Time for Giving Friday

I am going to hate myself for doing this but I am going to add to the Black Friday discussion. In the past five years it appears to be something we have imported from America and even though we don’t have Thanksgiving we seem to be taking the tradition of the following day. The message behind Black Friday is simple it is about spending money and finding a bargain.

I am sure many people will have either ventured out or been poised online to try and bag those reduced cost items. In the rush to grab a bargain good logic seems to go out of the window. People don’t stop to check that they really are getting a good deal and that they actually want or need the item.

The whole event just preys on our insecurities, our need to be part of the crowd, our need to fit in and to have the latest ‘must have’ items. For me it is the worst elements of the festive season rolled into one. The greed, the paranoia and the need to have more and more things.

I would be interested to hear from anyone who likes to get into the Black Friday mood and go shopping. 

It would be more on the spirit of Christmas to have a Giving Day at the start of the festive season. A time when we all give one present or a donation to the charity of our choice. How much good could be done on one day if we all got involved in that movement.

I am going to do my Giving Friday in my own way and give a little boost to the charities that matter to me. If you do something similar please share it.

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Smell the roses

If you have read any of my blogs you will know there are a few things that I regularly return to including communication, social media, and modern life. Among the other subjects is one of sharing kindness and of being grateful. Being thankful is of significance today as in America people are celebrating Thanksgiving.

We don’t spend enough time recognise where we are or what we have around us. Instead we are rushing ahead and with the ever increasing pace of life it is easy to forget to stop and smell the roses today. So why is it important to be thankful?

When we spend a bit of time looking at what we have, recognising the things we have to be grateful for then we can improve our mood. It is taking a positive look at our current position instead of seeing what we haven’t got or what we would like. If you really think there are many things you could put on your list. It may be your family or friends, pets, or work colleagues that you give thanks for. There are also the basics that we take for granted like having food, a roof over our head and warmth.

If you start making a list, and ensure that you are only allowed to be positive, you will be surprised how much you will note. Of course, when we are in a good place this is much easier to do, it is when we are in a dark or difficult place when doing this is going to be hard but the most beneficial.

Being thankful is also about mindfulness. You have to be living in the now and recognising what it brings to be able to make a gratitude list. It is not about the past or the future it is about the here and now. So today or tomorrow just give yourself five minutes to focus on what you have and to give thanks for it.

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Christmas countdown

We are just a week away from the start of Advent and the real countdown to Christmas. Today I started to do some serious Christmas shopping although I was doing it once again from my home using my computer rather than trudging the streets. Only five years ago that would not have been the case. I would have ventured out two or three times to try and find the items I wanted.

I was pondering today whether I spend more now or would spend more then? How have my shopping habits changed in the past five years?

Now when I am shopping I am more likely to choose a small business or even a sole trader. It gives me a chance to find some unusual and different presents things that are not going to be seen on the high street. In 2016 our high streets are dominated by supermarkets and big companies so being able to shop local and shop with small businesses would be a huge challenge without the digital space.

My spend is likely to be about the same as when I was going out shopping. At Christmas I find it is the one time of the year when I have a list and I stick to it, whether it is out shopping or going online. But in recent years I focus as much on giving people experiences as giving them physical presents. What I try to do now is be able to personalise the gift of giving at Christmas.

It is easy to get carried away with shopping and presents being the focus of Christmas. They absolutely are not. At the heart of Christmas, well my Christmas, is being thankful for what I have; the family, the friends, and many other things. It is a time to stop and think about others whether they are those close to us or those who may be less fortunate. As we head towards the busy festive season we would all benefit from remembering it is more than presents.


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Eyes wide open

How do we know that the news we read on social media is accurate? Who can we trust and who is posting honestly? There are some scary statistics about that young people are getting the majority of their news from social media. They don’t watch the TV or listen to radio news, they don’t read newspapers, instead they trust their friends and those they follow to keep them in touch with the world.

As a former journalist I find this a scary thought. I trained and studied so that I could perform the role. I had to know media law, local government and public affairs as well as adhere to the code of ethics. When someone had a problem with what I had written they could complain either to the newspaper or the Press Complaints Commission. In short there were checks and balances and it meant that what got printed in the newspaper had to be accurate. Not so on social media.

Anyone can write anything. That is part of what I love about social networks as it allows people to be in more control of what happens. They can contact brands and businesses direct and all that should mean we have more accurate information. But for as many good things that it brings there are problems. If people want to deliberately misrepresent or spread inaccurate information then they are now more able to do it. This was an interesting discussion subject for tonight’s #smxchat on Twitter.

The key has to be what we do to tackle the problem of fake news. After all I am sure most of us would not want to be without the digital developments and the benefits they bring. It means we have to start to be more aware of what news is and where to find it. Education is critical so that young people are able to question what they read and don’t just accept it. We need to ensure that we all avoid circulating fake news and where we can we challenge inaccuracies and lies. Above all we need to have our eyes open.

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A quick hello and a big impact

Today was World Hello Day and that might sound a bit twee or even dull but it has an important message behind it. The point of the day was to try and encourage people to say hello and even start a conversation with a stranger. In a world where we are doing more and more online, we need to remind ourselves about the importance of face-to-face connections.

I read recently about attempts to get people talking on the London Underground by encouraging commuters to wear a badge saying they were happy to talk. It must be a sad state of affairs if we need to do such things to perform such a basic human task – conversation.

One of the great things about living in the North West is that people are much more willing to have a conversation with a stranger. It may be the elderly woman on the tram who brightened a difficult day for me a week or so ago. It may be the person waiting at the bus, train or tram stop. It may just be a brief exchange about the state of the weather. All of these are just simple ways of connecting with our fellow human beings.

Today I had brief conversations with a shop assistant, a chat with the assistant at the petrol station, and I thanked a couple of drivers who let me in while stuck in bad traffic. I didn’t do this just because it is World Hello Day I try to have pleasant conversation wherever I can. It makes life a bit more enjoyable to share moments during the day. If we just stick to our own little world then it will remain just that – little.

I hope that a few people will have made the effort to start conversations today just by saying hello. This needs to be something that we all take forward to make connections and just be a bit nicer.



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It’s my life and my choice

It is late on Sunday night and this is the first time I have had a moment to sit down and blog. I am not complaining as I have had a fantastic day. The morning was spent with my horse having a bit of quality time and riding. The afternoon was spent judging some dressage tests and everything from beginners to Medium (more advanced for those non-horsey people). The evening was a whirlwind as my nephew celebrated his fifth birthday and his sister, my niece, celebrated her third birthday.

Now I am sat down with a cup of tea and I am exhausted but I have a hugely satisfied feeling. Why? Well I have spent my time from 8am this morning through to 10pm doing things that make me smile. I have been focusing on those elements of my life that can cheer me up even through dark days.

I have mentioned before how great it is to reconnect with your inner child. Tonight I may have been tired but I was back being a five-year-old running around, laughing at nothing and with no worries at all. Everything was fun and there was no concept of time at all. I always enjoy spending time with my nephews and niece but that doesn’t mean I wish I had children.

It is something many people can’t understand but I was reading an article this weekend about the increasing number of people who are choosing not to have children. At the heart of it is one thing, it is a personal decision and not one that people should judge. I am very protective of my nephews and niece and do whatever I can to make sure they have a happy life. That is incredibly important to me as they are a key part of our family.

The important thing is that we should not judge others or the decisions they make, after all you don’t know what is behind that decision. People make personal choices about their life, and tonight I am quite happy with mine.


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The long and short of it

I am sure there are many people who are like me and try to pack lots of stuff into each weekend. We work Monday to Friday and have little time to do all those domestic chores that are required.  It means a busy couple of days keeping on top of home life and trying to fit in some of the things that make me happy.

There is little time within that for rest and relaxation. One time I have to slow down is when I go to the hairdresser. There is not much you can do as you have to wait for an hour or possibly longer. It Is time you just have to sit.

Despite the frustration I sat for an hour me a half today and chatted, contemplated life and reduced my stress levels. I wondered why I didn’t do it when I wasn’t at the hairdressers. After all making a bit of time to meditate or unwind is something we all know we should do. It helps our physical and mental wellbeing.

Why then do we need to force ourselves to find a bit of time to relax? I have blogged before about our desire to be busy, busy, busy. The weekend is our time to do what we enjoy so why should we spend time doing nothing?

Today I had the pleasure and frustration of some time in the salon perhaps next weekend I will find that time to simply do nothing.

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