Happy New Year my lovelies! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas break and are ready for a great year!
I’m excited to introduce you to our first contributor to the blog, the lovely Laura. I’ve personally known Laura since my first week at uni, and 15 years on we are still really close which fills my heart with joy! Laura is currently on maternity leave with her gorgeous little girl, and will be writing posts for us. In her first post for us, she shares her personal tried and tested ways to be thankful and present. Enjoy!

When I was thinking about how I try to ‘live a beautiful life’, it struck me that for me, a beautiful life is one where, in some way, you are connected with the world around you and your part in that world. A way in which I try to do this is to be thankful for all that I already have in my life and try to be aware of all the beautiful and amazing things around me. 
 
Now, before I start, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t want to change parts of your life that don’t bring you happiness (if you can, you totally should!) or that there aren’t days when we all think ‘why is the weather rubbish/there’s a pile of washing to be done/the children are crying/I have to go to work/the bills need paying’ (delete as appropriate). And this isn’t taking into account any of those dark days and times that affect so many people struggling with their mental health. But this is just my small way, that I use to stay as present and thankful as I can.
 

Appreciate the little things

 
Yes, I know it’s a cliche, but those little things really do add up. I find that on the days that I actively try and look around myself, and actually notice the world around me, I can find lots of positive things to be thankful for. It might be the sunshine on my face, a quiet cup of coffee and a chapter of a book while the baby sleeps. It’s also hearing my favourite song on the radio, a text from a friend or a day when I actually get stuff ticked off my to do list (rare, but definitely something to be thankful for when it happens!). If you just make yourself aware, the little things are usually there. Of course, there’s big things too and you should totally and absolutely be thankful for those too, but sometimes the big things are so big that they are almost too much to wrap your brain around, so start small and work up I say!
 

The Lovely List

 
A while ago, in an effort to help me appreciate these everyday happinesses, I started writing a lovely list. It’s basically a gratitude journal but that all sounded a bit fancy for me, so I just started jotting down things that had been lovely that week. It included all sorts of things like people I’d seen, funny things that had happened, songs I liked, times I’d felt proud or accomplished, nice food I’d eaten (in fact reading it back, food seems to feature quite a lot!). I had lots of fun picking out a pretty notebook as I’m a bit of a stationery geek and just went for it, yes admittedly sometimes I forget to write in it for a while but whenever I do, I always feel better. I think if I am feeling happy then the things just flow out, but also, if I’m feeling a bit down then just spending 5 or 10 minutes concentrating on positive things in my life and writing them down can make me feel brighter. Often I don’t even read it back, but just that process of getting it down on paper is quite cathartic for me.
 

Do what makes you happy

 
As a result of being more aware of these ‘lovely things’, I think I’m more in touch with what it is that makes me happy. It’s made me more aware of myself too, what my triggers are, and what I need to do to try and avoid a slump, or at least feel more in control of it. I know that dancing around with abandon makes me happy. I know that getting out and around nature makes me happy. I know that connecting with those I love makes me happy (well duh!). So I try to do more of those things and be aware of those warm and fuzzies as they are happening.
 

Switch off

Is it just me, or do you feel like your brain is always full of ALL OF THE STUFF? I don’t know if a modern society thing, a woman thing or just a human thing but our brains are so busy that it’s really hard to switch it off. I’ve dabbled with a bit of meditation and mindfulness and that’s a whole other post I feel from someone much more experienced than myself. But being thankful and present about the positive things around me is often all I need to quiet that brain down of mine for a few minutes at least. It gives me something to focus on and it offers me the opportunity to reflect too, all good in my opinion. It might be that you don’t need to write it down like me, you might take 5 minutes a day just thinking about the lovely things, you might be running, or in the bath, or drifting off to sleep to the sound of Ewan the Dream Sheep (if you know, you know), just give it a go and see how it makes you feel.
 
So there you go, that’s how I try to make sure I notice the world around me and be thankful for all that I have, rather than wishing for all the things I am yet to have. Plus, as Roald Dahl wrote ‘if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will
always look lovely’ and that sounds rather nice to me.

Love it! I’ve been a fan of Lovely Lists since secondary school, they are an instant mood
booster!
Do you share any tips with Laura? Do you have any ones that differ? Do share them with us in the comments below!

Laura Valentine

Laura lives in Bristol with her lovely husband and daughter. When she’s not with her family she can be found working in travel and tourism, dreaming about New Zealand, wishing she was eating a burger (or two!) and writing lists. A country girl at heart, she’s always happiest surrounded by nature and the open air, but she does enjoy a bit of culture too! She loves scarves, forests, cheese jokes and waving at boats.

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