#ProjectHappyJanuary: Week 3/4 (and an apology)…

Now. A small thing we need to address. The eagle eyed amongst you may notice that this is now the penultimate week of our little New Year happiness initiative, #ProjectHappyJanuary. And that last week, by and large, should have been week 3. But, for several reasons, week 3 went otherwise awol, which I shall explain forthwith.

  • Reason 1: I had a stinking cold/virus/flu all of last week and was not very well, hence I was lacking in energy to write any new blogs.
  • Reason 2: By the time I had the energy to write Week 3’s blog, it was very much the end of Week 3, and thus a pointless exercise.
  • Reason 3: When I looked back at my themes I had mapped out for the blogs each week, I realised that two of them shared a similar theme, and as such I have decided to merge them into one supergroup for next week’s fifth blog (and indeed the last in the series).

    So, with all this in mind, consider this as the week 3 blog in spirit, but very really the week 4 blog. Explanations over, this week our focus is mood boards.

    A frequent tool at the disposal of creative types – fashion designers, architects, new tech start-ups – the mood board does what it says on the tin, or rather board. For boosting morale and wellbeing, it’s a place on which to project ideas, inspiration, and bring all round good positivity into your everyday life.

    This is a particularly good one you can do, because it’s something you can continue even beyond January, so is a good new pasttime to take up into the bargain. To create a mood board, you’ll need the following:

    • 1 large cork pin board (available at most arts and crafts shops or pound stores)
    • Drawing pins
    • Some coloured card
    • Scissors
    • Felt tip pens

    1. Cut up the coloured card into squares about the size of Post-it notes – aim for about 8 x 6 cm.
    2. On the cards, write up little quotes in felt tip pen, or inspiring pieces of text, or little poems or song lyrics that mean something to you. Really this is for you to be absolutely creative and just go with whatever you want.
    3. Once you’re done writing up, it’s time to start pinning them to the board. Again, whatever way you feel is key here – the picture above will give you an idea of what you’re aiming for.
    4. Place the pin board in a central position that will be immediately noticeable – so maybe by your bed, or in the kitchen. The idea is it should be in a noticeable place so it’s the first thing you see – i.e. when you get up in the morning.
    5. You don’t need to necessarily fill it up with stuff there and then. You can add to it as you go along. You can put on photos, or printouts or even cuttings from newspapers and magazines.

    As I said, this is a really good one to do even when January is over, so is a nice little New Year’s resolution into the bargain too. Do let me know if you take up the mood board challenge and Tweet me your efforts using the hashtag #ProjectHappyJanuary!

    The last #ProjectHappyJanuary will be up next Monday – hope to see you then.

    😄 😄 😄 😄

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    #ProjectHappyJanuary: Week 2

    So we’re now on week two of a new year, and thus on the second week of this here blog’s new initiative, #ProjectHappyJanuary. If you missed it last week, this is our one man/blogger mission to make the first month of a new year suitably awesome.

    Last week was all about bringing a bit of joy to loved ones, and this week is all about bringing joy to ourselves. It can be incredibly easy, with the days still short and dark and cold, to sit in darkened rooms and let the four walls get to us. So this is my little guide to embracing a lighter, more joyful lifestyle.

    When the Christmas decorations are down and packed away, first thing I tend to do is break out the candles. Oh yes. Usually I’ll have been plentifully supplied with a batch of fresh scented tealights – although these don’t have to be scented, standard ones work just as well. 

    Home value stores like Wilkinson or B&M Home Bargains often stock packs of 100 regular tealights for as little as £2, and placed in some inexpensive holders will add some friendly, warm light to your immediate surroundings. 

    It’s also a prime excuse to invest in a quirky light fitting. My most recent one, pictured above, is this carnival style lamp I got from Not on the High Street – again, inexpensive but looks great and makes for a real talking point.

    When the TV schedules and radio airwaves are cluttered with repeats or the same playlists of music, it’s always key to have some feel good stuff to wind down with or listen to on the go. These are just my personal choices, but hopefully they’ll give you a bit of inspiration.

    FILMS

    • Amelie (2001) 

    This French language film has English subtitles, but ups the heartwarming factor to 10, as Audrey Tautou stars in this charming story about a simple Parisian girl practicing random acts of kindness.

    • My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2003)

    One of the proper laugh out loud, romantic comedies of recent years, Nia Vardalos and John Corbett star in this tale of weddings, interfering families and ten bridesmaids in turquoise meringues for dresses.

    • Friends with Benefits (2011)

    Sharp, sexy and very funny, Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis put in great turns here as two friends that try to eschew the unrealistic stereotypes of romance with a no strings attached approach.

    MUSIC

    • Stevie Wonder – “The Definitive Collection”

    There is something about Stevie – and Motown music generally – that I find so passionate and uplifting. Songs of his like “Sir Duke”, “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” and “Signed Sealed Delivered” are real good mood boosters for me because of their soul and energy.

    • Girls Aloud – “Ten”

    OK, I do realise I’m cheating here slightly having two greatest hits albums on my list of feel good music, but the mighty Aloud never fail to get me going, especially on early mornings where my energy might be at its lowest possible berth. “Biology” and “Love Machine” in particular, with their hotch potch structure and bonkers production, are as infectious as anything.

    • Jack Johnson – “In Between Dreams”

    I always refer to this as my “January album”, for no other reason than the fact that unseasonable music is one of the best mood boosters possible. And by that I mean listening to music that reminds you of better times. I can count on my hands the number of winters since I got this album in 2006 where I’ve listened to Jack strumming his ukulele, singing about banana pancakes and trains breaking down and imagining I’m on a hot sunny island instead of snowy rush hour traffic.

    Don’t forget to Tweet me and let me know what your uplifting music and films are, or how you’ve made your living space a bit brighter – use the hashtag #ProjectHappyJanuary when you do!

    The next #ProjectHappyJanuary will be up at the same time next Monday.

    😄😄😄😄

    #ProjectHappyJanuary: Week 1

    I have a very strong feeling it may have been Bridget Jones, the comic creation of Helen Fielding who once said January was awful, just by virtue of the fact everyone is expected to snap back into a normal harsh existence like lean greyhounds after a season of warmth and merriment. Not to mention the overridden cliches of debt, despair and gloominess that accompany it.

    I pondered this more so over a cup of tea this morning whilst packing away my Christmas decorations for another year (read: until mid-November). We begin a new year at a time of year when none of us feel inclined to. The days are still short, the weather very much still chilly and unforgiving. 

    And we are almost forced by society at large into making outlandish resolutions at a time of year when our true willpower and desire to sustain these is on a par with a cat stuck in a room full of salmon and prawns. In other words, it’s just not going to happen. Obviously this isn’t the case for our friends south of the Equator, who ring in the New Year in searing heat and sunshine – maybe it is?

    But at this time of year, when lighter days and brighter times are still so far away, we need to be gentler on ourselves, and keep that same warmth and joviality going even with the festive season behind us. Which is why, all throughout January, I intend to bring you, dear readers, some weekly inspiration to make the start of the year a truly happier one. I’m calling it #ProjectHappyJanuary.

    One of the central themes at the heart of keeping this New Year goodwill to hand is that of gratitude and giving thanks. One of the most overlooked customs in recent memory, for me, is the art of the thank you note. Perhaps this is a marker of my upbringing, but no Christmas or birthday has ever passed without me sending out thank you cards or notes to friends and relatives for presents I recieved.

    High street craft shops like The Works do inexpensive but tasteful batches of ‘Thank You’ cards or just blank, open ended cards in a pack of 10 for £1 (pictured above) – just writing these and sending these out to loved ones will let them know their thoughtful gift was appreciated.
    On a similar snail mail note, invest in some good writing paper or a pack of quirky postcards, and send an informal line to a distant friend or loved one. Christmas and birthdays – along with the odd wedding, engagement or other life event – tend to be the only time of year we ever reach out to distant family or friends, which I have to say I’ve been fairly guilty of in recent years. A nice, friendly letter in the post could make all the difference to that friend who may be dreading coming in from a long day to a mat full of bills and junk.

    This is what I’ll be doing this week for #ProjectHappyJanuary – hope that you’ll join me in doing so too. Don’t forget to Tweet me your efforts using the hashtag if you do take part!

    The next challenge for #ProjectHappyJanuary will be up next Monday and every Monday throughout January.

    😄 😄 😄 😄