Laugh Your Way To Better Health

This post was inspired by the Donut Apocalypse as suffered by my dear friend, Penny Berry.

Photo by Toa Heftiba u015einca on Pexels.com

Laugh and the world laughs with you. Weep, and you weep alone.

Danish proverb

Growing up, the wording of this sage advice was changed somewhat, but the meaning and intent was still the same. My father, the smart old man that he was, would always change “weep” to “cry”, but the meaning was exactly the same. If you want people to stick around, learn to laugh.

The Many Benefits Of Laughter

Laughter doesn’t only benefit us socially, but mentally and physically as well. In fact, laughter has been proven to:

  • Reduce stress, tension and anxiety
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduce pain
  • Improve depression
  • Increase attractiveness
  • Lessen aging
  • Boost self-esteem

And much more

It’s no wonder then that so many people who laugh have a better quality of life!

Using Laughter To Cope With Chronic Pain

One of the things that astounds so many people about me is that I live with chronic pain. My family have nicknamed me “Chameleon” (or “Cammy”, for short) and take particularly to dancing around the lounge and singing The Culture Club’s Karma Chameleon when my wrist changes colour. If I develop spasms in my wrist or knee, I joke that my limb is having a party and none of us are invited. For us, laughter is a coping mechanism for living with my condition, and it astounds so many people that I suffer like I do, simply because I’m able to laugh at myself.

When I applied for Personal Independence Payment, many people couldn’t take my condition seriously. I seemed so jovial and so upbeat, there was no way I could be in so much pain! The simple truth is in the advice my father gave me – nobody wants to be around somebody who mopes, whines and moans, and what’s worse, chronic pain or chronic loneliness?

A little laughing at one can go a long way towards preventing the other.

Tips for Using Laughter

Love Thyself, Laugh At Thyself

One of the first and biggest parts of using laughter is being able to laugh at yourself. It’s so fundamentally important to understand that none of us are perfect and we all, as humans, we all make mistakes. If you can laugh at yourself instead of wondering why you aren’t perfect, it will go a long way to boosting your confidence. Remember, nobody is perfect (though I do try 😉 ).

Laugh At Adversary

So many people fall into a fit of rage when they experience a setback, and in some sense it’s perfectly understandable, but then you need to be able to laugh because quite often stressing out won’t fix the problem. Only a few days ago, I managed to get kitchen cleaner (with bleach) on a favourite navy top of mine. I didn’t realise until far too late, and when I did, I had brick red splatter marks on the waist of my beloved t-shirt.

“Oh well, it’s the new in thing for 2020, what do you think?” I joked.

Laugh With People, Not At Them (Unless They Invite You To)

Perhaps the biggest area that so many people still get wrong is that it is simply not okay to laugh at other people who aren’t laughing with you. Members of the public are not put there as free amusement for you, and it says a lot about you if you treat them that way. Never, ever laugh at someone, not unless they invite you to.

Humour’s Dark Side – Clowns & Sad Clown Syndrome

One of the saddest and most damning issues with humour is quite how often comedy can be used to mask severe depression. Many in the entertainment industry will understand the pressure to entertain and perform and many, many people will remember the late beloved entertainer Robin Williams, who went on to take his own life. Most interestingly, it is quite often those who try to appear aloof who are the most depressed of all. Even myself, I have acted exuberant at times as a mask for the pain I was feeling within. Sadly and all too often, some of the biggest entertainers are doing exactly the same.

Humour & Empathy – Why We Love Comedians

A few weeks ago, I watched this video clip of Lee Evans and in it, he made a very interesting point. For comedy to work, the audience needs to relate to the comedian. That is, the audience needs to be able to empathize.

1:20 – 1:46 for the relevant interview 🙂

For a lot of people, some comedians simply aren’t funny and this has a lot to do with laughing at other people, rather than with them. In the UK, one of the most controversial comedians is none other than Jimmy Carr. Although some of the witty retorts he comes out with can behilarious, he has also faced a lot of controversy for laughing at and disrespecting disabled people, and fans.

For humour to work successfully, the intended audience needs to be able to relate. If the audience can’t relate, then the joke falls flat and the humour doesn’t work. What is funny is not a matter of definition, so much as a matter of perspective. Lee is a typically British married man, and Shappi is a single mom. In both audiences, there will be hundreds who can relate (and therefore be able to laugh) because there will be hundreds of married men and moms. When it comes to jokes about disability or sexuality, fewer people laugh because fewer people find such comedy okay, have a disability or are gay themselves, or know or care for someone who is disabled or gay. Once again, the deciding factors for what does and does not qualify as ‘comedy’ has changed and it is important that when making a joke, we remember to read our audience. Nothing harms the ego more than being the joke that tells bad jokes, so make sure they land well the first time! 😉

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this look at the positive impact of laughter and I hope that you will be back soon for another post.

Remember, keep smiling, and keep laughing!

Helen xx

Why I’m Defaulting On Cervical Screening

Defaulter: a person who fails to fulfil a duty, obligation, or undertaking.

Google Dictionary

It’s a cold, dark, quiet night in 2017. I’m sat in a warm, deep bubble bath, mobile phone in one hand, a large glass of wine in the other.

If I didn’t know how important it was to go, I wouldn’t go.

That was my message to my Mum.

I was traumatised after the second cervical screening appointment I’d ever been to. I put my glass of wine on the cabinet, curled my arms around my knees and rested my head on arms.

I felt.. violated.

The first time I went for a cervical smear, it took me 7 months of gearing myself up for the main event. I’ll never forget it, it was the week before my third wedding anniversary- the perfect distraction for this undignified procedure,

Or so I thought.

Before we began, the nurse needed to check my credentials. I pointed out the mistake in that I am a Mrs, not a Miss, and she snapped at me,

“Well it doesn’t really matter, does it?!”

Considering my upcoming wedding anniversary was distracting me and motivating me, yes, it mattered a great deal.

The first time the nurse inserted the speculum, I was okay with it. It felt cold and invasive but I was okay with it. A few minutes, I told myself, a few minutes.

But then she started opening it, and a bit stretched became a bit uncomfortable. Okay, I can deal. It won’t be so bad.

A bit more.

Heh.. okay.. I suppose it’s medical, after all.

A bit more.

Okay.. oww.. this hurts, I should probably say something.

Quite a bit more.

What the hell are you doing to me, lady?!

I left my first appointment sore, feeling physically and emotionally violated and like I’d been torn in two. It happened, and none of it felt even remotely okay. I would rather they drew blood than I had to go through that again. That’s how much it hurt.

I was willing to overocme my fear of needles, and give up blood.

It took me about three weeks to really get over the first time. I was sore, and shaken. I also bled a little bit, but I sort of knew that was normal.

The second time, I had a much nicer nurse and I felt much more reassured about things. This would be a breeze, and I knew what to expect.

“Bend your knees up, and just sort of… foof! Let them fall open” she said.

I don’t let my legs just fall open, not even for sex.

As daft as it sounds, I couldn’t do it, I had to physically and tentatively move them open. Such a bold reveal just wasn’t in me.

This nurse was a lot more clinical. Grabbing the swivel light from the wall and hovering it over my hips. I stared at the ceiling as her light illuminated my private bits.

The shame.

She was a lot more gentle, but she started talking to my cervix.

Yes, talking to it.

“Where are you? Oh, there you are! You’re a shy little thing, aren’t you?”

Please, kill me know.

When she held the speculum so she could take the sample, she managed to dig one of the blades into the wall of my vagina. It was a different pain to last time, but it still hurt nonetheless.

Enough, I couldn’t be dealing with any more of these damn things.

I wrote some time ago in support in support of the revolutionary idea to test for cervical screening from a urine sample. If it can be done and be more reliable than conventional cervical screening, then it will mean an end to painful and humiliating procedures for women in low-risk groups like me. An end to pain and tense muscles for women like me, who struggle with anxiety.

There is some theory that some doctors and the NHS staff are paid to carry out cervical screening, regardless of risk. The more they do, the bigger the pay packet. To some extent, I have an iota of evidence that might back up this theory.

in 2009, I worked for the NHS. We were just coming up to a winter with swine flu and I was a team of about 7 admin assistants tasked with distributing approximately 2,000 letters inviting high-risk patients for immunisation. After a month of folding and paper cuts, we were finally all given a Christmas card each.

“A little something for your hard work this past month” my manager said,

In it, was a £60 John Lewis gift card. £60!

That’s only a little less than what my own biological mother spends on me.

If rumours are true, then the 4 medical secretaries each pocketed £200 in vouchers. If you work that out, that’s more than £1,500, in our office alone.

So yes, I do fully back the idea that some (though not all) of medical treatments are financially incentivised.

Of course, I am absolutely not advocating every woman to pass up her right to cervical screening, and it absolutely comes down to recognising and knowing your risks. The risk groups for developing cervical cancer include:-

  • Being a smoker – Smoking alone doubles your risk.
  • Being exposed to HPV 16 & 18 through skin-to-skin contact with the genital area of an infected person
  • Taking the combined oral contraceptive pill
  • Immune system deficiency
  • Age – women 20+ are more likely to develop cervical cancer
  • Genital herpes
  • Exposure to DES ( diethylstilbestrol)

For me, the risk is very, very small. So small in fact, that I’m willing to wait three years for the urine test to become available.

  • I’ve only ever had unprotected sex with one man, who used barrier methods with his ex-partners, so any risk is unlikely.
  • I don’t smoke
  • I don’t have herpes
  • I take the progesterone-only contraceptive pill (POP)
  • My immune system is pretty kick-ass
  • I’m 31, and both of my past results were normal
  • I was born in 1988. Use of diethylstilbestrol stopped in 1970.

That leaves only my age, and any number of things can happen in three years.

I do follow the news on this story, and I hope, really hope, that our government decides to roll out the simple urine test soon. I also know that our media likes to remind us about the fate of Jade Goody and how important cervical screening is. We have also seen the smeared lipstick campaign, which I chose intentionally not to part-take in. Testing for cervical cancer may be important, but so is the physical and mental impact from these invasive procedures.

I know that I will be summoned again next year. For that, I plan to write a letter to my GP and refuse my screening, I will also underscore my reasons for declining, along with underlining all the reasons that make me exceptionally low-risk. Cervical cancer takes 10-20 years to develop, and the urine test is expected to be ready in three. Once the new test is released, I will happily fulfill my obligations again, pain and humiliation-free.

Cervical screening does hurt, it is invasive and unless you have a substantial risk of developing cervical cancer, it is quite often also completely unnecessary. I can’t tell you what to do, but do your homework, know your risks and if you feel you’d rather wait a little bit for an alternative, don’t be afraid to say no.

Stay well, folks,

Helen xx

Why I’m Getting Rid Of My Bathroom Scales (Plus, My Anorexia Story)



I want you to take a good look at the above image, and tell me,

In which photo do I look happier, 2004 or 2008?

Now look again,

You see? What you see in 2008 is a young woman who is gripped by anorexia. I was gripped with the fear of being unloveable and unhealthy, so I worked out what weight I had to be to be the ‘ideal’ BMI of 25, and then I went at it, and I’d do whatever it took to stay that way.

  • I was eating 6 apples a day, and loving the grueling, queasy acidic stomach feeling because I knew that meant the fat was melting away.
  • I’d eat half of every meal and avoid fried foods, cheese or too much sugar. I was convinced that if I ate any ‘bad’ foods, I’d have a heart attack almost right away.
  • If I put something ‘bad’ in my mouth, like chocolate, I’d taste it then spit it out.
  • I’d weigh myself, almost religiously, at least 3 times per week. If I’d gained even a pound, I’d refuse to eat to balance things out.
  • Similarly, if I ate something bad, I’d eat something ‘good’ (like a carrot, or another apple or two) to balance the ‘bad’ out.
  • I’d consume ONLY a portion worth the calories I wanted to consume. If a yogurt drink was 120 calories per 100ml and the bottle was 250ml, I’d drink what I thought was about 100ml and throw the rest away so I could have calories from something else.
  • I had panic attacks after every meal because I feared the food I’d eaten was too much for me to stay ‘healthy’.
  • I was tremendously picky about food on dates, and if anything came with chips or cheese, I wouldn’t eat it.
  • If I ate something unhealthy, I’d go for excessively long walks that burned off the required amount of calories to be ‘healthy’.

I was obsessed with staying the ‘ideal’ weight.

To my mother, I was gorgeous and pretty. To my then boyfriend (now, luckily, husband) I was a pain in the ass.

But this is what weight loss and dieting can do to you if you’re not careful, and this is why I’ve refused to have a relationship with my bathroom scales ever since.

Don’t get me wrong, in recent days I know that I have gone a bit too far the other way. I am definitely a larger woman now (I blame my husband for introducing me to some wonderfully unhealthy things!) and I definitely do know that I need to lose some weight. But you know what? I’m doing it for me. And I’m enjoying the journey along the way.

This whole new thought process started about 3 weeks ago when I thought about joining a WeightWatchers regime class. I couldn’t be the only one who thought the very idea of weighing yourself publicly seemed bizarre? It turns out, I was far from alone (NB. Bit of an old post).

So that was me decided, no WeightWatchers, or Slimming World, or any of those other programmes for me.

To be honest, any time I’ve looked at any of those recipes, they just.. well… don’t look particularly tasty to me. I’m not a fan of sweet potato, or courgette, or aubergine. It’s carrots and peas for me.

Come to think, I’m not sure who would do more tricks for raw carrot, me or the dog. Alas, I digress.

Lately. I’ve been a very, very bad girl. A bit better than I used to be, but still a bad girl.

I was in bad habits, and I used to eat 4 chocolate chip digestives with a cup of tea as ‘breakfast’ because it was about all I had ‘time’ to eat. So, so, incredibly not healthy.

Aware that I needed to change, I had a discussion last week with Matt, about my past. I pointed out that I refused to go back ‘there’, back to my old way of being. To me, a size 16 would be perfect, curvaceous and shapely.

“If you get to a size 16, I’ll be very, very happy.”

His tone was clear – if I got to a size 16, he’d have a tough ol’ time resisting me.

Perfect.

So this morning, I changed the routine. I had 30g of Tesco’s dark chocolate crisp granola, topped off with 1% milk, and then I took the dog for a brisk walk afterwards.

I get it, my choice cereal contains dark chocolate, but why should I deny myself of the most important thing in life? Pleasure, and happiness?

Our walk started off quite briskly, but after about 20 minutes, we slowed down to enjoy the scenery. Sure, my back hurt, but this was more about something else. As I lifted my chin and felt the winter sun light my hair through the winter trees, this was about more than just exercising, this was about living.

It was about the simple, small little things.

We can exercise to stay alive, or we can exercise to live.

With the sun in my auburn hair, I smiled and I felt the most beautiful I have felt in quite some time. Neither from being fat, nor from being thin, but just by being me. Simply and presently me. If I hadn’t have gone, I wouldn’t have had some gentle exercise, nor experienced this moment of being. Isn’t that what living should be?

Aware of my desire to change, I stared at the bathroom scales last night. What were they to me? A tool of my health? Or a way to control my very being? Unsure if I was just being lazy, I reseafched my way of thinking. Once again, there were others who thought like me

I decided that I’m not going to give away my bathroom scales, and nor am I going to bin them. Instead, they are going out for recycling. You see, by giving my scales to some other poor soul, I inflict the pain and suffering of being controlled by the digits on them. Nobody, ever, should have to go through the mental pain, anguish and control of anorexia.

Health is not a number on a scale nor the digit at the front of the rack. Health is measured by how much you do and how you choose to live. Anyone is beautiful without single figure clothes sizes or extensive beauty regimes. When you get know the person inside, you realise that true beauty is far more than skin deep.

If you want to be healthy, remember:

  • Eat 5 pieces of fruit and vegetables per day.
  • Limit (but don’t cut out, unless you want to) sugar and alcohol.
  • Limit processed foods and try to cook fresh
  • Remember portion control
  • Eat no later than 4 hours before bedtime
  • Get 8 hours of sleep each night
  • Stay active (even if it is just a casual walk with the dog!)
  • Try and quit smoking

Laugh and smile often, because even if the scales didn’t move downwards today, you are beautiful anyway!

Keep smiling, folks!,

Helen xx



The Importance Of Self-Care (A More Realistic Approach!)



Good afternoon my lovelies,

I woke up this morning and I was annoyed at myself. I’d put others above myself and I was mad because it was something I’d promised myself I would do anymore. I’m selfless, I know it, a lot of other people know it, and unfortunately, quite often that leads to me getting used, hurt or sadly sometimes both.

As I was feeling a bit funky and woolly-headed this morning, I decided upon an early morning shower. It was an act of self-love and self-care that came from a place of knowing that I needed to be gentle and forgiving on myself. I’d made a mistake, and that’s okay. I’m human, and even the best humans make mistakes sometimes.

After my shower though, I decided to do some research and read some of the articles out there about self-love. I have to be honest. some of the results horrified me, if only because they heavily emphasised on the “feeling good” that comes from putting other people before yourself – the very thing that I had been doing all along!

I’m not saying that you should be selfish, I’m not saying fuck the world and it’s just me from here on out, that’s not what I’m saying at all. We have to care for one another, but we have to care for ourselves, too. What good are you to others if you haven’t been good to yourself?

Some of the more commonly known and simple ways we can look after ourselves include:

  • Eat healthily
  • Excercise often
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Socialise with friends and family
  • Have a bath or shower, brush our hair and teeth
  • Stop smoking
  • Don’t physically harm ourselves
  • Avoid illegal drugs
  • Drink alcohol responsibly

All common sense stuff which are really important, but you know what? So are a lot of other things, too.

My dearly beloved father, who I miss so terribly, used to live almost religiously by those rules. Do you know where it got him? Aggressive blood cancer, he died in hospital aged just 60.

My grandmother wrote her own rules. She’d have a fruit cake if she damn well felt like it (and a chocolate, too!), she did no other exercise besides housework, pottering in the garden and walking to the village every morning, yet she lived to be 81!

Since my father’s death, I have two new mottos in life. Firstly, carpe diem, because none of us know how long we have left, and also “anything in moderation”, just as my grandmother lived.

When I was in therapy, my therapist taught me the importance of rewarding myself and treating myself, and lovelies, it is so, so important that you do it, too. I never really gave it much thought, until the online Dom I was chatting to at the time (with Wolfie’s permission!) compiled me a list of ways that I could make time for myself and reward myself, and here are some other ways that you can make time for yourself, too:

  • If you go for a brisk walk around the park, make time to stop and sit and enjoy the sunshine or the scenery.
  • Make yourself go out for coffee (if you don’t go out often), and reward yourself with a nice slice of cake while you’re there, too.
  • Break up your boring fitness routine and go swimming instead of running.
  • Have a long, luxurious bubble bath instead of a quick shower.
  • Have a nap if you’re feeling sleep-deprived
  • Fantasise about that cute waitress or that hot barrista without guilt or shame.
  • Learn to say no and not feel bad

Two little ways that I’ve allowed myself more pleasure in my life is that I’ve promised myself I will shower for longer, and more often. Too often, showers for me are about the basics hair, wash, rinse and done. The water need only be warm enough that I’m not shivering while I have a row of a very sharp blades in my hand and they only need be long enough that I can do what I need to do, then it[s out, get dry and get dressed and get on with my day. I like showers, I like being able to think and reflect and feel my problems rinse away. With the introduction of slightly more frequent, more luxurious, longer showers in my life, I’ll be able to make that time for my handling my thoughts and feelings, too.

My other way is through my love of carrot cake. If you’re not familiar with carrot cake, then you really do need to try carrot cake. It’s sweet, light, fluffy, spicy and moist.. it’s just. So. Good! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some bloomin’ awful carrot cakes in my time (*cough* Costco *cough*), but when carrot cake is good, it’s great. If I take myself out for coffee and there is carrot cake on offer, well, sometimes a girl just has to give herself permission to have a slice.

Remember, it’s fine to treat yourself sometimes. My first boyfriend told me that I should love myself first, and I thought he was silly because my young and naive self wanted to believe that romantic love should come first. Now, at my thirty one tender years, I understand what he meant. Self love comes from exercise, healthy eating, getting enough sleep and the such, but it comes from doing what you want and enjoying what you like as well, without guilt or shame.

And if all else fails, even if you can’t find any other justification for something other than simply because you want it, like it, or just simply feel like it’s about time you spoilt yourself. Just remember, absolutely anything is okay in moderation. So get out there and enjoy it! 😉

What’s your favourite way to treat yourself? Let me know in the comments!

Stay well, folks!,

Helen xx