Talking trash: an ultimate guide to composting for beginners looking to help the planet

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Cultivating your own compost not only benefits your garden with a homegrown, nutrient-rich mix, but ensures you’re recycling as much of your household waste as possible

Talking trash: an ultimate guide to composting for beginners looking to help the planet

You want a good balance of materials to ensure your compost breaks down effectively – roughly 25–50% soft green waste, and the rest from brown items. Here, we’ll dig into the specifics to help you craft the perfect compost pile.

Do include:

• Black and white newspaper
or plain paper.
• Green items, such as grass clippings, young weeds, and nettles without the root.
• Brown materials, like dead leaves, cardboard, wood chips.
Household waste vegetable food scraps, such as potato peels, coffee grounds, and egg shells (the latter if they are washed thoroughly first).
• Manure from cows or horses can also be used.

Don't include:

• Coloured newspaper, magazines, or brochures.
• Food scraps containing any animal product, such as meat, fat, or dairy.
• Weeds, such as dandelions or thistle, or those with seed heads.
• Diseased garden waste, as this could spread to the rest of your plants when used.
• Dog poo, cat litter, or babies’ nappies.
• Plastics, glass, or metal.

Top tips:

1. Too many ‘green’ items, which typically contain a lot of water, can make your compost pile liquidy, so balance things out with straw, or cardboard to add some more dense structure.
2. Chop up items prior to adding them to the pile, to help them degrade more quickly.
3. ‘Turn the heap’ to aerate it, which speeds up the composting process as well – ideally you want to do this every month. This helps prevent your compost pile from becoming too wet or compacted.
4. If your pile is getting a bit pungent, it’s likely that there’s too much water involved, and not enough air. Try adding more of the brown waste to help the balance of materials, and turn it more frequently.

When is it ready?

The end result should feel, look, and smell like rich, earthy soil. If you can still identify the various items you’ve mixed into the compost, that’s a sign it’s not quite ready yet as not everything has decomposed fully. Usually, your compost pile will end up about half the size of what you added in originally, which can serve as a helpful visual gauge.

When your pile does reach that pinnacle of decomposition, it’s ready to work its nutrient-rich magic on your flower beds. For the best results, spread the compost across your garden about two to four weeks before you plan on planting anything new, to allow it time to integrate with the existing soil. Plant perfection!

Will Young on life's challenges, self-mastery, and the importance of intention

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Where there's a Will... there’s a way to embrace wellbeing, and singer, songwriter, actor, podcast host, and author Will Young seems to be on the right path, as he discusses self-mastery, the importance of intention, misconceptions about fame, and the love of a good dog

Will Young on life's challenges, self-mastery, and the importance of intention

"That’s my dog snoring in the background, I’m so sorry!” Will Young explains, smiling from the other side of the screen. His handsome rescue, Domino, the source of the melodic snore, is oblivious to the conversation as Will continues, sharing the experiences that led him to write and release his most recent book, Be Yourself and Happier: The A-Z of Wellbeing.

Will has so much to offer when it comes to talking about mental health. Back in 2011, he had a breakdown, accompanied by crippling agoraphobia. This period of severe mental ill-health was also the beginning of his desire for deep personal exploration, and he went on to work with multiple therapists, trial different modalities, and proactively educate himself on the mind-body connection.

For the past eight years, Will notes, he’s been fully immersed in the world of wellbeing, and he’s eager to help others if he can, by sharing the insights he’s gained along the way.

“It’s enlightenment really,” he says, reflecting on his discoveries. “When I got into myself and broke into past traumas and behaviours, I hit a wall – a wall that I had, through survival, not wanted to climb over, or even break through. As I learnt more about my humanity, I just wanted to share it. I’m really fascinated, I love the subject of mental health and wellbeing, and it’s sort of become my passion.”

To keep the mental health conversation going and growing, Will now hosts ‘The Wellbeing Lab’ podcast, a weekly exploration of therapy and life’s challenges. He’s covered an array of topics including shopping addiction, body dysmorphic disorder, sex addiction, and loss of sex drive, and he’s spoken to experts about boundaries, somatic therapy, CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), and dealing with rumination. Listeners write in and share their experiences, and, in turn, Will shares how certain topics resonate with him.

Putting his lived experiences front and centre of his work in wellbeing is crucial to Will. It helps him to develop an authentic connection with people who are looking for a more positive way forward, as he was. “All the stuff I do, comes from my own behaviour, so it’s from a place of absolutely no judgement,” he says. “Hopefully my book opens a door into a way of becoming what my old therapist, Louis Evans, used to call a ‘functional adult’ and gaining self-mastery, which is what we all want.”

Listening to Will talk about wellbeing and how we manage ourselves is really refreshing.

He’s taken years of therapy and study, and reframed it in a way that’s accessible. He advocates for a series of small personal behaviour tweaks and daily self-awareness practices that can make a huge difference in how we show up for ourselves and others.

Will believes that it’s imperative to start wi

The 5 love languages: how to communicate effectively and not let your love get lost in translation

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Do you know your love language? What about your partner's? Discover the ways you like to express and receive love, to ensure the lines of communication remain clear

The 5 love languages: how to communicate effectively and not let your love get lost in translation

No matter how much we love our partners, sometimes, it can feel like we get tongue-tied expressing it, or that we’re reading signals the wrong way. We may know that communication is key to a healthy, lasting relationship, but are you communicating in a way that matters most to your partner?

What are the five love languages?

Developed in the 1990s by author and counsellor Gary Chapman, the five love languages are a method of explaining the different ways people like to express and receive love. These include:

  • Acts of service
  • Physical touch
  • Quality time
  • Gift giving
  • Words of affirmation

But can learning about our partner’s love language really help us communicate? Psychotherapist Beverley Blackman explains more.

“Learning each other’s love languages (we usually have two preferences that stand out) can help you understand your partner better,” says Beverley. “In the early days of a relationship, a person may be looking for a particular behaviour as validation that the relationship is heading in the right direction. If both partners are aware of their own and their partner’s love language, then it gives them an opportunity to understand them better.

“All love languages are important as everyone is different, and has their own way of expressing affection. It’s little acts of connection that keep a relationship balanced, respectful, and affectionate.”

In essence, our love language is the way we prefer to share how we feel about those we are close to. By learning more about your own love language, as well as the way that your partner prefers to show their love, we can begin to avoid some miscommunication and misunderstandings, as we learn to look for signs that we might have been missing.

The five love languages explained

Acts of service

Who doesn’t like it when life feels that little bit easier? If your love language is acts of service, there’s nothing you value more than when your partner goes out of their way to make your life easier. Whether it’s making you breakfast, looking after you when you’re sick, or picking up an extra task or two around the house when you’re feeling exhausted or low, you firmly believe actions speak louder than words.

Physical touch

What better way to feel close, than through getting close? Those whose love language is physical touch feel most loved when sharing physical signs of affection. This includes everything from holding hands and cuddling, through to kissing and having sex. Sharing physical touch can create a sense of intimacy that is not only affirming, but creates a powerful emotional connection, as well as a sense of warmth and comfort.

Quality time

There’s no greater gift than the gift of time. If quality time is your love language, you feel most appreciated when your partner wants to spend time with you. Active listening, eye contact, and having their full attention (without distractions of

8 ways to stimulate your vagus nerve and ease anxiety

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Harness the power of your own body to reduce stress and anxiety

8 ways to stimulate your vagus nerve and ease anxiety

When we’re feeling stressed and anxious, it’s usually because of our oversensitive brains. Hard-wired to look out for danger and sound the alarm when it perceives danger (whether it’s a hungry tiger walking your way or an ambiguous email from your boss), our brain triggers chronic stress and anxiety when we stay in a fight or flight state.

Moving out of this state isn’t always easy, but the body has a secret weapon we can take advantage of - the vagus nerve. This cranial nerve is the longest nerve in our body, connecting our brain with many organs (vagus means ‘wanderer’ in Latin, which fits as the nerve wanders around our body).

The vagus nerve does many things, but the one we’re interested in here is the way it triggers a relaxation response in the body and increases something called vagal tone.

“Since the vagus nerve is part of our parasympathetic nervous system, when it gets stimulated it increases what is known as vagal tone; slowing our heart rate and our breathing and calming our nervous system down. In 2010 researchers at the Cleveland clinic found a positive correlation between a high vagal tone and positive emotions and overall good health.” Counsellor Fiona Austin explains in her article, The vagus nerve - our biological antidote to anxiety and stress.

And the best part? We can stimulate our vagus nerve and help ourselves move out of a stressed and anxious state. Here’s how.

1.  Breathe deep

Breathing exercises are often recommended when it comes to stress and anxiety, and here’s another great reason to give it a try. When we breathe deep and slow from our abdomen, we stimulate the vagus nerve. Try breathing out for longer than you breathe in as this helps to activate our parasympathetic nervous system (our relaxation response).

If you want to take things a step further, meditate. Loving kindness meditations especially are thought to stimulate the vagus nerve, help you feel more relaxed and connected. Try this guided meditation by our very own Hannah:

2. Sing it out

The vagus nerve runs up our necks, so when we engage our vocal cords we can give it a gentle nudge. Singing can do this and improve our overall wellbeing, so why not make a playlist of your favourite sing-along songs?

Not a singer? Try humming or gargling water instead.  

3. Massage

Massaging any part of the body is great for rest and relaxation, but it’s thought that massaging the feet in particular can help stimulate the vagus nerve. Try self-massage, ask a partner or treat yourself to a reflexology session and see how you feel.

You can also gently massage your neck, shoulders and behind your ears for more direct contact with the vagus nerve.

4. Cold water immersion

Exposing yourself to the cold may not sound relaxing, but as well as trig

6 tips on how to talk about baby loss and support a grieving friend

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It can be hard to know what to say to someone grieving the loss of a baby, but it's vital that we try. Here, we provide tips for finding the right words

6 tips on how to talk about baby loss and support a grieving friend

In the UK, one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage, and one in 250 babies are stillborn each year. And, yet, it’s an experience that is often hidden away, and is a topic that many people struggle to talk about openly.

“As a society, we are generally very uncomfortable talking about baby loss and miscarriage, likely because it feels so wrong that babies should die,” says Samantha Phillis, a midwife and counsellor.

“We also do not have a word for grieving parents in the English language, yet we have a word for losing a spouse (widow/widower) and losing our parents (orphan). This might reinforce our discomfort about acknowledging the loss of a child.”

With that in mind, it’s vital we don’t hide from this difficult reality, and that we step up to be there for loved ones whose babies have died. Here, Samantha offers tips for finding the right words.

1. Ask how the parents are feeling about the baby

“When a baby dies, many people think that asking about the baby, and how the parents are feeling, will somehow trigger the parents to be more upset,” says Samantha.

Of course, the reality is that the parents will already be thinking about the baby, and Samantha points out that trying to carry on as usual, and not talking about the baby, is the potentially more harmful route. She adds that the parents will also likely feel relieved to know that you are someone that they can come talk about their loss with, without the pressure of maintaining small talk.

2. Use their baby’s name

“Many parents whose baby has died have very few memories with their baby, but the one thing they will have is the name they have chosen for them,” Samantha explains. “Saying their baby’s name reinforces the acknowledgement that their baby was real and remains an important member of their family, and their family’s story.”

You shouldn’t try to look past the loss – it doesn’t make it any smaller or any less painful, and only further isolates the parents with their grief.

3. Provide practical support

When it comes to offering practical support, the key thing is to take the lead. Comments like, ‘Let me know if you need something’ are well-meaning, but offering to help with specifics means that you’re taking the load of asking off the person who needs the help.

“Offer to make meals or co-ordinate a dinner rota ( is a handy website). Offer to take some laundry or do a shop,” Samantha suggests. “If there are other children around, offer to do the school run, or take the children out for the day. Also, be aware of siblings and, depending on their ages, be somebody the baby’s siblings can come to as they can sometimes feel overwhelmed with grief, but not have the language to express it.”

4. Provide a safe space

“Parents will be experiencing many different feelings in the early days after a baby dies,” S