week I took a mid-week trip to the theatre and saw possibly the best thing I’ve seen in my life so far; The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time. Now, I’m no reviewer so all I’m going to say is the set was incredible, the script was incredible and the acting was incredible. It’s the only adaptation I’ve seen of a book which I believe is as good as the book. That is high praise coming from an English Lit graduate and book snob. But whilst Mark Haddon is a genius for transporting all of his readers’ heads successfully into that of an autistic 15-year-old boy’s, the set and stage production of the play do the same thing in an entirely different way. It was truly amazing and I would recommend it to all.

But that’s not why I’m recommending it as one of my 100 ways to happy, I’m recommending visiting the West End or any theatre for a night watching a play because I truly believe it has so many benefits. For one, it transports you away from your world and into somebody else’s. Just like a book can do. But the benefit the theatre has over a book is there are no distractions. For two hours or so, you are stuck in a silent room, you can’t look at your phone and no one can ask you to do something else. Like the cinema, only I find it much more special. Especially the West End.

Theatre tickets

Although I live close to London, I very rarely go to the West End. It’s expensive, everyone knows that. But for a one-off treat I really do believe it’s worth it. The thrill of stepping through the doors to a theatre that might be 200 years old, of dressing up so you match the setting (not too much but you can’t turn up in jeans really) and of taking your seat waiting for the play to begin.

It’s also fun to make an event out of it, I took my best girlfriend and before we went for dinner in Neal’s Yard, Covent Garden. I’m very lucky to work just round the corner from Covent Garden so I could get there by 6.30pm leaving us plenty of time to have a nice dinner. We went to Homeslice which is literally the best pizza place in Britain. I know that’s a big claim but I promise it is justified. If you’re ever anywhere near Covent Garden then you should go. They serve 20 inch pizzas for £20 and you can share it with as many people as you want. We were hungry so just shared one between the two of us, although we didn’t quite manage to finish it! It was absolutely delicious.

HomeslicePizza Homeslice

After the pizza and the theatre, and an evening of just me and my best friend, I honestly did feel happy. It was also nice to do it mid-week, something to look forward to other than the weekend and a great break from the monotony of the 9-6.

Holiday quote

So for a change, this is a challenge that I haven’t actually done. Instead it’s one I plan to do from tomorrow, well even from now I guess. This is also a challenge I didn’t plan, it just kind of happened. You see when I started this blog, I planned all my challenges from now until the end of March. I’m like that, I’m a super organised planner. I have to do lists on top of to do lists, I colour code in red, orange and green, I have a Filofax (enough said). But after today, I just feel this is a challenge I need to set myself and I think you might be the same.

You see I’m not some martyr, I do put myself first sometimes. I put myself first when I want to get in the bathroom and I wrestle my brother out of there and I put myself first when my boyfriend says he wants pizza but I want something healthy so I make that instead. I do put myself first. But not when it comes to the big things, then I worry and I stress and I panic about what other people will think. For example, I worry that they’ll think I’m selfish and lazy and boring if all I really want to do on a Friday night is go home, get in my pjs and watch TV. I worry about loads of things like that. I always do what other people ask of me and I rarely bite back, I hate it when someone says something negative about me. Even something tiny and insignificant, I hate making mistakes. If I argue with my mum or my brother or my boyfriend (pretty normal things to do) then in the heat of the moment I’m fine but afterwards I worry and I get upset, I worry that I went too far and they’ll hate me and hold it against me. In reality they will have forgotten about it within the hour. Sometimes I won’t take big opportunities because I’ll worry about letting people down. But I’m 22 and ambitious and I’m starting to learn I have to put myself first sometimes or I’ll always regret it. I have to grab life by the horns and if I don’t I’ll never forgive myself. I shouldn’t punish myself for that, I should just get on with it.

How am I going to do this? Well I’m going to stop doing things because other people say I should or because I think other people think I should. Instead I’m going to start doing exactly what I want to do. And I’m going to try my very best not to feel guilty for that.

So from now on, I’m making myself number one. I’ll let you know on Twitter how I get on. After all, you’re supposed to be the leading lady in your own life…

Bath

A busy and stressful week got me thinking about pampering. I feel like January is already flying by and I haven’t had a chance to sit back and reflect, I’ve already done a lot in the 18 days of this month and I have to say so far I am actually quite proud of myself.

But enough of all that soppiness, I travelled straight from work in London on Friday to Bristol city for a trip that lasted around 12 hours but was 100% worth it to see one of my best friends before she embarks on a trip around the world for the next year. When I got back on Saturday evening, I was beyond knackered. I’d spent the first half of my weekend whizzing around on trains, getting ready in 30 minutes (pretty much a record for me) and taking to Bristol’s rather unusual night life (more precisely, a secret bar where you have to buzz for entry and there’s a moose’s head on the wall?!) I was kerplunked and very ready to just call it a night at 5pm. The only thing that sounded better than that was a super self-indulgent pamper night.

I really, really believe in the importance of taking time to yourself sometimes, time to just switch off your brain and relax. I am possibly the worst at this, my boyfriend says my catchphrase is ‘I’ve got so much to do’ and I say it hundreds of times a day. In search of a more permanent way to hush my constantly buzzing brain (lots of future blog posts to come on this so stay tuned), a pamper night was a good pitstop.

Lush Box

I got so many Lush products for Christmas and haven’t had a chance to use them yet, in fact I hadn’t had a bath in the whole of 2015 so that needed to be rectified. First stop on my perfect pamper night, delve into my box of Lush goodies. I went with a ButterBear because my skin also needed a break and I was after something very moisturising and soothing rather than pink and glittery. I lit my favourite candle (Shearer Candle’s Orange and Cinnamon if you were wondering), turned off the lights and just allowed myself to chill for as long as I wanted.

Lush Goodies

After my bath, it was time to take my time moisturising, cleansing and face masking. My body has taken a bit of a battering as I’ve thrown myself into working extremely hard, stepping up my schedule of running and trying to socialise every other spare moment I have had this January so this part was also important. After this, I painted my nails. Probably my all-time favourite thing to do.

Below is the selection of nail varnish I narrowed it down to, I ended up going for a classic pillar-box red using C&E’s offering.

Nail varnish

Final step: pick your favourite, girly film, grab some popcorn and a blanket and settle down for the night.

DVDs

Smile

Let me set the scene of a normal day in the life of me. I wake up at 6.30am and get ready for work, I still live at home so the first people I see in the morning are my Mum and Dad. I probably mumble a hello at them through my cornflakes but mostly stay silent. I make my way to the station to get the 7.26am train to London. I manage to muscle my way to the front of the crowd so I’m the first to get on the train but most people barely glance up – it’s too early to look at one another let alone interact. On the train I’m surrounded by hundreds of people but I never actually look at any of them, I’m just aware they’re there. Then I get off the train at Waterloo and join the hordes heading towards the bus. It’s about 8.20am when I get on the bus, still too early to smile at the bus driver, still too early to have a chat with the person I’m standing 1cm away from. I can probably tell you what their wife’s name is because I can read the text message they’re typing right under my nose. But I can’t look at them, that would break all morning protocols. Once I get off the bus I make the short walk to my office, head down and probably reading some work email or something. I might bump into someone on the way and murmur an apology, they are almost certainly also reading something on their phone so don’t even notice. Finally I make it safely into the confines of my office, here at about 9am, having been up 2.5 hours already, I’ll raise my first smile of the day. Well I can hardly scowl at the man who pays my wages, can I? It’s a funny world really. And I consider myself quite a smiley, cheerful person…

So for challenge four, I set myself a mission to smile at every single person I encountered for a whole 24 hours. Because, you know, there are a few interesting facts about smiling. Number one being that smiles are known to boost your mood, aiding me in my quest to get happy. And number two is they’re contagious, so how many people will also be happy as a result of my simple action. Let’s see…

6.45am: I wake up and smile at myself in the mirror, start as you mean to go on and all that. I can’t say it makes getting up in the cold that much easier but I do feel a tiny mood boost and I walk downstairs to my breakfast with my head held up so for the first time in a week I don’t trip over the box I’ve left outside my bedroom door. This smiling malarkey is already doing me a good turn.

7am: I smile and say ‘good morning’ to both my Mum and my Dad, it comes out louder and slightly more forced sounding then I intended. My Mum looks slightly shocked but smiles and returns my good morning. My dad on the other hand asks what I’ve got to be so cheerful about…

7.20am: I arrive at the station and smile at the station staff member, he smiles back and wishes me a good day. I remember he’s the one I like because he always smiles at me and brightens up my early morning, I realise that I’ve been ‘catching’ smiles off of him for months so I’m very happy to finally return the favour.

8.20am: Walking through Waterloo, I realise for the first time how many hundreds of people I pass every morning. I walk through the station with a grin attached to my face and not one person returns my smile. A few people look at me smiling manically and give me an odd look but no one smiles. Most people don’t even notice me.

8.25am: There’s a bus strike today, cue lots of even unhappier commuters than usual. The bus is more packed than normal and it’s always full to the rafters. The driver is probably having a terrible day so I give him a huge smile as I pass and he smiles back, of all people I hope I’ve raised his spirits just a little. I dread to think what he’ll have to put up with from both passengers and his fellow striking staff today.

8.35am: I arrive at work and my line manager is already there, I smile brightly at her and offer a cup of tea. All this smiling has made me generous as well.

1pm: It’s lunch break time, I’ve smiled throughout the morning but I’m generally quite cheerful so I don’t think my colleagues have noticed that much of a difference. It’s been a good morning though and we got some good news as well, maybe the universe has caught my smile and is looking down on me.

1.05pm: I go to Sainsburys to buy lunch and both me and another man reach for the last exotic fruit salad at the same time. I flash him a smile and offer it to him (through gritted teeth, I bloody love an exotic fruit salad AND they’re on offer for £1 today). He smiles back and says ‘No love you take it.’ Finally this smile stuff is actually getting me somewhere, I’m not about to refuse that!

1.07pm: At the till, the checkout lady is chatting to the checkout lady next to her. This is a pet hate of mine, I used to work in a similar environment and I know this is the first rule of customer service. Usually I’d ignore her for being so rude but I force myself to look her directly in the eye, flash her a huge smile and wish her a nice day. She looks a little red faced.

2pm: I’m answering the door to clients today and of course I always smile at them anyway and make polite small talk. I try to notice who actually smiles back at me today though, and if they don’t I keep the smile on my face until they do. So far I’ve got a clean sheet, every single person has smiled at me. I hope that this means I’m passing on some happiness and positivity but as most want something from the company I work for it’s probably just them forcing themselves to be polite to the crazy junior member of staff.

4.20pm: I just had someone break my clean sheet. I smiled at him through our small talk for around four whole minutes and smiled extra hard when I re-entered the room to give him his coffee. I’ve learnt that some people are just immune to smiles.

6pm: It’s the end of the work day and time to join the crush back to home. This is usually the time I am at my least smiley because the commute home is a nightmare and my least favourite part of the day. I take a deep breath before leaving the office and remember to keep smiling, I feel weirdly positive.

6.05pm: The bus queue is the worst queue ever (and worst than the worst because of the bus strike today), no one sticks in a line and I hate it when people arrive late and push in. But today as someone pushes past me I just have to smile. It feels really weird and they look at me bizarrely. I smile at the guy next to me in the queue too and he smiles back and let’s me get on first. See, no need to push, just smile and you get the same effect. This is one time I’m going to make sure to smile everyday!

6.20pm: I’m running for the train as usual, and smile as I accidentally hit the man handing out Evening Standards. Usually I’d feel really guilty and stop to apologise but I just shout sorry and seeing my smile, he smiles back. One less thing to feel guilty about.

6.24pm: I’m standing squished next to every conceivable part of a person I don’t know on this train. I often think how bizarre it is that I get physically closer to these random strangers then I get to my best friends. I smile at them and if I wasn’t only just over 5 foot, I think they’d find it very creepy. As I’m small and look pretty innocent they just think I’m crazy. But one lady starts a conversation with me (shock horror! Not on a commuter train!) and we end up chatting, with all the carriage listening no doubt, about how ridiculous it is paying all the money we do and still packing in worse than cattle. It makes me feel better and the time genuinely goes quicker, which is what you want when you can’t move any part of you without touching a stranger in an inappropriate place.

7.10pm: My Dad gives me a lift home from the station and I definitely don’t have to force a smile when I see him sitting in the car as I dash through the rain.

And that really ends my day, after this I just watched TV and did some work with my family. I did lots of smiling but this is usually my smiliest time anyway.

What have I learnt from challenge four? Smile more! It genuinely does make your day better and that night I had a think back and actually remembered most of the stranger’s faces who smiled back at me. How nice is that, to just remember a bunch of strangers whom I would have usually instantly forgotten.

I’ve learnt smiles are 100% contagious, there is no doubt in my mind about that. So why wouldn’t I want to cheer someone up with such a small little thing. And okay I won’t be doing this challenge everyday because let’s face it, it was incredibly embarrassing walking through Waterloo with that huge grin on my face. In fact, there were quite a few times when a red face accompanied my smile so there are definitely moments I’ll keep my expression neutral in future. But little things like smiling at the guard who let me through the train station this morning, smiling and wishing a good day to the grumpy lady in Sainsburys and smiling at the woman that I was stood ridiculously close to on the train home. I will definitely keep giving out little smiles like those because they cheer my day up as well as someone else’s. One day my smile might make me a brand new best friend or a brilliant work contact or it might even get me a discount on my morning Starbucks. You never know.

So as the old saying goes, turn that frown upside down (it uses less muscles than frowning you know?!) and let me know If you have a go at my challenge four at all – even if it’s just for one hour. I’d love to know how you get on 🙂

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As the saying goes, tidy home means a tidy mind and I think I am just one of those people who this applies to more than most. I can’t sleep if something is out of place in my room, especially if my wardrobe door is left ajar or my desk seat is in the middle of the room rather than tucked neatly under the desk. Now I think about it, that’s probably a bit strange isn’t it? But I also have a very bad habit, if this mess is in clear view and I don’t have time to tidy it away then I’ll just shove it somewhere it can’t be seen. You see the saying ‘out of sight, out of mind’ also applies to me. And that is not good news for the state of my wardrobe. 

So that brings me to my third challenge, clear out my wardrobe. This is more of a challenge then you might realise, it was more of a challenge then even I realised. My wardrobe is just simply a mess. There are a lot of clothes in quite a little space, there are bits and bobs that really shouldn’t be in there and it hasn’t been cleared out in a good 5 or 6 years. Just have a look below…

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So down to my method of clearing out. There wasn’t really any science to it, I simply pulled everything out of the wardrobe and onto the floor and then sorted through every piece. After that, I chose to either put it in a black bin bag to donate to charity or piled it in relevant piles ready to put neatly back into the wardrobe. It took me 5 hours and 2 black bin bags. It was frustrating at times and about half way through I genuinely wanted to give up. But the results made me smile. 

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Now I can go to my wardrobe and actually find what I want to wear! I’ve got piles for pyjamas, jumpers, summer tops, winter tops, going out tops. It’s a revolution and it will save me so much time in the morning. It’s also great to have just cleared out all the rubbish, some of the stuff I had in there was aged 14 on the label. I’m 22 years old. But it’s more than making things easier for me, it comes back to the tidy home, tidy mind mantra. You just feel better when things are cleared out and organised.

I also unearthed this gem when tidying out, it’s my school polo shirt aged 11. I wore it on my last day at Infant school and everyone in my class signed it. I’m still friends with quite a few of the names on there which really made me smile.

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And the final thing that made me happy, two huge black bin bags of clothes of really good quality. Some things in there hadn’t even been worn! I can’t wait to take these to my local charity shop.