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, mental health, Mindfulness, wellbeing, wellness

Monday Matters: Introducing Friluftsliv and how to reap the benefits of this popular Norwegian practice

Photo credit: Scott Goodwill for Unsplash

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will know how much I love the great outdoors and how enjoyable I find spending time in nature. It’s really beneficial for my mental health and I try to make getting outside a big part of my daily self care routine. I’m sure most of you have heard of the Danish concept of Hygge (hue-gah) which is loosely translated as a feeling of peaceful cosiness and makes you think of soft and snuggly blankets, a flickering fire or the soft glow of candles. But, you may not have heard of the idea of Friluftsliv, and neither had I until last week. In a nutshell, it’s all about living an outdoorsy life and is a popular practice in Norway, which incidentally is consistently ranked as one of the happiest countries in The World. Today’s Monday Matters introduces you to Friluftsliv and considers some ways in which you can adopt its principles into your life wherever you may live.

The term Friluftsliv, which is apparently pronounced free-loofts-liv, was coined by writer Henrik Ibsen back in 1859 and is made up of the Norwegian words for free, air and life and can loosely be translated as open-air living. Although it might be difficult to remember the name, the concept is luckily a lot easier to grasp. Not only is Friluftsliv about spending time outdoors, it’s also about being mindful of our personal experiences, feeling a connection with the natural world and appreciating all that it has to offer no matter what the season or what the weather brings. The benefits of all three of these have been widely studied and are known to be wonderful for our physical and mental wellbeing.

Having been mainly stuck inside for most of our time due to lockdown restrictions, many of us are now experiencing a strong desire to go out on long walks, sit in the sunshine and enjoy the fresh air of our outdoor spaces both near and far in any way we can. Now that we can drive to a range of locations and facilities in parks and other green spaces are starting to open up, it’s becoming a little easier to relax and enjoy nature. Obviously, we still have to be aware of others and stick with the social distancing recommendation of two metres where possible but we are able to find moments of peace and quiet now.

Photo credit: Toomas Tartes for Unsplash

You might not have immediate access to fjords, mountains and rural hideouts but we can all incorporate elements of Friluftsliv in our lives and feel its rejuvenating effects. Here are some ideas that you might like to try:

Find out what your local area has on offer

If you type in search terms such as ‘nature reserves’ or ‘places to walk’ and the name of your local area into Google you should be able to find lots of opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors. I started by search in Tyne And Wear and then expanded to the whole of the North East of England and wrote down a range of ideas in my bullet journal. Some of the places we have been to many times before, whilst others might be good for the future. I just wrote the name down for now but will of course need to check out any facilities and if they are currently open as there are still social distancing measures in place.

Be in the moment

One of the key elements of Friluftsliv is mindfulness and there are so many benefits of being in the moment and forgetting all about the stresses and strains of modern day life. As you enjoy your chosen outdoor space, try bringing your attention to your breathing, noticing the sensations as you inhale and exhale, thinking about the processes involved and the key part that trees play. Next, explore your immediate environment using your senses. Maybe you can hear birdsong or trickling water, perhaps you can feel a gentle breeze ruffling your hair or the smell of damp leaves. Really take the time to appreciate all that nature has to offer us. Perhaps find a spot to sit to a while and observe all of the different colours. Maybe you will have the chance to watch different birds and animals as they go about their daily lives. You might like to try going back to this same location at different times of year and noticing changes in the seasons. As you really concentrate on what is happening right now, you’re likely to be filled with a sense of calm and peacefulness. Just let it wash over you and enjoy the simple pleasures of life.

Photo credit: Kalen Emsley for Unsplash

All weather experiences

The UK has very changeable weather and you never know quite what to expect. It’s approaching the end of July and as I write this it is raining really heavily. You might think that it’s ‘stopping in’ weather and you could describe it as ‘a miserable day’ but as long as you dress appropriately, a nice walk can really help to lift the spirits. I’m not suggesting you take yourself out in the middle of a thunderstorm or a harsh gale, but a little rain, the crunch of snow underfoot in winter or a chilly wind in Spring or Autumn is perfectly fine with the right clothes and accessories. I’ve lost count of how many knitted hats and scarves I have in my drawer and I love wearing them all. I’ve also got plenty of sun hats and caps too to protect myself from The Sun and they’re all chosen for their bright and cheery colours and patterns.

Photo credit: Matt Heaton for Unsplash

Enjoy a nature holiday

As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, our holiday abroad for this year has been postponed until next year but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy a nice break here in the UK. We’ve been to some amazing places in the countryside and some of our favourites have been staying in log cabins in forests and woodland. The idea of going camping (or glamping) also really appeals as I love the idea of being surrounded by nature. There are also self catering cottages in more rural locations which can be used as a base for walking holidays.

Photo credit: Michael D. Beckwith for Unsplash

Take up a new outdoor hobby

There are lots of hobbies you might like to consider that encourage you to go outdoors. I love taking my camera out and about with me to capture signs of the seasons such as Autumnal berries, squirrels gathering nuts for the winter, blackbirds searching for tasty worms on our lawn, blue tits collecting nesting materials and new buds developing on the trees. Sometimes I just absorb nature and use my senses to explore, whilst at other times I like recording my finds in photographs. I also often take my binoculars out and about with me so I can do a little birdwatching either at nature reserves or in woodland areas. Hiking or cycling are some other great pursuits as you can enjoy the psychological benefits and have a wonderful workout too.

Photo credit: Steve Harris for Unsplash

Picnics and alfresco dining

We like to take any chance we can in the Spring and Summer to enjoy picnics by the coast, at a nature reserve or in a country park or garden. The car boot always has a folded blanket and a couple of folding chairs in so we’re always prepared whether there are purpose build benches or not. We’ll often take a book or magazine with us too for when we’ve finished eating. Our garden patio also has a table and chairs with a parasol so that we can eat our lunch or dinner outside when it is fine.

Try a little skychology

I love looking at the ever changing sky during the day, first thing when the Sun is rising, in the evening at Sunset and at night to see the twinkling stars. Skychology is a relatively new term which recognises that looking up and noticing what’s going on up there has the potential to make you feel calm, connected and present. My husband I regularly sit out in the garden after dark (sometimes with a glass of wine) and find it really peaceful. In fact, much to our excitement, we actually spotted an inquisitive hedgehog one night and have started putting out food in the form of special biscuits which we picked up in a local garden centre. We’ve seen at least two different ones now (one was much smaller) and we were amazed how noisy they are when they’re eating and wandering around. The little one snuffled its way to our wildlife pond for a thirsty drink too!

Photo credit: Diego PH for Unsplash

Snatches of outdoor time

I’m lucky enough to work from home and can sit at my dining table for a direct view of our garden and can pop outside for a quick stretch whenever I want. I can also go out for a walk around the block or drive to a local park or a woodland area. But, if we make it a priority, we can all find a little time to spend outdoors at least a few times a week if not every day. Maybe just enjoying your morning cup of coffee or your breakfast in your garden first thing or taking a stroll through your local park when you finish work. For me, finding time to get outdoors is so vital for my wellbeing that it has become part of my daily routine.

Digital detox

Finally, it’s also a really good idea to take a break from social media and your phone for a while to encourage complete relaxation. If you can’t bear to leave your smart devices at home, try burying them in the bottom of your bag and avoid looking at them for a few hours. A lot of quite remote places have no signal anyway!

Final words…

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about Friluftsliv and are keen to incorporate elements of it into your life. Let me know in the comments how you plan to embrace nature in the future or what you enjoy doing in the great outdoors. There’s so many wonderful things to see out there that once you start, you’ll soon crave your nature fix every day!

Bye for now,

Posted in lifestyle, mental health, wellbeing, wellness

Monday Matters: 6 Ways to Ensure a Positive Social Media Experience

Photo credit: Georgia de Lotz for Unsplash

The negative effects of social media are well documented and there’s a lot of evidence from a variety of studies about it being detrimental to our wellbeing causing issues such as anxiety, depression, loneliness and low self esteem. However, I believe it is perfectly possible to have a positive and rewarding experience online if you moderate the time you spend and are mindful of how you engage. Today’s Monday Matters post focuses on things to consider and strategies to adopt to help you get benefit from social media whilst sheltering yourself from the more negative aspects of exposure.

Limit your time

I think most of us will agree that we spend far too long on social media each day and that a lot of that time is taken over by mindless scrolling. A study I found online suggested that 30 minutes a day is ample time to spend catching up on various platforms yet a different study found that the average is nearly two hours! If you think social media is taking up too much of your precious time then it probably is and it might be a good idea to schedule a specific time to check in. So, for example, you could decide 6.30pm until 7pm is a good time but make sure you check in again and decide if this amount and time is working for you.

It’s also a good idea to avoid social media later in the evening as it can affect the quality of your sleep. The light on your phone or tablet has been shown to reduce melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep cycle. Also, some online content can cause something called ‘cognitive arousal’ which basically means you get wound up when you should be winding down!

Try turning off your notifications

A good idea for controlling the time spent is to turn off your notifications for the different platforms, as I find, when they pop up on your phone or tablet, particularly if the notification is accompanied by a sound, that’s often all that’s needed to send you down the social media rabbit hole! For example, I recently changed my notifications for YouTube as I was getting so many messages about new videos on channels I subscribe to and suggested videos I should watch that I was totally developing FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) syndrome. Now, the only time I’m notified is if someone likes or loves a comment I left or replies to it. I may even turn the likes and loves off at some point too!

A screen shot of my current YouTube settings

Be wary of emotive language

Since starting my own business, I’ve become super aware of the use of emotive language to get you to click. You may be familiar with ‘click bait’ which can be defined as ‘content whose main purpose is to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web page’ but there are more subtle ways of getting you to click too. Just two minutes on Pinterest and you will see pins containing phrases such as ‘Must have…’ ‘…you’ll definitely want to bookmark’, ‘…beyond brilliant’, ‘How I tripled my blog traffic…’, ’31 lazy ways…’ etc etc. Again, this plays on your FOMO to make you want to click and save the pins for later. I wrote a blog post about avoiding Pinterest some while ago and my time away was due to the fact that I felt it was having a detrimental effect on my wellbeing and making me feel really overwhelmed.

I’ve recently become really aware of how my local newspaper use language on Twitter to get you to check out their webpage. A lot of their tweets start with ‘Shocking’, ‘Exclusive’, ‘Disgusting’ and other similar emotive words and when you click to find out more, it’s just the same old stuff that you really didn’t need to know about. I know they have to sell their stories, but again, it’s another way of getting you to spend time interacting with content that has the potential to wind you up or makes you feel overly anxious or get you feeling down about the state of the world or your locality.

We can all do without too much negative press right now and in my opinion, reducing your exposure or at least being wary of its affect should be a top priority, particularly if you are prone to anxiety or depression or are currently struggling with your mental health. There are a lot of articles online and in magazines about the affect of watching too much Coronavirus news and The WHO (World Health Organisation) have some great advice related to social media and news in relation to mental health.

Be mindful of your personal experiences

To have a happy social media experience, I think it’s really important that you are mindful of how much time you are spending and the effect that it has on your mood and your general productivity levels. If you often find yourself feeling a little bit rubbish, lacking in motivation, tired or completely down, then you may need to evaluate what you’re looking at and why it’s making you feel like this. For example, if looking at beautiful bullet journal spreads on Instagram leaves you feeling like your own BuJo is completely inadequate and that you are rubbish at drawing, lacking in creativity or doing it all wrong, then maybe it’s time to take a break or stop the mindless scrolling – remember the most popular content will be at the top of your feed and as the platform is mainly about aesthetic beauty you’re going to see flawless images which are likely to be highly edited. On the other hand, if you are left feeling highly motivated, creative or on a high, then you might consider social media to be a good mood booster and a wonderful way of helping you to be productive.

Stop the comparison

We all have issues with comparing ourselves to others at times, often in an unfavourable way, but social media often makes things worse, particularly for young people. Not only are you exposed to a huge volume of information from different posters but what you’re seeing is often only half of the picture (or maybe even less) and often heavily edited to show things in the best light. The ability to follow, like and love may also contribute to feelings of self doubt or worthlessness as you reflect on why others have more followers than you or why some friends are getting more likes and loves.

In order to break the comparison habit I think the first step is to recognise that you are doing it and then to realise that it isn’t helpful and is likely to be having a really big effect on you mentally and not in a good way either. When you begin to realise this, you can start to make changes to what you choose to view and your perception of the content that you consume.

A lot of what is presented on social media is advertising and presents an amazing lifestyle, glossy hair and flawless make up coupled with a perfect body, bang on trend outfits and stylish accessories to match. The danger with this is that we start to beat ourselves up as we don’t meet the same standards. What I try to do is reflect on how ads work and remember that they are very good at persuading you to want what is presented and feel that you are incomplete until you have it. I like to assess how clever they are and how far from reality they are. I’m not saying that I don’t get swayed by adverts, we all do but I think being more mindful helps.

It’s also good to remember that what you see online is in digital format and is often altered using filters, photo editors and Photoshop. In fact, the photograph may have been taken literally hundreds of times until the right angle and best lighting conditions are achieved too. So basically, what you are seeing is not really as it seems. The people in these images may seem full of confidence and joy but underneath they might be struggling with lack of self esteem and loneliness or finding aspects of their life really difficult right now.

Evaluate what you get out of being present on social media

There are lots of benefits of using social media such as keeping in touch with friends, being part of an online community, learning new things, hearing a range of perspectives on a topic, keeping you informed, getting help and advice, and fun or entertainment. In fact, being present on social media has been shown to help people feel more connected and useful as they feel they are positively impacted on the lives of others. It’s a good idea to sit down and think about what you personally get out of your experience and the impact it has on your life.

If there are particular apps that you feel aren’t doing you any favours, don’t be frightened to delete them or take a break until you are in a better headspace or in a different mood. I know that my social media experience depends a lot on how I’m coping day-to-day and if I’m struggling with anxiety and depression, I tend to keep my distance from Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest as they only make me feel worse. When I’m feeling happy and in a good place mentally, I enjoy looking at a range of content and it makes me feel motivated to make changes and improve my life. However, I still need to be mindful as I can start to feel overwhelmed and try to change too much all at once in a bid to get a perfect life (which by the way is completely unobtainable)!

Final thoughts

Social media plays a big part in our modern lives and there’s no changing that. Having a happy experience is all about developing your awareness of the positive and negative aspects and being mindful of how your time online is affecting your wellbeing. I hope today’s post has given you some things to think about and will bring about some changes for the good if you feel that is what is required.

Happy surfing!

Posted in Bullet journaling, compassion, mental health, Planning and journaling, wellbeing

Monday Matters: 8 wonderful ways to practise self love and some supportive BuJo spreads for you to create

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.

Forgive yourself

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

  1. 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.

A simple spread using Tombow dual brush pens and a 0.3 pigment liner

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.

Final thoughts

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.

Posted in lifestyle, mental health, productivity, psychology, wellbeing

Monday Matters: The power of positive affirmations and how to create your own

Today’s Monday Matters blog post is all about the helpfulness of positive affirmations and how you can write your own tailor made statements to re-wire your brain and start working towards the life you want. It discusses different types of affirmations which can help develop your body confidence, increase your self belief, encourage you to reach your goals, enable you to accept yourself and others and be grateful for what you have whilst working towards what you want. It also answers questions about how to choose specific affirmations, how to get them to work, how to word them for maximum effectiveness and how to use affirmations when you are struggling with your mental health. Finally, towards the end of the article, I include some of my current affirmations and why I chose them so you can see for yourself how powerful they are for me and can be for you.

What are positive affirmations and how do they work?

Affirmations are phrases which we repeat to ourselves either out loud or in our thoughts. They can be absolutely anything, sometimes good, for example I am great at my job, I can do this etc. but quite often can be bad, unhelpful or completely self-critical, for example, I’m so stupid, I always get things wrong etc. Positive affirmations, though, have the aim of over-riding negative beliefs and negative self-talk and creating positivity and a much better mind set. When said regularly, they can change your thoughts, your way of thinking and how you feel about yourself and life in general. They work by re-wiring your brain to think good things about the world and your place in it.

Different types of affirmations

There are lots of different types of affirmations to choose from and it all depends what you want to focus on. For example, you might want to improve your body confidence, become more successful, increase your happiness levels, be more accepting of yourself or others, combat fear, anxieties or insecurities, lose weight, be more resilient, celebrate your good points etc. Whatever you want in your life or for yourself, there are positive statements to help you.

So, how do I go about creating my own positive affirmations that work?

First of all, you need to think about what you want to see in your life right now. Maybe you want to be more confident and assertive at work. Perhaps you are keen to be more grateful or more positive. Or, you might want to practise self love and kindness. Jot down what’s important to you at the moment or create some goals that you want to work on and start to think about the kind of affirmations that would reflect these ideas.

Key features of good affirmations:

  1. Present tense e.g. I am relaxed and calm, I am worthy of self care and compassion, I take things one step at a time. This makes sure that they are powerful as they are about the here and now.
  2. Short and to the point. This makes them easier to say and easier to remember as you go about your day.
  3. Full of positivity. Try to avoid using negative vocabulary. E.g. rather than ‘I am not anxious’, you could write ‘I am calm and relaxed’. Instead of writing ‘I don’t eat junk food’ you might go for ‘I eat a balanced and healthy diet’.
  4. Powerful and emotional words. Try to use the best emotive vocabulary to can think of e.g. Everything in my life is wonderful, I am an amazing writer, I am incredibly proud of all that I achieve in my life etc.
  5. Make use of your own voice. You can find a wide array of affirmations online e.g. on Pinterest and Instagram. Some of them, you will be immediately attracted to the idea of but if you do use or adapt them, make sure that the vocabulary used is the kind of thing that you would like to say to yourself and that the words within the statement are part of your personal vocabulary e.g. It’s no good saying ‘I am a highly motivated person’ if you would usually use the term ‘hard worker’.
  6. Believability. If you want your affirmations to work, you need to create statements that you can readily believe in. For example, it’s no good writing one that says ‘I am super fit’ if you are only just beginning your fitness journey. It’s better to create something that says where you are at right now or where you can feasibly be soon if you improve your confidence levels e.g. ‘I am getting stronger and fitter every day’ or ‘My fitness levels are improving each day’. Rather than ‘I am always confident at speaking to an audience’ you could try ‘My confidence in presenting my ideas to others is getting so much better.’

Consistency is key with getting your affirmations to manifest positive change in your life so make sure you say them regularly. Add them to your morning routine and assess the effect that they are having as part of a reflection process in the evening. You might even do some journalling on them in your bullet journal or other planner.

How to use positive affirmations to get you through a mental health bad patch

As some of my regular readers will know, I have suffered from episodes of anxiety and depression throughout my adult life and know how easy it is to get into a very negative mindset when you are struggling. I also know that that at times of really low mood, it is super hard to find anything positive to think let alone say out loud. However, if you at least try to treat yourself with kindness and compassion and accept where you are right now, you can find ways to come out of your mental health blip. In the past, I’ve used a small number of positive affirmations, chosen and written with the help of my wonderfully supportive husband, which have helped me and kept my mind focused on resilience and recovery. Below is the page which I produced in my bullet journal at a time in the past when I was having a hard time.

As you can see, they generally focus on accepting myself for who I am, recognising that I have it within me to get better and knowing that I am loved by others. Now, I know at the time, I found it difficult to say these affirmations and I remember tears forming as I read through them the first few times, but it did get easier after a while and I can confirm that I was strong enough, the bad patch did pass and I did get through it and come out of the other side. I’m not saying that the affirmations were the main reason that I got better but they certainly helped with the recovery process, a lot!

Some tips for creating positive affirmations when life is hard:

  • Think about the negative thoughts that enter your mind or negative self talk that you find yourself saying and try to turn it around e.g. ‘I’m so weak and pathetic’ could become ‘I am brave and strong’, ‘I’m never going to get better’ could be re-written as ‘This feeling will pass’. ‘I can’t do this any more’ can be changed to ‘I have the ability to cope’.
  • Check out Pinterest and look for affirmations which suit your current situation e.g. search affirmations for self love and kindness if you find yourself saying nasty things about yourself, look for confidence building affirmations if you find yourself lacking in this area right now.
  • Think about how unique you are and what is special about you. Ask for help on this if you need to from family members or friends. Write down your qualities in first person e.g. I am creative, I am kind to others, I always try my best etc.

Some of my current positive affirmations and why I chose them

  • I run a successful Etsy shop and customers love my products and personalised service. This one was chosen because I regularly have moments of self doubt when I haven’t had many orders, when my visitor count in low or I don’t get any feedback for a while.
  • Readers enjoy my blog posts and find them interesting and insightful. One to remind me that people like the content on my blog and I should keep going with it because I love writing it and I’m really passionate about making it a success.
  • I accept myself. Although I’m always working on self development stuff and new ways to manage my mental health, it’s really important that as I do this, I accept the way I am right now, just as others do.
  • My body is getting stronger and more toned every day. I’ve got a few affirmations related to fitness on my list right now and this is because I’ve recently be getting myself a little upset and disheartened about the fact that I haven’t really lost any weight despite working really hard. Both my husband and I have noticed my body changing and really toning up so this is a little reminder to myself to keep going.

I hope you have found today’s post useful and it has provided you with the encouragement needed to have a go at creating your own positive affirmations. Let me know in the comments what you want to work on right now and maybe share a couple of affirmations that you think you should add to your list.