Mindfulness: Reading (a lot)

As I mentioned a week or so ago, I’ve been really struggling with increased depression and anxiety, thanks to my parent’s divorce and the breakdown of my relationship with my father. That, combined with an intense work life, has meant an increased need to recentre myself and practice mindfulness wherever possible.

This year I’ve found reading to be absolutely crucial to staying mindful despite in the chaos. Sometimes I find my mind racing at night and really struggle to get to sleep – and so I’ve turned to reading as a nightly ritual. I get all snug in my bed and allow myself at least half an hour to turn off my phone and get stuck into another world.

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It’s really hard to switch off entirely, and that’s precisely what reading requires you to do. You have to stop thinking about your own life, your own problems or even your own social media feed, and just concentrate on something entirely other. For me, it really helps, and sends me off to a nice, peaceful sleep.

Since I mentioned my 2017 Goal to average a book a week, I had plenty of requests to share my reading list. So here you have it – all my books for 2017 so far!

From the guys who wrote Freakonomics, this takes you through how to challenge the status quo and look for hidden connections in the seemingly meaningless.

The absolute pick-me-up I needed in January when I found myself jobless and on crutches – one of the standouts so far.

The autobiography of ultra runner Charlie Engle, from his adventure racing exploits to his wrongful imprisonment for tax fraud.

Hilarious, poignant and thought-provoking autobiography of Trevor Noah, on growing up in post-apartheid South Africa.

An inspiring work of fiction about the importance of finding your destiny in life. A bit sentimental, but beautifully written.

A fictional tale of love, betrayal and identity, set against Nigeria’s 1967-60 Civil War.

The story of love and identity, following Ifemelu; of a Nigerian student who emigrates to the US.

A good insight into the start-up way of doing business and getting quick results by learning to fail and fail again.

A great mix of self-help and memoir, this is a great guide to becoming more present in life, and letting go of perfectionism.

Comical memoir of a 30-something comedian who doesn’t have her shit together any more than the rest of us.

An account of 12 months of goal-driven happiness, including concrete, actionable ideas on how to cultivate happiness in your life.

A short Penguin guide to the Suffragette movement in Western countries, including the female-led anti-suffrage movement.

A lazy beach read- a story of love in adverse circumstances.

A hilarious and charming retelling of Norse myth and legend, brought to life in a wickedly clever way.

A genuinely terrifying profile of Donald Trump by one journalist who has keenly followed the demon’s rise to fame.

Fascinating insight into the Occupy movement, including the recent historical context of the 2008 Financial Crash.

An abridged version of the feminist classic, covering the way beauty standards are used to keep women “in their place”.

A modern sci-fi classic – an ancient civilisation is discovered on earth. The rest is a mystery…

The second Sleeping Giants book – it continues!

Another life-affirming classic from Paulo Coehlo; the premise is about a girl who wakes up from her suicide attempt, but discovers she only has a few days to live.

A collective memoir or the experience of Japanese women brought to the US as brides in the 1930s and 40s.

A collection of the authors favourite and most thought-provoking philosophic quotes, along with a brief essay on why they captured his imagination.

A collection of essays and short stories written by a talented young Harvard student, and published after her tragic death only a few years ago.

An autobiographical account of everything running can teach you about life.

A productivity guide that preaches doing the most difficult and most dreaded task first.

A poignant and gorgeously-written tale of an out of place teenage girl who yearns for a place to belong.

An imagined but entirely possible future in which genetic engineering has gotten out of control, and which there remain only a handful of “real” humans left.

A fascinating historical and anthropological look at humankind’s evolution through the ages, from the Stone Age to the modern day.

A memoir / non-fiction work on the issue of race, in the context (mainly) of 21st Century Britan. This work certainly highlights the lack of cultural education received in the UK – specifically to do with the injustices and atrocities committed by the British Empire, and the legacy this has left.

A no-bullshit guide to everything that’s wrong with clean eating, fasts, Gwyneth Paltrow, and the logical tricks that leave us buying into them.

The premise: one Ghanian sister sold into slavery, the other married off to a British slaver; we follow the atrocities and legacies of slavery as they trickle down through the generations.

A soothing, cosy book on the magic of getting your shit together, your house in order, and your life how you want it.

A tale of a married couple’s struggle to have children – beautifully told, and set against the background of political unrest in 1980’s Nigeria.

A heartbreaking work about a girl caught in a state of limbo after a life-threatening car accident – great if you need a good cry.

The true story of Olympic Legend, eccentric and all round gentleman Emil Zátopek, struggling with his role in post-war Czechoslovakia. A truly inspiring read.

A concise but thorough account of how Western foreign policy (specifically British and American) has screwed over the Middle East and created a breeding ground for extremism.

The continuation of Homo Sapiens, this work takes a look at humankind as we embark on our voyage into the world of amortality, artificial intelligence and genetic engineering.

In case you weren’t counting, I’m on 36 to date, which makes me approximately two weeks behind. But fear not, I’m catching up!

In the meantime, please send me your recommendations! I’m always looking for new reads to get my nose into! 

Lots of love,

 

Pippa

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2017 Goals: Checking in

Given that Summer is officially over, and we’re now heading into the tail end of 2017, I thought it would be a good time to check in on the goals I set for myself at the start of the year. To recap, I ended 2016 with no job and my leg in a cast, so I have to say those goals should be taken with a pinch of salt… But anyway, let’s jump in!

A Half Marathon

Sadly, it’s a no from me. Today actually marks the date of the Vilnius Half Marathon, which I was supposed to be running with the guys from London City Athletics. But unfortunately, work and life got in the way of anything resembling a proper training programme.  To be completely honest, I still haven’t really rehabbed my ankle properly, and I just haven’t been in the position to train with the dedication a big goal race deserves.

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A Sub 1:45 Half Marathon

Again, it’s a no from me.

A Sub-45 10k

I have only raced once this year, and that was just to get me back in the running game after an extended injury break.

Move house!

I’ve finally moved house! Yay!! It’s so nice to be in a new and different environment, with flatmates I really get along with – some of my oldest friends, in fact. I’m still settling in and getting a feel for the area, but I’m in a far better place than I was previously.

Parkrun at least once a month

Absolutely not. Unfortunately, in between the broken ankle, the new job and the parental divorce, I’ve been all over the place (literally) and haven’t been able to commit to getting up early on Saturday mornings for a friendly 5k. As much as I would absolutely love to, it just hasn’t been happening.

Take at least one race vacation

No! Sadly, the race vacation to Vilnius just didn’t happen. Boo.

Read 52 books in 52 weeks of 2017!

This is the one goal I’m actually on top of! We’re 36 weeks into the year, and I’m on 36 books! It’s been great to expand my horizons in all directions, including modern geopolitics, third-wave feminist thinking and of course, some good old fashioned fiction. If anyone would like a rundown of my book list to date, I’d be more than happy to write a post!

 

Do yoga at least once a week

I’ve been doing more stretching, but to be honest yoga is the one area I’ve really failed to achieve in without a decent excuse.

Explore a plant-based diet

Yass!! I’m 100% vegan, and enjoying it thoroughly! There have been a few stumbling blocks such as craving cheese and eggs when I’m sick and/or hormonal, but I’m learning to cope with those. I have to say I don’t feel restricted in the least, and I’m enjoying bringing my friends along for the #plantbased ride.

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Find a way to give back at least once a month

I haven’t been ticking this off per se, but I’ve definitely been finding ways to give back wherever possible, whether that be through shopping at and donating to charity shops; donating money to charity or just practicing kindness as a daily act.

Up my photography game

I think so…! One of my favourite happy coincides is that running and blogging has definitely opened me up more to the creative side of things, photography included. I love nothing more than snapping beautiful sunset shots on my runs, and I’ve even bought myself a book on iPhone photography. It’s a small passion  but it’s growing!

 

Be able to do a single pull up

Okay I can now do an assisted pull up with around half my bodyweight supported. Not too shabby!

Travel!

I used most of my annual leave this year on taking my mum to the south of Spain. She’s been through such a lot with the divorce this year, that I honestly didn’t give it a second thought. And whilst it’s true that I have the post-holiday blues (especially having realised I only have 2 days annual leave left in 2017), I can always travel next year!

The Mantra: Move Your Frame

Yes! It’s so important to me to keep active every day, whether that be simply taking a walk at lunchtime or doing some quick yoga before bedtime. It makes such a difference to my mood, and helps me make the most of my body!

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All in all, it’s been a tricky year so far, goals-wise. Part of me just wants it to be 2018 already so I can start afresh, but also I know it’s silly to wish away time. I want desperately to refocus myself on a new Big Goal, but nothing has struck a chord as yet. I guess we’ll have to wait and see!

Tell me, what were your 2017 goals – and how are you getting on with them? 

 

Lots of love,

 

Pippa

 

Five Minute Review: Veronika Decides to Die

In my quest to read 52 books in a year over the course of 2017, I’ve had some hits and some misses. This has to be one of the good ones. I looked forward to reading it every evening before bed, and would recommend it to anyone.

If I had to describe Veronika Decides to Die in five words, it would be:

Life-affirming, soothing and beautiful.

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The premise of this book is a girl named Veronika who decides to commit suicide by taking an overdose. She survives her suicide attempt, but wakes up in hospital seriously ill and with only a few days to live. And so it begins…

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Honestly, as morbid as this sounds, it’s truly beautiful and life-affirming. It’s a relatively easy read, and as with The Alchemist, I finished it feeling uplifted- Coehlo just has a gorgeous, lyrical style of writing that captures you from start to finish.

Would I recommend it to a friend? Absolutely!

Marks out of 10: 8

That’s it folks!
What should be the next book on my list? 

Lots of love,

 

Pippa

Five Minute Review: Sleeping Giants

I set myself a 2017 goal of reading 52 books in a year. The aim of this goal was firstly to get reading more, but secondly to try to find more can’t-put-down reads to really get lost in. And I have to say, I think I’ve found one!

If I had to describe Sleeping Giants in five words, it would be:

Intriguing, can’t-put-down good.

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The premise of this book is simple yet fascinating: a girl in South Denver stumbles upon a gigantic, metal hand buried deep beneath the surface of the earth. Years go by, and it becomes clear that there are more of these artefacts scattered across the globe… and thus it begins…!

I won’t say any more, but I will say that if you’re at all interested in science fiction or fantasy novels this will be for you. As soon as I finished this one, I picked up its sequel, Waking Gods – and it’s just as good.

Would I recommend it to a friend? Absolutely!

Marks out of 10: 9.5

 

That’s it folks!
What should be the next book on my list? 

Lots of love,
Pippa

Podcast of the Month: Happier

As long-time readers of this blog will know, I’m a big fan of podcasts (you can check out some previous posts here and here). Honestly, one of my favourite parts of the day is walking the half hour to work, coffee in hand and podcast in the earbuds. And recently I’ve been really enjoying a new podcast, which I wanted to share with you today.

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It’s called Happier, and it’s presented by Gretchen Rubin (author of The Happiness Project) and her sister Elizabeth Craft. It discusses “habits, happiness and human nature” and has been really adding value to my life recently. Although a podcast called Happier may sound slightly superficial (in line with all those well-intentioned people who tell you to just think positive), Gretchen and Elizabeth show a real understanding for the difficulties of the human condition- everything from the depression we often feel after a big goal or milestone, to the anxiety of changing gym.

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The podcast is broken up into sections:

  • Try This At Home
  • Happiness Hack
  • Listener Questions
  • Demerits and Gold Stars

Here are just a few pieces of wisdom  I’ve received from the podcast over the past few months:

  • Sometimes things just suck- for instance, a breakup, or a bereavement. It’s okay to acknowledge that and just allow it to be.
  • Limiting your news intake can be helpful when it comes to getting depressed over current affairs, and print is shown to be less anxiety-provoking than video.
  • Doing something every day is easier than doing it some days- this has been really useful for me when it comes to getting up at the same time every day, even when my schedule can vary. It’s just easier to not have to think about it.
  • When you lie about something, it’s often because your reality doesn’t live up to your values- like for instance if you tell people you run 5 times per week, but often only manage once. In these situations, lies can act as a signal that you either need to change your reality (ie. the thing you’re lying about) or just fess up and be honest.

See, I told you these ladies were insightful!

Want to give it a listen? I would recommend one particularly insightful episode all about how to deal with depressing current affairs (spoiler alert: taking action helps). It’s just what we need in a Brexit and Trump-filled world.

Any podcast recommendations for me?

Lots of love,

 

Pippa