Last week, I took a walk to a local nature reserve called Tunstall Hills. It takes less than ten minutes to get there on foot and so I was able to leave the car behind. I didn’t take my DSLR with me but did manage to use my phone to take a few pics so I could identify some of the butterflies I spotted whilst I was there by using an identifier when I got back home. I recorded one of my finds in my Traveler’s Notebook and thought I would share the pages with you in case you fancy doing something similar in your journal.
The first page is simply a record of my little trip out and an observational drawing I did (developing my drawing skills in still one of my goals for this month too). Obviously, I didn’t draw it in the field as it landed for about five seconds, just long enough for me to get a quick snap but I copied from a photograph I found on this website into a piece of paper I cut from my sketchbook. I’m quite pleased with how it turned out although I think I need to work on my techniques for using coloured pencils!
The second page is a couple of photos from the aforementioned website and some information I collected The Wildlife Trusts website. I have a Standard Sized TN page template set up on MS Word and I add the photos and the information to that and then print it off. I identified the little brown butterfly as a ringlet. I wish I could have captured how velvety it looked!
I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing my nature journaling. I plan to do a lot more in the future and will definitely be doing more observational drawing as I really enjoyed it.
There are lots of articles around at the moment about reaching out and being kind and supportive towards other people but it also really important to be good to yourself too. Self love is essential to our mental health and wellbeing and it should also be made a priority if we want to lead a happy and fulfilling life. Today’s Monday Matters post features a collection of eight ways in which you can practise self love and includes some ideas for bullet journal spreads with this focus in mind.
Start and end the day in the right way
No matter how busy you are, try to find the time to check in with yourself first thing in the morning and last thing before you wind down for bed. Tell yourself something positive before you start your day. Look in the mirror, and say something encouraging, for example, “you are awesome and don’t you forget it!”, “let’s do this!”, “today is going to be a great day” – I guarantee it will make you smile. In the evening, when reflecting on your day, think of something you did well that makes you proud – better still write it down in your bullet journal so you can look back at it some other time. Celebrate your wins whether big or small.
Stop comparing yourself to others
You are completely unique. There’s no one on earth that is quite like you, so stop comparing yourself with other people and appreciate how special you are and be grateful for everything you have. Take time to think about all of your qualities and if you find yourself struggling and in need of some help, ask your friends and love ones to tell you what they like about you. And remember, what you see on social media, is just the best snippets of someone’s life, an edited version that doesn’t show their bad hair days, the massive mistakes they made in their bullet journal before they developed their IG worthy spread, the times when they could barely drag themselves out of bed and the days when everything went wrong and they could have cried and probably did.
Practise self care
In my Wellness Recovery Action Plan series, I talked about making a long list of all of the things that you can do that you enjoy and that make you feel good. I came up with a list of over 100 activities including painting my nails, going out for dinner, looking at photos from happy times, flying a kite and going for a walk along the beach. Some of the ideas take minutes, whilst others are great for an hour or an afternoon of ‘me time’. I try to make sure I do at least 1 thing of my list each day and often do several. It’s not self indulgent, it’s just one of the ways I look after myself and keep myself mentally well.
Things can and will go wrong for you at times and you will make mistakes. You might do something that makes you feel really embarrassed or you might say something unkind to a friend or loved one in the heat of the moment. Accept that you are only human and that no-one is perfect, including you. Show the same kind of compassion to yourself as you would to someone else who got something wrong or is ashamed of their behaviour. The best thing to do is forgive yourself and then reflect on and learn from your mistakes in a kind way that enables you to use them to help you grow as a person.
Watch how you talk to yourself either out loud or in your head
On the subject of being kind and considerate towards yourself, be mindful of your inner critic. We can say some pretty awful things to ourselves at times, for example, I often find things slipping from my mouth such as ‘you idiot’, ‘I don’t believe you’ve just done that!’, well that was a stupid thing to do wasn’t it’ – and I bet I’m not alone? If you find yourself being downright horrible to yourself at times, think about how you could be more supportive and encouraging or what you would say to a friend or loved one in the same situation. A key technique used in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT for short) is to spend time focusing on (and writing down) your critical thoughts, reframing them or analysing how much you really believe them. If you find yourself being really unkind and negative towards yourself this will most certainly have a negative impact on your self esteem and self worth. It may even be helpful in the future to think about finding a professional who can work with you to develop strategies that you can employ for making changes.
Look after your body
Pay special attention to what you need and treat your body in the way it deserves. Keep yourself hydrated throughout the day and eat food that makes you feel good such as plenty of fresh fruit and veg. Create a good skincare routine for your face and body and have a make up free day at least once of twice a week to keep your skin looking young and healthy. And if your body is craving rest or a change of scene, listen to it and give it what it needs. Encourage yourself to have a lie in, enjoy an afternoon nap, go for a nature walk, have a relaxing bath or simply go and sit outside in the sunshine and do absolutely nothing.
Explore your creative side
Spending some time being creative is a wonderful way to express yourself. There are so many different ways to do this such as drawing, painting, journalling, poetry or even some interior decoration (when was the last time you treated yourself to some new cushions or a few pretty ornaments to display on a shelf?). There’s no right or wrong way to be creative so leave your inner critic behind, immerse yourself in whatever it is you’ve chosen to do and really enjoy the process. You might surprise yourself with the results too!
Examine your relationships
We all deserve to be surrounded by people who love and care for us so think about the quality of each of your loving relationships and friendships. Does the person accept you for who you are? Are they they for you in good times and bad? When you see or speak to them, do they make you feel happy and alive or completely drained and stressed out? Do they meet you half way or are you always the one that reaches out to them? Are they happy for you when you meet a goal or achieve something new? Do they really listen when you have something to say or do they turn the conversation back to themselves?
Recognise those people who you feel don’t have your best interests at heart or make you feel less than great when you see or speak to them. You might not be able to remove some of them from your life completely (especially if they’re a family member or a work colleague) but you can try to limit the time you spend with them or work on changing your approach to dealing with them, e.g. setting firmer boundaries and learning to say no.
Bullet Journal Self Love Spread ideas
Things I love about myself
Spend some quiet time sitting and thinking about what makes you special and what your best qualities are. Try to come up with things related to your appearance, your relationships with others, your work ethic and your skills.
I really enjoyed creating this spread and it made me see that there are so many things that I love about myself. And of course, friends and family are likely to love these things about you too.
2. Self love motivational messages
For this spread, I took to Google and typed in phrases such as ‘self love’, ‘self kindness’ and ‘self care’. I then clicked on images and selected a range that were visually appealing to resize and paste into an MS Word document. To make it easier to build my spread, I printed the pages on A4 sticker paper ready to cut out and stick in. I also tried to have a basic colour scheme of purples, pinks and greens to create a cohesive look. I found so many wonderful short texts and images that I was able to do two double page spreads which are so beautiful to look at. I added a few stickers and a little bit of washi to the blank spaces to complete the look. I’m so pleased with how they turned out and I’m sure I will find myself visiting the pages regularly.
Self care ideas
This is the kind of list I’ve created before as part of my Wellness Recovery Action Plan but I thought I’d do a similar one in my bullet journal with slightly less ideas so that it would all fit on a single page. Most of the ideas are completely free or cost very little (except maybe the retail therapy if I see lots of nice things!).
An amazing resource for self love encouragement
If you loved the ‘self-love hedgehog’ in my bullet journal spread, you absolutely need to check out the amazing website https://chibird.com/ where you can find many more self love, mental health and wellness related graphics. The website owner Jacqueline Chen’s art work in so wonderful and just looking through the resources can be part of your self love practice. She’s even produced a book which you can pick up on Amazon.
Well done for taking the time to read this blog post as it shows you think self love is important! I hope it’s given you some fresh new ideas on how to be compassionate towards yourself in ways that you would be to others that you love. Let me know in the comments what the first thing is that you’re going to do this month to be all kinds of lovely to yourself.
My husband and I were meant to be going to Vienna in Austria in August of this year but we’ve made the decision to postpone our trip until 2021 as the restrictions in place due to Coronavirus are likely to spoil our holiday somewhat. However, I refuse to get upset about it and instead I’m keeping myself excited and doing some extra preparation for when we eventually get there. In today’s Monday Matters post, I’m going to share some of the ways that I’m keeping the excitement going so that I’m still really looking forward to our trip. Hopefully, this will give you some ways to minimise the disappointment you may be feeling if your plans have been put on hold for the time being.
Checking out Pinterest
I’ve recently created a Pinterest board called ‘Vienna Trip‘ and pinned lots of ‘best things to do in Vienna’ ideas plus information about the city in general. This is great for keeping all the webpages in one place and it will help me to create planning spreads in my BuJo nearer the time.
Vienna Photo collage Bullet Journal Spread
Whilst visiting various Vienna related pages on the web, I came across lots of stunning photographs of places within the city. I saved mini versions of these on my computer and have printed them off on photograph paper to create a two page collage for my bullet journal. I typed out the names of the places using MS Word and my favourite font of the moment which is Tox typewriter. I used Pritt stick to attach everything as the double sided tape that I have takes ages when you have lots of little fiddly bits and pieces to stick on.
Educating myself about the country
This is something I used to do with the children in my class when I was teaching. We would do a mini geography topic based on a particular place and learn everything we could about it including where it was in the World, the capital city and other popular tourist spots, the flag, traditions, weather, food etc. The information collected would then be used to create a fact file either electronically in our ICT lessons or in our topic books. I’ve been doing the same sort of research to create a spread in my bullet journal. I typed in search terms such as ‘Austria facts for kids’ etc into Google as I only wanted to know the basics and this made an easy starting point for further research. This website was a gold mine of information and has stuff on other countries too.
Before creating my BuJo spread, I set up an MS Word document in which to put random information about the country in no particular order. This helped me to decide on the sections and headers I would need for my bullet journal so I could make it as well organised and logical as possible.
Immersing myself virtually
There are some amazing views in Austria as I discovered during my research online. I’m not sure how much of the wonderful scenery we’ll get to see with us being in the city so I’ve chosen a stunning view for the desktop of my computer and I’ve stuck some beautiful photographs in my BuJo of some of the images I found. And according to Lee Bacon, head of digital at the BBC’s Natural History Unit, “Even viewing nature digitally has been scientifically proven to help peoples’ mental wellbeing” so yay for Google images!
Learning about the city
I usually do most of my reading about the city we are going to on the aeroplane on the way over or in a mad rush a few days before we travel. This time, I’m going to be super well prepared about the layout of Vienna and what to expect when we get there. This will help us make the most of our time as we will know how spaced out everything is and how we can travel around the place on foot or using different transport systems. So far I’ve done one page but I shall be continuing to add information each week until I have everything I want written down. By the time we go on our trip, I’ll have moved into a new BuJo but I can photocopy my pages to take with us.
I found a great site that has comprehensive descriptions on the various tourist attractions and also has a number of maps that you can download as PDFs. I printed one today on sticker paper, backed it onto some coloured paper and then laminated it. Now I just need to find somewhere to keep it until next year so we actually remember to take it with us.
What about a pre-trip virtual tour?
Whilst checking out a variety of websites, I came across this site which enables you to preview different sights around the city. It’s really useful for photographs of the different tourist activities and you can look on a map to see where things are located. I expect there are similar websites for other cities across the world too. I know Sunderland have created virtual tours of popular places across the city for people to view during lockdown.
Checking out the eateries using Happy Cow
My husband and I are both vegetarian and I’m particularly strict about what I eat too. I need to be sure that if I eat cheese, it doesn’t contain animal rennet and I also like my drinks to be veggie friendly too (vegan if possible). Therefore, when we go abroad, we choose to eat in vegetarian or vegan eateries, as unlike in the UK, cafes and restaurants don’t usually label their dishes with a V or Ve symbol. Before we go anywhere, we do extensive research on Happy Cow. I actually chose Vienna for our holiday as I know that vegetarians and vegans are well catered for there. I haven’t created a bullet journal spread of places to eat at yet but this is definitely something I intend to do nearer the time. The information will include if the café or restaurant is completely vegan or veggie with vegan options and I’ll also add the location and how far away it is from our hotel. As you can see, there are plenty of options for our stay!
I know the lockdown and coronavirus have caused so much worry, disappointment, anxiety and general upset, but hopefully this post has given you some ideas on how to keep the pre-holiday or trip excitement going for a while longer. Obviously, re-arranging travel dates and accommodation present their own difficulties but once things have been sorted out, you can hopefully do some extra planning to ensure when you do eventually get away, you have the best time ever!
This month, my husband and I went to a local place called Rainton Meadows which is a nature reserve run by Durham Wildlife Trust. It’s somewhere we go regularly for walks and to spot the variety of flora and fauna there. There’s so much to see, including a variety of water birds on the wetland areas, woodland birds from the new hide, ponies grazing on the grass, dragonflies around the water, along with butterflies and stunningly beautiful wild flowers in the meadows. For my July BuJo spreads, I decided to take inspiration from my visit to the reserve and the flowers and grasses we saw. I did want to take some my grassy and wild flower finds home with me so I could do some observational drawing but unfortunately, it started to rain heavily just before we left and we had to run back to the car. I had, however, taken plenty of photographs and was able to find line drawn images online to help me with my sketching. So, here are my pages for July. I hope you like them.
During lockdown, I’ve been addicted to watching plan with me videos on YouTube and I came across a vlogger who had done something similar to the idea I had in my head for my meadow and I took inspiration from her layout for my cover page. I had intended to have a go at creating a watercolour painting but I liked the effect of her designs with felt tip markers and fineliners so I decided to have a go.
For my calendar page, I stuck with a two-page spread as I like plenty of room to write down when I have published as blog post and any appointments or birthdays. I did a mini meadow in the bottom right hand corner and used one of the grass colours to for my boxes. The ‘make it work’ sticker is from a Happy Planner sticker booklet and I thought it finished that side of the page off nicely, whilst reminding me to keep going and find pleasure in life despite the restrictions due to Covid.
I kept my exercise trackers the same as June but changed the colours and added floral decoration to my workout chart. I found they worked really well for me last month and I was motivated to keep up with filling them in each morning and night.
Finally, I created a Garden Jobs for July double page spread so that I know what to focus on for the next month. I used the Gardener’s World and RHS websites for this as they both contain really helpful advice.
I would love to know what theme you have chosen for your bullet journal spreads for July. Let me know in the comments and add a link to your blog if you have one so that I can take a look.
This week, I wanted to write a post about goal setting and fulfilling your dreams. I talked last week about the power of positive affirmations in developing confidence in your ability, but is telling yourself you are something such as successful, confident or happy enough to achieve in a particular aspect of your life? Whilst perusing the Internet for inspiration for my chosen focus, I came across something I’d never heard of before called WOOP. I’m willing to bet that a lot of my readers might not have heard of it either, so today’s Monday Matters is going to be an introduction the principles behind this fascinating and scientifically researched idea, which to me, make a lot of sense and might need more consideration.
What is WOOP?
WOOP, which stands for Wish, Outline, Obstacle, Plan is a scientifically based principle developed by German academic and psychologist Gabriele Oettingen. Her research has focused on ‘how people think about the future and how this impacts cognition, emotion and behaviour’ (Wikipedia). Gabriele has found that if we just dream or fantasise about something we want, our brains tend to think we have already attained what we desire and this can make us relax and prevent us from actually achieving our goals. She talks about two processes that we need to go through for the WOOP strategy to take effect, namely mental contrasting and implementation intentions (MCII for short). Basically, this means focusing on the contrast between the positive aspects of your desired goal and the barriers (negative aspects / obstacle / internal struggle) of you actually achieving your goal or wish. So, the WOO bit is the contrast as you imagine / visualise how wonderful it would be to fulfil your wish and then conversely, look at what might stop you. Thinking about both of these helps to motivate your self conscious to do something about the issue you face. The P part is the implementation intentions as you are coming up with a plan of actions and thoughts to work against your obstacle.
Gabriele and her team have spent 20 years fully researching and investigating goal achievement and the effects of mental contrasting and implementation intentions with studies including participants of different ages and backgrounds. The results of their work, has lead them to create WOOP as a framework for implementing change. The process has been found to be affective at helping people improve their social behaviour, health and academic performance. Examples of these scientific studies can be found online if you want to find out more.
Creating a WOOP
Wish Gabriele says that it is vitally important to give yourself some mental space in which to think about and imagine what you wish for yourself right now. You should dedicate some calm and uninterrupted time where you can specifically focus on your immediate wish for this present moment. Clearing your mind of everything else is essential so that you can dedicate your attention to working on your WOOP.
You may find that many wishes come into your mind, but you need to select the one that is most important to you and is challenging but do-able at the same time. Wishes can be about anything you want, your relationships, your job, your education, your health and fitness, whatever is important to you right now.
When you’ve decided on your wish, you should try to come up with 3 to 6 words to summarise it. I found this part really difficult as I’m very good at saying in 50 words what could be shrunken down to 5 but it’s important to be concise so you should really take your time to think.
Outcome When you have outlined your wish, you need to imagine what it would feel like if it came true (you might like to close your eyes for this bit so you can create an image of your life). Think about what the very best outcome would be and describe it in a small number of words (approximately 3 or 4 is a good number).
Obstacle Next, you need to think really carefully about what holds you back from achieving that wish. In other words, what is the main obstacle? For this, you should focus on an inner obstacle, i.e. something in you that is preventing you from realising your wish. You might find here, that you start to think of external obstacles such as other people or situations which you find yourself in but it’s important that you try to concentrate on yourself as it is much easier to create changes within yourself. Again, you could close your eyes and allow yourself to come up with a vivid image.
Plan When you’ve identified your main obstacle, you need to come up with a plan to overcome it. Again, you should try to summarise thoughts or actions in 3 to 6 words. Keep these in mind, whilst you create an If… then plan. Take your obstacle words and put them after the If. Then, place the thought or action after the ‘then…’. You can then recite your If… then plan a few times.
Here’s an example from my own life. I’m now pretty good at doing yoga every day but there are always occasions when I don’t feel like doing it or think of other things I would prefer to do.
Goal: Yoga for 20 minutes every day
W: daily yoga practise for 20 minutes
O: Strength. Good posture. Mindfulness.
O: Don’t feel like it. Don’t bother.
P: If I don’t feel like it… then I’ll put my workout gear on, get out my mat and then remind myself of the many mental and physical benefits of practising.
Some other WOOP ideas
In bed by 10pm every night.
Be more productive.
Get a new job.
Find my soulmate.
Stop eating unhealthy snacks.
Read a self help book.
Meditate for 10 minutes each morning.
Finish a project before the weekend.
You might find the process a little tricky at first, but once you’re proficient in WOOP, you can apply it to so many situations – daily tasks, habits you want to instil, projects you want to complete or whatever you want really! Also, you will likely get much better at summarising and getting to the crux of the matter in terms of your inner obstacle which will help you develop solutions more quickly.
The WOOP app
When I visited the website for WOOP, I discovered that there’s a free APP available, so I thought I would download it and see how it works. As well as giving an introduction to WOOP, it also guides you though the process of creating WOOPs for professional, health and interpersonal wishes.
The app guides you through each WOOP by giving you a number of prompts. You can choose a timeframe from 24 hours or 1 month or you can select not to have a time frame. The app gives you limited characters in which to compose your wish, outcome, obstacle so as to encourage you to keep it brief but I can imagine it’s quite frustrating if you feel like you can’t condense it down that much. It also asks you to take your time with thinking about each step of WOOP and if you click through the steps too quickly, it will warn you that you are going too fast! If you like having things noted down on your phone, then I think you would benefit from using the app, but personally, I prefer to write things in my BuJo and have a notes page to refer to, to help me create my WOOPs.
That’s all for my introduction to using the WOOP technique for setting goals and creating a plan to achieve them. If you want to learn more about WOOP and watch a great video introduction, visit woopmylife.org Here you can also find the link for the mobile app and a free printable to help guide you through the process.