As we’re seeing loved ones more and more, you’d be forgiven for feeling a bit overwhelmed by an overload of events and catch-ups. It can be difficult to seize those calming moments we all need in between the exciting times, whether that’s taking a quick break at work or snatching a second of relaxation on a Sunday.
There’s never been a better time to sit back and give yourself permission to take in the joy of little things around your home, savouring time to yourself in whatever form that takes. That’s why we got talking to our Joyful Living experts, Amy Burrows, Anouska Lancaster and Gill Gauntlett, to hear about their daily rituals that help instil a sense of serenity into their lives and the small steps they take to relish the little joys along the way.
As the day begins
Though all of us lead busy lives, mornings can be the perfect opportunity to find a bit of serenity amongst the mayhem, and for our experts, it’s all about taking a moment to switch off from the rigid demands of our phones and laptops to soak in a bit of calm before the day begins. ‘My friends laugh, but I still use an old-fashioned alarm clock rather than my phone to wake me up in the morning,’ Amy Burrows says, ‘It allows me to leave my phone on airplane mode until I’m ready and dressed for the day. When I open my eyes, I don’t want my initial thoughts or even my mood to be shaped by social media or emails, and I like to leave some space first thing to gather my own thoughts and ideas for the day.’
Leaving the phone alone for a moment will help you tune into yourself instead of the lives of so many others, and according to Gill Gauntlett, if you can get out into nature for a moment to let that phone cleanse sink in, all the better. ‘If possible, I start my day with a dog walk. I’m lucky enough to live in the beautiful countryside with fabulous walks that really help me to relax and start the day just right.’ If there’s a park or green space nearby, or even your own garden, just a few minutes absorbing the sounds and sights of nature can serve as the perfect break from a tech-filled day, and Amy agrees. ‘I live by the sea and love nothing more than getting out for a walk along the seafront, either by myself or with a friend. It completely clears my head, snaps me into the present moment and just reminds me to breathe!’
Finding those few minutes to yourself in the morning can be tricky, but adjusting your expectations to twenty or even ten minutes can help you sneak that moment into your schedule. Anouska Lancaster recommends rising a little bit early before the rush. ‘I’m always the first up, so it’s my 20 minutes of calm and quiet before the children wake up and the chaos begins!’ And her secret weapon? ‘A frothy coffee – I can’t function without one! Whatever time of year, whether I’m waking up to sunshine or snow, a coffee is what gets me ready for the day ahead.’
A simple morning ritual like this will help you to work in a moment to unwind, whatever the day has in store for you!
When work is done, creating a serene space can be more of a challenge, because the day is in full swing and time can run away with you. That’s why putting in a bit of extra effort to set up an area for relaxation can make all the difference, whatever ‘me time’ looks like to you.
Anouska recommends finding a room or area in your home that you can dedicate to yourself for a short while. ”Me time’ is really important, and my favourite room in the house is my bathroom – mainly as it’s the only room in the house with a lock on the door! The bathroom is my place to take out some time for self-care. It could be a long soak in a bubble bath with candles, or time spent on my beauty regime with products from QVC.’
Candles are a favourite among our experts to transform a room into a relaxation station, whether you’re giving yourself a well-deserved pamper or simply setting the ambience for a calming evening ahead. ‘I really enjoy the ritual of lighting candles in my living space,’ Amy says, ‘Going around with a box of matches and lighting the tea lights and votives feels like it signifies the end of a work day and the start of downtime and relaxation.’
And it’s not just about the soft light candles bring. ‘I have always loved burning scented candles,’ Gill says, and suggests fragrances that trigger that sense of inner calm: ‘I really love grapefruit scents or salty fragrances.’ Scented candles combine both calming fragrance and lighting for a sensory experience that might just transport you to your happy place, so find a scent that triggers a fond memory or feelings of serenity – Yankee Candle‘s inspiring fragrance names will help you find what resonates most with you.
And who’s to say that your serene space has to stay indoors? If you’re lucky enough to encounter a balmy evening, Anouska recommends taking the candles outside. ‘I use candles all year round, but they really come into their own as the summer nights draw to a close. They could be used whilst wrapping up under blankets in the garden after a lazy afternoon BBQ or for creating a cosy atmosphere in a TV room or snug before putting on a movie.’
Embrace the great outdoors
In fact, your outdoor space can be the perfect getaway for a moment’s peace and quiet, alone or with family. Little things like curling up with a book or enjoying a drink with your partner outside will help mark the end of a long day inside and encourage you to enjoy the moment, surrounded by fresh air.
For Anouska, the garden is a place to unwind when work is finished. ‘I enjoy a glass of wine in the garden after a stressful day. It’s lovely to curl up in a cocoon chair with loved ones and catch up on everyone’s days. The summer passes by so quickly, so it’s important to make the most of every last drop, even if it means snuggling under a throw outside on cooler evenings.’
Over the past year, we’ve learnt to make the most of our gardens, even if the weather gets a bit nippy, and for Gill, it’s all about making the most of the space you have, whether you’re blessed with a big garden or a balcony. ‘My garden is small and contained but I’ve made it as homely and relaxing as possible. I have a variety of solar lights to help with the ambience, and this year, I bought a Luxform Lamppost that has really made a lovely addition to my small garden.’
Gill also encourages us to never underestimate the power of plants, even if you’re not green-fingered. ‘I don’t have any borders – it’s a real container garden, and I love planting up my pots and watching them grow. I do believe Richard Jackson’s Flower Power is brilliant and I have had some great results. QVC have really impressed me with the range of pots this year and I’ve invested in quite a few beautiful faux rattan containers.’
It’s easy to forget to carve out time to indulge in something you love, but whether you’re a sweet or savoury person, you deserve a treat once in a while, if only to remind yourself that life is about enjoying the little things!
‘I really enjoy baking – for me there’s something really therapeutic about taking a cupboard full of ingredients and methodically turning them into something else, one step at a time,’ Amy says, and the benefit of this isn’t just the treat at the end of it: ‘I feel like having something tangible to show for your efforts at the end is really rewarding.’
If you fancy trying your hand at baking something sweet and summery, why not have a go at our delicious raspberry creme brulee tart recipe? It’s simpler to make than it looks and versatile enough to enjoy at a dinner party or as a mid-afternoon snack. You’ll definitely be coming back for another slice!
When it comes to a personal favourite among our experts, there’s a clear winner.
‘I could literally live off cake and never get bored of it!’ Anouska laughs, ‘Carrot cake is my particular favourite – that with coffee is my perfect pick me up mid-morning.’ For good reason, carrot cake seems to be the popular choice, as Amy also tells us that ‘a real treat for me is a slice from my local bakery with a cup of tea. Is there anything better than a perfect cream cheese frosting to cheer you up?!’
Gill’s also a cake fan for a special treat. ‘I really do have a savoury tooth, but once in a while I get a craving for a fresh cream cake with a strong cup of tea. Just can’t beat it!’
So, cake is definitely the order of the day when it comes to teatime! But however you want to treat yourself, make sure to enjoy it in a way that makes it a bit of a ‘me time’ moment, whether that’s with a friend having a good natter or settled down with a good book. Joy can come from the simplest things, and finding them in your home throughout the week can build up to making it your official ‘happy place’.
‘To my mind, happiness isn’t a destination, it’s an accumulation of those individual moments that add up throughout a day or a week,’ Amy tells us, ‘In our busy lives, it can be easy to get caught up running at a hundred miles per hour, so I strive to savour the simple things that bring me joy. I don’t always manage it, but it’s a constant work in progress!’
If you’re inspired to find more ways to create little moments of joy in your home and garden, why not explore our summer home edit here?