Posted in lifestyle, self care

Monday Matters: 10 benefits of reading fiction books

My current read is The Missing Ones by Patricia Gibney Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping it Creative

Since my mental health has improved, I’m finding myself reading a lot less books from my (virtual) TBR pile as I now only read in bed on a night and not most afternoons as I did previously. Also, I’m so busy during the day, I can only manage a couple of chapters before I find myself drifting off to sleep. I would still like to make sure I read a couple of fiction books each month, plus at least 2 chapters each week from my current non-fiction book. In order to make sure I keep up with reading novels, I decided to do a little research into the benefits of regular reading of fiction. I was quite surprised by some of what I learnt and thought my blog readers might like to see too. So, this is the subject of my Monday Matters blog post for this week – 10 ways reading fiction can be helpful as well as pleasurable.

1. Improves your capacity for empathy

If you’re anything like me, when reading some genre of fiction, you’ll likely find yourself imagining what it would be like to be one or more of the characters in the book. Studies has shown, that doing this helps to activate the parts of the brain responsible for showing understanding towards others and seeing things from an alternative perspective. So, by devouring lots of books on a variety of themes, you are strengthening your ability to be empathetic towards people in your life.

2. Widens your vocabulary

The more you read, the wider your vocabulary will get, especially if part of your TBR pile includes more literary works. I love learning new words when reading and, because I mainly use my kindle, I can check out the meaning of those I’m not sure of by selecting the text and opening the dictionary. In fact, on a few occasions, when I’ve been super tired and reading a paperback, I’ve found myself tapping on a word to discover what it means! (please tell me I’m not the only one who has done this ha ha!).

3. Reduces stress

Becoming immersed in a book has been shown to be extremely good at making us feel less stressed. Reading can lower blood pressure, slow our heart rate and help us release tension in our muscles. So basically, by dedicating some time each day for a quiet reading session, we can calm the often incessant mental chatter, soothing our minds and bodies.

4. Mental stimulation which leads to less mental decline than non-readers

Just like doing Sudoku, crosswords and word searches, reading of any kind provides excellent mental stimulation. By keeping our brains active, we’re helping to delay the onset of mental decline associated with conditions such as dementia.

In fact, scientific studies have shown that reading novels strengthens brain function in all kinds of ways, both during the actual act of reading and for days after. One study found that when the tension in a story mounts, brain activity increases too!

5. Better sleep

Reading a couple of chapters before turning out the light has been shown to help us have a better night’s sleep. Studies found that just ten minutes can help us wind down really effectively. Also, if you make it a regular part of your bedtime routine, your brain will associate reading with quite time prior to slumber.

6. Increases happiness

Regularly burying your head in a good book has been shown to have the potential to make us happier by banishing depressive thoughts and feelings and generally improving our mood. Reading can also boost self esteem which is likely to have a positive effect on our confidence levels and our beliefs about ourselves and our abilities.

7. Better analytical skills

If you like reading crime fiction, psychological dramas with lots of twists and other stories with complex plots like I do, you’ll be pleased to know that not only will you be enjoying a cracking read, you’ll also be improving your analytical skills too. Analytical skills include developing your ability to visualize, conceptualize, and solve both simple and complex problems using all information available – in essence, great life skills which can be applied to every day situations and come in really useful at work or school too.

8. Inclusivity

In a nutshell, inclusivity is the quality of including many different types of people and treating them all fairly and equally. Reading can help you do this by introducing you to characters from all walks of life so you can learn about cultural differences and issues which may present themselves in certain communities or through particular life experiences, making you more open minded.

9. Creativity

The fact that reading broadens our minds and experiences (sometimes transporting us to completely different worlds) has also been shown to help us to be more creative. By fully engaging in the books we choose, our imagination flows freely and our creative juices are stimulated.

10. Improved emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence which can be defined as ‘the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically’ (Oxford dictionaries) has been shown to be greatly improved, especially if you read widely. According to research and a number of theories, reading fiction provides a safe place to explore different emotions and prepare us for the stresses and strains of real life. Also, by reading about a range of different cultures and life situations, we increase our capacity for empathy and understanding towards others.

Final words…

According to a number of statistics, reading fiction for pleasure is very much on the decline, both in adults and children. This is a shame because, as you can see, there are so many benefits to regularly picking up a book and becoming engrossed in a story. I hope that today’s post has encouraged you to assess how much time you devote to reading and has also perhaps persuaded you to dedicate a few minutes each day to this great mindful activity. Let me know in the comments what your favourite reading genre is and what you feel are the personal benefits for you.

Thanks for reading!

Posted in CBT, compassion, lifestyle, mental health, psychology, wellbeing

Monday Matters: The psychology of optimism and how to become a glass half full kind of person

Photo by Brett Jordan on Pexels.com

When I was struggling with anxiety and depression at the end of last year and the beginning of this one, I found myself being very negative and developing a very pessimistic view of the future. I was convinced things (I) would never get better and spent a lot of time wallowing in self pity and believing I couldn’t make myself well no matter how hard I tried. Now I’m feeling well, I’m happier and full of optimism and any challenges I face don’t feel like mountains that I’m unable to climb. I’ve always known that being optimistic is a key part of wellbeing but how can we remain that way all of the time, even when things are a little (or a lot) shitty? Today’s Monday Matters post looks at the psychology of optimism and how we can foster it no matter what life throws at us.

What is optimism?

According to the Oxford dictionary, optimism is ‘a feeling that good things will happen and that something will be successful; the tendency to have this feeling’. The exact opposite of this is ‘pessimism’ which is described as ‘a feeling that bad things will happen and that something will not be successful; the tendency to have this feeling’. Further to this, an optimist is ‘a person who always expects good things to happen or things to be successful’, whereas a pessimist is someone who ‘always expects bad things to happen’. I do think these are oversimplified definitions, however, as most people realistically know that over time, good and bad things will happen to us all and that it is our reaction to events and thoughts and feelings which can be described as mainly optimistic or pessimistic.

Why are some people optimists and others pessimists?

Early research into the subject tends to suggest that an optimistic or pessimistic view is largely an inherited biological trait, but more recent works have shown that environmental factors can influence us too. In other words, we are born one way or the other but our life experiences can impact on us too so, for example, we may learn to have a positive outlook from our childhood if we have an optimistic parent who encourages associated traits such as self belief, resilience and acceptance. Conversely, being surrounded by pessimists who believe they are hard done to, always see the worst in a situation and have a tendency to be negative overall can influence our thoughts and feelings about life too.

So, even if you are a ‘glass half empty’ type of person, it is possible to learn to be more optimistic or reduce pessimism by working on challenging and changing your thought processes. This does mean that if you have always been described as an optimistic, there is a chance that, with certain life experiences, you may develop a more pessimistic view (sometimes temporarily) but there are many ways of of combating this.

What are the benefits of being optimistic?

There are so many benefits of being of being an optimistic person in terms of physical and mental health. Optimists:

  • have healthier lifestyles, for example they exercise more, have a balanced diet, are less likely to smoke or binge drink and just generally make better choices with regard to their health
  • have better quality relationships with family, friends, partner or co-workers
  • have more life satisfaction, happiness and high levels of psychological and physical wellbeing
  • are good problem solvers and tend to strive for what they want as they believe themselves to be capable of high levels of achievement
  • are more motivated
  • have better self esteem
  • are generally more successful
  • accept their failures and learn from them
  • have a better immune system
  • have lower cortisol levels (stress hormone)
  • actively pursue their goals
  • recover from physical illnesses more quickly
  • take less time to recover from surgery
  • less likely to have a stroke or cardiovascular diseases
  • have lower blood pressure
  • emerge from difficult circumstances with less distress than pessimists
  • see setbacks as temporary events caused by circumstances
  • are more likely to engage in health related self care activities such as regular check ups

How can we learn to be more optimistic?

The idea of learned optimism is a concept developed by a leading American psychologist called Martin Seligman.

learned optimism involves developing the ability to view the world from a positive point of view.

Seligman

He believes that the positivity associated with being an optimist can and should be cultivated and that being optimistic is a key part of good health and wellbeing. So, pop on your positivity glasses and read my suggestions on how to train or rewire your brain.

Shift your focus – instead of thinking about what you can’t control, focus on what you can instead. In any situation, there are things that can’t be changed and things that can. If you spend your time obsessing over the former, you will quickly become stressed and frustrated. However, if you look at what you do have control over, you can control the controllables and forget about the rest.

See setbacks as temporary – it’s not the end of the world if something goes wrong or doesn’t go the way you expected, it’s something to be learnt from. Resolve to come back better and stronger!

Regain your sense of control – focus on what you can do to improve a situation and believe in your ability to make things better rather than focusing on the barriers. This is in contrast to ‘learned helplessness’ associated with pessimism.

Watch out for unhelpful phrases – talk such as ‘I never…’, ‘I can’t…’, ‘I always mess up…’ etc is not helpful and can create a negative mindset. Try to catch yourself saying them and come up with some alternatives which are more positive – ‘I might be able to…’, ‘I could…’ etc.

Think about the company you keep – some people seem to complain about everything and never have a positive word to say. After so many minutes of talking to them, you might find you start being negative too. It’s almost like the pessimism is contagious. Conversely, spending time with a optimist, can encourage feelings of optimism and make life seem much more rosy. I’m not saying cull everyone from your life who isn’t a ‘glass half full’ kind of person, but you might want to think about who you spend most of your time with.

Avoid overgeneralising – After something has gone wrong for you, have you ever found yourself thinking or saying that the world is conspiring against you, or everyone has got it in for you? Remember that one set back in one aspect of your life does not mean that everything is going wrong. Neither does it mean that you are unlucky or any of those other things that might pop into your head or out of your mouth!

Take a balanced approach – In every situation there are positives and negatives. Unfortunately, the society that we live in often encourages us to focus on the more negative side and ignore the many positives. I like to do some gratitude journaling each evening to focus on the positives in my day. I might also have a few negatives that become problems to work on solving, but I try not to dwell on what I can’t change or those minor irritations which we all have.

How can we stay optimistic during tough times?

As I said earlier, when I was struggling with my mental health for so many months, I found it very difficult to be optimistic in relation to the present moment and the future. But there are ways of remaining positive, even during periods of difficulty. So, what could I have done differently? Some of my online reading has suggested that optimism doesn’t require you to brush aside anxious and negative feelings, but rather to accept them whilst being hopeful about what the future will bring. Obviously, this is easier said than done when you are consumed with difficult emotions, but the idea is that you work super hard to acknowledge that things are difficult right now, but try to hold on to the belief that things won’t always be like this. Here’s some ideas of ways that this can be made easier (not easy of course, but having an I can get through this attitude is a big part of it):

  • try to practise self compassion – accept that things are a struggle right now, but also remind yourself that you’ve got through difficulties before and you can do so again
  • disrupt the negative thought cycle – focus on the breath, change your environment (go for a walk in nature), confide in someone you trust about how you are feeling and seek a fresh perspective
  • jot down some coping statements e.g. I can take this one day at a time, this is frightening and I can handle it, I am a resilient person and I can get through this etc.
  • practise gratitude – even when things are hard, there’s always small things to be grateful for – the friend who texted to say she’s thinking of you, the tranquillity as you sit drinking your coffee in your sunny garden, your warm coat on a chilly day etc. At certain times, it might be difficult to focus on the positives, but it’s not completely impossible and taking the time to be grateful has been shown to really help.

Final words…

I hope today’s Monday Matters has been helpful in some way and that you will give at least one of the ideas a go. Lockdown is beginning to ease now but there is still a little uncertainty around about the future making things difficult. As I type this, I’m feeling positive and optimistic, yet whilst I was unwell, things looked bleak. So, it just goes to show that things can and will get better.

Take care until next time,

Posted in art, creativity, lifestyle, mental health, Planning and journaling, watercolour painting

Currently… life update March 2021

I haven’t done one of these updates for a while (it was last March in fact!) so thought I might spend an hour or two composing one this afternoon. There have been quite a few changes since the last one so here goes:

Currently adjusting…

to a new mental health diagnosis. Yesterday, I had an appointment with the mental health team and psychiatrist to discuss issues that I had been having for an almost six month period. Basically, last year, I met with the team as I thought I had cyclothymic disorder which is a mild form of bipolar. However, it felt nothing like a mild illness, with me being very depressed since mid September 2021 and only getting better a few weeks ago. My appointment lasted two hours and it was really helpful as I had a long chat with a member of the team and then a video call with the psychiatrist who is working from home. I’ve now been diagnosed with Bipolar 2 and will be embarking on a completely new treatment plan which doesn’t involve anti-depressants – one of which I’ve been on for over 20 years! So now, I have a new condition to read up on and get my head around. Well, I say a new condition, but really I’ve had it for around 24 years and have only just been correctly diagnosed.

Currently buying…

nothing but the essentials. I have so many clothes, accessories and crafty bits and bobs that I really don’t need anything but food, drink and a few toiletries right now. In fact, I’m about to embark on a huge declutter of stuff as the wardrobe is fit to burst and my craft room has enough materials to last a lifetime and beyond.

Currently enjoying…

seeing glimpses of Spring. Things are starting to pop up in the garden, the birds are singing and the weather is starting to improve – today I went out without my coat on for the third time this year! Although I hate too much sunshine with having very fair skin, I love putting on my sunglasses and going out for relaxing walks or spending time in the garden. when the weather gets milder.

Currently learning…

all about productivity and organising stuff using a very popular method. Although I’ve not read the book, I’ve been able to use information from various infographics and YouTube videos to learn about the Getting Things Done Method by David Allen. I’m hoping to implement the main ideas shortly to help me get super organised and work efficiently throughout the week so I have the weekends totally free to spend time with my husband or on personal projects. If you want to learn the basics, I recommend you check out this YouTube channel as Emma provides a series of videos which talk you through GTD and shares real examples of how she follows the principles.

Currently making…

watercolour paintings to be used as designs for greetings cards. It all started when I couldn’t find a nice card for my dad for his birthday so I created a variegated watercolour wash using some of his favourite colours and then added some gold paint flecks to give it some sparkle. Then I started looking at tutorials on YouTube and Pinterest, had a go at some of them, and now I’m hooked on making my own unique cards. I even made my own envelopes using the We R Memory Keepers 1,2, 3 punch board!

Currently pinning…

a range of watercolour tutorials to give me ideas for cards and front cover designs for my monthly bullet journal set ups. I’m now using a Scribbles That Matter journal so the pages are nice and thick, although often I do the painting on hot pressed watercolour paper and then scan, print and stick it in. If you want to see some of my pins, you can check my Pinterest here.

So, that’s a mini update on me and my life currently. I hope you enjoyed reading about what I’m up to. I might do life updates more regularly in future, particularly if my new treatment plan for Bipolar 2 helps to keep me well. And if anyone reading has Bipolar disorder and writes about how it affects them in their blog, I would really love it if you dropped the link in the comments so I can check out your experiences and see if I can pick up any tips on managing the condition. Until next time, keep safe and well.

Posted in Bullet journaling, life hacks, lifestyle, Mindfulness, productivity

Monday Matters: 8 wonderful benefits of listening to music

Photo credit: Lee Campbell for Unsplash

Back in October of last year, I found my mental health deteriorating, and, once again, started to have difficulties with anxiety and depression. I’m now (thankfully) feeling much better and my improved wellbeing has enabled me to start blogging again. Whilst I was struggling, the main focus of life was on doing any little thing I could either to distract myself from how I was feeling or to improve my mood. I found music was a huge help and so, for today’s Monday Matters post, I want to focus on the benefits of listening to music. The following are applicable whatever your musical preferences and can be utilised whether you are finding things difficult at the moment or feeling happy, content and positive, like I am currently. Let’s get started..

1. Elevates your mood

Whatever our taste in music, I expect we can all name at least one song which, when it starts to play, is able to shift our mood in a matter of seconds, making us want to turn the radio up, jump to our feet and start dancing around the room or burst into song. It may be the tempo, the lyrics or the sparking of a happy memory which uplifts us. Whichever of these it is that gets us going, scientific research proves that these tunes promote the release of a neurotransmitter known as dopamine into our bodies and it is this which is responsible for making us feel so good. If you do find yourself singing or dancing along to the music too, you will be doing yourself the extra favour of encouraging happy hormones known as endorphins to flood your body as well!

Making a playlist for times when you are feeling a little low or even depressed can be really useful. This can either be on your phone, your IPod or even in your bullet journal so you can seek out those songs on Spotify, YouTube or whatever is your music player of choice. Having them written down is particularly helpful for those times when you are struggling as, at that time, you may not be able to recall songs which are able to make you feel more upbeat.

The following page was inspired by one created by @sunshine_journal_ on Instagram.

A page from by current bullet journal. Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

2. Improves your workout

According to my Fitbit app, which has just this second provided me with an activity tip (it must have somehow known I was writing this blog post):

‘Listening to music can help exercise feel easier, and even boost your speed. Songs with 120-140 beats per minute appear to have the biggest motivating effect’

Source: Fitbit app info.

Clicking through to the information, which was written back in 2017, I learnt that music can increase your speed, make you feel more powerful, make exercising feel easier (wahoo!), boost your mood and help to keep you motivated. When I was battling with my mental illness, I didn’t have the energy to do my Zumba workouts but I did make sure that I went for at least one long walk per day and my playlist helped to put at least a little bit of a spring in my step. Now I’m back to good health, the music is really motivating and some of the track make me want to break into a run (luckily I haven’t acted upon the urge as I don’t wear my sports bra whilst pounding the streets or the paths of my local park and don’t want to be off to the doctors with detached boob syndrome which I’m sure would be the resulting affliction lol!).

Here’s a list of some of my motivational music, many of which I copied into iTunes from some old CD singles which I believe I purchased whilst at uni many moons ago:

  • Choose Life – PF Project feat. Ewan McGregor
  • Forever – Dee Dee
  • Another Chance – Roger Sanchez
  • Alone – Lasgo
  • Beautiful – Matt Darey Feat. Marcella Woods
  • Treat Infamy – Rest Assured
  • The Night Train – Kadoc
  • The Silence – Mike Koglin
  • Kickstarts – Example
  • In For The Kill – La Roux

They’ve been put into a playlist on my old Apple iPod, aptly called ‘On The Go’ as I couldn’t work out how to give them my own title.

3. Boosts your concentration levels when working or studying

When I’m struggling with anxiety and depression, it becomes very difficult for me to concentrate on the simplest of tasks and even harder to be motivated to do things in the first place. Studies have shown that particular types of music can be really useful in encouraging productivity and creativity. Some tunes can also be quite therapeutic, reducing stress levels so that you are able to concentrate better. Personally, I prefer instrumental music as many lyrics can be more of a distraction than a help. Whilst conducting online research for today’s blog post, I discovered that the best types of musical accompaniment were suggested to be the following (one of them may surprise you like it did me!) :

  • classical music
  • ambient music
  • nature sounds
  • between 50 and 80 BPM (Beats per minute)
  • video game music!

You can find many different collections of classical music for work or study on YouTube but I like to create my own playlists as there’s nothing worse than a tune coming on that you simple don’t like. My absolute favourite has to be Fur Elise by Beethoven, but, my musical choices are often dependent on the type of task I’m working on.

Ambient music is a genre that is generally identifiable as being atmospheric and environmental in nature. According to online definitions, it is gentle and largely electronic with no persistent beat. One of my favourite pieces of ambient music is Porcelain by Moby and, although mostly tracks are instrumental, this one does have minimal lyrics. If your chosen music does have words, I think it is best to have the song on at a low volume so they don’t distract you.

I love listen to the sounds of nature in my local park or in the garden on a fine day. When you’re working or studying, apps such as ‘Calm’, ‘Sleep sounds’ or other relaxation and meditation focused packages, are great for providing nature sounds such as rain on leaves, Autumn woods, water flow, coral reef and wind in pines. I’m not sure how much of the Calm app is accessible for free ordinarily because I’m currently making use of an extended free trial but the sleep sounds app has lots free to use (my phone is Android but I expect there are iPhone Apps too).

According to my research, music at 50-80 BPM is good for stimulating the left side of the brain for information processing and problem solving. Again, collections of tracks can be found on YouTube but I would definitely recommend you create your own playlist of music you love. For sparking your creative juices, more upbeat, faster music is suggested (more BPM).

Who knew that music created to accompany video games could help boost your output? I certainly didn’t. The ones that I play tend to get on my nerves and I mute them but apparently they’re designed to enhance your gaming experience by stimulating your senses and blocking out other stimuli which may distract you. One game that both my husband and I always have the music on for though, is Angry Birds 2 but I’ve never thought of listening to it when working or studying – that is, until now (I may just have it playing in the background as I type away on this blog post!).

4. Calms the mind and relaxes the body

Some music can be really soothing when you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious or uptight. According to a number of studies, listening to calming tracks can help you relax by slowing your breathing and heart rate, lowering blood pressure and reducing levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine (AKA adrenaline). Try searching for ‘peaceful music’, ‘soothing music’ or ‘music for relaxation’ on YouTube (I found some wonderful extended compositions by talented Norwegian musical artist Peder B. Helland whose videos also contain beautiful imagery), create your own playlist or check out some of the music on apps such as Calm.

5. Great for mindful listening

Music can be a great part of your daily mindfulness practice. Mindfully listening grounds us in the present moment and, by paying attention to what’s going on currently, you won’t be focusing on ruminating about the past or worrying about things in the future. Mindfulness is obviously a huge topic which I couldn’t possibly cover in this blog post but with regard to mindful listening to music, you can start with really paying attention to the piece, noticing its melody, rhythm, tone or lyrics and tuning in to how it makes you feel or what emotions it evokes. And of course, if your mind wanders off, as with all mindfulness practices, gently and kindly bring it back to the music without berating yourself for losing your attention or starting to think things such as ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘why do I have the concentration skills of a goldfish?’!

6. Combats isolation and feelings of loneliness

Many of us will be struggling with feelings of isolation and loneliness right now due to the effects of local lockdowns and social distancing as the result of Coronavirus. Studies have shown, however, that listening to music can combat these by triggering the release of a hormone called oxytocin which plays a key part in cultivating empathy, trust and compassion for others and creates a sense of belonging and connection.

7. Brings back happy memories

Sometimes, when you hear a song on the radio, it evokes happy memories and has the ability to transport you right back to the time when you first heard it or to a particular occasion (e.g. your wedding day, a night out with friends in your early 20s, or a family get together. Adding these to a playlist can evoke fond memories or help you recall and remember happier periods of your life when you’re feeling down. Research has shown that just replaying music helps us reconnect with the feelings we were experiencing at the time.

Talking of memory, there’s also scientific evidence that listening to music can help us retrieve memories and is also good at helping us to lay down new ones. For this reason, music can be wonderful resource for elderly relatives or those who have dementia.

8. Helps you to process difficult emotions and heal from heartache and grief

I’m sure most, if not all of us have experienced the heartache that goes with losing a loved one at some point in our lives. Although music doesn’t have the capacity to make the feelings of emotional anguish or grief go away, it can certainly help us process and make sense of things. Seeking out and listening to tracks where the lyrics seem to be describing our situation perfectly is something many of you will have found yourself doing automatically. In the past, following the breakdown of a romantic relationship, I would always find myself reaching for CDs of sad songs and having a good cry. I wasn’t sure that choosing such tunes was helpful, but according to my research, it definitely can be. In fact, listening to music which matches our mood (either in terms of tempo or lyrics), whether that be sadness, anger, excitement or joy, benefits us by activating our limbic system (the section of our brain which is directly related to emotional processing).

Final thoughts…

I hope you have found this music focused post helpful in some way and that is has encouraged you to think about using songs and instrumental pieces to benefit your mental health and wellness. Let me know in the comments if any of what I’ve said resonates with you.

Happy listening!

Posted in lifestyle, Planning and journaling, wellbeing, yoga

Creating a yoga journal to support your daily practice

This month, I decided to start a yoga journal to record my sessions and reflect on the progress I’m making and how it is helping to develop me mentally and physically. It’s something I’ve thought about doing for a while as I’ve been doing yoga almost every day for over a year now. Today, I’m sharing the benefits of the journal and what I include in mine. I’m also going to show my actual journal and some of the contents, as I’m really loving using it and thought you might like to see how much I write.

Why keep a yoga journal?

I’ve only been keeping my journal for a week but so far I’m finding it really helpful. Here’s some of the main benefits I’ve found so far:

  • it’s a wonderful creative outlet – I really enjoy writing and I love any opportunity to get my thoughts and feelings down on paper, if you feel the same, why not have a go!
  • it’s helping me become more in tune with my emotions by reflecting on how I feel before and after my practice – sometimes I discover I’m frustrated because I feel like I haven’t achieved enough in my day, but then after my session, my concerns have melted away
  • it’s great for accountability
  • I’m becoming more aware of my progress – it’s helped me realise that there are poses I can now do more easily than when I started a year ago were much more challenging
  • I’m connecting more deeply with my practice by reflecting on it regularly

What equipment do I need to get started?

All you’ll need is a notebook (or some space in your BuJo if you prefer to plan and journal all in one place), a nice pen (I’m using a Muji gel pen in 0.38 as I prefer a smaller nib) and some scheduled time in your day to get writing (for my post of creating and sticking to new habits click here). I’m also using some small sheets of sticker paper to put in images of poses I’ve been practising so I have a visual reminder of the correct form and any modifications or variations for less advanced students – this is completely optional though and just my preference.

My journal is quite small at 4 x 6 inches and the lined pages are relatively thin. I already had this notebook in my stash and, as it’s so pretty, I enjoy looking at the covers each day. The paper isn’t the best quality but it’s just fine for notemaking and adding images of asanas that are new to me or that I need to modify with various equipment. Also, I’m a fan of hoarding pretty little notebooks rather than actually using them so this was the perfect opportunity to use one of my supplies!

My cute notebook – a bargain from TKMaxx a couple of years back!

What should I include in my yoga journal?

Here’s my ideas of what to include if you fancy starting your own journal for your yoga. It might also spark prompts for other form of exercise or mindfulness practises that you engage in on a regular basis.

  • date and time
  • length of session
  • class / home practise?
  • video / book / ebook or just practising from memory of different asanas?
  • how did I feel before?
  • which asanas did I do?
  • what equipment did I use and how did it help me?
  • which of the asanas did I find difficult?
  • what do I want to work on next time?
  • how do I feel after?

I’ve added these suggestions to the front of my journal so I can turn to the page for ideas. I don’t necessarily answer all of the questions each time but it reminds me of things that I can include if I want to.

Here’s a few example pages from this week:

Prompts on back of front cover and first page. Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative
More journalling page examples. Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

I hope you have enjoyed reading my ideas for creating a yoga journal and that my post has encouraged you to start your own to record your fitness journey. Let me know in the comments if you already track your progress in some way or if you are thinking about setting up your own yoga journal.