Archive for the ‘Boxing Day’ Category

Lazy Boxing Day

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bruno-mars-lazy-song-poreotics

So last Sunday was a Boxing Day.

As per the Boxing Day Rules it had been booked out in my diary for some time, and also as per the rules I had no plans whatsoever. So what did I do with my day of unscheduled free-form fun?

Absolutely nothing.

There was a little facebook activity, a half hearted attempt at sorting through the edits for my novel, but other than that I pretty much spent the day sleeping, or sitting in front of the TV. And blimey-o’riley did it feel good.

I’d spent much of the previous day travelling back from Devon in horrendous bank-holiday traffic, and when I eventually made it home home, Essex was in the midst of a freak monsoon. Seriously. We had two inches of rainwater in thirty minutes, and it didn’t stop raining for another thirteen hours.

Whether any of this was responsible for the way I felt on Sunday morning I’m not really sure. All I knew is that once I’d dragged myself out of bed I didn’t really want to do anything more taxing than make a cup of tea, and sit in front of the tube. And as per the Boxing Day Rules - that’s absolutely fine.

I pass this on because I had a ‘happy talkie‘ session the other week with a reader who was beating herself up for not having enough items on her ‘potential-Boxing Day‘ list. She’d somehow got it into her head that although Boxing Day isn’t planned, it’s still a day when LOTS happens (hence why it requires a list). But that’s not the case at all.

Boxing Day is a day for you. It’s a day to recharge. Be in the moment. Do whatever you fancy. The list is there simply to safe guard you against boredom, or in case you’re not feeling particularly inspired, but it’s by no means essential. If all you want to do on Boxing Day is chillax – as my niece would say – then that’s fine too.

Which reminds me very much of this daft song from Bruno Mars, which you can view by clicking the big play button below (or by clicking here if you’re reading this in an email)

And if you enjoyed that you might find this version (by Megan Nicole) equally entertaining. I particularly like the way she ‘cleans up’ some of the lyrics whilst her Mum’s sitting in the background reading a self-help book.

Feel free to share your Boxing Day experiences, questions, or observations in the comments box below, or over on the facebook page.


More posts about Boxing Day

Whether you’re struggling with Boxing Day, confused by Now Lists & Wish Lists, or just need a kick up the bum to start working those goals – I’m here to help. Click to find out more about Happy Talkies.

Boxing Day (Interview)

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Earlier today (well, yesterday by the time you read this), Della Galton – author, journalist, women’s magazine fiction legend, and all round lovely person – interviewed me, via the awesome power of twitter, about Boxing Day. Readers Vikki & Jayne chimed in too.

In case you missed it, here’s the transcript:

DellaGalton: So Peter @doitallbehappy are you ready to be interviewed about #boxingday
11:58am, Dec 26 from Web

doitallbehappy: @dellagalton Ready and waiting! Shoot! #boxingday
11:58am, Dec 26 from HootSuite

DellaGalton: @doitallbehappy I have it on good authority that you invented #boxingday is this true?
11:59am, Dec 26 from Web

doitallbehappy: @dellagalton I may have RE-invented #BoxingDay :-)
12:00pm, Dec 26 from HootSuite

DellaGalton: @doitallbehappy So tell me about this re-invention?
12:01pm, Dec 26 from Web

doitallbehappy: @dellagalton It’s a kind of a chillout day, and I have one, on average, once a month
12:03pm, Dec 26 from HootSuite

DellaGalton: @doitallbehappy So you have a day exactly like today once a month. Is this right? Would you have Christmas Day and turkey the day before?
12:04pm, Dec 26 from Web

doitallbehappy: @dellagalton LOL. For me #BoxingDay isn’t anything to do with xmas. It’s only called Boxing Day because that’s when the 1st one happened.
12:07pm, Dec 26 from HootSuite

DellaGalton: @doitallbehappy So, are you saying anyone can have a #boxingday at any time of the year? What gave you this idea?
12:09pm, Dec 26 from Web

doitallbehappy: @dellagalton Yes. That’s the idea. I pre-plan my Boxing Days – one a month.
12:11pm, Dec 26 from HootSuite

DellaGalton: @doitallbehappy So what did you do on your last #boxingday, apart from this one that is :)
12:13pm, Dec 26 from Web

doitallbehappy: @dellagalton Gosh! I can’t remember exactly – I do so many things. But my Boxing Days definitely have themes
12:14pm, Dec 26 from HootSuite

DellaGalton: @doitallbehappy what kind of themes exactly?
12:15pm, Dec 26 from Web

doitallbehappy: @dellagalton Cooking is one; I’ve made chocolate brownies, treacle tart, many many pizzas (base included), and truck loads of flapjacks.
12:16pm, Dec 26 from HootSuite

DellaGalton: @doitallbehappy Are there any rules for #boxingday activities then?
12:17pm, Dec 26 from Web

doitallbehappy: @dellagalton @vikkithomp Rule 1: No-pre-planning! Rule 2: Book BD in advance. Rule 3: You can move BD but you can’t cancel it!!
12:19pm, Dec 26 from HootSuite

vikkithomp: @doitallbehappy @dellagalton So “planning” to have a day where I don’t go online is a no no? #BoxingDay (which I’ve now broken anyway lol) x
12:23pm, Dec 26 from Twitter for iPad

DellaGalton: @vikkithomp @doitallbehappy absolutely. you can do anything I reckon – and it would qualify.but let’s ask Peter :)
12:24pm, Dec 26 from Web

Jayne_A_Curtis: @DellaGalton @vikkithomp @doitallbehappy Im having a large Tia Maria on Ice, I definitely didnt plan it, honest.
12:29pm, Dec 26 from Web

DellaGalton: @Jayne_A_Curtis @vikkithomp @doitallbehappy Now, that sounds like a fine plan Jayne. Peter is this a valid #boxingday activity?
12:31pm, Dec 26 from Web

doitallbehappy: @dellagalton @Jayne_A_Curtis My first #BoxingDay I opened a bottle of champaign – so I guess that answers that! :-)
12:32pm, Dec 26 from HootSuite

DellaGalton: @doitallbehappy @Jayne_A_Curtis Were you celebrating anything specific or just #Boxingday
12:33pm, Dec 26 from Web

doitallbehappy: @dellagalton I guess I was doing what Kate (my late wife) and I used to do on our Boxing Days.
12:35pm, Dec 26 from HootSuite

DellaGalton: @doitallbehappy Ah, so Kate was the reason you reinvented #boxingday?
12:38pm, Dec 26 from Web

doitallbehappy: @dellagalton In a way. BD was ‘our’ day. The 1st year without her I replicated what we’d done. After that I decided to do it each month.
12:40pm, Dec 26 from HootSuite

DellaGalton: @doitallbehappy Ahhh, that is so romantic. Have you had any other romantic #boxingdays? Romance sounds like a fine theme.
12:41pm, Dec 26 from Web

doitallbehappy: @dellagalton Is that an offer ;-)
12:42pm, Dec 26 from HootSuite

DellaGalton: @doitallbehappy Right, Mr Jones, getting back to your book. Tell us where we can buy it again :)
12:42pm, Dec 26 from Web

doitallbehappy: @dellagalton It’s available as an ebook and audio right now – http://t.co/0VNYp6ef – and @HarperCollinsUK are republishing it Jan 17th
12:44pm, Dec 26 from HootSuite

DellaGalton: @doitallbehappy @HarperCollinsUK Thank you so much Peter. I will let you get back to the official #boxingday. Have fun :)
12:46pm, Dec 26 from Web


Follow me on twitter @doitallbehappy and Della @dellagalton

How I Re-invented Boxing Day And Found Happiness

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For most people, Boxing Day is a slightly downbeat, re-run of the previous days festivities. More Turkey. More Christmas pud. Perhaps a change of venue and/or relatives. That’s certainly how it used to be in my family, but when my wife Kate came along Boxing Day became ‘our’ day. A chance to finally be alone together, to declare Christmas well and truly ‘done’, and to bask in the healing power of the unplanned moment.

I remember our first Boxing Day together. We got up around midday, opened a bottle of champagne, looked at our presents from the day before, roasted chestnuts in the oven, played a silly board game, watched “Ghost Busters” in our bath robes, and stuffed ourselves on posh nibbles. And as the sun gave up its fruitless attempt at breaking through the grey December sky, and the lounge was once again lit by tree lights and candles, I found myself giving Kate a chair to sit on, whilst I went down on one knee.

“Marry me,” I said.

That gives you some idea how good Boxing Day made me feel about life. And there hasn’t been a Boxing Day since that hasn’t given me that same inner glow, that same joy for life. And I can speak with some authority here because in the last seven years I’ve celebrated Boxing Day approximately eighty three times.

* * *

Not that long ago, before the days of conjuring words out of the air and rearranging them into an entertaining order, I worked in banking. Credit Card Banking.

I was a fix it man. An ideas man. Wealthy men would ask me how to make even more money with the tools they had at their disposal, and I would tell them. Though it pains me to admit it the ‘credit crunch’ is partly my fault – not my idea, but I was there, pulling the levers and pressing the buttons that made it happen.

I hated banking. It was about a million miles away from what I’d always hoped I would be.

Other than usual childhood dream of being a fireman or an astronaut, my earliest ambition was the desire to create books. I remember taking as many sheets of paper as I was allowed, folding them in two, and using my grandmother’s stapler to create a spine. I’d then proceed to fill the pages with illustrations and narrative, until I ran out of space, which is when the story would – sometimes quite abruptly – end.

These books were distributed on a strict ‘read and return’ basis. I don’t remember the stories I wrote and I have no idea what happened to the manuscripts but I remember it used to make me happy. I remember that.

But you know how it is. You grow up. Put aside childish things. Get real. And all the dreams you had – becoming James Bond, becoming an actor, working in a job that you enjoy – they all get compromised. Down to nothing.

On my thirty-second birthday, I finally realised that there was a distinct possibility that the last of my ‘dreams’ might also never come to pass.

At the time I hadn’t even realised that it was a dream – I just hadn’t had a proper girlfriend for a while. A long while. A really long while. But I’d always assumed that things ‘would work themselves out’. Eventually. It appears I was the only one who thought so.

Colleagues had long since stopped describing me as an eligible bachelor, and some had even questioned my sexuality, which wasn’t helping the situation.

The thought of being single for the rest of my days was unacceptable.

Something had to be done.

* * *

So in order to avoid a life of bachelorhood, I started to plan. I made lists. I came up with a strategy. I took all the problem solving skills I was developing to make rich men richer, and applied them to my own life.

Around that time there was a TV show on the BBC called ‘Would Like to Meet’ where a team of experts (a flirt coach, an actor, and an image consultant) would take some hapless individual and turn them into a heart-throb or a man-magnet. I’d watch it avidly from week to week hoping to pick up some tips. And quickly came to the conclusion that I too could do with a similar makeover, albeit without the entire viewing nation of theUnited Kingdomlooking on.

So over the next few weeks I ordered a truck load of ‘dating’ books and stacked them by my bedside ready for those evenings when I found myself alone. ie. all of them.

I also tracked down an Image Consultant, picking the one I fancied the most on the grounds that any woman I found attractive would probably dress me in a manner she’d find appealing. Of course, back then Image Consultants really only worked for corporations but I had surprisingly little problem persuading her to broaden the scope of her client base to include one sad and lonely thirty something guy. And once my wardrobe had been completely replaced I went in search of a flirt coach.

At the time Channel 4 regularly hired a lady called Peta Heskell whenever they needed a relationship or ‘flirt’ expert, and as luck would have it Peta ran weekend flirting courses. I sent myself on one, took my place in the front row and when instructed, nervously introduced myself to the stunning blonde sitting next to me.

“I’m Peter,” I said.

“I’m Kate,” said the blonde. Then she smiled. And I was smitten.

The course wasn’t that much of a success, in that it didn’t teach me anything new, not that it mattered. My strategy had worked, albeit somewhat differently but infinitely better than I’d hoped. Kate and I were married exactly a year later.

* * *

Kate was a wonderful person. A true entrepreneur. A real visionary. When we met I had vague notions of settling into a rather typical domestic life-style; putting up with a job that I didn’t care for five days a week, in return for the company of a loving woman in the evenings and at weekends.

Kate had very different ideas.

Life wasn’t about ‘settling’ for things. To her there was a world of possibilities out there. We could go anywhere, do anything, have everything, all we had to do was put our minds to it.

When my wife wasn’t trying to convince me that we could escape the ‘rat race’ – or at the very least change races – she was reading. I’d lay money that a copy of every self-help book published around the millennium somehow found it’s way onto my wife’s bookshelf, where it would wait in line to be digested, scribbled over, highlighted, deconstructed and eventually incorporated into ‘Kate’s big theory of everything’ – a kind of pseudo social-science technical manual as to how the world works, and the people in it.

During the two and a bit years of our marriage Kate became more than my wife, she was also my teacher.

And when she died in my arms I was heart-broken.

* * *

People rarely ask me how Kate died. It’s just not the sort of question they feel comfortable asking. Most assume she must have had cancer – that we’d have had some warning. We didn’t.

I’ve learnt since that sudden deaths like hers (a sub-arachnoid haemorrhage) are surprisingly common. Kate had a weak part in her brain, probably since birth. It could have happened at any moment. It was almost inevitable.

I learnt too that after the shock comes the guilt. Every cross word, every nasty thought, every lie – they all come back to haunt you. And amongst the demons that were queuing up to torment me was the realisation that I still wasn’t happy, and maybe I never had been.

There had been happy moments, of course. Quite a lot of moments. Most of them in the previous three years, and most of them down to Kate, but they were moments none the less. And I wanted to be happy all the time. Not just occasionally. Not just for a moment.

Something had to be done.

* * *

And so I decided to tackle the problem in the only way I knew how: by making lists, and coming up with a strategy.

One such idea was Boxing Day.

That first Christmas after Kate passed away my mother, concerned for my welfare during the festive season, asked if I’d like to spend Boxing Day with them. It was a generous offer but I decided to spend it just as we always had.

I got up late, I opened a bottle of champagne, I sat in bed and browsed my collection of gifts from the previous day. Then I took the Brie from the fridge, a box of posh crackers (the edible kind) and worked my way through the whole lot whilst I sat in front of the telly and watched “The Santa Clause”. A little later I emailed friends I’d been meaning to catch up with, and followed that with a walk down to Old Leigh. I looked out at the boats resting in the mud, and then I went home, wrote down some thoughts, and did some planning.

By the time I went to bed I felt like I’d had a week’s holiday, and all I’d done was get out of bed and see how the day unfolded. It was such a good day that I caught myself wishing that Boxing Day happened a little more frequently than once a year, at which point I had the following crazy thought: Why can’t it? What was to stop me replicating the same structure – or lack of structure – on any other day of the year?

Answer: nothing.

From that day on I decided to have a ‘Boxing Day’ once a month. Once a month I get up with absolutely no plans whatsoever and see how the day unfolds. And that was almost seven years ago.

* * *

Though the ‘Boxing Day rules’ expressly forbid pre-planning, my Boxing Days definitely have themes.

I’ve made chocolate brownies, treacle tart, many many pizzas (base included), and truck loads of flapjacks.

I’ve ‘dropped in’ on friends, my family, visited junk shops and museums that I’ve always wanted to go inside.

I’ve set off in the car forCambridgeor other far flung places I can get to, and back, in a day.

And I’ve worked – working is a completely valid Boxing Day activity if it’s what you really want to do, and it isn’t pre-planned. I’ve written whole chapters, spent a day blogging, caught up on all my post and emails.

I’ve had plenty of successful Boxing Days (in that I achieved that holiday feeling by the end of the day), but I’ve also had less successful Boxing Days (when I didn’t). What I hadn’t realised at the time was that I was experiencing something that scientists refer to as ‘Hedonistic Habituation’. Regardless of how pleasurable an activity is, much of its pleasure is actually derived from its ‘newness’. So whilst I thought I was relying on activities that had worked on previous Boxing Days, I had, in fact, got myself into a Cambridge-based flapjacky rut. The trick, it seems, is to think of something you enjoy doing – then tweak it enough to make it ‘new’.

* * *

Of all the ‘happiness’ ideas I’ve had over the years, Boxing Day has been without a doubt one of the easiest to implement. It’s also the one that raises the most eyebrows.

“That’s bonkers,” my friends say. “Brilliant, but bonkers. But don’t you ever feel lonely? Or at a loss to know what to do?” And the short answer to both questions is, yes, of course. Though it pains me to admit it, I can’t guarantee that Boxing Day will work each and every time. But I’ve learnt that when this happens it’s best just to shrug, and move on. When it comes to creating happiness whilst Boxing Days are great, they’re not the whole answer.

“So what is?” They ask. “What else is in this… ‘happiness strategy’?”

At this point I usually tell them to get another round in. And then, over the noise of our fellow festive revellers and ‘Now That’s What I Call Christmas’ thumping out of the juke box, I tell them about my ‘Now List’,  my ‘Wish List’, how I set myself yearly goals, and how I make sure I actually achieve them.

I tell them how I’ve taken back control of my life, decided how I want it to be, pointed it in that direction, and given it a kick up the backside.

I tell them how I’m having more fun than I’ve ever had. Smiling more than I ever did. How there’s love in my life again. How I think Kate would be proud of me. And that I can finally say, I’m happy.

“Those ideas are too good to be kept to yourself,” they say eventually. “You ought to write those things down.”

And so I did.

Thirty something years later I am finally doing something that I wanted to do. I’m realising a childhood ambition. I’m making books.

And I remember now, how happy this makes me.


Originally written for the Guardian, December 2012

Goals, Ghosts, & Supper Club Hosts; WTFHIBD Episode 3

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With barely 10 days left of 2012, I figured it was about time I gave you a What The **** Have I Been Doing update. This is the ‘regular’ feature – well, sort of – where I come clean on what I’ve been spending my time on and show you how I’ve gone about applying the concepts in the book to my own life.

Boxing Day

I’ll confess that I’ve built up a bit of a Boxing Day backlog these past couple of months. I did manage to squeeze one in a couple of weeks back and it was bliss.

I didn’t do much really – quite a lot of it was spent larking around on facebook - but the sun suddenly made an unexpected appearance so I wandered down to beach and rearranged some of the pebbles. I also jotted down some ideas for what could, one day, be a novel. Whether anything will come of that you’ll just have to wait and see.

Anyway, I have two Boxing Days ‘in the bank’ so I suspect I might be using those over Christmas. It would be nice to have a Boxing Day on the 26th of December (a Boxing Day on Boxing Day!) … but my publishers (Harper Collins) tell me I’ll be busy giving interviews that day!!

My Now List

You will be pleased to know that since my last WTFHIBD update I have managed to tick several things off my Now List!

In September I spent a few days in Cornwall, and whilst I didn’t manage to make it to St Michael’s Mount, or the Minack Theatre, I did make it back to Fowey. On the way back I drove through Devon and decided that I really ought to add that to the Now List.

I finally managed to visit a pop-up restaurant. Our host, ‘Food Urchin‘, treated us to pit roasted lamb. He quite literally dug a massive hole in his back garden (a few days earlier I hasten to add) and created a kind of rudimentary oven in which he roasted a whole lamb for several hours.

The rest of the menu looked like this:

Cold mezze consisting of
homemade Taramasalata, Baba Ganoush,
Hummus and Tzatziki
with Grilled Haloumi and Flatbreads.

Kleftiko, Roast New Potatoes
with Capers and Red Onions, Greek Salad.

Palate cleanser (of some description)

Poached Pears
with Filo, Praline, Pistachio and Vanilla Ice Cream.

It was fabulous!

The Woman In Black - click for a closer lookAnd last week I finally saw the stage production of The Woman in Black – a play that I’ve wanted to see for the longest time. And Blimey O’Reily it was jaw droppingly fabulous. I’d go back tonight if it wasn’t sold out already. Easily the best play I’ve seen this year – possibly this decade. Possibly ever.

And as I sat there marvelling at the ingenuity of the story telling, whilst at the same time keeping an eye out for anything that might make me jump three foot in the air, I remembered why I started a Now List, how doing this stuff is the ice cream sundae of life, and how I skip dessert way too often in preference for a slightly larger main course. Madness.

Next year I’m making way more of an effort to work my Now List.

My Goals

After my last update I had a bit of a melt down.

Things were moving in the right direction – generally speaking – but it felt a little like I was on a runaway train – thundering down a track, without anyone at the helm. Do train’s have helms? Anyway. Life seemed to be getting away from me. So I booked a Goals Day, sat down with my Goals and my master to-do list and reviewed everything.

By the end of the day I’d re-written my three primary Goals and re-structured the list. To give you an example here’s how my primary goal used to look.

“I am supporting myself
doing the things I love & enjoy,
and no longer worry about bills.”
December 2012

And here’s how it looks now

“I am supporting myself
doing the things I love & enjoy.”
December 2013

I know what you’re thinking, it’s virtually identical to the previous goal. Except that it isn’t. That line in the original goal (‘worrying about bills’) was impairing my ability to focus properly.

If you’ve read How To Do Everything and be Happy then you’ll know that it simply isn’t possible to not think or worry about something. The very act of NOT thinking about something requires your brain to conjure up images of the thing you don’t want to think about, so you can ignore it. It was as if I was constantly reminding myself to worry about the damn bills whilst I attempted to earn a living out of the things I love and enjoy. Way to go Jonesy. Talk about putting myself under pressure. I can’t believe I didn’t notice it before.

Since re-writing that Goal things have got significantly easier. Or they seem significantly easier, which I’m pretty sure is the same thing. I’m back in control.

The new paperback version of How To Do Everything and Be Happy is printed and should be in shops everywhere on the 17th of January. There should be a feature in about me and the book in tomorrow’s Guardian newspaper, and Harper Collins tell me that I have no idea just how much publicity I’ll be doing this time next month. And when it’s all done I’m going to celebrate. You did get the invite didn’t you?

I had a nice chat with Harper Collins in the USA. They’re publishing the paperback in June 2013. The ebook is available now of course.

My second book (How To Eat Loads And Stay Slim) has been finished for a while and is sitting with my agent whilst I put the finishing touches to my third book (How To Survive Online Dating). Both should be available, in some format, next year.

A new monthly version of my Happiness workshop starts in January (I’m calling it Happy Club – why not come along) and my assistant is booking me talking gigs up and down the country. It’s all good.

But enough about me. How’s life with you? Drop me a line or post a comment below. I really want to know.

 

‘Go With The Flow’ Day

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One of the things I love about ‘Boxing Day’ is how people have taken the idea, and made it their own. This week, to mark the launch of her latest book – ‘A Pocketful of Smiles’ – author Wendy Steele tells us about ‘Go With The Flow’ Day.

With the evenings drawing in and less sunshine to brighten our days, I can feel lethargic and unmotivated. For me that suggests I need to book a ‘Go With The Flow’ day.

Do you sometimes get tired of the same routine? Do you find that your weekends feel just like working days? Do you sometimes wish you could do just what you feel like doing right now? You need a Go With The Flow Day.

This day is easy to achieve for some, requires forward planning by most but is impossible for very few of us. In order to make this time, you need to book a day in your diary to do it. For those with small children, this may need to be when grandparents are available to babysit, or with partners, decide if you’re going to ‘go with the flow’ together or separately.

A possible Go With The Flow Day for me would be when my children have plans where they are staying over, I’ve seen my mum the previous weekend, there is tasty home made food in the freezer and I’ve worked hard to get washing, shopping, chores etc relatively up to date. Upon waking, I might decide to have my first cup of Rooibos in the garden or the summer house. A leisurely bath with essential oils gives me time to think; a walk in the woods feels like a good idea. Wrapped up warm while walking, I remember the book I bought about spirals on ancient monuments and I indulge that feeling on my return home and curl up in front of the fire with my book. A cat or two comes to join me and I relish their warmth and their company. Before the light fades, I retrieve dahl and rice from the freezer and as I decant it into oven proof dishes, I remember the cooking apples in the cupboard, wash them, de-core them, fill them with brown sugar and sultanas and pop them in the oven with the curry. I return to my book but my mind recalls that I haven’t read one of my favourite books, ‘Moon Magic’ by Dion Fortune for a while and I abandon one book for another.

Everyone’s Go With The Flow Day will be different but try not to get distracted and fall into everyday mode. If you want to work, then please do so. Sometimes I write on these days but don’t feel you have to or you should. If you want to paint the spare room, go ahead, but only if you want to. Treat yourself to a day of doing what you feel.

Book a Go With The Flow Day in your diary now. After one of these days, I return to my routine refreshed. Even the chores seem less tiresome and I feel more in tune with my surroundings.

You can find 100 more ideas to bring happiness to your days in my new book ‘Wendy Woo’s Year – A Pocketful of Smiles – 101 ideas for a happy year and a happy you.’

To celebrate the launch of Wendy’s book, you can download ‘A Pocketful of Smiles’ and all her other titles for FREE, from now until the 5th December.
Visit amazon (.co.uk | .com)

FAQ: Potential Boxing Day Problem #4 – Too busy to have a Boxing Day

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In stark contrast to those under the age of twenty five there are those people who are utterly convinced that they couldn’t possibly take one day out a month for themselves. They’re just too darn busy.

In my experience there are two types of ‘I don’t have the time {for Boxing Day}’ people – those that don’t have the time, and those that think they don’t have the time. Let’s find out which type you are.

Answer this simple two-part question:

do you have an appointment diary and do you use it?

If you haven’t answered yes to both parts, chances are you’re one of the people who only think that they’re busy. What you’re calling ‘busy’ is in fact ‘chaos’.

I’m not kidding about this: diaries really are that important.

Go get a diary, start using it, then come back.

So you’re back. Good. Now hand me that diary and let’s have a look.

Hmmm. I see. Well, you’re right. You do appear to have a very busy schedule. Every single moment is indeed booked out for something. That’ll be why you have that smug ‘told you so’ look on your face that’s just crying out for a smack.

But wait – what’s this appointment here? Every Sunday?

“That’s when I go to see my mother,” you say.

“Every Sunday?”

“Well, yes.”

“Could you not skip it one week?”

“Not really.”

“Why?”

“Because she expects me!”

“So tell her you can’t make it one week!”

“I couldn’t do that,” you say.

“Why not?”

“Because she’s my mother.”

“Ok, but what about this Sunday? This Sunday you’re not seeing your mother. This says ‘work’.”

“Well yes,” you reply “there’s this big project we’re finishing up, and my boss really needs me – and besides, it’s overtime…”

“So it’s ok to cancel your mother if there’s overtime up for grabs?”

“Well, we’re really busy right now -”

“And your mother’s ok with that?”

“Well, it’s work – it’s important.”

“And you’re not important?”

“Sorry?”

“I said: ‘You’re not important?’”

“Well, of course I am, I suppose -”

“You suppose?”

“Look, I can’t cancel my mother, not to spend a day by myself-”

“Because you’re not important?”

“Well, err-”

“Well?”

It’s not that you’re too busy, it’s that you’re putting everyone and everything before you and your happiness! You have, in effect, trained yourself – yes, trained yourself – to believe that when it comes to your time, and your life, everyone else gets to say how you spend it.

You need to stop that.

Of course, that’s easier said than done. From birth we’re encouraged by others to take on that ‘training’. Eventually we might even convince ourselves that these habits of selflessness/martyrdom/workaholism are a good thing. We say to ourselves, “I must be a good person, I put everyone else first – yay me.” Those that don’t adopt a similar saintly attitude – and you can probably think of someone off the top of your head – can, on occasion, come across as a little self-centred or selfish. Maybe more than a little. And maybe not as occasionally as you’d like. Thank God you’re not like that.

I bet they’re happier though.

Now I’m not suggesting for one minute that you become like them, but accepting that you’ve created a habit of surrendering your time without question, and becoming aware of that habit, will give you the opportunity to say “no” and gradually regain control of your life. It’ll feel uncomfortable at first. It may even feel wrong. At some point you’ll upset someone. Maybe several someones. And that’ll make you feel guilty. But these things will pass. With practice it’ll become easier – it’ll start to make sense – and the people around, those that care about you, will, eventually, adjust to the ‘new you’.

So – let’s start now – go tell your mother that you won’t make it next week, or your boss that you can’t come in on Sunday.

For the love of flapjacks

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If you’ve read the book, follow me on twitter, or look at my facebook page you’ll know that I have something of a passion for flapjacks. More than one Boxing Day has resulted in a truck load of flapjacks that keep me and my assistant going for hours, sometimes even a whole day. And believe me, that’s a lot of flapjacks.

All this flapjack activity prompted my friend Slav to suggest that I should give-away flapjacks, rather than badges. Whereas another friend (Hello Lynn) just asked me for the receipe.

So here it is.

Ingredients

Rolled Oats – 1 kilo
Butter – 600 grams
Golden Syrup – 300 grams
Sugar (preferably brown, or golden granulated, anything but white! Bleugh!) – 300 grams

Equipment

Oven
Hob
One huge saucepan
Knife
Wooden spoon or similar (to mix ingredients with)
Scales.
Square shallow baking tin about 20 cm sided
Greaseproof paper

Instructions

  1. Put the butter, golden syrup, & sugar in saucepan and heat until it is all liquid.
  2. Meanwhile line the baking tin with greaseproof paper.
  3. Turn off hob. Mix all the oats into the liquid.
  4. Put the mixture into the baking tin & press flat.
  5. Bake at 175 °C (Gas Mark 4) for 25 to 30 minutes. Warning: the timing is tolerant but accuracy in temperature is critical – I find that I actually need to set my oven at 170 degrees. If recipe doesn’t quite work, this’ll be where you need to tweak it. Too hot and the flapjacks will be crunchy, too cold and they’ll be so gooey you won’t be able to get them out of the tin in slices.
  6. Slice before it sets but leave in place in tin.
  7. Leave to cool and set.
  8. Serve with a cup of tea and friend.
Sometimes I like to add dried fruit to the mix. That works well. Or top with chocolate whilst it’s setting. I tried adding rum once – that doesn’t work.
Let me know how you get on.

Based on a recipe from http://duramecho.com.

WaHay Day

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This week Gaynor Johnson, avid reader, photographer, mother of two and all round lovely person, shares her first ‘Boxing Day’ with us and explains why she’s renamed it.

Before my very first ‘Boxing Day’ I spent almost the entire week madly trying to ‘NOT plan – AT ALL!’ what was going to happen on my ‘day off’!

I’m a pretty disorganised individual at heart, but a DAY OFF?!!! CRIKEY! UNHEARD of!… My brain flew into ‘let’s fill it up’ overdrive as soon as I wrote it in my diary (yes, I now have a diary – filled to the brim with absolutely everything and yes, bizarrely enough this is already making me MUCH happier – and my friends too as I’ve already remembered 3 birthdays I would ordinarily have forgotten!).

So there I am, in the lead up to my first Boxing Day (reading ‘How to do everything and be happy’ from cover to cover for the 3rd time – thanks Peter – I’m feeling empowered and pretty much ready to take on the world – in a good way of course!) and I suddenly realise I need to take yet another piece of Peter’s advice because ‘Boxing Day’ wasn’t filling me with joy… I’ll rename it – to something that fills me with excitement, or makes me jump about a bit… I know – HSJ Day… (well, it rhymes which has always pleased me in a twee kind of way…) and it stands for ‘Hop, Skip, Jump Day’ which I think fits quite well with the general idea – after all that’s what I’m aiming for! Now – try my hardest to not even think of what MAY happen on Saturday (my booked HSJ Day)…

Saturday – no alarm clock but I woke up earlier than I had in a long time. I went to have my usual breakfast and decided I wanted something different, so I cooked a beautiful breakfast – eggs, bacon…yum, just for me and ate it while I figured out what I WANTED to do.

Dug out my new/old OS map (which I’ve been meaning to get dirty since I bought it a few years back) and found places I wanted to go, for no reason at all except utter nosiness so I decided to use one of these as the starting point for a lovely walk to somewhere I’d never been before. As I walked the footpath through the field by the side of the road (you know the one you always look at as you drive past in a rush and think – I’ll go there one day when I’ve got more time… the one I wrote on my ‘now’ list all those weeks ago…) I thought about why I was here, in a field, on my own, with my camera and a map (I AM a photographer – please refer to ‘GOALS’) and probably looking a bit silly… but I don’t think the sheep were bothered – I realised that this, for me, was absolute heaven… and if I could leap into the air (I can’t – I’m a bit too heavy these days, with dodgy ankles!) I probably would… but there was nothing stopping me doing my HSJ – after all I’d booked a day just to do it… so, walking boots and backpack included (and please excuse me for the picture I’m about to conjure up…) there’s me – hopping, skipping and jumping through a fairly muddy field, watched by sheep, as the sun came out and the buzzards flew overhead…bliss! Think ‘Dorothy’ in the Wizard of Oz (‘We’re off to see…!) yep, now you’ve pictured it – except I’m a fair bit heavier and so are my boots…! And did I mention my dodgy ankles? Yup – I think, after that little display it’s time for another name change… so my ‘Boxing Day’ which became HSJ Day, changed to WaHAY Day!!! and it still is… very much a WaHAY Day, and after getting lost a few fields later on (no road signs here!), eating my beautiful sticky toffee cream bun (did I mention I like cake – that’s probably why I’m a bit heavy with dodgy ankles!), and walking till my legs ached, I went home feeling as if I’d sat on a beach for a week (even though I never have, but that’s on my ‘now list’ too!).

I can’t wait until my next WaHAY Day (it’s already in my diary but I’m trying not to plan that far ahead as it’s so much fun when you don’t) and I now know a man who knows a thing or two about How to do everything – and be happy. Peter Jones – you’ve made me realise what a wonderful place to be my life is… thank you

Gaynor

Tantrums & Tears – Kirsty Higginson shares her first Boxing Day with the world

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Freelance Journalist, Mum and Avid Reader Kirsty Higginson recently posted a link on the How To Do Everything And Be Happy faceback page to her blog. Initially I thought she’d been kind enough to review the book, but it was much more personal than that.

Having read about Boxing Day (read all Boxing Day related posts here) she decided to have one herself, and scheduled one into her diary for the 18th of August. Was it a success? Kirsty seems to think so, even though she actually ended up sitting in a car park in floods of tears!

You can find out why by reading Kirsty’s post, and if you enjoy her writing you might be interested to know that I’ve asked her if she’d like to write a guest post at some point in the future.

In the meantime, if you’d like to share your Boxing Day, with me or the world, feel free to post a comment anywhere on this blog or send me a message.

 

Share your Boxing Day

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In the final section of  ’How To Do Everything and Be Happy’ I give an example of what a typical Boxing Day, for me, might look like.

I thought it might be quite fun to open this up to the world – so using the comments section feel free to post about great Boxing Day successes you’ve enjoyed.