The happiness curve

The post I wrote yesterday about happiness and money got me thinking.

That story came about because of a chat I’d had with my fiancé on our radio show, and one of the other stories we talked about at the same time was about the apparent happiness curve we all experience through our lives. This story goes that happiness peaks in our mid-twenties, when we’re free of too much responsibility, full of the joys of youth etc, and then rapidly declines as the stress of work and family life kicks in.

Makes sense so far, especially, as we learnt yesterday, for those people earning over £37,000. 

For anyone who is in their 30s, wondering when the curve is going to bottom out and start picking up again, I have bad news. Apparently life is basically a bit shit until retirement. At around 65 you’ll peak again, once you’ve given up work and the kids have finally left home.

Sorry about that.

It got us chatting though about the importance of appreciating those little moments of happiness. You could look at the chart, see a deep and enduring valley of misery spanning 40 years, and just go to bed for a cry, but the truth is that life isn’t really like that. It’s not a smooth curve for a start. It’s like the stock market – investments may grow over time, but along the way you have ups and downs, moments where you see yourself retiring at 40 to the Caribbean and others where you want to chuck it all in and have to hold your nerve.

Happiness comes and goes too. 

everything changes quote

True fact.

Sometimes that’s reassuring. No matter how bad you feel right now, it’s not going to last. Other times, when everything is going well, it can feel scarier, but that’s why you have to concentrate on the ‘happy right now’ moments.

“How often though,” asked my fiancé, as we chatted on air, “do we take the time to actually stop and think about how happy we are right now?”

“Ummm,” I said, wondering if it was a trick question, “a few times a days?”

He looked at me like I was a loon.

“Don’t you?” I said.

“No,” he replied, “hardly ever.”

I had a moment then when I felt like lots of jigsaw pieces were falling into place all at once. All of the things I read about positivity, fear, life, death and human nature all suddenly felt worthwhile. All the ridiculously American positive thinking podcasts I’ve ever listened to – I suddenly realised how valuable they had been. Even if at the time I had wondered what the point of it all was, here was my reassurance. Without knowing it, I have taught myself to think about things in a slightly different way.

Because actually I do take time, every day, to be grateful for something. I do stop and take in my surroundings, feel physical sensations, appreciate delicious smells and tastes, feel the sun on my face. I do do these things. 

So then I had to take a moment to appreciate the fact that I take moments to appreciate things, and that sent me into a little bit of a spin, but you get the point. We have to stop and be glad. No matter where on the curve we’re told we are, there is always something to be happy about, even if it is only for a minute. 


£37,000 – the salary you need to maximise your happiness levels

How much money would you like to earn? More importantly, at what point would an increase in salary and responsibility no longer be worth it?

I asked my fiancé this question on the back of a news story we were talking about on our community radio show on Friday. (Yes, it is everything you imagine – a hut in a playground, the noise of coffee cups in the background – it’s wonderful.)

“I’m not sure,” he said, “about £120,000?”

“£120,000??” I said. “You can tell you’ve come from London. Who earns £120,000??”

“Lots of people!” he said.

“Well, no one I know.”

The actual tipping point, according to research randomly conducted by Anchor Cheddar, (cheese? why?!), is just £37,000. 91% of the 2,000 people surveyed believe that there’s a point at which the extra salary simply isn’t worth the extra stress and the impact this has on your life. This point averaged out at £37,396. View Full Post

Tackling fussy eating with the 21 day Co-op Food challenge + a healthy eating Twitter party

I came across an image this week which made me think “Yes! This is Belle! This is my life summed up in a postcard!”

This was it:

healthy eating tips
Does this sound familiar?

I had thought that by the age of 13, Belle would have grown out of her fussy eating. I imagined a gradual acceptance of onions in cooking, a growing fondness for courgettes, and friendly banter around the dining table where we looked back and laughed at her fussier days.

“How silly of me,” she would say, chomping her way through a kale salad, “to have been so fussy for all those years!”

Alas, that day has yet to come. Still, as a teenager, her list of acceptable vegetables is limited pretty much to:

  • Sweetcorn
  • Carrots
  • Spinach (raw, not cooked)

It’s not cool is it? The tricky bit for me lies in how far to push it. I appreciate that 50 years ago she would have just been made to sit at the table until she had finished, but we don’t live 50 years ago do we? We live in an era where ‘food issues’ are constantly on the horizon, especially with girls, and I worry that forcing her to eat something she doesn’t like will mean I’m responsible, later in life, for her crippling obesity/bulimia/inability to visit a supermarket without having a panic attack. (Delete as appropriate.)

Perhaps I just think about it too much.

I’ve decided though that the time has come to be a little more proactive about things. Being busy is no excuse for not making changes to our diet. I need to man up and remind Belle who’s boss. (I hope she doesn’t read this bit and shout at me.) The Co-op agreed to help me out with some ideas for recipes, snacks and easy switches, and so our 21 day food challenge begins. 

If your family diet could do with a kick up the bum, or that daily moan of ‘what’s for dinner?’ sends shivers down your spine, why not join me?

I’ve always been a fan of The Co-op. We’ve often had one just around the corner from us, which is very handy for me at 5pm when I still haven’t thought about what to have for tea, and I like their ethics, food wise. In theory it’s not hard to make changes; a handful of grapes here, a wedge of cucumber there – it shouldn’t take much to make a difference. The Co-op also have lots of recipe ideas, and plenty of Pinspiration.

healthy eating Pinterest

To kick start proceedings, I suggest keeping a diary of what your family eats for a few days. This was a horrible reality check for me, as I like to think I eat reasonably well. Oh how wrong I was. It’s shocking how easy it is to go a whole day and not eat any fruit…

This is a day from Belle’s diary, so you can see what I mean. (Please don’t report me to anyone):

  • Breakfast – a bowl of chocolate cereal, toast with butter, pineapple juice.
  • Packed lunch – cheese and ham sandwich, crisps, Babybel, yoghurt, satsuma, water. (I often find the fruit and three quarters of a bottle of water at the bottom of her school bag.)
  • After school snack – chocolate chip brioche.
  • Dinner – pasta (not wholemeal), sweetcorn, tinned tuna and pesto. Three chocolate truffles.

Now overall, it doesn’t feel hideous, fairly typical I would imagine, but let’s break it down…

I use the word chocolate three times. Not cool. Even counting the juice, she’s barely scraping two portions of fruit and vegetables on this day.

*takes a minute to reflect on parenting skills*

I then thought it might be a good idea, rather than just spying on what she ate, to ask Belle how she felt about her diet:

Over the next three weeks then we’ll be making an effort to eat better. This might be something as simple as switching from white to brown bread, or it might mean thinking more broadly about how we can encourage Belle to eat a wider variety of fruit and vegetables.

We’d love for you to join us, and share your tips and troubles as you progress, and to get you in the mood, we’re holding a Twitter chat this Tuesday at 1pm. Please RT the invitation and come along with your questions. Experts from The Co-operative will be on hand and I’ll be bringing 20 years of parenting wisdom/sympathy to the virtual table.

 In the meantime, please do leave a comment and tell me about the food issues in your family!



Project in partnership with The Co-operative Food.

Break your breakfast routine – nutrition on the go with Up & Go

When I was a teenager, I remember waking up every morning and feeling starving. By 7.15am I would be in the kitchen already, with a bowl piled high with cereal, pasta or noodles. It was a proper carb craving – a need to fill my tummy with as much stodge as possible.

I reflect fondly, and attribute it to a growth spurt, but I suspect I was just a greedy guts. (I was a fairly podgy pre-teen.)

Nowadays though, it’s a different story. When I wake up, the idea of food quite turns my stomach. It makes me feel like one of those old people who fusses about, refusing to eat anything other than a couple of ginger biscuits mid-morning but for at least an hour, usually two, I just don’t fancy eating at all. Fine, you might think, don’t eat, but this is actually quite inconvenient.

Think about it – where are you two hours after you get up if you’re a busy, professional working girl type like me? Chances are you’re not handily placed next to your fridge any more. Normally at the point at which I get hungry, I’m at my desk, in the car, in a meeting or on a train, none of which are the optimal locations for making toast.

What normally happens then is that I spend unnecessary money on unsuitable snacks, or, when I’m feeling poor, I eat handfuls of dry cereal from the box I keep under my desk. That doesn’t do much for my self-esteem to be honest. It makes me feel like a bit of a tramp.

But wait! What’s that breakfasty apparition on the horizon? It’s Up & Go, Australia’s number one breakfast, and it’s landed in the UK!

Up & Go

I tried to make my carton of Up & Go a little super hero cape but fear it looks more like a bad nativity costume.

Up & Go is breakfast on the go, designed to save you time in the mornings without compromising on nutrition. Every carton contains as much fibre, protein and calcium as your average bowl of cereal and milk, so it’s basically a bowl of cereal in a box. Brilliant for me, as I once did actually try to take a bowl of cereal with milk on a train, in a tub, and it wasn’t very nice/easy to eat.

It’s ideal for busy parents on school mornings, or for when you need to grab something in a hurry, but for me it’s all about the portability. Being able to pop a carton in my bag, knowing I can drink it later in the morning when I get hungry, is fantastic. Not only does it mean I have a more nutritionally balanced breakfast, but it means I can drink it when I want, where I want, which is exactly what I’ve been doing this week.

Up & Go

The other boon of course is that it’s perfect to give to Belle when I’ve not quite got round to buying things for breakfast (*cough*) or we’re in a little bit of a rush. Which is often.

I don’t know why she pulls a face when I suggest, for the fifth morning in a row, when she complains yet again about the lack of breakfast options, that she whip up a bowl of porridge, but pull a face she does.

Not any more.

There’s something about the idea of it being in a carton that definitely appeals to her too. It’s like I’ve suggested she have a milkshake for breakfast. Little does she know that it actually has nutritional value.

We’ve both really enjoyed our Up & Go breakfasts; I’ve found that a cheeky carton at around 10am is ideal to tide me over until lunchtime and Belle no longer scowls at me like I’m scum of the earth everyday at 8am.

As you can see from their ad, they don’t take themselves too seriously either, and I really like the branding:

Up & Go comes in six delicious flavours; chocolate, strawberry, vanilla, banana & honey, mixed berry and coffee. Predictably the chocolate and the coffee are my favourite, but they are all very tasty. It’s available in nearly all of the major supermarkets – look for it in the cereal aisle.

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Throwing a spanner in the works – 4 tips to help you find a reliable plumber

As I’m sure you all now know, I move house a lot. In fact, even since starting this blog I have probably moved house more times than the average person does in a lifetime. (I’m not actually sure if that’s true or what that figure is. Feel free to look it up and probably correct me.) Moving house as often as I have, I’ve becoming pretty good at the whole procedure.

*looks proud*.

I can even plumb in my own washing machine, which probably sounds more impressive than it actually is.

Don’t think I’m some kind of plumbing genius though. A lot of the time I do mess things up and make really silly mistakes, like accidentally scraping the sealant away from my plug hole thinking it was grime. (Yes, really.) My general haphazardness means I do have to get a real plumber out once in a while. Living in a lot of houses, I’ve discovered that sometimes plumbers can be hit and miss if you don’t do your research properly. Please learn from my mistakes and follow my top tips on how to find a great plumber.

find a plumber

Don’t give them more work than necessary View Full Post