So this week’s #howtobehappier post maybe *ahem* slightly biased because of our new arrival. But stick with me as it’s not just a reason to show off my adorable, my heart can’t take the cuteness, new kitten Louis but there is actual science involved. I know get me.
Having a fluffy feline friend, loyal canine companion, or even a mesmerising goldfish can make you happier. It doesn’t even have to be yours, I’m not condoning swiping the next animal you see on the street but spending time in the company of loving pets (family, friends or your own) can do wonders for your health.
Stroking an animal has been known to lower blood pressure, reduce stress and anxiety, ease loneliness, provide unconditional love and affection, encourage exercise and boost your self-esteem. Playing with a dog or cat raises your serotonin and dopamine levels (the ones that make you calm and happy), and pet owners have lower cholesterol levels (indicators of heart disease) than those without pets. Whoa.
After having Louis for less than a week I totally agree with this theory. I find myself rushing home from work to see him, laughing at his newest discoveries, helping him find his way in this new house. I’m turning into one of those women who constantly tweet and share photos of their baby. Sorry. Well not really.
The weirdest thing is that I’ve never been a cat person. Dogs were my bag. I dreamed of owning my own puppy, I even dragged my dad to Crufts so I could just look at dogs. Yep that was how much I loved these four legged friends. But working 9-5 job, then backpacking and now living in a 3rd floor apartment has meant the puppy will have to wait.
I think the reason I never got the whole cat thing was because I’d never been around them. We didn’t have one as I was growing up and neither did any of my friends. My boyf on the other hand is Team Cats. He’s always had a cat and was so sad when his childhood cat died just after we returned from South America, that one night we got chatting about *maybe* getting a kitten. He was convinced I’d understand how incredible these animals are and love them just as much as I love dogs.
Still slightly sceptical but never one to back down from a challenge (I’m an animal lover but for me nothing beats a dog) we were en route to a farmyard in the middle of the French countryside to meet Louis. A fluffy white 20 day old kitten. Holding him in my hand when he couldn’t even walk, could barely squeak and looked up at me with his mismatched bright eyes (one is green and the other blue) my heart instantly melted. The next few weeks of waiting until he was litter trained, eating and ready to leave his mum were SO hard. I found myself looking at photos of him imagining what he’ll be like when he was ours, how he’d cope without his brothers and if he’d love us like I knew we loved him. I mean just LOOK at that iccle face!!!
Then last week we got the call! He was ready to come home! So another drive out to the middle of nowhere to pick him up and I couldn’t believe how much he’d changed. More fluff, more confident, and even more adorable.
Well, since then I can’t imagine him not being here. He is still very young, only 8 weeks old and so tiny but really well behaved. The first night we had him I kept getting up to check he was still breathing (he was fine it was just my maternal hormones going crazy). Oh God, what have I become?!
Obviously not everyone has the time, space and money to devote their love to an animal. Getting any pet is a big responsibility, one that is for life and not just for Christmas. So if owning an animal isn’t feasible it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the health and happiness benefits either. Why not offer to walk a neighbour’s dog, look after a friend’s cat whilst they are on holiday, volunteer at a local animal shelter?
Spending time with animals is guaranteed to put a smile on your face (although it has made writing slightly more challenging!). The dog vs cat debate continues in the NotWedorDead household, but I have to admit that little Louis is completely purrfect. I feel I owe the feline world an apology.
You can find the other posts in my #HowToBeHappier series here, here and here. I’d LOVE to know what you think! Remember you can get in touch any time via Twitter @notwedordead, Facebook, or drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) I hope you have a ruddy brilliant weekend whatever you’re up to!
Food is a HUGE part of French life. Buttery flaky croissants ripped open and dipped into bowls of freshly ground coffee for breakfast. An hour and a half sit down proper lunch every day, usually with a cheeky glass of wine. No grab and go Greggs sausage rolls over here.
And don’t get me started on the evening meal. Usually kicking off with an aperitif (relaxed drinks picking on little nibbles, crisps and olives), someone shouts ‘à table’ and everyone moves over to the beautifully decorated table where you’ll be sat for anything from 2 to 6 hours. Yes really. Christmas Eve, the night when most French families have their festive feast, I sat down just before 9pm and didn’t move my bum until 2am to roll home. Literally.
Carbs are king. Apparently it’s not a meal unless a crusty baguette is on hand. Starters, main course, cheese and salad, dessert then a coffee or digestive is totally normal for an evening meal, for a girl who thinks a bowl of cereal is an acceptable dinner this puts me to shame. Wine flows like a waterfall. Expect red meat, heavy creamy cheese covered carbs, indulgent sweet desserts, salty side dishes sauce, cream and butter. I just have no idea how French women stay so slim!
If you’re invited to dinner in France, here are my top tips:
Wear your comfiest, stretchiest trousers. This is a marathon not a sprint. You need to pace yourself and for that comfort is key. Think Homer Simpson pants rather than tight chic leather ones. Dress up from the top half as that is all most people will see at the table.
Always have a glass of water for every glass of wine. Your glass will never be empty, so if you want to finish the dinner without snoring into your steak you need to stay hydrated.
Try everything. There may be things you’ve never seen before, things that don’t appear to have even been threatened by an oven (steak tartare = raw steak?!) and things that you have no idea how to eat, but try to be open minded. Who knows what you’ll discover!
Forget your diet. Food is a pleasure, a luxury to be enjoyed with family and friends not to be pushed around your plate as you work out what has the least calories. Enjoy now and sweat is out tomorrow.
Be patient. Only take a sip of your drink once everyone else has a glass in their hand. Don’t help yourself to a handful of crisps until everyone has arrived. Basically take your time before you start slurping and snacking.
When you travel expect to say a whole load of goodbyes and they never get any easier. Firstly, you start off with emotional goodbyes to your family and friends. You may even have a whole party to say goodbye.
You often board that first flight full of mixed emotion. Buzzing with excitement of what lies ahead merged with a heavy sadness of what you’ve left behind. What you’re going to experience fights against the uncertainty of what you’ll be missing out on back at home. Change is always difficult.
But those first few moments of hesitation and uncertainness soon disappear when you land, make it to your first destination and realise how brave you were in saying those hard goodbyes, as you will soon be rewarded with incredible hello’s.
A hey how you doin’ to new cites, new faces and new experiences. Hello’s are great. Hello’s mark a new friend, new memories and a new way of living.
Travel allows you to meet so many awesome people from all over the world. Strangers become your new BFF’s, you form such intense relationships in such a short time, bonding over shared moments.
The only downside with all of these hello’s is that they one day have to become a goodbye.
You’ve kept food in your fridge longer than you’ve known these people, surely it won’t be difficult leaving them? But it’s the connection you had that counts. Any backpacker will tell you how hard it is to leave the party early. Heartfelt hugs, swapping ALL your contact details, promising to never forget one another and often a bucket load of tears. Why do we put ourselves through this?!
Saying goodbye sucks but that’s a small price to pay to keep having these incredible hellos, these new friends and new memories. This is why we travel.
So the next time you’re leaving someone, somewhere or something, think of it as a see you soon and get ready for the next hello.
I forget how much I love taking photos. It was one of the things that made me happiest as I was backpacking. Snapping away, catching those fleeting moments, looking through full memory cards immediately taken back to those incredible times and places I’ve been lucky enough to experience. However, as we’re staying put (for the time being anyway) I don’t have any monumental landmarks nearby to flex my lens. But that shouldn’t stop me from doing something that makes me happy.
So, I grabbed my camera and headed out to this adorable little place not far from where we live. Le Vivier du Valmont is this beautiful green space with picnic tables dotted around a still lake surrounded by a large leafy forest. I was last there on a chilly autumnal day crunching on frosty fallen leaves, so it was great to see the place blooming.
Spring has certainly sprung.
We’d had a lazy Saturday night which involved pizza (I swear the small independent one near us makes the best pizzas in France), cuddles with our new kitten Louis (more on him later this week) and snuggles on the sofa watching an oldie but a goodie film Coach Carter. Samuel L Jackson you are a legend. So waking up without a hangover meant we could blitz the cleaning, have a leisurely breakfast, find our walking boots that had been gathering dust since South America and venture out to get some fresh air.
Towering trees formed an apple green celling above us as we strolled hand in hand past old couples on benches and teenagers lazing in the sun. Even though sun was streaming through the leaves there was still a chill in the air, so the winter coat (and shades) stayed on.
Wild flowers, nettles and fallen branches stood in our way on the winding trekking paths. We may have taken a wrong turn as at one point we found ourselves walking through overgrown grass still wet with dew, getting stung by pesky nettles, ah nothing like a country walk?!
Tiny wooden bridges called for posing. I’ve lived in France for so long but I still haven’t mastered that chic French thing have I?!
It was such a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon. We left with my memory card full, my feet aching but my heart happy. I hope you all had a great weekend?
When you think things aren’t working out exactly as you may have hoped in life, sometimes it helps to look back at the things that have happened and realise that there was always a day before. A day when everything seemed to go just as it had for the previous days, nothing out of the ordinary in your world, without you knowing that tomorrow would bring this momentous, possibly life changing, news or event.
Think about when you met your boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife, well there was the day before. When you didn’t know that just the next day this complete stranger would come into your life. You had no idea as you carried on going about your daily routine that when you woke up the next day you’d get that news you’d been waiting for or meet someone that changes everything. This is the day before effect.
What were you doing the day before you took that pregnancy test, met your best friend, got hired for the job you really wanted? Probably you were pottering about, going about your life, unaware what was coming the next day. Then the next day came, everything changed (even if you didn’t realise how much at the time). This shows that even when things may seem a little boring, life has its (sometimes) dull routines or things aren’t coming together as you’d hoped, don’t fear as tomorrow everything may change. Today is just the day before.
Nobody knows what will happen tomorrow. Anything could happen tomorrow.
So stop stressing that you can control everything, that you know how your future is going to be mapped out or that you feel you’re trying to force your life down a certain path, as who knows what may happen to mix it all up.
I hope this makes some sort of sense. There was a day before I decided to write this blog, booked my plane ticket to travel and made the leap into this new unknown life, and I don’t regret a thing!
I’d love to know what you think. You can get in touch with me here:
Have a fantastic weekend all x