My personal guide to living (your best life)

A couple of years ago I stumbled upon a quote from Roald Dahl, concerning the importance of being an enthusiast in life, and chasing your interests at full speed. He advised to embrace your interests with both arms, hug them, love them and above all become passionate about them.

Try something every week that scares you, whether it be a new flavour of Nespresso pod (typical me) or wearing a piece of clothing somewhat outside of your comfort zone. I try to surround myself with the dreamers, the believers, the inspirers, and most importantly, my home team; the people who see the best in me when at times I may not be able to see it myself.

My life is in no way perfect (nobody’s is, not even Beyoncé’s…) but I like to think of myself as someone who will always try to see the good in a situation, and aspire to find a solution to every problem (unless it concerns the printer in work, we just don’t get along).


Buy the over-priced coffee

Yes, many will say £2.60 is a lot for a single cup of coffee, but if spending that on the way to work every morning allows you to kick start your day with a happy attitude then you do you. It’s your money, and you have every right to spend it in however way you feel fit. You could even go for a short walk while drinking your coffee, ticking two things off the self-care checklist.

I seem to have established a reputation in my workplace for ‘refusing to use the kettle’ as they put it; I don’t believe anything can beat a good Soy Latte (yes I’m one of those people) from Caffe Nero. However, there’s worse things in the world that I could be spending my money on, and I genuinely feel my work day goes a lot better post-Nero. This could well have reached the placebo effect stage, but I’m quite content with my routine and don’t plan on rebranding my coffee-addict-self anytime soon.



Choose your company wisely

Whether you have kids yourself, you’re an auntie/uncle, or a close friend is a parent, fit in time for children when at all possible (unless you’re one of those people who simply cannot figure out how to get along with small children, that’s ok, you can be excused from this step). I cannot emphasise enough just how helpful a couple of hours with a child can be when you’re feeling down or stressed.

I have two little cousins, four and five years old, who I absolutely adore and would go as far as branding my favourite people in the world. There is no doubt that even 10 minutes with them will completely brighten my day. The happiness and innocence expressed by children is absolutely incredible, and will be sure to add a little sparkle to your outlook. Children remind me of little rays of light, brightening the world around them one laugh at a time (when they’re not crying over the shape of their toast of course). View the world through the eyes of a toddler sometime, it’s pretty amazing.


Quit Competing

Not meant in the literal sense of course – if you are a devoted member of a competitive sports team or dance school, give it your all and take home the gold. (This type of competition is great – I was a competitive dancer for the majority of my childhood and I can honestly say these were the best days of my life and the experiences, friendships and achievements have shaped me as a person set to tackle adulthood.)

In a workplace, educational, or social context, remember that your only competition should be the person you were yesterday. Why compete with those around you when you can simply be the best version of yourself; originality is key, and in itself is an advantage. If striving for a promotion, for example, put full focus into a clear demonstration of why you are fit for the role, rather than worrying about a fellow candidate’s attempt to succeed.

The popular saying ‘teamwork makes the dream work’ is quite important for a multitude of reasons. Work on building your friends and colleagues up, don’t waste your own valuable time trying to plan the approach to an aimless goal of making yourself better than those around you. Life requires a bit of (healthy) competition, but knowing where to draw the line is the vital piece in the puzzle. Supporting others’ successes won’t ever dampen your own.



“No” is a recognised word in the English language

…and it’s totally OK to use it. Nothing in life is more important than your mental health, happiness and overall well-being. If you don’t want to do something for whatever reason (honestly believe me, a 2-hour social event doesn’t warrant an excuse complete with references and bibliography), never feel guilty about politely declining.

A true friend or family member will never take it personally (unless you’ve committed to being someone’s bridesmaid, you might have to follow that one through). You don’t need to lie, make up silly excuses, or over-explain yourself; honesty is the best policy. Spend less time worrying about what others think, the best day of your life will be the one on which you decide that your life is your own.


Go to Disneyland

I’m serious, I went to Disneyland Paris last September with my bestfriend, and it was the best 5 days EVER. We went on all the rides, ate Mickey Mouse shaped macaroons costing €5 each (totally justifiable because they were Mickey Mouse shaped) and relived our entire childhood. Ok so, realistically you can go anywhere in the world, it doesn’t have to be Disneyland (although I would highly recommend). Travel outside of your home country, see what the world has to offer, sample new food and enjoy new experiences. Take in unfamiliar cultures and enjoy warmer climates. Travel is education for living.

Take photos! Anyone who knows me at all will be aware of my profound love for capturing life through my camera lens; I am in no way a professional by any means, I use my iPhone, and the same 3 filters that I have grown to love will re-appear with every picture I post. I have always loved the idea of capturing memories. My Dad was a keen videographer, confirmed by the endless clips of trips to the park and lengthy insights into 2-year-old Nora’s early music career. He knew he was making memories, but not that those memories would be so invaluable to his family in just a matter of months’ time. My Dad passed away suddenly in June 2000, two days before a family holiday and just two months before I started Nursery School. These videos are all I will ever need, and have inspired me to continue documenting the moments in life that are worth reliving.


Eat the chocolate

Personally, I am an avid gym-goer and have been for a couple of years now. I work-out a couple of times a week, eat healthily and take care of my body (apart from consistently continuing to consume dairy when I am, in fact, intolerant).

An unhealthy relationship with food and body-image is where it goes wrong. Love your body for what it is, and if it tells you it would like a treat on a Friday night, then allow it exactly that. After all, your body has sat through your 9-5 week, it has attended your lectures, carried the weekly shop home from Sainsburys, and called into Starbucks for the office coffee run; give it a little weekend pick me up, it’s what it deserves. Eating a bar of chocolate will not ruin your fitness regime, a glass of wine won’t lead to a disappearing act from your calf-muscle, and the dress you have planned to wear out next weekend will still fit. My mum once told me to enjoy ‘everything in moderation’ and I pretty much live by that. If you don’t enjoy the finer things in life, nobody else is going to do it for you. I guarantee Simone Biles has a share bar of Dairy Milk in her kitchen cupboard.


Finally, just be nice to people

Inner battles are not always publicised through Facebook status’, sometimes it can be the people who seem the happiest who are struggling the most behind the scenes. Be a positive presence, a friendly smile, a listening ear. Just knowing that someone is in your corner can have a massive influence on the mind. Try not to take everything in life so personally (I am soooo guilty of this), and do not listen to that little voice in your head who drops by from time to time to tell you that you aren’t good enough.

In whatever way you choose to spend your days, take time to ensure you are living for YOU. Stop dreaming about success and go out and build it. The secret to having it all is believing that you already do, what comes next is simply dependent on your choice to ‘just do you’. The world will continue to spin, and Mondays are (unfortunately) here to stay. Trust your instinct, remember who you are, and the game will change.  You don’t need to wait until ‘next week’ to start living your best life.

P.S. Buy the £2.60 coffee.

Nora xx


Nora Brennan is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on: Instagram – @noraellenb / Twitter – @noraellenb / LinkedIn- Nora Ellen Brennan.




“When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.” – Dr Wayne W. Dyer


To celebrate World Kindness Day on Monday 13th November, Lionsgate decided to perform their own act of kindness and screen a preview showing of their new family drama Wonder, for free, in 300 cinemas nationwide.

I had never heard of the book or the movie Wonder – even though it stars my absolute favourite Jacob Tremblay – so when my sister messaged me to tell me she had free tickets to the cinema, I could have been signing up to watch anything, but of course I agreed- I am a poor student, someone says free and I’ll take it!

So, for anyone who was like me and hasn’t heard of the movie, let me be your personal IMBD. Wonder was adapted from R.J Palacio’s New York Times bestseller. It tells the story of August Pullman – or Auggie, as he is nicknamed in the film – a young boy born with some facial differences. Up until now, Auggie was home schooled and had never been to a mainstream school. He decides now is the time – fifth grade – he’s ready to join his peers in school. The movie Wonder tells of his extraordinary journey in starting school, dealing with bullies, making friends, losing friends and becoming the unlikely hero of his fifth-grade class.

This movie is an emotional rollercoaster, which leaves you with the warmest butterflies in your stomach. People laughed, people cried (some sobbed – not me of course…) and people left that cinema theatre feeling truly inspired. The true triumphant of the movie was how it brought people together. I have not been to a cinema screening in so long that had such a variety of people. There were mothers and young sons, fathers with young daughters, couples, sisters, brothers and everything in between.

Here’s a few things I learnt from the movie;
1. August Pullman has a facial disfigurement. It makes the first few weeks of school hell. He struggles speaking up in class, he finds it hard making friends and he wants to give up. What got me about this movie is how relatable it was. Auggie blames his facial differences for all the trouble he faces in school. He just wants to look ‘normal’. What really grasped my attention and got me so emotionally invested, was how relatable this notion is. In a world of Instagram models with the ‘perfect bodies’, and celebrities having surgery to change the way they look, don’t we all feel a bit like Auggie Pullman. Struggling to fit in and just wishing we could be like everyone else.

One of my favourite lines used in the movie drew on Dr Seuss’ famous quote, “Why fit in when you were born to stand out,” and that is absolutely what Auggie does, he stands out. I think we should all be taking a leaf from Auggie’s book. Our differences are what make up special, they are what make us who we are. Let’s start celebrating them, not trying to change them!


2. Family – in whatever way, shape or form you define family – is the most important thing. For me my family is my mum, my dad, my brother and my sister. But family is also all of my friends, my mums friends, my aunties and uncles, everyone who surrounds me with love and support. The Pullman’s aren’t the perfect family, they have their flaws just like the rest of us. But what they do have, is a wholly unconditional love that they put in to everything they do. Being popular, having a wealth of material goods, and everything else we define ourselves by are all redundant when it comes to family. Without our family, who support us and love us for all our flaws and all our little traits that make us, us, life would be a very lonely place.

3. Finally, and in fitting with the World Kindness theme, a quote by Dr Dyer was used in the movie;
“When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.”
What I love about this quote, is that it is almost an oxymoron. In choosing kind, you are making the right choice. Kindness really is the most extraordinary gift we can give to anyone. And if this movie teaches you anything, it really is that kindness always wins. Smile and be kind, and the world will smile and be kind back. Everyone we meet is facing a battle that may not be as obvious as Auggie’s battle in the movie, and one smile from you may be exactly what they need.


As you can probably tell, I fell in love with this movie, I also fell in love with Lionsgate for the World Kindness Day PR stunt which introduced me to the move. There is nothing better than a movie that inspires you to do something good! So, all that’s left to say is, stand out, cherish those who love and support you, be kind… oh and go and watch the movie!

Claire Stinton is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @clairestintonn / Instagram: @clairestinton