If you read my last post - Does it pay to be kind? - you'll probably know that I've been feeling a little vulnerable for the past few days. Well I'm very much ready to move on from the whole experience so I've spent the weekend focussing a little more on myself and taken time off from all I can for a few days.

Having trial and error-ed some tricks for picking up my mood over the past few days (and years) I thought I'd share a few of the more effective ones that really work for me.

Stepping back from it all.
Sometimes when your in the middle of an emotionally turbulent environment it can't be hard to see the wood for the trees, and its easy to get caught up in it all.
My first and foremost go-to strategy is to take a step back. No need for re-evaluation just yet, simply take yourself out of the situation and try to focus on things that are in your control. (Sadly I know this isn't always possible so that's why we have a few more tricks up our sleeves).
What's currently going on in your life (or not) that you find stress-free, enjoyable, or takes your mind of things?

On this occasion for me the trouble made me feel quite vulnerable around other people and strangers, so I've taken myself away from the social and public environments that are messing with my happiness levels and put more time into my work. Work might not seem like the most appealing option to everyone, and if it's not for you that's OK! Find something else that you can dedicate some time to, but for me it was perfect. Having something I can get invested in and temporarily distract my mind from my worries really helps and also give my brain some time to evaluate and assimilate what has happened subconsciously.

Think of something that would bring you joy and make it happen!
Knowing that there's a light at the end of the tunnel is a great motivator to get the best out of me at work and in life. It's encourages me to get involved in more positive activities, and the more I find myself doing, the more fulfilled I start to feel (and I'm worrying less about my troubles)!

Working to get things done has meant I've hit quite a few deadlines way before they're due, so not only am I feeling more positive but I've also suddenly gained some extra time to fit in some of my hobbies that have been long neglected. With all the extra preparations I'm doing I'm really going to be set up to spend sometime concentrating on my music interests and get some videos recorded for the new Youtube channel.

Your goal doesn't have to be a big one to be motivating. It could be knowing that if you get some work done now, you'll have a work free weekend to decorate the kitchen, or soak in the tub!

Relax your muscles & your mind.
When I get stressed, busy, or I'm generally not feeling myself I forget to take time to myself. It's only when things perk up again that I take a bath and think 'wow it's been so long'. Since I noticed this happening I've made a conscious effort to throw myself in the tub if even I don't feel like I'm in the mood. To me, every drip of that tap it likes a warm, soothing drop from heaven. Feeling the aches and pains sap from by body and my mind is one of the most calming experiences. The only thing that can make the experiences even better the is company of a good book.

Get lost in a book.
When stepping away from it isn't an easy option there are other ways you can distract yourself from the stresses of the situation.
My current problem is going on inside my head so I can't so easily step back from it but I can bury my head in a good book for a few few hours or minutes and forget. A great story can really alleviate those worries.

When you read (particularly fiction novels) you can take yourself away from this world and enter another, but you'll also find it gives your mind the time to do it's own wandering. When I read an engrossing book I find myself really connecting with the characters, I almost feel as if they are my friends, people I know, and though I'm not telling them my troubles it's almost as if we are confiding in each other - the characters with there tales of love and strife, and I with my personal battles to tell. You might also find yourself reflecting on your issues, or finding similarities between your struggles and theirs which can be very therapeutic.

If all else fails Sleep can do you wonders. When you sleep not only are you able to leave this world for the land of dreams for a short while, but it's also that essential time your body takes to re-calibrate, ridding the body (and the brain) of waste and toxins, and finding more of a balance.
You may find that your dreams are not always pleasant, but while your bodies is trying to find balance and remove any unwanted toxins so is your mind. If you experience bad dreams, you are likely going over events of emotions in your thoughts that are not yet resolved, and in processing them you will find that over time dealing with them will become easier and your mind will find ways to resolve those issues and rid your thoughts of those toxins.

Be Thankful.
Though I don't consider myself a religious person (although that's another journey I have been finding myself on of late), I have been purposefully putting aside time each today to be mindful. Mindful of the things I am thankful for, and consciously voicing (even in my mind) the positive way in which I hope to continue.

To some this might be prayer, to others just a gentle reminder to yourself, or maybe even through meditation and positive affirmations. For me I find the most effective way of being thankful is to project my thoughts out into the ether. I'm not talking to anyone or anything specifically, but by offering thanks to something other than myself, I find myself more grateful and appreciative of the things I 'do' have, and am more inclined to keep doing so.
This is something I like to do as often as I can. You don't have to take time out of your day to try, you can even do it on the move, while you're waiting for the kettle to boil, while your walking to your next meeting, while you're sitting on the tube or just before your fall asleep.

At first this process might seem foolish or uncomfortable but the more that I apply it to my everyday I've been finding that my outlook has become more and more positive, for the day ahead, the week ahead, and my future.

These tips may not solve life's problems but they are certainly the ways in which I find it easier to cope with them, and approach life from a healthy perspective.

I hope you find this useful, and in the comments below let me know the tips and tricks you use to cope with tough days.
This afternoon I decided to enjoy my time exploring the park on my new London doorstep. The weather was glorious and people from all walks of life were mingling in the sun, enjoying each others company, playing with their children and taking in the fresh air.

I met some of these lovely people. A well dressed, friendly couple strolling with their precious three year old in the pram. As I walked by, headphones in my ears, they stopped me and asked if I might have change for £20. Being the person that I am, I instinctively sought to help them out. They were a nice looking pair and there was the £20 in his hand I had nothing to worry about. But as money exchanged hands I felt a strong urge to change my mind, but realising the reality of the situation I thought it best not to put myself in a dangerous situation and avoiding confrontation, the money swapped hands, we both said nice things and were on our way.

Of course the £20 was counterfeit. Angry with myself for being so ingenuous, I walked away sat down with my new battered £20 and shed a tear. Through my want to be kind to others I had allowed someone to take advantage of me. I felt incredibly embarrassed.

My walk in the park had certainly come to a very unhappy end. I spent some time feeling incredibly foolish, but I pulled myself together and decided to take action. I went back and without aggression confronted the couple and explained that I knew it was a fake, that it is possible they made a mistake but i wanted my money back. Of course they claimed to have spent it and wouldn't return it. Not wanting to put myself in danger again I did my best to communicate, and I'm proud of my courage to stand up for myself but I was not going to get my money back.

I find humanity really tests us as times. Despite the confrontation, and my giving them the opportunity to do the right thing, they stood their ground and feigned ignorance with out a bead of sweat or a shred of guilt. I was angry with myself for being too trusting but more so with them for intentionally targeting someone with a kind appearance, and having no remorse for openly robbing someone.

Times like this make me question how much of myself I give in trust and kindness. In all honesty I'm not sure kindness really gets you all that far in life. It won't guarantee success, a good career, fame, money, love or children. In fact I have no doubt you can achieve all those things without kindness.

So does that make me want to be less kind towards others? Well no. Sometimes I'll get caught out and I have no doubt more people with take advantage of that kindness in the future, but I wouldn't give it up. Because although it may not bring me success in any conventional sense, for every time I smile at a stranger, walk someone across the road, or help another person in true need, the kindness brings me the knowledge that for a moment I brought another person happiness. Today I was unlucky but if I can bring even an ounce of warmth to another persons being, I consider my life a success.

Does kindness pay? Not in coins, but in happiness...yes. Yes it does.

You probably know me by now. I love to craft but I like to keep it simple so we can all make a decent attempt of it regardless of previous experience of gadgets around the house. 

So yep you got it we're getting crafty again with this really easy gift bag DIY. Whenever you walk in the craft shop, or a gift shop do you look around and think "pff I could do that?!" well I always get that with gift bags. I mean that can't be that hard right? Well I've made it even simpler for you.

For these gift bags I've made templates for three difference sizes so you can make the perfect fist for your presents and gifts. You can print these out onto A4 or A3 its completely up to you, but make sure to blow them up if you're using A3.

Small 1 giftbag template PDF
Small 2 giftbag template PDF
Medium giftbag template PDF
Large giftbag template PDF

The PDFs are completely free for you to download but please do not distribute them or use them for commercial purposes. If you would like to use them for anything other than personal use and you're not sure please contact me.

So for this DIY you're going to need:

  • A print outs of the attached PDF templates
  • Brown parcel paper or card
  • cocktail stick
  • ruler
  • PVA or double sided tape
  • sticky tape
  • Hessian string in your choice of colours
  • Some tissue paper or straw for decorative filling
  • Your choice of embellishments (optional)
Everything I've used in this DIY was bought from the works and cost me less than £5 with enough supplies for 20+ bags!

When you print the templates you can either make them straight away from the printer paper, or to make gift bags like mine by tracing the templates onto your chosen decorative paper.. Here I'm using brown parcel paper for a rustic look.

Idea: These are totally biodegradable so that's a big thumbs up from me, but if you want to be even more environmentally friendly why not try making these by recycling your old and used gift wrapping? You could even use news paper!

To watch my easy to follow instructions watch the video below on TheasThinkings new Youtube channel!

Basic steps:

For each bag make sure you trace two templates. Cut-out your templates, then fold along all the dotted lines so they are on the inside of your bag. some of these lines will create clear lips for gluing the sides together, and others will create folds so the bags can all be folded flat when not in use.

Before glueing anything together take a needle or cocktail stick and carefully pierce through the circles at the top of the template. This is where we'll thread through the string to create handles.

Now taking your first template put a line of glue or double sided tape on the outer side of the folds and glue or secure onto the inside or your second template. This will keep all the seem tidy and hidden away on the inside of your bag.

Repeat on your second side and the bottom of your bag until all folds have been glued together and leave to dry.

Once your bags are dry you can then decorate them however you like, and string about 30cm of hessian string through the holes we made earlier at the top of the bag.

All you need to finish it off is to add some decorative filling and your present!

If you'd like to see more DIY's you can also try these:

DIY Headboard
Glass Tealight Baubles
Autumn Craft Pompom Pumpkins!

I hope you enjoy this really simple DIY and get creative making beautiful and affordable gift wrapping for your friends and family. Don't forget to tag me in your pictures on twitter using the handle @theasthinkings!

This month has been busy preparing for my travels to London, spending quality time with the family, working on my self, my health, my blog, and the boat! Oh and not to forget launching the big giveaway (there's 4 days left if you've not entered! end 06.05.16) and of course the YouTube channel which I'm really enjoying.

Some of my favourite posts in April were:

My fitness progress in

Fitness Diaries #1 and 
Fitness Diaries #2

Revisiting my Travels in the US with

Travel Diaries | LA Art-seeing

and of course that gorgeous

Lemon Drizzle Muffin recipe
which I'm really super proud of!

There's been so much more that happened behind the scenes though and I've been capturing it all with daily instas, so here's the best from my month in pictures:

If you use Instagram don't forget to follow me @theasthinkings and leave your links in the comments box I would love to see what you got up to last month too!

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