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Monday, 21 January 2019

Affordable ways to beat the winter blues

Affordable cosy set up to beat winter blues

The products in this post were a gift from Intu Metrocentre, but all advice and opinions are my own.

As we approach Blue Monday, known as the Monday-est Monday of the year, it's normal for a lot of us to be feeling a little down. There's something about January with its cold weather (we had snow in Newcastle this week!) and a lack of funds between paydays that can make it seem like the longest month ever.

There are so many things you can do to beat the winter blues that can be carried out even on a tight budget without too much effort. The lovely folks over at Intu Metrocentre recently sent me a 'pamper hamper' filled with a range of products to help me stay happy and positive at this time of year. This inspired me to write a guide with some of my favourite affordable tips to look after yourself, even when funds are low and you aren't heading out as much.

Affordable ways to beat those blues this winter

Keep a note of positive thoughts

Keeping a journal has been popular for a while as a great way to stay positive, but it's not something I've ever really got on board with. I think as I was always so busy I just couldn't see when I'd have the time for it! I recently started keeping a journal for my academic project and I wish I'd started sooner. This one from Wilko has a space for each day of the week where you can reflect on each day and record something positive.

I love these pencils, also from Wilko, with more positive quotes on. Just spotting one of these on my desk when feeling a little bit down is guaranteed to cheer me up!

Making a note of the good things that happen in life is a really affordable way to beat the winter blues. You could even just keep some notes in your phone of the nice things that occur each day. I look back through my journal when times are hard to remind me of all the good things that happen. This is so simple but can really get you through those winter blues and lift even the darkest day.

Journalling can beat winter blues

Stay hydrated and eat good food

It is amazing how water affects the mind. If I feel down it is often lack of water and I need a good 2 litres or more per day to feel good. As soon as I drink less than this and have alcohol my skin is affected so much! For the first two weeks of January I stopped drinking alcohol and upped my water intake which meant my skin was perfectly clear. As soon as I had a few drinks one night my skin went crazy. Having a water bottle like this one from WHSmith which shows exactly how much you need to drink each hour is so useful.

Make sure you have lots of healthy snacks in the cupboards and don't be tempted to eat all your Christmas chocolate in January. I normally just don't buy unhealthy snacks to have in. It stops me having them as I am far too lazy to go to the shop just for chocolate. I try to carry healthy snacks like this fruit bar from Holland and Barrett in my bag to stop temptation when I am out and about.

Hydration and nutrition are affordable ways to beat winter blues

De-clutter your home

I have given lots of bags to the charity shop over the last few weeks. This has helped me to beat the winter blues by doing something good for others whilst making my surroundings less cluttered. This applies to your wardrobe as well. If you read my post on my style code makeover you will see how much of a difference it made to my confidence and I really think it's gone a long way towards beating the winter blues for me.

I don't know about you, but taking my Christmas decorations down leaves a big void in my living room that makes me feel a bit blue in January. If you can afford to, adding some flowers to your room can be so helpful to fill any spaces. I sometimes get flowers reduced in supermarkets which can still have a decent life span if you pick carefully.

Having a tidy home can really help you feel less blue and cleaning is free if you already have the products, so why not have a big weekend tidy-up?

Flowers to beat the winter blues

Have technology-free time on an evening

Too often we spend our downtime glued to our phones. Go on Instagram and select the option which warns you when you have spent a certain time on the app that day - this will help you to cut down. It is amazing how social media can negatively affect your mood without you even realising it.

At a time when you might be staying in more and you see people who are travelling full time or seem to be having 'more fun' than you, that will only add to your winter blues. Instead of aimlessly scrolling when you feel bored, do something affordable and simple that gets you away from your phone.

Affordable ways to take time out and relax

When I have loads on my plate I have realised that something small and simple can lift my mood. I never used to like baths but I swear by them now, especially when I have got a good book to read.

Buying a small new bath product can feel like such a treat when it only really costs a tiny amount. This rocket bath bomb from Lush could be used for 2-3 baths to make it last longer. The Miss Patisserie bath bar from Boots is great as you just break off a couple of squares at a time to make a nice bath. It is almost too pretty to use!

I love diffusers so much and this one from HomeSense has such a nice message on I can't help but smile whenever I see it. Having positive quotes scattered around the home can really help to lift my mood when I catch a glimpse of them before I head out for the day.


A bath is an affordable way to beat the winter blues

Get warm and cosy on an evening

Most of us love to get new cosy treats like pyjamas and slippers to beat the winter blues, but they aren't always affordable when you are on a tight January budget. However, with affordable shops in the Metro Centre like Primark, you can pick up some cute, fluffy socks like these for as little as £2!

If you know a friend has felt a bit rubbish recently and want to cheer them up on a budget, I can't think of a nicer gesture to buy someone. They are so soft it's unbelievable and I don't think they will be leaving my feet any time soon.

Affordable ways to get cosy and beat winter blues

Try to wind down after 9pm and get ready for bed

Snuggling up in a fleecy throw like this lovely olive-coloured one from Primark is a great way to feel cosy and relaxed, and one of the huge positives of winter which we should really appreciate. When I lived in Singapore I really missed the cold weather as it was impossible to feel snuggly with air-con. I truly appreciate gorgeous soft blankets like this one even more now.

I have tried to set myself a rule that I won't use my phone after 9pm and instead I will relax with a book and a cup of herbal tea. This sleep tea is only £1 from Poundland, I will definitely be having one of these each evening in a lovely calming blue mug like this one from Wilko.

Instead of binging Netflix late at night, read books you've had for ages and haven't got round to reading (we all have them). Ask family and friends if they want to do a book swap, or pass on a read they have enjoyed but are finished with. It's likely that everyone is feeling in the same boat at the moment so would probably love to swap a book and get something new to read for free.

Affordable ways to relax and beat winter blues

I hope you enjoyed reading my list of affordable ways to beat the winter blues this month. Hopefully it has inspired you to plan a nice pamper night for yourself, we all need them!

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Where I am taking this blog in 2019

Diary and calendar planning

I can't believe we are already a week into January and I'm here writing my first post of the new year. Does this mean it isn't socially acceptable to still be having a cheeseboard, Lindt mint chocolate balls (best discovery of 2018) and salted caramel vodka most evenings? The tree is down, the flat is clean and tidy and it's got me thinking I need a bit of a blog 'tidy up' as well.

I'm not one for making too many long-term, set goals (read here why I don't have a 5 year plan any more). However, things are going to be changing a bit on this little old blog as we come up to the one-year anniversary of Melis Living!

Why I started the blog

To explain how I plan to shake things up it makes sense to talk through why I started my blog in the first place. As you will know if you read my posts regularly, last year I followed my dream to live abroad for an 8 month stint, exploring 10 countries in the process. I had wanted to do this for so long and knew it would change my life so wanted to record it in some way to make sure I remembered everything and had something to look back on.

I actually started on Instagram first. In March 2017 I was posting random, ancient, non-chronological travel pics and didn't really know where it would go from there. My name was 'Life's a coco' for a while... still makes me laugh thinking about that! Around a year later, in Feb 2018, I wrote my first blog post about why you should visit Chiang Mai, Thailand (still arguably one of the best cities in SE Asia) and I guess the rest is history...

Over the last 11 months my posts have been mainly travel guides with some more honest posts thrown in, mainly about expat life in Singapore. My most read post is about how I afford to travel so much and I have had some great feedback on it, which probably gives you a clue about what my main focus is going to be.

Living room sideboard with flowers and photos

Why I am making changes

To put it bluntly, my life just isn't that of a wander-lusting nomad any more. I still absolutely love nothing more than a trip abroad, preferably somewhere new and exotic, but I love my life at home in Newcastle as well. I don't know exactly what it is but something has completely changed and I am much more of a home bod than before - you can read my post here about my experience of moving home after a stint abroad.

This got me thinking that I would like to switch up my blog to focus on more than just travel. There are thousands of amazing travel blogs out there which are amazing in their own unique ways. Towards the end of last year, I started feeling like my fairly generic '48 hour guides' were just going to get lost in the huge number of similar (and bloody brilliant) posts already out there. Blogging at times felt like a chore rather than a fun hobby and it's not my full-time job so it needs to be enjoyable.

When we moved back to the UK I was absolutely dreading it, not gonna lie. I wasn't sure how long we'd be home for and whether I'd get itchy feet again and run off to a new country to live for a year. I loved writing about expat life - and you guys loved it too. Two of my most read posts from 2018 are the truth about expat life in Singapore and how to overcome common worries about moving abroad. As much as I loved writing these posts I want my content to be fresh and up-to-date so it's time to (sadly) leave the expat content behind.

Flatlay of diaries, flowers and a candle

I actually considered giving up my blog countless times in 2018. I am sure any fellow bloggers reading this can completely relate. What with Instagram alg*r*thms (I feel like that word is the new Voldemort) and people 'following to unfollow', as well as the sheer number of hours it takes to build any kind of blog readership, I have questioned if it is worth it so many times. To keep going I always come back to why I started. This piece of the internet is my own, it's great to have a hobby other than drinking salted caramel vodka... and I have made SO many lovely friends through doing this.

I have been thinking for a while that I really need a new 'niche'. I am not saying you must have a niche to be successful. I think it just kinda hit me when I heard that 37 million people will call themselves a blogger in 2019 on the Exciting Emails Podcast and I decided that I'd personally like to find a way to make all my posts tie in together and have a common theme to them.

What to expect in 2019

Going forward I still intend to write about UK travel and lifestyle as well as overseas travel. I will be focusing on the fact I live in the beautiful North East England, a place which I am really proud to come from. My new focus is going to be on affordable luxury travel and lifestyle for 30-somethings... yes I know it doesn't sound that niche-y, hear me out. 

The content you can expect to see from me going forward is a focus on how to make your hard-earned cash go further so you can do things like buy that dream home, save money for any big expenses, or just help your salary stretch further. I will be covering things like affordable luxury skincare as well as my usual travel and days out. This isn't about being too frugal, it's about being sensible and making your money go further so you can do more of the things you love!

Planning the blog for 2019

I feel like this suits both my love of adventures, and my bargain-hunting side (I am a chartered accountant after all)! I have always loved to save money on day-to-day spend (I'm addicted to Martin Lewis: Money Saving Expert) and I hope to bring much more of this out in my blog posts in 2019. I have a few collaborations already lined up which I am really excited to share with you, and look out for an affordable luxury Valentine's gift guide coming very soon!

That means you will see more lifestyle posts from me which I know might disappoint those who are all about the travel content. Travel will still regularly feature: I have a trip to Copenhagen in February which I am going to try and do on a reasonable budget so I can't wait to share that with you. I also have a couple of posts in drafts with my tips for saving money on booking the Maldives (it can be done!) and how to explore Singapore on a budget.

Photo of Melis Living exploring in 2019

Thanks for reading this little ramble. I want to take this opportunity to say thanks so much for reading my blog posts. I am excited to bring you more content this year and hope to publish once a week as I have been for the last quarter or so. Each and every comment left by a reader makes my day so I'd love to know what you think below. Here is to an exciting 2019!

Melis x

Monday, 31 December 2018

Why I ditched the 5 year plan

Why I ditched the 5 year plan

I have always had a 5 year plan in mind for my life and I’m sure if you are reading this you can relate. I was determined that I would be married with babies by around 27, and I’d definitely be in my dream career before 25. As I have got older, particularly in my 30's, I have started to realise that you really don't need to live your life to a certain timeline.

Something just clicked at 30


Whilst I don't have a family yet as I am currently in the midst of a career change, I am actually now the most satisfied with my life that I have ever been. Something just clicked at 30 and I stopped worrying about the next stage, or what could’ve happened, and I am trying to be mindful of the future without making some big bucket list or ‘40 things before I am 40’ list. Setting goals is brilliant and I'd encourage it, but you really don't have to tick big milestones off by a certain age. Ditch the 5 year plan if it's not making you happy!

I literally used to write myself a plan with certain career and life goals on it and could recite this confidently to anyone who asked. Do I have one now? Nah. I know what line of work I want to be in and I am studying to get there. I want to buy a second property, hopefully in 2019, but if we don't find the right house then that's okay. 

Looking back at my old self I just want to give her a shake. I put so much pressure on myself every year and as the new year rolled around I'd be worrying if I hadn't quite reached my goals. I never lived in the present and constantly thought about the next step after this one - once I have completed this 5 year plan, what will the next one look like? When I look back it is no wonder I was constantly feeling stressed and burnt out. 

Happier with no 5 year plan

The goals that actually matter


I realise more than ever now I am in my 30’s that the only things that should be on anyone’s 5 year plan are health, happiness and enough financial security to not stay up at night worrying about money. I no longer want that massive corporate highly paid job, I just want to earn a reasonable salary to be able to support my family and enjoy myself. 

I would like to travel more, and I do have certain places I’d love to see next year, but I'd like to go with the flow a bit as well. I think living abroad had a huge amount to do with this change in mindset. I've said it so many times, and I know travel is a privilege, but if you are able to live somewhere different for a while I couldn't recommend it any more.

I do think it's worth saying that not everyone has the means to travel or actually wants to. There is nothing wrong with being happy at home, and if you don't want to do certain things that someone else might see as really important, that doesn't matter. 

Happy in Haw Par Villa with no 5 year plan


In the digital age it is so difficult not to compare ourselves to everyone else and that's another reason why I think having a 5 year plan just sets us up to fail. Social media is a highlights reel. Have you ever found yourself thinking you need to visit a certain place, find a partner, or have a baby ASAP 'because everyone else is'. Yep, that's the danger of comparison. That person who has ticked off something you feel you've missed out on might actually want something you take for granted. Or they may have reached certain milestones but actually don't feel that happy outside of their Instagram photos...

I’m writing this in the hope that it might help someone who is like I used to be. Possibly in the wrong career but fighting their way to the top anyway because they have a strict 5 year plan to stick to and worry what people would think if they didn't reach the goals they had told everyone they were working towards.

That isn’t me now and I’m a hell of a lot more laid back for it! I do still have the odd dramatic meltdown about where my life is going but I think that is inevitable for any 20 or 30-something. Life isn't easy and the older I get, the more I realise how up and down everyone's life is. It's all about enjoying the ride - not having a 5 year plan that you have to follow!

Looking ahead to 2019


As we head into 2019 I am proud of who I am, I am proud that I’ve taken steps to reshape my life to what I want it to look like. I hope this time next year I can say that 2019 has been healthy and happy and that is all it will take to make it a successful year for me. If you want more inspiration, you can read about how I followed my dream to live abroad.

Opening a new door with no 5 year plan

Thank you for following my adventures in 2018. Wishing you all a happy 2019 and excited to see what the new year brings now I have ditched the 5 year plan!