Why I've changed who I follow online

I've been reflecting a lot on social media this month & the role it has to play on your mental health. Growing up, people complained glossy magazines were contributing to eating disorders and pressurising young women to look a certain way. Now social media is 24/7 and I worry about how young people cope with the pressure for a perfect selfie. I really worry about the young girls in my life who see these images of 'perfection' and think they need to look a certain way to feel accepted.

Just like a glossy magazine, airbrushing an Instagram image is common. The idea of perfection being thrown down my 26 year old neck has certainly made me feel inferior and worried at times. I've tried to present a different sort of theme on my Instagram of me being myself without making any apologies or airbrushing away imperfections. One way I've tried to help how I feel is to follow people that resonate with me whether that be because we have the same colouring (so their outfits/makeup would look great on me too!), same shape or their message really hits home with me. I really suggest trying it out!

Here's some accounts I've started following to make me feel more at home on Instagram:

Mid-Size Collective
This account is literally everything I stand for as a blogger. Re-gramming all the best style of girls in the 'mid size' category who can feel left out of the usual Instagram narrative is a genius idea. Not only do I love all of the style options but it's great to see confident girls who are a size 14! It also gives me a great ideas of places to shop (hello Florence & Fred at Tesco - who knew!) that I would never have thought about. 

Fashion Foie Gras
This is an account I have followed for the longest time. Being a tall girl with dark hair like myself, Emily has consistently been one of my favourite people to follow. Plus she does  great mix of high end and high street brands. She also seems like a really sweet person so it makes me engage with her stories a lot more!

The 12ish
This Mega-Babe founder (the creator of products to help all sorts of issues like boob sweat and thigh chafe!) has super cool style & is actively campaigning for stores like Zara to carry bigger sizes to cater to a more diverse body shape range. Katie's New York street style vibes and cool curve fitness outfits really inspire me to be more proud of the body I've been given.

Take time out to feel inspired on Instagram. Use hashtags to find new people and explore who your favourite InstagrammerI do think it can be such an amazing space but so often we spend time following people that don't make us feel good about ourselves. Re-think your following strategy & see how it impacts you positively!

The attitude of gratitude

Jumper from George at Asda - buy it here 

'Thanks very much"

We're a society that says thank you so much yet 2018 has made me think a lot about what is truly means to be grateful. We say 'thanks' so flippantly that it has lost its meaning in so many ways. My biggest annoyance in life is when people are not grateful for what you have brought to the table - whether that has been emotional or physical support. It's also becoming harder in life to be thankful as we place so much value on physical things such as presents at birthday or Christmas time rather than the time that person has spent with you.

Recently when I have opened my Instagram to questions, there here been lots of 'How do you stay positive' comments. There is one thing that gets me through everyday to smile at least once. The attitude of gratitude doesn't come easily but you need to focus each day for five minutes for what has been great about your day. It's something I started doing a few years ago when I reached total burnout point. I was starting a new university course, working, blogging, singing plus two beautiful people in my life passed away. It seems strange to talk about the attitude of gratitude when you put it into the context of someone no longer being here but in the days after, remembering the things they brought to my life to enrich it brought me so much comfort.

There's a few things hat I try to think about when I'm trying to think more positively. They are simple things that we often overlook when a cloud of negativity comes over you. 

Did someone give you their time today? I truly think it's the greatest gift you can give anyone. I love nothing more than someone coming to my house for a cup of coffee & a catch up. That investment takes so little but means so much. So whether it's a 10 minute chat in work with a colleague or a mad night out with your BFF's, think about the time someone has given you that day and be thankful for that interaction. 

Your gifts
This is something that has taken me YEARS to appreciate. I find that as a society we are so incredibly hard on ourselves - I know this more than anyone! Learn to appreciate your gifts and talents. Not everyone has a gift like being a concert pianist or being super good at maths. My gifts are being a kind person, being thoughtful and a good communicator. Gifts aren't about being the smartest or the prettiest. It's about how you use what you have to enrich your life and the lives of others whether that is through your job, hobby or at home. Recognising when you've used your gift in your day is a great way to remind yourself 'Good job!'.

Something I find really hard is if I am excited for something and other people don't match my energy. If you've spent ages working on something hard & no one says thank you, your wee soul can feel let down. I despise the phrase 'Self praise is no praise' because realistically, if you aren't hearing it from somewhere else you need to give yourself a pat on the back! This links back to the gifts point. It doesn't need to be a cause for celebrate all the time but really reflect on what you have done perhaps weekly - did you step out of your comfort zone? Did you make it through a tough week. Don't be hard on yourself - you've got this!

The attitude of gratitude is about realising that things aren't perfect but that you are ok. We all have rocky times (even me who can seem so positive all the time). Time, your gifts and praise = the attitude of gratitude. Practice makes perfect so don't expect to feel super overnight. Writing down your points can help plus if you do it every day, it can show you how to turn a bad week into a good one pretty quickly. 

My digital confidence tips

*This is sponsored content in association with the Post Office 

I recently travelled to London with the Post Office to attend one of their Digital Drop Ins in association with Google Garage. They carried out research where they found out that 20% of people in the UK don't feel digitally confident. The Digital Drop In sessions were carried out  in libraries across the UK to help people to gain more skills & one to one coaching on areas they felt they struggled with. This was aided by amazing Google experts who advised the best ways to solve their problems and up skill - 73% of those surveyed wanted to learn brand new skills!

Get password safe
Making sure you are digitally confident starts with your passwords. I learned that it is so important to have multiple passwords & not use the same password for everything. I heard of a friend who recently had her online banking hacked & as she used the same password for everything, they hacked her social media! Be clever and conscious with your passwords to allow you to feel secure and safe online that you can log in to wherever you are in the world. 

Extra storage
Backing things up was one of the biggest questions asked the the Digital Drop In I attended. People were frightened that they would loose important documents or precious pictures. I'm a big fan of Dropbox - a free online storage system. Google Drive is also fantastic for this. It means should your device ever be out of action (or you drop your phone down the toilet!) that your important things will remain in a cloud online. 

44% of people have never been taught how to use their devices. I know in my family that my mum & granny often struggle with things. I love to try to help them - the same with my colleagues in work! I am forever fixing people's phones and apps for them! In fact, 29% of people don't know how to set up their devices. I know this was very much the case when I bought my mum a new wireless printer a few months ago! There's also lots of amazing tutorials on YouTube if you want to learn how to do something. Sometimes it will take a few times to get to grips with things so keep trying! It's a bit like riding a bike - the more you do it, the better you will be! 

Get 'app-y!
21% of people don't feel comfortable using apps. Learn how to download them (aforementioned YouTube tutorials!) because they can make your life so much easier! There's so many amazing apps out there that can help you make the most of your devices. Whether it's the Genius Scan app (that scans documents to email them - amazing for application forms!) or Stocard (that keeps all of your loyalty cards in one place so you don't have to carry them!), there's an app for almost everything! 

Many thanks to the Post Office for having me to learn more about digital confidence. 

Need some digital confidence tips? Make sure to tweet me @GemmaLEBond. 

4 new Belfast date night hot spots

Date night... whether it's with your other half, best mate or mum, I think everyone seems to have a night each week that they know they see a certain person. If you are like me, you're always looking for the latest thing to try out in the city after work or on a Friday night.

Here's four new Belfast hot spots that will make you want to glide (LOL, not spon, you're welcome Translink!) into the city ASAP: 

In case you didn't see me in the picture above being an absolute princess at The Observatory, I'm OBSESSED with this new location. Disregard the negative press you've read - it's a 5* experience and something completely new. It has the best views of the city, feels super plush and the cocktails  & afternoon tea are amazing. If you are cocktail addict, you must come here to experience their Belfast themed cocktails. From 'Harland's Wolf' to 'Titanic Quarter', there's something for everyone (I especially appreciate the St. Anne's - a non-alcoholic G&T!). They also do tasty sharing plates if you fancy a snack with your drinks. My advice - book far in advance to avoid disappointment. 

Best for: impressing a new beau, feeling fancy, treating your mamma to Afternoon Tea

Located across the street from some of my favourite restaurants (Deane's and Howard Street), the Broken Shaker is a brand new bar with tapas, big tunes and great drinks. It has a nice atmosphere and a diverse clientele making it the perfect spot for lots of occasions. The decor of this venue is stunning and makes for a great place to start out for a birthday night out. Message their Facebook page to book for big parties. 

Best for: Pre-drinks, post work partying, a BFF date

Formerly McCracken's in Joy's Entry (I had many a good night out here when I was at school/uni - who else remembers the free mix CD's they used to give out!?), the two buildings have been revamped. Recalling Belfast's heritage of Joy's Entry, the buildings look unrecognisable from their former self. Both venues have a different vibe - Henry's is a more homely setting with the Jailhouse being better for chilled drinks. The food is also fantastic making it a great spot for a day drinking sesh/lunch. P.S. they have a really great Christmas menu if you need to book a lunch with work/catch up with friends! 

Best for: all occasions, chilled Sunday vibes, a first date

I've been to The MAC in St. Anne's Square more times than I care to recall. The Luminaire Club is The MAC reimagined as a cool New York jazz club playing host to some of the best musical talent in the theatre world. Using the stage to perform Broadway hits is the theme of the current show, The World Goes Round (running until Sept 15th). There are standard seats or premium at table seating with bar service so you can have a glass of vino and enjoy the show. I honestly enjoyed this experience so much. If you can't make it to this performance, see here for other things coming to The Luminarie Club

Best for: a mate date, getting your man to go to the theatre & not winge, something different!

Tried out any of my recommendations? Tweet me @GemmaLEBond and let me know! 

Digital Confidence

*This post is a paid for collaboration with the Post Office

Confidence... it's something I talk about a lot on my blog. But digital confidence is something that I've started to think about over the past six months. In my almost 8 years of blogging technology has advanced so much. I used to spend so much time working on my blog posts on my laptop and transferring pictures from my SD card to my computer. Now it can all be done from my iPhone!

As I get older, my safety and how much I choose to share online has become more important to me. As someone who has lots of digital knowledge I feel like I need to share more about keeping yourself safe online whether that be via the apps, safety measures or what you should or shouldn't share. 

One in five people do not feel digitally confident. If I think of that in terms of how many of you like to read my posts, it's a lot! 17% of people struggle with smart phones and 21% of people struggle with apps. And we aren't just talking about my mum who I regularly have to give tech advice to (or help her with her wireless printer!). 21% of 18-35 year olds feel uncomfortable with the pace of technology. I get it - I started my blog with this website and Twitter & that's grown to Facebook, Instagram and a million other different platforms. It's hard to keep up! 

That's why I've partnered with the Post Office & Google for their Digital Drop Ins. I'm heading to London at the end of the month to learn more about getting up to speed with digital confidence. Let me know if there's any burning questions you'd like me to ask the digital Google team by tweeting me @GemmaLEBond. 

If you live in London & would like to attend (I'll be there too!) please sign up to the free workshop on 31st August at this link