30 May, 2013

Do you enjoy my little blog? PLEASE nominate my blog in the Cosmo Blog Awards x


So it's obvious my blog isn't the most snazzy around, it's not aesthetically awe-inspiring and it doesn't have all the special widgets and apps that can make professional blogs look 'proper'. I know that, but it doesn't phase me because I also know that's not what should drive my readers. I want the people who read my blog to read it for the fact that it offers something that's pretty hard to come by these days - sincerity. My blog is nothing if not honest, and I love the fact that it doesn't hide behind any airs and graces, but goes back to just good old written word, and quality writing at that.Too many 'writers' these days hide behind aesthetics, mirroring the problem with the entire modern world, and I try to bring us back to the things that matter - art, literature, humanity, real-life.

Luckily for my blog, it does have some dedicated readers.  In it's lifetime it's had a fair few hits to say my publicity goes as far as the occasional Facebook post, and readers from across the globe too. I am always dazzled to see it is being read in some far away place like India and I wish I knew who those people were reading it from the other side of the world. I know who some of my readers are though, and those are the people who make my week when I get a message telling me how much they enjoy it, or how it has cheered them, made them smile or just inspired them to look at things more positively. The highlight of my blogging life to date was an email from someone telling me my Mid-20's Crisis post had genuinely helped her through a really difficult time. I won't pretend that's why I write, I write for me, but mannnn that felt good!

Some of these dedicated readers I speak of have recently encouraged me to enter the Cosmopolitan Blog Awards, and so true to style I have dived in with a 'why not' attitude? So now you'll see a little voting widget on my homepage - yes, that's right, a widget! - which links to the Cosmo Blog Awards page. There you can follow some really simple steps to nominate me under the category of Best Lifestyle Blog. Even if mine isn't the actual BEST blog in town-  do you enjoy my blog? do you find it interesting? do you look forward to reading it? If no, then stop reading for heavens sake! If yes, then please do me a favour, pay me back for the entertainment and reading material I have provided you with, and take 2 minutes out of your time to nominate me. 

I will finish by saying I live my life by the motto Be Silly, Be Honest, Be Kind, and I like to think my blog is all those things. It should be anyway as it is my own stream of consciousness (although I am willing to admit sometimes it might be a little passionate too...) and while I don't claim to be the most graceful writer or the most savvy blogger in town, I do feel very proud of the posts I produce, their meaning, their endurance, their staying-power and their ability to resonate.

STEPS TO NOMINATE ME IN THE COSMO BLOG AWARDS 2013
  • Head to this link and click 'next' to the nomination page: http://www.cosmopolitan.co.uk/blogs/cosmo-blog-awards-2013/enter-the-2013-cosmopolitan-blog-awards-nominate-now
  • Type in your email address
  • Type in my blog URL: www.thehanmadetales.com
  • Select 'best lifestyle blog'
  • Answer 'No' to 'Is this blog under 1 year old'
  • Complete the check boxes
  • Click submit!
  • Ask others to do the same if you know they read it too.
Love and thanks

x


27 May, 2013

'If it's not alright, it's not the end' x


I haven't blogged in ages. I just haven't had the headspace. Sometimes when life is crazy, something has to take a backseat and unfortunately the things we sacrifice tend to be the things we love the most - for me that is my writing and this blog. I sort of have a hierarchy of activities that my life revolves around and it goes a little something like this: work because we have to, exercise because it enhances all other areas of my life, relationships - including family and friends, baking because it relaxes me and writing because that's what I was born to do. It's a difficult thing to accept that for most of us the thing we love the most is the thing that has to come last, but when work is good, I have time/health to exercise and my relationships are steady I bake and write like tomorrow may never come. I live for those days.

Recently my professional life has been uncertain and stressful, I haven't been able to exercise due to ongoing stress-related ailments, I have had a world of disappointments and so much has gone on in my personal life that it's all I can do at the end of the day to have a hot bath, try to stay calm and wake up the next day ready to give it my all. I am going through one of those waves they say you have to ride out - resist, and you'll go under. I am trying really hard to stay focused on the future, when all this madness will be over and I can have my life back again. It's hard to do, when in the back of your mind there is a constant nagging, a constant fear and a constant feeling of insecurity when you look ahead and you just see question marks.

I have been through such waves before though and one thing I know this time is, it will all be okay. Not because I am overly confident, but because this time there's one thing I know I will always have - and that is my sense of self, a strong mind and an even stronger heart. I feel things deeply and get knocked down easily, but I am resilient to the last and when I bounce back MAN do I bounce!

Over the last year or so I have been incredibly lucky and life has really helped me out in ways it hadn't for a long time. I have not taken a single day for granted, because I have been so aware of my own fortune and even more aware of how easily it could all fall away. Because of that I don't resent this tricky period as such, I have been through far worse ones to say the least, it's just that this one is intense because it's one of those EVERYTHING AT ONCE scenarios that we all love so much...

I had been feeling all sorry for myself and fed up when I happened to watch a film at my boyfriend's parents which was about a group of people visiting India and their different approaches and abilities to be 'happy'. The underlying sentiment seemed to be about trying to enjoy each day and go with the flow, embrace the surprises life brings and more importantly deal with disappointment with grace. I know that as a person I can easily forget to do that when I get stuck in my own head and sometimes I need reminding. I am a big believer in fate and I think I watched that film for a reason - there was a message in there for me. So life's been a bit stressful for a bit, really I have got so much to be thankful for and at the end of the day 'we get up in the morning and we do our best and nothing else matters.'

I have always had to go through a difficult time in my life to get a really good one, so I'm just moving forwards, trying to enjoy each day as it comes (when I'm not a ball of stress/crying/having a tantrum) and to avoid panicking and I am SO looking forward to my pot of Gold at the end of this colourful time.

x




10 May, 2013

A runners heart: bye bye old trainers


I got these trainers when I first started running, 3 long years ago now. Me and these shoes have been through a lot together. We've run on average around 20 miles a week (not including the weeks of laziness, illness and plain old CANNOT be bothered!) If my Maths serves me rightly, that's over 3,000 miles. 3,000 miles of sweat, pain, euphoria, anxiety, headaches, hills, anger, frustration, joy, sunshine, streets, parks, people, meditation and me-time. That's 3,000 miles of uphill work, 3,000 miles of confidence, 3000 miles of self-esteem and 3,000 miles towards the person I want to be. It's no coincidence that in that time I feel like my life has accelerated 3,000 miles from where I was back then - up and up and up I go!

I have written before about my love of running and of it's importance to me, and while I am in a happy place right now, all those things still stand if not more than they did to begin with. I'm not your average runner in some ways and someone once said to me I don't have a typical runners body (I am curvier than the usual long-distance waifs) and I thought 'yeah, but I have a runners heart.'

When I'm sad, I put on my trainers and run for miles and miles until the sadness dissipates as my perspective grows. When I'm happy I celebrate with a run. When I'm feeling heavy I get out there onto those pavements and instantly feel like a lighter load. Running is my best friend - it never fails to put my mind at ease and it's always always always there. Any time. When I can't run for illness or busyness or just plain LIFE getting in the way, it actually hurts my heart. But it's never longer than a week or so before I am back out there again.

I recently moved house and my entire running pattern that I'd known for a long time had to shift, for weeks I couldn't run on the streets and I can no longer go early morning running, like I used to love and depend on so much. It was so hard at first, I actually thought I was losing my mind without that release and that need to just be alone with my thoughts and the quiet of  Sheffield at 6am. I have adjusted though and now I just run differently - I go on the treadmill for miles before work, and I make sure to get out and do a big fat run round the city every weekend that I can. A runners heart always finds a way!

This Sunday morning I will be running with these trainers for the very last time, in the Sheffield half marathon - for the trainers are old, worn, grey, with holes in and they are no longer supporting my pained back! I got me some new snazzy ones and I am sure me and them will create our own, new memories  It feels so sad throwing away the old ones, purely for the fact that it feels like saying goodbye to a massive, pivotal chapter of my life. But as they say, out with the old, in with the new - I can't wait to find out what me and the new trainers will go through together over the next few years. If the last 3 years are anything to go by, it is going to be a bumpy yet brilliant journey.

(It's not too late to sponsor me.... www.justgiving.com/hanrunhan)


x


08 May, 2013

Kill them with kindness


I haven’t had time to blog as much lately and am feeling that need to just sit at my laptop and write all day. It’s not going to happen for a while as the past month has been a whirlwind of weddings, birthdays, mini breaks and various shifts in my personal life. It’s all been positive though, so instead of begrudging the lack of time I am just looking forward to the next time I can sit and write all day, but until then I am getting creative and blogging in lunch breaks, from buses and probably at some point in the near future, whilst tipsy! (Although knowing the history of my drunk texts I was capable of as a younger me, a drunk blog post could really leave a trail of destruction, so I may avoid that one…)

All of the above is mainly an excuse for why I am blogging something that isn’t my original idea, but something that I sincerely identified with when I stumbled across it.

It was only last week I blogged about the advice I give to myself and to my friends when they’re feeling Blue (advice that quite frankly seems to work a treat) and one point I made was about being kind to others to give you a boost too. It takes a certain type of person, but I definitely find that doing something sweet for another person, even if it’s just complimenting their shoes or sending them a little card of appreciation in the post, totally makes my day if not my week. It can turn any day on its head, and I can end what was a bad day feeling really bloody good about myself, simply because I have helped someone else be happ(ier)! 

Just a few days after my blog post about this, I stumbled across this article in Cosmo (I am sure they are stealing my ideas you know) about why it’s ‘cool to be kind’ and I was like YES! THIS! THAT’S WHAT I SAID! HIRE ME COSMO, HIRE ME NOW! Really though, the reason I had the same thought as a national glossy is because actually it’s pretty bloody obvious. You only have to smile at a homeless person to get a good feeling – it doesn’t take a genius to work out why that is.

What is or can be hard is putting that concept into practice. Life is so busy, we are so stressed and quite frankly any spare time we do have we just want to stuff our faces with that Popcorn Dairy Milk and watch Broadchuch (I do anyway, as I missed it the first time around somehow). But kindness doesn’t have to take a lot of time or break the bank, you just have to get creative and for the act to be genuine in order for it to be worth doing.

Cosmo’s article talk’s about a blog called Make me Joyful, which was set up to encourage and enable people to spread the positivity, while Random Acts of Kindness if full of tips and ideas for this very cause. Personally, I prefer for things I do for others to come from the heart – I think it means more if you have had the idea yourself, otherwise it just becomes a box ticking process and that’s not quite so cool. I would have to give up my day job to do all of the ideas that pop into my head , but sometimes just letting someone know you had the thought is enough and can give them a boost.

Yes acts of kindness can be for the most selfish reasons possible, let’s face it altruism and kindness are 2 different things, but why should that stop us? At the end of the day, kindness breeds positivity, positivity breeds happy people and a happy person means a generally nicer (and hopefully quieter) life for them and those they come into contact with. I have started doing little things for others more and more, and am trying to make it a weekly event. You never know when you are going to make someone’s day, so hurry up – go and buy some flowers for your office, bring a cake to your neighbour, next time you like someone’s hair/outfit/general LIFE – tell them! We’re all in this together, life is not a competition (unless we make it one) – for all the critical thoughts you have in a day, you probably could have gone to Africa, built a hut and still had time for that Dairy Milk.

A few years ago a friend sent me this card, after I helped him through a shit time, and I have had it pinned up in my various houses ever since – it sums up perfectly what I’m saying here. Want a bit of sunshine? Give a bit first.

x

02 May, 2013

Life can hurt - how to be okay





This post was inspired by this article, which my friend sent me last night with the by-line 'you could have written this!'

I absolutely could have too. When a friend comes to me feeling down, I feel a strong need to make sure I give them the very best advice I can possible offer and a sole responsibility in that moment for making them feel better about themselves and whatever is going on in their life. They have come to me, so I will put everything on hold and I will not rest until I know I have gone some way to making them feel happier and be stronger.

Obviously this is because all my friends are so worthy of true happiness and I love them a lot, but beyond that I just have this urge to MAKE WOMEN BETTER (myself included). I want to see all the women I know be strong and brave and confident and proud. It frustrates me to see them not be that way and it hurts me when I know I am not being that way too. I think I know how to be strong and brave and proud and confident now, but sometimes I forget and I find myself being weak and needy and forgetting how just bloody great I am. In giving advice to my friends, I remind myself how to be ‘okay’ too.

The afore mentioned article felt particularly relevant to me last night as I have had a week of not only counselling my friends but of counselling me. I seem to be the one friends turn to when they need a boost, and that's something I am really proud of. I am sure on some level the support I give my friends is selfish - I need to feel needed and wanted and loved and all that jazz – but as I mentioned, I also want to see women world over be confident of themselves, because too too too many ladies are so quick to criticise themselves and blame themselves and feel negative thoughts about their lives, and too too too many bastard men reinforce that.

This isn’t the space to get into how society became that way or why, but I decided to share some of the advice my friends value so much with you all. Not because I think I am some guru or life coach or anything like that, but because I am a real girl, who has had some very real experiences, who is very emotionally aware and who will give you an honest, brutal account of how I think you can make yourself feel better when life gives you lemons. And if my friends value my advice so much, there’s no reason why others can’t too. Read away and let me know what approaches do you take to try and be ‘okay’?


X


Remind yourself how great you are

Sometimes when a situation consumes us, we panic and we fear what it might do to us. What if he runs off with someone ‘better’, what if I lose my job, what if my best mate decides I’m not her best mate anymore? All those things can be big and serious causes of anxiety at times, but when my friends come to me with similar worries, I don’t tell them it won’t happen, I tell them it doesn’t matter if it does.

YOU are great, you are all the things that make you worthy. Write down all the things you love about yourself and all the things you have to offer – it’s a good way to see what might need to change too. If someone or something rejects you? So what. That is 100% their loss. As long as you are happy and proud of who you are, then anyone in your life who doesn’t also appreciate all your greatness? Goodness me, you just do not have room for them. Ask them to hurry up and move over while you make way for the people who do deserve your love and light. And who make you feel valuable every day that they know you.

If you don’t feel great, make yourself great

The first point doesn't work unless you actually feel great about yourself, which I have learnt firsthand. I have been VERY guilty of ignoring everything life has blessed me with and actually just somehow making myself worse. A lot worse. Drinking too much, behaving out of character, chasing after unsuitables (and in hindsight some serious undesirables, eurgh), having the self-esteem of a doormat, ignoring the things I have been blessed with, failing to utilise my intelligence and creativity for want of what at the time I perceived as ‘fun’. As a result of course I wasn't happy with my life, of course my confidence was gone, and of course I had no-one to blame but myself.

If you find yourself on the floor, you need to get the hell up because no-one else will rescue you. You need to work at the things that make you feel happy and proud and stop doing the things that bring you away from that goal. One of the best pieces of advice ever given to me when I was literally at rock bottom was: ‘think of someone who you admire, a friend who you think has it all, who is happy and confident – do you think she would behave like this? Of course she wouldn’t. Don’t you want to be her? Don’t you want to get up and be like her??’ and that was it for me. I literally changed overnight. I took responsibility and started behaving like the person I wanted to be, and before I knew it, I was that person. Yes that’s right, I AM BEYONCE!

Take responsibility

Everything you do counts towards your happiness. Every step you take. Every ounce of energy you put out into the world counts towards you long term destination. Don’t go out and get wasted and lose your phone and sleep with a random and then wonder why you don’t feel happy or why you’re not living the high life with a loving partner. For a long time I would do this and then look at my life and wonder why it wasn’t what it should be. ITS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE HANNAH!

Do girls who go out and get wasted and behave undesirably attract love? No. Do people who waste all their time having too much ‘fun’ end up successful in their career? No. Actively look at the things you are putting your energies into, because that will be your destination. It’s never too late to change it either. It’s hard at first, really hard, but the rewards come quick enough. On the flip side, if you aren’t happy right now but you know you are putting your time, thoughts and energy into really positive stuff, then man do you have some happy times ahead of you.

I realised this thanks to the beautiful sounds of Charlie Winston and I will always be grateful to him for making this song. It’s so easy to blame the world for the lack of whatever it is we feel we don’t have but think we deserve – ‘life isn't fair, life won’t give me a break, why does everything bad happen to meeee!’ By enlarge, that’s bollocks. You can’t design your life, but you can ensure you aren’t responsible for things that might not be working and you can make the best of situations that are presented to you.

Let yourself not be okay

Something that really helps me and stops me from panicking when I feel miserable, is actually just accepting that a day is never going to come where from that moment on I am just always okay and happy. Not until I get into heaven anyway. It is an embarrassing cliché, but happiness really is a mood not a destination – which means that you can have it all and feel miserable, or you can feel you have nothing and still feel happy. I have been in both positions. If you are feeling bad for a few days, that doesn’t mean your whole life is bad or that you are always miserable, it is literally just a difficult few days and your mood will change again.

Something I have really noticed about me and my friends it the amount of pressure we put on ourselves to be happy. Like if one day we wake up and we’re not happy that means we are somehow failing, and that is all our own fault for not being better at life. I have tried to stop thinking like that recently, and something I tend to tell my friends now is that it’s okay to feel upset and miserable. Let it wash over you, the more you resist something inevitable, the harder it’s going to be and the longer it’s going to go on for.

Sometimes life puts us in situations that just ARE SHIT. They just are. There is no getting away from it. So just accept it and be upset about that situation - cry, shout, eat chocolate until you are sick. Then dust yourself off, get up the next day (or a few weeks later) and be ready to have let that situation made you stronger.

Be independent and look outside yourself

I am at my happiest when I’m not focusing on my own life. When I’m not analysing it in minute detail, but just living it and embracing the world.

I have got better recently at to some extent just ignoring things that might make my life feel hard and instead focusing on things that do make me happy. I write, I run, I bake a cake, I eat yummy food, I go to work and make myself just enjoy the present, enjoy the day that I am having right now today. Until I just don’t have time for that worry right now thank you very much. What’s important is that all the things you choose to focus on are independent of anyone or anything else. It is really important to have that or else you will be reliant on someone or something else to make you happy, which is quite frankly never a good plan!

It also helps to look outwards, not for support or to find how the world can help you, but to see what you can give to the world. It doesn’t hurt to focus on helping others when you feel down. It takes a lot of strength, but spending an hour giving a friend advice can give you the mental distance from your own worries that you need, so that when you come back to those worries they don’t feel so bad. Doing little things like sending your friends cards and surprising them with treats can go a long way to making you feel a hell of a lot happier yourself.

What approaches do you take to try and be ‘okay’?