It’s a new year and for me a chance to think about what I might do or change in the year ahead. Nothing so strict as a resolution (or, god forbid, resolutions plural). I don’t know about you but I don’t think I’ve ever managed to keep a new years’ resolution in place for 12 months. It’s more that I’m consciously thinking about strategies for living. Did you see how hard I tried there not to use the word mindfulness?! Such a bland cliché, but it does actually articulate quite well what I’m thinking. We so often get caught up in the day to day and forget what is really important to us. Or get caught up in the details and forget the big picture. Or get stressed about the what ifs before we even know if they’ll happen.
There are lessons to be learned from our lockdowns over the past two years. If we put aside the negative effects, there were definitely some positives. We stayed at home and spent time with our families. We gardened, we cooked, we walked, spent time with our pets, did projects and gave ourselves the afternoon off if we felt like it. There wasn’t day to day stress (remember, we’re putting pandemic effects aside), we didn’t judge ourselves and there was no one to judge us. We had time to think and we didn’t have an endlessly repeating and growing task list. We couldn’t buy much of anything except food and most of us didn’t really care.
With all this in mind, I’ve decided to try a few guidelines this year. They will hopefully help in reminding me to take small pleasures, to enjoy and be grateful and to recognise that I’m doing the best I can. So here they are.
1. Live in the moment and treat yourself in small ways
Whether it’s a beautiful bar of soap or a top-quality cup of fragrant tea that does it for you, take time to enjoy it. Don’t rush. People ask me whether they should use body wash or bar soap and in regards to enjoyment, bar soap wins hands down. It has texture and tactility that make using it a pleasure that shower gel simply doesn’t deliver. And that’s apart from the environmentally-friendly bonus that bar soap doesn’t come in a plastic bottle. So, relax and enjoy as you slowly massage yourself with a fragrantly nourishing bar of soap or solid haircare. Take pleasure in your everyday routines. Every night after showering, I use my Manuka face butter. It’s such a small thing, but it’s one of my favourite bits of the day as I rejuvenate my clean face with a little self-massage. Heaven.
As an aside to this, I’m always being asked about soap for sensitive skin and/or eczema. It’s pretty hard to enjoy the moment if your skin is itchy, sore and irritated. My partner doesn’t look like a sensitive wee thing, but he develops itchy skin rashes in a heartbeat. He is sensitive to many different things (this week his arms are in a terrible way because he spent the weekend building our new woodshed and it appears tanalised timber is really bad for him) but I think artificial fragrance is one of the worst things. Something like a quarter of human beings react badly to them. This might have to be a whole separate topic for another day, but my partner can use every product I make, and I’m pretty sure that is because I only use essential oils in them. Many people tell me that they’re allergic to soap. Maybe some of them are. But I would be willing to bet that most of them are reacting to artificial fragrance. So, my number one piece of advice to you sensitive souls would be to avoid all artificial fragrances. You could give my mild, soothing goats milk soap a try - let me know what you think.
2. Don’t look past the headlights
I recently read an article a journalist wrote about her sister, who tragically was diagnosed with early onset dementia in her 30s. One of the things that struck me was her fathers’ advice to ‘not look past the headlights.’ What wise advice. Deal with what is in front of you, don’t worry about what might be coming. It may or may not happen, and if it doesn’t you’ve caused yourself unnecessary stress. Which brings us to….
3. You can’t do everything but maybe you can do one thing for the climate
It is pretty daunting when we look at the environment and the rapid pace of climate change and it can seem overwhelming when we think of the actions required. You probably can’t do everything that’s required (zero waste, electric car, no travel, don’t eat meat, for a start). There is no point in getting stressed over it, but there are things that you can do, easily (see above!). Switch your liquid hair products out for shampoo and conditioner bars (for tips on solid haircare see my previous blog) . Switch your body wash to bar soap. Switch your dishwashing liquid out for a cage and a detergent bar (read this if you need a little more convincing). There, that wasn’t so hard, was it? And you just took four plastic bottles out of the supply chain. Make it a goal to do what you are able to do for the health of our planet, and just keep doing those things.
4. ‘Do you really need that?’
This is the question I’m going to be asking myself this year. I’m not a big shopper anyway, but when I do buy something, I’m going to be thinking about my actions. I was really annoyed with myself last weekend when I bought some bark screening for the garden. I got home and unwrapped it and was left with a horrible amount of plastic waste. Thinking back, I’m pretty sure there was an unwrapped one in the back corner of the shelf and I was so cross that I hadn’t asked for that one. I will always choose the unwrapped lettuce over the one in a plastic bag but there are less obvious choices and I’m going to try and take those. We should all be lobbying our food stores to improve their meat departments. It’s all very well getting rid of single use plastic bags, but the meat departments with their plastic trays covered in plastic wrap are a waste disaster. Anyone who has spent any time in Europe (or been to a decent butcher!) will appreciate that you can have meat unwrapped in a display case that you choose and a staff member wraps in paper for you. You might even get a bit of conversation too. If you have this option where you live, you should take it every time.
Obviously, there are lots more things I should probably be doing this year. Maybe I’ll even do some of them. But I reckon it’s going to be a good start to try and live by these four guidelines. Wish me luck.