Posted in bullet journal, Bullet journaling, creativity, gardening, Planning and journaling, productivity, TN journaling

Spring is coming! Pretty, practical and creative journal spreads you must try

Spring officially starts on Saturday 20th March but there are already so many signs that the season is on its way. It’s a pretty chilly 3 degrees here in Sunderland today (warm coat and scarf weather), but last weekend, the temperatures rose to highs of 13 and it felt like Summer had arrived (never mind Spring) when my husband and I took a coastal walk in the bright sunshine and under cloudless blue skies! The warmer conditions have meant that lots of things are starting to pop up in the garden including early flowerers such as daffodils and tulips. One of our regular hedgehog visitors has even been tempted out of hibernation which is pretty early in comparison to previous years. There might still be lots of worries with regard to Covid around at the moment, but I think its super important to celebrate the small stuff and remind ourselves that there’s still lots to be grateful for right now and plenty to look forward to in the not too distant future. With that in mind, today I’m sharing some practical and pretty journal spreads, for your BuJo or your TN inserts, that I’ve created this week and really encourage you to try.

Spring flowers collage spread

This bright and colourful collage spread was created using pictures printed from Google images following a search for early Spring blooming flowers. They depict shrubs and bulbs which we actually have in our garden but most of which are not yet out. I copied the text in the left hand corner of page one of the double spread from an article which I found on the Woodland Trust website as I thought it was particularly fitting for the theme. The stickers are some I had left over from the Blooming Lovely collection and I discovered I had matching washi tape in my stash too. Both of these pages make me feel happy every time I look at them and I revisit it most days.

A pretty quote page

This was a free printable from https://www.bluemountain.com/blog/ I’ve printed it twice and put one copy in my bullet journal and a slightly larger version on the wall in my craft room. I found the quote by typing ‘spring quotes and sayings’. There’s lots to choose from and as long as you’re just printing them for personal rather than commercial use, you can add them to any of your journals or a prominent place in your home!

Garden jobs for Spring

This spread is purely practical, although I did add a few cute stickers! My husband and I sat down and listed some garden jobs that we would like to get done this month as a useful reference to see what needs doing and to see how much we’ve achieved. There’s not much on it yet, but by the end of the month, I reckon the list will be much longer (hopefully with lots crossed off!).

Time spent in nature

I love to document days out which my husband and I enjoy and, even though we’re limited to the local area at the moment, due to lockdown, we still go out for a walk each day. Last weekend, as I said earlier, it was really warm so we headed to our local coast. It was really busy there but as we’d had lots of sunshine, the grass was dry enough to walk on and it was easy to keep socially distant from others. I took a screenshot of the temperature on my phone as we couldn’t believe how warm it was for the end of February!

Shoots and leaves

There’s lots starting to emerge in the garden and so I took my phone out there and snapped a few signs of growth. It’s exciting to see things popping up even if some of them are weeds! The photos aren’t wonderful as I wanted them to just be quick pics but it will be good to compare how things look now with how they look in a few month’s time.

Plant and flower factfiles

This is something I started doing as part of last year’s garden related spreads. Basically, it’s just info from the plastic card you get stuck in the pots when you buy a plant or details which are included on the seeds or bulbs packet. It’s handy to know the exact variety you have and what they will look like when they come into bloom. Also, doing a little sketch of them is quite relaxing and therapeutic too! I messed up the lettering on the page so have stuck a piece on I cut from a page at the back of my journal. IRL, you can’t see it as badly as you can at the bottom of the header as you can in the photo.

Final words…

I hope you are tempted to have a go at at least one of these spreads – I guarantee they will make you smile when you look back over them if you do. I would love it if you would take the time to add your thoughts or your own ideas in the comments below. And, as always, if you’ve created any Spring spreads and shared them online, leave the link and I’ll be sure to check them out.

Posted in Bullet journaling, lifestyle, Planning and journaling, self care

Monday Matters: 8 self care activities for Autumn

Photo credit: Piotr Laskawski for Unsplash

The end of September marks the beginning of the season of Autumn and is an ideal time to ramp up your self care regime. In today’s Monday Matters post, I’m going to share 8 ideas to get you started.

Get your home Autumn ready

As the weather turns chillier, it’s time to pack away your Summer clothes and accessories, give your wardrobe and drawers a good vacuum and then fill them with cosy jumpers, knitted cardigans, scarves, hats and gloves. I also like to adorn my sofa with a couple of soft blankets to make use of on chilly evenings.

Go on a nature walk

I love to go on long walks in the countryside all year around but being out in nature in the Autumn time is particularly special. It’s such a complete feast for the senses with all the changes that are taking place as I shared in this blog post last September.

I also like to take my DSLR camera with me so I can collect photographic examples of the season such as leaves changing colour, wild and wonderful fungi, fallen conkers, acorns and sycamore seeds, hedgerow fruits and super sweet wildlife such as squirrels and hedgehogs.

Make a deliciously warming soup

It’s now the perfect time to have a go at making your own delicious and nourishing soup. I like to make the most of seasonal vegetables and try out lots of different squashes. Each one has a slightly different taste so why not try a few and see which you like best?

Sort out your skincare routine

I find that my skin gets really dehydrated in Autumn and Winter due to a combination of having the central heating on and the drying effects of the cold and windy weather so developing a good skincare routine is vital. After my daily shower, I apply a generous amount of aqueous cream all over my body but particularly on my legs which tend to get very dry and cracked. I then use a rich vitamin E cream on my face which contains an SPF and gives my skin a lovely radiant glow. Throughout the day, I make sure I drink plenty of water, adding a sugar free Cherries and Berries squash to make it more flavoursome. Before going out for my daily walk, I apply Vaseline to my lips as a protective barrier against the elements. I use the same face wash all year round which is a mild, gentle and fragrance free one specially formulated for sensitive skin and I make sure I moisturise well after each use. I’m also debating adding a night cream to my routine this year too but I need to do a little more research on them first.

Try out an Autumn craft

Doing something creative can be a great mood booster and a chance to practise mindfulness. There are lots of ideas for Autumnal crafts for adults and kids on Pinterest but this Autumn leaf Mason Jar craft particularly caught my eye.

Snuggle up and read

Get your cosiest pyjamas on and your warmest socks. Make your favourite hot drink and then snuggle up on your sofa wrapped in a soft blanket to read a good book. Bliss!

Treat yourself to an Autumn scented candle

A cheap and easy way to create a cosy Autumnal atmosphere in your home is to treat yourself to one or two gorgeous scented candles. There are so many different fragrances to choose from and a quick Google search produce results such as pumpkin spice, warm apple and cinnamon, pecan pie, crisp campfire apples, vanilla pumpkin marshmallow, spiced orange and Autumn glow.

Make an Autumn bucket list in your bullet journal

A wonderful spread to make in your bullet journal and to ensure you get the most out of the season is an Autumn bucket list. Then you can add all of the above activities plus any of your own that you want to try. Search Fall or Autumn bucket list on Pinterest and select your favourites.

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

I hope today’s post has given you lots of ideas on how to look after yourself over Autumn. I would love to hear about your plans for the season so, if you get the chance, leave me a little comment below.

Posted in bullet journal, Bullet journaling, creativity, Planning and journaling, Setting goals and intentions

Setting up my bullet journal for October: Autumn theme

Hi everyone, hope you are all well. This month, I’ve gone for an Autumn theme featuring brightly coloured leaves and acorns. I really enjoyed practising my drawing skills and I’m pleased with how the pages have turned out. I hope you like my spreads and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone else’s chosen themes for October.

For my cover page, I took inspiration from @lilbrownjournal on Instagram who created a wonderful circular design. Before starting, I spent some time doodling different leaf shapes using a variety of tutorials and images I found on Pinterest. I decided not to use my circle drawing tool this time as I wanted the outline to be quite big, so I took out my compass instead. To ensure that I didn’t end up with a hole in the middle of my page, I placed a few post it notes over the area before making my two circles.

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

The leaves and acorns were drawn in pencil and then outlined with a 0.2 Pigma Micron. I decided to use pencil crayons to shade them in to avoid ghosting. The only problem with this is that when you write on the page overleaf, it tends to transfer onto the previous page. It’s easy enough to remove with an eraser though.

Although I enjoyed using my circular month at a glance, I went back to a two page calendar for this month with 6 dot by 6 dot squares again drawn with my 0.2 Micron pen. Again, I decorated with lots of bright Autumn leaves and acorns.

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

October is a busy month for tidying up in the garden so I spent some time researching what needs to be pruned and then created this spread as a reminder of the benefits of pruning and the plants which need our attention.

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

The final page for this month is my habit trackers. I enjoyed the format I chose in September so I kept the layout the same but changed the decoration. I kept some of the same habits and added a few new ones focusing on getting outside for my walk every day and making sure I do my yoga consistently. I added some lovely Autumnal washi at the bottom which was gifted to me by my friend Bev and I think it finishes things off nicely.

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

That’s it for this month. I’m getting really low on pages in my Leuchtturm so I think I will probably be moving in to my next BuJo before October is over. I’ve gone back a Scribbles That Matter again as I’ve decided I prefer the thicker, white pages.

Thanks for reading,

Posted in CBT, compassion, lifestyle, mental health, Mindfulness

Monday Matters: The beginner’s guide to self-compassion

Photo credit: kaboompics.com for Unsplash

A few months ago, I wrote a blog post which explored different ways to practise self love and gave some ideas for bullet journal spreads you might like to try. Today’s writing is an extension of this them and focuses on self-compassion. I hope you find it both interesting and useful.

What is self-compassion?

Self-compassion is all about showing yourself warmth, love, kindness and understanding, especially during difficult times. It’s about accepting ourselves as we are, learning to be less self-critical and avoiding judgement. It’s about being mindful of our different emotional states and the situations we find ourselves, recognising that we all make mistakes, that no-one is perfect and that we all struggle at times so we’re not alone in our suffering.

Why should I practice self-compassion?

There has been a lot of recent research into the benefits of being self-compassionate and how it can work wonders on our wellbeing. Individuals who practise self-compassion have been shown to be much happier, more optimistic, grateful for what they have, and enjoy better relationships with their loved ones. They’ve also been shown to have lower stress levels as they avoid being judgemental towards themselves, others and situations, recognise and accept that we all find things hard at times and, through mindfulness, become more in tune with their thoughts and emotions. Self-compassionate people are also likely to have a higher level of resilience as they are easily able to bounce back from difficulties and can accept and learn from their mistakes.

Self-compassion is also a great antidote for perfectionist tendencies, which I, for one, have always struggled with, right from childhood and I’m sure many of my readers will have too.

How can I bring self-compassion to my life?

Today, I’m going to share with you some simple ways to bring self-compassion into your life so that you can start being easier on yourself and show yourself the love and kindness you would demonstrate to someone else you care about.

Notice and reframe your critical self-talk

I’ve spoken before about the negative ways in which we tend to talk to ourselves before in my blog post about self love. We can be so good at saying unkind and unhelpful things such as “I’m such an idiot”, “Other people are so much better than me”, “No-one likes me” and “I’m just no good at…” etc. And, as you can imagine, this critical inner voice can destroy our self confidence and lead to feelings of worthlessness and depression.

So how can we put the lid on this damaging talk? The very first step is to start noticing when you are being self-critical. Take the time to examine the situations in which you use negative self talk, the exact words you use and the tone of voice that you adopt. You could even try keeping a little notebook of examples to reflect on. Now consider how you could reframe things in a more positive way. Focus on being self-compassionate, non-judgemental, supportive and mindful of the situation. If you find this difficult, think about what a really compassionate friend would say to you. Changing how we talk to ourselves might be hard at first but it will get easier with time and practise so keep working on your skills and congratulate yourself on your efforts.

Write yourself a letter

This is a great exercise to do if you are going through a difficult time or are struggling to accept something which has caused you mental pain. Start your letter by outlining the situation that you find yourself in and how it has or is affecting you. Next, go on to identify your thoughts and feelings and what you were hoping for or needing to make things easier. Now offer a message of common humanity which will remind you that you are not alone and encourage you to feel connected to others e.g. ‘we all make mistakes’ or ‘everyone has times when they feel…’ etc. Finally, offer yourself some guidance and positive encouragement like you would to a friend who needs your support. Sign your letter with a loving message and add some stickers, washi tapes or little drawings of something nice if you would like to. When you have finished your letter, you can either read it out loud to yourself straight away or put it away somewhere special for when you need to show yourself some compassion.

Start a self-compassion journal

Keeping a journal is a great way to reflect on how you are feeling and what is happening for you right now. I like to spend about ten minutes each evening writing down my thoughts. What I chose to write about differs each day but might include:

  • what I have achieved today
  • what I learnt today
  • ways in which I am proud of myself
  • things I’m grateful for
  • anything I found challenging today and why
  • what I’m looking forward to tomorrow
  • anything I’m feeling apprehensive about

You can finish your writing by adding some kind, understanding and sympathetic words to yourself. For example, ‘most people would get annoyed in that situation and it’s okay that you lost your temper’ or ‘things were difficult today, but hopefully you’ll have a better day tomorrow’ etc.

Use affirmations

Another great way of showing yourself loving kindness it to write your own personal affirmations and practise saying them to yourself each day. I like to create a decorative spread of them in my bullet journal every few months – it is a great way of practising my brush lettering too. Here are some examples:

  • I am enough
  • I talk to myself with love and kindness
  • I’m proud of myself and my achievements
  • I accept my flaws because no one is perfect
  • I’m doing my best and that is enough

Engage in self-soothing activities

If you know you’ve had a difficult day, your week isn’t going quite as planned or you’re finding yourself in a negative mood, you can help to make yourself feel much better by engaging in some self soothing activities.

Here’s some examples of things I like to do:

  • take a walk in nature and use my senses to explore the immediate environment
  • get under the duvet and read a good book
  • do some drawing or colouring in
  • listen to a guided meditation
  • make a collage in my bullet journal of things I love
  • do some watercolour painting
  • mindfully eat a bar of my favourite chocolate
  • watch a funny film
  • paint my nails

If you would like to read more about using self soothing for emotional regulation, you can check out this blog post I wrote last year.

I hope today’s blog post has helped to develop your understanding of self-compassion and how important it is. Let me know which of the activities I suggested appeal to you the most and if you try some of them, be sure to share how you got on.

Posted in lifestyle, Mindfulness

Monday Matters: How to be a Great Listener

Photo credit: Wynand van Poortvliet for Unsplash

A few weeks ago, I met one of my friends for coffee and cake and then we had a stroll along the beach. It was a really windy day and I found it difficult to hear my friend talking because the huge gusts were blowing her voice away. We were also pretty distracted by plumes of sand which were in danger of going in our eyes. I had to make sure I was listening super carefully and paying close attention as she was talking about a rather delicate family situation that she had been dealing with and wanted to offload. It got me thinking about listening skills and how we teach children to be good listeners by facing the speaker, sitting still, not interrupting and being attentive. But it’s not just kids who need to work on their listening skills, some adults would benefit from a few pointers too. Today’s Monday Matters post is all about being a really effective listener something that I hope most, if not all of us, aspire to be, especially as it is often named as one of the most important qualities we look for in a friend or partner.

If you’ve ever sat in a café talking to a friend and have watched them check their phone repeatedly, start to gaze out of the window or pay more attention to the seemingly far more interesting conversation going on at the table to the left, you will know how frustrating or upsetting it is when you feel like you are not being listened to. Especially if you’ve sat nodding along and offering emotional support for the last ten minutes and now it’s your turn to share. Maybe you’ve read the above and are now thinking about a time when you’ve been the poor listener and have done some or all of the things listed above. Or, perhaps you can recall a time when you offered advice or an alternative point of view when, thinking back, really the speaker was simply needed to vent. Developing good listening skills isn’t easy and requires lots of practise but here are some ideas to help you:

Limit distractions

If you are face-to-face with the person, try to find a quiet space away from visual distractions. Put your phone away, or turn it on to silent so that you’re not tempted to look at it or respond to messages. Maintain eye contact for the majority of the time so that you’re not seeing the myriad of other things going on in the immediate environment which might otherwise attract your attention.

If you’re at home and on the phone, turn music or the TV off and make others aware that you are busy and not to be disturbed. If you have children, try to make sure they’re fully occupied with something and teach them about when it is vital that they do interrupt you (if they’ve had an accident and need your urgent assistance or the house is on fire) and when they should wait patiently until you’ve finished your call. A gentle reminder prior to picking up the phone is a good idea and be sure to praise your child for managing to entertain themselves or resist temptation to interrupt and explain why it was so helpful.

If you are at work and are in the middle of something, politely ask the person to wait until you are done or stop what you are doing and give them your full attention. This lets them know that you are interested in and value what they say.

Figure out their why and their what

Whilst you are listening, think about why they are talking to you and what the message is. Are they looking for a solution or some advice? Might they just be wanting to air their thoughts and feelings? Is the purpose just to let off steam or vent? Don’t offer a solution or your opinion unless you are asked.

If you are unsure what the person is getting at, then be sure to ask for clarification or pose questions which help you develop your understanding. For example, you might start with ‘So, what you’re saying is…’, ‘Can I just check…’ ‘Did you mean…’ etc.

Use non-verbal cues to help you

Look out for non-verbal cues which give you ideas about how the person is feeling and what they might be thinking. Check out their body language, facial expression and gestures. Are they smiling and relaxed or do they look tense and uptight? Think about how you can non-verbally show how attentive you are too. A smile, a nod, a look of concern – whatever feels appropriate based on what is being said (a good reason why it’s important to figure out the person’s why and what).

Reflect back on what you hear

Part of your job as an active listener is to make sure you fully grasp what the speaker is saying. A good way to do this is by paraphrasing what has been said. This is where you restate the information that has been presented to you but in different words, basically reflecting back a summary of the same content e.g. “In other words…”, “I gather that…” etc. In combination with this, you can also check that you understand the feelings and emotions involved, for example, “It sounds like you’re feeling pretty angry about…” or ‘”So, you were frustrated when…” This lets the speaker know that you understand the main messages in what they are saying and also shows that you are empathetic towards them.

Allow for silences

Silence can feel unnerving and the temptation is to quickly fill any gaps between talking. But the person may just be pausing to reflect on what they’ve said or thinking about how they can add to what they are saying so try not to interrupt. If they have finished, a moment’s silence allows you to consider what has been said and compose any questions you may have in a way that indicates how closely you were paying attention and that you are interested in what they are sharing with you.

Follow up on the conversation afterwards

There’s no better way to show how well you were listening and how much you care than bringing up the topic of conversation again at a later date. How you initiate thinks obviously depends on what was said but you might enquire if there are any updates, if they are feeling any better, how an event went or how a situation ended up resolving itself. The person will generally be touched that you remembered and made the effort to follow up on things.

Final thoughts

I hope my ideas have given you food for thought and that you might use one or two of my suggestions to help you become a better listener. We all have room for improvement and I include myself in this. No one can claim to be the perfect listener but we all have a desire to be heard so I think it’s really important to take the time to evaluate our skills and try to make some small changes. Let me know what you consider to be your strengths and weaknesses in terms of listening or, if you would prefer, use the comments space as your chance to air what you find particularly annoying when you’re the one doing the talking. Maybe your little rant will strike a cord with another reader and give them something to think about!