Lianne Williams

Why I Blog publicly rather then privately

Opinion, Blogging, Mental Health, OrganisationLianne Williams1 Comment
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And it's not as ‘self indulgent’ as you'd imagine.

I started my first blog back in 2003.

Back then most blogs were literally just an online diary. Every day you'd upload a text post (No photos etc. This was back when we had animated backgrounds and auto-play 8 bit music) and that was that.

If 12 people saw it that was great. If you got a comment that was impressive.

Now-a-days I get tens of thousands of views. Things are SO much different now. Bloggers can be multi millionaires. They’re often labelled ‘influencers’, even ‘experts’. Back when I started blogging, sure, some people were very popular and had ‘big’ blogs, but for the most part it was an obscure niche, a past time, and not many people even knew what a blog was.

I used mine to record my inner monologue... consider my thoughts of the day, practice my writing, vent, keep in touch with friends and update them on what I was up to if they weren't on my MSN or MySpace. Sometimes I got creative with it, I'd upload quizzes, photos, artwork, jokes I liked. It performed much like a Facebook profile before Facebook existed. There was nothing else to it. However, even then, I still couldn't answer that question... why was I sharing all this stuff publicly?

Even now, when blogging has a thriving community and industry behind it, how can I justify sharing content or blogging online if I'm not using it to expand my business or make money?

How can I blog such intimate details about my life, just for fun?

Some friends/family found the idea of a blog, and even a website, alien and intrusive.

Couldn't I just email my friends? Couldn't I keep my blog set to private? Why did I want to blog at all? Why did I use my real name? Surely a paper journal would suffice? Wasn't it arrogant to think anyone would find my life interesting? Wasn't it dangerous to put myself online? Isn't it all just 'keeping up with the Jones' or 'showing off' or 'being self indulgent?'

And even though I didn't have the words to describe why I was doing what I was doing, and why I preferred the format of a blog over a diary, I knew deep down it was about connecting. Not necessarily 'attention seeking' or 'showing off' (and I've considered those possibilities with an open mind) or even just marketing myself or networking in a professional sense... it was more then those things, it was something far more complex then that.

I could only begin to explain my relationship with my blog after recently coming across a concept discovered by Henry A. Landsberger, called The Hawthorne Effect: The tendency that individuals work harder or better when they are being observed.

The Hawthorne Effect was discovered during a study of workers at a factory in the USA when they realised that whilst under observation the productivity and performance of the workers improved, and when the experiment was finished, performance reduced back down to normal levels.

This sounded very familiar to me.

It's also why I think many creatives and bloggers worry about their audience numbers... if you don't feel like you're being watched, it can make us give up and or put less effort in. We like to perform.

Nobody tells a singer or a dancer that they should do it all in private and never have an audience... so why should writers, creatives, bloggers?

After some consideration I realised that for me it also doesn't matter if the audience likes what they see. Rejection is just a natural part of the experience- their attention as an audience alone, positive or negative still contributes to my productivity (it's probably related to positive/negative ego strokes). The simple fact is the knowledge that someone could be watching me is enough for me to commit to blogging... because I don't want to let them down. I want to be on my best behaviour. I want to put on a show for them. 

An audience also seems to provide me with another benefit. By having an audience I will think up better and bolder ways to entertain them. I will try new things, push myself to reach my goals and in turn improve myself as a person.

If it wasn't for my blog I wouldn't have sold art, learnt CSS, HTML, Photoshop, tried brush lettering, baked a rainbow cake, or took myself as a creative seriously- when other people take you seriously, when your audience takes you seriously, you start to wonder...  maybe there’s some truth in it. I wouldn't have been published without my blog. Nobody would have found me or known of my work. I wouldn't have met hundreds of wonderful artists and individuals who genuinely believe in me and what I make. Who buy what I make and read what I write... even if it’s 'whiny' or 'self indulgent' that week. I wouldn't have exhibited. It's even healed me and allowed me to make big changes in my world.

Blogging publicly is a win-win situation.

This is why switching to private as a blogger and as an artist doesn't make sense for me. Why would I make things harder for myself? 

Now I know that's a lot to attribute to just one silly website, but yeah, my blog has been a brilliant way to keep myself accountable and moving forward. More so then my education. More so then social media. More so then life coaches. More so then my own family and friends. Its nagged me, disciplined me, consoled me. It's given me more work and opportunities (and in an industry notoriously difficult to find work in) then my CV and qualifications ever did. It's kept me in touch with people who've been better friends then people I've known my whole life. And of course, it's produced an income: A small but undeniable bonus.

With all the talk about social media addiction, unplugging, detoxes and blogger burn out in the news right now I frequently ask myself, could I have achieved all these things without my blog, by just keeping a sketchbook or a journal? Could I quit the internet? Shut down my blog? I'm  sure I could function without it- but certainly not as well. 

It all goes back to that desire for an audience. The audience is vital. Where would I find an audience for my sketchbook? My diary? Who would I check-in with? Look for feedback from? Teach? Entertain? Encourage? I don't live in an artist community. I don't have a willing audience in my social circle. And besides... why can't I have both? Why can't I have a blog that connects me with the world AND an artist community in person? Why can't I blog publicly AND write privately?

Why does it even have to be so black and white?

Then it dawned on me. When I work on my blog I am effectively working on Me.

The process of deciding what to share, putting in the work to create content, live up to my expectations of myself, learn new skills, find the self confidence to share that (regardless of its loved, hated or seen at all) is why I blog.

That's the core reason.

I could also mention the following:

  • Blogging allows me to meet like minded individuals 
  • I am able to explain techniques, processes or ideas in more detail through my blog that I might not have time for in person or via social media
  • I'm creating a resource- a place for people to go to and enjoy. I am making something.
  • I can showcase my portfolio easily for clients as well as show them my other skills and interests
  • I am securing a business that is independent to social media and not reliant on those platforms. If Facebook closes one day it doesn't affect my career.
  • I collaborate with individuals and brands I wouldn’t get the chance to meet otherwise.
  • I can share what I know with the world without the expense of hosting classes or publishing a book.
  • Blogs are a convenient and simple way to keep in touch with people or for new audiences to find you.
  • I can dream aloud and by talking about my dreams I often get help/advice/opportunities from my readers which I wouldn't have been offered otherwise
  • Blogs can generate income.
  • I learn new skills, from constructing the blog itself, to running a business, to just the things I learn that I discuss in my blog posts. It's a constant education.
  • There's a schedule to follow. And blogging can help establish a routine if you work from home or are self employed.
  • It's a great way to relax and off load tension, as well as seek support and help.
  • There is a community feeling to blogging. You can always find someone to turn to or get advice from.
  • I feel like there's a sense of legacy with a blog. There are memories.

Blogging, for me, is a self reflective tool. When my blog looks good, I’m doing good. When my blog is quiet, I’m probably struggling or stressed out.

Obviously my reasons for blogging may change one day. I don’t know. I’m aware my needs might be different in the future. Things change. People change. But for now, this is how I like things.

My Happiness Project: MAY, Food

Mental Health, Health & BodyLianne WilliamsComment
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Ironically I've just recovered from food poisoning so what will a month of Food Happiness bring?

This post contains affiliate links.You can read my full disclosure policy here.

I’m hoping a lot of delicious food!

Following on from last month where I’m getting in touch with my body again it seems logical, and right, to support it from the inside out and the Universe doesn’t like to disappoint! I’ve been learning a lot!

So far this month I’ve had food poisoning (a reminder to take better care of my food choices), I discovered I will be going to one of my favourite restaurants on Earth this October to celebrate my 10th Wedding Anniversay, Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, my potatoes are growing like crazy, as are my raspberries and strawberries. I’ve broken up with my first true love, pasta, and I’ve signed up to Gousto to try out their recipe boxes.

How foody can one month get?

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This months quote is: 

Eat better. Feel better.

And I hope it helps. Food is fundamental to my happiness. I can’t see food as fuel. I see food as fun. I like the social, healing, surprising sides of food. I like finding new flavour combinations, new herbs, new ingredients. I’m fascinated by the different varieties of say apples or tomatoes that you can get but never see in the supermarket. Wild food fascinates me too- finding wild samphire was a pretty special moment and I just so happened to discover wild garlic for the first time in my life earlier this month too, which id been looking for, for years. 

Show Stoppers

There is something very special about a dish that impresses, a show stopper. Something that goes the extra mile. This month I want to take extra care over my presentation and pushing the boat out when it comes to food theatrics. I've treated the house to some new dinnerware and outdoor dinnerware. It's nice to have some pretty ceramics to work with.

Make my favourites

In our family we have a nut allergy and a gluten intolerance so there are many things I love that I have been avoiding for years to ensure others are happy. It hasn't crossed my mind until recently that maybe I could make those things just for me? An apple pie? Nutella brownie? 

Cook for Others

When I first set up home with my husband, then boyfriend, I dreamt of having friends over for semi-civilised dinner parties with lots of interesting food and drink. It never happened. And since moving house to a much smaller dining room which desperately needs new a new table and chairs, I've not had the confidence to invite anyone round. So job number one: Order a new dining table and some chairs!

No Waste

Waste has been haunting me these past few years. My family LOVE to go food shopping and buy all this stuff and then never eat it. It clogs up our cupboards, our freezer and then starts to take over the counters until it reaches it's use-by date or gets in my way one too many times and I chuck it. I also have issues with portion control, not as bad as their food shopping issues but ykno, when I cook rice or pasta I'll be cooking enough to feed you, your mum, your mums neighbour and your mums neighbours brother. And I hate it. I really hate it. And a lot of the stuff you can't even freeze or if your house is anything like me house, there's not enough room in the freezer to put it even if you wanted to. So this month I've been REALLY good. The cupboards and freezer have been gutted. We have a menu and signing up to Gousto has meant I'm reducing our waste considerably and nobody is going hungry and impulse shopping for snacks. I've also looked into setting up a compost bin for stuff that can be recycled. 

Start Fresh

Signing up to Gousto has been an absolute ball. I LOVE it. It's like looking at a restaurant menu, picking what you want to eat and then they send you the ingredients and you make it yourself. I have done some crazy cooking techniques this month that I would never of had the guts to try if it wasn't for Gousto and my children have become so excited and involved with the cooking. Plus, because they've cooked it, they eat it. Even if it's typically something they'd hate. Most importantly, it's all cooked from fresh. We've reduced our eating out and take-away habits almost to zero which, in my opinion, is excellent, and means we have more money to spend on important things. Like wine. We're spending so much less on our food shopping too as a) the portions are massive and dinner is providing enough food for lunch the next day and b) you only buy the ingredients you need- no massive jars of chipotle sitting in the cupboard. I didn't intend to talk too much about it, but it turns out I've really enjoyed using them and I just so happen to have a refer a friend code, so if you fancy giving Gousto a go yourself, why not treat yourself to a 50% discount on your first two orders. And I don't miss out either. I get a £15 voucher to put towards my own Gousto- win win. Just click below and you can see what they're about and what's on the menu this week.

Goal: Remember the pleasure of cooking and eating again. Be mindful of what I eat and who I eat it with.

Book Review: The Happy Mind by Kevin Horsely and Louis Fourie

Books, Mental HealthLianne WilliamsComment
The Happy Mind Book Review.jpg

I’ll skip to the end- This book is now in my essential reading library

This post contains affiliate links.You can read my full disclosure policy here.

It’s not often that you get asked to review a book and end up loving it so much that you buy yourself your own hard copy so you can annotate it for the rest of your life.

Seriously, I did NOT see this coming.

The Happy Mind by Kevin Horsley and Louis Fourie starts as any other self-help-type book starts. It’s got a life changing goal in mind and it’s going to tell you how you can get there as long as you put in the work-blah-blah-we-know-how-it-all-works-type-shebang.

Now for me, I decided to read this book to see if it could enrich anything I was learning from doing My Happiness Project, I was like, cool, okay, all information on the subject of Happiness is welcome, I'd like to learn some more... What I didn’t expect was for it to end up being one of my favourite books on the subject... my new favourite book on Happiness.

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Insight into my relationship dynamics for a moment.

My husband and I are polar opposites.

I’ve never earned enough to pay off a penny of my student loan, I know maybe 3 people that I'm not directly related to and I’m happy in the sense that I’m cold, dark and cynical... (does that count... probably not...) My idea of success is someone remembering my name after being introduced to me. He, on the other hand is properly successful, popular and happy. A man in demand, seems to be best friends with the whole damn world, naturally gifted at most things, wafts from professional achievement to achievement, rarely upset or worried. Honestly, his level of attainment is sickening at times (probably shouldn't admit to that). I can’t even fathom how he does it and when I ask ‘Darling, how the hell are you achieving all this? How can I get in on some of the action?’ He gazes wistfully towards the horizon and says ‘I don’t know. I’m just happy’

'Fuck off 'you’re just happy'.' I say (Probably shouldn't admit to that either)

'What’s the magic formula? What’s the secret? Who do I need to bribe to give me a shot?'

And this book, this tiny, unassuming book that you can read in a day, pretty much confirms everything Mr Williams says.

Ladies and Gentlemen, he is so blessed, so rewarded, because he’s happy. 

Now most books will just abandon you at this point of revelation. All you have to do is be happy, right? And we all know how to do that.... right????

Well I don’t.

So when it comes to attaining happiness I want actionable steps and hand-holding. I need guidance. I need examples and situations I can relate to and try out myself. Don't tell me to be grateful. What the hell does that even MEAN? Don't tell me to be mindful! I have The Greatest Showman soundtrack stuck in my head, that's as mindful as I get. But thankfully The Happy Mind breaks it all down for you. Happiness is not some exclusive sacred enlightenment only achieved by comprehending obscure metaphysical definitions. The Happy Mind dissects happy specimens so we can analyse for ourselves how they do things, why they do things and what's different between us, and them.

And because I’m a scientist (kinda) I crossed checked every statement and every tip against my husbands behaviour to test how valid it all was. And you know what?! Everything. He did every single thing this book suggests. It was uncanny. 

What struck me was how sensible the suggestions were. Dare I say, obvious? But it is different to other books about Happiness. It has no emotional attachment to happiness. It is functional. And I LOVED that. There is none of this 'you are so precious and if you love yourself everything will fall into place' wishy washy nonsense, it is very straight forward and practical. It makes sense. You don't need to figure anything out, you just need to take action. 

I started to recall a mindset I had in my youth that aligned near perfectly with what the book advises but had been subsequently emotionally bleached and bullied out of me since then, until I’d long forgotten what happiness was. I had vague recollections of a past self that began to cry 'this is all true, remember?' I've NEVER had that reaction before. I've never had a part of my soul speak up and say 'you KNOW this is true', so that was pretty darn powerful for me, as you can imagine.

I found the most significant part was how Happiness is defined compared to Pleasure. To abbreviate Horsley/Fourie's excellent writing on the debate, they argue most people chase pleasure, which is temporary, unpredictable or even completely out of their own control and then they're surprised when their 'Happiness' ultimately disappoints them. Happiness, true happiness is something else. To find out what, you'll have to read the book....

So yes. I absolutely love this book and I will be rereading it and referring to it from now on. Highly Recommend.

My Happiness Project: APRIL 'What can my body do?'

Health & Body, Mental HealthLianne WilliamsComment
April what can my body do.jpg

I'm ready to learn about myself in a whole new way. Through my body

A few years ago when I was having mental health dramas it was recommended to me by my GP that I should take up Yoga to help tackle my stress. As someone who spent their life being blessed with a very forgiving body, lifestyle and diet that naturally kept me fairly healthy & strong I obviously decided I knew better and ignored all that advice and struggled on regardless.

Puurrrlese. How the hell was a bit of exercise going to make me feel better in my head?

I looked at these weirdos running about outside in the rain ‘for fun’ and just figured they did it because it made them feel important rather then actually have a measurable scientific input on their mood. Or they were just smug because they were lithe and skinny. I don’t know. Whatever.

Fast forward to 2015 and I attend a Burlesque class and oh dearie me... I couldn’t even touch my toes let alone move gracefully. To be fair I’ve never been able to touch my toes but that wasn’t the point. Despite possessing some bizarre genetics that enabled me to slip straight back into my size 8 jeans after having a baby, I could feel my body was becoming stiffer, slower and finally... after baby 3.... heavy.  

I’m not going to bore you with my weight or my diet or my fitness regime. (Nobody likes a gym bore) But for April I decided to introduce myself to something way way way way way (further..... keep going.... bit more....) way out of my comfort zone.

Exercise.

A pregnancy dictated by strong carb cravings and a weak pelvis meant I ate a lot of incredible food but couldn’t move much at the same time. 41 weeks later and some how I’d put on weight, and worse still, had become sluggish, achy and slow. 

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So whilst designing my happiness project I decided it would be a perfect opportunity to not only recover my body from 9 months of cake, roast potatoes, cheese and pasta (I REGRET NOTHING), I also figured I could have some fun with it too and approach exercise as a new fun hobby that I could carry on for like... ever... 

This month has gone in a blink of an eye. Starting with a particularly healthy holiday to Center Parcs where I challenged myself to do moronic things like run up a hill pushing a pram and wonder why I felt like I was dying after, I also walked 10,000 steps a day, went swimming, played tennis and generally woke my body up in preparation for a harder challenge- The Fit Yummy Mummy workout programme.

Yes you heard me.

My body has supported and birthed 3 human beings and it is worn out, sore and in need of attention. Jumping into some trendy workout aimed at feisty 20 year olds who aren’t sleep deprived, doing the school run, covered in baby poo or struggling with hormones loosening every joint in your body (including my thumbs- bizarrely) I needed to find something that would work with the very real physical limitations of my mum-bod and would respect that I don’t have hours to fritter away on complicated meal plans or hour long workouts. I’ve got 15 minutes. That’s it. Holly’s Fit Yummy Mummy course manages that. 4 weeks in and I can see and feel a difference in my body. I’m stronger and yes.... calmer and feeling more energetic. I take it back. You’re not smug gits after all. There is a genuine serenity that comes from torturing my body with squats and push ups.

I’m fascinated. 

Hence why this months quote is: 

'What can my body do?'

This months tasks have been; 

Move: Dance, Jump, Stretch.

So a fitness regime is just one facet of this experience. Once my fitness is at a stable point I want to try other more interesting activities- hula hooping, tennis, dance, Pilates, Lyra. Dare I say it... netball... cricket maybe? They’ve all caught my attention in the past but I’ve always felt far too inadequate to take part. I mean there’s beginner and then there’s complete and utter physical disaster, like me. I need to prepare before I can even dream of being a beginner.

Meditate. Hypnotise. Affirm.

I strongly believe in the power of the mind and if I can hack my brain to support my new active lifestyle better then of COURSE I’m going to sign up for that. I’ve been enjoying the Aloe Bud app (only very recently released) that helps remind me to do simple basic tasks that frequently slip my mind as a new mother.

Learn the glamour tricks

Short cuts?! Oh no. There are very few short cuts to a healthy strong body. But there are PLENTY of quick fixes to save time, money... to be more glamorous, to feel more.... expensive. And why the fuck shouldn’t I? I’ve EARNED IT. Natural beauty has never liked me anyway, so let’s see what I can do with my body when I’m allowed to get creative with it. Surprisingly there isn’t much that’s grabbed my attention. I’ve already mastered a lot of the tricks I feel would be useful to me. My current focus has been trying to tidy up my poor sleep deprived face. Nothing that a bit of eye cream and white eyeliner can’t fix. I hope.

Fix what's broken. Heal myself.

I’m at that stage now where my body should be close to being normal again. But it’s not. I have ferociously powerful hormones so it’s important I do whatever I need to do to recover and re-balance myself as quickly and healthily as possible. And if there’s something not right I need to get myself fixed ASAP. Last time I was here in 2011 a cervical examination saved my life so checking in with my health and getting any niggles looked at, is time very well spent. 

Set a challenge

Which is obviously to complete the 16 weeks of Fit Yummy Mummy. Other possible goals are to touch my toes without bending my knees and to beat Mr. Williams at an arm wrestle. For now though I'll settle for managing to do 30 push ups without crying. (I DID IT BTW)

Goal:

Explore what my body is capable of. Who am I? What can I do? Prove to myself I can change and improve right before my eyes.

Chocolate Art & A Happy Easter

Celebration, Opinion, FamilyLianne WilliamsComment
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News Flash: I am a HUGE foodie

So I’ll take any excuse to indulge my tastebuds and this Easter was no exception.

I was treated to an amazing Easter egg by Mr. W and I really can’t stress how incredible it was.

Not only was it a massive, hand crafted, hand painted artisan chocolate egg covered in splashes of metallic paint, with a box of caramel ganache chocolates by my favourite chocolatier Paul A. Young, only 30 of them were made IN THE WHOLE WORLD.

It was a limited edition piece of art, chocolate art. I couldn’t believe it. I felt SO special. 

Breaking it nearly broke my heart... For about a second... because I was gonna eat this bad boy.

The chocolate itself was dark and rich but naturally sweet, so it was almost fruity or honey like. I can’t quite describe it and it certainly grabbed my attention. I’ve not had anything quite like it. Clean and smooth, as expected for a high quality chocolate, I actually felt like I was eating something healthy!

Considering the £75 price tag (don’t, just don’t. I DID wonder why Mr W looked sheepish) it bloody well should taste nice... and probably make my hair extra shiny and let me live another ten years longer in the process but y’kno... chocolate like this doesn’t fall from the sky and it’s an experience I won’t soon forget.  A special memory was created. I felt like I was eating chocolate made for a princess. And I will happily spend money supporting unique culinary talents like Paul, and his colleagues, who make the world just a little bit sweeter with their very special chocolates.

Plus I fucking hate Cadbury’s so... win win

Easter itself was fairly low key. We were treated to a delicious Thai lunch created by my sister-in-law that included Tom Yum Kah, Prawn rice rolls with a Tamarind and peanut dipping sauce, ‘Son-in-law’ Kai loug khueh eggs and pork dim sum. 

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Piyanut gave me her recipe for the tamarind sauce so I'm going to have to give the rolls a go. I’ve been making her Tom Yum Gai for years- a recipe that rivalled Nahm’s in London (a Michelin star Thai restaurant which is now sadly closed) so I trust her implicitly. Thai food is just The Best.

We finished with a classic Easter egg hunt for the kids around the house trying to avoid the typically miserable weather and make the most of the long weekend.

Today we’ve tidied the garden, put on the fire and having roast chicken for lunch.  Weekends like this are true bliss. You can feel the energy bubbling beneath the surface outside, ready to spring into life over the next few weeks. I’ll be planting potatoes very soon. I’ve got some purple ones I’m very excited about. Yes. I’m thinking about food again. But don’t you feel that food really defines events like Halloween, Christmas and Easter?

As a non-Christian, and someone who acknowledges the seasons and equinox instead, Easter represents to me very simply the beginning of the end of winter and the freedom to be a little more generous with food and energy. We can celebrate and come out of hibernation, start preparing for the influx of new life that happens in spring and start making plans for the summer. Chocolate eggs make perfect sense to me (sweet new life, obviously) so I don’t support this idea going around at the moment that Easter is losing it’s meaning. If anything it’s become more MORE meaningful to me. I like the new traditions coming through. I LIKE how personal Easter has become for me. If anything I wonder if Easter is just returning to what it should be about- something that connects with the heart.

Wishing you all a very happy Easter break

Welcome to Just Lianne

AnnouncementsLianne WilliamsComment
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Welcome to Just Lianne, my new personal blog project. A tribute to old school blogs where people blogged to journal their lives and interests, and not just to sell something or collect email addresses.

This blog will replace most of the categories I’d recently added to my art blog such as life news, home and style. I’ve loved sharing some more personal bits of my life with you all so I’ve decided to dedicate a whole new blog to it. As you can see I am in the process of transferring those posts over to here. My art blog will now remain focused on art and illustration to support my business, but here I will share everything else and just be Me.

I’ve been blogging since 2003 and it has always been an important way for me to connect with myself and others. Even though Just Lianne is hosted on the same domain as my artwork I am essentially treating it as a completely independent blog with its own voice and style, so expect something different and personal. I hope to focus on what I get up to over the next year, whilst on maternity leave, and explore my other interests beyond portrait art.

The current blogging climate is very different to what I fell in love with and I’ve decided that as much as I need to work with creative brands and share my content online in a professional sense, I also desperately want a place where I can play about and share whatever I want, however I want, without the pressures of providing flawless photography and carefully planned SEO or affiliate links. 

I just want to write.

There is an element of personal growth going on here and getting to know myself beyond my role as artist, wife and mother. This blog is going to be rough and ready but authentic. Primarily it’s for Me. There’s this mantra at the moment where bloggers are supposed to come up with content purely to please their readers and serve their needs. Just Lianne, isn’t going to do that. It’s going to be a rebel. You might love it. You might hate it.

I’m cool with that either way.   

If you wish to receive updates on both blogs you will need to follow both separately as they have their own RSS feeds. There are ‘follow blog’ sign up buttons at the bottom of each blog post on each blog, where you can do that. My art blog is here

One thing I’ve noticed about the blogging community is that it’s become very self focused. It’s all about who’s reading your blog and getting attention for yourself rather then reading other people’s stuff or making strong connections with people. Where have the people who read blogs for fun gone? Do you know what I mean? Nobody is prepared to give anymore without expecting the world in return and I don’t understand that. If you don’t read blogs why should anyone read yours? So yeah, I hope this blog will connect with anyone who’s looking for genuinely interested readers and interesting blogs to read in return without the whole follow train nonsense.

I’m not playing games here.

It’s just not the right place for it. I need something different to all that, something I’m familiar with. And I’ll be supporting and showcasing other blogs that follow similar principles in an attempt to preserve those old-school beliefs that made blogging so unique & intimate in the first place.

If that interests you stick around and share your blog below with a bit about what you blog about. I’ll be honest... I’m only going to read what genuinely interests me, but someone else might see your comment and be thrilled to find you. So share away. I won’t be checking each blogs content to police it but if you’re a very heavy sponsored post/affiliate link blog with an obvious focus on selling things or a sales funnel then you’re not going to fit in here and I politely request you leave us to it. Obviously I’m not going to ban you if you’ve got a few affiliate links or whatever (you hustle away!!!) but the emphasis of your blog should be strongly on writing, sharing and journaling. There are PLENTY of communities for professional bloggers but I want this space to be reserved  for the rest of us.

I am very interested to see where this might lead.

My Happiness Project: March, 'Spring Clean'

Organisation, Mental HealthLianne WilliamsComment
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Spring is here and it's time for a tidy up!

During the past two months of Self Care and Connecting with Others I realised that organisation and feeling uncluttered was imperative to my happiness and serenity, as well as my creativity.

'Keep only what sparks joy'

I’ve been tackling essential areas since before Christmas because the house had slowly become a complete tip during pregnancy, and I can’t stand the maintenance clutter requires. I know that if I organise it now, take the extra work out of putting it all away, it’ll make life so much easier for me (and I won’t be embarrassed having guests over, let alone clients or maybe even art group members if I ever find the confidence to stretch myself that far).

I wouldn’t say I’m particularly house proud but yeah, I hate visual clutter and I've been known to purge a boyfriends bedroom once or twice when it got beyond filthy.

Nobody else seems to notice things piling up at home though so it’s this constant battle between everyone leaving stuff out and me cramming it back into drawers again. I've tried to make spaces for everything and this is the best way of dealing with it but if it's only me who uses those spaces, or even cares, then the house quickly becomes claustrophobic. Which then blocks me. Not to mention. I make mess. I make a LOT of mess. And it’s hard tidying that up as well as everyone else’s.

I also like to know what I have lying about in drawers and boxes to make sure I use everything. I have buyers guilt. You know that feeling when you buy something and don’t use it enough or at all? A good spring clean is intensely healing and rejuvenating. I’ve been craving one for some time and now I've had my baby and the children are moving bedrooms it’s a perfect time to get stuck in.

Konmari

Konmari is the Japanese Art of Tidying Up, a festival of Tidying that takes your through every possession you own and teaches you to only keep what Sparks joy. I’ve done it before but it needs a maintenance check up- especially as I need to engage 4 other people in the process who aren’t Konmari converts like me. I need to encourage everyone to take a moment and clarify their stuff. I too need the opportunity to sit with my things and reassess if they still spark joy. I’ve been massively inspired by Project 333 so that will feature this month too in one way or another. 

Pass on the skills

Konmari or a spring clean can only achieve so much unless everyone within that spaces starts to respect the changes that have been made so this time I want to put extra effort into passing on the skills of housework and self care to my children. I don't know how cooperative they'll be but they're old enough now to at least understand they won't be getting away with it for much longer, and not only that, a clean and tidy house is a NICE thing to have.

Prepare and Invest

By preparing to be organised I’ll help myself succeed, so by this I mean make sure I’ve got enough bin bags, boxes for stuff I can recycle or sell on, and a skip if need be. Luckily I think most of the stuff that needs to be got rid of will be paper goods or small items that can be resold. I just need to make sure I have the space to store them or dispose of things before they get in my way. I also need to invest in the right furniture and storage. Having a place for everything makes life so much easier and straight forward. You don’t need to shoe horn an item into an already cluttered space- you just put it back and that’s that.  

Fresh Flowers

One of my Christmas presents was an annual subscription to Bloom & Wild flowers which I absolutely love. Fresh flowers delivered through my post box every month. And they’re so pretty. Fresh flowers are a final touch to the home which suggests completion and organisation. When I’ve got fresh flowers out it says that I’ve got everything under control and I’m giving myself a bit of a treat- whether it’s true doesn’t matter. Fresh flowers also remind me that winter is nearly over and life is going to begin returning to the garden. That there is life outside of the home I've been confined too for so long.

Take Pride in the Results

I'm going to take photos and admire my hard work. I’ve always struggled with interior design and making a welcoming home environment, so I hope I can teach myself something new this month and impress myself a bit. 

My Goal:

Peace happens when you can let go of things that no longer serve you, mentally or materially.

My Happiness Project: FEBRUARY, 'Connecting with Others'

Mental HealthLianne WilliamsComment
February Connecting with others.jpg

This February I’ll be aiming to Connect with Others for my Happiness Project

After several weeks of being pretty much house bound either from being heavily pregnant (seriously, getting in and out of the car was hard enough) and then last month just spending time getting to know my new son, I'm a little nervous to enter February knowing I've set myself the challenge of Connecting with Others for my Happiness Project.

Being self employed means that I'm used to working alone but with that comes occasional, but very intense, loneliness.

I don't have colleagues per say. My work happens a lot online. I can spend weeks working on something completely alone and not even realise. And being the primary carer for my children means I have even less free time to socialise or network with other adults unless they're also mentally stretched parents too- which isn't exactly the type of people I would instinctively choose to hang out with... don't get me wrong, mums & dads are awesome, I just want friendships who I have more in common with then just the fact we have children.

For the most part I prefer living my life this way. I find being around people for too long exhausting (fun, but yeah... EXHAUSTING) and although the idea of going to an event alone or going on stage doesn't bother me on the most part I have a real problem with engaging in small talk and allowing my true humour and personality to shine unless I’m with people I know really, really well. I’m a typical INFJ.

Still, having fulfilling relationships is a fundamental part of human happiness and if I isolate myself for long enough there’s a very good chance my mental health will start to suffer. I feel loneliness very, very deeply if I’m not careful. It takes me to a dark place and despite the unhealthy and over romanticised stereotypes about artists, when my mental health suffers I make crap art... if I make any art at all.

I knew that after having my baby it would be important for me to make sure I was making an effort to maintain contact with others, not just for this stage of my life (it’s well known that new parents can suffer greatly from loneliness) but connecting with others is also vital for my long term happiness. I don’t want to be one of these women who vanishes from society after having children or forgets to see their friends. I want to continue to meet new and interesting people... forever... not just at baby groups or at work.

How to win friends and influence people.jpg

 

I’ve been recommended the book ‘How to win friends and influence people’ which I see is considered a classic. So far it makes a lot of sense to me and I’ve made my months quote, ‘You can make more friends in one month by taking an interest in other people then trying to make them interested in you’. Because I admit... I really struggle with this. For two reasons.

The first being my own ego whispering incessantly that others will most definitely, absolutely, find me boring; utterly, painfully boring, or rude, or stupid, so it’s imperative (see ‘life or death matter’) that I tell them all the interesting things about myself before they judge me poorly. Then the second reason, as a result of being bullied and ignored by my peers at school, I’m actually truly petrified of asking people about themselves. There’s this very potent fear that I’ll be rejected for: crossing the line socially, or intruding, or ever considering myself worthy enough to even think I was allowed to talk to someone. To the point where I wonder if I’m allowed to wish you happy birthday. Or if I can compliment your outfit. Or say hello. Or EVEN look at you. I know that sounds crazy but you have no idea how many times I’ve been slammed for saying ‘Hi’ at someone, or even just wanting to sit down at a desk. Stuff like that rots inside of you. 17 years later and I’m still punishing myself and carrying on what a room of bitchy little girls started. Those little girls still have a say on whether I make eye contact. I’m 33.

So this month I’m challenging myself to:

Try small talk

A real weakness. Even though I genuinely find talking about the weather interesting, beyond that, I’m stumped. I can talk about myself but unless you offer a bit of information about yourself I’m screwed. Learning some scripts or conversation techniques is my first port of call I think. If I’m prepared, I can learn how to chit chat comfortably. I’m prepared to try it if it means I come across friendlier but I’ll be honest... I’m VERY sceptical about making friends as an adult now. I promise to remain open minded though.

Smile and make eye contact

I can do this some times, maybe if it’s a lovely sunny morning and the children are in a good mood and I’ve already spoken to a few different people but most of the time there’s a fear that if I make myself warm and approachable someone’s going to come along and try and burst that bubble. There’s always someone looking for a fight isn’t there? Keeping my head down and chanting ‘I’m invisible, leave me alone’ has worked quite well for me but it’s starting to back fire because even though I do avoid confrontation I’ve also become invisible to all the people who might actually like me and support me. Don’t get me started on dating. Nobody ever noticed me. Ever.

It’s so bad now I actually even get stepped on sometimes.

So if I need to smile and make more eye contact to get people to see me, I can try. This will be one of the harder tasks this month but I will try. 

Love Languages

This is a fantastic concept (check out the book if you’re interested) which discusses how everyone likes to receive love in different ways. Some of us feel loved when others give us physical affection, other people like gifts, verbal declarations... it’s very interesting. There’s a quiz to find out what your love language is and then when you know what your family and friends prefer, you can focus on demonstrating your affection for them in a way they can truly appreciate and vice versa. Often clashes occur when the wrong language is being spoken between people. This month I’ll be trying to implement love languages more into my interactions with others (since it’s Valentines Day this month) as well as make my own love language clear (I like face to face quality time if you haven’t guessed). Anytime I focus on love languages the people around me seem to really appreciate it.

Open my Home

Due to work I regularly move about and usually my home is in a state of packing, unpacking or renovation. Our house is at the stage where we just need to find a lampshade for the dining room and I think we’re done. As a result I’m feeling ready to welcome people into my home. Until now I’ve been quite wary of inviting people in. My doors have always been shut because I didn’t want people to see the mess, the ugliness (We’re in property development so we live in houses that make financial sense rather then homes that talk to the heart- I didn’t even see our current home until we had the keys and were moving in). But now it’s time to change that. My doors are open. Come in for tea. Wine. A chat. Stay over. Play dates. It’s all good. I want to make my home a sociable, welcoming place to be. Once upon a time I actually wanted to run art groups or classes from my home... what happened to that person? Maybe it's time she came back.

Witness others

When it comes to love one of the most profound observations I’ve heard is that our greatest need as individuals is to live a life feeling like we’ve been truly witnessed by someone. That’s what love is to me. Knowing that someone had really seen me. All of me. And has behaved in a way that has allowed me to feel safe being seen. Physically, emotionally, intellectually. Does that make sense? I suppose it includes all those ideas about ‘being yourself’, ‘feeling comfortable’, ‘having unconditional support’, ‘knowing that you were heard’. Now I know I can’t change anyone, nor should I expect anyone to witness me just because I've asked for it, so instead I’m going to push myself to lead by example and really witness those around me. I’m going to listen more then talk. Ask questions about them more then share more about myself. And watch people. Especially my children. Because they deserve to be witnessed more then anyone. I'm hoping this will in turn improve my observational skills as a creative. People are interesting right?

My Goal:

Establish friendships that mean something to me and improve existing connections. 'It's not what you know, it's who you know'.

My Happiness Project: JANUARY, 'Self Care'

Family, Announcements, Mental HealthLianne WilliamsComment

There’s one 8lb 3oz reason why I decided to start my 2018 Happiness Project with a month dedicated to Self Care...

This little guy: 

Jacob.jpg

Introducing my sweetie, Jacob, who joined us on the 29th December 2017 after an absolutely perfect labour/delivery and has been spending the last week dominating my every living moment because he is so damn cute and I can’t put him down even if I wanted to. 

He is now a week old, my older children are back at school and my husband has gone back to work after Christmas and New Year so I'm right in the throng of it all, recovering from labour, dealing with my body going back to it's pre-pregnancy state, hormones, nursing, sleep deprivation and just getting to grips with things like how to use the pram and you know... bonding with this brand new person who's just walked into my life and calls me Mummy.

Basic self care, sleeping, eating, drinking enough water, can all easily get put to one side and from past experience I can recall how much harder that made things, so this time I promised myself that once I'd given birth I would commit to making life as easy as possible for myself and showing myself as much care as I do my baby. 

Welcome January 2018 and the opportunity to put all those things into place.

My Quote for the month?...

'You can't pour from an empty cup'

I've been amazed at how much better I feel when I feed myself kindly, take my iron supplements, drink enough water, take care of my appearance, allow myself a minute or two of silence and solace, napping in the day and weirdly- doing the housework.

Even though I'm exerting a little more energy to commit to doing all those tasks, the pay off of feeling looked after, fed, hydrated, rested, comfortable and organised means I feel happier, and far less stressed.

The task's I've chosen this month cover a variety of self care areas that I wanted to commit to either because I felt they were key to my happiness, or were areas I knew i'd struggle and I wanted to remind myself not to avoid them.

Do the Minimum. But do it.

This is in regards to completing tasks, mainly housework, and it's something I've introduced to my family too. The idea is, don't aim to do everything perfectly, just do the minimum that needs to be done to get a task over and done with as quickly as possible. And most importantly of all, DO IT. Don’t just leave jobs to fester and get out of control. At the end of every day I’m doing a quick tidy up, no matter how exhausted I am, because when I wake up the next day the feeling of being in a tidy, organised space is utter BLISS. 

Heal my body

I have to admit, I didn't have a particularly difficult labour. In fact, I had one of those dream labours you only hear about in hypnobirthing books so I find myself in an incredibly privileged position in terms of recovery. But none the less I still need to heal my body. Pregnancy and labour are intense. It changes you biologically and physically, and all of that has suddenly lurched full speed into reverse. So that means listening to my body and helping it along. It means accepting life at the pace it dictates and loving myself even when my hair falls out or doing my exercises to repair my diastatis recti- which is particularly bad this time. This is a reminder to heal. Take my pain relief. Eat well to sustain nursing. To get comfortable. To say ‘no, I’m busy right now’.

January Self Care sleep.jpg

Sleep

Obvious really? I’m a fussy, light sleeper so sleep right now needs careful maintenance, especially as I’m also the type of person who prefers 8-10hrs a night. I doubt I’ll get that for a while but I also know from experience I can function on 4hrs broken sleep a day so I’m going to aim to give myself 6-8hrs sleep a day, whether that’s at night or through napping during the day. Either way it MUST be an absolute priority. Sleep is essential to my well being and I am on a fast track to misery if I don’t respect it.

Feel beautiful. Indulge yourself. 

For me, I can tell if I’m struggling when I don’t take care of my appearance or forget to indulge myself once in a while. It’s the first thing of my self care regime to slip. This isn’t about deliberately putting myself in the path of inconvenience or expense however, it is about defining what REAL indulgence and luxury feels like to me and that can vary from wearing my favourite lipstick to spending the whole day reading. My indulgences this week have included buying a comfortable nursing bra (why are they so torturously uncomfortable???), treating myself to pate and a walk to the shops. It also forces me to think about myself once in a while, remember who I am, and not get too lost within the label of Mother. Ultimately I’m Lianne first, and that should always be honoured.

Ask for help. Check your ego. 

Making sure I ask for help seemed like a great way to practice self care, but history will testify, this isn’t one of my strong points.  Relying on others, asking for help... it all makes me a tad anxious. Not to mention the fear of being rejected, let down or then ultimately being left to fend for myself anyway. A lot of the time it looks far easier to struggle alone then to ask for help but I know deep down, figuring out how to delegate and trust others to watch my back is vital to my well being right now. This month I’m going to try and explore that and find ways to lighten my load that don’t leave me exposed or uncomfortable. Starting with smaller favours and then dealing with any problems as the occur. Ultimately the buck will always fall on me but if I make sure I communicate my needs clearly, ask for help at the right time, choose the right people for the job, and try and not take hesitation/refusal personally, I think I’ll feel much better relying on others.

Goal

To establish a healthy, happy foundation for more intense tasks later on in the year. 

The Happiness Project: My Monthly Themes and Resolution Chart

OrganisationLianne WilliamsComment
My monthly themes for The Happiness Project 2018.jpg

I've chosen my themes, I've created a monthly resolution chart to help keep track and I'm ready for 2018!

As you may know I am revisiting The Happiness Project for 2018 so over the last few days I've been considering the areas of my life that I want to focus on and trying to translate them into monthly resolutions and tasks which will make a positive change in my life over the next year.

There's no method to figuring this out. It's different for everyone, so I thought I'd show you what I'm focusing on, how I figured that out, and then provide anyone else who want's a go with their own resolution chart so you can plan your own Happiness Project. You can download that now over in the resource library or click the image below.

My Monthly Themes and what they're about

In the past I've done Happiness Projects which followed similar themes to what Gretchen Rubin (the creator of THP) explored through her own Happiness Project but I've also done very focused Happiness Projects, dedicating each month to a specific medium or artistic pursuit, which was also an excellent way to focus on specific skills that I wanted to improve. But you can honestly choose any theme for that month that you like- it just has to mean something to you.

This year I've decided to go back to core self improvement themes and carry on healing myself after some difficult years and give myself the opportunity to start dreaming about what I'd like to do in this new chapter of my life.

Take a look at what I've settled on and then I'll explain my process and give some tips on choosing your own.

The Happiness Project 2018.jpg
  • January: Self Care. Since giving birth to my son a few days ago I thought it best to start gently and remember the importance of self care and not overwhelming myself. Tasks include 'Do the Minimum' which means making sure I only commit to doing the very essential tasks but also 'Take time for indulgence' so I can feel good and begin physically healing and returning to normality.
  • February: Connecting with Others. February would offer itself as a good time for romance but after months of being anti-social due to an uncomfortable pregnancy I've decided to focus on connecting with others generally. I'll be looking into 'Practising small talk', 'Opening my Home' and 'Witnessing Others'- giving others my attention and time.
  • March: Spring Clean. Something I've been itching to do since Christmas Day but unfortunately will have to put off till now. A much needed Spring Clean with our new family member involved. So I will be revisiting 'Konmari', 'Taking Pride in the Results' and regularly giving myself 'Fresh Flowers'.
  • April: Body. Hopefully by April my body will be ready for a challenge so I'll be asking myself 'What can my body do?' I've always been a creative or intellectual and over the years I've become curious about what my body is physically capable of doing. How strong am I? How do I like to move? What activities can I take up that will engage my body and mind. It's also a month where I hope to 'Fix what's broken' and have a health overhaul.
  • May: Food. Eating and food is one of my big life passions but domestic cookery and dealing with other peoples dietary requirements has killed off a lot of joy in this area for me and I'm hoping to rekindle my relationship with it. Things like 'Cooking for others' and 'Start Fresh' are tasks this month. I really want to push myself to try new recipes and make food a priority again rather then a drag.
  • June: Celebrate Myself. June is my birthday month. Last year I didn't have a great time... in fact I cried for most of the day as I was all alone... and that was my fault. If nobody wants to celebrate with you, you celebrate yourself. So for the month of June I'm going to be focusing on giving myself approval and clapping for my own damn self. This month will be about self love and being my own champion.
  • July: Nature. Hopefully we'll have good weather this summer but either way I intend to reconnect with the outside world in a variety of ways. I'm hoping to 'Embrace Garden Living' and 'Perfect the Picnic' as well as learn some new foraging skills.
  • August: Motherhood: August will be smack bang in the middle of the school summer holidays so I figured it would be a perfect time to hone my parenting skills. Tasks include 'Teach what I want to pass on', 'Memory Making' and 'Practice Selflessness'.
  • September: New Skills: Once the summer holidays are over I often find myself itching to get back to my own projects so I'm going to indulge myself with some new skills. My interests cover everything from Art to Languages so this is a HUGE theme which I couldn't break down into specific subjects that I wanted to learn. Instead I will be focusing on setting effective targets, making sure I ask for help and documenting what I do learn.
  • October: Marriage & Love: October is the month I got married in, and my husbands birthday, so it's a perfect opportunity to have some fun and work on making myself a better person so I can be a better partner. 
  • November: Independence: This coming year will be an intense one and I'll be depending a lot on others just to survive, so come November, when things will have hopefully settled, I think i'll be ready to pick up the reigns and start encouraging myself to be more independent again. This will be a challenging month as I have a lot of fear/anxiety in this area- such as going places alone just as 'Lianne' (and not Mum) or driving to new places. But it can only boost my confidence so it's worth doing.
  • December: Unplug and go Hermit. I chose this theme based on how I've felt this December and I've decided it would be the perfect time to go Hermit mode and explore living without the distractions of electronic devices. I want to embrace traditional hobbies and activities like board games, reading, talking and reconnect with reality and using my hands a lot more. A big task will be to learn how to 'Lead by Example' and not to expect others to join me when I unplug.

Each month I'll try to remember to introduce the new theme and discuss what I'm hoping to achieve in more detail and then round up how that month went. I'm not expecting to succeed at everything but I'm hoping to learn a lot and hopefully boost my happiness overall. If I were to Quantify my current level of happiness I don't think I could rate it out of ten or anything like that but I do know i'd like to achieve the following:

  • Feel more connected to family and friends
  • Be more grateful and content
  • Laugh more
  • Increase my threshold for snapping and be less responsive to things that irritate me
  • Relax more and feel it in my body
  • Listen more
  • Grow in confidence and self awareness
  • Find a sense of security and optimism
  • Give my children a firm foundation for their own adulthood
  • Feel like I've achieved something for myself using my brain and my abilities. (be more then a wife/mum)

Come December 2018 I will reflect on those points and see if anything has changed, improved or whether I've learnt anything about them.

How to pick your own themes and resolutions

  1. Make a list of areas in your life that you'd like to work on. Often we have ones that jump out immediately- you know where it hurts most, and they're often good starting points. Consider how the following areas feel to you right now: Career, Skills, Education, Finance, Love, Family, Friends, Physical, Health, Spiritual, Fun, Recreation, Giving, Community, Home, Legacy and what things you'd like to improve or the ways in which you could be happier.
  2. You could break those bigger themes into smaller ones if you find you really need to dedicate more time to each thing. Perhaps for three months you'd really prefer to focus on your finances? Maybe one month could be Savings, another Debt control and another Making money?
  3. You might have more of a syllabus then a variety of themes, so maybe for a whole year you want to focus on your health so each monthly theme would relate to that like: Diet, Exercise, Mental Health, Check-Ups, Strength, Relaxation etc. That's another way you can approach a Happiness Project.
  4. Make a list of things that make you happy and unhappy. Sounds obvious right but it's really that simple. What's bugged you today? What do you wish for? What do you want by the end of the year? Examine yourself and your feelings throughout the week and note when you feel lowest and when you feel good. Do you always feel guilty for going to bed late? Looking at your phone during dinner? Does going for a walk each day boost your energy levels? Do you feel extra sassy when you wear your hot pink lipstick rather then the nude? Do you have a doctors appointment lurking over you? A place you dream of visiting? A career change you want to make? What can you work on this year?
  5. Find actionable steps based on the things that make you happy/unhappy and decide which steps you're going to tackle this year. You don't have to attempt everything this year. And if you're struggling to find ideas, research the problem and look for advice. If you want to tackle your anxiety have a look at current techniques or talk to experts and look for small steps you can take towards finding happiness. If you want to quit sugar, buy a book on it and examine what needs to be done to achieve that. Once you take those first steps often new doors begin to open. Who knows how much your tasks will evolve beyond their initial considerations.
  6. You often have to guess first what's making you happy/unhappy, test it out, learn from it and then tweak your happiness project to reflect on what you've learnt. You might think for instance that practising yoga will make you happy so you spend a month dedicated to that, only to find it didn't make you happier- you in fact just liked the idea of you liking it (a common issue- people often punish themselves for not enjoying something others enjoy and THP helps us let go of things we secretly don't want for ourselves). From there you can plan your next step because understand yourself better.
  7. Stick to completing 5 big tasks for the month. Don't worry about micro managing and detailing every little thing you hope to achieve that month. That generally happens organically. For instance, in my month of Food one of my resolutions is to 'Make Food I enjoy' but I don't list what those foods are or when I'm going to make them. The tasks are umbrella targets to aim for and within them you will achieve many smaller things.
  8. Don't be afraid to chop and change things around based on the time of year or personal requirements. In fact take inspiration from the time of year and commitments you have. Would you like to travel more? Book that in when you've saved for it or when the weather is good. Hoping to read more? Start early on in the year and then you can create a monthly reading list to compliment that task. Some things often naturally follow on from each other. For instance I wanted to focus on Spring Cleaning when I'd be cooped up indoors rather then the height of summer.
  9. Remember none of this is concrete. It's a learning experience and as you do the Happiness Project you'll realise that some things don't contribute to your happiness and you'll want to add in other tasks or adapt them. That's a good thing and needs to be embraced rather then ignored. Be prepared to edit.
  10. Look at other peoples bucket lists, happiness projects or prompts. I find this useful as I'm reminded of things I'd forgotten about but would like to include.
  11. Make sure you've got a balance of challenges and rewards. It's easy to get stuck focusing on painful areas rather then letting yourself have a bit of fun too, but that's SO important to avoid. Heal yourself with things you'd love to do as well as challenge yourself to make changes that might frighten you or be painful.
  12. Once you've got a list of 12 themes and some ideas on what you could do each month begin putting them into your template. Shuffle things around and create a month that has a mix of big challenges and baby steps. Give yourself too much and you will fail. Make it boring and you probably won't even attempt it.
  13. Find a quote that reflects on the theme that month. I found this really helped define what my goal was for the month.
  14. Explain to yourself in detail what this months goal is and how it's going to make you happier. This can be very insightful and I've scrapped themes when I couldn't answer that question. If it's not going to make you happier- why are you doing it? If you get ripped abs but you're still miserable what's the point? Find a new theme that truly contributes to your life.

The Happiness Project 2018: 30 Secrets of Adulthood

OpinionLianne WilliamsComment
secrets of adulthood 3.jpg

I've wanted to write a post like this for a while but I was unable to find the right context to share it in. How could I randomly share snippets of my worldly old lady wisdom without appearing to assume like I actually have a clue about adulthood? I didn't want to appear self indulgent! But according to Gretchen Rubin, that's exactly what's required if you want to be Happier.

You may have seen that I've recently announced my intention to spend 2018 doing another Happiness Project and with that comes creating your own 12 Commandments but also a more tongue in cheek 'Secrets of Adulthood' list. A list of all those little pearls of wisdom and rules you collect over the years that nobody really every talks about.

I didn't have to be asked twice!

I've gone for a list of 30, as I'm in my 30's, and writing these has been a fun way to examine my own values, boundaries and perception of the world. I absolutely recommend writing your own secrets of adulthood, even if it's just for a laugh, because everyone will have their own and I think it says so much about a person and what they want to pass on.

I reckon creating a new list every decade or so would be interesting hindsight don't you think? I can't imagine how different my list would be as a 20 year old!

My 30 Secrets of Adulthood

  1. You are your own best teacher and you should continue to learn and teach yourself for the rest of your life. Don't just leave school or University and stop. You have the capacity to achieve ANYTHING. Your brain is your greatest tool. Let your curiosity guide you.
  2. Don't waste time arguing with strangers on the internet. Ever. Just walk away and find something far more valuable to do with your time. This blog, social media, Instagram, it's all one power cut away from disappearing. It's not real life. Look up.
  3. Never wait for anyone. Say goodbye with love, and move on. Anyone worth waiting for wouldn't expect you to wait for them anyway. 
  4. People change. You can change. Oh. And you AREN'T predestined to end up just like your mum/dad/siblings/nan if you don't want to be. Your life is entirely in your control and history doesn't have to repeat itself.
  5. Nobody is ever seriously ready to have children. You can NOT prepare for the level of crazy they bring to your life. Anyone who says otherwise is lying.
  6. The wealthiest person in a room will probably be wearing jeans, trainers and look like a right scruff because a) they get their hands dirty and b) have nothing to prove to anyone. My father-in-law gave me that advice and it's weirdly accurate. Someone draped in diamonds suggests they're good at spending but not very good as business. Just saying.
  7. Empty barrels make the most noise. Exhibit A: Political commentators.
  8. Have kitchen discos. I will lie and say it's good exercise but actually it's just because nobody ever grows up and we still want to make up dance routines to ABBA occasionally.
  9. Food, and Sex, are two of life's greatest pleasure. Enjoy them but don't wield them as weapons. Against yourself, or others. 
  10. There's no rush. Go 5% slower then everyone else. Look for the detail. That's when you find the magic. That's when you spot the deer picking its way through the trees. That's when you find a £20 note on the floor. That's when you relax and appreciate what's around you.  
  11. Despite what you've been told 'travelling' probably isn't going to enlighten you or make you a better adult. Experience does. So don't feel bad if you can't afford to travel or you just don't want to. You can learn just as much about the world and yourself from home.
  12. Michelin star restaurants are worth saving for. They're never going to serve you crap food and you'll know exactly how something is supposed to taste- you may find you even actually like something you normally hate when it's prepared properly. Plus everyone should eat in a top restaurant at least once in their lives.
  13. Always. Share. Share. Share. SHARE. Use as much of your power, influence and love to raise up others less privileged then you.
  14. Hormones, genetics and metabolism have a lot to answer for. Have fun with your biology. Don't punish yourself for not being something or someone else. There's room for you on Earth exactly as you are whether that's with bright pink hair, cystic acne or a six pack. 
  15. You can say goodbye to anyone at any point. That includes family, long term friends, your boss... no one is entitled to be a part of your life. 'But they need me' is a shit excuse to put yourself through toxic, one-sided, parasitic or empty relationships. Plus you're enabling them. Step back and let them take responsibility for their own bad behaviour. They might become better people if you do.
  16. Respect the emergency services. Get out of their way. Let them do their job. Don't exploit them. Learn from them. 
  17. Just because you can't afford your work doesn't mean someone else can't. Don't sell yourself cheap. EVER. Despite what your mum says. Despite the 'economic climate'. One of my first clients had dropped £10,000 on an artwork that year alone! He questioned why I was so 'cheap' with suspicion... he wanted to invest in me, NOT get a bargain.
  18. Drinking more water and cutting out sugar probably won't change your life. Sorry.
  19. Pick role models who have more experience then you or have already done it. They may not be as exciting or glamorous as some kid on YouTube but they're more likely to know what they're talking about and will want to actually help, rather then are trying to sell you something
  20. Being able to pay your tax and bills is an HONOUR. It means someone trusts your ability to generate an income, meet a financial commitment and contribute to society. It's all about perspective.
  21. There's no such thing as talent. Some people just find things easier to pick up then you do. Lack of talent should not be an excuse for you to not attempt something new. Go learn it slowly, step by step, like everyone else.
  22. You are not broken and you do not need fixing. (This really helped me once)
  23. Speaking from experience, if you're lonely, get busy. Roll up your sleeves and give yourself 1-2 weeks to dedicate to a new project. I can almost guarantee that the moment you zone out and start enjoying the activity someone will stick their nose in and ask what you're up to. If not, you will have forgotten about your loneliness anyway and will have achieved something for yourself. Repeat.
  24. Your purpose, or the greatest gift you give the world, could be something as simple has healing yourself. Breaking a cycle. Inspiring someone. You don't need to go to the moon or find a cure for cancer to be valuable human being. We need happier people in the world. That is enough.
  25. Invest in good shoes. Not designer shoes. GOOD QUALITY SHOES. Do not underestimate the damage bad shoes can do to your feet.
  26. People notice it when you make an effort or not. If you can't be bothered- ask yourself why. There's a world of difference between being comfortable and being indifferent. Plus making an effort and going the extra mile is a super quick way to feeling good. 
  27. You'll be amazed at how many problems other adults make for themselves and then blame others for. And you'll be no different. Growing up involves taking responsibility for the problems we get dealt and figuring a way to overcome it. Hopefully with some grace. Often kicking and screaming (but that's okay). Just don't get stuck waiting for someone else to rescue you. Only YOU can save yourself.
  28. Read. And judge books by their cover. Life is too short for ugly book covers. (Force publishers to hire more illustrators.)
  29. Never, ever, EVER be afraid of bankruptcy, divorce, illness, recessions or redundancy. Exploit them. The worse thing you can do is close your eyes and hope they never happen. They DO. But bankruptcy could be good business sense. Divorce can heal you. Illness can lead you to love. A recession could get you on the property ladder. Redundancy might give you the chance to pursue your dream job. I've seen all these things happen.
  30. Get rid of anything in your life that doesn't spark joy.

Above all live every day like it matters. Even if you know it's your last. Even if you're afraid time is running out. Even if you're oblivious. It's still your time. It's still your day. It's still a life worth living like it will go on forever.

The Happiness Project 2018: My 12 Commandments

OpinionLianne WilliamsComment
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Recently you may have seen that I'll be dedicating 2018 to another Happiness Project, inspired by Gretchen Rubin's book of the same name.

The premise is simple- for one whole year, each month has a theme dedicated to encouraging happiness in my life and under each theme are small regular tasks or goals that need to be completed daily or within that month, to hopefully bring me more Happiness. And more Happiness is never a bad thing. 

It's incredibly simple, but incredibly rewarding, both personally and creatively.

This will be my 3rd year doing a Happiness Project but this will be the first time I share some of the details of what actually goes on behind the scenes. I want to document it for my own reference mainly but if it inspires anyone else, even better.

Today I want to share with you My 12 Commandments... the self prescribed rules of the road that you choose to help motivate and structure yourself over the forth coming year. Rubin has her own Commandments. These are mine. You can pick your own. They are a selection of my favourite ideas and current motivational tools that I think will help me over the next year so need to be personal and potent.

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Be Lianne

This is a standard commandment for anyone doing The Happiness Project based on Rubin's first commandment 'Be Gretchen'. It speaks for itself. This is my journey and can only be defined and taken by me. All I need to do is Be Myself.

Do the Minimum

Even on a difficult day, or if I'm sick or tired, as long as I do the very minimum I'm still making progress. That is good enough. 

Action over Thinking

Think about it all you want, plan all you like, but action is all that matters. If you want to make a difference you don't need to think, you don't need to plan, but you do need to act.

Fail but Don't Quit

I'm expecting to fail a lot at the things I attempt. I'm taking that as a sign I'm trying and pushing outside my comfort zone, and that's a good thing. The only thing I must not do is quit. Quitting is terminal.

Share what You've learnt

Record my experiences and share it all freely. Only because it's a wonderful way to connect with others on their own pursuit of happiness.

Reach Out

Whether that's for help or to just say hello, simply connect more with other human beings. Say hello. Make eye contact. Be polite and kind. Be curious about others. I don't need to do this alone.

Feel Gratitude

Don't just write it down. Spend time feeling the gratitude. Savour it. Feeling gratitude is more important and powerful then recording it.

Define your own rules

If something works for me, claim it. If it doesn't, discard it or change it. Do not waste any time working to other peoples rules or limitations. There's no point. Know yourself well enough to define your own rules.

Don't fix others

Lead by example. Do it first. Walk the walk. That's the only way you can really help others.

Use what you buy

If you buy something, use it within a week. Even if it's only once and then you sell it on. Just don't gather 'stuff'. Wear it. Try it. Play with it. Use it. Otherwise don't buy it.

Shortcuts shouldn't short change

Cutting corners is fine. But if they ruin the journey, what's the point? Sometimes the pleasure is in doing things properly. 

Eat Your Frogs

Always, always, always do the most unpleasant task first. Get it over and done with. Be brave.


If you're making your own Commandments here are my tips on picking some:

  • Read Gretchen Rubin's commandments and take inspiration from them and her tips.
  • Keep a continuous log of inspiring quotes or bits of advice that grab your attention. I use a Pinterest board to collect mine.
  • Sit with your commandments for a while. If something doesn't feel right, scrap it, rework it or try something else. There's no room for empty commandments. You have to believe in them.
  • Look at other peoples lists of commandments. Does anything feel useful? Inspiring? I like Austin Kleon's ideas... you might prefer religious guidance.
  • What kind of things do you want to achieve? What principles do you hold onto tightly? Who is the person you want to become after all this? What can you take from that and use?
  • What do you want to avoid? What support do you need? What are your fears and concerns?What can you say to reassure yourself or offer guidance at the darkest moment?
  • Write your commandments out and then simplify them to their core message. Only you need to know what they mean.
  • Take inspiration from films, music, your heroes, your family, friends. Who are the happiest people you know? What wisdom can they share?

Revisiting The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin for 2018

BooksLianne WilliamsComment
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What does Happiness look like to you?

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To me, it's this ever evolving flavour, distinguished by my current priorities, past lessons, curiosities and limitations. It's that personal sense of safety, contentment and joy that's unique to everyone. Happiness to you may be quiet, private and grounding. Or you might grin from ear to ear and laugh frequently from the pit of your stomach.

For instance, for me, right now, Happiness is hanging our Christmas tree with snow falling outside, framed by a window adorned in fairy lights- a moment that wouldn't automatically come to mind as something that I would label as 'happiness', but which certainly ticked those boxes last weekend when it actually happened. A moment I could acknowledge and say 'Yes, this is what happiness feels like'. The sense of community. The magic of being in the right place at the right time. The sound of contentment (i.e. comfortable silence). The wonder of nature. The beauty of lights and ornaments and the flicker of fire. The sense of impending joy. The smugness of knowing I'd perfectly organised the decorations the year before thanks to Konmari. All those elements contributed to creating the feeling I know as Happiness.

But Happiness is a mysterious beast

It's an elusive emotion for some of us. It can even be difficult to define. It certainly varies from person to person and how it makes us behave. What's the opposite of Happiness? And where does it fit in with mental health and depression? What does 'I'm happy' even mean? Can we be more happy? What if you haven't been happy in a long time... or ever?

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It's a subject eloquently discussed in Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project, a book I read and cherished a few years ago and have decided to revisit and apply to my current life by beginning a new Happiness Project for 2018. A project that will help focus, heal and encourage my personal and creative growth in the same ways it did the last time I did a Happiness Project.

So what IS a Happiness Project?

The book itself actually details Rubin's experiences during her own Happiness Project rather then provides a strict workbook as such, but within the book is a clear framework for creating your own version of the project.

Inspired by the 13 Virtues of Benjamin Franklin, Rubin took a modern approach to personal happiness development by setting herself a monthly theme over the course of a year, with daily actionable tasks that explored what made her happy and to see if it improved her mood overall long term- and it worked. The Happiness Project ended up being a New York Times Bestseller and even Oprah took note.

You only have to look at how worn my copy of the book is to see how valuable it was.

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For me, the books biggest strength is Rubin herself and the way her rampant curiosity leads her to dissect and analyse the subject of Happiness in such a way that you feel like nothing has been left out. She really knows her stuff, and without ever sounding too academic or too wishy-washy... I like facts. I like science. I like evidence. Rubin provides that with a wonderful wit and friendliness. From the Philosophical to the Psychological, to Science and Statistics, Happiness is broken down from lofty spiritual heights into something tangible and approachable, without it losing it's magic.

You begin to think, wow... maybe I could be happier. Happiness is something that can happen to me and not just other people.

I started my first project soon after completing The Artist's Way and it proved itself to be a huge catalyst for change and self improvement along with Morning Pages which were useful for evaluating what I was doing and feeling.

Giving myself a full month to explore a theme that I felt would contribute to my well-being meant I had enough time to learn something new without feeling pressured, but at the same time a deadline to keep me accountable and structure my time. If I missed a day or a couple of days, it wasn't the end of the world- I could still stay on track and keep exploring the theme that month.

One of my favourite years was setting myself a Creativity Happiness Project where each month had a creative theme that I wanted to explore. One month I would focus entirely on Crochet. The next, Acrylics. It was an incredibly productive year and made me reassess the role of goal making and New Year's Resolutions permanently.

How to Get Started on your own Happiness Project

There are various free tools and resources on Rubin's website which can give you more information but actually the Happiness Project is very much a self prescribed situation inspired by the book. Everyone has a different experience. There is no right or wrong way to do it. You simply pick the themes, settle on some tasks, create a way to keep track (a spreadsheet is all most people use) and away you go. The book explains everything with Rubin's journey as an example so I recommend reading that first to get an idea of how it works and what can be done. You can buy that below:

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For me I will we picking my themes this week and writing up my tracking sheet for the new year. I wanted to start with something very gentle for January, like Self Care (since I'll be a new mum again) and then work up to more difficult themes like Socialising or Making Money. I also have an idea about designing my own calendar, announcing each month's theme with a pretty picture, and then regularly reporting back here on what I learn and achieve each month- but we'll see. Whatever makes me happy.

I'm feeling hopeful about 2018.

Not only will there be a new addition to our family but after some difficult years I finally feel ready to pick up where I left off after serious health issues, depression and anxiety and I think a Happiness Project is a wonderful way to heal and jump start that positive feeling.

I'm so ready for good things to happen.