On Happiness

happy

This blog post has been inspired by A) I finally got a job last week (obligatory happy dance) and b) A reminder for myself on how to be happy. The first thing I want to say is that this post isn’t about money as the key to happiness but I completely understand that in order for us to live in this world and be happy we need a basic amount of income to remain sane and explore our own happiness. Having been unemployed for just over 6 months, until last week, was such a struggle both financially, emotionally and physically and it is a sad truth but a real one that we all need to pay our bills, buy food and spend our money on necessities whether we have the cash or not. So with this in mind the musings below are generally for when you have the ability to pay your bills and don’t have the pressure on as much but at the same time I believe lots of these ideas can be applied for when you don’t have any disposable income either. The part B of my inspiration is because naturally I am a very anxious person and when the chips are down my anxiety can knock me for six. Though I have come on leaps and bounds when it comes to dealing with my worries and fears I still feel like I need help along the way sometimes. Having a check list or a cheat sheet for happiness may seem like a strange thing but it can help you focus on positive rather then negative aspects of your life and even change the way you think about your individual life. I hope that by writing out how I try to be happy it may help some one else as it helps me.

Anna LappeKnow why you are unhappy

If you know why you are unhappy you can fix or change it. Unhappiness can be bred from many things and with the exception of relationship problems/ loss of loved ones/serious mental health issues , which is totally understandable, I believe that changing our mind set is more important most of the time then what we are actually unhappy about.

Worry– I often worry when I am I get into bed probably because something is weighing on my mind and I can no longer do anything about it but these feelings can strike throughout the day at any time. I find that I worry more and more about something because I am putting off  a task or need to chase someone else up to resolve the problem. Procrastination is the real problem here . As soon as I do the task I don’t want to do I feel so much better

Want– Once our bills and necessities are taken care of, any money is ours to spend on what we want but if you don’t have enough money to buy what you ‘want’ then maybe it is time to re-evaluate what we want and think more about what we need.  Not living within your means is the real problem here.

Health– Now I am no way any kind of health professional but when we do not feel our best physically that can affect us mentally as well. Taking care of your health can make all the difference when It comes to illness relating to lifestyle choices and your environment which are minor but can have a bigger impact then you might realise.

Loneliness- Humans are sociable creatures and they need to interact. When I wasn’t working I found it incredibly lonely and isolating as I couldn’t visit friends and family or even go out to the pub to socialise in my new city. You cannot rely on even just the people you live with as you need interactions from different sources. Getting out there is hard but key.

happiness stop worrying

How to combat unhappiness

Worry– For me when worry strikes it can disable me. It creates such an anxious feeling, my chest can tighten, I feel sick and I can get into such a state as my worry comes in cycles. I understand that I create worry cycles and often, as I said, it’s because I am not doing the right thing to resolve the issue that is worrying me. Recognising that I am in the middle of doing this is the first and biggest step because then I can speak my little mantra.  ‘Can I do anything about it now?? ‘ if the answer is yes = do something, if the answer is no = forget it and stop worrying till you can do something about it. A simple phrase but it gives me the  control to stop worrying and get on with what I need to do.

happiness in gift from a loved one

Want– We want lots and lots of things in life but it’s not always possible. As someone who does want this and want that but is really against the rampant consumerism which is encouraged in our society It can be challenging to balance these two sides of myself. I try and step back and think whether I really need the item, whether it will improve my life, improve my happiness and what it’s effect on others could be. I know not everyone thinks about these issues when it comes to consumer goods but for me it makes me really think about what I want in life. The second point I want to make is that if you can’t afford something that is a ‘want’ rather then a need you shouldn’t feel unhappy. Instead you should look to the things in your home and life that you really love, mean something to you or just make your life easier which you already own. The big French poster we have in our living room H gave to me when he lived in France, it is a beautiful poster which makes me smile everytime I look at it, it reminds me of H obviously a lovely person to be reminded of and links the great times we have in France when we visit.

happiness in food

Health– When I am stuck in a rut I find it hard to look after myself and will not make healthy choices. If you see yourself doing this you should try and stop it but as with all good health, preventative measures are better then the cure. We all know that exercise, good diet, sleep, water and de-stressing can prevent illness and improve our happiness but we seldom stick to it. Making a conscious effort to improve at least one aspect of your health is definitely the way to start. When I am really focusing on improving a part of my life I feel so much better and it makes it easier to implement the things you need to focus on. I love food and I believe this is the easiest way to improve our health and happiness because we all have to eat. Good food=Happy people. As an added note I think keeping your house in a clean and tidy order really helps to improve your mindset, plus housework counts as exercise ;)

Loneliness– Whether you are lacking money, feel too busy or out of touch with people, you need to get up and go. Simply having someone round for a cup of tea or coffee, lunch or dinner doesn’t have to cost alot as you will be enjoying a homemade meal anyway, and means you can really connect with someone by having a really good chin wag. Make your family and friends aware that you want to see them and are feeling a bit down in the dumps. Your loved ones will always do what they can to make you feel better but they won’t if they think everything is fine. There is no need for false pretence so let people into your inner circle and enjoy them. Sharing problems and joys is part of the human life so find people you can share them with. Finding people as crazy as you also helps ;)

happiness in crazy people

I hope this has been an interesting read and has helped someone thing about happiness that we all deserve and can have. Please leave a comment of anything that helps you stay on the happy train.

Take care and smile

Lorna

x xxx

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Asbestos Awareness week 1st – 7th April

asbestos awareness week

Being green isn’t simply about changing your own habits, your home or even your work place, it’s about encouraging others to do the same either actively by campaign or making others aware of the benefits your life has. One the biggest ways we can develop a greener and healthier society is by changing government policy that encourages or forces large businesses and public sector services to rethink the way they do things. A  great example of this is the UK government’s ban on the use of Asbestos from 2001. Asbestos is a set of naturally occurring minerals which the building and construction industry having been using since the 19th century. They have lots of properties and different uses that can be applied in many ways throughout buildings but unfortunately it is an incredibly toxic substance that if inhaled can lead to an array of nasty illnesses including lung diseases and cancer. We had been aware of its risks for several decades, reducing the amount and types of asbestos we used until it’s complete ban for all use in new builds and all refurbishments. Britain is still full of asbestos and it now heavily regulated and controlled to maintain it in existing buildings without risk to the public. This is a brilliant thing and an effective foot forward for how government policy can really implement change. Unfortunately however we still have around 4500 deaths a year due to asbestos related illness and probably will continue to do so till the full effects of the ban are felt well into the 21st century benefiting future generations.

did you know this about asbestos

So why asbestos awareness week? Well it’s not for us Brits, it’s for our friends across the pond. The US government still has not banned it’s use, and it is estimated 30 million pounds are used each year. It is the biggest cause of occupational cancer in the US and if the continue to use it the problem could easily get worse. It seems ridiculous to me that they still haven’t banned it but I was equally shocked that the UK hadn’t till 2001 even though the health problems had been clearly visible for decades. We need awareness to be spread so the American people can understand the danger their construction workers and the wider public are in by it’s continued use throughout all types of buildings. If it was raised to the top of the political agenda if only throughout the awareness week it might encourage politicians to act upon the overwhelming evidence against asbestos and ban it’s further use and enhance the regulations surrounding it’s maintenance. It’s not all doom and gloom though, as a figure head for the current campaign, Heather Von St James (pictured in the top) was diagnosed with mesothelioma (A exclusively asbestos related cancer) and given 15 months to live, she and her husband Cameron fought the odds and with treatment beat the cancer! It always makes me so happy when people survive cancer and so pleased that Heather and Cameron can continue enjoying life together with their daughter. They now spend their time raising awareness about mesothelioma and asbestos exposure.

Please spread the word to others to educate them and encourage those in the US government to take notice of a practice that must be stopped for the goodness of society and the world as a whole (only 55 countries have banned it’s production and use)Find Heather and Cameron’s wonderful website here, along with websites relating to asbestos in the US. For more info  about asbestos and the law surrounding it’s use visit HSE and how to manage it here.

Lorna

x xxx

p.s. Up yours cancer!

Bringing in a little Green

Christmas basket close upJanuary is always a time to re think and reorganise your life and for me this year its no exception. I have signed up for Apartment therapy’s January Cure which helps you with little prompts throughout January to complete projects you want to get done and organise your house after the craziness of December holidays. As part of the cure each weekend they say you should buy flowers to enjoy. I love flowers but I do find I feel bad for wasting money on what isn’t an essential item. Instead of buying flowers I’ve decided to buy living plants as an alternative. Each plant or collection of plants cost the same price as a simple bouquet (for smaller plants) but it will last as long as you take care of it for. I am also quite interested in the health benefits of having houseplants, as an asthma sufferer (though not totally convinced of the diagnosis nowadays) and general sniffler I want to see if having air purifying plants and therefore more oxygen will improve my respiratory health. herbs

Beautiful

I got both these for Christmas, I got the herb planters from my mum so hopefully they will start sprouting soon and I got this gorgeous basket from my sister in law Verity and her boyfriend Johnny! These definitely inspired my green start

Dracena Little Cacti

This palmy dracaena is suppose to be a brilliant air purifier, taking up all the nasty chemicals that can be present in our house and the set of three cacti are just the cutest little things ever! I had to get them. They will be moving home to the bedroom once I have made some planters for them. more to be revealed soon.

Lorna

x xxx

In The World: Smoking Kids, by Frieke Janssens

Last week i came across a brilliant collection of art photos that the Guardian featured on it’s Big Picture Series. The striking images of children dressed in retro vintage outfits and garments from a by gone era read like a photographic picture book of fashion history, except for the fact that the clothes and stances are of adults of the past and the main activity being hopefully in the domain of ‘Adults Only’ is Smoking.

Little Smoker Dressed in Pink

Frieke Janssens, a Belgium photographic artist, first devised this series after seeing the ‘youtube sensation’ of an indonesian toddler with a 40 a day habit. She found a juxtaposition between East and West as here in Europe and the US, smoking is seen as an adult activity and smoking laws are often pushed through for the protection of children. She explains that:

 I wanted to isolate the viewer’s focus upon the issue of smoking itself. I felt that children smoking would have a surreal impact upon the viewer and compel them to truly see the acts of smoking rather than making assumptions about the person doing the act.’

Pipe smoking boy

The Vintage costumes display how smoking has been used to glamorise the past and in so doing glamorise smoking. Films and TV that is set in a distant past achieve this suave smoking style and this in affect devalues the impact of health warnings of the modern world. It was Janssens intention to show that through the glamour of this retro feeling ‘ there is a nod to less attractive aspects, on the line between the beauty and ugliness of smoking.’  I myself find the pictures strangely beautiful and gripping, as you put your own story behind the picture, and i think that for me this shows Janssens has really achieved what she set out to do.

Blowing Bubbles, Blowing Smoke  Rings

I am not a smoker myself and i am quite for banning it in public places, so these pictures really reaffirm my feelings towards the subject, but I wonder whether they would have the same affect on a life long smoker, a few a day smoker or a social smoker. As with all art it can speak to people in many different ways or not move them at all. The collection comes from an interesting angle and is a great commentary of our treatment of smoking in the media but i think pictures of tumours on cig packets are maybe more shocking and effective. Do you find these shocking or delightful? Interesting or obsolete? If you’d like to see more of Janssens work visit her Website 

Lorna

X xxx

p.s. No children where harmed in the making of this, Chalk and Cheese were used during shoots and cigs added in post production.

Just bread for breadline Britain

We are all aware in one way or another that the economic recession has impacted almost every one whether a little bit or drastically. I see it every day and most people i know are struggling in some way. The Guardian Newspaper have been running a series about austerity Britain called Breadline Britain and they have recently highlighted within the series the impact of the recession on the British public’s diet.   Unemployment/ no comparable wage rise coupled with increased living costs means that people need to cut back, however it has gone so far down the line that it is no longer just the ‘luxuries’ we are cutting out but the essentials as well. The Joseph Rowntree Trust reported that food prices have risen by 32% in the last 5 years, 12% in only the last year with spending staying relatively the same but increasingly less and less spent on fresh meat, vegetables and fruit. Furthermore the biggest and ‘best’ deals are on cheap, poor quality, processed foods which doesn’t make it a contest when as one women from the Breadline series put it ‘When four bars of Chocolate are £1, you end up on junk’

I feel i am very lucky when it comes to providing myself and family with thrifty but nutrition food because i can cook relatively well, have slowly collected herbs and spices which always come in handy for livening up a dish and i use my noggin and buy smart without sacrificing on nutrition. So i have compiled a short list of essentials which i personally spend on and scrimp on to show you where you can save on the pennies and spend your pounds on what maybe be a bit pricey but needed. Though this won’t be THE list for everyone depending on what and where you buy and it may not be the most ethical food, but i think for the majority of people who shop at supermarkets and are on an increasingly tight budget  this could really help when it comes to the weekly shop.

SCRIMP

Tinned Tomatoes

I always buy the 33p value plum tomatoes because they simply don’t taste any different and you are most of the time putting them into a sauce or stew so they are mingling with other flavours. I get plum tomatoes because they give you more fruit in them and they are often about 2p cheaper then chopped tomatoes

Baked beans

Now many people are simply brand snobs when it comes to canned stuff but for value beans i have found they taste just as nice but tend to have less sugar and salt in. If you need a tomatoeyer hit just squirt in a half a tablespoon of ketchup which works out so much cheaper then buying the big named brands, i.e. Heinz

Cooking Cheese

I am a massive Cheese fan and do not like to scrimp on the good stuff but for some recipes you can. You can get the cheapest cheddar cheese and use it for cheese sauces and toasties and it adds just as much flavour as it is heated up and you can add other flavours in to it. If eating on crackers though, that is when you want the good stuff .

Spreads and fillings

It can be hit and miss but some value brands have equally delicious products but some are also horrific. Test out a jar of own brand ‘Insert name’  and see what the difference is you might be surprised how delicious it is but equally if it turns out it tastes like horse muck then you have wasted alot less. Don’t be put off by the cheap looking packing all the time.

Value veg and fruit

Once again the packing makes you believe it is of a poorer quality because it is technically ‘Class II’ rather then Class I. The only thing this means is that the peppers in packet numero 2 are little bit funkier looking then packet number 1. See this post for why that shouldn’t and doesn’t matter. The same goes for canned veg as long as its not in brine (too much salt) or fruit which is in juice rather then syrup (too much sugar)

SPEND

Bacon

Firstly, there is more to bacon then just a butty in the morning or a workmens lunch, bacon can be added to so many dishes just to give a little extra meaty depth without having to chuck a whole animal into your meal every night. More importantly though is that you shouldn’t scrimp on it because i have never ever bought cheap/average priced bacon and NOT found it to ave shrunk by at least a half under the grill. Its a mugs game cheap bacon and if you choose to spend just a little more you can get a quality product which will give you the weight in meat that you paid for.

Sausages

Just like bacon you can make a substantial meal out of a packet of sausages but don’t sacrifice health or taste pleasure for some overtly pink, E-number ridden cheap banger. Use your noodle and find the best quality ones, you will be pleased for it. Better still get to your local butcher.

Pasta

Though there are value brands out there that have good pasta, can’t hurt your pocket too much to check, i have often found that the medium or top brands yield the best results.  They are less likely to stick to the pan, don’t take as long to cook and overall taste so much better.

Bread

If you’ve seen this post you’ll know why but briefly: Cheap, mass produced bread is pretty much what is killing Britain, readily available and value for money people are shoveling mountains of the stuff into their gobs each day to keep full. Eat less and spend a little bit more on a local, good quality, real baker and you will reap the benefits later on and so will your purse.

Has the recession affected your diet? what are your tips for eating healthy but at a price you can afford?

Lorna

X xxx

What you should know about your bread

Who doesn’t love a slab of bread and butter with their fish or toast with jam. It is another staple of our lives and yet when we pick up a loaf from the shelf do we really know whats gone into it or who makes? There is currently no legislation which forces manufacturers or bakers to include all the ingredients in their breads but whats the problem with that? its only flour and water right???? Myself and the Real Bread Campaign know somethings wrong. You can not make an informed choice if you don’t know what the facts are and similarly you cannot decide whether the bread you buy is right for you and your family if you don’t know what goes in to it or where it came from. The basic ingredients for bread are and should be: Flour, Water, Salt and Yeast. Since there is no legal requirement, as yet, to label any extras or additives in the bread it could contain ANYTHING!!!!!! But more likely your regular supermarket breads will contain these little beasties:

E300 L-Ascorbic acid, E926 Chlorine dioxide, Flour bleaching agents, Flour treatment agents, Enzyme preparations, Added fats, Chemical sprays, Added Sugar, Excessive Salt

Now who really wants that when its not needed. Further more the majority of our loaves are loaves are made by a hand full of companies in factories (80%) and Supermarkets (15%-17%) removing the social and physical baker of our communities. As there is only a handle of national producers, they supply bread all over the country using lorrys which travel for hundreds of miles.

So whats the problem?

1. Artificial additives and processing agents are bad for your health and its not helped by added fats and yeast.

2. Local bakeries use to be at the center of our communities (along with the pub) and we no longer have a large occupation of bakers but machines making our bread. Not only are bread sales the profit of a few shareholders but local bakeries have disappeared along with jobs.

3. As national distributors, bread factories create excessive amounts of carbon dioxide through diesel lorries where as baked in the shop have transport costs only for ingredients, less if they get their ingredients locally.

Who is to blame?

1. It seems almost silly to say but there is a massive monopoly on Bread. When you look at supermarket bread sales it is made up of the supermarkets own brand, Hovis, Warburtons and Kingsmill. These massive companies have the money to advertise and market their products to the masses and convince them that it is a wholesome healthy product even when its not. They should have responsiblity in providing the right info to their consumers.

2. Supermarkets do not display the extra ingredients of bread either but they also use false advertising such as ‘baked in store’ ‘oven fires’ when most of their products are pre baked and then ‘warmed up in store’ . They too do not need to label what goes in to their breads, though recent legislation says they must state the weight now. Bravo!

3. The government has not brought in legislation to force bread manufacturers to explain what has been added to their products. This is a massive flaw in the legal system for the food industry. The majority of products have to have what is exactly in it, so why not bread?!

What can I do?

1. Only have bread that is made of Flour, Water, Salt and Yeast plus natural extras for flavour like herbs and cheese. Gotta love abit of Foccacio.

2.The first thing you can do is stop buying those loaves from the supermarkets! Unless they are selling them for 12p because of a stupid sell by date then you may as well pick them up as they’ll only get chucked out any way.

3. Join the real bread campaign and help lobby the government into acting now rather then waiting for an eu resolution.

4.Buy from your local bakery that you know produces their breads on site. You can check on this map for where you can get real bread

5. Better still start making your own bread and bakes. Its easier then you might think and you can be safe in the knowledge you know exactly what is in your loaf.

Though there is no labeling laws for bread at the moment, the European union is currently in the process of legislation which will force producers to display their extra ingredients. I love to make my own bread but i admit that at the moment our local co-op always has bread for 12p that would be chucked away if we didnt buy it. its almost rude not to at that cheap.

Do you bake your own bread? What do you think about lack of labeling legislation?

Lorna

X xxx