My Life of Learning

Navigating life and sharing the valuable bits along the way

Author: Sian

30 Kind Things

I wanted to do a post on something that I am a big champion of. It’s probably more accurate to say that I’m a gargantuan, elephantine, war painted cheerleader of it, really.

Kindness

Below are 30 ideas of ways that you might throw a bit of kindness out into the world, they are from my own experience and are things I have either personally done, or been on the fortunate receiving end of.  My hope is for this to inspire more acts of kindness to help nourish this crazy world we all live in. It can be a lot of fun, plus you can create some beautiful memories along the way.

1. Receiving and giving handmade gifts – the time, energy and thought invested is really special

2. Stopping to talk to people who are homeless and living as best they can

3. Paying for a parking ticket and left it in the machine for the next person

4. Paying for a car wash at Sainsbury’s (other supermarkets are available) and leaving it behind the counter for the cashier to hand out

5. Paying for someone’s coffee

6. Baking for the neighbours/a local care home/my piano teacher/friend

7. Buying a few bunches of flowers from Aldi (see, I said others are available) and leaving them in a bucket outside a charity shop with a note for anyone who could do with a smile to take one.

8. Giving £10 to a cashier in Iceland to put towards a customers shopping
(I didn’t realise how many different supermarkets I go to until writing this post….)

9. Buying some scratch cards and handed them out and left them on windscreens in envelopes

10. Offering to drive in place of the person who’d rather not (for whatever reason)

11. Picking people up in the early hours of the morning to make sure they get home safely

12. Sending complimentary email/messages and/or writing reviews for a great service or experience

13. Giving blood

14. Picking up bits of litter

15. Being sent my *favourite* false eyelashes as a random gift by the beautiful Sophie of PrettyandPolished.co.uk

16. Making parcels of Mum’s favourite sweet things with a thank you note and leaving them with the Police and Ambulance service

17. Posting a lottery ticket through Mum’s old house

18. Giving £5 to the hot dog van that Mum loved in the town centre to pay for someones food

19. Leving sweets randomly in work colleagues lockers

20. Telling people the positive observations/thoughts I’d had about them
(employing weirdness temperature check beforehand)

21. Doing a charity event
(this was mine and explains the ‘why’ – best run I have ever, ever done https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/siano-brien)

22. Buying a gift card through PayPal and emailing it to someone who gave me loads of great advice, support and help

23. Sending a funny/silly/positive picture through email to a colleague the day before they return from annual leave so the first thing they come back to is nice

24. Surprise gifts from Esty both from and to my incredible friends (YES small businesses!)

25. Donating nice stuff to charity shops instead of eBaying, or donating part of an eBay sale to charity

26. Notes written to me mentioning things people value, or think about me

27. Flowers I was unexpectedly given on the anniversary that Mum died, and they were her favourite, too

28. Leaving sweets randomly in work colleagues lockers

29. My sister arranging for Mum’s clothes to be made into a cuddly toy of her favourite animal, beautifully done by a small local business

30. Taking care of yourself
(see www.mylifeoflearning.co.uk/my-toolbox-for-the-stormy-times)

Key principle about what/how/when?

Authenticity

Do the things that resonate with, or work for YOU. It’ll feel more comfortable, be more likely to stick and, really, there is no ‘right’ way to ‘do’ kindness. You’re fucking awesome just for having the desire to try.

If you’re starting up with weaving more kindness in to life, it might be worth giving some things a go around a key date. When any form of behaviour changes are ‘tied’ to something it can be easier if people ask you why you’re doing these lovely things (for the observant, eagle eyed out there).

An example…

I wanted to try to create some positive association with keys dates since Mum died, like her birthday and the anniversary of when I waved her off that last time. This wasn’t about avoiding the harder emotions – you gotta feel that shit – but it’s eased on it’s way a bit quicker if you’re doing nice stuff for others. The very first thing I did was to give blood on the first anniversary, having never done it before. I’m not ashamed to say that I was really, really scared. So I baked brownies, for two reasons;

1) to give to the nurses and staff who work so fucking hard all day there and

2) as a distraction from the fear.

It worked, and I’ve been and donated 3 times since, AND I actually enjoy it – the staff have always been phenomenal. It was definitely worth a (pretty huge) nudge outside of my comfort zone to learn that. A valuable life lesson, right there.

The power of what you do might not be obvious, but don’t let that stop you, you never know how much someone might need the kindness you throw out.

I can’t tell you how much I personally needed this, and the person who sent it wouldn’t have known.

This post was inspired by you, sender 🙂

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Websites – the ‘I Love’ Series

I’d love to learn about your top websites – let me know in a comment below. These are my top ones;

www.hotukdeals.co.uk – fantastic community sharing ANYTHING bargain related (toilet rolls to holidays) aimed at a UK audience.

www.topcashback.co.uk – an extra website to click through before you buy anything (thing car insurance, home insurance, Broadband etc), but worth it for the generation of extra cash. The amounts can sometimes seem small, but it adds up over time and is a lovely little surprise when you remember to check your payout balance.

https://thehappynewspaper.com/ – well, if ever happiness resided anywhere, it’s this site! Check it out, thank me later (or not at all – but please just visit!)

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/ – such a great place for anything recipe related, and all with reviews, hints and tips. Plus there is a huge community of people that post their recipes, too.

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Programs – the ‘I Love’ series

This one’s short and sweet because I’m not really a big TV or film watcher – I blame my love of early mornings and, therefore, a child-like time to bed. 

I’d love to know what you think is a great watch; pop a comment below and share a bit of inspiration.

The Great British Bake off

Doctor in the House

Eat well for less

Inside the Factory

House M.D

The Missing

Unforgotten

The Secrets of your Food

Most things with the Van Tulleken brothers

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My ‘toolbox’ for the stormy times

I mentioned in ‘Who am I, again?’ the notion of getting a ‘toolbox’ together for those times when you need a more personal type of DIY. 

No smut intended, but kudos to you if your mind went off on that tangent.
I salute you.

Creating a toolbox that contains a multitude of nourishing, accessible and kindness laced activities (ones that work for YOU) can be a huge help. Collectively, they’re like a sturdy anchor, ready for deployment during the inevitable stormy seas of life. A well-stocked toolbox can give you the best chance of keeping your feet planted firmly on the deck to ride them out.

We’re ok for a bit of a wobble though, I mean, jelly does it, so it can’t be all bad.

When I began to build my toolbox, I realised I had some work to do to acknowledge that I am worthy of the compassion and self-love that is required to put it together.
Ironic, but a good opportunity to practice what could get me over that hurdle and, therefore, what stuff might then go into my toolbox for other hurdles.

Cue next hurdle.

I really didn’t know what would work for me. I got ‘perfection paralysis’ thinking I needed to find the ‘perfect’ things, when in reality, that is a load of bollocks. I needed nourishment, not punishment, and searching for ‘perfect’ tends to lead me down the latter path.

So I just tried a few things, discarded some, adapted others, and came up with a (constantly evolving) toolbox that you’ll see, in it’s current form, listed out below.
I hope it helps as a foundation to inspire you, or even as a little light entertainment; there’s a couple of laughter-worthy ones in there. 
[laughing on its own often provides a remedy in itself – winning!]

1. Learning to play the piano

2. Learning to knit/crochet

3. My motorbike (reading about riding or actually getting out there)

4. Getting outside for a walk

5. A squeeze with my dogs (no surprises there)

6. Squeezing Play Doh

7. Writing/Drawing/Thought dumping (my house is littered with part completed notepads)

8. Baking (+ eating it at the end…or during…)

9. Reading (nutrition/gym training/most things human psychology)

10. Podcasts

11. This little handy anxiety breathing shape

12. Using Google Keep, Docs and Calendar (taking the to-do’s out of my mind)

13. Thinking and/or writing down nice things I’ve heard/seen/done

14. A pep talk to myself (yes it feels weird, but sometimes it actually bloody works; who’d have thought)

15. Changing my clothes (to something I feel good in. It’s always wise to actually own the item yourself though)

16. A nap

As you can see, I’ve got quite a few, I make no surprise of the fact that I love choice.
(you’ll not be surprised to learn that I *love* a good buffet)

N. B creating nautical analogies doesn’t feature…maybe that’s a new one.

I also turn to these things when the water is beautifully calm, there’s no storm shaped access key to the toolbox, these things are lovely outside of those experiences, too.

Also, sizing up new things for the toolbox may be best when you’re in this calm place, too. For me, trying to do that when I’m dangling by a shoelace from the side of the boat isn’t the time, my focus tends to be on slightly more pressing matters.
Oh, there’s another nautical analogy…

IMPORTANTLY

You don’t need to be of a certain standard of any of these things, no-one is marking you, it doesn’t work that way.
There’s no invitation here to mark yourself, either, thank you.

Likewise, one thing may work on one occasion but not the next, that is totally normal. Be kind to yourself, if not on your own instruction, on mine.

I find that being a novice at something can feel much more freeing, there are no expectations of what I ‘should’ produce, what I ‘should’ do or how anything ‘should’ look.

These are all about turning the pressure off.
The only pressure allowed here sits within the kettle as it boils water for a good cup of tea.

If you want any further information about any of the above, or want me to write a full post on any of the things I’ve mentioned, pop a comment below – this blog is all about being a helpful addition to life and sharing the valuable life lessons, you are best qualified to help me do just that!

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Podcasts – the ‘I Love’ series

What other amazing brain food am I missing from the list?
Always up for a new podcast (plenty of dog walks and commute time to fill) so if you have any ideas, pop a comment below.

Food and Psych’ by Kimberley Wilson

Food for Fitness’ by Scott Baptie

Empowered Body’ by Adam Wilson

Feel Better Live More’ by Dr Rajan Chattergee

‘The Food Medic’ – by Dr Hazel Wallace

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Blogs/vlogs – the ‘I Love’ series

My goodness me there is such an array of talented bloggers, social media masters and content creators; some of my absolute favourites are below.

Who’s on your love it list?

EXPERIENCING LIFE

Rach at Things To Do On Planet Earth has one of the most beautifully engaging, accessible and informative writing styles and covers her real-life travels across the world, sharing her experience and (massively) useful hints, tips and advice. 

MENTAL / PHYSICAL HEALTH 

G Beauty and Pretty and Polished – Gweni and Sophie are two of the most influential (and beautiful) women who have had a positive impact on me managing my trichotillomania (a condition apparently so unusual that my blog editor doesn’t recognise it…hi wiggly red line *eye roll*).

Chessie King – for all things realistic and down to earth when it comes to health, happiness and body image.

Tally Rye – A truly fabulous, down to earth and hugely encouraging PT. Making sure a hefty dose of reality informs the world of wellness to make it a safe and accessible place for everyone.

Gynae Geek – a pioneer for making female reproductive health a socially acceptable topic, with a good dose of humour and masses of intelligence, too.

NUTRITIONAL EDUCATION

Renee McGregor – an incredible, inspiring and powerful dietitian, specialising in sports/athletics and eating disorders.

Priya Tew – another powerhouse of a dietitian who specialises in eating disorders and a phenomenal Pilates teacher.

The Food Medic – a prodigy of new generation Doctors, Hazel is also a PT and scientifically grounded champion of lifestyle medicine with some of the most amazing cookbooks!

Nics Nutrition – a wonderful dietitian who ignited my passion for evidence based, down to earth nutrition and its impact on health. Great YouTube content and fantastic recipes, too.

The Rooted Project –  if you’re tired of nutri-bollocks and want to be reassured that you’re reading research backed information, or want to be sure that you are attending a credible wellness event, this is absolutely for you.

RECIPES

Spice Diaries – For all of your *authentic* recipe needs when it comes to Indian cuisine. Monica is just phenomenal. I discovered her on 2nd Sept 2018 on the back of a gift voucher I’d bought to do a workshop from her ‘Spice Club‘. She has newly started up the workshops in Birmingham (having had amazing success in Manchester…which I can ABSOLUTELY understand why). 

CRAFTS

Bella Coco – Thanks to the wonderful Viv (founder of ‘Happy Hookers’ crochet group at work….I know, what a name) I have been introduced to the fantastic tutorials of Sarah Jayne. I truly thought I was a complete lost cause at crochet, turns out I was wrong (thank goodness!). You just need the right context that will support you to learn in the way that works for you.

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Books – the ‘I Love’ series

I want to read so much more than I do; I’m a big fan of non-fiction
(did I mention that I love learning…)
What would you recommend?

Compassionate Mind’ – Prof. Paul Gilbert

‘Why we sleep’ – Matthew Walker

‘Mindfulness: finding peace in a frantic world’ – Mark Williams & Dr Danny Penman

‘How to eat better’ – James Wong

‘This is going to hurt’ – Adam (Atom) Kay

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Who am I, again?

Since Mum died in June 2016, I found myself propelled into a head on face-off with the warm, familiar comfort blanket of an identity that I’d wrapped around myself for the previous 28 years. I personally found it frightening as hell, this whole identity questioning, it made me face the reality that I didn’t know what I liked, what was genuinely in my ‘love it’ bucket.
If I didn’t know, who on earth could help…

When people would ask what music I liked, what I love doing, what career I want (we like a good neat box to pop life in to) I was stumped. I’d been busy living life to look after, support, celebrate and take care of others in a way that I wanted for myself, too. I just didn’t value myself enough to afford this approach to me, I was never ‘good enough’ for that.

I’m learning that I can have faith, trust and compassion for myself in the way that I have for others, that I can get through tough shit even when my mind tells me that there is no way I could possibly cope. The way I learnt that is by going through the shit (oh joy) but, most importantly, recognising that I have gone through it, am still living, smiling and witnessing that it was me that steered the ship I’d been scared to paralysis of.

I learnt that I need to swallow the ‘be strong’ Brussel sprouts that I’d long pushed around my plate and open up my vulnerability, my flaws and imperfections and make space then to bring on board my beautiful friends and create positive coping mechanisms to help me navigate the sea and manoeuvre the not-so-infrequent tidal waves that sometimes near threw me off the deck.

I might be able to eat them, but I still don’t like Brussel sprouts #JustSaying

The lesson in summary…

Sprouts aside, identities evolve and grow, even when we don’t feel ready for it, or we want to hold so tightly to it. It didn’t need to be held tightly though, it was already mine and wouldn’t ever be discarded. As soon as I could let loose the reins that held on to that fear, I found a windy path extended in front of me, which opened up opportunity to grow and evolve.

‘Good enough’ and ‘perfect’ were long held aspirations – so they won’t go away quickly, but I’m working on it – and, obvious as it may seem, I realised that they are only standards I set myself, if I set them, then I have the power to change them.

You do too, I promise. It’s not easy, so get that coping toolbox full-up with good stuff, stuff that works for you – messages to friends, your favourite smells, things that make you smile.

Aspire for imperfection, it’s hard but, boy, it’s worth it.

See you later, Mum x

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About me

I’ve always loved the opportunity to find out about other people and their life stories, but it seems somehow narcissistic to write about myself.

Thanks inner critic, we’ll talk about this later…

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Let’s start with the basics;

  • I am Sian
    (or Sean…a frequent mistake people make *shrugs shoulders*)
  • I’ve not long ventured into my thirties
  • I work full-time in Organisational Development
    (HR/Training in ordinary language)
  • I live in the Midlands, UK
  • I have two gorgeous little rescue dogs
    (the banner photo and frequency of them in blog posts give that away)

…ahem…

  • I don’t smoke
  • I’m tee-total
  • I swear
  • I fucking love kindness and being kind
  • chocolate is life
  • …and so are bargains.

As you may have guessed by my blog title, I also love learning (remind me of this whilst I complete my Post Grad) and am a big champion of supporting small businesses whenever I possibly can. 

I have a hobby based passion for learning all things (scientifically based) about nutrition, sleep and training in the gym. I’ve been a recreational runner for about 8 years (my feet do not thank me for this) and I love discovering all I can about psychology, particularly human behaviour and (even more specifically) compassion focused therapy.

I’m a work in progress, get things wrong and have plenty of flaws
(I’m certain these will manifest into a blog post at some point)  

We’re all in this life together, my aspiration is to be a helpful part of it.

So, a big, sunshine-laden, kind-hearted welcome to my life of learning, it’s lovely to have you here.

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This blog began to the tune of…

‘this will be rubbish, what a stupid idea’

‘as if you have the time’

‘you’ll not do it well anyway’

‘your writing is rubbish’

Sadly familiar, that little voice. I’m willing to bet I’m not alone, though.
I wonder how many actions and ideas miss their ‘start’ because of it?

I know many of mine have, prior to getting to that JFDI ‘who gives a shit’ age. I’m now in a phase of learning how not to aspire to perfect (what on earth is that anyway) and jump starting the ideas that I’d stalled, of which this blog is one.

My tactic is to remind myself that being critical of who I am, my thoughts, feelings and ideas rarely ends well.
It’s not wholly bad, there is a positive time and place for that critical voice (choosing which flavour cookie to have, or what route to walk the dogs, for example) but I’m practising turning the focus of it away from me.
I’m done with it.
It’s taught me a lot over the years, but I’m happy to have a go at living life without it now, thanks.

When it doesn’t quite work, Hugh Laurie helps me over the hump;

That quote is one of two I had printed by the amazing Book of the Dad, the other is another mantra that I aspire to;

(the necklace was custom made by the wonderful Vicki at VJG Jewellery in memory of Gramps, a man who definitely went after life)

I have creativity, positivity, kindness and life lessons that I’d like to share, rather than keep locked up and only be of value to me.
Does this mean I might get stuff wrong, make numerous cock-ups along the way and not be everyone’s cup of tea…yep…is that frightening…incredibly…but what is worse (for me) is not trying.

I’m here to remind you that;

  • it doesn’t matter if you think your photography is shit,
  • if your cakes don’t turn out to be ‘Instagram worthy’,
  • if your ideas feel messy and imperfect,
  • if you’re not doing doing meditation/yoga/living your best life (WTF) in the ‘right’ way.

Do what works for YOU, please, and do not let those be barriers you put up.

The gorgeous Glastonbury Tor, taken just before I tackled that mountain (truly it felt like that more than a hill)

You have such unique value in being who YOU are, no-one else on this earth has that treasure. It’s by no means an easy choice to work on embracing that, but if you choose to share the the glorious, evolving, lovely you, the world will be all the better for it.

And the others who don’t share the love? They can go do what works for them instead.

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