mental health, Mindfulness, Planning and journaling, wellbeing, wellness

Currently… a little update on what’s going on for me in July 2019

It was so hot, we needed lots of sun cream and had to stroll round slowly looking at all of the tiny ducklings.

I’ve been absent from my blog for a while due to some personal issues that I needed to focus on but I’m now back, and getting fully on top of my game. So, I thought I’d post a little update on me now I’m in productive mode and enjoying life.

currently loving:

… our new wildlife pond. My husband, Michael, has done a great job on it and even though it is only dinky, we already have some resident water snails! The birds love it too and can regularly be seen drinking from it after hopping around our wonderfully bright and colourful garden. It’s very much a work in progress but we’re hoping to get some frogs in there soon (especially as next door have a similar pond and they might come visit ours!).

currently reading:

… a wonderful self care book from The Blurt Foundation founder, Jane Hardy. I’m using it as my current Miracle Morning text and using one of my Mildliners to highlight key points and ideas to help me improve my mental health by looking after myself better. I can already list the positive effects it’s had and there’s so many ideas for bullet journal spreads and things to implement.

The Self-Care Project is for those who have been feeling off-kilter for a while but have not been able to put the finger on the ‘why’. It is a no-nonsense, practical journey to help you do just that. It’ll walk you through the case for self-care (why it’s so darn important), why it isn’t selfish at all, help you explore what self-care means for you, what your obstacles might be and provide advice on how to chisel out daily space for self-care in a practical, achievable and realistic way.

Jane HARDY, founder and CEO of THE blurt foundation
Lots of great information in here if you’re interested in improving your self care habits

currently making:

projects from Daphne’s Diary magazine. This bird décor has been on my to go list for a few weeks now and I finally got it made. Couldn’t decide where to hang it so it’s currently attached to the knob of our under stairs cupboard where it get lots of light from our front door.

So cute!

currently celebrating:

… completing my two classes at The Recovery College. I did a course on Emotional Resilience in the Spring Term and then did a Beginners Tai Chi class in the Summer Term. The college is for anyone who is living with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

The Recovery College leaflet resting on my new Scribbles bullet journal notebook!

currently planning:

… how my niece Lexi and I will celebrate our birthdays next month. She was born on the same day as me (3rd August) and she will be turning 8, whereas I will be turning slightly older! Hopefully we’ll have glorious sunshine like today.

currently feeling:

… extremely motivated and as though I want to do it all in order to make up for lost time when I was unwell. This totally goes against the teachings of the self care book so I’m trying really hard to stick to a routine in which I plan some shop work, some household chores, a bit of gardening and at least 30 mins of relaxation.

Over to you…

I’d love it if you dropped me a comment about what you’re currently up to this month or what you have planned for August 2019. And don’t forget to raise a glass on the 3rd of next month (I’m sure you don’t need an excuse but I’m giving you one anyway!).

mental health, Mindfulness, wellbeing, wellness

The Benefits of Drawing as a Mindfulness Activity (a guest post by Emma from Invaluable)

Today’s blog post is by guest blogger Emma from Invaluable who writes about the many health benefits of drawing and sketching. She includes a link to a related infographic with further detail and an opportunity to download a printable checklist of ideas and inspiration which you can stick in your sketch book or journal.

You don’t have to be a Leonardo da Vinci to reap the benefits of creating art. Artistic activities like journaling, crafting, and writing host a slew of benefits that many aren’t aware of, and drawing in particular has a variety of health and physical benefits. Drawing is a great activity for mindfulness, a way to reduce anxiety and let your brain focus on the task at hand while blocking out all other distractions and triggers. Next time you have the urge to sketch, instead of critiquing your own and focusing on improving skills, let yourself get lost in the activity and reap the endless benefits it has on our mind, body, and soul.

Drawing helps increase creativity. This is one of the reasons it’s highly recommended for children as the creation of vivid imagery forces us to use our imagination and in turn develops important areas of the brain.

Drawing improves memory. Drawing is an important activity for those with Alzheimer’s disease. It helps boost recalling skills and sharpen the minds through imaginative thinking.

Drawing improves communication. Drawing forces us to communicate through images, often without words, and this way of expressing inner thoughts and feelings often helps those who are shy or have certain disabilities.

Drawing helps relieve stress. Life is complicated, and an activity like drawing helps to relax from everyday demands. It’s a release, where many can temporarily exit the world of worries and focus on something more desirable.

Drawing increases our emotional intelligence. By enabling one’s emotions to be emitted through art, we in turn can have a better grasp on our feelings.

Sketching can also help you be more observant and improve your senses. Clearly, there are ample health benefits to drawing, listed above. Invaluable created a neat infographic that outlines all the science-backed benefits of sketching, and how we can use the practice to help with emotions we feel throughout our daily activities. It’s something anyone, even the most novice of crafters, can reap the benefits of, so use the visual printable for inspiration next time you’re willing to give it a try.

I hope you enjoyed reading about the benefits of mindful drawing and are keen to try out some of the ideas yourself. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

mental health, Mindfulness, Planning and journaling, wellness

Building resilience for better mental health

If you read my first blog post of 2019 you’ll know that my word for this year is Resilience. Resilience can be defined as the ability to cope with and rise from all of the challenges, problems and set-backs that life throws at us and come back stronger. When we develop our skills and personal strength we are able to handle our difficulties more easily and this can improve our mental health. As part of my self development work in my Miracle Morning sessions, I’ve spent time reading online articles and a range of books on developing resilience. I’ve also written lots of tips and ideas in my bullet journal. Today’s blog post is a summary of what I’ve learnt in the first few months.

Try to remain optimistic

It can be difficult to remain optimistic when faced with challenges in life but maintaining a hopeful outlook is an important part of resilience. Try to have a positive mindset and encourage thinking such as ‘it’s not the end of the world’ and ‘things will get better’. Remember that set backs are temporary and remind yourself that you are strong and that you have the skills and abilities to face your difficulties.

When negative thoughts pop into your head, try to replace them with something more positive such as ‘I have lots of friends who will support me through this’, ‘I am good at solving problems’, ‘I never give up’, ‘I am good at my job’ etc. Also, choose to see challenges and bad experiences as an opportunity to learn. Ask yourself ‘What can I learn from this situation?’, ‘What is this trying to teach me?’ ‘What positives can I take from my experience?’.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is all about awareness of the present moment – our thoughts and feelings and the world around us. It involves the use of techniques such as meditation, breathing and stretching exercises and can help you to stay calm and in control of your emotions.

When practising mindfulness you begin to notice how thoughts come and go in your mind. You learn to accept these thoughts without judgement and develop your ability to let them go. In addition, you are able to tune in to what your body is telling you and notice signs of stress and anxiety so that you can release tension as you meditate.

Support Network

It’s really important to have people who you can turn to at times of need. Building and nurturing constructive relationships with positive and supportive friends, family and colleagues is an essential part of wellbeing and staying resilient. They can provide a listening ear, positive encouragement, advice or help you celebrate your achievements. Having a good support system in place has also been shown to boost self esteem, confidence and better self image.

If you feel you need to widen your support network, there are many opportunities to do so either in your local community or through online groups. Try your local library, community centre or college for clubs and classes or try to find out about volunteering opportunities in your fields of interest.

A resilient body

We’ve all heard the expression ‘healthy body, heathy mind’ and keeping yourself well is another key part of resilience. Try to eat regularly and make sure you get plenty of good for you fruit and veggies in your diet. Find a type of exercise that you enjoy (personally, I love countryside walks and dancing), and schedule in a time for this each day. Also, remember to take time out to relax and recharge. It’s not self indulgent to schedule in some me time each day, it’s a key part of coping with our busy and stressful lives.

Good sleep is also vital for a healthy lifestyle and better mental health. Try to develop a good relaxation routine each evening – listen to some calming music, dim the lights, meditate or have a warm bath. Many people recommend writing in a journal as a way of putting the day to rest so that you don’t have lot of thoughts buzzing around in your head when you climb into bed. If you want to learn more about this technique click here.

Ideas to try in your bullet journal

  • Create a positive affirmations page and read them every morning. Examples of affirmations include ‘I am strong’, ‘I see the bright side in all situations’, ‘I radiate positive energy’.
  • Add some of your favourite positive quotes to your weekly plan.
  • Write a list of ways to reward yourself for your achievements such as ‘have a relaxing bubble bath’, ‘paint your nails’, ‘buy yourself some planner stickers’, ‘treat yourself to your favourite bar of chocolate’ etc.
  • Practise gratitude by keeping a one line a day log where you write in something you are grateful for on that day. You can include anything you want such as ‘
  • Make a ‘Things That Make Me Happy’ page and use it to remind you of all the good things in your life.
  • Produce a list of creative activities that you enjoy and find the time to schedule at least one of them into your busy week. Getting involved in art and creative tasks has been proven to reduce stress.
  • Keep a daily journal in which you evaluate your day. It will help you to focus on the positives and any challenges that you met. You can also use your journaling as a space to assess your issues and any ideas you may have for solving them.

I hope you find these tips useful. If you have any further ideas for staying resilient, please share them in the comments below.

Best wishes,

Laura x

Mindfulness

Applying mindfulness techniques to chores – can ironing become a pleasure?

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neatly pressed and looking pretty

Yesterday, I started a mindfulness class. It’s a free eight week course designed to be an introduction to the core techniques and is provided my the Wellbeing service where I live. I signed up back in November and got a place in January so didn’t have to wait too long. I found the class a wonderful experience and can’t wait to learn more next week.

So, what’s this mindfulness thing all about?

In brief, mindfulness is all about becoming more aware of the present moment focusing on the here and now rather than the past or the future. It’s been scientifically proven to help our mental wellbeing, as long as you practise it regularly. If you want to read more about mindfulness and the benefits, click here to be taken to current NHS information and guidance: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mindfulness/

In the class, we did a variety of meditations and techniques including what I shall call ‘the grape experience’. We were given one single grape each and asked to hold in our hand. We were then guided to experience it as though we had never seen a grape before using our 5 senses. So, we looked at it, from all angles, felt it (the skin, the temperature, the texture etc) smelt it (both in our hand and later in our mouths), explored it in our mouths (by rolling it around, testing it with our teeth etc) and then eventually bit into it and experienced taste and heard the sound it made as we chewed.

Now, you might be thinking, who’s got time to eat like that every day, or, alternatively, you could be questioning, quite rightly, what on earth grapes have to do with ironing. But, bear with me! Techniques like this, a simple example of mindful eating, show us how much we take for granted in our every day lives and all of the wonderful experiences we actually have and rarely savour. I, for one, am one of those people who regularly eat at the speed of lightening, whilst thinking about all of the other tasks I need to get done before my husband gets home from work.

Talking of tasks, one of today’s, which I seem to keep putting off, is the big pile of ironing currently residing in a basket in my spare room. I see it every time I go in there and my first thought ranges from ‘I really must get that ironing done soon’ to ‘arggghh, I’m such a domestic slattern’. So, thinking about what I’d learnt in yesterday’s class, I set about doing MINDFUL IRONING!!!

So, using my knowledge about mindfulness, limited so far to two hours of work and experience, here’s a summary of some of what I did in order to be more present:

  • listened to the sounds of the tap filling the little reservoir in the iron and watched it fill.
  • felt the different textures and temperatures of the materials which make up the ironing board and focused on the weight and strength required for the task of erecting the board on my kitchen floor.
  • listened to the various popping noises and the sound of the water heating up after I plugged in and turned on the iron.
  • examined the textures of the different fabrics of the clothes.
  • observed the creases disappearing and the steam coming from the iron as it glided over the items
  • watched, felt and sniffed the steam as it rose from the iron
  • marvelled at the science behind it all!

And do you know, I actually found the experience of ironing that big pile of clothes to be calming and relaxing and I even started to enjoy myself. The items were pressed and folded carefully in no time and I reckon I might even look forward to what I consider to be a boring and time consuming chore in the future. And wouldn’t that be amazing, if every chore felt like a pleasant experience and one which didn’t fill us with dread or boredom?

I really do recommend you try this technique even if you’ve never tried mindfulness before. How about some mindful washing up or mindful showering? Let me know in the comments if you have a go and what you thought of the experience. And even if you’re feeling cynical about it, give it a try, you never know, it might just change your approach to doing chores and improve your day!

Thanks for reading, and happy ironing!

Laura xx