LIFESTYLE | How To Focus and Concentrate in a Digital World

Because getting our minds off the internet is a skill in itself.

Some time ago, I realised that my attention span has decreased a lot in the last few years. I used to be an avid reader, as well as someone who could watch films every day for entertainment. Today, I find that the only source of entertainment I always come back to is instant, short, snappy content: Instagram pictures and Stories, YouTube videos, or blog posts. I seem to have lost the ability to focus for a long time, and even when I'm working, the temptation to scroll through my phone is often distracting me from my goals.
Ultimately, I think this is a symptom of our time: we are drawn to our little screens, we want very visual content which brings us an instant reaction and satisfaction. Our attention span reduces because we don't need to pay attention anymore. Everything is thrown at us and we just absorb it, to forget it straight after and make space for the new content we'll see next.

In this context, I think it's important that we don't focus the ability to focus properly. This is a big deal especially when it comes to mindfulness and relaxation, as well as switching off from the buzzing world around us to take time for self-care. So here are some tips I have been using to work on being more focussed:

It may sound like simple and basic advice, but we should never overlook the fact that we probably don't read as much as we should, and most likely not as much as we used to when we were younger - and didn't have that many screen distractions. Truth is, reading is a great stress-reliever, and good exercise for the brain: we have to focus on the words, on the plot, and I find that prolonged reading sessions (i.e. at least a good twenty minutes) make you work on your concentration levels. So whether it be a novel, poems, the newspaper, graphic novels - take the time, every single day, to read at least twenty to thirty minutes. I have been doing that every morning for the past month, reading a few chapters when I wake up and it really makes me feel relaxed to start off the day.

If you are used to face screens for hours on end, you need some down time during the day to rest your eyes and brain. Giving your eyes a break gives you time for other things, and this could be as simple as taking a five-minute nap, reading a (paper) magazine, preparing yourself a little snack or having a workout session. It might be the smaller day-to-day activity, but when you're addicted to your phone screen (like I am, although it pains me to admit it..!) every little thing that you willingly do to take a break from screens will make you feel good about yourself. It may seem silly, but every effort you put towards making this digital 'detox' happen will be rewarding and motivate you to do even more!

This is the part that I would like to self-care and mindfulness the most: taking some time, as often as possible, to sit in silence and let your thoughts and ideas unfold. If you enjoy it, you might also practice yoga or meditation, but since it is not something I do, I keep my advice mainly to what works for me - but meditation is definitely a way to focus on the moment and get rid of information overload. Silence helps you center yourself and feel more aware of every stream of thought that goes into your brain. Light a candle or play some white noise in the background if it helps, and take the time to just do nothing. You may find, if you are used to a busy lifestyle, that staying there doing nothing can be very difficult, but plan this time into your routine and schedule and you will very quickly see the benefits of this little silence break in your everyday life.

What do you do to focus when you've had a digital overload?


BEAUTY | High-End Makeup: My Honest Thoughts

Can a foundation ever be worth £40? You have two hours.

The topic of high-end makeup is a controversial one: some people swear by luxury brands, others don't think the price is justified. Sure, there are some things worth investing your money on that are far more important than makeup, but these products are here for a reason and recently I've been thinking about my own views on the matter. 
Granted, I don't own a lot of high-end makeup: my holy grail foundation, the odd lipstick and quite a few nail polishes from my nail-mania craze a couple years ago. My knowledge of these products is much more limited than other bloggers, however in that sense, I feel more relatable than bloggers who own (whether they buy it or are sent it as PR) drawers full of high-end makeup. 

I think that you do not have to invest in luxury brands to have good quality makeup. There are a lot of brands, like Kiko, NYX, L'Oréal (although their prices seem to be going up little by little!) or even Sleek and Revolution, which make really good makeup for good prices. A good thing about the beauty industry getting bigger and bigger through Internet and social media is that it allows more brands to be in the market, and give their buyers good products for competitive prices. 

However, there is also this inevitable attraction that lures us into luxury brands. It is true for makeup as it is true for fashion, homeware, cars or even food. (Waitrose vs. Lidl, where do you place your bets?) Luxury is (generally) seen as a sign of good taste, good quality. It makes you feel fancy and good about yourself. Look at that shiny Chanel lipstick... and that sleek Dior nail polish... The both combined are probably worth a full week of shopping from Waitrose, now that we speak of it. So are they really worth spending your pennies on?

Personally, I invest in luxury products that I know I will love and make the most of. The few high-end items that I have, I cherish and always feel happy using. Is the quality always outstanding? Not really. Those two nail polishes above could have easily been replaced by Barry M or Kiko nail polishes. Like any other nail polish, they chip. They don't last five days on your nails without chipping, in fact. But because I love the texture, the brushes, the shades and the brands themselves (#proudtobeFrench) I do not regret at all spending my money on them.
Some other products, like the Charlotte Tilbury Magic Foundation, are a real godsend. You know where your £30 go. You could save £20 and buy a Kiko foundation for a tenner, but find that actually, the finish is not that great, or you could part with your hard-earned money and get a foundation that will give you exactly what you were expecting from it, and make you feel confident every time you wear it. Of course, it is a privilege to be able to afford either of those products, and makeup is not, in my eyes, a necessity, and will never be. 

And just because of that, because affording makeup is a privilege, when some girls and women cannot even afford period protection, I think that knowing the worth of what you are buying is very important when making a high-end purchase. The worth can be calculated in many ways, but quality is not always one of them. I find that it is not about how the product is, but how it makes you feel. And it is something to keep in mind maybe when you are undecided about whether to buy that YSL mascara: are you doing it for yourself, because everybody else owns it too, or just because, well, you have the money right there so why not? 
If you ask me, I am sure there will be a pretty good dupe of that mascara in the shelves of Boots or Superdrug. We all know it. But we all crave that little bit of luxury in one way or another. And to be honest, that mascara will always be cheaper than a Louis Vuitton bag...

What are your thoughts on high-end makeup? Do you invest in a lot of luxury products?


FASHION | The Lace Midi

Goal: to look like a princess. Every day.

I love midi dresses. They make me feel like a special butterfly, like a princess, like I'm in a Audrey Hepburn film - you name it. It is great that the midi dress trend is still going strong a few years after we started seeing the first of those dresses in shops. You can dress them up, dress them down, and there are a lot of different styles you can go with a midi dress, from streetwear (with a good pair of trainers) to fancy dinner in London. For me, the fancy look always wins!
It was only right, then, to wear my favourite midi dress to one of my favourite dream-come-true places: the Palace of Versailles. Or most specifically, it's gardens. I went early in July with my boyfriend, and we avoided the castle (there was a queue of at least two million people to go in...) and headed straight to the gardens. It was a beautiful summer day, and all we could see was colourful flowers, beautiful marble statues shining in the sun, and bushes trimmed to perfection.

Every summer, the gardens come to life as the fountains are lit every hour or so and baroque music is played along the main paths - making you really feel like you are stepping back in time, and as though you could almost stumble upon Louis XIV and his court during your wander. Every spot is carefully planned, and shows how much work has gone in the displays, the geometry of each square of flowers, of each bush, each statue. The gardens of Versailles truly are a work of Art.
My boyfriend nicely took so many photos of me, at every corner, because every single view is worth capturing. My outfit just made me feel like I was blending in with the surroundings and, if I can say so myself, I am really happy with how all the photos turned out.

This dress is from Zara, and the quality is wonderful - thick material but very floaty, the lace is strong and I know won't get damaged in the wash. A little extra for every day outfits, but life is too short to not wear the pretty dress if you want to!

Another place I didn't want to miss was Marie Antoinette's Hamlet. It is a ten-fifteen minute walk from the Grand Canal, and well worth the aching feet at the end of the day. There, you can meander around the Temples, the amazingly well-preserved cottages and of course pet goats and donkeys at the Queen's farm. Simply delightful!

Going to Versailles means that wearing flats is the best option. I never wear heels anyway (only when I am in a very good mood and I know that I am going to spend most of my time sat down...) but I would recommend you avoid heels if you decide to go to the gardens for the day. You will end up walking so much, comfort is the way to go. I am wearing my brown flat sandals which I love because they literally go with any outfit I have.
No need for heels anyway - the dress was just enough to make me feel like the new Marie Antoinette lost in her comforting nest of a garden... Well, with my head still very much attached to my neck, thankfully.

What are your thoughts on midi dresses?