• HOW TO RELAX AND THRIVE AMIDST COVID-19

    As someone who has had Cystic Fibrosis my whole life, and now as a post double lung transplant, immunocompromised person, I've spent years seeing the world as a dangerous place. To me, potentially fatal germs are everywhere and hand sanitiser is an important part of every day life. Watching the world find and learn to deal with this perspective I've grown so used to is an interesting thing. Understandably, a lot of people are anxious and I thought it might be helpful to share some of the ways I've learned to deal with life in health crisis mode. 1. Get to know yourself and what is helpful for you. I'm a data person. Knowledge comforts me. Statistics help me assess a situation and stay calm. I find it actively helpful to read up about what's bothering, make sure I know the facts, and am doing what I can to control the situation. That approach absolutely does not work for everyone. If you find data overwhelming, do your best to stay away. Uninstall certain apps, unfollow certain people, don't visit certain websites. If it's making you anxious, turn it off, put it down, step away. If you're then worried about missing important information, find someone who is a data person and ask them to keep you up to date on the useful, non-panicky bullet points. As a data person, I can tell you that they will be delighted to be able to do that for you. 2. When you are anxious, notice what is happening in your body. Have you ever noticed that your feelings come out in physical ways? When you get angry, maybe you feel something in the pit of your stomach, maybe your hands clench involuntarily. When you get anxious, something physical will happen - it might be butterflies in your stomach, it might be certain muscles tensing up, it might be an overwhelming desire to eat something. For me, when I begin to get anxious, I get tension in my shoulders and neck and my breathing shifts from low lung, relaxed, diaphragm breaths, to high lung, shallow breaths. The thing to do is notice what is going on because, only then, can you take steps to combat it. It's a crazy thing (but it's true!) that we can change our feelings by changing what's happening with our bodies. Amy Cuddy has a fascinating TED talk on power poses and how you can make yourself feel more courageous and powerful by the way you position your body. This is the same thing. When I notice my anxiety signs, it's time to act. For me, that means it's time for relaxation and yoga/stretching. 3. Relaxation/yoga Here's a simple relaxation exercise to help you calm yourself. - Find a quiet space and some comfortable clothes. - Sit in a way that is comfortable to you - a good way is in a chair with your feet on the floor. - Close your eyes or gently focus on one spot in front of you. - Relax and lower your shoulders. - Take a few slow, deep breaths - in through your nose, out through your mouth. Try and notice where you are breathing from: place your hand on your stomach and try to move your hand with your breath. If it helps, think about blowing up a balloon with your breath, deep and long, in through the nose, out through the mouth. - If thoughts come into your mind, notice them, accept them and nudge them back out. Bring the focus back to your breathing. - If you feel something in your body, notice it, accept it, and bring your thoughts back to your breathing. - Sit for a while in quiet, appreciate the time you've had and get up slowly. I love Yoga With Adriene. Her simple, 10 minute neck and shoulder exercise always helps me relax. My other favourite is the 20 minute Yoga Stretch. Why not take half an hour and stretch it out with Adriene? Personally I love my acupressure mat. I find it incredibly relaxing (though it does take a while to get used to it - it hurts quite a bit at first but now it just feels great) and it's now my go to when I'm feeling physically anxious. Disclaimer: This is absolutely not a medical suggestion but sharing something that works for me. If you have a medical condition, please ask your doctor before you use a mat or do physical exercise. 4. Prayer I'm a Christian and, for me, prayer is incredibly important. If you haven't prayed before, why not try it? I believe God loves us and loves to listen to us. 5. Go and talk to someone. You're a human being! You were built for communication. Talking to people helps us process information and gives us space to think and say things which might be difficult for us on our own. I know that most of us are social distancing, if not in actual isolation, but thanks to the Internet and phones, we still have access to the world and most people in it. Give someone a ring, have a coffee over Skype. Don't ever feel silly or embarrassed asking someone if you can talk to them - they might be hoping the very same thing! If you want to talk to a professional, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy has a directory. Go and find someone and, even in this time of self-isolation, there are ways of talking to them. 6. Find things to do. I know that's obvious but it's so helpful to have a plan. Make a list of things you've wanted to try but haven't yet. Make a list of fun things to do with the people you're isolated with. Make a list of projects to do in the house (this is obviously my thing. If this isolation lasts for months, I'm going to have redecorated our house several times!) You know what you love. Take some time to do it. Now's the time to bake that cake, to paint that room, to learn how to embroider, to read that massive book, to organise your finances, whatever makes you happy. 7. Take the focus off yourself. It's easy to become anxious when we focus on ourselves. That's when our world become smaller and small things become bigger and our of proportion. Even though I'm high risk and Coronavirus is unnerving, I've been struck by how much I really do have. I don't have to worry about losing my home or my job or wonder where the next meal is coming from. For lots of people, this virus will have huge implications for their lives. People with zero-hours contracts, children who's only good meal is from a school which is now shut for a month, people who can't make ends meet on statutory sick pay. How about taking some time to think about how you can help others during this crisis? If you can't go out, here's a list of excellent charities who will be working every harder because of Covid-19 and could really use your support: Food Bank Christians Against Poverty The WHO Covid 19 response fund If you're low risk, perhaps ask your elderly or vulnerable neighbour if they need anything from the outside world? Think about buying a gift certificate from a small business - that way they can use your money now, when they most need it. 8. Start a gratitude journal. Nothing combats anxiety like gratitude. We all have things to be grateful for even in the hardest times. Every now and then I jot down a line or two of things I'm grateful for and it's a fantastic resource to look back on. There's so much I forget about that is wonderful and worth being grateful for. 9. Sometimes it's ok not to be ok. There are times when things get too much and that's just a normal part of being human. Don't put pressure on yourself to be fine all the time. Give yourself time to feel what you're feeling and then do the next thing. 10. Remember that it will pass. “It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going, because they were holding on to something. That there is some good in this world, and it's worth fighting for.”

  • BOOK REVIEW: THE LITTLE BOOK OF COLOUR BY KAREN HALLER

    If you know me, you'll know that I love books, I love colour, and I love psychology. So you can imagine how excited I was when I found out about Karen Haller's new book, The Little Book Of Colour: How To Use The Psychology Of Colour To Transform Your Life. And I wasn't disappointed. Firstly, this is a beautiful little book. There has clearly been a lot of time and thought put in to the presentation and it pays off. This book is a pleasure both to look at and to hold in your hand. From the matte cover to the gorgeous, glossy photographs inside, each part of the book is a visual treat. Secondly, I loved the content. The book is divided into five sections - The history of colour Haller takes us through the key points in the history of colour; what colour is, Newton's discovery of the rainbow in light, and a whistle stop tour of the history of psychology and colour including people such as Aristotle and Jung. - Perceiving colour Next up is how we perceive colour. This section talks about how we each see colour differently, how names of colour affect us, and how they vary between languages (In the English language, there are eleven basic terms for colour: red, pink, yellow, orange, brown, blue, green, purple, grey, white and black. Russian and Greek have two basic words for blue, Hungarian has two basic words for red, Hindi has no standard term for grey, and the word for green is used to describe the sky in both Vietnamese and Thai). There is also a chart of world colour symbolism which was incredibly interesting. - The relationship between colour and how we feel This section takes us through the psychology of each colour and the colour seasons. I think this was my favourite section - everything was clearly laid out and is easily accessible. - Colour and your personality This section is itself divided into four sections: How to wear colour; Colour in the home; Colour at work; Colour in relationships. This is really fun section with quizzes and note sections designed to help you work out what colours you like, what colours suit you, how colours make you feel and more. - The colour revolution This is a summing up of the book and a call to use colour and not be afraid of it. This book is about loving colour and using it in different areas of your life to help you understand yourself, make you feel more at home, help you to feel more confident, help you to look better and more. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found it very useful when it comes to using colour in my life. There are affiliate links in this blog post.

  • COLOUR THEORY: NOTES FROM A TALK BY SIMON HUTCHINSON

    This week I had the great pleasure to attend a talk by Simon Hutchinson, Little Greene's Bespoke Colour Consultant, at Relics of Witney. It was so fun to spend time with other people who love interiors and colour as much as I do and there was lots of comparing notes, design ideas, and colour questions. Simon is a delightfully engaging speaker and is obviously both talented and passionate about his subject. He spoke on colour theory and I thought I would blog my notes from the talk in case it's helpful to anyone. (Disclaimer: anything in here that is nonsense will be down to my misunderstanding!) Le Corbusier, the Swiss-French architect and designer, talked about two types of colour: dynamic and constructive. Dynamic colours were rich, synthetic pigments which invoked a more emotional response. Constructive colours were natural pigments and earth tones which worked with and enhanced the architecture. (This pdf is a interesting and helpful overview of Le Corbusier's colour concepts, if you're keen to read more.) When you're choosing colours for your home, you need to decide if you want to focus on enhancing the architecture and alter the feeling of space or if you want it to be a more emotional experience. (This isn't to say that a bright colour can't enhance architecture or that an earth tone can't be emotional but in general.) Another thing to think about is receding and advancing colours. Do you want your space to feel bigger or to create a cosy feel? Generally cool colours, such as blues, greens, cool greys, are receding colours meaning that they will make your space feel larger. Warm colours, such as yellows and reds, tend to be advancing colours which will make your space feel warm and snug. Simon had six main points to think about when it comes to decorating your home. - Look at the house as a whole It's important to create a full house palette if you want your home to feel cohesive. That doesn't mean that everything needs to match but it does mean that you'll need a thread running through the home which connects one room to another. One example of this is to use the colour you have on the walls in one room in some furnishings in another. Simon used the analogy of a good album not just being a collection of songs but songs which make sense in reference to each other. - Colour is relative to what's already there The same colour on different backgrounds looks very different which is important to think about when it comes to paint samples (more later) but also with regards to the colours you have in your furnishings. - Changes in tone Keep a sense of movement in your home using both light and dark colours. If everything is the same tone, the space can feel quite flat. Simon talked about the perfect kitchen having a light tone, a mid tone, and a dark tone. So if you have dark cabinets, maybe pick a mid toned worktop and a light toned wall colour. Or if you have light cabinets, perhaps go for a dark worktop and a mid toned wall. Another example was the feeling you get when you walk from a hallway into another room. If the hallway is light and the other room is dark, the other room will feel so much more cosy and impactful because you've come from a light space. And equally, if you move from dark room to a lighter one, the lighter will feel much larger and more airy because of the contrast. - Work from what you can't change Pretty much what it says on the tin. If you can't change your carpet, make sure your choices work with the colour of the carpet. If you don't, you'll end up with a space that doesn't make much visual sense. - Think about your accent wall If you're going to have an accent wall, make sure you do it correctly and appropriately. Make sure that it has some relevance. Ask yourself, 'Why am I painting this wall in particular?' - Paint proper samples Given that colour is relative, if you paint a tiny splodge of a sample of paint onto an already coloured wall, you have very little chance of seeing the real colour of the sample. Paint as big a sample as you can, preferably floor to ceiling and that way you'll be able to see the real colour much better. Simon has a photo of a colour sample he painted in his own home on Instagram. Finally, Instagram is great for finding interiors that you love but try to adapt what you see and be inspired by it rather creating a carbon copy in your own home. Use inspiration, don't copy. However, the most important thing is that your house is your home. Think about how the colours you choose are going to make you feel. It doesn't matter if the space is technically perfect, will you want to spend your time there and will you feel comfortable in it? Enjoy colour and use it! Follow Simon on Instagram for more colour tips. For those who want to know more about colour, Simon recommended a book - The Anatomy of Colour by Patrick Baty.* Book review coming soon! *Affiliate link

  • AUTUMN DECOR AROUND THE HOUSE

    Decorating for the seasons might sound like an overwhelming task but all it takes is a few well chosen accessories and you can bring seasonal colour and style to your home. 1 - Dark Camel Blanket - H&M 2 - Tasselled Cushion Cover - H&M 3 - Set of Two Abstract Prints - Norfolk Print Co. 4 - Cotton Velvet Cushion Cover - H&M 5 - Cotton Cushion Cover, Natural - H&M The colour palette in our house is cool - grey and blues with a cool undertone. Even the dark green of the spare bedroom as a cool blue green. All that coolness means I'm often looking for ways to inject some warmth. I often go with wood and texture to help with that but autumn brings excellent opportunities for warmth with the seasonal colours. I decided to go with a rusty orange as a base colour and so I bought the items above. Yes, I know they're largely from H&M but, honestly, H&M have some great items at the moment. I've had a lot of fun styling those few items around the house and seeing how they work with the colours and tones I've already got going on. The rusty orange adds warmth to the cool grey living room. The bedroom is more cosy with the cushions and throw and the orange plays beautfully with the pinks. The oatmeal of the sofa is a perfect home for the orange brown cushion. The orange and deep teal green are a prefect combination.

  • DULUX COLOUR OF THE YEAR 2020: TRANQUIL DAWN

    Every year Dulux chooses a colour for the forthcoming year. The colour of the year 2019 was Spiced Honey, a warm golden brown. The idea behind Spiced Honey was that it "reflect[ed] a new mood of positivity and optimism – a desire to ‘let the light in’." This week Dulux have announced that Tranquil Dawn is their chosen colour of the year for 2020. Marianne Shillingford, Creative Director of Dulux said, "A new decade heralds a new dawn and the hazy pale green tones of Tranquil Dawn are calming and comforting just when we need it most in our lives." "When paired with neutral pastels and rich jewels it becomes incredibly powerful at creating spaces that encourage making better human connections." Tranquil Dawn was not a completely surprising choice given the increasing trend for greens in interiors but, instead of the deep hunter greens and crisp mints which have been popping up everywhere, Tranquil Dawn is a quiet, grown up take on a pastel green. It will pair beautifully with beige, black, and dusky purples which are all on trend for next year. I'm looking forward to seeing how people use it in their homes. If you love the idea of a pastel green but Tranquil Dawn isn't quite the right shade for you, I've chosen some of my favourite calm, pale greens to help with your choice.

  • SCANDINAVIAN ACCESSORIES

    Accessorising a room is the important finishing touch. But it can be time consuming to find a cohesive collection of accessories. I've collected some of my favourite Scandinavian inspired accessories and added links below. 1 – Tiger Cream rug – Nordic Knots 2 – Wall Print Abstract – Etsy 3 – Raw Oak Ladder – Cotswold Co. 4 – Klippan Stella Nude Lambswool Blanket - Trouva 5 – Basket - Amazon 6 – Dusty Pink Linen Cushion – Loaf.com 7 – Black And White Cushion Cover With Tassels – Maisons Du Monde 8 – Vase Abstract Nordic - AliExpress 9 – Dunes Melange Rug – Nordic Knots 10 – Wooden Beads – McGee & Co

  • MOOD BOARD MONDAY: PINK AND GREEN

    The combination of pink and green has been popular for some time now and it's not hard to see why. Pink and green are opposite each other on the colour wheel, making them complementary colours. In practice, that means if you put pink and green together, each colour will look more intense as pink brings out the greenness of green and vice versa. If you want to make your green sofa look as vibrant and colourful as possible, place a pink cushion on it. As with most colours, pink and green will look their best together when they both colours are the same tone. Tone simply refers to how much grey is in a colour. On the colour wheel opposite, each ring is the same tone, gradually becoming more grey as the colours move towards the centre of the wheel. The best example of this in the mood board is the top left picture of the kitchen where the grey green of the cabinets ties in beautifully with the grey blush of the cushions. If you haven't yet tried pink and green in your home, why not? It's a fun, timeless combination and the colour wheel will always agree with you.

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© 2019 by Ruth van den Broek

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