Jay Blades on restoring hope in the community and the importance of human connection

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Host of The Repair Shop, Jay Blades, joins Happiful to talk about the amazing ability to mend anything, even ourselves, with the help of community, human connection, and conversation

Jay Blades on restoring hope in the community and the importance of human connection

Jay Blades is visibly buzzing with energy when he pops up on the screen from his agent’s central London office. The past month has been hectic for him, he says, but in the best way possible. He’s received an MBE for his services to craft, The Repair Shop has returned for its 10th series, and No Place Like Home, a fantastic new documentary series about his childhood home, Hackney, has recently aired.

Making It: How Love, Kindness and Community Helped Me Repair My Life, Jay’s autobiographical book, has also recently been published in paperback. It’s a warm, honest, and open account of everything that’s brought him to the point he’s at today. It charts his struggle with mental ill-health, the people and places that brought him back to a place of wellness, his relationships, and deep love of mending and making good of objects and situations that others might write off.

“I don’t like to give up on people or things,” Jay says emphatically on this subject. “I believe that everything can be repaired, and it might take a little while – I know on The Repair Shop we normally do it in 15 minutes, but in the real world it could take anything between a day and six months to repair an item. If you’re ‘repairing’ somebody, it could take their whole life.”

Jay knows this concept personally, and draws on his own experience, including actively contemplating suicide seven years ago.

“I needed repairing at 45, and I’m still repairing myself,” he says, with raw honesty. “I’m still looking around to make sure that I manage my mental health, and stay strong physically, too. I do that with the support of other people, who make sure that I eat right, I sleep enough, and so on. I listen to those people, because I’m vulnerable and I’m not as strong as I believed I used to be.”

Jay’s clear that maintaining wellbeing isn’t a lone project for anybody. “The reality is that we need people to help us repair us, because if you fall down again, who are you going to speak to? You can’t speak to yourself if you’re in a dark place. You need that community.”

The concept and impact of community fascinates Jay, and he’s explored this further in his recent documentary. Over three hour-long episodes, he learns about the history of the streets he walked as a boy, meets old friends and local heroes, and wonders at the incredible events and unbelievable injustices that took place mere minutes and miles from where he played as
a child.

Jay Blades on restoring hope in the community and the importance of human connection

Hackney, he says, has left an indelible mark on his heart, and helped him to form the unshakeable ethos he has when it comes to community support and giving back. He explains that he’s benefitted from the support of so many people at different stages in his life that it’s on

Reading relatable stories has positive effect on LGBTQ+ community

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A new study reveals the power of feeling seen and heard for LGBTQ+ people

Reading relatable stories has positive effect on LGBTQ+ community

Mainstream literature has a history of underrepresenting LGBTQ+ characters, choosing not to include them and centring heteronormative characters instead. Despite this, there is a history of LGBTQ+ literature that dates back to Ancient Rome and Greece, it’s just rarely taught. For example, did you know that same-sex partnerships have been found in Homer’s Iliad, Plato’s Symposium and Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and The Merchant of Venice?

A new study from biography writing service StoryTerrace has found that 65% of those in the LGBTQ+ community say reading stories they can relate to has a positive impact on their mental health. 49% also said they felt lonely and isolated because they rarely heard about people who were going through the same things they were.

Interestingly, it wasn’t just reading relatable stories that made a difference, the study also found that writing had a positive impact, with 48% in the community saying writing creatively about their experiences allowed them to understand themselves better. 34% also noted that journaling has been the most beneficial aid to their mental health to date.

Being seen in mainstream media is key, but so is being heard through writing. Gay author Roger Moreau wrote his life story with StoryTerrace and says it means a lot to him to be able to share his story, “Having written a manuscript of my life growing up in such a personal way and not being able to find the words to put it together, to now having it written in a way that makes me feel understood is amazing.”

In response to the representation of LGBTQ+ people in literature, Moreau says we’ve come a long way.

“When I was a teenager, seeing a gay character on television was rare. If you did see a gay character, it was mostly portrayed as something negative. It was either the person who was sick and dying from an illness or was a victim of gay-bashing. Today, there is so much acceptance and support - I absolutely love reading LGBTQIA+ memoirs and stories of someone overcoming adversity. It shows that there is hope, and to keep on going, no matter what you are going through in life.”


LGBTQ+ memoirs and stories to explore

Fairest by Meredith Talusan

This memoir explores Meredith’s life, from being a child sitcom star in the Philippines to an award-winning writer. Discussing themes of love, being an outcast and gender, this is a poignant memoir to add to your list.

We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir by Samra Habib

From growing up in fear of her safety in Pakistan to facing new challenges as a refugee in Canada, Samra writes about experiences of racism, faith, art and sexuality.

To be a Gay Man by Will Young

Best known for winning Pop Idol, Will takes us back to his early years to discuss internalised shame, low self-esteem and what helped in this memoir.

In Their Shoes by Jamie Windust

Calling for non-binary self-acceptance and self-celebration, Jamie’s book discusses fashion, dating, mental health and the challenges face

Greenwashing: what is it and how is it preventing businesses from making a real difference to our planet?

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Getting to grips with how brands are twisting eco values for big business

Greenwashing: what is it and how is it preventing businesses from making a real difference to our planet?

We’ve all seen it: products claiming to be ‘sustainably-sourced’, ‘carbon neutral’, or ‘environmentally-friendly’. But when might a seemingly positive policy actually be a bad thing? This is where greenwashing comes in, and it’s something we need to flush out.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, searches for ‘sustainable’ goods have increased 71% since 2016, and as awareness of our individual impact on the planet grows, the public is placing more emphasis on corporations to do their bit, too. While this mounting pressure may have prompted some legitimately positive steps in businesses, for others, the scrutiny has led to a rise in ‘greenwashing’, AKA the easy way out.

Rather than choosing to transform their whole business in order to reduce pollution, these companies put their money behind marketing campaigns intended to portray themselves and their products as being more environmentally friendly than they actually are.

While the phrase was established in the 1980s by environmentalist Jay Westerveld, it’s gained traction in recent years as more and more people are seeing it play out, with companies using the idea of being eco-conscious as a marketing ploy to gain customers and their trust, while, in reality, their efforts to be more sustainable might be sincerely lacking. In effect, it’s style over substance; paying lip-service to how important environmental values are, without actually doing the legwork to back it up and take action.

What does greenwashing look like in the real world?

You’ll undoubtedly have seen it, even if it flew under your radar – perhaps with fast fashion brands whose alleged sustainability promises couldn’t hold water, or airlines with misleading ‘low emission’ claims.

But some of the most notorious examples can be seen in a L’Oreal campaign from 2019 that caused controversy for claiming its range to be ‘vegan’, while continuing to carry out animal testing in markets such as China. Or the famous rebranding of BP in 2000 to ‘Beyond Petroleum’, changing its logo to a green and yellow sunflower, and pledging to invest in renewable energy. Yet, by 2018, clean energy was receiving a mere 3% of the company’s investments.

What are the consequences?

Put simply, greenwashing stops real action from happening. It creates this misleading perception that businesses are tackling climate change, when they aren’t. If it ‘appears’ as though progress is there, the pressure to reduce pollution, or address production, sources etc. eases off, and nothing really changes. We’re at a critical time with tackling climate change, and this false front of environmental action can either delay or halt companies truly being held accountable for their impact on the planet.

Greenwashing: what is it and how is it preventing businesses from making a real difference to our planet?

How to spot greenwashing

Misleading claims or a lack of evidence

Read more

Owen O’Kane: “The more we fight life, the more we struggle”

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Psychotherapist and author of Ten to Zen, Ten Times Happier and now How To Be Your Own Therapist, joins our podcast to discuss working on yourself, managing change and addressing your internal tone

Owen O’Kane: “The more we fight life, the more we struggle”

Owen O’Kane believes wholeheartedly in the power of good therapy. As someone who was previously a NHS Clinical Lead for Mental Health, and is now working in private practice as well as writing and speaking publicly about the subject, he’s all too aware of the stress on the system and the need for more support for many more people.

This is why the idea for his most recent book How To Be Your Own Therapist came about. “It’s not a replacement of one to one therapy,” he shares honestly. “But my argument is, if it gets someone started or it helps them to make sense of who they are and on the road to recovery, then I’ve done my job.

“Very often one word, a line or a suggestion can sometimes make an incredible difference in someone’s life”, he explains. “We think it has to be complicated but very often it doesn’t. For example, in my line of work, I see people talking to themselves in a really cruel harsh way, regularly, and the one thing that I reinforce a lot in my book is if you can help someone stop doing that then their life transforms immeasurably.”

Owen on

Internal Tone

“How are you talking to yourself? I'd really encourage anyone listening or reading today to really ask themselves that question. If you wouldn't speak to another human being the way you're speaking to yourself, then that's where you need to get started.

“Give yourself permission to be who you are and feel what you're feeling and then make the decision to say to yourself “I'm going to look after you, it's okay. I've got you”. When you begin to make those adjustments, it's a game changer.”

Change

“In psychology, we often talk about anxiety and depression and trauma but something we probably don't talk about enough is adjustment disorders, which are very often linked to changes in life. And of course, adjustment disorders will present as anxiety, changes in mood or people can develop behaviours that are maybe a bit more obsessional or habitual.

“This can play out in many different ways for people. And I think as human beings, many of us are hardwired for predictability. If you look at a definition of anxiety, it's an intolerance of uncertainty. So basically we, as human beings, tend not to tolerate uncertainty very well.

“Very often we want life to go a particular way and we have a notion about how life should be. However, life often delivers a complete opposit

How To Create A Home Gym On A Budget

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Sharing tips on how to create a home gym on a budget and what equipment you really need.

Hi friends! Hope you’re enjoying the day so far and that all of my dad friends had a happy Father’s Day!

For this post, I wanted to chat about how to set up a home gym and what equipment you need, especially since many of us are still working out at home, or you might be considering creating a home gym on a budget.

Home gyms are getting even more popular since the pandemic started and there are SO MANY benefits to having your own gym at home. One of my favorite parts is that there’s zero commute time, and if the kids are home, I can just get in a workout while they play or watch a show.

Creating a home gym can be a bit challenging if you have a limited budget (some gym technology and gear is pricey!) but there are ways you can create a home gym that works for your needs without breaking the bank. You can also customize it based on what you like to do and what products you think you really need.

Before I get started, I just want to emphasize the fact that you don’t need fancy or expensive equipment to get in a great workout. All you need to get an awesome workout is a plan, sneakers that fit you, and motivation. Anything else is just a bonus.

How To Create A Home Gym On A Budget:

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Take advantage of what you already have and create a wish list for future items

Create a list or spreadsheet with the items you currently have and prioritize the ones you have your eye on.

Create a budget and estimate expenses

Determine a total spending budget and after doing some searching online, you can estimate how much your total gym set-up will cost.

Invest in multi-tasking tools at first

An example of this is if you’re looking for strength training equipment, find something that you can use for multiple things (like dumbbells) and is versatile, before expanding into different products in the same theme (like barbells, kettlebells, etc.)

Create a dedicated workout space

This can be a full room in your house, a garage, an office corner, whatever you have the room to use. If you don’t have a dedicated space, you could even store your workout items in a closet in a large bin. If space is an issue, focus on the items that don’t take up a ton of room (like resistance bands, jump rope, small Pilates ball, etc.)

Buy secondhand equipment

I usually get lucky on Facebook marketplace, or when you hear about gyms closing or relocating, they’re often looking to sell their equipment (if they didn’t lease it).

Choose equipment you will actually use!

This one seems obvious but don’t purchase anything you won’t be excited to use in your routine. 🙂 A spin bike makes a lovely clothing rack but would be a waste of money.

Here are some of my top home gym essentials!

Home Gym Essentials

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