Beat The Filter Bubble in 2017

The phenomena of the filter bubble has been a big topic in 2016. Those shocked by the outcome of the Brexit vote and the American election realised that there is a distinct lack of diversity coming from their news channels. Could you name anyone from your social circle who voted for the opposing point of view? You weren’t the only one!

There are problems from the other side too. The information on offer? Fake, intolerant and racist. However, changing other people’s behaviour is something that you have very little control over. But what you can do as a New Year’s Resolution for 2017 is to make sure that the opinions you encounter are as diverse as possible, so that you have a more thorough understanding of how the world is working. Here are some ideas of how to beat the filter bubble – and get out of the echo chamber…

Try Volunteering

The filter bubble is ultimately something that happens online. Algorithms are able to determine the type of articles you like and engage with, so they offer you similar articles. By volunteering you expose yourself to viewpoints and people who sit outside this filter bubble.

Volunteering can be difficult to fit into your schedule, but there are some things you can do which don’t require a regular commitment. Free Cakes for Kids encourages you to bake cakes for children who would not otherwise get one. Old people’s homes regularly put on events or encourage visitors. Running clubs like Good Gym help you speak to people from a variety of different backgrounds, and if you live somewhere like London, there are many different opportunities to choose from.

Read offline – not just online

Try to discover new information sources offline as well as online. Visit second hand book stores and get their recommendations for new books. Go to a coffee shop on Saturday mornings, leave your phone at home and buy a paper or a magazine that you wouldn’t normally read. Join a book club that aims to read books that haven’t been nominated for awards.

Quite often this type of activity demands that you view your time differently. Instead of trying to read the best and most rewarding fiction and non-fiction, you are trying to read a diverse range of titles. So your aim cannot be to maximise the value you get from your time – instead it is to try and have a wide range of opinions and experiences. Some you won’t enjoy, and some won’t be particularly articulate, but you are opening yourself up to new ideas. In many ways it’s similar to going travelling for a couple of months.

Sign up for mailing lists for the opposing political parties

One of the reasons why getting out of a filter bubble is so hard is because it is difficult to know where to begin. However, the first steps are there for everyone to take. If you sign up to a mailing list for a different newspaper or political party then you’ll learn about different points of view. More specifically you’ll understand what the readers think is most important because of the focus of the articles and material. From there, you’ll be able to expand your research further.

Many people believe that it’s the lack of information which is the issue when it comes to filter bubbles, but that’s not the case. It’s your ability to access that information – and we should re-teach ourselves how to do this, like we taught ourselves how to use a library in the 90s and Google in the 00s. Perhaps we need to create a new system in the 10s.

Notice when everyone has the same opinion as you

Whenever you are in a room or on social media and everyone has more or a less the same views, then note that you are probably in a filter bubble. Sometimes these filter bubbles are beneficial – like if you are in a university seminar room or in a business meeting. It’s helpful to be around people who have similar viewpoints so you can work together!

However, if you’re at the pub or in a bar, or you’re watching your social media feed, then simply recognise that there may be other opinions out there that are not contributing to the discussion. Again, simple awareness that these bubbles exist, and understand what issues may sit inside them is incredibly helpful in lifting yourself out of that echo-chamber.

Sign up to The Echo Chamber Club

Finally, sign up to The Echo Chamber Club. As a disclaimer, it is a weekly newsletter that I run, but we go out of our way to monitor where a ‘liberal and progressive’ echo-chamber lies and then curate articles that show you a different point of view. Previous newsletters have included the Russian perspective on the Syrian War, an argument in favour of safe spaces, and a new way of understanding inflation in a global world.


Alice Thwaite is founder and editor-in-chief of The Echo Chamber Club – a weekly newsletter that distributes different points of view to the liberal / progressive norm. The ECC has just released a podcast in which we interview key thinkers; philosophers, journalists, economists and politicians about their values. The idea is that we can then strengthen what it means to have centrist political views.

Tired of Targeted Ads?

Cue cute drooling babies, gurgling along vaguely to the tune of ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’, and a direct question to the viewer, ‘Are you trying for a baby?’ An advert I’m getting quite familiar with, and quite sick of, to be frank, for digital ovulation tests. As it happens, I’m not trying for a baby. I simply want to watch a video about cats. This ad is relentlessly broadcast to me whenever I watch anything online.

babies-cats

And it’s not like it’s this ad sometimes, and others at other times. I can’t remember the last time I was shown a different ad as the inevitable prelude to an online video. Except for a few months ago when I was faced with endless cycles of a similarly vomit-inducing digital pregnancy test ad from the same company. I don’t know what the Internet knows about me, but it probably knows I’m a woman in my early thirties and I can only assume it’s these factors that result in this unwelcome bombardment of babbling infants.

baby-flat-lay

But it doesn’t stop there. Since this particular advert got my back up, I’ve taken more notice of the targeted advertising that I receive more generally. Over the past month, the adverts I’ve seen include: chocolate, cake décor, laundry detergent, cleaning products, vacuum cleaners, wedding photography, children’s toys, baby formula, and – best of all – ‘sleep tips for new parents’ from a high street life insurance company. How kind of them.

domestic-goddess

If I look at this list and think about the ‘profile’ these organisations have built up of me, it’s a worryingly backwards one. While the chocolate is fair enough (although I am dubious as to whether they promote to males of the same age) it appears to me that my profile is that of a mother (or aspiring mother) who should be married, or at least thinking about getting married, who bakes cakes, cleans the bathroom, does laundry and enjoys vacuuming.

domestic-goddess-vogue

Is it just me, or does this sound like we’ve gone back 50 years? Promoting these products specifically to women in their thirties appears to be reinforcing outdated social stereotypes that our generation assumed had been committed period dramas and ironic Ladybird books. Aside from the simmering rage this realisation stirred up, it also – in the back of my mind – got me wondering, should I be thinking about having a baby? I don’t think I want one right now, but why not? I probably should want one. Everyone else I know does. And now my news feed is pretty much telling me it’s imperative that I do!

sexist-advertising

While it’s obvious I’ll never be one to get satisfaction from baking or laundry, the baby thing did for a brief moment at least, get me questioning my decisions. Has personalised advertising replaced nagging grannies and broody friends in asking the cringeworthy and dreaded question, ‘so, are you next dear?’ For me (and it seems, lots of other women – check out the comments on this video) this whole thing is annoying and slightly perturbing, but there’s no harm done, I guess. Unless I end up pregnant precisely because those bundles of joy were so damn persuasive.

But what if it were to cause harm? What if I was struggling to conceive, or had lost a baby? Beyond the obvious question of exactly how companies compile their secretive algorithms and profile us, the more worrying question is, while they aim to present us with products that mirror our interests and lifestyle, what if instead, they are moulding our lifestyles, our motivations and our expectations for ourselves?

online-advertising-sexist

There’s been much talk lately in light of the recent Brexit and Trump victories, about how ‘filter bubbles’ (a term coined by Eli Pariser in 2011) can create an imbalanced world view through algorithmic online filtering. I see a distinct parallel between this ‘filter bubble’ affecting the stories we see and the ‘advertising bubble’, which affects which adverts we’re exposed to.

The ramifications of adverts being so targeted as to blinker out alternative views of ourselves are far-reaching and disconcerting. Not fitting the mould that’s being incessantly rammed in our faces will no doubt contribute to feelings of inadequacy, and in some cases, emotional and psychological trauma. It’s only right that tech companies start thinking about the ethical impact, not only of personalised news feeds, but of personalised advertising. If the ‘filter bubble’ is influencing the way we think about the world, so too the ‘advertising bubble’ is influencing the way we think about ourselves. It’s time we take off the social blinkers before we start baking, hoovering and inadvertently trying out those sleep tips for new parents!

Rethinking Dating

Want to know what separates a date that feels like a job interview and a date that feels fun and enjoyable? It’s all in the approach. There are two ways to approach dating – from a place of fear or from a place of love. We’re Project Love, and we’re all about the latter, here’s how you can do it, in five simple ways…

project-love

Be open to being surprised at who you could be attracted to

 
Time after time, when we speak to happy couples, we hear that the women didn’t end up with the kind of guy that they thought they’d end up with. So don’t assume to know what your type is. Rather than focusing on physical attributes, what they do for a living etc, focus on how you want to feel on the date and anchor into that instead. Approach your date with an open heart and mind to give you both the space to show up fully.

unlikely-attraction

Give up the game!

 
‘Play it cool, ‘don’t reply to messages on weekends’, ‘play hard to get’ – there are so many ‘rules’ to play this game of dating. But the only game that you should be playing is the game of honesty and authenticity. That’s all people ever want from us. When you’re being real, you open up a space for your date to be real too.

dating-playing-games

Get inspired

 
If you’re feeling disillusioned about dating then time for a shot of inspiration to get you feeling optimistic again. Think of one or two couples that you know, and whose relationship really inspires you. Write about what you admire about their relationship and as a bonus, spend some time with them too. They are showing you what’s possible for you.

dating-inspiration

Explore and experiment with different ways of meeting people

 
Online dating is a great way to meet people but it doesn’t have to be the only way. Ask your friends to be your matchmaker and set you up on a coffee date with someone. And get involved in activities that you enjoy that will also have you meeting new people. You could decide to try something new like a photography course, a printmaking workshop or learning a new language.

dating-differently

As well as dating other people, don’t forget to date yourself!

 
This is one of our favourite things that we get clients to do – to take themselves out on a date. We’ve had clients do anything from take themselves out to brunch at their fave cafe with a good book to getting dressed up and taking themselves on a solo date to the theatre. Take yourself out and woo yourself – give yourself the same love and respect that you want from someone else.

dating-yourself

Project Love helps women to create a relationship and life that they love, through online courses, 121 coaching programmes, events, workshops and a regular podcast. Their amazing ‘Get Ready For Love’ 30 day online course promises to transform your love life from the inside out. Feeling stuck in love? We’ve got three Get Ready For Love courses to win, plus membership of Project Love’s private Facebook group. To win, simply follow both Running in Heels and Project Love on Instagram, or Facebook (Running in Heels and Project Love on FB). You get an extra entry if you comment/share anywhere on social media, hashtagged with either #runninginheels or #projectlove. Check out Project Love’s testimonials here.You’ve got one week to enter, go go go!

How To Write A Bestseller

Writing a bestselling novel is definitely #lifegoals for many of us. However, the hard reality of putting pen to paper, finding time to write, wrestling with characterisation and plot – not to mention the pitfalls of eventually finding a publisher – have left plenty of great stories off the shelf. But don’t be daunted. The dream of headlining the Hay Festival or topping the Amazon books chart can happen – and Cecelia Ahern is a woman who should know. Best known for her debut novel, P.S I Love You, which was written when she was just 21, she’s turned out to be quite the prolific author. Thirteen books later including a YA novel and a rumoured erotic TV screenplay under her belt (yes, you read that right) she’s just released her latest novel, Lyrebird. Here, Ahern shares her secrets for how to turn that story you’re itching to tell into a literary smash.

cecelia-ahern

Discover your most effective way of writing

 
Find what works for you. Because I have children, I’m a very structured writer. I sit down from 9-5, four days a week and write a chapter in each sitting. I’ll walk into my office and light a Jo Malone candle, such as Blackberry & Bay or Grapefruit; it’s the moment I can go ‘aah’ and be creative. I write longhand first so I can see how ideas develop and then I type it up. I edit as I go along so I immediately have a second draft. I start writing in January, edit in the summer and it’s published in autumn. That’s my routine. You might think that it doesn’t sound very creative but it’s about setting out a time and sticking to it.

writing-tips

Creative writing courses aren’t for everyone

 
If you’re a person who needs structure and motivation, then great. But I did creative writing classes at college and I found it was forced creativity. To be given a topic to write about was too restricting and was frustrated I couldn’t write the things I wanted to. I’m a lone ranger. I work best alone.

writing-course

Sharing your work is good – but only once you’ve finished

 
Even now sharing my work is daunting. My mother was the first person who read my work and I remember giving it to her and hiding behind my hands. Which I still do to be honest! What’s needed at this point is encouragement. For me, it’s not about pointing out spelling mistakes or repetitions. It’s all about motivation. Writing a novel is a long process. Sometimes I think, ‘can I finish this?’ So encouragement and praise is important to help you complete your story. Then you can be critical.

writing-feedback

Ideas first. Character second.

 
I always know the beginning and ending of my books. As with Lyrebird, I knew it was about a girl with an ability to mimic sounds. From there, my characters grew. Writing is very visual; basically, I write what I see. It’s like a movie: I watch and write. I’ll have conversations with the characters in my head. Then sometimes an idea will just strike from nowhere. The other day my brother-in-law made a comment and suddenly ‘bam!’ I could see my next book – the story, characters, everything!

writing

Write what you feel, not what you know

 
I have a love/hate relationship with the phrase ‘write what you know’. I think you should write how you feel. Sometimes what you know isn’t that interesting. I love my allotment, but as the basis of a story it might not work. But how you feel about your allotment could work as part of a story.

writing-ideas

Find an agent before pitching to publishers

 
I wouldn’t have had a clue how to go directly to a publisher, even now. My advice would be to pick up the Writers’ Handbook. I was recommended to my agent by a family friend, and was told to send in three chapters and a synopsis. After that I was asked for more chapters, so I was writing on demand. After ten chapters, she asked to meet me and two weeks after that I had secured a deal with Harper Collins. I was so encouraged that someone liked my first ten chapters it gave me faith to go on and finish the book.

Cecelia Ahern’s Lyrebird is out now, published by Harper Collins. For more information on Cecelia Ahern, head to her website, follow on Twitter or find her on Facebook.

Having It All

How peaceful life would be if we really could have it all. Everything you ever wanted landing straight into your lap through a click of the fingers. It would be amazing, wouldn’t it?

multi-tasking

Many people often think that way. So why do we constantly read stories of the rich, famous and successful, who have fallen into the depths of anxiety, stress and addiction? Typically, the main reason is because – in their scramble to ‘have it all’ – they succumb to the short term pleasures in life rather than focusing on the long term gains. So what can we do today, to reap a more rewarding and fulfilling life tomorrow?

having-it-all

CLARITY

 
Uncertainty is the biggest stress that most of us face in life. We should remind ourselves that we are animals and therefore need the same feeling of safety and security that animals do. Stress is there for a reason. It is a red flag that warns us that all is not well, and that there are areas of our lives we need to pay attention to.

no-stress

SEPARATE YOUR ‘NEEDS’ FROM YOUR ‘WANTS’

 
Animals will feel stressed unless they are in a safe environment where they do not have to worry about predators. Such an environment would include a safe place to stay, food, water and other animals of the same species around them for protection – the necessities in life. In the same way, order for us humans to feel safe and secure, we need to first focus on obtaining the things that bring us safety and security; a home, financial security, a strong and healthy body, a long term partner and good friends.

take-note

So, write down all the things you want out of life so you can see them clearly in front of you. Divide them into two lists, “needs” and “wants”. “Needs” are long term goals such as financial security, a home, a car, savings etc. Wants are short term pleasures such as material possessions, nights out and weekends away.

prioritise-needs-and-wants

PRIORITISE

 
Ultimately, it’s crucial to prioritise our “needs” before our “wants” if we wish to attain peace of mind. Many people tend to feed their short term “wants” before their long term “needs”, which leads to insecurity and stress. There is nothing wrong with having the latest mobile phone, seasonal fashions, or a spa weekend away, but make sure your long term plans are in place first. “Wants” are fine in moderation, but keep them under control.

travelling

STAY IN CREDIT

 
Avoid getting into debt through buying unnecessary things. “Wants” will only ever provide you with short term pleasure and these tend to be your material possessions or emotional pleasures which, although are exciting in the moment, lose their appeal very quickly. If you are spending too much time and money on your “wants”, then in the long term, your “needs” will not be met, leaving you insecure and anxious about the future. Only spend what you have. Once you get into debt, you will find that rather than owning your possessions, your possessions start to own you.

shopping-kate-moss

GRATITUDE

 
Finally, be grateful for what you have. There will always be others with more than you, so don’t compare yourself to them. Instead contemplate all the things that you do have, as you will start begin to appreciate how good your life already is.

simplicity

Toby Maguire is founder and CEO of Working in Balance, which runs retreats and workshops specialising in corporate wellness, and wellbeing in the workplace. From January 2017, Working In Balance is hosting a series of unique and rebalancing retreats in the spectacular setting of Six Senses Douro Valley, Portugal. Working in Balance aims to educate individuals and organisations on the negative effects of stress, how to reduce it and how to improve physical and psychological well-being. Guests at the retreats will receive a range of tips on how to work more productively and efficiently, and the retreat also includes an individual wellness assessment, two hours of daily themed workshops and seminars, Tai Chi, meditation and yoga classes, as well as fitness activities and a relaxing daily massage. For more information and to book, see the Working in Balance website.

The Problem With Marriage

There’s something very wrong with marriage in England and Wales that you’re probably not aware of. I wasn’t until this year, when I was asked to fill out some paperwork ahead of my wedding in June. Take a look at the example marriage certificate below to see whether you can pinpoint what makes this document utterly anachronistic. (Hint: mum’s the word.)

wedding-certificate

If your eyes have studied the part reserved for parents and you’re wondering where the area saved for mothers is, you’ll be looking a long time. That’s because it’s forbidden to list your mother on a marriage certificate issued under the jurisdiction of England and Wales. Yes, that’s right: forbidden.

This astounding fact applies regardless of the type of wedding, or what kind of officiant marries you. Yet in Scotland and Northern Ireland, both parents are listed on marriage certificates. What’s going on with this seemingly un-united anomaly within an ostensibly forward-thinking, inclusive part of the United Kingdom? What about people who have no relationship with their father? Whether it’s because they genuinely never knew their father, or because they wish to preclude him from getting a name-check (no, family dynamics can’t always be fixed with a good old cup of tea and a resolute heart-to-heart), there’s a spectacularly Dickensian solution to this scenario. In the acceptable absence of a biological father, the box marked ‘Parent’ will bear the word ‘Unknown’, regardless of a mother’s solo triumph at raising an individual.

marriage-certificate

Stepfathers don’t qualify either, unless they’ve officially adopted the person in question. As for two female parents: my guess is that this is frustratingly complicated – possibly even distressing – to get around.

This draconian piece of legislation exists in 2016 because, basically put, it’s the way it’s always been since certifying marriages became a legal requirement around 1838. The details established back then at the start of Queen Victoria’s reign have never been changed. In 2014, the issue was raised in Parliament after a petition on Change.org was signed by nearly 80,000 people.

just-married

Like him or loathe him, this is what PM at the time, David Cameron said: “The content of marriage registers in England and Wales… require details of the couples’ fathers, but not their mothers. This clearly doesn’t reflect modern Britain – and it’s high time the system was updated.”

But as adamant as Cameron was for redress, the Home Office rejected it. Their reason? HO Minister Richard Harrington claimed that changing the law to include mothers on marriage certificates “wouldn’t allow for different family circumstances”. Which begs the question: what different family circumstances? Same sex male couples? At least the box grants male couples their gender. And what about non-binary parents?

i-do

Two centuries on since certifying this rite of passage became requisite, there are some things about marriage that have come so brilliantly far within the last 10 years; while something as quietly heroic as the work of mothers still fails to be recognised. To me, a feminist by definition for the reason that I’ve always assumed I can, it’s a sobering realisation that, maybe, we’ve still got a very long way to go.

Enter The Echo Chamber

Were you surprised at the Brexit result? Didn’t see it coming? Perhaps your Facebook timeline and Twitter stream erupted into a collective outpouring of shock and sadness when the UK voted to leave. Sound familiar? The opinions of our friends and those who we follow on social networks generally mirror our own, meaning that – thanks to some clever algorithms – we’re all trapped in a filter bubble. So how to escape the digital bubble – and access ideas outside of your usual social sphere? Enter The Echo Chamber – a groundbreaking new weekly newsletter which will make you think. Alice Thwaite -The Echo Chamber’s founder – tells us more…

echo-chamber

What’s The Echo Chamber all about?

 
The Echo Chamber Club is a weekly newsletter. We understand what the majority of people believe and we directly challenge that status quo. We don’t tend to write much ourselves, instead we curate articles written from other sources and encourage our subscribers to read them.

Who’s The Echo Chamber for?

 
It is for educated metropolitans. Most people who live in cities have fairly liberal and centrist beliefs – and The Echo Chamber Club monitors social media to understand what is being shared in this group and then challenges it.

filter-bubble

Why did you start the Echo Chamber?

 
The concept of an ‘echo chamber’ or ‘filter bubble’ has been around for a few years. Eli Pariser (founder of Upworthy) wrote a book in 2012 which showed that social media algorithms are engineered so that you see more of the stories that you normally engage with. So someone who is naturally centrist would not see stories or opinions of people on the fringe on their social media feeds.

This was once a theory, and now it’s turned into a political reality. “Quiet conservatives” were blamed for the polling industry inability to predict the outcome of the 2015 election. Most recently, Brexit took many metropolitans by surprise.

wolfgang-tillmans-brexit

For ages, I tried to think of a solution to this problem. It seemed so huge, and the social networks such giants, that it was impossible to solve. Ironically, when I removed myself from my normal surroundings I thought of an idea, and I realised a weekly newsletter might be just the thing to help people get out of their filter bubble. The Echo Chamber Club was launched merely weeks afterwards.

What can I expect to find in the weekly newsletter?

 
We like to cover things that either have a clear media bias on the subject – like issues like ‘safe spaces’, the burkini, Brexit; or subjects that aren’t covered in the media at all, like the potential genocide in Burundi.

burkini

Why should I care about seeing someone else’s point of view?

 
A lot of media organisations want to make you smarter – and we want to help with that too – but actually our main aim is to make you more empathetic. We want to help people access new ideas. Many educated people struggle with Twitter; let alone with RSS and Reddit. We’ll put in the hours of research so that our subscribers can start with the best contrary articles to their point of view. We will help with your natural sense of curiosity and adventure! In doing so, we hope the leaders of today and tomorrow will make better predictions and decisions about the future of their businesses and policies.

To find out more about The Echo Chamber, head to the website. You can subscribe to The Echo Chamber’s newsletter here – and check out previous newsletters here. Break free from the filter bubble!

Motivation 101

The holidays have ended and summer has come to a close. No, there is not a bank holiday in sight until December – and when you realise that is three months away, you’d be forgiven for wanting to hide under the duvet. So, want to get your motivation back but not sure how? Here are some easy strategies to help you get back on track!

motivation

Remember why you’re doing things

 
Be it work, life or anything in between – remind yourself of the purpose behind every action. What is the why behind your job? It could be as simple as paying the bills so you can survive whilst you look for a better job, or as fulfilling as it being your calling. Even in your day-to-day life, you can put the why into anything to bring more motivation to it. Why do you do laundry? So that you can have clean, fresh clothes and smell good (and personally, I also find it quite meditative to hang the laundry up to dry). Why do you exercise? So you can be healthy, feel more energised and eat more treats (at least that’s one of my motivations ;).

Identify where you’re going

 
Knowing where you want to get to is the first step to going anywhere. What is it that you want to achieve? What goals do you want to reach? What is your dream scenario when it comes to work and life? When you remind yourself of this, you will feel motivated to take the steps needed to get there.

motivation-tips

Interact with people who inspire you

 
Follow them on social media, read their books, or meet them for coffee. Think about why they inspire you and how. Discover how they got to where they are today, and how you can learn from them. Personally, when I’m feeling stuck, I sometimes use questions like: “What would Oprah do in this situation?” (Yes, I find Oprah incredibly inspirational!)

Schedule Exciting Things

 
Take 15 minutes to brainstorm an idea you want to put into action. Go check out the new coffee shop that’s opened. Schedule a lunch date with your uplifting friend over lunch break. Read that book that you’ve been meaning to read for months.It doesn’t matter how big or small the thing is, as long as it’s something that excites you and gives you something to look forward to.

how-to-get-motivated

Create moments to relax and recharge

 
Ironically, in order to get motivated and to stay motivated you also need to have downtime when you are not doing anything. As a human you thrive on balance and need just as much time to recharge and recover as to do things that move you forward. Sleeping is an obvious recovery time but it’s not enough (especially because most of us don’t get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep a night). Book time in your calendar to take a bath, read a good book, get a massage, or simply to just be.

Adapt Your Exercise

 
If you’re feeling lethargic and low, don’t force yourself into intense ashtanga classes or circuit training – unless you know they make you feel better. Normally, it’s good to match your exercise routine to your mood to slowly nudge yourself out of it. Feeling high? Go to a fun ‘Dance like Beyoncé’ dance class to further boost your positivity. Feeling low? Do some nurturing yin yoga or take a gentle stroll in the park to turn your low mood into a contented one. Feeling frustrated and stressed? Go do some cardio like a spinning class or boxing workout to release the negativity.

motivation-exercise

For more insights like these, sign-up for free updates from Susanna Halonen – the Happyologist, at www.happyologist.co.uk. As a happiness coach and author of Screw Finding Your Passion, she can help you to build and live a life you love.

Ask A Celebrity Facialist

It’s fair to say that not everyone gets chance to access their own personal facialist, but yes, we’re pretty good to you here at RIH. Anti-ageing queries or acne concerns? Fine lines or under-eye circles? Each month, we give you the chance to put your questions to celebrity facialist and skincare expert Teresa Tarmey

using retinol anti ageing

I keep hearing about retinol and honestly it seems like there’s so much confusion and conflicting advice that I don’t know where to start. I’m 29 and starting to have some fine lines on my forehead and around my eyes, so I think retinol sounds like it might be a good idea. What do you advise?

Retinol has to be one of my favourite skincare products on the market – if you’ve not heard of it before, it’s a topical Vitamin A-based product which can be bought over the counter. Retinol has many benefits for the skin, basically acting as an exfoliator on a very high speed – and when I say exfoliator I don’t mean the same effect that you would get from a peel or a glycolic acid-based product. Not everyone – but most people – will slightly peel from retinol which in this case is taking away the dead skin as the same time as all the other amazing benefits. Put simply, retinol increases the cell turnover, resulting in fresher, brighter and more evenly-toned skin. I would never advise anyone under the age of 18 to use retinol, as their skin might be too sensitive, but it has great benefits for anyone 18+ that suffers from acne, plus it has fantastic anti-ageing benefits for anyone aged 30+.

retinol skincare tips

As retinol makes the skin more sensitive, I would recommend always using an SPF, or a moisturiser that has an SPF in it. Retinol is suitable for all skin types, but I would still advise you to start by testing a small area before applying it to your whole face.

Product-wise, I personally love Aestheticare as it’s a gentle retinol that over time gradually builds up the percentage. I would get advice on the best way to use it for your skin type and always make sure to ask about the potential of peeling and skin sensitivity. I recommend starting with a low percentage such as 0.3% – 0.5% 2-3 times per week and gradually increasing. Once the skin can tolerate retinol, you can use every night after cleansing. And once your skin gets used to the percentage, you can creep up to the next strength and so on. I would recommend using it in the evening – simply let the product soak into the skin first and then apply your usual products whether that’s a serum or a night cream.

 

Got a skincare question? Fill in our form with full details and you might have the chance to have Teresa Tarmey answer your question next month! For more information on Teresa, see her website.

Working with Mindfulness

If you haven’t heard about mindfulness by now then you must have been hiding under a rock. Today, mindfulness is cropping up everywhere from the prison service, the military, education, health care, parenting, sports and business as well as in popular mainstream activities such as mindful gardening, eating, walking and so on. But how can it help you in the workplace? First, a little background on the buzzword of the moment…

how to be mindful

‘Mindfulness’ was first introduced to the West in the late 1950’s and was then secularised into mainstream medical circles in the 1970’s where it was initially trialled – with extreme success – for patients with incurable and/or terminal pain and illness. It was discovered that focusing on the present moment, with open awareness and non-judgemental attention to whatever arises (thoughts, feelings, body sensations), reduces our levels of stress and increases our sense of well-being. A wealth of research supports mindfulness as a highly effective technique for (deep breath): stress reduction, pain management, increased productivity, enhanced creativity, improved memory function, greater self-confidence, better self-awareness and self-care and, above all else, a significant increase in happiness and well-being.

In the workplace, this all translates to being able to get your job done more effectively and with less stress, which is good for you – and for your business, colleagues or company. The major reasons that mindfulness is so beneficial to working smarter are that it increases focus and attention. Most of us tend to rush around under the illusion that trying to do several things at once is an effective strategy. Whilst research consistently indicates that women are better at multi-tasking than men, it still isn’t a smart way to work. In fact, multi-tasking is sometimes dubbed ‘the art of messing several things up at once’ – this is NOT an accolade. With mindfulness, the art is in learning to train your mind to become more focused, to sustain this focus and to get each task you have to do done with clarity and efficiency. The result is that you will become more productive and less stressed – fantastic!

how to be mindful at work

It does often feel counter-intuitive not to rush about haphazardly from one thing to another, even if you know it isn’t really helping, and this is because you may have trained your brain to be heavily distracted – at work, according to research, this can actually mean that for up to 50% of the time your mind may be wandering off task. So it is time to rewire your brain to get focused, effective and really productive using the simple practice of mindfulness.

If you want to try training your mind to become more focused give the following very simple exercise a go, try it frequently (2-3 times a day) for at least a week:

● First begin by noticing that you are breathing. You should find that you are doing this all the time, everywhere you go! This means you can do this exercise anywhere, anytime.

mindfulness at work

● Watch your breath flowing into your body, starting at the nose or mouth, and then follow the course of the breath as it leaves the body. Allow yourself to pay good attention to the physical sensations of breathing.

● If your mind wanders, don’t panic, this is just your habitual distractibility appearing, it is inevitable and normal. Just be gentle but firm in guiding your focus back to the sensations of breathing.

● Any thoughts, emotions or physical sensations that you notice can now be observed, you do not need to engage with them, embellish them or push them away. Just see them appear and come back to the breath.

being mindful at work

● Allow yourself to watch the breath come and go for a few minutes. Doing this keeps you present-moment focused, and every time you notice and are aware of the present moment (in this exercise by watching the breath) you are strengthening concentration.

With time and practice you will see that your distractibility decreases and that you can apply the same technique that you have used here for watching the breath towards any task, so that you learn to work smarter. To find out more about how mindfulness can help you reduce stress, gain confidence and get more done, check out Working with Mindfulness.

Working With Mindfulness

Dr Michael Sinclair and Josie Seydel are the authors of Working with Mindfulness. It is out now, published by Pearson, priced at£13.99. ‘Working with Mindfulness is an engaging and practical guide to reducing stress, transcending setbacks and enhancing performance at work. With more than 50 mindfulness exercises, it’s a perfect introduction to a more fulfilling way of working.’ – Arianna Huffington, Editor-in-Chief of The Huffington Post.