Happiful December 2019



DEC 2019





Seize the day

from AM to PM

The gifts

that keep


15 ethical presents

with a good wrap




Founder of Girl vs Cancer,

Lauren Mahon is looking

to the future... And it's

never been brighter

We're only


Scarlett Curtis

tells us it's OK

to feel blue




9 772514 373000



Photography | Daniel Born

Once you choose hope,

anything’s possible


Pause and reflect

I read something the other day that really stopped

me in my tracks. It said: “There’s only one month left

of this decade – make it count.”

It’s funny how fast milestones creep up on you – the

end of another year, a new decade on its way. Soon

it’ll be 100 years since the roaring 20s, and in the

blink of an eye, those kids born in the millennium will

no longer be teenagers.

The pace of change can sometimes feel scary, and

hard to keep up with. So it’s important to try and

pause for a moment, and think about how far you’ve

come in the past 12 months.

Reflect on all the small victories, and give yourself

credit. Even if the place you’re in right now isn’t

exactly where you want to be – emotionally or

physically – when you look back over how much has

changed in 365 days, I hope it can be a sign of a more

positive situation you might find yourself in by this

time next year.

Our incredible cover star Lauren Mahon is a

fantastic example of this. In the past three

years, she’s battled breast cancer, founded

#GIRLvsCANCER, co-hosted the podcast ‘You, Me

and the Big C’, and won countless awards and

accolades. She’s come so far in such a short space

of time, and going forward we know she’ll continue

to be an unstoppable force of nature.

We also feature an interview with the writer Adam

Kay, discussing with humour and heartbreak the

changes needed in the NHS. Plus a guide through

a mental health


While we’re feeling

festive, let’s celebrate

how far we’ve come

this year, take care of

ourselves, and keep

pushing forward to make

every moment count.

We love hearing from you, get in touch:


happiful.com happifulhq @happifulhq @happiful_magazine


The Uplift

8 In the news


22 Lauren Mahon

The founder of GIRL vs CANCER reflects on

life after trauma, and embracing some time

and space to find herself

34 Scarlett Curtis

The author shares her hopes for the

mental health conversation in 2020


13 The wellbeing wrap

14 What is 'kintsugi'?

What can the Japanese art of repairing

pottery teach us about self-acceptance?

55 From Me to You

We speak to the charity encouraging us to

discover the power of the written word, by

writing letters to those with cancer

39 Overcome loneliness

With 30% of millennials and 15% of

boomers reporting loneliness, how can

we thrive when we're going it alone?

88 How you doin'?

Eight questions to ask when you need to

check in on your mental health


Life Stories

47 Andrew: finding fulfilment

Reflecting on a traumatic childhood,

Andrew was surprised he made it

through. But with the support of his

grandmother, and a passion for dance,

today he's living life to the full

61 Chloe: reaching out

It took years of struggle before Chloe

was given a diagnosis of BPD. Her

first point of call was connecting with

others, and now she's dedicated to

ending mental illness stigma

95 Abbie: facing the music

Depression, low self-esteem, and

bullying meant that Abbie struggled to

manage her mental health. Until, she

found inspiration in the music and story

of a pop star, and things started to turn

around for the better

Food & Drink

64 Check out the sprout

Break from tradition with these four tasty

recipes for cooking with Brussels sprouts

66 The ABCs of IBD

Get the facts on inflammatory bowel disease

Lifestyle and


17 Gifts that give back

Browse our ethical Christmas gift guide

70 Get some 'me-time'

Reclaim space for you this Christmas

71 Adam Kay

The doctor-turned-comedian shares the

highs and lows of working the ward

75 Put insomnia to bed

We speak to an expert to learn the tips

and tricks for getting a good night's rest


32 Handling hormones

Grace Victory on tuning in to her body



78 Walk it off

How can walking enhance our wellbeing?



83 Seven winter wonderlands

Take a stroll through our Christmas

market guide

85 Things to do in December

92 Get to know yourself

We review Bill Bryson's manual for owning

a human body

98 Quickfire: MH matters






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Happiful Hacks

30 De-stress your morning

44 Journal for your health

58 Support your loved ones

80 Find joy in hard times


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Meet the team of experts who have come together to deliver

information, guidance, and insight throughout this issue


BA MNCS Snr Accred

Brian is a psychotherapist

and hypnotherapist,

specialising in anxiety.



Susan is a nutrition coach,

food writer, and vegan

chef who appears on TV.



Rachel is a life coach

encouraging confidence

and motivation.


BA PG Dip PGcert NCP

Catherine is a

psychotherapist focused

on helping women thrive.


BA MA MBACP (Accred)

Rav is a counsellor and

psychotherapist with more

than 10 years' experience.


MBACP (Accred) BACP Reg Ind

Graeme is a counsellor

working with both

individuals and couples.



Rebecca Thair | Editor

Kathryn Wheeler | Staff Writer

Tia Sinden | Editorial Assistant

Janette Owen | Sub-Editor

Rav Sekhon | Expert Advisor


Amy-Jean Burns | Art Director

Charlotte Reynell | Graphic Designer

Rosan Magar | Illustrator


Lucy Donoughue, Kat Nicholls,

Bonnie Evie Gifford, Victoria Williams,

Grace Victory, Becky Wright, Fiona Thomas,

Ellen Hoggard, Jenna Farmer, Katie Conibear,

Andrew Yang, Chloe Sunnucks, Abbie Foster,

Becky Johnston, Matthew Kollamkulam


Paul Buller, Tom Buller, Alice Theobald,

Krishan Parmar, Graeme Orr, Rachel Coffey,

Lindsay George, Keith Howitt, Susan Hart,

Catherine Asta Labbett, Katie Driver,

Sanjivan Parhar, Andrew Major




Katie is a life coach dedicated to

helping her clients create better

working lives.



Sophie is a counsellor

specialising in supporting those

impacted by dysfunction.

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making a suitable donation to a forestry charity.

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are those of the authors of that content and do

not necessarily represent our opinions, views or

values. Nothing in the magazine constitutes advice



Sanjivan is a psychotherapist,

presently completing his

Doctorate in Psychology.



Andrew is a solution

focused clinical


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If you are in crisis and are concerned for your

own safety, call 999, or go to A&E

Call Samaritans on 116 123 or email

them on jo@samaritans.org

Head to


for more services

and support



SANEline offers support and information from 4.30pm–10.30pm:

0300 304 7000


Mind offers advice Mon–Fri 9am–6pm, except bank

holidays: 0300 123 3393. Or email: info@mind.org.uk


Switchboard is a line for LGBT+ support. Open from 10am–10pm:

0300 330 0630. You can email: chris@switchboard.lgbt









If you, or someone you know, is looking for support with anxiety,

start the conversation with a therapist in your area. Search your

town or postcode at counselling-directory.org.uk


For those living with a cancer diagnosis and their families,

Macmillan Cancer Support is there to lend a helping hand. Visit

macmillan.org.uk or call their helpline on 0808 808 00 00


Founded to offer specific support for those with BPD,

bpdworld.org offers information, and a community forum where

you can connect with more than 50,000 members.


Discover more about symptoms, treatment, and the support

available to those who are living with inflammatory bowel disease.

Visit crohnsandcolitis.org.uk or call 0300 222 5700


Learn more about hypnotherapy and browse hypnotherapists in

your area at hypnotherapy-directory.org.uk


Find information and advice for those who self-harm, their friends,

and family – as well as free resources – at harmless.org.uk

The 2019 uplift

From exciting discoveries, to life-altering launches, we’ve

come a long way in 2019. Here, we take a look over our

favourite feel-good stories from throughout the year



gets under

the skin of the

beauty industry

From acne to eczema, 60% of Brits

have experienced a skin disease

in their lives. And yet it’s rare to

see dermatological differences

represented in beauty shots.

That was until photographer

Sophie Harris-Taylor’s latest photo

series, Epidermis, was displayed

at the Francesca Maffeo Gallery

in September, featuring 20 images

of women with conditions such as

acne, rosacea, and eczema.

Having lived with severe acne,

Sophie noted that all her role

models growing up seemed to have

flawless skin. Despite fantastic

moves for body positivity, she

believes we’re still lacking honest

representation of skin conditions,

despite their commonality.

Sophie shared the images on

Instagram, and received hundreds

of messages from people telling her

how much they relate. So what does

she want people to feel when they

see the images?

“I’d like women to feel comfortable

in their own skin, and to embrace

their own conditions,” Sophie tells

Happiful. “Perhaps the best way to

change society’s attitudes is through

acceptance, and this needs to

come from ourselves. In turn, this

confidence has a knock-on effect for

the next generation.”

Browse the series and more at


Writing | Kathryn Wheeler

Photography | Sophie Harris-Taylor


Urban parks found to make us

happier, and reduce stress

Research reveals the powerful effect that getting out

in green spaces can have on our wellbeing

Regardless of whether you’re

exercising or simply enjoying the

space, as little as 20 minutes in an

urban park could make you happier,

according to research carried out in

February this year.

The study, conducted by

researchers from the Department

of Occupational Therapy at the

University of Alabama, Birmingham,

in the US discovered that urban

parks are key for providing residents

in urban areas with the opportunity

to enjoy nature, and try various

outdoor activities.

Those who spend time in urban

parks experience both physical and

mental health benefits, including

stress reduction and recovery from

mental fatigue.

Speaking about the findings,

professor Hon K Yuen noted how

this impacts emotional wellbeing.

“Overall, we found park visitors

reported an improvement in

emotional wellbeing after their

visit. However, we did not find

levels of physical activity are

related to improved emotional

wellbeing. Instead, we found

that time spent in the park is

related to improved emotional


While the study itself was small,

co-author Gavin Jenkins said the

findings should help to reinforce

the call for conservation of existing

urban green spaces, and the

development of new ones. So watch

this space!


Royals launch a

mental health

text support


In May, the Duke and Duchess of

Cambridge launched a text service,

Shout, for those with suicidal

feelings or other mental health

crises. It proved a huge success,

and an incredible 65,000 people

used it during the trial. Speaking of

what they learned, Prince William

said users were “scared, frightened

and alone”, and the most common

issues were suicidal thoughts.

Throughout the trial, ambulances

were called out on average twice a

day to help people at active risk of

hurting themselves.

“As texting is private and silent, it

opens up a whole new way to find

help,” said the prince. “You can have

a conversation anywhere, at any

time: at school, at home, anywhere.”

The service allows people to have

a text conversation with volunteers

who work remotely, and who

have been trained to listen and

guide people towards support. All

conversations are reviewed by a

panel of psychotherapists who can

take control if they feel it is needed.

Another move to make mental

health support more accessible,

Shout is a very welcome and a very

necessary resource.

Shout has been funded with

money from the Royal Foundation,

with the prince asking for support

from volunteers. You can find out

more at giveusashout.org

Writing | Kat Nicholls

December 2019 • happiful.com • 9



marriage is

legalised in

Northen Ireland

In a hugely anticipated move, MPs

voted to permit same-sex marriage in

Northen Ireland by a landslide margin

of 383 votes to 73.

Up until the vote in July, Northern

Ireland was the only part of the UK

where same-sex couples could not

marry, despite equal marriage being

legalised in England, Wales, and

Scotland in 2014.

Speaking at the time, Conor McGinn

– MP for St Helens North – raised his

frustration that same-sex marriage

had not been legalised with the rest

of the UK, but said that: “Tonight, we

have a chance to do the right thing.

People in Northern Ireland – and

indeed across Britain and Ireland – are


And it was a long time coming.

Opinion polls in recent years have

consistently shown public support for

equal marriage, with one poll from

Love Equality finding that 76% of the

public supported a change in law.

The law is set to come into effect on

13 January 2020, meaning that some

of the first same-sex marriages will

be happening on Valentine’s day –

something that Patrick Corrigan, NI

director of Amnesty International,

celebrated as a fitting date for such a

landmark event.

Love is certainly in the air – and

a kinder, more equal society is just

around the corner.

Writing | Kathryn Wheeler

December 2019 • happiful.com • 11

Take 5


Thinking caps at the ready – can you solve the puzzle below? It’s like a

crossword, but with no clues. Instead, it’s a game of logic as every letter

of the alphabet is used, and is represented by a number in the grid. Work

out a letter at a time to reveal answers all over the grid – good luck!

How did you do?

Search 'freebies' at


to find the answers,

and more!

HINT: We're feeling festive







16 10 7 24


7 21

E 21 16 20 7 15 E

M 10 13 24 11 E 24 20 E

21 11 6 7 15 20

7 6 8 4 20 21




20 11

6 21 7 24

11 14

10 21 2


12 6

24 15









7 9 24



11 7 10

G 6 M E 13 6 E



24 24 13








C 21 6 C 19 E 21 E

10 23

M 6 13

21 4 7 19 24



H E G 21 10 7 C H

13 21 7

E 14 E 7 E 17 E 21 13 C 21 20 20 G E



22 3 1 25 26

Going up



are officially good

for your health

Pasta straws

are combating

plastic pollution


could help to

reduce anxiety





In one of the most heartwarming

stories of the year,

seven-year-old Elle Angel

spends her Sundays making

and handing out packed

lunches for homeless people

in Southampton. With

personal messages on the

bags, she's hoping others will

be inspired to help people,


Do you like feeling

refreshed first thing,

or are you a bedtime

bather? Well, experts

have revealed that

showering at night

is better for our skin!

Clearing off dirt from

the day, it could be

time to shake up your



We spend hours every week commuting in them,

singing our hearts out, and practising those tricky

conversations in private, but apparently our cars

are also a popular place for revving things up in the

bedroom. A survey by Tempcover found that 44% of

Brits admitted to having sex in a car, and one in 10 BMW

drivers had conceived in their car. Now that's

what you call taking your sex-life up a gear!


When Mike Banks retired from working as an engineer, he

decided to put his incredble skills to a fantastic new use.

Working with the charity Remap, he's creating custom

devices to support disabled people with regaining some

independence. So far, he's made 130 life-changing

inventions for people with disabilities, from devices to turn

book pages, to tools to help people get around.



The first rule

of Pillow Fight

Club is: you

do not talk about

Pillow Fight Club... To



Did you know that Canada

passed a law banning holding

dolphins and whales in captivity

this year? Hopefully other

countries will soon follow

suit in a win for animal


launch their new pillow range, Premier

Inn invited people to free events across

the UK, utilising 300,000 leftover pillows

before they were recyled. A PG version of

the cult classic, families had fun,

vented frustrations, and relived

an iconic movie moment.

Deck the halls

Are you the person whose

Christmas decorations are

up on 1 November, or not a moment

before Christmas Eve? Well, research

suggests that getting tinsel out earlier

might be good for our wellbeing, with

the associated nostalgia helping people

to connect with their childhoods,

and serving as an ice-breaker for

neighbours. Of course, not everyone

has fond childhood memories, but even

for those whom this is a difficult time

of year, decorations can help prompt

positive memories of those people no

longer with us.

Working with

mates is found to

be a productivity


Craig, Jordan

and Keiran are

names at risk of

becoming extinct

Going down

Have you ever noticed

your dog putting Their

paw on you when you

pet them? Apparently,

it can be a sign of

them reciprocating

your stroking motion,

and saying 'I love

you' back in

their own

way. What

a paw-fect


Making waves

We all know the power green spaces can have on our wellbeing, but

did you know the same can be said for 'blue spaces', too? Research

from Exeter University has revealed that those living half a mile from

the coast are less likely to experience anxiety and depression.

Those who live a kilometre from the

coast are 22% less likely to experience

symptoms of mental ill-health

Analysing data from more than 26,000 Brits, the study highlighted

the link between our health and nature. It found those who live less

than a kilometre from the coast are 22% less likely to experience

symptoms of mental ill-health, compared to those 50km away.

Sounds like a good excuse visit the beach, shore-ly?

What is

Could the Japanese art of pottery repair help us to embrace our

imperfections, and celebrate them as things of beauty?

Writing | Bonnie Evie Gifford

Illustrating | Rosan Magar

Few of us like to admit

it, but we are less than

perfect. No one can

embody perfection at all

times, no matter how hard they try.

All too often we hide our mistakes,

our struggles, our broken parts,

doing our best to present only the

best bits to the world at large. Yet it’s

those unexpected turns, hard life

lessons, and the journey we go on to

become who we are that makes us –

flaws and all.

Without our hardships, we

wouldn’t be who we are today.

Shouldn’t we, then, embrace

these imperfections for what they

are? Discovering more about the

Japanese practice of repairing

broken pottery could help us learn

more about this mindset.


Using precious metals to give

something broken or damaged

new life is what the Japanese art

of repairing broken ceramics

focuses on, and is thought to date

back to the 14th century. Instead

of trying to hide the flaw or break,

kintsugi turns that damage into a

thing of beauty – something that

can be celebrated and appreciated

in its own right. Items that would

once have been discarded can

not only have a new lease of life,

but are displayed with pride, and

appreciated for their unique, one-ofa-kind


Linked by many with the Japanese

philosophy of wabi-sabi (celebrating

imperfection, impermanence, and

incompleteness), kintsugi is seen by

some as a physical manifestation of

this ideology. While nothing lasts

forever, with a little extra attention

and care, even the most delicate and

damaged things can be repaired,

and made into something more

beautiful and precious than before.



If chipped, cracked, or flawed

pottery can be appreciated for its

history and uniqueness, why can’t

we do the same with ourselves? If

someone can take the time to repair

beloved, delicate pottery, so too can

we ‘repair’ ourselves – with enough

time, self-care, reflection, and selfcompassion.

Each of our experiences have in

some way affected us, and helped to

make us stronger. It’s time for us to

acknowledge the chips and cracks

in ourselves. By acknowledging the

events that have impacted us, we

can begin moving forwards – now

Kintsugi, or kintsukuroi, literally

means golden repair; the art

of using liquid gold, silver, or

lacquer dusted with gold powder

to repair broken pottery and

enhance the breaks.

14 • happiful.com • December 2019

a more beautiful, still whole

person, with just a few more

scars to show for the journey.



When things get tough

and we feel overwhelmed,

it can feel like we need

to just ‘pull ourselves

together’, and

show only the best possible version

of ourselves to the outside world. By

hiding when we’re struggling, we

can inadvertently let our problems

and worries worsen. When we

begin to share what is troubling

us, we can seek help – and others

may feel more ready and able to

speak out and share their own

experiences, too.

Could applying the ideas

around kintsugi help us to

better accept ourselves and our

struggles, and start appreciating

our own strengths? Here are three

ways to try implementing kintsugi

in your life:

Ditch the fear of being ‘damaged’.

You are more emotionally resilient

than you may think. By addressing

the issues that have caused you pain

or worry, over time you can become

stronger, improve your

emotional strength,

and start learning

how to best cope

with adversity

when it arises.

Embrace life’s

scars. It’s tough to

acknowledge, but

we can’t

hide our

problems or

sweep them under

the rug. It’s time to

embrace the trials you

have faced, and recognise them

as part of your journey. Our scars

can make us stronger; they are

proof that we have grown and

overcome life’s challenges.

Reflection, not stagnation.

Acknowledging the past without

allowing it to take over or consume

our thoughts is key. When we allow

our present to be ruled by the

past, we risk falling into self-pity,

or becoming stuck in a negative

cycle of past thoughts and events.

Past challenges are still a part of

you that should be recognised,

but refocusing on how you have

learned to overcome, embrace,

work with or around them can help

to avoid feeling stuck in the past.

In an age where social media

reigns, and we only share our

best side, going back to traditions,

celebrating our journey, and

our strength for what we have

overcome, could be just what we


December 2019 • happiful.com • 15

Photography | Genessa Panainte

To move forward, you have

to give something back


Christmas gifts

that give back

From makeup brushes that support getting girls into careers in coding, to

the phone case that’s helping to clear up our oceans, this Christmas

wrap up a gift that keeps on giving

Writing | Kathryn Wheeler

According to the Bank of

England, in December

the average UK household

spends an additional £500

on festive treats. This Christmas,

make your money go further with

gifts that have a positive effect on

the world around us. Here, we break

down our favourite ethical Christmas

gifts that keep on giving long after

the last pine needle has been

swept up.



What you get…

A luxury set of body lotion, soap

and an exfoliating soap pebble

in an uplifting scent and a sleek,

monochrome design; this gift is

sure to be a stylish addition to

any bathroom. And as an added

bonus, the box is made from 100%

recycled paper, and vegetablebased


What you give…

The Soap Co. is an award-winning

social enterprise where 80% of the

staff have a disability or long-term

health condition. Committed to

doing things differently, this brand

is breaking down barriers and

creating a supportive environment

where anyone can flourish. >>>

RRP: £39.00,




What you get…

100% vegan and cruelty-free,

create show-stopping looks with

this set of 10 makeup brushes for

base, eyes, and lips. Beginners

and experts alike will love this

eye-catching kit.

What you give…

10p from the sale of every brush

is donated to #iamtheCODE, a

foundation that teaches girls in

disadvantaged communities skills

to become our future coders and

tech entrepreneurs.

RRP: £49.95,


RRP: £15.00,




What you get…

The Bee Lovely signature scent

of the organic honey and the

orange essential oil will lift spirits

through the winter months, and

this set of hand cream, lip balm,

and a nail file – in a convenient

miniature size – make pampering

on-the-go easy.

What you give...

With the bee population under

threat, Neal’s Yard’s Bee Lovely

range – where 3% of sales are

donated to charities that protect

bees – is right on time.


Waste collection company

Biffa estimates that UK

households throw away

more than 277,000 miles

of Christmas wrapping

paper each year. Looking for

something a bit more eco?

Why don’t you try:

Using what you already

have. Save gift bags and

wrapping paper when you

can, and reuse them to gift to


Saving interesting

newspaper spreads. Quirky,

informative, eco-friendly –

what’s not to love?

Tying up squares of natural

fabric. Use spare, lightly-used

fabric, or scarfs that can be

part of the gift.

Choosing brown paper.

Available 100% recycled,

brown paper has a rustic look.

Skipping the tape. Opt for

ribbon or string that can be

reused over single-use tape.


What you get…

Perfect for putting your feet

up in, these beautifully soft,

faux-fur lined slippers – with

a subtle gold embroidered

moon and stars – will put a

spring in anyone’s step.

What you give...

With their ‘One for One’

scheme, TOMS products

provide shoes to people in

need., They also support sight,

water and safer birth services

around the world.

RRP: £55.00,


18 • happiful.com • December 2019


What you get…

Light up a bit of luxury with

the indulgent Jo Malone charity

range, inspired by the scents of

nature, and created using the

finest ingredients. And once

you’ve burned the candle, reuse

the stunning floral jars.

What you give…

For every candle sold,

Jo Malone makes a

donation of 75% of

the price to support

individuals and families

affected by mental

health problems.

RRP: £48.00,



What you get…

The perfect blend of practicality

and style, this sturdy bag –

available in a variety of on-trend

muted colours – is just the thing

for packing up for work, school,

and day trips.

What you give…

The sale of every Madlug bag

covers the cost of a bag for a

child in care, so they can keep

their possessions safe as they

move homes.

RRP: £48.00,



RRP: £33.50,


What you get…

This unique sweatshirt comes

in a variety of colours, with an

uplifting design created by former

homeless artist James Lewis. Made

from 100% organic cotton, this is

the ideal thing for chilly days.

What you give…

All artists have experience of

homelessness or mental illness,

and each receives 10% of the

revenue – and a further 5% is

donated to a charity that has, or

still does, support them.

December 2019 • happiful.com • 19



RRP: £29.99,


What you get…

Treat the furry-faced friend in your

life to the ultimate conditioning

treatment with this collection of

three quality beard oils, which come

in three scents: mint, cedarwood

and sandalwood, and zest.

What you give…

10% of all profits from ThatchFace

beard oil sales are donated to

Orchid, the UK’s leading charity

for those affected by prostate,

testicular, and penile cancer.


What you get…

A sleek, stylish phone case

that protects our phones,

and our planet. As it’s 100%

biodegradable, when this phone

case has reached the end of

its life, it can just be put in the

compost bin to break down.

What you give…

Between 5% and 10% from

the sale of every case is

donated to The Ocean Cleanup

Foundation, working to remove

plastic from the oceans.

RRP: £25.00–£80.00,



RRP: £22.00,


What you get…

A collection of striking pieces by

talented animal artist Tori Ratcliffe,

these prints blend colour and linework

to create works of art that

anyone would be proud to hang in

their home.

What you give…

Passionate about preserving the

animal kingdom, £1 from every

print is donated to the World Land

Trust, with 50% to 100% of profits

from selected prints going to other

conservation causes.

Stocking Fillers

£10 and under

Oxfam Safe Water for a Family of Four

The purchase of this gift helps Oxfam install

community wells, water pumps, and

taps in areas facing drought.

Receive a card with

information on how

the gift will be used,

and learn more about

the vital work that

Oxfam is doing.

RRP: £10.00,


teapigs single estate

breakfast tea

For the tea-lover in your life,

you can’t go wrong with teapigs’

single estate breakfast tea.

Serving a strong taste with

every brew, teapigs also donate

50p from every pack to the

Point Foundation – supporting

orphans and vulnerable young

people in Rwanda.

RRP: £4.50, teapigs.co.uk


Socks don’t have to be

boring, and when you

purchase these quirky,

colourful pairs, Stand4Socks

donate specifically made

thick, durable socks to the


RRP: From £9.99,


RNLI Wooden Ocean Dominoes

Simple fun for all the family, this wooden

dominoes set features colourful sea

creature pieces

for hours of fun.

What’s better,

100% of profits

go towards

funding the Royal

National Lifeboat





RRP: £6.00,


Rococo Large Milk Chocolate Gold Coin

Put an ethical twist on a Christmas

tradition with this creamy chocolate

coin that’s handcrafted in London, and

supports a variety of charities, from

conservation programmes

to social support.

RRP: £3.95,


Keep the Christmas cheer

going, and spread it far and

wide, with this cracking ethical

selection that helps you give

back when you gift. But whatever

you wrap up for your family and

friends this year, do it with love.

This is

Lauren Mahon

She describes herself as having ‘hair like Demi, and a

gob like Dyer,’ but when we meet Lauren Mahon, it’s

immediately clear that she also has huge heart and a

genuine openness that’s not easily matched.

Her journey and work to date demonstrate that – while

life may deliver unexpected blows – with support, we can

get back up, steady ourselves, and decide which punch to

deliver in return.

As 2019 draws to a close, Lauren – broadcaster and

founder of charitable business GIRL vs CANCER – shares

her reflections on living with trauma, embracing a

much-needed period of hibernation, and why family and

the upcoming festive season gives her all the feels…

Interview | Lucy Donoughue

Photography | Paul Buller

Top | Reserved


Jumper & skirt | Luisa Cerano

The last time I saw

Lauren Mahon, she

was walking across

a field in the bright

August sunshine,

rocking her dark cropped hair and

a bright fuchsia puff-ball sleeve

dress, paired with heavy black

boots. She was fresh from giving

a talk at Fearne Cotton’s inaugural

Happy Place Festival, and had

truly ‘owned the room’ (well, tent)

throughout her solo presentation.

If you had seen her in that

moment, you may have thought

that she was the picture of

confidence – but, as we know,

appearances rarely reveal the

whole picture.

In reality, Lauren wasn’t doing

too well. Only a couple of hours

before the talk, she’d mentioned

that her anxiety levels were far

beyond the norm for her. The day

had been full of highs in terms

of personal and professional

achievements, but she was

struggling with her mental health.

“Things have been up and

down since then, if I’m perfectly

honest,” Lauren shares, three

months later over a cuppa at the

Happiful December photoshoot.

“My work can be quite intense

emotionally – because I’m telling

my story. But I think a lot of the

time I live above myself, almost

like a third person, above my

own body. I go and talk about my

experiences, but sometimes it’s

honestly like I’m talking about

somebody else.

“It’s not good, but at some point,

I detached a little bit emotionally

because I’ve had to, to survive.

And I think that’s how I coped

with my cancer.”

Lauren was diagnosed with

breast cancer in August 2016 and

threw herself, almost immediately,

into raising awareness of the

impact of living with the disease.

During her treatment, she created

a community on her existing blog

Girl Stole London, for people to

share experiences and support

each other.

Thanks to Lauren’s personality,

energy, and drive the community

grew massively, and the GIRL vs

CANCER strand of her work is

now its own entity and a business

which donates a chunk of profits

from the sale of campaign apparel,

as well as all money from events,

to four cancer charities close to

her heart.

“Things that are

happening in my

life are unreal,

and I want to

feel them. I want

to live in them.”

Lauren subsequently became

the co-host of the multi-award

winning Radio 5 Live podcast You,

Me and The Big C in early 2018, and

now speaks regularly at events

and festivals, heads up advertising

campaigns, and has branched out

into even more broadcast work.

Her warm open-book approach to

life, down to earth matey delivery

and sense of humour made her an

instant hit with audiences up and

down the country.

From her social media and press

presence, Lauren looks very

much like a woman who never

stops; someone who is positively

seizing the moment and every

hour of every day. “I make myself

busy as a coping mechanism, so

I don’t think about what I’ve gone

through,” she responds when we

talk about her perpetual state of

being busy.

She’s realised that comes with a

downside for her: “It means I’m

not giving myself the headspace

to connect and process what’s

going on, to look at what I’ve done

that day and think ‘Wow, that was


“Things are happening in my life

that are unreal, and I want to feel

them and live in them.”

Amazing things really have

happened. Not only has Lauren

emerged as a successful

broadcaster and speaker, she’s

also received a large amount of

professional accolades, making

it onto the BBC 100 Women

2019 List, Marie Claire’s Verified

Influencer List and winning

a Stylist Remarkable Woman

Triumph Award.

Lauren is positively grateful for

these moments (she practices

gratitude by journalling every

night), but also recognises that

cancer and her recent way of

working has had a negative

impact on her mental health and

wellbeing. >>>

December 2019 • happiful.com • 25

This is something Lauren is now


“I made a positive step in

September,” she shares proudly. “I

started seeing a therapist.

“And don’t get me wrong,” she

hesitates before continuing, “I

know a lot of people probably can’t

afford that. And to be honest at the

beginning of this year, I couldn’t

afford that. But I’ve had some

really nice jobs come in and I’ve

just siphoned that money to the

side for my mental health.

“I thought, even if I can do this

for just three to six months, it

would be good to have a space

every week for me to process the

trauma of what’s gone on, and it

has really helped me to stand back

a bit and look at how I’m living.”

The therapy is clearly having

a significant impact upon her,

although the process, she says,

was a tough one to begin with.

“Every single time I’d been to see

the therapist, until last week, I

sat in the chair and sobbed for

an hour, physically shaking with

anxiety and stress.

“And at some point I had to sit

back and think ‘I’ve done this

to myself. I’ve put myself in this

situation’. I’m still in cancer mode,

thinking that tomorrow isn’t

promised, so there’s an urgency

in everything I do... And actually,

I have to stop and allow myself

some space to be happy.”

Lauren’s therapist has

encouraged her to reflect on the

difficulty of the past months and

what she wants and needs, in

addition to what the future may

hold. One exercise in particular,

really stayed with Lauren.

Her therapist encouraged her to

draw herself and think about her

different positive personal traits.

“...if I keep giving

time to myself to

process everything,

then the future is

going to look a lot


“I drew a shape like a

gingerbread man,” she laughs. “So

God knows what that says about

how I look at myself! Then, she

asked me to close my eyes and

think about myself – Lozza, not

Lauren, because Lozza is who I

am to my friends and my family

and myself. I started to put words

on the picture, and I sat back and

said: ‘There she is.’ It was like,

‘Fuck! I’m still here!’ Underneath

everything, I’m still me.”

This was a big realisation for

Lauren. “As much as I genuinely

feel the past few months have

been tough, I’ve learned a lot, and

if I keep leaning in to therapy, and

giving time to myself to process

everything, then the future is

going to look a lot different.”

Part of the process for Lauren

is to question the way she views

herself and how she might be

presented to others. “I have had

cancer but I am not cancer,” she

says, definitively. “For the last

two years almost everyone has

introduced me as Lauren, cancer

patient, or cancer survivor. I

haven’t been Lauren Mahon for a

really long time.”

And how would she like to be

introduced now? “I am Lauren

Mahon, I’m a broadcaster and I’m

the founder of my own business. To

say that is really empowering, and

it does make me proud – but I need

to give myself space to feel proud.”

She’s already thinking about

how to live and work in a way that

reflects where she’s at in her life,

and is planning 2020 changes. “My

focus next year is to rebuild a life

that isn’t around cancer.

“I’ll always have GIRL vs

CANCER. I’ll always want

to support people,” she says

passionately. “However, I am

very lucky that my cancer – touch

wood – is gone, so I think I’d be

doing myself a disservice if I didn’t

give myself space to live without

cancer both physically, and also in

my head.

“I am going to get further and

further away from my diagnosis,

and my experiences will become

less and less relevant because

new treatments will come out and

other things will be happening

in the world,” she explains. “So, I

just want to get GIRL vs CANCER

to a place where it’s a hub of

information, so I can signpost

other people to where they need

to be.”

This big picture work, however,

will have to wait for a while so

Lauren can create the mental

– and literal – space she needs

right now. She’s looking to move

flat to mark a new era, and will

be scoping out work spaces away

from where she lives in order

to set all-important boundaries

and make home a place of pure

relaxation. >>>

26 • happiful.com • December 2019

Shirt & trousers | Zavi, Shoes | Malone Soulier

Styling | Krishan Parmar

Hair & Make Up | Alice Theobald

at Joy Goodman

Left: Top & trousers | Reserved, Shoes | Kat Maconie Right: Jumper | Marc Cain

There’s also talk of adopting a

dog in the future (“I’ll name him

Ray, after Ray Winstone.”) and

a holiday to see in the 2020 New

Year, but before all of this, she’ll

have been taking things slowly

for the last two months of 2019, in

order to recalibrate. She calls this

her “hibernation”.

What does hibernation look like

to her? “It looks a lot like saying

no, and giving myself that space

and time. I want to do a timeline

of the last year and reflect on

everything I’ve done.

“I’m just going to go slow, see

friends, see family, do a bit of

work on me, do a bit of mending

of my own heart, get back into a

routine, and make a plan. I’m a

woman who loves a plan.”

Part of that plan includes

spending time with her family,

including three-month-old niece

Lilly and nephew, toddler Gryff,

who she is totally smitten with.

“They’re my reason,” she says,

smiling broadly.

“I was at my sister’s yesterday,

and I had Gryff on the floor next

to me, and he had his arm around

my calf watching TV, and Lilly

was on my lap, and honestly, that

feeling in my stomach of just

absolute contentment and joy...”

She breaks off tearfully.

“l get emotional just thinking

about them. They ground me.

When I’m wandering around

all stressed about a fucking

Instagram post, I think: ‘Does any

of that matter? No, they do’.”

Lauren says her sister, who

has become her best friend,

instinctively knows when she

needs to be with Gryff and Lilly;

“Whenever I’m having a really bad

bout of anxiety, she just tells me to

cancel everything and come over.

As soon as I walk in the door, she

hands me the kids, I cuddle them

and my body just relaxes. I feel

safe, and when I’m with them

nothing bad can happen.”

She’s ‘Auntie Larry’ and the love,

she says, is unconditional. “They

don’t care that I’ve had anxiety

that day, they don’t care that I had

a lump in my tit that tried to kill

me, they just want me to play with

them and be there.”

Lauren will be spending time

with them at Christmas too, it’s

one of her favourite times of the

year. “I love going back to my

Mum and Dad’s at Christmas. I go

there for a whole week and my

Mum’s house is like a grotto, not a

gawdy one, but a proper beautiful

old-fashioned one.”

“The thing is,

you just don’t

know what will be

happening this time

next year.”

Lauren speaks a million words a

minute when she’s excited, and it’s

obvious to see that the prospect

of upcoming festive family time

brings her joy. There’s one ritual

in particular that they keep going

each year, despite Lauren and her

siblings being in their thirties:

“My Mum still wraps our pyjamas

and puts them under the tree on

Christmas Eve.

“The tradition is that we unwrap

them – they’re usually matching

– then we have to race to our

bedrooms to change, and the first

one back to the Christmas tree

wins! You don’t win anything, but

you win.”

It’s a time of year that has a lot

of meaning for her. “Christmas, to

me, is just really special. I’m older

now and you realise that with

these little milestones in life, in

the time between them, things can

change so much.”

She pauses, looking thoughtful.

“Christmas can feel like a time

when you have to be so jolly and

so happy and when I was ill, I

really wasn’t. I was devastated

because Christmas is my favourite

time of the year and I couldn’t

take part in anything. I was so sad

because I wasn’t myself and it was

out of my control – and that’s the

first time I realised that Christmas

can be really hard and triggering

when things aren’t right.

“Now, I’m feeling well again, I

really enjoy Christmas. The thing

is, you just don’t know what will

be happening this time next year.

Last Christmas my sister told us

she was pregnant and this year we

have Lilly!”

Lauren smiles again, finishes

her cuppa, and heads off to slip on

sequins for her photoshoot. 2019

has certainly been one of massive

highs, learnings, and deep lows

for her, but I have the feeling that

2020 will be the year all of that

experience is channelled into

positive steps forward and even

greater things. She is, after all,

Lauren Mahon – and she’s pretty


Follow Lauren on Instagram


Check out Tit-Tees at girlvscancer.co.uk

– they make perfect presents and you’ll

be supporting four cancer charities

with each purchase.

December 2019 • happiful.com • 29

Five ways to

de-stress your


We often have the best intentions at the start of the day, which can

get derailed quickly from one too many ‘snooze’ buttons, lost keys, or

feeling rushed and unprepared. But with these five simple steps, you

can really begin your day on the right foot...

Writing | Victoria Williams Illustrating | Rosan Magar

Unless you’re lucky enough

to be a natural morning

person, leaving your comfy

bed to face the hectic first

hour of the day can be a

struggle. Keen to get those last few

minutes of sleep, or catching up with

our social media scrolling, we’re often

left in a rush, pulling up a pair of

trousers with one hand and scrambling

for car keys with the other. This stress

is not the best way to set yourself up for

a happy and productive day, so here are

some simple ways to restore calm and

order to your mornings.


Research suggests adults aren’t at their

cognitive best until late morning, so

establishing a routine helps you to

navigate the earliest part of the day

when your brain is still warming up.

List everything you want to get done,

and decide on the most logical order.

Running through this routine every

morning means you’re much less likely

to waste time or forget something.

Life coach Katie Driver highlights the

importance of finding a routine that

suits you: “Just because someone else

might be getting up at 5:30 to go to the

gym doesn’t mean it’s right for you.

“If you plan a routine that’s not

remotely realistic, it’s only going to

make you feel like a failure every

day you don’t achieve it.”

Setting your intentions and

some realistic expectations

can help you get through

the inevitable hiccups in a

better frame of mind


If you always find yourself

rushing, reduce your stress by

simply waking up earlier. Leave

the curtains open a little or invest

in a sunrise alarm clock to wake

you gradually so you’re less likely

to turn over and go back to sleep.

Allow yourself more time than

you think you need – that way lost

shoes and uncooperative hair won't

throw you off schedule. On days

with no unexpected hold-ups you’ll

have bonus time for enjoyable

activities such as reading or

sharing your breakfast with family.

Katie says: “I thought the

arguments I often had with the

kids about getting ready were the

source of my stress, until I realised

that I was actually trying to cram

too much into too little time in

the morning, and taking my

frustration out on them. I found

getting up just 15 minutes earlier

meant I had a little more breathing

space, and the arguments almost

completely disappeared.”


How many times have

you forgotten something

important in the morning,

or scrapped your pre-work plans

in favour of the snooze

button? Do your sleepy self

a favour and get everything

ready for the morning

before you go to bed.

“Check tomorrow’s diary and

weather forecast, and get out

what you’ll wear, then you won’t

waste time standing in front of

the wardrobe in the morning

agonising about what to put on,”

Katie recommends.

“Putting some comfy yoga clothes

or running kit out the night before

will help remind you to exercise

when you wake, and make it easier

to do so. A glass on the counter

reminds us to drink water to start

the day. It also helps to have a

particular place where your keys

and purse always go, so you’re not

trying to find them every morning.

Reminders by the door are a great

idea too.”


Drastically changing your morning

routine can be a shock to the

system. Work towards your ideal

morning in stages, gradually

cutting out the bad habits and

introducing good ones, and you’re

more likely to stick with them.

Make a note of your steps for the

week – for example, cutting down

from two morning coffees to one,

and sitting down for breakfast

rather than eating on the go

– and put them somewhere

you’ll notice immediately.

“Once you’ve started

making changes, you’ll

probably spot


for other


Katie says. “Try

setting yourself

challenges – how

many mornings in a row can you

do some stretching, or stay off the

phone until a particular time?”


The start of the day is often

treated as a stepping stone to the

main part of the day, but it can

be really valuable if used wisely.

Take a few moments for yourself,

reflecting on your goals and the

reasons behind them, and doing

whatever you need to do to get

your day off to a good start.

Katie says: “It’s worth working

towards habits in three key

areas: moving more, making

sure the first meal of the day is a

healthy one, and strengthening

your connection with what’s

meaningful in your life. None of

these need to take long, but they

will set up your mind, body and

spirit for a great day. You could

also try thinking about how you

want to be in the morning, not

only what you want to do. Setting

your intentions and some realistic

expectations can help you get

through the inevitable hiccups in

a better frame of mind.”

Your mind, body,

and flow…

with Grace

Author, vlogger, and trainee counsellor, our columnist Grace Victory delves

into taboo topics, and shares her raw, personal insight each month

In 2016, I decided it was time

to come off my contraceptive

pill. I started taking it when

I was 19, without being fully

informed of the side-effects

these hormones could have on my

health. So by the time I was 26, I

had this sudden realisation that

I had no idea what I was putting

into my body.

Being the inquisitive woman I

am, I began some research and

stumbled upon hundreds of

articles that spoke about the link

between the pill and reproductive

or menstrual issues, which really

resonated with me. My periods

had become few and far between,

and I often sensed a huge

disconnection from my body on a

spiritual level. I felt I was silencing

my physical form from doing its

thing. So I came off it, hoping my

problems with menstrual health

would end, but in reality, they

were just beginning.

A few months after coming

off the pill, I started to bleed

non-stop. The bleeding would

sometimes be extremely heavy,

and other times extremely light.

After getting the all clear from my

GP, and numerous tests for things

like PCOS and endometriosis, I

sat with myself for a few days. I

could hear my intuition telling me

that this was my womb healing,

and now was the chance for me

to connect to my cycle. So that’s

exactly what I started to do.

I read books, I meditated, I

attended womb-healing circles, and

I began to journal my cycle daily. I

would write how I felt emotionally

and physically, the colour and feel

of my discharge, as well as any

other symptoms and feelings I

thought were relative. After a year

or so, and with much patience

and inner belief, my body started

to respond. My periods became

more regular and consistent, and

slowly but surely my flow became

‘normal’ for me. I recognised stress

would make my period late, and

one month my bleed would last six

days and another it would last three

to four days. Without journaling, I

wouldn’t have known any of this.

And then I noticed something in

my journal entries that completely

shocked me.

There were times every month

where I felt hopeless, sad and

actually quite depressed. I would

cry and cry, and sometimes I didn’t

even know why. It felt like a thick

grey cloud was following me, that

made me change into a completely

different person. I would become

more needy, passive aggressive

and snappy. There have also been

What’s right for you...

I recognise that coming off the

pill is something that other

people may not have the option

of, or want to do. However for

me, it was a decision I made after

thorough research. It’s important

to do what works best for you, and

make sure you’re fully informed

before making any decisions –

speak to your GP for advice and


times I couldn’t get out of bed in

the mornings because life felt a bit

too much. I would sleep more, eat

more, and scream more. I was a

hot mess. A beautiful, wild, mess

of a woman.

You see, we aren’t really

taught that we are cyclic beings,

and therefore our bodies and

moods will change throughout

the month. Due to hormones

that can sometimes change

dramatically, how we feel can

change dramatically too. If you’re

dealing with other mental health

issues, these can feel unbearable

during your bleed – they become

heightened and exacerbated.

Spiritually, it’s like all the things

you need to reveal and heal

are bleeding out too. There

is something to be said about



For me, it’s about womb meditations, crying, journaling, more sleep,

and definitely more alone time. Here’s some of your thoughts...

Instagram: @daisypenman_

I distract myself – talk to my boyfriend and friends, or

just sit with it and let myself feel it.

Twitter: @carriejohnson96

Lots of long baths with bath salts and bubbles, and I watch

Netflix or listen to chill music. Lots of chocolate! Oh and I get

my boyfriend to give me a massage or play with my hair.

Instagram: @lou_eleanor_

I walk barefoot across the grass, I cuddle my cat,

I bellydance even through the pain.

We often play it small and

struggle to stand in our power,

maybe our bleeding allows us

to change that?

allowing our stresses and anguish

to shine during this time. If we

really think about it, we often play

it small and struggle to stand in our

power, maybe our bleeding allows

us to change that?

There is also a condition that

has now been recognised as

premenstrual dysphoric disorder

(PMDD), which is very severe PMS.

It is very real and something that

so many people experience. If

you’re a highly sensitive person,

you are more likely to experience

PMDD due to increased sensitivity

to hormones. You’ll know what

is ‘normal’ for you, and what

mood swings are manageable or

unmanageable. It’s also worth

saying that understanding a dip in

your mental health because of your

cycle can help to ease confusion,

and give you an understanding of

why a low mood is occurring.

For me, I now know that when

I am hitting a part in my cycle

where my hormones are going

to affect me, I keep my schedule

more free and I have my period

self-care tools on hand. I try to

honour whatever I feel during

this time, and I let my therapist

know that the period cloud is on

its way. Planning is key for me, so

I am not knocked for six with an

unexpected mental health dip.

There is no shame in admitting

you feel a little off balance at this

time, or any time for that matter.

Speak to your GP, and do some

research on connecting to your

womb so that you can understand

your cycle better.

The cloud will float away



Grace x

It OK to be Blue –

and that’s the truth

It’s Not OK to Feel Blue (and other lies), published this autumn, is hope,

experience and understanding all wrapped up in a beautiful, blue-hued book.

As the end of the year approaches, curator and major contributor Scarlett

Curtis shares her hopes for those who read it, and for the future of mental

health and illness conversations in 2020 and beyond...

Writing | Lucy Donoughue

After a particularly

tough week, feeling

listless on a long train

journey, I dig the new

anthology curated by

Scarlett Curtis, It’s Not OK to Feel

Blue (and other lies), out of my bag

and open a random page. A quote

from editor and model Jamie

Windust leaps out at me. “We

are all allowed to fail and make

mistakes. We are, at the end of

the day, only human.”

Amen to that.

This is one of many times I’ve

dipped into Blue ahead of my chat

with Scarlett. Each time, I read

three or four offerings that have

led me to think about different

experiences or perspectives on

mental health, and to reconsider

my own.

“The thing that I love the most

about the book is that hopefully

whatever you’ve been through

there will be something in there

that speaks to you,” Scarlett

shares with me.

“What’s amazing is that everyone

has a different piece that speaks

to them – it’s not like there’s one

piece that jumps out. Everyone

finds something in a different

essay, and that’s been making me

very happy.”

There are a huge amount of

personal experiences to choose

from – including one of my

favourites from Professor Tanya

Byron (‘Fabulous and F*cked Up’),

Alastair Campbell, acclaimed

writer Candice Carty Williams,

mental health advocates Jonny

Benjamin, Bryony Gordon, Poorna

Bell, and singer Sam Smith, to

name but a few.

Each of the six chapters start

with a piece by Scarlett, and she’s

deeply generous in sharing the

very low lows she’s encountered

throughout her life to date, as well

as giving hope to readers who

might be in the middle of a similar

episode themselves.

Scarlett was told that she was

“crazy” at the age of 17, and

encountered panic attacks that

floored her, and left her unable to

leave her home for the majority

of the next two years. Diagnosed

with depression, anxiety and

PTSD, Scarlett has worked hard

to understand her mental illness,

with therapists, medication, and

by reading and developing her

knowledge around mental illness.

As a teenager, however, she

recalls the sadness she felt

initially when day-to-day activities

felt beyond her. “I was 19 and

trying to work on a project with

my friend, and I realised I couldn’t

get out of bed.

“I just remember thinking, ‘Oh

wow, this might be the rest of

my life. I might never be able to

participate in society in the way

I thought I was going to.’ And

actually, that’s OK. My life will be a

different kind of life.

“We’re obviously all told when

we’re younger ‘you can be

anything you want’ and ‘your

options are limitless’, but as a >>>

34 • happiful.com • December 2019

teenager, I felt very limited. It took

a lot for me to accept that, and

understand I could still have an

alright life, and that I was probably

always going to have some of these


Personal experiences like

these, make her the perfect

curator of this book, in addition

to her vast writing experience.

Having previously curated and

contributed to Feminists Don’t Wear

Pink (and other lies), writing for a

plethora of publications including

the Sunday Times, blogging,

podcasting, and activism with a

collective she co-founded, called

The Pink Protest.

This latest book is a piece of

activism in its own right, sharing

in-depth how it feels to live with

mental illness. It also serves

to promote


about mental

illness in people

who don’t have


experience of

living with them.

“A lot of the

feedback that

I’ve been getting

is from people

who don’t have

mental health

challenges. They

say: ‘I’ve never

been through

mental illness,

but it’s helped me

understand more.’”

And the act of

curating and compiling the essays

also deepened Scarlett’s own


“I’ve been in therapy and a

mental health advocate for so

many years, I almost thought that

I knew everything – but there’s so

Scarlett shares...

“If you find Christmas hard,

that’s not something to be

ashamed of. I know that there

can be so much pressure to

enjoy it – but if you’re having

a shit time, that’s OK. Get this

book, hole up in your bedroom

and wait for the week to pass –

because it will. It’s totally OK to

have a bad Christmas.

“I’ve also found that sometimes,

when you’re having a tough

time, giving back can really

help. Google opportunities to

volunteer in your local area,

there will always be something.”

much that I

didn’t know.

“I think the

main thing that really jumped out

at me and was hammered home

by putting this book together was

the male experience of mental

health – how every single man

in the book talks about toxic

masculinity and pride and feeling

I just remember thinking, ‘I might

never be able to participate in

society in the way I thought I was

going to.’ And actually, that’s OK.

My life will be a different kind of life

so ashamed to open up. I’d always

sort of theoretically understood

that, but I don’t think I ever fully

understood it until reading those


Continuing to develop her own

knowledge around mental health,

and campaigning for better

understanding and support, is

high on Scarlett’s agenda for

Photography | Amelia Allen

36 • happiful.com • December 2019

2020. She’s all too aware from her

personal experience the impact

that shame and stigma can have

on reaching out for support.

“When you look at some of the

stats, I think it takes a young

person on average 10 years to

find appropriate treatment for

their mental health, which is so

ridiculous and just shouldn’t be

the case,” she says.

“And I keep saying, books like

this actually shouldn’t even have

to exist. The fact that this is for

some people their primary source

of support and help, if it was a

physical illness, that would never

be the case. You’d never say to

someone with cancer, ‘Oh, go out

and buy this book.’ I think that’s

something that I really want to be

looking into more.”

When it comes to offering more

support and information, the

media plays a pivotal role and,

based on recent stories, it seems

there’s a long way to go. It’s been

a tough couple of weeks for a

number of reasons: dismissals

around the impact of death threats

and trolling of female MPs;

sensationalism around suspected

suicide; and the constant belittling

of ‘a snowflake generation’ on

daytime TV.

“I think there are a lot of

positives around mental health and

illness, a lot more conversations

happening,” Scarlett says. “But

actually treatment and care

and funding isn’t getting much

better. And I think when you have

people like Piers Morgan going

on national TV, and dismissing

someone like Greta Thunberg

because of her mental health, it’s

taking us back so many steps.

“When I was Greta’s age, I felt

like my mental illness meant I

wouldn’t ever be able to work, and

would never be taken seriously. And

honestly, if I’d seen him saying that

when I was 15 years old, it would

have broken me – it would have

hurt so much.

“When you’re talking about mental

health,” Scarlett continues, “You

have to think about the people

around the country that are listening

to that and using it for their own

self-hatred, and to fuel their own

belief that their mental illness is

something to be ashamed of.

“Anyone who’s ever had a mental

illness will know, you already feel

so much shame, you feel so much

fear that you’re not going to be

understood. You feel so much fear

that you’re going to be dismissed

by society.”

‘It’s Not OK To Feel Blue (and other lies’) (Penguin,

£14.99) is curated by Scarlett Curtis and available now.

For every book sale, 10% of the RRP will be donated to the

charity Shout, which is a 24/7 crisis text service. Anyone

can text 85258 to be connected to a trained crisis volunteer

who will chat by text.

However, with every negative

reaction and dismissal around

mental health in the media,

there is a counter reaction, and

thousands upon thousands of

people working to make positive

change. The success of It’s Not

OK to Be Blue (and other lies), the

availability of support networks

such as the free 24/7 textline

provided by Shout, the presence

of campaigns including Where’s

Your Head At? and Every Mind

Matters, are all working to make

a difference and drown out the

voices that can fuel shame and


Because it is OK to be blue, it’s

OK to be vulnerable, it’s OK to

shout, and it’s OK to ask for help.

December 2019 • happiful.com • 37

Photography | Svetlana Pochatun

The real gift of gratitude is that

the more grateful you are, the

more present you become


The reality of loneliness

We’re a society more connected

than ever before and yet so

many of us are feeling isolated.

Yes, one thing’s for sure, while

you might feel on your own,

you’re definitely not alone in

feeling lonely

Writing | Becky Wright

It was previously thought

to affect older generations

primarily but, as we now know,

loneliness is more commonplace

than that. And, although it isn’t

recognised as a mental health

problem in itself, loneliness and

our sense of wellbeing are strongly


As someone who has experienced

loneliness, I know the toll it takes

on your mental health and on

your life in general. Indeed, we

know that wellness is not merely

the absence of illness – our

happiness hinges on much more

than that. To be truly happy, we

need to feel connected. Whether

that connection is to a person,

an animal or with a cause, the

importance of a sense of belonging

should not be underestimated.

Psychotherapist Brian Turner

agrees. “As a species, we are

programmed to be sociable

creatures, to exchange our

brilliance through ideologies and

opinions. This is how we learn,

develop, and find our place in

society through the power of

interconnections.” It’s having strong

relationships with others that >>>

means we feel as though we are

seen, heard, loved, supported and


So, if we lose that sense of

connection, there are bound to be

implications. “If we are isolated

(or feel isolated), that cerebral

exchange can not occur, and that

can make us feel withdrawn and

have low self-esteem,” Brian says.


We know that human connections

are integral to our sense of self

yet, according to new research,

it’s the social media generation – a

generation with arguably more

potential to make connections

than any that have gone before –

who feel most alone.

Data from YouGov found that

30% of millennials “always or

often feel lonely”, which is more

than their Generation X and baby

boomer counterparts. Just 20%

of members in Gen X reported

feeling lonely with the same

frequency, with even fewer baby

boomers (15%) saying the same.

That’s not to say that younger

people have a monopoly on

feeling lonely. Of course, anyone

of any age has the potential to feel

a lack of connection to others.

However, the general trend in

feelings of loneliness, along

with the direction that digital

communication continues to take,

suggests that there’s potential

for future generations to feel

increasingly lonely.


When I started to explore my

own feelings of loneliness, I

came across a thought that stuck

with me: ‘Loneliness is not the

same as being alone.’ There are

many reasons we can feel a lack

of connection in our lives, and it

doesn’t necessarily have a direct

correlation with spending time

alone. But, as with any problem

we face in life, it’s important to

understand the root of the issue –

only then can you address it.

It’s possible to identify four

distinct types of loneliness:

emotional, social, situational, and

chronic. Here we take a closer

look at the different types to

understand how this epidemic is

affecting us today.

• Social loneliness

Feeling excluded or ostracised

is the main reason for this type

of loneliness – perhaps you

have experienced some kind of

rejection. This can leave a lasting

impact, as you can begin to

wonder who might reject you in

the future.

We know that wellness

is not merely the

absence of illness – our

happiness hinges on a

lot more than that

• Situational loneliness

Most of us will recognise the

feeling of being surrounded by

unfamiliar faces, or not having

an instant connection with

others around us. Perhaps you’ve

moved to a new city where you

don’t know anyone, started at a

new job, or at a new school. But

it can also be likened to feelings

of grief – that sense of longing

you experience when you lose

someone close.

• Emotional loneliness

This can be one of the more

difficult types of loneliness

to understand, as emotional

loneliness comes from

within. Your feelings are not

necessarily the result of losing

someone, or moving – it’s not as

circumstantial as that. One way

to think of it is that something is

missing from your life – rather

than missing something you once

had. Perhaps you are craving new

friendships rather than longing

for old ones.

• Chronic loneliness

Chronic loneliness is often a

by-product of circumstance,

although unlike situational

loneliness it can go on for so

long that it almost becomes a

way of life. As a result, chronic

loneliness, more than any

other type, is closely linked

with mental ill-health and

unhappiness. It’s associated with

depression, sleep problems and

stress, and is thought to be as

harmful to our health as smoking

15 cigarettes a day.



Experiencing loneliness can be a

very isolating time. It can lead to a

sense of ‘forgetting’ what we used

to enjoy; forgetting our goals and

not finding meaning in what we

used to find meaningful before.

And it can become a vicious cycle,

particularly where your mental

health is concerned.

You may feel there’s nowhere to

turn, or too scared to seek help.

But there are things we can do to

reclaim our sense of connection.

Here, psychotherapist Brian

shares some simple ways to

combat loneliness.

1. Fight negative feelings with a

positive engagement. This could

be as easy as smiling and saying

hello to someone you pass

on the street – a simple act of

kindness can boost endorphins,

raise morale, and break the

loneliness cycle.

2. Be curious and ask questions.

This can be helpful if you find

small talk difficult, or feel

unable to make connections

easily. Strive for short

conversations that increase

involvement and happiness.

3. Ditch the technology. Embrace

the world around you through

practising mindfulness or


4. Social media is OK in

moderation, but face-to-face

interaction is more enriching.

Going out and meeting

people can create a sense of


5. Make positive memories by

doing memorable things and

discovering new places. Why

not make the trip to see a friend

you haven’t seen for a while?

Remember, loneliness is a feeling,

not a permanent fixture in your

life. Whether you feel lonely

occasionally, have been feeling

alone for a while, or it’s been

present for a long time, there are

steps you can take to increase your

sense of connection with others.

Brian Turner is a psychotherapist

and hypnotherapist, who specialises

in providing the best therapeutic care

for anxiety-based conditions. You can

find Brian and more information on


Ask the experts

Counsellor Sophie Spiegler

answers your questions on


Read more about Sophie on




My dad died

earlier this year.

As it’s our first

Christmas without him,

I’m worried about my

mum. She says she’s

fine, but she’s not her

usual self. How can I

support her?

I’m so sorry to hear of your

A loss. It sounds like this is a

difficult time, so I’m wondering

if you had any traditions you

did as a family that you could

pay special attention to, with

the intention of remembering

the good times together?

Supporting your mum, and

yourself, might include finding a

balance between allowing grief

to be present, and sharing in

joyful memories.

You could invite wider friends

and family round to join in the

festivities and sharing the happy

memories of your father. Let

them know what you need in

advance, so you can be clear

about the support you want.



Me and my

partner of eight

years have

recently separated. I’m

dreading the festive

season, especially

the parties and social

events. I just want to be

alone, but I know that’s

not really going to help

me. What should I do?

AThe festive period can be

hard – balancing others’

expectations and the need

to connect. Spending time

with friends and family, with

those who you feel you can be

authentic and honest about your

feelings with, is important. If you

find you want to be alone, make

sure you aren’t isolating yourself.

Try to let in some of the joy of

the season.

If you find that the pressure

to be sociable and engage

with parties is too much, it’s

important to honour your

feelings. Perhaps give yourself

small chunks of time to feel sad,

and practise some self-care.

Only you can tune in to your own

needs, and begin to ask how to

get them met.

Counselling for loneliness

Life changes


My partner has

gone back to

work after his

paternity leave. I’m

finding it really difficult

being on my own,

especially with the days

so dark, and none of my

friends have children.

What can I do?

AHaving a baby can be a

really difficult time, and

the lack of sleep, community

and regular routine can send

the strongest of women to

dark places. If you can get out

of the house, there are lots of

playgroups that will allow you to

connect with other new mums.

Perhaps a mum and baby yoga

class will also support in helping

your body to recover from

pregnancy and birth.

When you’ve met a few people,

set up a WhatsApp or other

message group to keep you

connected, particularly for the

days when getting out feels


At the same time as connecting,

give yourself permission to enjoy

these days, and allow yourself to

enter into the world of your baby.

Let go of the pressure, and see if

you can give yourself permission

to rest and bond. Reaching out

to family and friends to support

you at this time, and letting them

know what you need, can also

really help.

Counselling Directory is part of the Happiful Family | Helping you find the help you need



techniques we swear by

Keeping a journal can help you to ease anxiety, boost self-esteem, and

develop a more positive mindset – here’s how to get started...

Writing | Kat Nicholls Illustrating | Rosan Magar

Hands up who had

a diary when they

were younger? For

me, keeping a diary

was a lifeline in

my teenage years while I was

navigating the ups and downs of

puberty, alongside mental health

challenges. Although I don’t write

‘Dear diary’ anymore, journaling

is still very much a part of my

everyday routine.

Journaling can help us document

our days for posterity’s sake, or

go deeper and help us unravel

knotted thoughts and feelings.

Research by Dr James Pennebaker,

author of Opening Up by Writing It

Down, revealed that journaling can

help lower depression and anxiety,

and even strengthen our immune


Here, I want to share with you

some journaling techniques that

can help you to feel calmer, more

in-tune with yourself, and support

your mental health.


Letter writing can be incredibly

powerful and versatile. If you

have someone in your life you

have unresolved issues with, or

someone you want to forgive, try

writing an unsent letter. The idea

is to get everything you want to say

out, without the need to confront

the recipient.

Another way to use this technique

is to write a letter to your past or

future self. Writing to your past

self can help you connect with

your inner child, offering words

of wisdom, and giving you a

chance to see how far you’ve come.

Writing to your future self can be a

beautiful way of uncovering what

you want your future to look like.



This is a technique I’ve picked up

from the Positive Planner journal

(thepositiveplanners.com). In the

journal there’s a prompt to note

down three things you’ve done

well every day. We so rarely stop to

think about what we’re achieving,

and this is a simple way you can

practise this to build self-esteem.

Recognising small wins, and

challenging yourself to think about

yourself positively, can change

your mindset. Over time you’ll find

the exercise easier, and notice how

many things you’re already doing




Our brains are wired to remember

negative experiences more so than

positive ones. This means we have

to work harder to intentionally

focus on the


Noting down what

you’re grateful for

helps you get in to the

habit of recognising

the positives, and

makes you more

aware of the good

things in life

Noting down what you’re grateful

for helps you get into the habit

of recognising the positives, and

makes you more aware of the good

things in life. Try writing about one

thing you’re grateful for every day.


This is especially useful if you

struggle with anxiety. Every time

a worry comes into your mind,

write it down in a notebook. Then,

allocate a certain time in your day

as ‘worry time’ when you can come

back and address the worry. But in

the meantime, try to get on with

your day.

When ‘worry time’ arrives, spend

some time journaling about the

worry. Is there anything you can

do about it? If so, note down your

action plan. If there isn’t anything

you can do, see if you can find a

way of letting the worry go.


This technique is recommended

in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s

Way. The idea is to write

three pages every morning,

before you start your

day. You can write anything and

everything that comes into your

head. No one else will read it, so

try to be as free as possible with

expressing yourself.

The aim is to help calm your

mind, gain some clarity, and tap

into your creativity before getting

on with your daily tasks.

These are just a few examples to

get you started – see what resonates

with you. The beauty of journaling

is that there’s no wrong way to do

it. If you come away feeling calmer

and more in tune with yourself,

you’re on the right track.

If you find the writing side of

journaling difficult, but are keen

to get your thoughts and feelings

out, try using the voice note app on

your phone to talk it out. To take

things a step further, you may want

to consider talking to a counsellor.

Therapy can help you gain

self-awareness, and you don’t

have to be struggling with your

mental health to utilise it. Many

people go to therapy to get a better

understanding of themselves and

their behaviour. Learn more at


When you are kind to others,

it not only changes you,

it changes the world


Photography | Ib Wira Dyatmika

46 • happiful.com • November 2019


My parents abandoned

me, but that made me a

stronger person in the end

Andrew first learned the story of his traumatic

childhood at the age of 21, and he was surprised he’d

survived. Here he reveals how life lessons from his

grandmother, and a passion for dance, brought him

safely to adulthood

Writing | Andrew Yang


grew up as an only

child, cared for by

my grandmother.

We were a team.

We drove each

other nuts, but we always

knew we had a deep,

underlying love for one


I first learned the story

of my childhood from

her when I was 21. She

had waited until then –

when I came home after

graduating from university

– because she felt story

could have been too

disturbing for me when

I was younger. I’m happy

she did.

Given the circumstances,

I’m surprised I wasn’t

orphaned or dead by the

time I got to be three

months old.

I was born to an

immigrant South Korean

mother, who had been

brought to Canada by

my grandmother and

dad in 1988. Shortly after

arriving, my mom and

dad got married, and I was

born in December that

year. Although, just before

I was born, they divorced.

I lived with my mother

for a month, but things

started to get messy.

Being a single mother,

newly arrived in a foreign

country, finances were

tight and our living

conditions very poor.

So my grandmother

‘kidnapped’ me. But

a police SWAT team

surrounded her place

and took me back to my

mother. It was a couple

of months later that my

mother realised she

couldn’t afford to raise

me, and legal custody was

given to my grandmother

and my dad.

When I was three, my

dad decided to leave us

for a ‘job’ (it later turned

out to be a woman) in

California, leaving sole

legal custody to my

grandmother – a 70-yearold

seamstress who could

barely make ends meet.

My grandmother and I

would end up spending

the next 13 years together

in the suburbs of Ontario.

Looking back, I

developed a deep fear

of abandonment, and

separation anxiety. I

remember constantly

asking myself: ‘Why does

everyone else have a mom

and dad? Why did they

leave? Is there something

wrong with me?’ This

would be a mystery

growing up, and it still

haunts me to this day.

I didn’t have much as I

grew up. We were close

to poverty, so we had to

move around a lot, and I

never really got to form

meaningful relationships

or have many friends.

My grandmother was

always very strict with me,

keeping me sheltered, and

forcing me to work and

study hard – she didn’t

want me growing up to be

like my dad.

The fear of rejection, and

my lack of confidence,

made it very hard for me

at school. >>>

December 2019 • happiful.com • 47

When you don’t conform,

teens can be such jerks

sometimes, and I ended

up being bullied. One of

my teachers even threw

my books and pens on

the floor for not paying

attention, and made the

entire class laugh at me.

I never really told anyone

about this stuff then. I just

thought this was life.

After discovering dance, Andrew’s

life was changed forever

Andrew (right) with his Grandma

(left) and aunt (centre)

Being able to move my entire

body, to music that means so

much to me, is a deep feeling

that I wish I could express more

vividly in words

Throughout my teens,

I lived in fear for my life.

I had suicidal thoughts

almost every day. But I

told myself that I could

not give in. I think my

grandmother indirectly

gave me hope, that when

we hit obstacles in our

lives there are always two

paths we can take – give

up, or persevere. I chose

the latter. So I kept going

until high school was

over. But in the summer

of 2006, my perseverance

was tested again.

I was about to go to

university, when I found

out that my close cousin

had completed suicide.

The emotions that flowed

through me, I wouldn’t

wish on anyone. I decided

I needed a fresh start. It

wasn’t the city I was living

in, or the school I went to.

It was the people around

me, and the reputation I

had for myself. I couldn’t

be in this environment.

So technically, I did give

up, but I did it with an

objective. Go to university,

rebuild my life from the

ground up, and treat

people the way I wanted

to be treated. Support

those who are facing

challenges, and give them

the motivation to keep

on going.

It was at this point that

I came across a YouTube

video of someone

dancing. Their entire body

was fluid, as if the music

and body were one. So I

started copying some of

the moves, and practised

every day.

I eventually got better

and better at it, and at

Queen’s University in

Kingston, Ontario, I fell

in with a crew of hiphop

and breakdancers

at the orientation event.

I decided to hop in and

show a few moves. I was

pretty bad, but I really

enjoyed it, and seeing

the smiles on people’s

faces really brought one

to mine. I had found a


My newfound friends

and I decided to start a

hip-hop dance club called

FLOW, that held classes,

organised live shows, and

taught the true meaning of

hip-hop culture and what

it stood for.

48 • happiful.com • December 2019

We each have our own story to share,

and we all have something to learn

from others

I fell in love with it so

much that it took me to

the early stages of the So

You Think You Can Dance

Canada TV show in 2009,

and as an opener for the

rock band Hedley when

they were on tour in 2008.

I was getting better and

better, my classes were

getting larger and larger.

More people looked up

to me. I was having an

influence on peoples’

lives. Dance saved me

from the trauma and

horrors of my life. I felt

like I had accomplished a


I always wondered

what it felt like to be

truly passionate about

something so much that

you didn’t fear to express

it. That all that mattered in

that moment in time was

you. That’s the feeling I

felt with dance. Being able

to move my entire body, to

music that means so much

to me, is a deep feeling

that I wish I could express

more vividly in words.

I left university in

2011 with a degree in

mathematics. I graduated

as one of the more

popular kids in school,

and FLOW eventually

became the largest hiphop

recreational dance

club in the city. But more

importantly, I developed

lifelong and deep,

meaningful friendships,

with good people, and

we helped push each

other further every day.

Even better, I found my


Today, fresh into

my 30s, I use my

solitude, confidence,

and perseverance, as

a freelance marketing

architect in the beautiful

city of Toronto, and I

continue to dance as a

passion. Dance has helped

me during the best and the

worst times of my life. It’s

the closest thing that I can

call my own.

We each have our own

story to share, and we all

have something to learn

from others. It’s OK to be

vulnerable, especially as

a man, and I thank all the

incredible women in my

life for teaching me this.

As traumatic as the

memories will always be,

I’ve become a stronger

human because of it.

There is a silver lining to

everything in life.

We have to learn to live

our lives incomplete.

No human being on the

planet is perfect. Learn

not to take people for

granted, to be kind to

others because you never

know what they may

have gone through, but

don’t allow people to take

advantage of you.

At the end of the

day, the person you

have to truly love and

trust first is yourself.

When you achieve true

independence, and can

give back to those who are

near and dear to you – like

I do with my grandmother

– then meaning has been

truly fulfilled in your life.


Andrew survived the most

challenging of circumstances,

from his very youngest days,

right through his teens –

situations he may still be

coming to terms with today.

Importantly though,

Andrew realised he had

a choice. After another

traumatic event he decided

to take action – reach out

to others with similar

interests, get involved. This

proved a turning point for

Andrew. Though it felt like

vulnerability, Andrew found

the strength to open up to

possibilities of friendship,

creativity and support.

Clearly gifted, Andrew

continues to share what he

has learnt,

and lives as

the person he

always truly

was inside.

Rachel Coffey | BA MA NLP Mstr

Life coach

December 2019 • happiful.com • 49

Put it down in words

Spread some festive cheer with our Christmas cards

Christmas is the perfect time to take a

moment to appreciate the people in

our lives who brighten it on the dark

days, and who are our cheerleaders on

the good ones.

Go to


to download!

There’s nothing quite like the feeling

of receiving a handwritten card. From

the address carefully printed on the

front of the envelope to the warm

well wishes inside, each detail comes

together to tell the receiver that you

really care.

When we send a Christmas card, we’re

creating a physical reminder of the love

and appreciation that we feel for one


All this considered, it will come as no

surprise that a poll by Oxfam found that

Brits prefer receiving a Christmas card

over a text or email. But what’s really

special is that one in 10 respondents

said that getting a Christmas card made

them feel less alone.

This year, we’ve got a selection of

unique Christmas cards created just for

you, by talented artist Becky Johnston.

It’s not always easy to find the words

for the things that we want to say to

others. Take a mindful moment to

reflect on the things that you have

learned about, and shared with this

person throughout the year. Tune

into the sensation of your pen moving

over the card, and let the words flow


Spread some joy this year. And, from

the whole Happiful team, have a very

merry Christmas!


Score and fold




Score and fold



A letter from

me to you

Cancer is perhaps one of the hardest things that a person can go through, and without the

support of friends and family, the burden of the illness is made all the worse. But thanks to

hundreds of letters and a very special friendship, there’s now a charity bringing comfort to

those undergoing treatment – and using the power of the written word, we can all get involved

Writing | Kathryn Wheeler

Photography | Top right: Peter Clark

When Brian Greenley

was diagnosed

with bowel cancer

in 2010, he and

Alison Hitchcock were simply


“I didn’t know him very well

at all, and I think I just felt very

awkward when he told me,” Alison

explains. “I didn’t know what to

say because he wasn’t a close

friend, so I wasn’t going to be

going round to see him, because I

didn’t really know him. So I made

a bizarre offer…”

Alison began writing letters to

Brian throughout his treatment,

sitting down every other week

to fill him in on the things she’d

seen. In moments of huge

emotional and physical strain,

Alison’s letters offered Brian an


What began as a heartwarming

story of friendship and

compassion, spiralled into

From Me to You – a charity that

encourages people to write letters

to loved ones and strangers with

cancer. So how did it happen? We

spoke to Alison to find out.

Putting pen to paper

Following her offer, and with no

real experience in letter writing,

Alison began penning regular

letters to Brian.

“My aim was to make him laugh,”

says Alison. “I used to write about

things I would see, or that would

happen to me, and then I would

always put a bit of a comedy slant

on them. I never used to write

about his cancer because I didn’t

know anything, and I didn’t feel

like I knew him well enough to be

asking too much.”

Alison’s letters were a welcome

distraction, opening up the rest of

the world to Brian at a time >>>

Brian and Alison’s story began in 2010

Alison soon discovered the power of letters

December 2019 • happiful.com • 55

when his own was consumed by

intensive treatment. Later, Brian

told Alison that he would save her

letters to take to his chemotherapy

sessions and, when he was alone,

he would read them.

“Brian had a big circle of friends

and family, but he felt very isolated

when he had cancer,” says Alison.

“Partly because there were people

who drifted away from him,

because they didn’t know what to

say. But also, he isolated himself

because he couldn’t bear other

people’s pity.

“Then his cancer moved to stage

four, and I kept writing,” Alison

continues. “After about three years

– by then I had written him more

than 100 letters – he was finally

given the all-clear.

“And then we got back to our

normal lives. But my normal life

had changed quite dramatically in

the course of writing to him.”

A first-class idea

Since writing the letters, Alison

had discovered a love for writing

that led her to enrol in an MA in

creative writing. Beyond that,

Alison and Brian had nurtured

an incredible friendship – Brian

was the only man on Alison’s hen

weekend – and theirs was a story

that caught the attention of Radio

4’s The Listening Project, leading the

pair to tell their tale to the entire


Following this, someone got in

touch with Alison to ask whether

they could use her idea, and write

to a friend with cancer.

“A week later they contacted me

and said: ‘I don’t know what to

say.’ That was when I thought, ‘OK,

this is what we should do with our

letter story,’” says Alison.

Alison and Brian founded

From Me to You, utilising the

You can hold them,

and touch them. I

think that has quite a

lot to do with it, it’s a

physical object

power of the written word and

human connections. According to

Macmillan Cancer Support, one in

four people will experience social

isolation throughout their treatment

– and for Alison and Brian,

addressing this huge problem was

at the top of their list.

They began running letter-writing

workshops, and posting advice

online about how to write to friends

and family.

“It’s very accessible to write

a card or a letter,” says Alison.

“Later, people were coming to our

workshops and saying that they

wanted to write letters, but they

didn’t know anyone with cancer.

That’s when we started ‘Donate a


A service where anyone can

submit a letter to be sent out to

someone living with cancer, ‘Donate

a Letter’ is about reducing isolation

with the simple art of letter writing.

Once signed up online, From Me

to You send a letter-writing kit with

tips on getting started, sample

letters, and stationary, and from

there you can begin your letterwriting


Word to the wise

Different from emails and text

messages, Alison avidly believes

that there is a special power in

letters. She recalls how when she

would write to Brian, she created a

ritual where she would sit down on

her sofa, when she was home alone

The charity hosts letter-writing workshops



This year, From Me to You will

be distributing cards to people

who are going through cancer

treatment over the Christmas


To take part, head to

frommetoyouletters.co.uk to find

tips on writing your card, and then

post it to:

Donate A Letter

PO Box 71038


W4 9HD

Make sure your card is sealed in

an envelope, and posted by 16


in the evening, and just let the

words flow onto the paper. Writing

them was a mindful experience

for her and, beyond that, she sees

how the love and attention that

goes into the letter is felt long after

it comes out the envelope.

“You can hold them, and touch

them. I think that has quite a lot to

do with it – it’s a physical object,”

says Alison. “You also know that

the person has had to put some

56 • happiful.com • December 2019

time in to writing the letter, getting

the stamp and posting it – that’s not

as easy as sending a text or email.”

As Alison explains, letters live

on with us. We pick them up and

re-read them, or we leave them

to one side and then catch them

out the corner of our eye, and

remember the care and attention

they represent.

Signing off

“People want to be reminded

of the things that we all have in

common, and that we all enjoy,”

says Alison. “Christmas can be a

really difficult time for people with

cancer. If you know someone, just

send them a Christmas card and

tell them that you are thinking of

them, and don’t shy away from

that because you think that they

may not be having a Christmas

that is as jolly as yours.”

Reaching out to others really is

as easy as that. And if Alison and

Brian’s story tells us anything,

it’s that there is huge power to be

had in the simplest interactions.

Kind words have the ability to

pick us up, even through the most

challenging times.

“Write about the things that we

all have in common – food, pets,

family,” is Alison’s advice. “That’s

what connects us all, and that’s

what you’re hoping the letter will

do: make a connection.”

Find out more about From Me to

You, and how you can get involved

by visiting frommetoyouletters.co.uk

December 2019 • happiful.com • 57

How to talk to a partner with

low self-esteem

What can you do when the person you love, doesn’t love themselves? It can be

quite a challenge, but here are some tips to help you provide the

words of comfort and support they need

Writing | Fiona Thomas Illustrating | Rosan Magar

If you’ve ever looked in the

mirror and disliked the person

looking back at you, then you’ve

experienced low self-esteem.

It isn’t necessarily related to

your physical self — although

having poor body image can

cause negative thoughts — but it’s

intrinsically linked to how you

value yourself as a person.

People with self-esteem issues

often neglect to take care of

themselves. They may refuse to go

shopping for new clothes, or fail to

maintain good personal hygiene.

They could be unknowingly

sabotaging relationships, or other

aspects of their life, because they

feel undeserving of happiness.

Being in a relationship with

someone who has low self-esteem

can be tough. Here are some

suggestions on how to talk to them,

to try to support them:


First of all, accept that you are not

there to ‘fix’ your partner. Their

self-esteem has to come from doing

things that make them happy.

Relying on an external source for

that happiness means that the selfesteem

created is very fragile, and

that doesn’t really solve the problem.

Independent self-esteem is strong,

and won’t crumble under pressure.


According to trainee counselling

psychologist Sanjivan Parhar, there

are two versions of self-esteem.

There is an external version, that

may appear happy and confident.

Then there’s the internal, more

authentic version. Compliments

often feed the external version, but

fail to address deeper concerns.

For example, if your partner says

they want to lose weight, your gut

reaction might be to compliment

their appearance, but this can feel


“Ask your partner what it is

that they’re unhappy with at this

moment,” says Sanjivan. “Validate

these negative feelings and let them

feel heard. Then you can move on to

offer a positive opinion about how

they look.”

Try not to say things like ‘You’re

fine the way you are’, or ‘Don’t worry

about it’, as this doesn’t give them

space to express how they feel.



Most of us live with an internal

dialogue. You may not even notice it,

but it can form the basis about how

you feel about yourself. For example,

someone who struggles to be good

at football might internalise the

idea that they are terrible at all

sports – so much so that they

begin to believe it. The reality of

the situation might be that they

are still learning, recovering

from a physical injury, or maybe

just better suited to another

sport entirely.

It’s very easy to take what your

inner critic says as fact instead

of opinion. What’s helpful in

this situation is to acknowledge

another perspective. For

example, if you have an

inner voice saying that you’re

unattractive, acknowledge this,

but then look at yourself from

an outsider’s perspective. What

would a friend say?

Encourage your partner to

stop comparing themselves to

others (whether it’s in real life

or on social media) as this can

reinforce the negative voice that

says they’re not good enough.



It can be heartbreaking

to be deeply in love with

someone who you know to be

a wonderful person, only to

watch them constantly hate

themselves. Try to encourage

your partner to take care of

themselves by doing the things

that truly make them happy. It

could be going out for a meal,

meeting up with friends, or

picking up a hobby that has

fallen by the wayside. Sanjivan

says that true self-love emanates

from “developing your own

authentic, true self, outside of a

relationship, friends, or family”.

Finding someone

who you can share

your vulnerability

with is something

to strive for, not



It can be tempting to filter what

you say, to ensure you never offend

a sensitive partner. While you don’t

want to antagonise them, avoiding

certain issues could do more harm

than good.

People with low self-esteem

are hyper-vigilant to anything

that will confirm the negative

thoughts they’re already having,

so censoring yourself can lead to

tension when difficult topics arise.

“Instead of getting defensive or

disengaging, try to explore what it

is you’ve said that caused upset,”

suggests Sanjivan. “Give them a

chance to explain the meaning

they have inferred. Then you can

explain what you actually meant.”

Instead of avoiding tricky

conversations, this actually

encourages a more open line of

communication, and should help

them to find a new perspective.

“It’s a way of facilitating an

environment where people are

comfortable in relationships to

show their vulnerability. Finding

someone who you can share your

vulnerability with is something to

strive for, not avoid,” says Sanjivan.

Fiona is a freelance writer and

author, whose book, ‘Depression

in a Digital Age’, is out now. Visit

fionalikestoblog.com for more.

December 2019 • happiful.com • 59






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using code DECHAPPI at shop.happiful.com

Prices and benefits are correct at the time of printing, using code DECHAPPI, which expires on 23 Jan 2020. For full terms and conditions, please visit happiful.com

60 • happiful.com • November 2019


Pay it forward!

Helping other people

has changed my life

After years on an emotional rollercoaster, Chloe

finally learnt that she had borderline personality

disorder. The diagnosis spurred her to help others,

and to dedicate herself to ending the stigma of

mental illness

Writing | Chloe Sunnucks


have always been

a little different.

I was always

the strange

one – which is

something I have now

learnt to love, but back

then, growing up, it was

something I despised.

I was regularly told by

teachers that I was ‘too

sensitive’. They were right,

I was a very emotional

child, and I haven’t

been able to handle

my emotions very well

throughout my life. I was

regularly bullied at school,

too. I had this desperation

to be liked, and would do

anything to be popular.

One person picked up on

this, and we ended up in a

very toxic relationship for

three years.

This individual picked on

my insecurities to make

themselves feel better. I

was regularly told that no

one would love me, and

that no one else would

put up with me being an

emotional wreck.

Although I was a healthy

weight for my height, I

was told I was fat, ugly,

and disgusting. Those

comments stay with you.

But the desperation to be

liked overpowered the

negative comments and

behaviour. I stayed with

this person through a lot

more than I should, and

heard a lot of things no

person should hear.

I had a lot of strange and

dark thoughts throughout

puberty, which I put

down to hormones. But

going into my early

20s, I still had these

emotions. I would have

days where I didn’t want

to get out of bed. I had

no motivation at all, just

this chronic feeling of

emptiness. There was a

pit of nothingness in my

stomach that I couldn’t

describe. I hadn’t heard of

anyone else having these

thoughts and feelings – it

just felt alien to me.

I decided to go to the

doctor, even though I

felt absolutely ridiculous

about it. I was put on

antidepressants, but I still

didn’t understand why I

was feeling the way I was.

So, I did what I was told,

and took the medication,

although it didn’t make

things any better.

Fast forward two

years, to 2016, and I

was living on my own

after the breakdown of

a relationship and a lot

of other changes. I now

know that change is a

trigger for me, which

makes sense of the next

part of my story.

I was struggling to be

on my own at this point.

From the outside I was the

life and soul of the party,

constantly out drinking

with my new friends.

My motto was: ‘Why

overthink, when you can

overdrink?’ You wouldn’t

have had any idea what

thoughts were in my

head at that point. The

chronic emptiness had

taken over, and I would

regularly spend evenings >>>

December 2019 • happiful.com • 61

Seeing the difference I’m

making is a feeling I just can’t

describe. A smile is infectious,

so let’s get the world infected!

alone, just staring into

space for hours. I began

self-harming, just so that I

could feel something.

Eventually a friend

intervened, after noticing

the marks, and took me to

the hospital. I was terrified

of what the outcome was

going to be. I didn’t want

them to think I was some

kind of mad woman,

but deep down I knew I

needed help. However, the

response I got was that I

was just a ‘little bit sad at

the moment’. I was still

none the wiser about what

was going on in my head,

and it seemed that no one

wanted to help. It felt like

professionals were always

looking for the quickest

solution to get me out of

their consultation room.

By July 2017, I was in a

new relationship, with a

very supportive partner,

but things had still been

very strange. One moment

I would be in an incredibly

positive mood, full of

childlike excitement, then

suddenly I would just

crash into an unbearable

low. My boyfriend

encouraged me to visit

the GP again, although I

was very hesitant after my

previous experiences. But

I went in the end, and I’m

so glad I did.

Finally, someone

who was a medical

professional was actually

listening to me, and

wanted to know more

about what I was feeling.

After years of having

conflicting emotions, and

not understanding my

own brain, I finally got the

chance I needed – I was

referred to my community

mental health team. After

speaking to them, I was

diagnosed with borderline

personality disorder


The best way to describe

BPD, is like being an

emotional burns victim.

The thick skin you are

supposed to have just isn’t

Chloe won the ‘Loose Women’

Lighten the Load Hero Award at

the Mind Media Awards in 2018

there, so you feel your

emotions a lot more than

the average person.

The moment I received

the diagnosis, it was like

a weight was lifted from

my shoulders. The more

research I did, the more

it made sense. That was

when I started to dedicate

my time to changing

people’s views on mental

health, and trying to make

a change in the world.

I learnt that a lot of

people around me were

also suffering. For a long

time, I was naive about

how many people in my

life were being affected

by mental health issues. I

have lost family members

and friends to mental

62 • happiful.com • December 2019


In 2018, Chloe’s campaign delivered more than 100

cards to those in psychiatric care over the festive

period. This year the project is looking to send cards

to people from all walks of life, from care homes to

psychiatric wards. To get involved, send an email to


Find out more and help pay it forward by searching ‘the Ditzy

Unicorn Project’ on Facebook.

illness in the past couple

of years, but I won’t allow

it to happen again!

In April 2018 I launched

the Ditzy Unicorn Project

to encourage people to pay

kindness forward. One

thing I have discovered is

that small actions have a

huge impact. So, I leave

little gifts of happiness for

people to find, and when

they do, they have to pay

the good deed forward.

The project is completely

non-profit, with all money

from fundraising events or

donations going directly to

mental health charities.

Last Christmas saw

the launch of my Care

at Christmas campaign,

which was supported by

the team at Happiful. The

aim of the campaign was

to get Christmas cards

delivered to people who

were in psychiatric care

over the festive period.

Just receiving the cards,

seeing how much people

wanted to help and show

they cared, was incredibly


This year I am continuing

to hold fundraising events

for mental health charities,

and am launching a variety

of projects. I feel that we

are slowly beating the

stigma around mental

health, and now it’s time to

tackle what happens next.

The world is a much

better place when we

all share a little bit of

kindness, and take the

time to check in with those

close to us.

Helping other people,

and sharing my knowledge

and experiences with

people, has changed my

life. I’ve met so many

incredible people, and

seeing the difference I’m

making is a feeling I just

can’t describe. A smile is

infectious, so let’s get the

world infected! You never

know, that one good deed

you do could be the single

thing that could turn

someone’s day around.

As the ancient Greek

storyteller Aesop said: “No

act of kindness, no matter

how small, is ever wasted.”

Chloe organised packages of letters and magazines to be

sent to those in psychiatric wards

You never know, that one

good deed you do could be the

single thing that could turn

someone’s day around


Chloe’s heartwarming

story evidences that with

support from people

who truly care, and the

correct professional help,

a positive outcome can be

reached. To live with BPD

is not easy, however, it

can be managed and you

do have the


to flourish -

just as Chloe


Rav Sekhon | BA MA MBACP (Accred)

Counsellor and psychotherapist

December 2019 • happiful.com • 63

Brussel-ling up

something good

Three recipes to up your sprout game, and leave

your guests green with envy


Serves 4

• 450g Brussels sprouts

• 600ml water

• 1 tsp salt

• 3 tbsp Extra Virgin olive oil

• Black pepper

Writing | Ellen Hoggard

Like Marmite, sprouts

will divide families. But

whether you love them

or hate them, it’s likely

you’ll have one or two slipped onto

your plate to accompany your

Christmas dinner. Personally,

I’m very much in the ‘sprout love

camp’, and I want to encourage you

to be brave and give our little green

friends another chance.

There are so many ways to

introduce these small but

nutritious vegetables into your

meals. Here we have three ways

to use sprouts – from the most

simple, but delicious recipe, to the

more adventurous and, frankly,

genius Brussels sprout pesto. Give

them a go this Christmas and

beyond – sprouts are too good to

be around just once a year.







Serves 8

• 800g Brussels sprouts

• 3 Cox apples

• 140g pancetta

• Olive oil

• Fresh rosemary


Heat the oven to 200 degrees,

gas mark 6. In a pan of boiling

water, cook the sprouts for 2–3

minutes until tender. Drain and

set aside. Slice the apples and in a

large roasting tin, toss the apples

and sprouts with olive oil. Scatter

over the pancetta and sprigs of

rosemary. Roast for 30–35 minutes,

stirring halfway through. Serve

when the pancetta is crisp.


Put the salt and water to a

saucepan, and bring to a boil.

Add the sprouts and cover for

one minute. Remove the lid and

cook for a further 3–6 minutes

until the sprouts are cooked

through, but still have a bite.

Drain. Heat the olive oil in the

pan, rolling the sprouts until

covered. Season with salt and

pepper. Taste and serve.


Serves 2

• 250g Brussels sprouts, sliced

• 1 garlic clove

• 40g hazelnuts

• 25g Parmesan cheese

• Olive oil

• Lemon juice

• Salt and pepper to season

• Optional: fresh pasta to serve


• Heat the oven to 180 degrees, gas

mark 4. Toast the hazelnuts for

10–15 minutes. Cool and remove

the skins (you can usually rub

them off). Add the nuts to a

blender or food processor. Pulse

until finely ground. Add the

sprouts, Parmesan, garlic and

a squeeze of lemon juice. Pulse

until ground.

• Slowly add the olive oil, blending

until smooth. Pour in a small

bowl and season to taste. Serve

with fresh pasta. Delicious.


Sprouts are closely related to

kale and cauliflower, and are the

perfect accompaniment to many

winter dishes. They pack a hefty

nutritional punch too – high in

fibre, low in calories, and full of

vitamins K, C and A.

Roast Sprouts, Apples and Pancetta

I would always try to steam the

sprouts as it preserves more

nutrients. The apple brings

additional sweetness and fibre,

making the dish more filling.

Simple Sprouts

The flavour of the sprouts will

really be enhanced by the simple

seasoning and olive oil. For a

different texture, try slicing the

cooked sprouts before they sauté in

the oil. For an extra kick, add some

dried chilli flakes.

Brussels Sprout Pesto

This is a great recipe, and no

one will know sprouts are the

key ingredient! It’s bursting with

goodness from the hazelnuts and

olive oil. Both contain vitamin E,

which is great for the immune

system. Use an Extra Virgin olive oil

for a greater flavour, and a better

nutritional profile.

All of these recipes can be made

vegetarian or vegan with some

simple alternatives. Substitute the

pancetta for vegan ham or some

walnuts. Swap parmesan cheese for

a vegan hard cheese, and use vegan

spread instead of butter.

Find a nutritionist near you at


Susan Hart is a nutrition coach and

speaker. As well as delivering

healthy eating advice to

individuals, Susan hosts

regular workshops and runs

vegan cooking classes. Find out

more at nutrition-coach.co.uk


10 things you need to know about



With Crohn’s and Colitis UK Awareness week around the

corner, we separate fact from fiction and give you the

lowdown on inflammatory bowel disease – a condition

that an estimated 300,000 individuals live with in the UK

Writing | Jenna Farmer

66 • happiful.com • December 2019




When people think about

inflammatory bowel disease

(IBD) – the umbrella term for

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative

colitis – they tend to only consider

the digestive symptoms, which

include stomach pain, bleeding

when you go to the loo, and

diarrhoea. While these can be

debilitating, IBD actually goes

far beyond this. The disease

can impact almost every part of

your body, with extra-intestinal

manifestations including eye

problems, painful joints, skin

issues, and mouth ulcers.

One common symptom is fatigue,

impacting up to 72% of patients

when flaring, and still affecting a

third of people even when they’re

in remission. Fatigue is a symptom

that’s difficult to fully explain; it

goes far beyond regular tiredness

and, however long you sleep, the

feeling still remains. Yet, because

of this, many IBD sufferers find

themselves being labelled as lazy

and unmotivated – when this could

not be further from the truth!




It’s thought that those with IBD

are twice as likely to experience

anxiety, and are at an increased

risk of postnatal mental health

issues, too. There are potentially

many reasons for this: being

diagnosed with any longterm

illness can be difficult

to cope with, but the nature

of IBD’s symptoms can also

make socialising difficult, with

sufferers embarrassed to share

the reality of their condition.

That’s why considering the

mental health of IBD patients

should be just as important as

considering physical symptoms.>>>

December 2019 • happiful.com • 67



Many individuals with IBD are

lucky enough to go through

periods of remission, but there’s

currently no cure. However,

things like surgery, and a range

of medications, can make it

manageable, and possible to live

a full life.




While more than 300,000 people

have been diagnosed with IBD

in the UK, chances are the

number of people living with it

is probably far higher, since it

can remain misdiagnosed for

many years. IBD can be difficult

to diagnose, as a colonoscopy

is the best way to confirm the

condition, but without this

some patients might be initially

diagnosed with the less serious

condition of irritable bowel

syndrome (IBS).




Talking of IBS, it’s worth knowing

that while there might be only one

letter difference between them,

IBS and IBD are worlds apart in

many respects. IBS can of course

be debilitating, but unlike IBD

it doesn’t cause any ulceration

or inflammation, meaning it

doesn’t usually need treating with

medication or surgery.

6. 7.



We all know the importance of

nutrition when it comes to our gut

health but, unfortunately, it’s not

so simple in the case of IBD. Many

find a change in diet can help

reduce symptoms, but what works

for one, does not work for all.

“Everyone is very different in the

way IBD behaves, and what you can

eat will vary depending on phases

of disease,” explains Dr Sammie

Gill (@GutDocSam on Twitter), a

registered dietitian who specialises

in gut health.

“There is no specific diet that can

prevent or treat IBD, but there may

be some foods that patients are

sensitive to, such as alcohol, spices,

caffeine, or large amounts of nuts,

seeds or raw vegetables, and fruits

with skins,” Dr Gill adds. Keeping

a food diary and working with a

dietitian may be beneficial.



Some people with IBD are given a

stoma (an opening that diverts your

poo into a special bag, allowing the

small intestine or colon to heal).

While some stomas are temporary,

many live permanently with them,

and find they change their lives for

the better. Unfortunately, stomas

can be perceived as embarrassing

or disgusting – with controversy

sparked last year when stomas

were pictured on cigarette packs to

discourage smoking, and the colon

cancer risk that comes with it.

Yet, for many, this procedure

massively increases their quality

of life, and users are campaigning

to normalise them. “Electing to

live with a permanent stoma was

by far the best decision I’ve ever

made,” explains Shell Lawes,

who chronicles her life with a

stoma on her Instagram page,

Many find a change in diet can

help reduce symptoms, but what

works for one, does not work for all

68 • happiful.com • December 2019


Show your support for

#PurpleFriday on 6

December, as people

wear purple clothes for

Crohn’s & Colitis UK

@stomainateacup. “My stoma gives

me freedom I never had when

IBD had its grip on me. I am not

ashamed of my stoma, I respect it,

and life has vastly improved with

it,” she adds.



IBD is more common than you

think, and the condition doesn’t

discriminate when it comes to

who it affects. Magician Dynamo,

Olympian Steve Redgrave, and

England cricketer Jack Leach

(whose glasses-cleaning action in

the middle of a nail-biting Ashes

Test went viral) are all part of the

exclusive IBD club.



Don’t judge a book by its cover!

Many IBD patients might look

the picture of health, which

means they can even be accused

of faking it when it comes to

using a disabled loo. Accessing

disabled toilets is vital for things

like changing colostomy bags and

avoiding accidents, but a general

awareness of this is lacking.

However, change is coming;

the charity Crohn’s & Colitis UK

recently successfully campaigned

for five supermarkets to alter their

disabled toilet signs to explain that

not all disabilities are visible.




Along with its physical symptoms,

it’s worth knowing that IBD

can also significantly impact

relationships. The chances are you

probably know someone with the

condition – whether it’s a friend,

colleague, family member, or

partner. Communication issues

can be a problem; those with IBD

can find it difficult to explain why

they can’t attend social gatherings,

while symptoms can lead to fear of

leaving the house, and can affect

patients’ sex lives and body image.

Find out more about IBD at

crohnsandcolitis.org.uk. Crohn’s

and Colitis Awareness week is 1–7


Jenna Farmer is a freelance health

writer and nutritional therapist. She

has Crohn’s disease and blogs about

her journey to improve gut health at


Reclaim your

personal space

As much as you care about friends and

family, the social pressures and obligations

around the festive season can sometimes

feel overwhelming. If you’re in need of a

breather, here are some ideas to help you

make some much-needed ‘me-time’

Writing | Bonnie Evie Gifford



We’ve all been there: leaving

things a little late, allowing the

anxiety about finding ‘the perfect

gift’ to grow. But that plan to

pop to the shop for a few quiet

minutes by yourself – have you

completely forgotten the chaos

that is likely to ensue? To avoid

being overwhelmed by the

crowds, switch things up and do

your shopping from home. Put on

a pair of headphones, and turn

up some soothing tracks as you

browse and click. Just remember

to check delivery dates as you go!


Nipping outside for a breath

of fresh air can have a bigger

impact than you might think.

Spending time in nature can help

both your physical and mental

wellbeing, reducing feelings

of stress while promoting

relaxation. If you find yourself

becoming overwhelmed, try to

get outside and have a moment

to yourself. Taking a walk can

help clear your mind, let you

refocus, and help you recognise

if anything in particular is

impacting your mood.


It may sound like just another

thing to fit into your already

hectic schedule, but creating a

to-do list (and sticking to it) can

be one of the most effective ways

to decrease your stress levels.

Getting everything down in one

place can help you to prioritise,

decide what to say ‘no’ to, and,

most importantly, block some

much-needed downtime.


During big events, it can often

feel like you’re responsible for

making sure everyone else is

happy. Let’s be frank here: will the

whole festive season be ruined if

you forget the ‘right’ food, gift, or

playlist? It’s not what you have

during the festive season that

matters, it’s who you spend it

with. If you’re feeling the pressure

to create a perfect celebration,

try to share the load, and let go of

control on a few aspects.


Mindfulness is all about helping

you reconnect with your thoughts,

feelings, and physical sensations. It

can help you to feel calmer, while

improving your overall wellbeing.

Try writing in a journal at a set

time each day, or focusing on deep,

steady breathing as you do chores.

Reconnecting with how you feel,

can help you get ready to face the

pressures over the festive period.

It’s beyond a tragedy...

It’s a crisis

Doctor-turned-comedian and writer,

Adam Kay’s first book, This Is Going To

Hurt, shed light on the stress, strain,

and strange happenings during his

time as a junior doctor. Now, he’s

sharing the highs and lows of yuletides

on hospital wards. But unlike Santa,

the high pressure for NHS staff isn’t just

for one day a year...

Writing | Lucy Donoughue

Adam Kay has been the rounds –

no longer on hospital wards as

a doctor, but in theatres across

the country – with a show based

on his new book, Twas The Nightshift Before


His first tour, earlier this year, drew on

material from his original bestseller (1.5

million copies sold across 36 countries to

date). Both books and tours are based on

diaries he kept while working in the NHS

from 2004 to 2010, and are as heartbreaking

as they are hysterical.

“I love doing the tour,” Adam says. “The

single most efficient way of getting my point

across is by looking people in the eye and

telling them about the NHS. Even though,

technically, it’s a funny show, I’m doing it

because I’ve got a message I want people to

leave with.”

That message has many elements, including

the importance of our healthcare system, the

growing demands and reduced resources,

the mental impact of trying to save lives, and

dispelling myths about doctor’s workloads

and motivations. >>>

Pretending that we

don’t need to talk

about things can never

be the right idea

Spreading these messages has

been a major part of Adam’s

work in recent years. This Is

Going To Hurt was published in

2017, following a period in which

junior doctors were portrayed

by the government, and some

media outlets, as opportunistic

for speaking out against proposed

changes to working hours.

Adam’s first book was, in many

ways, a ‘call to arms’ following

this; a method of explaining to

the widest audience possible the

realities of working in the NHS,

underpinned by real knowledge of

doing so.

“I’ve now done the show to more

than 150,000 people, and hopefully

next time the junior doctors take

a battering, that’s 150,000 people

who might think about their

healthcare staff a bit differently.”

Adam’s writing may have been

intended to entertain as well as

open eyes, but it’s also provided

many who work in the NHS with

reassurance that colleagues across

the service struggle with the

emotional and personal impact of

the job – just as Adam did.

During his time training and

working as a doctor, Adam

encountered sleep deprivation, a

significant lack of resources in the

hospital environment, and isolation

from his partner, family and friends,

due to the demands of the job.

However, it was ultimately the lack

of acknowledgement and emotional

support around traumatic incidents,

and the toll this took on his mental

health, that prompted Adam to leave

his former career.

He didn’t share the mental strain

he was under with anyone else at

the time, something he regularly

reflects upon. Keeping issues

bottled up, he says, happens too

often in frontline healthcare, and

needs to stop.

“Pretending that we don’t need

to talk about things can never

be the right idea. People end up

with coping mechanisms, and

often they are not healthy coping


Photography | Charlie Clift

‘Twas The Nightshift Before Christmas’ and ‘This is

Going To Hurt’ (Picador) are both available now.

For more information and tickets to ‘Twas The

Night Before Christmas’ tour, visit adamkay.co.uk


that’s talked

about extremely

infrequently is the

fact that every three

weeks a doctor

takes their own life

He now regularly hears from

other healthcare professionals,

and the picture it paints is not

a positive one. “Something

that’s talked about extremely

infrequently is the fact that

every three weeks a doctor

takes their own life. That’s

beyond a tragedy, it’s a crisis.

“I had a message from a

doctor about a year ago, who

said two junior doctors in his

hospital trust had taken their

lives since he’d been working

there, and he could see himself

being the third if he didn’t get out

or do something about it.”

There needs to be a change

in how poor mental health is

viewed, he insists. “Ultimately,

the NHS, and every healthcare

professional need to realise that

you can’t look after your patients

if you’re not looking after yourself.

You can only look after yourself if

there’s an openness about mental


But it’s not just professionals

that can make a difference. Adam

suggests the public could show

more compassion. One patient, he

shares, saw him wearing a blood

pressure cuff and commented: “It’s

funny, you don’t think of doctors

getting ill.”

“It’s crucial to think of everyone

as human,” Adam laughs. “But you

don’t want to think of your doctor

as being too human, because

humans make mistakes.

“When you’re being treated as

‘other’ by your patients, you act up

to it. You play the role of ‘surgeon’

or whatever, and people can

become alpha – and that’s not good

because we need to admit we’re all

human, we all make mistakes, we

all get sick, and we all get sad.”

Adam is clear that there are

systemic failings in the way that

mental health is addressed – or

rather not addressed – at the point

of training. He’s recently spoken

about the possibility of teaching

students in the future, sharing the

things he “would have wanted to

hear” – and mental health would

definitely be on his syllabus.

However, he’s also cautiously

positive about moves being made

to introduce the subject already.

“There are green shoots showing,”

Adam says. “They’re calling it

‘resilience training’, and I think

that’s the right meaning but the

wrong word, as it implies you have

to be able to deal with anything.

“Maybe it’s psychological

preparedness? We just need to be

honest about what the job actually

involves – about the bad days that

accompany the good.”

As documented in Adam’s latest

book, the good and bad days can

happen any and every day in

healthcare. Nothing trumps the

demands on the NHS, and the

never-ending requirement for staff

to show up and help others.

This year more than 1.4 million

people will be working in the NHS

at Christmas time, and while we

ready ourselves for the Gavin and

Stacey special, they’ll be treating,

operating on, and caring for

patients in hospitals across the UK.

And, according to Adam, there’s

one simple thing we can all do to

support them.

“It’s remembering that at

Christmas there will be hundreds

of thousands of people working

in hospitals, and hopefully you’ll

never have to see them, but they’re

there if you need them.

“Just like giving a card to the

postman, put the NHS on your

list, because I found a thank you

does make a real difference,”

Adam says. “I still have every card

patients ever gave me. I’ve thrown

almost every other remnent of my

time as a doctor, but I will never

throw away those, because they

made more of a difference to me

than the people who sent them

will probably ever know.”

Is mental health on your company agenda?

We believe mental health first aid training should be given equal importance to physical

first aid training in every workplace. If you would like to become a mental health first aider

at work, Happiful can train you, and we've created this email template to help you explain

the benefits to your boss

Dear ,

I'd like to become a mental health first aider for

and I'm hoping you can help.

Here are some of the reasons why

will benefit from offering Mental Health First Aid training to our


1. Build staff confidence to have open conversations around mental

health, and break the stigma in the office and in society.

2. Encourage people to access early support when needed. Early

intervention means faster recovery.

3. Empower people with a long-term mental health issue or disability

to thrive in work, and ensure that we are compliant with legislation

in the Equality Act 2010.

4. Promote a mentally healthy environment, and allow people to thrive

and become more productive.

5. Embed a long-term, positive culture across the whole organisation,

where our employees recognise their mental and physical health are

supported as equal parts of the whole person.

6. Proudly share that mental health is on our company agenda, and

improve retention as a result of a reduction in staff stress levels.

Happiful offers two-day mental health first aid training courses for

individuals across the country for £235 + VAT per person, and they

can also offer bespoke courses on-site at our workplace if we have a

minimum of eight attendees.

Yours sincerely,

Did you know that stress,

anxiety, and depression

are the biggest causes of

sickness absence in our


Mental ill-health is

currently responsible for

91 million working days

lost each year. The cost

to UK employers is £34.9

billion each year.*

Happiful has partnered

with Simpila Healthy

Solutions to offer

internationally recognised

courses and training

events in the UK.

Each course is delivered

by an accredited Mental

Health First Aid England

instructor and is delivered

in a safe, evidence-based


Proudly working with

*Source: MHFA England


Healthy Solutions

To register your company’s interest or to book an

individual place, visit training.happiful.com or

drop us an email at training@happiful.com



As many as one in seven people live with long-term insomnia – whether that be disturbed

nights, or hours spent lying in bed wide awake. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With

help from expert clinical hypnotherapist Andrew Major, we explore the causes of

insomnia, and get the low-down on putting sleep problems to bed once and for all

Writing | Kathryn Wheeler

Artwork | Charlotte Reynell

Almost all of us will

experience sleep

problems at some

point in our lives.

Whether it’s tossing

and turning throughout the night,

or waking up every couple of

hours, losing out on those precious

hours of shut-eye can set us back

for the day and can easily spiral

into mental health problems.

The point at which sleeping

problems turn into insomnia is

when they become regular – over

months or years. This could show

itself in a number of ways, from

finding it hard to fall asleep at

night, to waking up regularly

through the night, or not being

able to fall back to sleep again.

When considering what may be

causing insomnia, Andrew Major,

a clinical hypnotherapist, points to

the close link with mental health.

“Some of the most common

causes of insomnia are: ongoing

stress, pressure, anxiety, and

depression, which can creep

up on us gradually, leading to

excess worry and overthinking –

especially when it’s time to sleep,”

Andrew explains. “But there may

be other psychological reasons

causing insomnia, including

anger, grief, or trauma.”

According to the Sleep Council,

of those who get less than five

hours of sleep per night, 21%

live with depression and 17%

with anxiety. But when it comes

to insomnia, it’s a vicious cycle.

While mental health problems

may be causing sleep problems,

lack of sleep can then lead to poor

mental health, including low

mood, irritability, and problems

concentrating – not to mention

the added anxiety about not being

able to sleep.

“When we don’t get enough

sleep, it can reduce problemsolving

skills and our ability to

cope with stressful situations –

leaving us feeling overwhelmed

by things we’d previously been

able to deal with,” says Andrew.

“Getting enough sleep helps

us build mental and emotional

resilience so that we’re able

to deal with the demands,

challenges, and sometimes

adversity, of modern life.”

Clearly, there’s a lot at stake.

And yet, only four in 10 people

with insomnia go on to ask

for help – something that is

particularly common in older

people, where 47% believe that

nothing can be done to improve

their sleep quality.

“Whatever the issue – by taking

action to address the underlying

causes, and with some simple

changes to our daily habits and

routines – you can break the cycle

of sleepless nights, and learn how

to sleep well,” says Andrew.

So how’s it done? Andrew

advises that the first step is to

take a good look at your daytime

habits. >>>

Getting enough sleep

helps us build mental

and emotional

resilience, so that

we’re able to deal

with the demands,

challenges, and

sometimes adversity,

of modern life





Are you feeling tense,

anxious, irritable, or lack

enthusiasm for things you

usually enjoy?


Have you been

experiencing headaches,

increased heart rate,

muscle aches and pains, or

changes in appetite?


Do negative thoughts

take over your mind,

and have you noticed

excess worrying, a

lack of concentration,

forgetfulness, or difficulty

making decisions?

For example, consider:

• How much caffeine do you drink

during the day?

• When do you switch off your

mobile devices and laptops?

• Do you have time to relax

properly before going to bed?

• Do you have a regular and

consistent sleeping and waking


• Is your bedroom comfortable,

and free from noise and light?

Addressing these areas first can

often help us narrow down what

may be the root cause of our sleep

problems. The next point of call is

assessing the amount of physical

activity we do each day. Regular

aerobic activity calms our bodies

and minds, releasing feel-good

hormones that help us regulate

our moods. Although this doesn’t

mean that you need to hit the gym

for an intensive workout – gentle

activity, such as walking, yoga, or

gardening has the same effect.

As a solution-focused

hypnotherapist, Andrew’s

approach to treating insomnia

in sessions includes a type of

talking therapy that combines

psychotherapy and hypnosis.

During hypnosis, the subject goes

into a ‘trance’, or a natural relaxed

state, using guided relaxation.

Once in this relaxed state, it’s then

possible to focus on mantras,

thoughts, and suggestions that can

help them to cope with the stress

and anxiety that may be causing


Beyond that, Andrew suggests

four key ways to take back the



Talk about the positive aspects of

the day, and celebrate successes.


According to the National Sleep Foundation, certain

foods can work wonders for our sleep quality. Two hours

before bed, try:

Almonds and walnuts. These nuts contain melatonin,

the hormone that regulates our sleep cycle.

Kiwis. Packed with antioxidants, a study from Taipei

Medical University found that eating two kiwis before bed

helped people to fall asleep more quickly, and improved

overall sleep quality too.

Cottage cheese. Rich in amino acid tryptophan – believed

to increase the feel-good hormone serotonin – cottage

cheese can be mixed with fruit for a slumbersome snack.

Your brain triggers thousands

of neurons with every thought.

Repeating the thought process

triggers the same neurons so,

when we make a conscious effort

to recognise the positive things in

life, we build new, helpful thought




What would life be like tomorrow

if you slept well? What would you

be doing differently? What would

friends and colleagues notice

about you? Creating a positive

expectation, and visualising it

happening, will strengthen the

likelihood of a positive outcome.



Create a plan, identify the things

that are easy to change – such as

a regular bedtime and waking

time, avoiding stimulants before

going to bed (e.g. cigarettes and

caffeine), get enough exercise

during the day, create a quiet,

dark, and comfortable bedroom,

and remove all electronic screens.





Seeking out professional support

can be a big step, but has many

lasting benefits – it’s often the start

of real focus and change. Solutionfocused

hypnotherapy can help

you to relieve the symptoms

of insomnia in a positive and

uplifting way.

With so much of our mental

wellness dependent on ensuring

that we get good quality sleep,

it’s time to start taking shuteye

seriously. And the truth is,

it is possible for all of us to get

the sleep we need and deserve.

Whether it’s making a few

small tweaks to your routine, or

embarking on a long-term lifestyle

change, it’s time to stop counting

sheep, and start drifting away to


Andrew Major is a solution-focused

clinical hypnotherapist who

combines psychotherapy and clinical

hypnotherapy techniques, based on

the latest research. Find out more at


A walk on the mild side

From cutting down on anxiety to easing fatigue, studies show again and again just how

powerful walking can be for our wellbeing. To find out more about how placing one foot in

front of the other can boost our health, Happiful’s Kathryn Wheeler joins a guided walking

group, and discovers the perks of putting mindful walking into practice

“ It’s a good job you came today

instead of last week,” is what

I’m greeted with as I arrive

at my local leisure centre, ready

for a gentle excursion with the

guided walking group, Walking

for Health. It’s a chilly but clear

Tuesday morning – a contrast to

the week before when the weather

was reportedly torrential.

I’m here to join the group of

about 15 others on a 50-minute

walk around the town centre. Just

one of more than 1,800 weekly

walks organised by the country’s

largest network of health walks,

Walking for Health. Groups are

free to sign up for, and provide

slow, guided treks over easy

terrain – offering anyone who

needs it the opportunity to

support their mental and physical

health through gentle activity.

We set off, and weave through

the town – following familiar

routes, and ducking down roads

I’ve never explored before. As we

go, the group breaks off into pairs

and threes, conversations about

family and holidays flow easily. As I

speak to people during the walk, so

many tell me that they came for the

exercise, but stay for the company.

Though it’s not just the social

aspect of these groups that support

us. Walking has been shown to

improve our self-perception,

self-esteem, mood, sleep, and

stress levels. In fact, according

to a study by the Department of

Health, those who take part in

daily activity are a staggering

20–30% less at risk of developing

depression. All this considered,

the news that GPs are increasingly

referring patients to schemes such

as these comes as no surprise.

I chat to the group about their

experiences with walking. Each

has their own motivation for being

there that day, but: “It’s a reason to

get out of the house,” keeps coming

up. This sticks with me, because so

often we do feel as though we need

a reason to get outside.

The walk flies by, and soon

it’s time for me to head back to

the office – revitalised by my

morning’s activity, and ready to

take on the rest of the day.

But just under a week later, it’s

a Sunday afternoon and I feel

sluggish. I think about the walk I

went on, and I decide to get out of

the house. I retrace the walk I did

with the group, adding in my own

diversions down routes that take

me further away from the town,

into open countryside.

As I walk, I allow my mind to

wander. I think about all the

things I’m looking forward to in

the busy week I have ahead of

me. And yes, stresses do enter my

head. But as I move on, so does

my mind – and as easily as I’m

taken by a worry, I’m returned to

the moment by the things around

me. Things like the sound of water

running in the stream I cross,

taking care as I navigate slippery

mud on off-road tracks, and later

the hustle and bustle of traffic as

I make my way back through the

town and home again.

Do it alone, with a friend, or with

a group. Explore pastures new, or

etrace a place where you feel

safe. Whatever the speed, no

matter the distance, and wherever

you do it, a walk has the ability to

transform your wellness. But don’t

just take my word for it – tie up

your laces, and get walking.


Find your rhythm. Move at a pace

that feels natural to you, and slow

down or speed up throughout the

walk depending on what feels right.

Notice your body. Take note of

how your feet feel walking over the

ground, and think about the

sensations in your body – are you

relaxed, warm, open?

Bring your mind back to the

present moment. It’s fine to let your

mind wander a little, but if you’re

struggling to take in the walk try

counting your steps in sets of 10.

Take in the world around you.

Notice the smells, sounds, and

sensations of the environment you’re

walking in. How does the air feel on

your skin?

Reflect on your walk. As your walk

comes to an end, consider how the

experience has made you feel. Are

there lessons you can take and apply

to the rest of your life?

‘Those who take part in daily activity

are a staggering 20–30% less at risk

of developing depression’

Find free guided walking groups

in your area, and discover more

about the organisation by visiting


How to enjoy yourself while living

with mental illness

People often assume that those living with mental illness are, or should be, miserable all the

time, and hidden away at home. But this stigma needs to end. Living with mental ill-health is

difficult enough, without feeling guilty for experiencing a good day once in a while...

Writing | Katie Conibear Illustrating | Rosan Magar

Mental illness isn’t

linear – how you’re

feeling can change

from day to day, and

week to week. It can

be a struggle to live with, manage,

and/or recover from. Then there

will also be times when, although

we may be ill, we feel we can go

out and enjoy ourselves.

But often the stigma we

encounter can stop us from

making the most of these

moments. I’ve experienced this

myself. I’ve worried people will

think I’m faking my illness if I’m

seen smiling or laughing. When

I’ve had periods of time off work

because of my mental health, I’ve

been anxious about being seen

on an evening out and a colleague

not understanding that I happen

to be having a good day. With 15%

of employees who disclosed

mental health issues to

their line manager

reporting being


dismissed or demoted, it’s no

wonder we worry about other

people’s reactions.

I have positive days when I can

laugh and dance and socialise.

What people don't see are the

bad days when I can't get out of

bed, have suicidal feelings, or am

hearing voices.

But we shouldn’t feel guilty for

times of relief or happiness – and,

in fact, we should try to embrace

those moments when we can. I’ve

learned that I can do the things

I enjoy, even though I live with a

mental illness. Here are four tips

I’ve discovered that help me to do

just that...


Everyone has good days and bad

days. When living with mental

illness however, the better days

can seem fleeting. When I have

that inkling of stability, I embrace

it. That party I was invited to a

couple of weeks ago that I was

going to turn down, I’ll go to. That

coffee date I tentatively wrote

in my diary, I won’t think twice

about not going. Socialising is an

important part of maintaining a

healthy mind, so I see it as part

of managing my mental illness.

When you’re in the midst of a

particularly bad day, you can look

back at those good days and know

they will come back again. Write

down the good things you did that

day and put them in a jar. When

you need to, pick a note from the

jar and read it. This will remind

you of what you are capable of and

can look forward to when you’re

feeling well again.


Understanding your limits is

an important part of managing

mental illness. If you know coffee

makes you anxious, or alcohol

disrupts your medication, stick

with a soft drink. And while we

should make the most of the good

days, over-estimating how much

we can do can cause problems

later on. Fitting everything in, and

trying to please everyone, can be

draining, so I make sure I schedule

rest days. Plus, enjoying yourself

doesn’t always mean going out – it

can be as simple as snuggling on

the sofa watching your favourite

film! Ultimately, it’s important

to remember that your health is

worth far more than trying to do

too much.


Guilt is synonymous with mental

ill-health. It can be a tough habit to

break, because it’s so intertwined

with mental illness. I’ve realised

that I need to allow myself to enjoy

life, when I can. Just because I live

with mental illness, it doesn’t mean

I have to act as if I’m miserable

every single day. Give yourself a

break – mental illness is hard work

and you deserve to enjoy yourself.

Talking through feelings of guilt,

either with close friends or family,

a therapist or doctor, can help you

understand this negative thinking.

If this is particularly difficult for

you, you might want to explore

cognitive behavioural therapy

(CBT), which challenges negative

ways of thinking.


Lean on your ‘go-to’ friends. That

small, core group of people that

you can talk to easily. They’ll know

you well and understand that

sometimes you have to cancel, but

other times you’re chatty and happy.

I’ve learned that there is a small

group of people in my life that I

can trust implicitly. I’ve explained

my feelings of guilt to them, and

how I worry they’ll think less of

me if I go out. I’ve told them that

my health comes first, and that

sometimes I need to limit what I

do to stay healthy. If they’re true

friends, they will understand and

support you through the good days,

and the bad.

Katie Conibear is a freelance writer,

focusing on mental health. She blogs

at stumblingmind.com and has a

podcast, ‘A Life Lived Vividly’, with

a focus on hearing voices.





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Helping you find the help you need.

Walking in a

winter wonderland

Is there anything that gets you more in the festive spirit than immersing yourself in

a good Christmas market? Whether you love exploring the stalls, or are there for the

magical atmosphere and an excuse for mulled wine, taking a walk around these

markets is a December treat filled with fun and making memories. So, to help you

uncover some must-visit gems, we’ve put together a list of seven markets that would

be ideal for a winter wander…


Markets are great for trinkets and

special festive pieces, but one

of the best bits of Christmas is

undoubtedly the delicious food

on offer, too. And at this festival

in the beautiful Cornish town of

Padstow, your tastebuds will be


Alongside the 100 food and drink

stalls, and live music, you can

pick up tips and tricks to take your

Christmas dinner to the next level

from pros such as Rick Stein, Paul

Ainsworth, and Nathan Outlaw.

5–8 December. Padstow, Cornwall

Be sure to check

event websites

for prices, and

more info!




With more than 25 independent

and zero-waste brands, this popup

market is the place to go for

all the usual treats of a Christmas

Market, but with an eco-friendly

twist. With stalls, entertainment,

and of course mulled wine, there

are also chances to pick up ecofriendly

gifts, and talks on living

sustainably at Christmas. Plus get

crafty at workshops, including

wreath making, and creating

DIY beeswax food wraps. 29 and

30 November 2019. Oxford Road,

Manchester >>>



You’ll feel transported to a regal

fairytale at this incredible market

set against the stunning backdrop

of Blenheim Palace. With wooden

chalet stalls to tempt you in,

the best festive surprise is the

Illuminated Light Trail, which

will captivate kids and grownups

alike. Explore the Tunnel

of Light featuring 100,000 tea

lights, the Laser Garden, and the

scented Fire Garden. 22 November

to 15 December. Blenheim Palace,




You’ll have great expectations

for this annual celebration of all

things Charles Dickens – and don’t

worry, you won’t be disappointed.

Be transported back to Victorian

times as the village of Grassington

transforms for two weekends.

With villagers and visitors in full

costume this event has a magical

atmosphere, full of character, with

street entertainment, buskers, and

of course the traditional market.

30 November, 1 December, 7 and 8

December. Grassington, Yorkshire


The Welsh valleys will be alive

with the sound of music as on 19

December National Trust property

Newton House invites everyone

for a wonderful evening of carol

singing. But don’t worry if you can’t

make this date! There are plenty

of Christmas activities throughout

the month, with Christmas tours,

chances to hear winter stories,

or making you own festive

decorations. And if you need some

fresh air after feasting, they host

a Boxing Day walk, too. December.

Newton House, Dinefwr, Wales


For something a little different,

take a trip to the stunning

Chatsworth House, and explore

the globe on a special festive

adventure. Be guided on a

trip through a Nordic winter

wonderland, through blossom

trees in Japan, to a baroque

Portuguese church. There’s the

traditional Christmas market too,

with more than 100 stalls in the

farmyard with handmade gifts

and festive food galore.

9 November 2019 to 5 January 2020

for the guided Christmas adventure,

and 15 November to 3 December

for the market. Chatsworth House,


Looking for more things to

do in December? Check out

Happiful's top 10 things

to do this month!



For those looking for plenty of

activities and a buzz in the air,

this annual festive extravaganza

is ideal for locals, and worth the

commute for those further afield.

There are Bavarian beer tents, and

bratwurst galore, plus hundreds

of stalls, rides and activities.

Entry is free, but be sure to book

events in advance such as the ice

sculpture maze, the ever popular

ice skating rink, or the comedy

club to avoid disappointment. 21

November 2019 to 5 January 2020.

Hyde Park, London



Just hear those sleigh bells jingling as we enter into the festive season with the

perfect winter skincare, a magical Christmas lights experience, and thousands of

Santas running across London

Images | Kew Gardens: Alena Veasey / Shutterstock.com, Easy Eco Tips: Instagram: @easyecotips



Modern Flexitarian

Are you conscious about making

more sustainable meal choices,

but not ready to commit to a

full vegan lifestyle? With 100

plant-packed recipes, Modern

Flexitarian provides smart

choices to help make your meals

more eco-friendly, while still

being able to enjoy dairy, eggs,

and meat now and then.




(Out 5 December, DK, £20)



Christmas at Kew

Experience the magic of Christmas

at Kew, with a sparkling after dark

trail. Follow the path of more than one

million twinkling lights, illuminating

the beautiful trees and buildings

throughout Kew Gardens. Keep an eye out for Santa and his elves on the way!

(Wednesday 20 November 2019 to Sunday 5 January 2020.

For more information visit kew.org)

Snow White and the

Seven Dwarfs

Nothing says Christmas quite like a

pantomime! Enjoy Snow White and

the Seven Dwarfs at The Alhambra

Theatre, Bradford, starring Strictly

Come Dancing 2018 finalist Faye

Tozer, and family TV

favourite Paul Chuckle.

Pantomimes will be

coming to theatres

across the UK, find one

near you to join in the


(Saturday 14 December

2019 to Sunday 26 January

2020. To book tickets, head

to bradford-theatres.co.uk)


Easy Eco tips

Highlighting the small

changes you can

make to live a more

sustainable life, this green blog

shares a new tip every day on how

you can help protect the planet,

from changing

your tea bags to


up litter.




on Instagram)



Get rewards for

recycling your

unwanted clothes!

Simply pack up your

clothes, send them to

one of 25,000 locations

in the UK, and get

access to discount

codes so you can

restock your wardrobe.

What better reason to

finally say goodbye to

the old clothes you’ve

been holding on to?

(Download from the App Store and

Google Play, find out more at


Continues >>>

Kindness is like snow, it

beautifies everything it covers




6 8


‘Fashion Fix with Charli


Model and activist Charli

Howard’s new podcast is all about

helping you get your fashion fix, while

also looking after the planet – and

other people. With a new episode

every Friday, Charli and her guests talk

all things fashion, from sustainable

clothing to body positivity.

(Find out more at bbc.co.uk, and

listen to the podcast on the BBC

Sounds app)


Christmas Jumper Day

It’s time to dig out your winter woollies for Save the

Children’s Christmas Jumper Day! Whether you’re at school,

work, or with family, you can take part to help raise money for children

in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities. Help make the

world better with

a sweater.

(13 December, sign up

for your fundraising kit at



Images | Santa run: londonsantarun.co.uk, Cats: Universal Pictures - © 2019 Universal Pictures



Hitting our screens

in December is the film

adaptation of Andrew Lloyd

Webber’s beloved musical,

Cats. Featuring a star-studded

cast including Jennifer Hudson,

Idris Elba and James Corden,

Cats is set to have you feline

fine this winter.


(In cinemas 20 December)



The Body Shop Hand Cream

The cold weather can often bring with it dry skin, so it’s

essential to keep your mitts moisturised. The Body Shop

offers a range of ethical hand creams, and being kind to the environment is

at the heart of its values. With a huge selection of scents, from Almond Milk

and Honey to Pink Grapefruit, you’ll be spoilt for choice.

(Available in stores and online, £5)

Win a selection of hand creams from The Body Shop!

What classic Christmas film was most successful at the box office?

a) How the Grinch Stole Christmas b) Home Alone c) The Polar Express

To enter, email your answer to competitions@happiful.com

UK mainland only, entries close 19 December 2019.


Skyline’s London Santa Run

Step into Christmas as thousands

of Santas take to the streets for

London’s largest Santa Run.

Choose between the 5K or 10K

routes at Victoria Park in east

London, and get fundraising for

your chosen charity. Recover after

the race in true Santa style – with

mince pies and Christmas carols.

(8 December, £25 registration fee for

adults, £10 for children under 15, find

out more at londonsantarun.co.uk)



Putting yourself on your to-do list




A few honest answers about yourself can help you find out what’s going

on inside – and provide an early warning of problems in the future

Writing | Fiona Thomas

The symptoms of mental illness are

no joke. If you’ve never experienced

them before, the effects can feel earthshattering.

After a bout of anxiety, I feel

like I’ve been hit by a bus. I’ve also dealt

with dissociation, panic attacks, palpitations, and

complete exhaustion, to name a few. But I always

ask myself the same thing when I’m at my absolute

lowest: how didn’t I see this coming?

Spotting the precursors to mental illness may not stop

the inevitable, but it can encourage you to ask for help

sooner, and implement some damage control. Being

aware of the red flags takes practice, but self-reflective

questions can help you unearth what’s really going on.

Catherine Asta Labbett, award-winning female-focused

psychotherapist at bringingsparkleback.co.uk, helped

me pull this list together, and has shared her expert

insights, with us.

88 • happiful • December 2019



Try not to judge your answers, or feel bad about what you uncover, just be honest. You could try using these

as journal prompts. Psychotherapists say that expressive writing is helpful for those who do not typically

express emotions, or have a past trauma. You could also try picking one question, and use it as part of a

meditation practice to help block out external noise and think clearly.


If you’re pushing one aspect of your life into a box, then

try to figure out why this might be the case. ‘Avoidance

coping’ can typically lead to increased anxiety, so if

you’re unable to do the thing that’s worrying you, it

could be the start of a slippery slope.



Not getting enjoyment out of life is a key indicator of

poor mental health, so try to schedule in activities

that have made you happy in the past. Catherine

says: “There is a growing body of scientific research

out there which has found that happiness can make

our hearts healthier, our immune system stronger,

and our lives longer. Focus on the things that bring

you joy.” I personally prioritise things that involve

socialising with friends, moving my body, and

experiencing nature.


According to Catherine, self-nourishment is the deeper layer of self-care. “It’s doing

the things that nourish your mind, body, and soul, and it’s a daily practice.” Maybe your

exercise and healthy eating is on top form, but how are you feeding your soul? This

could be belly-laughing with your best mate, or expressing yourself creatively through

dancing, writing, or painting. “It’s about recognising and believing and being mindful

that you matter, and your needs matter,” says Catherine.


has found that

happiness can

make our hearts



Taking stock of the future is a helpful way to gauge how you’re doing, because feelings of

hopelessness go hand-in-hand with depression. Try to plan something in the next few days that you

can look forward to, such as starting a new book, visiting family, or a day trip to the beach.

Continues >>>

December 2019 • happiful • 89

Putting yourself on your to-do list


Try not to be too hard on yourself here, but look at your physical self and analyse if you’ve truly been

taking care of yourself. Are you showering daily? Are you eating a balanced diet? How about exercise?

It’s unrealistic to expect yourself to be nailing every aspect of your personal care 100% of the time,

and as Catherine says: “Only you know what personal care looks and feels like to you.” Imagine your

personal care is a barometer. “If it’s creeping into the red, then it’s a good opportunity to explore why.”

Low self-esteem can be a cause, and a symptom, of mental illness, so be kind to yourself here, no

matter what conclusion you arrive at.

90 • happiful • December 2019



Burnout can make you feel like you’re on a never-ending treadmill, constantly fighting fires and

getting nowhere. As this escalates, you might feel completely overwhelmed by even the smallest

of tasks. “Stress, without a doubt, lowers your ability to cope with life,” says Catherine. “Feeling

overwhelmed is a sign of overload. Each and every one of us has our own tipping point.” Try not to

compare your current abilities to that of your past self, as this leads to a negative thought cycle that

could make you feel worse. If you feel like you can’t regain control of life on your own, ask for help.



We often expose our vulnerabilities to our

friends and family without even realising it. Are

you holding it together at work, but letting out

your frustrations at home? Be aware of signs of

irritability or tearfulness, as this can be a sign

of burnout. Who are your sparkly people? The

ones who make you feel validated? Keep them

close, to fill up your cup.

‘Avoidance coping’ can lead to increased

anxiety, so if you’re unable to do the

thing that’s worrying you, it could be

the start of a slippery slope


This is something that crops up for me quite

regularly. My husband asks what I want

for dinner and I can’t answer. My brain

draws a blank, and I’m filled with a sense of

dread when I’m asked to vocalise a choice.

Does this sound familiar? Indecisiveness

is a symptom of burnout, anxiety, and

depression. Catherine says when our heads

are full, our ability to make decisions can

become impaired. “Rest, as in restorative rest

– sleep, disconnecting from technology and

social media and work – enables our minds to

recalibrate. Rest is soul food.”


Write down a few key bullet points based

on your answers. Is there any remedial

action you can take right now to ease

any negative feelings? For example, if

your personal care is a glaring issue,

can you set aside the evening to have a

shower, wash your hair, and change your


Talk to someone you trust. Explain

how you’re feeling to a friend or

family member who understands, and

consider talking to your employer or HR

representative if you have work-related


Get professional advice.

If one or more of these

questions is giving you cause

for concern, don’t hesitate

to talk to your GP. Make a

few notes based on your

answers and take these

into your appointment.

Having your symptoms

written down will give you

the confidence to open

up, and give your doctor

a clear indication of your

current mental state.

To find out your mental health score, go to


December 2019 • happiful • 91

The Body:

A guide for occupants

If humans came with manuals, Bill Bryson’s latest foray into how the

body works would be the quick-start guide we’d all want (and need)



Writing | Bonnie Evie Gifford

I’ve never

been a fan of

science-y books.

For someone

who enjoys reading

textbooks for fun (don’t

judge, we all have our

quirks), when it comes

to the more scientific

side of things, I tend

to switch off. If you’ve

ever felt the same way,

Bill Bryson’s latest book

might just be able to

change that.

What’s it about?

Have you ever thought

your body should

come with an owner’s

manual? If it did, I’m

pretty sure The Body:

A Guide for Occupants

would be the volume

you’d pick.

We all live in our

bodies, yet how many of

us really know how all

the parts are connected?

Or, frankly, what they’re

all called, much less

what they do. In his

latest book, Bryson has

successfully turned a

daunting, heavy subject

into something not

only understandable,

but entertaining and


Best known for his

travel books and the

award-winning A

Short History of Nearly

Everything, Bryson’s

latest book aims to help

us understand how our

bodies work, evoking

a rare sense of wonder

and awe.

Back to basics and

exploring unknowns

Weaving in anecdotes

and personal

experiences, Bryson

manages to make a

tricky subject feel

educational, without

seeming pompous. In

the audiobook version,

available via Audible,

Bryson narrates the

book himself, taking

listeners on a journey

into the wonders

and evolutions of the

body through history,

and how we have

come to our modern

understanding of how

our bodies work.

Refreshingly, Bryson

never pretends that

scientists have all the

answers. Embracing the

many mysteries that still

surround our anatomy,

he speaks of common

quirks – such as why

we have goosebumps,

fingerprints, and pubic

hair, and why we blush

when we are angry.

The dark side of

medical advancements

In places, The Body: A

guide for occupants may

have the potential to be

triggering. Rather than

shying away from some

of the darker corners

in medicine’s history,

Bryson speaks candidly

on topics such as

lobotomies. He quotes

letters that share

first-hand accounts of

seeing and performing

the procedure, which

had few benefits for

patients, and led to

many deaths.

It’s a fascinating and

stark reminder of

how far mental health

care, treatment, and

understanding has

come – and how far it

still has to go.

As well as exploring

the many sides of

mental health history,

Bryson looks at

uncomfortable past

views on race, gender,

and intelligence. He

explores outdated ideas,

such as how, in early

criminal anthropology,

the shape and size of

one’s head was thought

to signal if you were a

criminal or not.

It’s all in the details

Whether you’re listening

to the audiobook, or

picking up a copy in

print, you’re bound to

come across numerous

surprising details.

Take, for example, your

eyebrows – as Bryson

points out, they have no

real known evolutionary

purpose; theorists

suggest they help to keep

sweat out of our eyes, or

perhaps they developed

to help us communicate

without words.

A single arch of your

eyebrows can show

disbelief, caution, or

suggest attraction.

According to Bryson,

the Mona Lisa looks so

enigmatic because she

lacks eyebrows (please

say I’m not the only one

who didn’t notice that?).

The importance of


One area I feel is

important to highlight,

is the potentially

triggering language

used around suicide.

Several times Bryson

speaks about the act of

‘committing’ suicide.

While this is still an

(unfortunately) common

turn of phrase, there are

numerous guidelines on

the best ways to write

about suicide.

While it doesn’t feel

like the author intends

to offend, it stands out as

a missed opportunity to

focus on the importance

of language sensitivity.

Speaking about suicide

can be a challenge; by

using the term ‘commit’,

journalists, authors,

and other professionals,

risk stigmatising those

who have attempted or

completed suicide.

As Natasha Devon

explains in The Mental

Health Media Charter,

the terms ‘commit’

or ‘successful’ suicide

“suggests criminality

and blame. We now

understand that suicide

happens when pain

exceeds resources for

coping with pain. It is

not a criminal act in

the UK, and has not

been since 1961. The

best alternative is ‘died

by suicide’, ‘attempted/

completed suicide’ or

‘took/ended their own


Should I read it?

Setting aside any issues

around language

sensitivities, I would

thoroughly recommend

The Body. A heavy

subject to be sure, and

while the narrative lacks

some of the author’s

famous wit, Bryson still

offers a sense of charm

and wonder that is

bound to spark curiosity

in many readers.

Balancing details with

interesting anecdotes,

we’re given just

enough information

to intrigue without

becoming bogged

down. Whether you’ve

already got a solid basis

of knowledge, or are

looking to dip your

toe into the world of

more scientific reading,

The Body: A Guide for

Occupants is sure to

teach you something


If you liked this, you’ll love...

A Short History

of Nearly


by Bill Bryson

Join Bryson on his quest to

understand everything from

the Big Bang to the rise of

civilization. Journey through

geology, chemistry, and particle

physics, in a refreshingly

comprehensive way.

The Remarkable

Life of the Skin

by Monty Lyman

How does our diet affect

our skin? What makes our

skin age? Why can’t we

tickle ourselves? We live in

it every day, yet how much

do we really know about

our skin?



Talking to


by Malcolm


Why do we so often get other

people wrong? Why is it so

hard to detect lies, read faces,

and judge motives? This book

explores encounters from

history, psychology, and

infamous legal cases.

The Body: A Guide

for Occupants by Bill



• Readers looking for

accessible scientific


• Fans of Bill Bryson

• Non-fiction


Photography | Andi Rieger

Don’t count the days,

“make the days count

94 • happiful.com • November 2019 – MUHAMMAD ALI


How music

inspired me to

stop self-harming

Years of depression, bullying, and low self-esteem

left Abbie struggling with her mental health – until

a singer and her songs gave her the inspiration and

strength to turn things around

Writing | Abbie Foster

For as long

as I could


I wanted my

life to end.

That was until an unlikely

hero, a pop star, changed


While I was growing up,

I’d always felt out of place

– as if I was surviving

instead of living. I was

depressed and unhappy

with every aspect of my

appearance. It seemed

to be a constant state of

mind, that I just thought

was normal. I thought it

was how my brain was

going to be forever. I soon

believed there was only

one way out.

It seemed to everyone

around me that my life

was good. I was just a

normal kid, excited about

the future. No one saw

the signs, no one saw

the constant battle I was

having with myself about

the way I looked. I guess it

was only a matter of time

before the rollercoaster

that was my life would

make me sicker.

I was bullied at school,

sending me further into

the black hole that I’d

always foreseen. By the

time I was 15, I’d had

people threatening me,

telling me to kill myself or

they’d do it for me. I felt

unwanted everywhere, I

had nowhere to be safe.

So, I turned against

myself, thinking that there

must be something wrong

with me if that’s what

everyone else thought. I

don’t know where I got the

idea to self-harm from,

but it soon became my


It started with a rubber

band on my wrist, and

when that didn’t satisfy

my need, I turned to more

serious methods, scarring

my arms and my legs. I

felt my life was spiralling

towards the final stage.

This was my life until at 18,

something – or should I

say, someone – came along

and changed it.

It was January 2014, and

was like any other day. I

was sitting in my mum’s

car, the radio was on. A

song started, one I’d heard

before, but this time it was

like hearing the words

and message for the first

time. It was ‘Skyscraper’,

by American singersongwriter

Demi Lovato.

I started to cry – hiding

it from my mum, who

had no idea of what I

was feeling, or what was

happening in my life. That

day, my life changed.

Later, at home, I was

feeling terrible. I was

about to self-harm,

when something clicked

in my brain. I wanted

this night to be better. I

searched online for the

song that had given me


Once again, my tears

began. The video ended,

and I was directed to Demi

Lovato’s ‘Believe In Me’. I

clicked the song, and the

lyrics explained much of

what I was feeling:

‘I don’t wanna be afraid

I wanna wake up feeling

beautiful today

And know that I’m OK

’Cause everyone’s perfect

in unusual ways

You see, I just wanna

believe in me’ >>>

December 2019 • happiful.com • 95

Once that song ended,

I found myself looking

again for inspiration, and

Demi’s song ‘Warrior’

came up. I clicked it,

looking for strength, and

the lyrics touched me

unlike anything before:

In difficult times Abbie looked to

Demi’s song ‘ Warrior’ for strength

‘Now I’m a warrior, now

I’ve got thicker skin

I’m a warrior, I’m stronger

than I’ve ever been

And my armour is made of

steel, you can’t get in

I’m a warrior, and you can

never hurt me again’

At this point I was a

mess, overwhelmed by the

raw lyrics. I looked at the

screen, and what caught

my eye shocked me: ‘Demi

Lovato opens up about

self-harm’. I clicked the

video, shaking, crying, as I

listened to Demi describe

what I had been doing,

how it had felt.

I was floored. This

woman, who’d I’d only

known as a Disney

Channel princess, had in

just a few songs and an

interview, explained what

I had wanted to say for

years. Her honesty gave

me hope to continue. That

moment changed my life.

I started to work on

myself, becoming more

and more infatuated

with Demi’s message of

positivity and hope. I

learnt with every song

that I, too, could be a

warrior. I was doing well,

my self-harm became

controllable, my brain

wasn’t in a constant state

of failure.

A few months passed

and I was 100 days clean.

I celebrated by getting

‘Now I’m A Warrior’

tattooed across my heart.

At this time, I was talking

to a friend who lived

in America. We’d met

on Twitter as she, too,

was a Lovatic (the name

for Demi’s fans). I had

arranged to visit her that

September, but didn’t

know that her mum had

paid for me to go to Demi’s

concert in North Carolina,

and to a meet and greet!

I was absolutely shocked

that someone could do

something so incredible

for me, so life-changing.

Abbie meeting Demi Lovato

This woman, who’d I’d only

known as a Disney Channel

princess, had in just a few songs

and an interview, explained what

I had wanted to say for years

96 • happiful.com • December 2019

The day came. We lined

up for the meet and greet,

and from behind a curtain

we could hear this voice

we’d heard so many times

before. Then, it was my


Demi: Hi!

Me: Hello…

D: Aw [Pointing at Now I’m

A Warrior], you have the

same tattoo as me!

M: Yeah, and I have the

Lovatic heart on my wrist!

D: That’s so cool.

M: Yeah, I got them for

being 100 days clean...

D: That’s amazing! Well


M: Thank you so much.

D: You don’t sound

like you’re from North


M: No, I’m English.

D: Oh my God, that’s so

cool! Thank you! [Hugs me


Then we take the picture

and I reluctantly leave.

I went home with the

biggest of hearts, and the

memory that Demi was

proud of me.

But the next month,

everything came crashing

down. I had been fighting

the urge to self-harm, but I

couldn’t fight the thoughts

anymore, and they won.

A few days later, I was

feeling so mad at myself,

thinking people would be

disappointed in me. But

then something clicked – I

wasn’t going to let this win

again. I challenged myself

to beat my previous clean

record, and I did! That was

the last time I self-harmed.

In January 2015, I

decided to speak up, and

made my first video. It

gained thousands of views

overnight, with people

from school apologising,

and sending their love.

I decided to keep posting

videos on my Facebook

page (Abbie Foster’s

StayStrong), and began

reaching out to charities

and the media to share my

story of hope and recovery.

I was finally feeling good,

with minimal depression,

no suicidal thoughts, and a

new joy for life.

I started working with

an incredible charity

called Fixers that really

supported me, and gave

me the confidence to do

anything! Since then, I’ve

worked with organisations,

including the NHS and the

BBC, sharing my story and

using it to inspire others.

Today I love my life, I

have the most incredible

boyfriend, friends, and

family, who support my

dreams. I have a great

outlook about my future,

and I can’t wait to see what

I do next.

Recovery and positivity

are incredible things. Once

you open your mind to

the possibility of a great

life, amazing things can

happen! You’ve got this.

Stay strong, always.

Today I love my life, I have the most

incredible boyfriend, friends, and

family, who support my dreams


Abbie always struggled

with accepting herself, and

bulling at school would

intensify these feelings

of isolation and selfloathing.

She expressed

this through self-harm,

her methods becoming

more severe over time. A

chance encounter with

a song changed the way

that she felt. She found

that the music, and lyrics

expressed how she felt.

She discovered the artist

Abbie and her my fiancé Greg

had struggled with selfharm

and was inspired to

change. Despite a relapse,

she makes a success of

staying strong and sober.

Abbie’s journey shows us

how sharing your story in

song, in person or writing

can be a

comfort and

an inspiration

for another’s


Graeme Orr | MBACP (Accred) UKRCP

Reg Ind counsellor

December 2019 • happiful.com • 97

Mental health


As a crisis volunteer for the mental

health text support service, Shout,

Mathew Kollamkulam knows how

vital it is to reach out for help when you

need it. Here, he shares his insight, how

best to be there for someone, and just

how rewarding his role is

Follow Shout on



and Mathew


Mental health matters to me

because… it’s just as important

as my physical health. It can

lead to unemployment, financial

struggles, broken relationships,

and ultimately, loss of life.

When I need support I… tell myself

that there’s no shame in asking

for help, only an admirable

regard for one’s own wellbeing,

and a fearless determination to

get better.

When I need some self-care, I...

like spending time alone. I watch

Netflix while eating ice cream.

The book I turn to time and again

is… Scarlett Curtis’ It’s Not OK to

Feel Blue (and other lies), which

I had the incredible privilege

of contributing to. For around

a month, I’ve been reading an

essay from the book every night.

It’s helps me understand how

normal it is to struggle with

mental health, even for people

we might think have it all. Being

a neuroscience student and

enthusiast, I also love The Tell-Tale

Brain by V S Ramachandran.

The best lesson I’ve learned in life

is... it never hurts to be kind. We

don’t know what someone else is

going through, or what impact a

simple act of kindness can have

on their day.

Three things I would say to

someone experiencing mental

ill-health are…

1) You are not alone.

2) Asking for help when you

need it is the bravest and

kindest thing you can do for


3) Your mental illness doesn’t

define you – you are so much

more than your anxiety, your

depression, or your feelings of

hopelessness. There’s a lot in

you that the mental illness tricks

you into believing isn’t there

anymore – your interests, your

talents, your sense of humour.

You are unique.

The moment I felt most proud of

myself was... finishing my first

ever conversation with a texter

on Shout. The texter thanked me

for being there for them at their

lowest point.

If you want to support someone

who’s struggling, my best advice

is... listen intently to what they

say. Then, tell them it’s OK to

feel the way they feel – it’s OK

to feel hopeless, exhausted,

frustrated or devastated. It’s

understandable. Tell them you

believe them. You realise how

difficult it might have been for

them to open up and that they’ve

done the right thing by doing

so. Don’t offer to solve all their

problems – you can’t. But offer to

support them, and be there for

them when they want to talk, or

vent, or need any help.

For anyone thinking about

volunteering, I’d say... do it!

Shout only asks for two hours of

commitment every week. They

provide excellent training with

a dedicated coach, and you’re

always supported while taking

conversations on the platform.

By volunteering, you can have

a real impact on people’s lives.

Each conversation on Shout

shows me how strong and

resilient people are, even when

they’re in a dark place.

Image | Shout

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Edited by Natasha Devon MBE





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