9 Ways to Make Your Home More Zen

I have a contributed post today talking about making your home more “zen”. I’m all about de-stressing your life and making your house a happy, comfortable environment so I found this really interesting.

Whether we’re out running or just trying to navigate the many responsibilities that life throws our way, from time to time it can seem like existence is a little frantic. If we don’t take steps to protect ourselves, then there’s a chance that we get caught up in the rush. Sometimes this happens without us even quite realising it — only after some time has passed do we notice that we’ve lost touch with ourselves a little. As such, it’s important that we’re taking the time to slow down a little. One of the best ways to do is to create a zen, relaxed environment in our homes. When life seems to get a little too much, we’ll have the perfect little hideaway in which to retreat.

But how do you do this? We take a look at some tried and tested methods below.

Source: Pexels.com

Light and Airy

It’s difficult to get into that calm and serene state of mind when you’re sitting in a dark and dingy home. If that describes your current space, then take a look at opening up your property a little bit. If you have sunlight pouring into your home, and there’s plenty of space, then you’ll find it much easier to enter that elevated state. Don’t worry if you think your home is dark and always will be — there are plenty of ways to let more natural light flow in. To get more space, take a look at low-lying furniture. It’ll make the ceilings feel higher than they are. Pulling the couch and other furniture away from the wall slightly can also create the illusion of added space.

Feelings of Joy

Zen life isn’t just about simplicity, it’s about joy. Whatever makes you happy is specific to you, and it’s your place, so why not fill your home with things that’ll make you smile? On the other end of the spectrum, you should also avoid having too many items that will, for whatever reason, bring you down. If your cables or that ugly piece of furniture creates a small feeling of anger/sadness/misery every time you take a glance, then conceal them or get rid altogether.

Feeding the Senses

We spend so much of our time thinking about what we can see, but we should also focus on what we can feel. There are plenty of things that can influence us “under the surface,” and put us into a relaxing and chilled state of mind. The two obvious sources are incense and scent diffusers. Adding those natural fragrances will massively boost the ambience of your place, and simply make it a more enjoyable place to be. It’s always worth keeping in mind that we perceive much more than we think — it’s about more than your eyes.

The Purge

Even if you took all the other advice in this blog, you would still struggle to create a relaxing, zen home if you hadn’t taken the most crucial piece of advice: getting rid of the junk that you don’t need. Having too much clutter around us is a drain on our mind and spirit; our items begin to feel like a burden. As such, it’s recommended that you follow the top tips to declutter your house. If you’ve lived in your home for a few years, then it’s likely that you have plenty of items that you don’t want, need, or even realise that you still have. By taking the time to get rid of them, you’ll be reclaiming your home, and in the process making it much more relaxing.

Use Earthy Colours and Materials

When we think about the zen way of life, we tend to think about nature, purity, simplicity, and harmony. In your home, you can bring these characteristics to the fore by using earthy colours and materials. You’ll feel much more in tune with the outside world if you’ve incorporated wooden and stone touches throughout your home, for instance. You’ll also want to look at other ways to bring the outdoors in, too. For example, you can add plants — it’s hard not to feel happy when you’re surrounded by plants (they actually released mood-boosting chemicals into our mind) — or souvenirs from your travels, such as jars of sand, pinecones, and other beautiful outdoor, all natural decorations.

Source: Pexels.com

Deep Comfort

People often spend too much time on making sure that their home looks the part, and not enough on making sure that it’s comfortable. It’s hard to feel deeply at ease if you’re not physically comfortable. So moving forward, take a look at upping your home’s comfort levels. You can begin in the most obvious rooms, your living room and bedroom; your couch and bed should invite you to sink in deeply — you can add throws and other comforters to make them even more relaxing, too. You can take your home’s comfort levels to new heights by adding things like a cosy reading corner or — the best option out there — an outdoor hammock. There are few things in life more enjoyable than swinging in a hammock on a cool summer’s day.

Remove the Disturbances

While there are plenty of things that’ll nudge your home’s zen factor in the right direction, it’s likely that you have a few things that are also bringing it down. As such, you’ll want to take time some to remove the disturbances that are removing the flow of your home. Just as you added joy, you’ll need to remove the less than positive aspects, or, rather, hide them away. For example, you could put your television — which is great when it’s in use, ugly when it’s not — inside a cabinet, or hide your laundry basket so it’s not on display.

Minimalist Style

Now that you have a zen home, take a look at maintaining a minimalist approach. The temptation to add more items or to let things in your home get out of hand sometimes feels unavoidable, but this isn’t the case! You just need to stay on top of things.

Anna here again… personally I LOVE a good de-clutter and sort out. Weirdly something I really enjoy. But don’t just chuck stuff, give it to charity or re-gift/re-home elsewhere 🙂

How do you make your home comfortable?

What’s your favourite room in the house?

Do you often do a good sort out?

Keto 101: Everything You Need to Know

I have a contributed post today talking about the keto diet. I rarely change the way I eat (says the girl who’s currently on a two week vegan challenge…) but I love reading about different diets. I find it fascinating when people take such drastic approaches, such as cutting out groups of food or having a different perspective on the way they eat. And what works for one might not work for another. But it’s interesting anyway! So here we go…

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, chances are you’ll know about keto diets or at least have heard of them. They’ve taken the world by storm with their ability to burn fat without being hungry or feeling deprived like typical low fat diets, eating while losing weight sounds too good to be true but it’s easy to wrap your head around once you know the science. Here’s everything you need to know!

What are keto diets and ketosis?

Keto plans work by reducing your carbohydrate intake. With limited carbohydrates, your body switches to burning its own fat supplies for fuel- meaning your weight loss efforts are increased. This process puts your body in a metabolic state called ‘ketosis’, you can check if you’re in ketosis using simple urine analysis strips available at any chemist.

How does it work?

Imagine your body like a fridge freezer. Your carbohydrates are like the fridge section, easily accessible and when they’re available they will be your body’s first choice for fuel. Your fat supplies are like the freezer- the backup supply. Once the ‘fridge’ is empty, the body will utilise what’s in the ‘freezer’. It breaks down this stored fat and uses it for energy, including energy need at rest such as digestion, brain activity and more. This makes it much easier to lose weight compared to a traditional low fat low calorie diet.

Is it safe?

Ketosis is a perfectly safe and natural process for your body, as humans it’s exactly how we were designed. We store fat to be used as fuel so we have energy even when food supplies are scarce. Ketosis can sometimes be confused with ‘ketoacidosis’ which is a serious complication which people with diabetes can get. But despite sounding similar, they’re completely different things. The process of your body switching from carbohydrates to its own fat supplies for fuel can be a little gruelling, many people feel a little dizzy, tired and headachy for a couple of days. However, once the body is fat adapted and reaches ketosis these side effects disappear and you feel much like your normal self again.

How easy are keto plans to follow?

Keto plans tend to be very easy to follow. While you’re cutting out much of an entire food group (carbs) you have plenty of fat, dairy and protein options which are filling, satisfying and taste great. While it’s not an invitation to eat to excess, you don’t have to count calories and can eat until your satiated meaning there’s less temptation to cheat.

One of the symptoms of ketosis is reduced hunger, this is because without carbohydrates there are no spikes in your blood sugar. It’s these spikes that cause cravings and hunger pangs, so without them you’ll notice a definite improvement in your appetite if you’re prone to overeating. Because there are so many available things you can eat and so many great recipe ideas online, you shouldn’t get bored.

On top of this, it’s the kind of diet where you can still go out and eat and enjoy food with friends. Invited to a barbecue? Tuck into the meat and enjoy with some salad and just avoid the bread (be sure to avoid sugary marinades). If you go to a restaurant, ask for your side of potatoes to be replaced with some low carb veggies like broccoli- just be wary of added sugars or carbs in gravy or sauces. Restaurants are very accommodating and can remove these, or at least let you know what’s in them if you ask.

Can vegans follow a keto plan?

Following a keto plan as a vegan is certainly possible. There are more challenges here, since many keto followers do tend to use meat, fish eggs and dairy as their primary food sources. However you do still have options- coconut products, oils, nuts and seeds, non starchy vegetables, vegan protein sources like tofu and tempeh and vegan ‘full fat dairy’ such as cashew butter and vegan cream cheese are all on the menu. The best thing you can do is log your macros on a site like MyFitnessPal, make sure you’re keeping your carbs low enough while hitting all of your nutritional needs.

Are there any side effects

There are a few side effects of ketosis. One thing that just about everyone will experience is changed in their breath, that’s because when the body burns fat it created ketones and some of the byproducts aren’t used by the body. They’re excreted through urine and the breath, a lot of people report a ‘fruity’ smell or an acetone like smell like nail polish remover. You can relieve this symptom by chewing parsley or chewing sugar free gum. Feeling cold is another common side effect. For the most part, you won’t feel all that different when you’re in ketosis and for the majority of people, the minor side effects are worth it for the ability to lose weight more effectively.

Can I still exercise?

Yes, you can still exercise when you’re in ketosis and you should- exercise is useful for everyone. However there’s one main thing to bear in mind, and that’s the body can take a little longer to fuel your body with energy from fat. There’s a reason why athletes ‘carb load’ before a workout, it provides instant and accessible fuel for energy. When you’re in ketosis, you don’t have that instantly accessible fuel. For this reason, you might feel a little light headed if you suddenly start exercising intensely. Warm up first, and stick with moderate paced activities rather than intense exercise. Swimming, cycling, even jogging is still fine, but sprinting, hiit workouts and other very intense exercise might not be the best choice in keto.

Resistance training is a great choice when you’re following a keto plan, try out the weights machines in the gym or use Resistance bands by OriGym at home to tone up your muscles. With so much protein in your diet you’ll recover quickly, and added muscle will boost your metabolism and burn even more fat.

Have you ever followed a keto plan?

The trials and tribulations of a special bunch of people

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while (or know me even just a tiny bit) you’ll know I’m a bit of a mess at times when it comes to organising myself and being an adult.

There have been many times when I’ve done something stupid and, most likely, had to ring my dad for help, or find myself in an embarrassing predicament. Purely because I throw myself into things with both feet without looking – optimistic I like to say. Stupid is probably more accurate.

Recently it was forgetting to do my car tax… I only found this out after parking my car in Brighton (with the right parking permit and everything) and then enjoying a lovely weekend there, only to return to my car to find it clamped. Had I gotten there maybe an hour earlier I could have called the de-clampers but as it was a Saturday, when they close early, I was too late. By the way, this was two days before Christmas. Obviously.

It cost me £100 (and my car tax…). Kyle and I then had to walk to the train station (carrying EVERYTHING that I needed to take with me from my car), to then get a coach (a replacement service of course) where we didn’t have a seat and had to sit in the footwell, to then get a train, to then get picked up. As I was working Christmas Eve, my very patient father and granddad drove to Brighton to retrieve the car (after it had been unclamped). *Sighs*

But I have to say, I’m not the oddity in the family. I’m not this clueless black sheep. Ohhh no. I come from a very special pure breed of idiots it must be said. We’re nice idiots, but we are idiots nonetheless.

From the time my dad made mushroom soup… He cooked the mushrooms in hot stock, put the mixture in the blender, found the lid to not fit completely but nahhh let’s just hold it on with a teatowel, it’ll be fiiiine. Only to then have BOILING mushroom soup spray all over his arm. I mean, it was kind of funny for my mum and I watching my dad leap around the kitchen – doing the mushroom dance, if you will.

I’d like to say these things are out of the ordinary. But they’re not. My dad and me often laugh at how we haven’t been wiped out yet in some Darwin-esque manner. Driving to the O2 to see Stereophonics, only half-way there realising I didn’t have the tickets. They were at my uni in Cardiff. Or in fact, my parents driving me to Cardiff Uni only for us to have to turn around to retrieve my forgotten laptop. Oh it’s all very joyous being a member of our family. Me frequently getting onto wrong trains…

Most recently, yesterday in fact, while I was at work I got a phone call from dad to say he was heading to A&E with my mum. It turns out my mum had thrown my dad’s phone (over a £1,000 worth of iPhone by the way) up the stairs at my dad, only for her to catch her arm on a picture frame hanging on the wall and for it to break and impale her wrist with a shard of glass that not only cut her skin but also her TENDON.

Jesus. She’s OK now, but it was quite painful, as you can imagine. She needs plastic surgery on her arm now to sort it out. The jury is out, apparently, as to who’s fault this was… I shan’t get involved.

But basically, I am like I am because of the way I was grown. A little idiot seedling now fully flourishing into a full-grown, though not quite adult, idiot. But we’re happy idiots. We live optimistically, usually without contingencies. We fall often but we always get back up, ready to do it all again. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Are you like your parents?

When was your last accident?

Oh how I’ve changed

Running and I have come a long way. Not just in terms of PB’s or times or parkrun tourism…but in terms of how it affects my life and my views on it.

My yearly calf niggle has cropped up again. This always happens from time to time and to be fair I’ve had a good run (ha) of not having any issues so it was really only time before it happened again. I’ve done a lot recently – three marathons very close to each other. I can feel my body saying “can we please have a rest?”. I like to think I’m good at judging this, but clearly I need something to actually stop me. I’m good, but I’m not that good.

Of course I’m a bit bummed out – I love running. I do it frequently through the week and enjoy the freedom, the endorphins and the mental “ahhhh” I get from it. It makes me sad when suddenly I can’t run, or can’t run as much, and when things aren’t feeling as good as they felt before.

But that’s all – I’m bummed. I’m not distraught, or depressed, or feeling angry. I know this is my fault and I know I just need a bit of rest to clear it up. Time and TLC (tender loving cake? No?) and I’ll be back in no time. It’s a nice reset and refresh for my training if anything.

It did make me think though. There was a time when running was everything. Where getting injured literally ruined my week. I would become very down, very sad and everything else became tarred by the same darkness. Looking back I think this is because I was putting a lot of eggs into one basket. My happiness was quite dependent on my running. If I didn’t run, what else did I have?

Not to sound too pathetic, but a big part of my life was to do with running. I hated my job (the job before this one) and felt unfilled, lost and indifferent. I clearly didn’t have a marriage that was working (though at the time I kind of just ignored this, assumed all was well and didn’t question niggling doubts or feelings). I had my family and friends, but I was very focused on my running and became somewhat isolated in the relationship I was in. It wasn’t healthy.

Then when my marriage fell apart all I had to focus on was my running. Running would get me through the hard times. And it did. I love running for that. I was able to put a lot of emotion into it and use it to strengthen me mentally. It hugely helped and I’ll never regret that. The only problem is when you use running to make you strong, to keep you going and to enjoy life… when it’s taken away things become hard very quickly. What do I do with myself? How do I define myself? How can my body be so weak? Why have I failed?

I had no happy job to keep me focused. A lot of my friends are runners. My whole social media was just about running. My spare time was about running.

Today things are a lot different. Of course I still love running. It’s a huge part of my life. It makes me very happy and I love doing it. It’s one of the reasons Kyle and I got together – it brought us a closer than just talking in the office at work. I hope to always have running. But the difference is, I have so much more to me now than just running.

I have a great boyfriend. I have a fantastic job I enjoy. I love the gym and pushing myself there – the strength gains and being one of the best in circuits class some days. I still have running friends but I also spend quality time with non-running friends – and the close running friends I have are always there for me with or without running. I use social media for more than just talking about running (heyyyy Instagram food accounts). I don’t define myself by my running. It doesn’t control my happiness.

So yeah, I have a niggle. But hey, so what?

Is running a big part of your life?

What’s a niggle you always seem to get?

Running Lately

So running lately has been going surprisingly well. I have no niggles or injuries and I’m running consistently around 35-40 miles a week, five times a week.

I’m really proud of how things are going. I seem to be in a very happy place with it and my body doesn’t seem to be breaking. Granted I’m not doing much (if any) speed work and I do wonder how much this helps me avoid injury. I also get a lot more enjoyment out of running by not putting myself through track workouts and intervals each week. However I realise I do probably need to incorporate some of that into my week (or every two weeks) to keep my running from going stale and plateauing on progress.

That said, I’m sure you know my views on these things. I’d rather run consistently slow than super fast with numerous breaks for injury recovery. I’m just a happy plodder. If I never get another marathon PB again I’ll be OK with that. It’s just the experience I enjoy, the thrill of the race (even when not racing), the challenge of all those miles and seeing different places. Boring as that well may be, it’s what I enjoy.

I’ve had a few people say to me I could dip under the 3:15 to get a championship place at London and as amazing as that would be I’m not sure it’s something I want to target. If it happens naturally then of course I’d be up for it, but I very much doubt it would. When I got my 3:16 PB at Brighton I was doing more speed workouts than I am now and was in better shape. The thought of putting more effort in right now for a lofty target isn’t quite where my head’s at.

Maybe next year I’ll have another go, put more effort into structured training… who knows. I do have some good marathons planned where this might be possible. The Barcelona Marathon in March, Manchester Marathon in April and Chicago in October. All are relatively flat and fast courses. So there is that temptation (of course I won’t be targeting all of them… I’m no machine, as we very much know!).

In the near horizon, as in this Sunday, I have the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon. It’s not a PB course despite being quite flat. It’s right next to the coast and if you get bad weather it will really affect the day and the course is semi-off road. But it might be as still and cold as last year and in that case I might go slightly faster than the “plod and be merry” pace I had intended. So I’ll decide the night before or on the day how I feel.

If I did “go for it” I would be super happy with 3:25-3:30, with the course and the fact that it’s not exactly 26.2 miles (last year it was 27 miles) due to the tide causing issues. I do feel like that would be quite a bit of effort though and already I’m mentally backing out. I don’t want to put pressure on myself or be disappointed.

My main focus on the day will be hoping that Kyle does well for his first marathon. After a bit of a bumpy training lead-up due to not being able to start training until a bit later than ideal due to injury and then missing a week due to illness, it’s not been as good as planned.He managed a successful 18 miles which, though he didn’t think it at the time, went pretty well! He struggled through – but then realistically, for your first 18 miler, do you do anything other than struggle through?I just hope he doesn’t have a a bad time of the marathon. He’s a very strong runner though with a solid game plan, so fingers crossed for him. Just really hope the weather is kind to us! We’ll have the full cheer squad out in force as well, so that’ll certainly help.

So hopefully 2018 will finish nice and happy and in a strong place for running. It’s funny to think I started the year with the Dubai Marathon, in the hot sun, and now I’m ending it in, very likely, traditional wet and cold British weather in Portsmouth…

Do you have any big goals for next year?

Do you have any races coming up?