A Beginners Guide to Meditation

I’ll be honest, before I really understood what meditation was, I thought it was a bit woo woo. I thought that to do it you would have to light incense, sit on a special cushion, and start chanting.

That can be part of it if you want it to, but really isn’t what it’s all about. My first impressions couldn’t have been more wrong.

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What is Meditation?

I think Headspace (more on them later) describe what meditation is perfectly:

Meditation isn’t about becoming a different person, a new person, or even a better person. It’s about training in awareness and getting a healthy sense of perspective. You’re not trying to turn off your thoughts or feelings. You’re learning to observe them without judgement. And eventually, you may start to better understand them as well.

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My Experience

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know that I’m divorced. [read Everything I’ve Learnt From Getting Divorced here] I was first introduced to meditation when the relationship with my ex was falling apart and my mental health was starting to suffer as a result. I definitely needed a healthy sense of perspective.

My friend recommended an app to me (more on those in a sec) at the time, and suggested that I give guided meditations a try.

I knew that I needed to get a handle on my thoughts, so it giving it a try seemed worth a shot. I struggled with the guided meditations initially though – maybe it was the voices on the app that I was using that I just couldn’t get on board with, or that I was finding it hard to let go into it, I don’t know.

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After that first introduction I’ve then dipped in and out of meditation over the years when I’ve felt I’ve needed it. (which I know isn’t how you’re meant to approach these things)

When lock down started, I knew that meditation needed to be a solid part of my daily routine again. In the first few weeks I found just focusing on my breathing really helped.

That was working fine for a while, but at the start of last week, I felt like I needed to get back into meditation ‘properly’. As well as the mental exhaustion that comes from navigating lock down, I now have the possibility of redundancy thrown into the mix.

I’ve just finished a guided meditation series to help with the anxiety I’ve been feeling, and it’s really helping. Some days it’s easier than others to get in to, but the clarity of mind that comes afterwards is like a fog being lifted.

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What Are The Benefits?

Many people, myself included, start meditation for reducing stress and anxiety and cultivating a more peaceful state of mind.

There’s further benefits though that aren’t quite so obvious. Such as growing a greater sense of compassion, awareness, clarity, focus, and increased mental resilience. All, I think are extremely underrated, but deeply needed in our current society.

I’ve certainly been feeling the effects of the less obvious benefits, and once you get over the mental hurdle required to start any new habit, the results are definitely worth it.

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Where To Start

Find a time of day that works for you

There’s no use meditating at night if you’re just going to fall asleep 2 minutes after closing your eyes. Equally, there’s no point doing it in the morning if you’re rushing around trying to get sorted for the day.

It doesn’t matter what time it is, just so long as you will have the mental capacity to focus for 5-10 minutes

Designate a quiet spot

Ear mark a quiet corner in your house or flat that’s comfortable and you know you won’t get disturbed. Hopefully you’ll have already picked a time of day that means you’re less likely to be interrupted any way. (one thing that used to stop me from meditating was paranoia that my flat mate would walk in!)

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Let go

This is often easier said than done, but in my experience, completely letting go into either guided meditation you’re listening to, or focusing on your breathing, is likely to be the only way you’ll feel like meditation is ‘working’.

If you feel yourself getting frustrated, or like you’re fighting the thoughts that you have, rather than just observing them, try to loosen your grip. This takes patience and practice, (trust me!) but it’s worth persevering for the benefits that I mentioned earlier.

Top Apps To Use

The two apps I hear about most in relation to meditation are Headspace and Calm. Both have similar offerings, so it’s really down to personal preference.

Both also include free trial periods. However, I would recommend making the investment in yourself and paying so that you can access the full library of resources that both of them provide. Such as meditation series for relieving stress, anxiety, mindfulness in daily life, improving self esteem, and feeling more peaceful.

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Calm even has a series based on the Winnie-the-Pooh characters. As I discussed in my very first blog post, the characters relate to common mental health issues, and each character has their own dedicated meditation.

I personally use Calm because I prefer the voices they use for the guided meditations, that, and their sleep stories. Narrated by the likes of Stephen Fry, Matthew McConaughey and Leona Lewis, 9 times out of 10 they send me drifting off to sleep quickly and easily – so much so that I have know idea how any of the stories end!

Have you given meditation a try? If not, what’s holding you back?

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My Honest Thoughts About Lock Down

Here we are, and at the time of writing, in Scotland, the lock down restrictions are beginning to be eased, 10 weeks on.

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So much seems to have happened, yet so much hasn’t. Time has flown by, and yet its dragged. Time in our bubbles of staying at home and focusing on just the simple and essential things is beginning to come to an end. We are finally seeing some light at the end of the tunnel.

Here’s what I’ve honestly thought of it all…

The Beginning

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I’ll admit that for me, the first few weeks of lock down were filled with anger and fear.

I was livid with shoppers for clearing our supermarkets of loo roll, pasta and flour – the affects of which we are still feeling. I now appreciate that at that time, as there was so much that was still unknown, all of us were living in fear, and some of us had more extreme reactions than others.

As we all tentatively tried to stick to social distancing, my first few weekly food shops were at best filled with anxiety, and at worst ended in me bursting into tears as soon as I got home.

None of it felt natural or normal, and I was terrified that someone getting too close to me would mean that I would catch the virus.

The Middle

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Furlough pay was introduced for workers in industries where they couldn’t work from home. This offered some relief as I knew that I would still be able to cover my rent and bills, just with a little less than normal left over.

As we all got used to the realities of lock down, we gradually got used to a new routine of face time catch ups, zoom quizzes, virtual parties, trying to support local businesses as much as possible, epic group chats, and daily walks in nature. I’ve personally never done so many quizzes in such a concentrated period of time in my whole life!

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It was also around this time that I celebrated my birthday in lock down. It wasn’t half as bad as I thought it would be. I had a long hot bath, had afternoon tea delivered, zoomed with family and friends, and drank too much gin. Not vastly different from what I would normally do to celebrate, just all virtual.

My close group of friends and I have also agreed that we’ve become even closer during lock down. We’ve always supported one another when we’ve been going through tough spots, but as a collective going through a challenging time we’ve pulled even tighter together, checking in daily, and it’s shown me what true friends they are.

The Beginning of the End

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I’ve purposely titled my thoughts of our situation currently as this because it really is the beginning of the end; our lives won’t ever be quite the same again, the after affects of this pandemic will last for years.

Although time in my at home bubble has been mentally challenging at points, I strangely find myself not wanting it to end. Being a big introvert, I love time in my own company and can happily spend days on end alone, so arguably I’ve adjusted to that side of things quite well.

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My bubble of predictable day to day life staying at home has become my comfort zone. Now there’s more change on the horizon, and with change there are always some mental hurdles to overcome. Steps outside my comfort zone will need to be made.

After such an initial upheaval to life, is it just me, or does having to do the same thing again in reverse just seem exhausting?

I’m also scared. Scared that we’re moving too quickly, and that this is all happening too soon. Reading the news, it’s hard not to ignore that our daily death rate is still in the thousands (which is horrific in itself) but we’re easing restrictions at the same rate of other European countries, who at most, are seeing deaths in the low hundreds. I’m bracing for the second spike.

Final Thoughts

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One positive to come out of this is that I think we are all feeling the benefits of being forced to slow down, get out in nature, and focus on the simple things. These activities all centre around being in the present moment, which is a tonic to an anxious, busy mind.

I know that when I am able to finally return to work, I will be ensuring that I carve out the time each day and week to properly slow down, rest, and recharge. I know that my mental health will be so much better for it.

I definitely wasn’t getting enough rest before the pandemic hit, and it’s funny how it’s taken something as big as this for us all to really realise the detrimental effects our lifestyles had been having on us.

What has your time in lock down been like? Have you been embracing a slower pace? How are you feeling about restrictions being eased? Let me know in the comments.

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Aromatherapy: 3 Smells That Will Bring You a Scent of Calm

With the future still looking so uncertain, I find myself (and I don’t think I’m the only one here) looking for more and more ways to calm the anxiety, which even though it ebbs and flows, I am still very aware of being part of my life.

There are a multitude of ways we all have the power to reach an inner sense of calm – more of which I’m sure I’ll explore with you in future blog posts. After reading a paragraph from Calm by Fearne Cotton, I was inspired by the idea of us tuning into one of our senses to bring about a feeling of calm.

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Are there smells that makes you feel happy? Remind you of a great holiday? Make you feel comforted? Certain scents have a way of making us feel happier and uplifted.

This is because the part of the brain that manages our emotions and memories is stimulated. This then produces the response of ‘feel good’ chemicals being released, which in turn lifts our mood.

It got me thinking exactly what my go-to uplifting scents are….

Body Lotion

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Not just any old body lotion though, it has to be Nivea. This is because when I was a young child I used to watch my Mum get out of the shower and apply body lotion. You guessed it, that body lotion was Nivea. The smell of it instantly takes me back to a time when a big hug from my Mum was all I needed to feel safe in the world.

Sun Cream

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I like the smell of pretty much every sun cream, but the one that sparks the most joy is Nivea. (this post is not an ad for Nivea, but clearly my house as a child was filled with the stuff)

It reminds me of fun family holidays dipping in and out of pools and building sandcastles on beaches. Then, in my teenage years, even more fun filled holidays with my girls. For me, it’s the nostalgic smell of being absolutely care free.

Mediterranean Summer

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To be specific, just one Mediterranean country – Portugal. I was lucky enough to spend the majority of my childhood summers going on holiday to The Algarve.

From the moment I stepped off the plane, I remember a distinct smell hitting me – a combination of native plants and heat that’s almost indescribable. It was the background to so many happy memories I have of those summers. When I smell it I immediately have the feeling that I’m at home.

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I have already started to incorporate some of these smells into my weekly routine so that I can get the uplifting hit and sense of calm that my body craves.

Every time I have a bath, I slather myself in Nivea lotion when I get out. Now that the weather actually feels like summer, I’ve been applying sun cream more regularly (you can guess the brand) before I head out on my walks in the sunshine.

Obviously getting that Mediterranean summer smell will be a little tricker considering travelling abroad is off the cards, but for now I’ll be content with making the most of the sunny days the UK has to offer – at a safe social distance of course.

Aromatherapy

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Another way that we can bring the calming power of smell into our days is through Aromatherapy. I’m not going to lie, I did have to Google exactly what aromatherapy was before I started writing this post, but here goes…

Aromatherapy is a holistic healing treatment that uses natural plant extracts to promote health and well-being. Basically it’s the use of essential oils to improve mental and physical health. Sounds (or should I say smells lol) pretty good to me!

Essential oils apparently work best when you inhale them or they’re absorbed into the skin. So you can add a few drops to your bath, massage into your temples, or use in hot water for a facial steam. There’s lots of aromatherapy products like candles and diffusers infused with essential oils available too.

Here are the top 3 scents for promoting calm:

Lavender

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Lavender is thought to calm anxiety by impacting the limbic system, which is the part of the brain that controls emotions, and is probably the most famous smell for being calming.

There are so many companies that offer lavender essential oil pillow sprays for that reason, [like this one from The Body Shop] and it’s something I’m keen to invest in too, as my sleep has been a little all over the place during lock down – as I’m guessing yours has too.

Citrus

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This smell has been linked to stress relief and a Brazilian study showed that those inhaling a sweet orange essential oil scent found that their anxiety symptoms improved.

I have an aura spray (basically a room spray) that includes a citrus smell, and I spray it just before I get in the bath. It definitely has a soothing affect whilst I soak.

Frankincense

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Probably better known for being one of the gifts from the three wise men, it does actually have therapeutic and healing properties. It’s benefits include relief from stress and anxiety and reduction of inflammation.

This is one that I’ve seen included in candle scents before, so I know it smells gorgeous, and after I’ve sorted out my pillow spray, will be next on my list to invest in.

What are your favourite uplifting smells and why? And do you use essential oils? If so, which ones? I’d love to hear – so share in the comments.

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The Impact of Life’s Big Changes on Our Body Image

**Trigger warning: this post touches on disordered eating**

Having experienced ups and downs with how I view my body over the years, I’ve been curious as to how big changes in our lives can affect the relationship we have with our bodies.

In this post I wanted to explore 3 big changes and how they’ve shaped you, me, and our friends’ perspective on the skin we live in.

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Corona Virus

I have to say that I agree with Megan Jayne Crabbe (aka @bodyposipanda) when she posted on Instagram recently saying that ‘Jokes about leaving lock down 100lbs heavier aren’t funny, they’re fatphobic.’

The pandemic that we’re all going through has been, and continues to be such a weird time for us with our mental health. Sometimes we’ll wake up not knowing how we’re going to feel, and some days just feel like an emotional roller coaster.

I therefore don’t think adding pressure to be exercising all the time, and looking our ‘best’ during lock down is realistic or productive for any of us. (I know I’m not the only one thinking every other grid post is of someone either posing in their underwear or sweating after completing their latest workout)

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Especially when last year a survey by the Mental Health Foundation found that 1 in 5 UK adults said images on social media caused them to to worry about their body image.

Coronavirus is such a big change for all of us, and undoubtedly there’s more of it to come.

I know I’ve worried on weeks when I’ve not worked out, or been out and walked so much, (mainly though exhaustion caused by getting several nights of terrible sleep) that I might end up putting on weight. The dread about not being able to fit back into my jeans has been real.

In the grand scheme of things I know it’s perhaps stupid to think this way when the realities of what’s happening globally with the pandemic are logically much more worrying.

Yet it’s hard to think differently when social media, and our society as a whole, perpetuates the same unhealthy message. I certainly don’t think I’m alone with this. The message I’m getting loud and clear is that we’re fed up of being made to feel this way.

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Divorce

As I’ve already explained in an earlier blog post, [Everything I’ve Learnt From Getting Divorced] one of the biggest life changes that I’ve been through is getting divorced.

It totally changed my perception of myself and my life up until that point, and, perhaps not surprisingly, it affected the relationship I had with my body too.

Part of what unfortunately became the norm for our relationship, especially in the latter years, was my ex gas-lighting me. This included him calling me fat on almost a daily basis.

Even when you know deep down it isn’t the case, the more you hear something about yourself, the more you start to believe that it’s true. Sadly, this was how it was with the ‘fat’ comment.

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In the last few years of our our marriage, it could be argued that my relationship with food became disordered. As everything I had planned for how I saw my life working out was coming crumbling down, I stuck to a very rigid eating plan for myself. In my mind this was because food was one of the only things I could control in my life when everything else was spiraling on its axis.

What I was eating wasn’t bad, in that I was eating a vegetarian, near vegan, diet with no processed sugar. However, I can see now that the way I became so restrictive with not allowing myself ‘treats’ wasn’t healthy – it was like I felt I didn’t deserve it. I was obsessed with meal prep and meal planning, and I became the smallest that I’ve ever been.

Looking back on photos of me at that time, it’s like looking at at a different person. I was deeply unhappy; literally a shell of the person I was.

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Motherhood

I have several friends who are mothers, (and several more who are soon to be mothers) and some have said to me that the process of carrying, birthing and feeding a child has made them appreciate their bodies more.

Having watched so many people in my life go through this big change, I’m actually astounded by what the human body is capable of. The way so many parts bend, shape and take on a new temporary form, to accommodate new life.

I’m not naïve enough to think that this process is easy for all mothers, and I am probably taking a more rose-tinted view because of my desire to have children soon myself.

I’ve read several accounts online about women feeling like their body doesn’t belong to them after having a baby, and adapting to the sometimes permanent changes to their body after pregnancy can definitely be challenging.

However, one of my friends recently affirmed what I was thinking. Her daughter is not so long turned one, and she is loving her curves now more than ever because of what they’ve brought into her life. She’s running around after her little one every day and feeling how strong and capable her body is.

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Final Thoughts…

I think any big change will shape us. Unfortunately, when it comes to us as women, because of how modern Western society has shaped us, this more often than not has a negative impact on how we view our bodies. Arguably, it’s the easiest part of ourselves to place blame.

I’ve also come to realise that with big change always comes a change in our perspective. At the end of the day, our bodies are vessels and do not define who we are as people. Our actions and words to that, and when we see what we’ve already withstood, we understand just how strong we are.

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I think this quote (author unknown) referring to trees sums up the point I’m making perfectly;

‘When the roots are deep, there is no reason to fear the wind.’

Do you agree? How has a big life change influenced the relationship you have with your body? Let’s chat in the comments.

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How I’m Overcoming Imposter Syndrome (& How You Can Too)

December 2019; I vividly remember leaving my small shared office to lock myself in the toilet to have a little cry. The stress all felt too much and crying was the release I needed.

What had triggered this episode in the toilet was a comment from a more senior colleague that insinuated she’d been waiting too long for a report I was due to run for her. That’s how it played out in my head anyway. I was convinced that this colleague I respected thought I was incompetent, and it stung hugely.

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The comment was just one of a couple which broke the camel’s back as it were. I had been feeling like a fraud and like I was ‘winging it’ for months, convinced that I was doing a bad job. In that moment in the toilet I felt so overwhelmed with my work load and increasing responsibility, that I seriously considered leaving.

Just over a year earlier I had accepted the job knowing that it would be a challenge, (I had no previous experience in the field) but feeling relatively confident that I could draw on all the previous career and life experience I had and make it work. I told myself then that I wouldn’t have been given the role if my boss didn’t think I could do it.

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Being Honest

Cut to early February 2020, and I finally admitted to my boss that I was struggling with feeling anxious and not good enough. As soon as the words were out, it felt like a massive weight had been lifted. I had avoided saying anything for so long because I thought it would be admitting I was weak.

Which I know sounds ridiculous – and it was ridiculous because in my yearly review my boss told me I was doing really well. She also changed the way she gave me constructive feedback so that it didn’t feed my anxiety any further.

It was only after admitting that I was struggling, and doing a little research of my own, that I realised I had been suffering with Imposter Syndrome.

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What is Imposter Syndrome?

There is no Imposter Syndrome ‘test’ as it were, (or certainly not one that I’m aware of anyway) but there are definitely signs to be aware of. For example, if any part of my story resonates with you, then it’s likely that it’s something you’re trying to deal with too.

To begin to help tame that inner imposter, I find that it helps to have an understanding of exactly what it is. Imposter Syndrome stems from the core belief that we’re inadequate, incompetent and a failure, despite evidence that shows we’re skilled and successful. It’s when you feel like an intellectual fraud – unable to internalise or celebrate your achievements.

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If this is all sounding familiar, perhaps these everyday examples might help solidify things further.

Like me, do you worry that you’re not living up to the expectations of other people? Especially when it comes to work.

Do you go overboard with with planning tasks and goal setting? I was writing such extensive to-do lists, that it was scary just looking at them!

Or, have you avoided asking for a raise even though you’ve been in your job for a while and would be worthy of it?

The good news is that we’re by no means alone in this. In fact, we’re in great company. Kate Winslet, Emma Watson, Tina Fey and Lady Gaga are just a few hugely successful women that have identified as having Imposter Syndrome at some point in their career.

It’s so easy to get lost in the overwhelm that feeling like an imposter plunges you into. I let it drag me under for several months. However, here’s how I’ve started to overcome Imposter Syndrome, and I hope what I’ve learnt can help guide you with doing the same too.

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Break Your Silence

Speak to someone about how you’re feeling. If you don’t feel strong enough to tell your boss just yet, tell a trusted friend. Talking things through will help you get out of your own head. When I eventually told my boss I was so surprised and relieved to realise that everything I had been telling myself had no evidence to validate it being true.

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Accept Praise As Genuine

People aren’t just being nice! You wouldn’t be given praise if there wasn’t reason for it. Believe me, it can be so easy to explain away your achievements as something that any one could have done, or just luck. They’re not – you worked hard and deserve to be recognised for it.

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Know You’re Doing Your Best

We set such a high bar for ourselves of standards we should be achieving, that often the goals we set aren’t even realistic. Try to start measuring your own success on whether you’ve tried your best today. If you have, no one can ask anything more from you.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject. How has Imposter Syndrome made you feel? And what has it taught you about yourself?

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Everything I’ve Learnt From Getting Divorced

After a period of over two years of being gradually more and more unhappy, I made the decision to separate from my (now ex) husband in the summer of 2017. A year and a half later, just before my 31st birthday, the official divorce papers came through. After 8 years of marriage, I was divorced. To say it felt like a massive weight had been lifted would be an understatement.

My Story

The journey that I’ve been on with divorce has been one of three stages; the idea, the reality, and the aftermath.

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The Idea

The idea of divorce, and more so the initial separation, took what felt like a very long time to realise. After years of experiencing what I now see as gas-lighting behaviour, I had what felt like a constant tug of war in my head as to whether I should end things or not. My self-esteem was at an all time low, but I knew I deserved to be happy, and couldn’t carry on as I was.

The Reality

The reality was messy, difficult, frustrating, and at times infuriating. It’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with in my life. Mostly because of the weight of guilt I felt for breaking someone’s heart. The guilt is something that has taken me a long time to be at peace with.

The most difficult part was dealing with my ex during the divorce process. It was something that made me so stressed, that I ended up getting quite a serious viral infection, and seeking life coaching so that I could better cope with the mental health journey the divorce was sending me on too.

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The Aftermath

The aftermath feels like relatively calm ripples after the storm. Some aspects of our relationship still affect me, and can come as unexpected waves out of the stillness. In the weeks we’ve had in lock down, I’ve started to take steps towards making my vision of having a successful blog a reality.

What’s come as quite a shock is that I haven’t thought about my ex this much in a long time. I’m having nightmares about him, and remembering how he didn’t support me when I tried to make a venture work for myself in the past. However, I know that this will pass with time, and it’s just my brain’s way of processing me taking a massive step outside of my comfort zone.

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Two Sides to Every Story

I wanted to give you a snap shot of how my divorce played out so that you can hopefully better understand why and how I’ve learnt the things along the way that I have. I also should highlight that this is just my side of the story, and no doubt he has his own feelings about what happened too, and it wouldn’t be fair not to acknowledge that. We were part of the same story for so long, but that story just wasn’t making sense any more; we couldn’t be what each other needed.

Sitting here, now, and writing this post, I’m so glad that I decided to end my marriage. I’m so grateful for everything it forced me to see about myself and my relationships, and I’ve come much further in a few short years than I ever thought I was capable of. So here’s the low down of exactly what I learnt…and for the record, (just in case you were wondering) I do still believe in marriage, it just didn’t work for me.

What I’ve Learnt

Communication Is Everything

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Sadly, I was so young and naïve when I got married (I was 21) that I didn’t appreciate just how big a cornerstone of marriage, and any healthy relationship for that matter, communication is. This resulted in lots of burying my head in the sand, rather than actually talking about how I was feeling.

Then, during the last couple of years of my married life, communication between me and my husband became pretty much non existent. He had his own issues that he was struggling to deal with, and I was afraid to bring up how I was feeling about the whole situation because whenever I tried to, it would end in a fight. So I gave up trying.

I’ve taken this lesson with me into my current relationship. Although it’s felt hugely uncomfortable at times, I’ve made a point (to myself at least) of asking the difficult questions, letting him know when and why I’m annoyed, and making sure we’re on the same page when it comes to what we have planned for our future together.

To Appreciate My Own Self Worth

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It’s only with hindsight that I can say, due to my own limiting beliefs (which I’m still working on) I allowed the gas lighting behaviours that my ex portrayed in the final years of our marriage to damage my sense of self-worth.

After years of being told I was ‘fat’ (funny how that one always sticks with us ladies) and ‘not the type of person’ that would be good at this, that, or the other, I lost all sense of who I was and where I fitted into the world.

It was with the support of my amazing friends and family, as well as reading a variety of personal development books, that I began to see what my strengths were, and act on them. I appreciated me for me – quirks and all.

Fast forward to know, and I’m proud of the woman that I’ve become, for the values that I have, what I know I can achieve, and the joy I can bring to other people’s lives.

To Be Better With Money

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I was never great with money to begin with, but my marriage basically falling apart definitely made it a whole lot worse! In fact, I never really got into any personal debt (apart from my student loan) until the second half of my marriage.

As I became more and more unhappy, the more I spent money on going out late drinking and dancing till all hours, or going to as many dance classes as I could get my hands on. (dance became my medicine) In order to fund all this, I was spending more than I was earning – creeping further and further into my overdraft, or putting things on my credit card.

Things really spiralled out of control with my spending when I booked a long weekend to Ibiza with some friends – paid for entirely on my credit card. With hindsight I can see that this was a silly thing to do, however, I don’t regret the experience and see it as another big signal as to how unhappy I was. After yet another episode of burying my head in the sand, I knew I had to do something to get a handle on the debt I’d built up.

Now, there’s not a day that goes by where I don’t check my banking app. I’ve also consolidated the majority of the debt that I built up so that it’s more manageable for me to pay back. I still have a way to go, but I feel so much better having set myself up a budget and knowing exactly where my money is going each month.

The Art of Forgiveness

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This was by far the the lesson that took me the longest, and was the hardest for me to learn. Part of why I ended up getting ill through stress was because I was still bitter and resentful towards my ex-husband. I told myself it was for good reason too.

As well as spending a lot of money on myself, I also wiped out the savings I had had previously to support my husband through a period of time where he couldn’t work. Despite my asking him to contribute on multiple occasions, I also footed the solicitors bill for all the paperwork relating to our divorce. He was therefore the obvious outlet for me to direct all my money-related anger and frustration towards.

Through the life coaching that I had whilst the divorce proceedings were taking place, I saw that holding on to the bitterness and anger was not serving me mentally or physically, so I needed to let them go.

One of the tasks I was given was to write a letter to my ex forgiving him for everything that I saw him as having done wrong. It was such a turning point, as it signified letting go of the past, and I felt so much lighter for having written it.

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It was a major stepping stone to where I am today; happier than I’ve ever been, and all because I chose to walk away from something that I knew was broken beyond repair.

Do any of there lessons resonate with you? (whether you’re divorced yourself of not) I’d love to hear your thoughts – share them in the comments and we can start a discussion.

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You may also like: Why We Should Celebrate Small Wins

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5 Quotes By Inspiring Women That Will Change The Way You Think

I’ve been reflecting a lot recently, and as a collective, I think the c-bomb has made us feel lost. For many the uncertainty about what is to come still hangs heavy over us – just like the rain clouds that have plagued many of us in the UK in the past week.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record of what we’ve already been hearing in the media, when we eventually come out of lock down (for which, at the time of writing, there still is no end date) our life as we know when it comes to working, socialising, and sadly, how we enjoy ourselves will change. This is a lot to take in, assimilate, and then move forward from.

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It’s at times when we’re at a loss that we look to others for guidance. When I was journalling earlier this week, I thought about all the inspiring women today that I have looked to, and continue to look to when I don’t know what the hell is going on.

These inspiring women have sparked something in me that’s changed my perspective on my approach to life. This has either been through their actions, their words, or simply being their brilliant selves. My list of inspiring women includes my circle of best and close friends, authors, online content creators and female relatives. I’m sure you can think of a similar set of women that inspire you too.

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This lead me to thinking that perhaps we should be approaching this situation from the point of view of our favourite female role models. Can their words relight the fire in us that’s threatening to burn out?

Below are a set of inspiring quotes for women by well known females both past and present. Perhaps by taking their words to heart we can find the inner strength to forge our own path through the unknown.

The best thing to hold on to in life is each other

Audrey Hepburn

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This isn’t a time for us to be shaming one another for our reactions to something that scares the majority. It also isn’t a time to be comparing your productivity with someone else’s. Even though we can’t physically be together, being together in spirit is arguably what us Brits do best.

Whether that’s through keeping connected via calls and quizzes with our friends and family, or clapping every Thursday evening for the NHS, let’s hold on to each other, rather than push one another away.

Above all, be the heroine in your life, not the victim

Nora Ephron

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It’s easy for us to think that we’re the most worst off in our individual at home situations. Balancing home schooling your kids while working from home, (or working as usual -thank you key workers) being furloughed worker with lots of empty time to fill, self employed worrying about how your livelihood will survive, or dealing with the unthinkable when someone you know develops serious symptoms. Worry and stress is something that we all share at the moment on varying levels.

However, thinking about things solely from your own point of view isn’t healthy. If you and your family and friends are all safe and well, then you’re doing okay. Yes, this situation will continue to be challenging on so many different levels, but having the perspective that we’re all going through the storm together, can help you show up for yourself and those close to you, with a more positive mindset.

I choose to make the rest of my life the best of my life

Louise Hay

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I know I can’t be the only one at the moment using all this ‘extra’ time to reflect on how I’m going to do better for myself in the future.

I’ll be trusting my gut instincts more – grabbing hold of opportunities that arise, going on that trip I’ve always wanted to, making memories with loved ones, and generally just living the best life I can. Without wanting to sounding morbid, there’s nothing like a global pandemic to change the way you approach life, as it shows you that it can be taken away in a second.

It’s not the absence of fear, it’s overcoming it. Sometimes you’ve got to blast through and have faith

Emma Watson

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When hoards of Brits were filling up their shopping trolleys with toilet roll and hand sanitiser a few weeks ago, it was no doubt through fear. The fear of catching COVID-19 lurks in the background of our minds, keeping us alert and tense. Coupled with the knowledge that thousands have already lost their lives to it, the reality can feel heart-breaking.

However, there is hope. Countries are starting to recover, lock down restrictions are starting to be eased and there’s talk of curves being flattened. We may not be quite out of the worst of the storm yet, but other countries are making tentative steps out into the sunshine, laying the path for us to follow them. We’ve made it through this far, and they’re proof that we can make it further.

We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power already: we have the power to imagine better

J. K Rowling

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Some images that have stuck with me throughout this pandemic are of the change in the World’s environment – Venice’s canals clear and swimming with dolphins, and satellite images of decreasing carbon emissions. This has only been achieved by us staying at home.

The pandemic has also seen us looking out for the elderly and vulnerable members of our community more, taking the time to check in with friends and family that we may have previously neglected, and lets face it, getting out in nature way more than we would have done before.

I hope that after the worst of this is over, we can, like J.K Rowling says, have the power to imagine better – to slow ourselves down enough in our day to day so that these new habits we’ve formed stick with us, because I think we’ll all be so much happier and healthier for it.

Do any of these quotes resonate with you? Share what your favourite is and why in the comments.

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Why Daily Rituals Are So Powerful

My boyfriend will be the first to tell you that I’m a big fan of a routine – he’s very familiar with all of mine!

Having an anxious mind, I find comfort in the expectation that I will be doing the same thing at pretty much the same time every day. Before lock down, when I was getting up and out for work, you could literally have set your clock by me because I had my morning routine down to an art!

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The Science

There’s science to back up just how powerful routines and rituals are for us as well. As I’ve already touched on, they reduce our stress levels and aid our mental health because by doing them we feel more in control. This helps us deal better with change too. (something there is obviously a lot of at the moment)

Having daily rituals in place means that you can be intentional with how you spend your time – you make time for what’s important to you, and more often than not, build up a set of healthy habits in the process.

My Experience

Way before any one had uttered the words Corona Virus, I was first introduced to the idea of a morning routine through the book called The Miracle Morning, by Hal Elrod. (worth a read if you’re curious on this subject) It suggested that those who got up and were intentional and productive with the first hour of their day, lead more successful lives.

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Although I didn’t stick to everything that was suggested in the book, I gave it a go as I was interested to see what the affects would be. The general feeling I’ve had since then is that I have a much more positive day when I’ve taken the time to do a few rituals that are important to me in the morning. What those rituals are and how long I do them for has changed over the years – bending and shaping to fit with my work hours and levels of energy. I’ve added rituals to the end of my day now too.

What’s important to me, will more than likely be different than what’s important to you, but I hope that by sharing what my daily rituals look like at the moment, you’re inspired to incorporate some rituals into your own day. Even taking as little as 15 minutes for yourself to build a set of rituals that brings you calm and replenishes your energy is worth it.

Morning Rituals

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I’m not a morning person, and one of the perks of lock down as a furloughed worker is that I can extend my morning routine. I have been able to include activities that I didn’t have the time for when I was trying to get up and out the door within an hour. To be honest I’ve needed a structure to my mornings during lock down, especially when my mood is lower, as it’s the comfort and familiarity that I need.

The order these come in and the amount of time I spend on them varies slightly depending on my mood and how tired I’m feeling – this series of rituals could take up the majority of the day if I really wanted them to, and sometimes that’s all I achieve, but I always feel better for it.

>> Get up, make a cuppa and have breakfast. I’m one of those people that feels sick if I don’t eat first thing, so I do.

>> Whilst eating breakfast I catch up on the latest posts from bloggers I’m following on Bloglovin. (you can follow me on there too, wink wink) It inspires me to see what my peers are doing.

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>> Write in my 6-minute diary 3 things that I’m grateful for, what I plan to do that day, and a positive affirmation. This sets me up in the right mindset for the day, as I’m already setting positive intentions.

>> Write for a least 10 minutes using a prompt from the journal prompts jar that I created. I basically searched online for journal prompts that resonated with me most, wrote them on slips of paper, and put them in a jar. I did this because I had the realisation recently that I’m in my head a lot at the moment, and not writing enough to let the jumbled mess of thoughts in my head all out. I’m finding at the moment that this time writing often provides me with inspiration for my blog posts and Instagram content too.

>> Finish off the last of my cuppa, (and more than likely start on a second) whilst reading. How long I read for and what I read depends on the kind of mood I’m in. Even when I was at my busiest and getting up at 6.30am daily for work, I would always make time for at least 10 minutes of reading in the morning. I’m an avid reader, and it was, and still is, such a comforting feeling to slow down and spend time reading in the morning. At the moment the novel I’m reading is Sushi for Beginners by Marian Keyes, and personal development wise I’m reading Calm by Fearne Cotton.

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>> I find a quiet, comfortable spot in the flat to meditate. How I approach meditation also varies. Through the week I often find that I just concentrate on breathing techniques, whereas on the weekends I’ll ‘treat’ myself to a longer guided meditation. I’m not going to lie, some days it can be a struggle to just focus on my breath as I have so many thoughts floating around in my head, however, I do always feel that little bit better for having done it, even if it’s just for 3 minutes. If you’re interested in meditating, I would recommend searching on YouTube for ones that suit your vibe best – some are more intense than others.

>> Do an at-home work out. Again this can vary depending on my mood, and can be anything from HIIT workouts, (mainly with the Body Coach) to yoga, or just peddling away on our exercise bike. I find that exercising gives me an often much needed energy and mood boost to get me though the rest of the day – I’m a sucker for the endorphin high afterwards.

>> Shower, get dressed, and do my beauty routine whilst listening to a podcast. I used to listen to podcasts on my way to work, but that obviously went out of the window as soon as I became furloughed. Ever since then I’ve been trying to find a point in my day to fit in listening to them, as it’s something I’ve missed. I like to listen to podcasts that challenge my way of thinking and get me into a reflective mindset, such as Happy Place, Deliciously Ella and How to Fail with Elizabeth Day.

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The Rest of the Day

Having completed my morning rituals the rest of my day has more fluidity to it. If I’m not feeling too anxious about the amount of people that are around, I’ll go for a walk. More than likely I’ll spend some time working on a project – whether it’s my blog and the social media content that goes with it, or tidying up and cleaning the flat.

They’ll also be some relaxing time thrown in, like more reading, watching an episode or two of a series on Netflix, or, if my boyfriend isn’t working, challenging him to a game of Crash Bandicoot racing.

Evening Rituals

This is the part of the day that I’ll admit I could benefit from adding more rituals into, especially as I’ve not been sleeping particularly well recently. It’s a work in progress shall we say.

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>> I’ve found that whenever I have a bath in the evening, I sleep better, so I’m keen to keep this as something that I do daily during lock down. I think it’s because it signals to my body that it’s time to start winding down, coupled with the fact that even on cooler evenings I feel warm and cosy afterwards. I like to use my time in the bath as another opportunity to read, and I’ll light a candle with a relaxing scent too.

>> Write in my 6 minute diary again – this time I’ll note down my good deed for the day, something I could improve on and the great things that I experienced that day. Reflecting back on my day helps me to find the positive moments – even if they were just little simple things that I enjoyed or that went well.

Do you have rituals as part of your day? Which rituals do you find most beneficial? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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How To Keep Calm In Uncertain Times

I think it’s a common theme with us all right now that we’re not sure how we’ll wake up feeling from one day to the next. With still so much uncertainty about the future, and the brutal reality of the impact on our beloved NHS, the emotional rollercoaster caused by the c-bomb is very real right now.

For example, one day at the end of last week I woke up feeling anxious, but couldn’t really figure out why. I’d had a ‘good’ week so far – in that it was fairly productive and I’d spoken to people in my life I cared about, and they were all safe and well. However, I continued to have a tightness in my chest, and was on the edge of tears for the rest of the day. Perhaps it was a manifestation of how guilty I’ve been feeling that things in my life are as okay as they can be considering the current situation, when for so many others it’s the polar opposite.

Whatever it was, I knew I had to lean in to it. It’s absolutely okay and to be expected that we’ll feel a range of emotions at the moment, and some days we’ll even swing violently between them.

When I’m feeling overwhelmed by certain thoughts and/or out of control, the below tips are how I’ve helped myself ride out a day of feeling anxious, and ended up going to bed feeling a little calmer. I know coping with anxiety is no one-size fits all solution, but I hope these tips will be ideas you can build on to find what works best for you.

I Listen to my Favourite Podcast

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When you’re on the edge of tears, it makes sense to do things that will lift your mood. My go-to podcast that has me laughing out loud is Shagged Married Annoyed with comedian Chris Ramsey and his wife Rosie. (they’re both worth a follow on Insta too) You’ll be introduced to the Beef family, and be equally appalled and astonished at the questions and stories from the public – they’re not for the easily offended! Or, just search for comedy podcasts on Spotify and you’ll be sure to find something to suit your taste.

I Workout

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Even if I don’t feel like it beforehand, I always feel better after a workout. For me, it’s a chance to switch off and just focus on what exercise comes next. The endorphin boost afterwards also gives me the little bit of energy I need even on bad days to get something ‘productive’ done, and that makes me feel better about myself. I like picking workouts from Joe Wick’s (aka the nation’s PE teacher) YouTube channel, The Body Coach TV. There are so many online workouts available right now, so pick one that feels right for you and your fitness levels.

I Dance

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As I’ve grown up taking dance classes, this is a sure fire way to put a smile on my face. Give me some decent pop music (80s preferably) and I’ll be shaking my bum for sure. It’s one of the few activities that I do that I feel I can really let go with. Why not make a playlist of your favourite tunes and blast them out whenever you need a boost? Then dance like no one is watching!

I Clean

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I like to mix this with the dancing, as it makes mundane cleaning tasks that much more enjoyable. Similar to working out, there’s something about cleaning that makes me zone out and forget about everything else. I also get a lot of satisfaction from seeing my flat transform from a cluttered mess to a clean haven that smells great. It brings me a sense of control and comfort back too. For a little cleaning inspiration, I would definitely recommend giving @mrshinchhome a follow on Instagram. She openly admits that she cleans to calm herself down, and makes it fun too.

I Read

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Last week when I was feeling anxious I soaked in the bath and read The Flat Share by Beth O’Leary. Being able to escape into a totally different world helped to distract away from how I was feeling, and I could feel the tightness fading in my chest. If it’s a good story, I will read it, and perhaps unsurprisingly at the moment I’m getting through books more rapidly than ever. (if you’re wondering, I give The Flat Share a 5/5) You could even try reading along with others – there are loads on online book clubs at the moment, plus it’s a way to connect with others through a like-minded community. If you struggle getting the focus to sit down and read, you could give audiobooks a try instead.

How have you been feeling so far this week? What activities do you do to help lift your mood or calm anxiety? I’d love to hear your tips too – share them in the comments.

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Top Feel-Good Films to Watch After a Bad Week

When a week has been filled with challenge after challenge and you’re mentally and physically exhausted, there’s very few better feelings than putting your pjs on, cosying up on the couch, eating rubbish, drinking [insert favourite alcoholic beverage here – in case you’re wondering, mines gin] and watching a great feel good film.

To quote and already over-quoted phrase – these are unprecedented times – the bad weeks just keep on rolling into one another at the moment. What better excuse do we need for a pick me up?

In no particular order, here are my top 5 feel good films. Best enjoyed back to back and in the way I described above.

Sex and the City the Movie

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I actually saw the first Sex and the City movie before I watched any of the series. I vividly remember kind of begrudgingly going to see it with one of my best friends. I came out of the cinema absolutely loving it – I was hooked. An addiction to the series then ensued with a purchase of the box set. My love for Cosmopolitans was validated, and I longed to be a writer like Carrie.

This film reminds me just how great the best female friendships are – supportive, honest and hilarious – and, let’s face it, we all want to be part of the dream squad (including their wardrobe) that is Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha.

The Greatest Showman

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Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, singing and dancing – what is there not to love?! Seriously though, the moral of this story – to treat everyone as equals and value their uniqueness – is so touching that it makes me cry. It also helps that the male leads are very easy on the eye, and that the soundtrack has you singing and dancing along every time. A winner of a film if you ask me.

My Best Friend’s Wedding

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In my opinion, Julia Roberts and Rupert Everett are at their absolute finest in this film. The hilarity of the friendship of their characters is something to behold – who can forget the famous ‘Say a Little Prayer’ lunch scene?! Or Cameron and Julia fighting in the toilets? Add to that a tear-jerker of an ending and it’s a classic. One of the finest rom-coms you’ll ever see.

Dirty Dancing

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I’m going to risk saying something that I know is hugely controversial here – when I first watched Dirty Dancing (around age 12) I didn’t really get what the fuss was all about. [cue shocked intake of breath] However, I now know that I was simply too young to appreciate its greatness. I don’t think I really need to describe why I like this film so much, we all know about the iconic cast, dance routines and one liners. What clinches it for me though, is that whenever I watch it, it reminds me of my old flat mate – an amazing gal and great friend – which instantly puts a smile on my face. We used to watch it together a lot.

Legally Blonde

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This film never fails to make me feel good. What a character Elle Woods is! She reminds us all that if you want something enough, and you put your mind to it, you can achieve anything – the cheerleader (literally) that every girl needs. Plus ALL her outfits are super cute – and hello, who can forget the bend and snap?!

You’ve heard what my top 5, but I want to know how they compare with yours! Are there any you think I’ve missed? Or you don’t agree with? Share your feel good film thoughts in the comments.

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