If so, how do you use it? As the ultimate time suck, spending whole evenings pinning first birthday party décor schemes (even though you don’t have children) and searching for inspirational quotes (because that’s easier than actually getting on with the task you’re dreading)?
Or in a professional capacity, driving traffic to your blog and sales to your funnel?
As you may be able to guess, I don’t use Pinterest for the latter. But some folks, such as Sarah Von Bargen of the Yes and Yes blog, do so with huge success.
I don’t use Pinterest for the former either. Well, not much. I did once end up down a rabbit hole about Turkey Cake (even though I don’t celebrate Thanksgiving).
However, I do use Pinterest a lot – pretty much daily, in fact.
I use it as a pin-board.
It’s hardly revolutionary, I know. The name of the platform suggests that’s what it’s there for.
However I don’t pin a huge amount of content from within Pinterest. The majority of what I add to my boards comes from other websites. In the same way that back in the day, you might have torn an article out of a magazine and literally tacked it to a cork-board, I electronically stick all of the stuff I read and find interesting into Pinterest.
I’m telling you this because It. Has. Changed. My. Life.
No more searching through my browser history trying to find the article I mention to a friend and they are really interested in (I’m sure it was the New York Times. Hmm, may be it was the New Yorker…).
No more unwieldly Internet browser bookmark folders with lists so long that I can’t find anything and filing systems that I forget I’ve introduced.
No more giving up and accepting that the amazing content I find online is then destined to disappear into the ether, never to be seen again.
Maybe you also don’t drink – or are thinking about not drinking
Maybe you also take an interest in mental health advice and experiences
If your work in anyway involves online material, I honestly can’t recommend starting some dedicated Pinterest boards enough.
They’re also a great way to curate content linked to random interests, hobbies or fandom that you have.
For example, I’ve long been obsessed with names and naming practices. As a tween and teen, I’d check baby name dictionaries out of the library and read them cover-to-cover. Now I have a special Pinterest board so rather than just being some random part of my brain, I have a little Names collection going on!
Looking back at December last year, I clearly was going through some kind of jedi like phase of great wisdom because there are several blog posts from then that I’ve felt moved to share again this year.
(An alternative reading is that I’ve not been able to dedicate the same time and thought to the blog this year because I’ve been busy writing commissions).
This particular posts spoke to me today as I’m definitely feeling the pressure of the Christmas shoulds. I should have done so many things for Christmas, from make a cake to put up decorations to craft my own wreath from pom-poms (okay, so the latter is somethin
g that I really *want* to do).
I haven’t done these things and more and while deep down I know this isn’t a problem,
I’m still getting stressed about it.
So here’s a reminder as much for myself as anyone else that use of the word ‘should’ is not a good sign. If you enjoy the post or find it useful, please do let me know! You can share it on social media using the buttons below too.
When this post is published, I shall be holed up with my partner is a cottage on the beach on the south coast.
Back in August, we decided to have a getaway from Christmas Day until New Year’s Eve. We found the right accommodation on the same day and booked up immediately.
It’s only as Christmas has drawn closer that I’ve begun to question our decision. I’ve never regretted our choice – on the contrary, I think it’s a brilliant idea, all the fun of the festive build up but none of the hassle and anti-climax – but it has raised big questions about my sense of obligation.
Should a good daughter not see her parents on at least one of these days?
Should a good auntie miss Christmas with the fast growing children?
Should a good daughter-in-law whisk her partner away from his family at this time of year?
Should I be allowed to do what I want rather than what others expect of me?
The cunning among you may have spotted that all these questions are united by that most dreaded of compulsions, ‘should’.
As any pop-psychology book will tell you, use of the word should (and its close cousin, ought) is a sure sign that you don’t actually want to do something but feel somehow compelled to by pressure, be it societal, familial or even internal.
Christmas is a classic time when should based decisions come to the fore.
You may want to stop at home with your young children but feel obliged to drag them round all the grandparents instead.
You may want to cut down on your spending but feel it would cause uproar if you stopped buying gifts for all the extended family.
You may want to opt out of Secret Santa at work but fear you’ll look like killjoy if you do.
I could list fifty more examples off the top of my head.
Alas the Christmas shoulds are compounded by the New Year ones.
It is a rare person who hasn’t at some point in their lives made a resolution at the end of December based on something they feel they should do.
The perennial favourite is weight; many of us know that feeling that we should lose a stone – or three.
My personal bete noir has been growing my nails. I’ve felt obliged to quit picking my nails since at least age six. Every year I’d vow that was it with my disgusting habit. For the start of 1999, I even vowed that I would ‘Grow my nails like Jenni’s’, Jenni being a friend at college whose hands I greatly admired.
It took me sixteen years, yes sixteen years, to fully acknowledge how ridiculous that particular variant of the resolution was. My own sheer willpower is not enough to overcome genetics.
My own vision of ‘how things should be’ will not override the reality of how my nails look.
I finally realised this and accepted the truth of my hands when using the bathroom on a research trip to UC Davis in July 2015.
It was a very precise moment, like a thunderbolt. This is how my hands are, I thought, and how much more mental energy do I want to expend fighting that? Not a lot, it turns out, and I’ve had a more harmonious relationship with the bits on the ends of my arms since.
If only it were so easy with every other ‘should’ that crosses my mind!
That said, there is one useful lesson I have learnt from overcoming my belief that I should grow my nails like Jenni’s:
Naming the sense of obligation can help to dispel it.
Externalising it, rather than keeping it in our heads and our hearts like a dirty secret that we are betraying, can seriously undermine its power.
I don’t just believe that this applies to me; I feel that anyone could benefit from talking about their most controlling sense of should with another person or even journalling about it.
Therefore ahead of this New Year’s Eve, I encourage you to make a list of the 12 Great Shoulds in your life – one for each month of the year.
What dozen shoulds or oughts make you feel obliged and trapped?
As my example of ‘growing my nails like Jenni’s’ suggests, the more ludicrous the better!
Here are the 12 Great Shoulds that continue to taunt me:
I should be 7.5 stone because that’s the weight I was at some point in 1997 (aged 15)
I should always have a tidy basket of spare towels, perfectly folded and stacked
My car footwells should always look like they’ve just been vacuumed
I should never ever miss the birthday of a friend or family member because this makes me an evil and uncaring person (this has been an especially tough one in 2016 as my mental health struggles have made remembering birthdays and getting to send cards difficult)
I should maintain every aspect of my house to an exacting standard of cleanliness and taste. Every. Single. Thing.
I should be better at yoga than I am. In fact, I should be considering yogi training.
I should always have a completely full tank of petrol. Even when I’ve just returned from a long journey, I ought to have filled to the very top again en route.
I should never ever need to use an ATM but ought to have a reasonable quantity of cash upon my at all times.
I should always have six months of savings put to one side
I should not display any pictures of myself or of me and my partner together anywhere in our home
I should pack away all the garden furniture and plant tubs at the onset of autumn and not leave them out over winter (can you tell that’s a current nagging guilt?)
I should not experience or display any sign of human nature but rather maintain an aura of complete perfection at all times and on every occasion. To reveal even the slightest weakness or flaw amounts to total failure.
For Heather, a friend who always speaks straight to my soul.
A reprise of one of my favourite blog post from last December. It seems as timely as ever.
On Friday I showed up at a friend’s house for lunch.
I knew I was seeing her between meetings she had and was told we’d be eating soup. I expected to rock up to a tin of Heinz and a few slice of brown bread, but on arrival I was greeted by a table fully decked out for a Christmas celebration, even though there were only two place settings.
We had a festive themed table cloth and party crackers as well as a table laden with homemade soup, crusty bread, croutons, a cheese board, salad and three different desserts.
Reader, I felt thoroughly spoiled.
Topped with paper hats, we had a merry time together, sharing a meal and heartfelt thoughts.
As I left, further blessed with a glass tree decoration that she had forged herself, I knew we had taken communion together.
You don’t need bread and wine to share communion with someone.
I don’t think you need to view the act of communion necessarily in a religious way, although obviously it comes heavily laden with Christian associations. At its heart, the act centred on Jesus and his closest mates sharing a meal between them.
Isn’t that something we all know can be a special occasion, one that seems to take on emotional significance beyond the actual act of eating and drinking?
Surely that is that purpose of communion, a transformative experience that changes us?
Friendships are important because they help to remind you of who you are, whether at your best, your worst or simply your core.
Unlike familial or romantic relationships, there aren’t rites of passage or dedicated days where we can honour and celebrate our platonic ties. This seems a shame, an oversight somehow, as if they are not as important in our lives as relatives by blood or marriage.
Yet we are able to mark the significance of friendships over and over again if only we are mindful of what’s happening around us.
We can share communion, a treasured bond, a life-affirming moment with them whenever we sit down and talk, preferably with food and drink on the table between us too.
We can experience the most spectacular thread of connection even if we were only expecting to have half a tin of reheated soup.
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Most Wednesday mornings, I listen to the Happier podcast with Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft as I get ready. Today I almost choked on my toothpaste as I heard them talk about their eighteen for 2018 idea, inspired by a listener’s thirty-five for their thirty-fifth.
Thirty-five for their thirty-fifth! That’s what I’m doing too!
As I explained in my original post, when my friend Catherine at Midlands Minimalist told me about her husband’s fiftieth birthday resolution to do fifty things, I set myself a quest to complete thirty-five activities between my thirty-fifth and thirty-sixth birthdays (19th July 2017 to 2018).
Unlike the other Happier listener who created a thirty-five at thirty-five list, who cleverly planned a great mix of activities and new habits that would enhance her happiness, mine are a random and idiosyncratic selection. I’ll bear her thinking in mind for when it comes to #36at36quest!
Here’s an update on how my #35at35quest is going
As my thirty-fifth birthday approached, I felt haunted by the many things I thought I’d have done by now. I’m not talking about major life events but smaller activities that just seem to have slipped by, like finally getting round to finishing Middlemarch (I’ve read the first hundred pages two or three times). This feels particularly pressing as George Eliot and I are from the same home town and I’ve always felt some strange connection to her for that reason (and being born in hospital named after her).
I bought a copy with the book token that I received for my birthday. Good quick progress! Alas it’s been sitting next to my bed gathering dust since then.
2. Try colonic irrigation.
Because why not?
Maybe this is a good treatment to try post-Christmas indulgence. Add to January to do list.
3. Try craniosacral therapy.
Another ‘because why not?’. Another with no progress.
4. Visit Paris alone.
My partner gifted me the Eurostar for my birthday but I’ve yet to get round to booking it. There’s a theme developing…
5. Visit a Greek island
Spent a heavenly week in Santorini at the end of September.
6. Hear Elizabeth Gilbert speak
Ticket booked, going in May.
7. Watch The First Monday In May.
Hardly a film classic but hey, this is my list! And this one is now completed. When I was ill and bored last week, I snuggled up on the sofa and popped this on. A great insight into the powerful world of high end fashion, culture and publishing, but mildly disheartening watching all the beautiful people while feeling snotty, sweaty and generally gross.
8. Go to St. Ives in Cornwall.
People have recommended the Minack Theatre and St Michael’s Mount while I’m down there. A springtime trip, I think.
9. Travel to Stockholm.
A family friend has conveniently moved there! I’ve asked for Swedish krona for Christmas and will be heading over early in the new year.
10. Try African food.
Another with no progress. I’m going to take up the tip from the Happier podcast and print the list out and pop it somewhere I’ll see it so that I won’t forget what I want to do!
11. Revisit Warwick Castle for the first time since 1990.
It’s a major historic site just twenty miles from where I grew up and now live again but I haven’t been since a school trip when I was seven. I’m going to look out for special offers for entry in the new year.
12. Swing across monkey bars.
From the start, I predicted that this is the most likely not to be achieved. Still looking that way.
13. Drive a sports car.
Thanks to the FCA Group, I spent a happy week in the summer cruising round in a beautiful Fiat 124 Spider. Huge fun! I loved it and felt like Elizabeth Taylor the entire time. Little Niece and Nephew loved it too!
14. Get a Margaret Dabbs pedicure.
The *ultimate* treat for feet – and one to schedule for when the weather begins to warm up and sandals come out again.
15. Get a photo at Land’s End.
See number eight. Will tick the two boxes off together.
16. Visit Bristol.
This British city seems to have everything going for it, including a vibrant arts and culture scene. I’m embarassed that I’ve never been , not least because I’ve good friends who live there.
17. Make a Christmas cake using my grandad’s recipe.
My grandad was a baker and the last proper cake he made was for my christening in 1983. I have a handwritten copy of his recipe for making a Christmas cake but it’s now 13th December. Is it too late to make a Christmas cake?!
18. Learn some German.
Haven’t done this but am learning Swedish thanks to the Memrise app! Useful for #9.
19. Go up the Shard.
20. Visit the British Museum for the first time since 1997. Shocking, I know.
I walk past both of these on at least a monthly basis yet have still failed to go in either building. However my partner and I are planning a day trip to London between Christmas and New Year so hoping to get two big ticks then!
21. See Stonehenge.
To do on the way to or from #16.
22. Learn to make Florentines.
A friend who is a great baker has offered to show me how. I wonder if she has time in the next week or so…
23. Read a book on Korean history.
I wrote this before the current nuclear crisis kicked off. It feels a bit too terrifying now.
24. Master a song on the guitar.
I was thinking possibly Take Me Home Country Roads as this was the first song I learnt on it when I was a teenager. I just need to pick up a guitar. The one in our living room would suffice.
25. Rebuild my emergency savings pot.
Hmm, no progress again. The perils of trying to build up a career as a freelancer!
26. Try a pickled egg.
This item provoked more reaction than any other on the list. Pickled eggs divide opinion! A friend kindly supplied the goods, a fancy Chinese spiced version. It was tasty.
I’m building up to try one of the eyeball looking ones from a chip shop as I don’t imagine that they’d be as refined.
27. Learn the proper names for clouds.
Another reason to print the list off and leave it somewhere prominent. I’d totally forgotten about this.
28. Come off all my mental health medication.
A big tick for this one. I am now off all my medication having gone cold turkey about a month ago. I definitely DO NOT recommend this course of action. Not a good idea.
29. Visit a Japanese garden in autumn.
My family friend who has moved to Sweden bought me a voucher for this. We had a lovely afternoon out in October visiting this oriental corner of Lincolnshire.
30. Go to a fun fair.
Why is it so difficult to do things that we want to do?!
31. Learn to use a sewing machine.
Despite two generous offers of help with this, I haven’t done anything about it. Retrieving the machine from under the bed might help.
32. Visit the Lake District for the first time in twenty years.
Another one to be scheduled. Looks like the next seven months are going to be busy with weekends away!
33. Have a day out in Leicester.
I live about fifteen miles from this city and haven’t been there for several years, and even then only to a work event at the university. Maybe another day out for between Christmas and New Year.
34. Clear out Google Photos.
2014, 2015 and 2016 are sorted. A strangely satisfying task!
I was commissioned to write a piece for it but unfortunately was unable to due to struggling with my own mental health issues throughout last week.
I’m not sure if this is actually ironic or Alanis Morisette kind of ironic.
Despite being thwarted in producing a new contribution to this important awareness day, I wanted to proffer something. As all writers know, a round up is always a useful fallback when there’s no time or inspiration for anything else. That is what I’ve turned to: my previous work about mental health collected together with helpful clickable links.
A year ago, maybe even six months, I’d have felt like a failure for doing this so my willingness to accept that this is where I am perhaps to speak to some kind of improvement. I hope so.
Life’s pretty tough going at the minute, isn’t it?
The only way I can describe Sunday is as emotionally intense, topped and tailed by news from London Bridge and the One Love Manchester concert. This was at the end of an already tough week. Trump, well, being Trump. If I gave an example it would probably be surpassed by another one between drafting and publishing. The awful bombing in Kabul; you know things must be really bad when the Afghans say it’s the worst attack they’ve seen. Plus in the UK we’re enduring the scaremongering, lies and bad mouthing that come with a parliamentary election campaign. I’d say roll on polling day but that will just mark the beginning of the next phase of anxiety-inducing awfulness.
Most of us find it tough to not let macro events influence the micro ones of our lives. Mental health issues aside, world news is definitely making me more edgy and irritable. I only have a certain amount of resilience and right now it’s stretched pretty thinly.
Scheduling a smear test for this afternoon was probably not the greatest idea I’ve ever had given these circumstances.
Yet there is relief to be found. As I write I’m burning a gorgeous Pink Grapefruit scented candle from Join and staring at the newly blossomed roses outside the window between sentences. I’ve also just eaten a lovely mini bar of Green & Black’s Sea Salt milk chocolate (#sorrynotsorry, Mark, for eating your birthday goodies while you’re at work).
Small actions though these may be, they help to encourage positive emotions. Anecdotally we may feel that tiny gestures can give us a boost but psychological research proves this too. This week in my Dialetical Behavioural Therapy group, we explored reducing vulnerability to overwhelming emotions by building a life worth living. A crucial step in this process is to ‘accumulate positive emotions’.* In the short term, this involves doing pleasant things right now.
I have a handout telling me to ‘BUILD POSITIVE EXPERIENCES NOW. INCREASE PLEASANT EVENTS that lead to positive emotions.’
In practice, this means keeping a Pleasant Events Diary ahead of next Monday’s session. I even have a Pleasant Events List with 225 suggestions to try should I struggle to come up with ideas.
Some of the suggestions are pretty funny. I’m not sure I’ll get chance during the next seven days to attend a school reunion (#60), go hunting (#71), go sledding in a snowfall (#186) or ride a dune buggy (#217). However I can eat (#29), go to a party (#43), go to the beauty parlour (#91), think about sex (#100 – just think. Sexual activity itself doesn’t make the list) and get a haircut (#187).
How about you?
Would you like to join me in keeping a pleasant event diary this week? Science says it’ll help you manage difficult emotions.
Simply pick a pleasant activity to do each day, however small, and observe how it makes you feel. I’ll be recording mine on social media.
I’d love to know how you get on with this. Does it support you in managing the crazy world we’re living in? You can comment below or on social media, tag me or respond to my posts. Plus if you enjoyed reading this, please do tell others about it – it really helps! Sharing buttons are also below.
Thank you for reading, and have a pleasant week in spite of it all.
* All quotations and images taken from handouts from DBT Skills Training and Worksheets, Second Edition, by Marsha M. Linehan (2015).
Hello all! An especially warm welcome to the new readers who’ve come over from Midlands Minimalist. Good to have you here!
How’s your long weekend going? Been up to much? It seems that pretty much everyone I know is having a quiet one; aside from a few friends who’ve gone on holiday, there’s lots of talk of gardens and family meals and switching off alarm clocks.
This has certainly been the rhythm of my weekend so far. It’s now 4pm on Sunday afternoon and I’ve been mainly occupied with eating and sleeping. In that order.
I’ve also been doing some gentle reading. While flicking through the pages of a couple of magazines, I’ve been thrilled to spot some good recommendations for the conscious consumer. There’s definitely a movement towards greater mindfulness around what we buy – something that we’ve seen for a few years in food but is spreading into other areas too.
If the recent good weather has got you searching for some new outdoor furniture, I spied some FSC certified eucalyptus deckchair frames in the John Lewis Edition summer issue. They are £34 each and you can select a fabric sling for an additional £9.
Initially I was drawn to the gorgeous old school style: ethics don’t have to mean compromising aesthetics.
Also beautifully designed is the bamboo lunch pot (£16) that appears a few pages later. Made by food brand Leon, the bamboo is biodegradable, sustainable and naturally anti-microbial.
The red box would look fab at any picnic or, more likely, perk up lunch at your desk when it starts raining again!
There are many other amazing ethical, eco and sustainable brands that you can buy from listed in my blog post last week, where I offer a round up of the companies that I met at a recent trade exhibition.