Posted in lifestyle, Planning and journaling, productivity, Setting goals and intentions

Monday Matters: What is the ‘WOOP technique’ and how can it help you achieve your dreams?

This week, I wanted to write a post about goal setting and fulfilling your dreams. I talked last week about the power of positive affirmations in developing confidence in your ability, but is telling yourself you are something such as successful, confident or happy enough to achieve in a particular aspect of your life? Whilst perusing the Internet for inspiration for my chosen focus, I came across something I’d never heard of before called WOOP. I’m willing to bet that a lot of my readers might not have heard of it either, so today’s Monday Matters is going to be an introduction the principles behind this fascinating and scientifically researched idea, which to me, make a lot of sense and might need more consideration.

What is WOOP?

WOOP, which stands for Wish, Outline, Obstacle, Plan is a scientifically based principle developed by German academic and psychologist Gabriele Oettingen. Her research has focused on ‘how people think about the future and how this impacts cognition, emotion and behaviour’ (Wikipedia). Gabriele has found that if we just dream or fantasise about something we want, our brains tend to think we have already attained what we desire and this can make us relax and prevent us from actually achieving our goals. She talks about two processes that we need to go through for the WOOP strategy to take effect, namely mental contrasting and implementation intentions (MCII for short). Basically, this means focusing on the contrast between the positive aspects of your desired goal and the barriers (negative aspects / obstacle / internal struggle) of you actually achieving your goal or wish. So, the WOO bit is the contrast as you imagine / visualise how wonderful it would be to fulfil your wish and then conversely, look at what might stop you. Thinking about both of these helps to motivate your self conscious to do something about the issue you face. The P part is the implementation intentions as you are coming up with a plan of actions and thoughts to work against your obstacle.

Gabriele and her team have spent 20 years fully researching and investigating goal achievement and the effects of mental contrasting and implementation intentions with studies including participants of different ages and backgrounds. The results of their work, has lead them to create WOOP as a framework for implementing change. The process has been found to be affective at helping people improve their social behaviour, health and academic performance. Examples of these scientific studies can be found online if you want to find out more.

Creating a WOOP

Wish Gabriele says that it is vitally important to give yourself some mental space in which to think about and imagine what you wish for yourself right now. You should dedicate some calm and uninterrupted time where you can specifically focus on your immediate wish for this present moment. Clearing your mind of everything else is essential so that you can dedicate your attention to working on your WOOP.

You may find that many wishes come into your mind, but you need to select the one that is most important to you and is challenging but do-able at the same time. Wishes can be about anything you want, your relationships, your job, your education, your health and fitness, whatever is important to you right now.

When you’ve decided on your wish, you should try to come up with 3 to 6 words to summarise it. I found this part really difficult as I’m very good at saying in 50 words what could be shrunken down to 5 but it’s important to be concise so you should really take your time to think.

Outcome When you have outlined your wish, you need to imagine what it would feel like if it came true (you might like to close your eyes for this bit so you can create an image of your life). Think about what the very best outcome would be and describe it in a small number of words (approximately 3 or 4 is a good number).

Obstacle Next, you need to think really carefully about what holds you back from achieving that wish. In other words, what is the main obstacle? For this, you should focus on an inner obstacle, i.e. something in you that is preventing you from realising your wish. You might find here, that you start to think of external obstacles such as other people or situations which you find yourself in but it’s important that you try to concentrate on yourself as it is much easier to create changes within yourself. Again, you could close your eyes and allow yourself to come up with a vivid image.

Plan When you’ve identified your main obstacle, you need to come up with a plan to overcome it. Again, you should try to summarise thoughts or actions in 3 to 6 words. Keep these in mind, whilst you create an If… then plan. Take your obstacle words and put them after the If. Then, place the thought or action after the ‘then…’. You can then recite your If… then plan a few times.

An example

Here’s an example from my own life. I’m now pretty good at doing yoga every day but there are always occasions when I don’t feel like doing it or think of other things I would prefer to do.

  • Goal: Yoga for 20 minutes every day
  • W: daily yoga practise for 20 minutes
  • O: Strength. Good posture. Mindfulness.
  • O: Don’t feel like it. Don’t bother.
  • P: If I don’t feel like it… then I’ll put my workout gear on, get out my mat and then remind myself of the many mental and physical benefits of practising.

Some other WOOP ideas

  • In bed by 10pm every night.
  • Be more productive.
  • Get a new job.
  • Find my soulmate.
  • Stop eating unhealthy snacks.
  • Read a self help book.
  • Meditate for 10 minutes each morning.
  • Finish a project before the weekend.

You might find the process a little tricky at first, but once you’re proficient in WOOP, you can apply it to so many situations – daily tasks, habits you want to instil, projects you want to complete or whatever you want really! Also, you will likely get much better at summarising and getting to the crux of the matter in terms of your inner obstacle which will help you develop solutions more quickly.

The WOOP app

When I visited the website for WOOP, I discovered that there’s a free APP available, so I thought I would download it and see how it works. As well as giving an introduction to WOOP, it also guides you though the process of creating WOOPs for professional, health and interpersonal wishes.

The app guides you through each WOOP by giving you a number of prompts. You can choose a timeframe from 24 hours or 1 month or you can select not to have a time frame. The app gives you limited characters in which to compose your wish, outcome, obstacle so as to encourage you to keep it brief but I can imagine it’s quite frustrating if you feel like you can’t condense it down that much. It also asks you to take your time with thinking about each step of WOOP and if you click through the steps too quickly, it will warn you that you are going too fast! If you like having things noted down on your phone, then I think you would benefit from using the app, but personally, I prefer to write things in my BuJo and have a notes page to refer to, to help me create my WOOPs.

That’s all for my introduction to using the WOOP technique for setting goals and creating a plan to achieve them. If you want to learn more about WOOP and watch a great video introduction, visit woopmylife.org Here you can also find the link for the mobile app and a free printable to help guide you through the process.

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.

Posted in Blogging, productivity, wellbeing, wellness

Keeping my distance: Life during lockdown for an office worker

This morning I received an email from my husband with his contribution to my how life has changed during the pandemic series of guest posts. He is only upstairs, but as he’s working on his computer, he decided to quickly attach his MS Word document and forward it to me rather than asking me to read it on his screen. So without further ado, here’s his summary on things.

Since March 23rd, when Boris Johnson made his announcement about social distancing, we have been spending much more time at home. My wife, Laura asked me to document some of the things that have changed for me personally, so here goes.

The good aspects of the lockdown

I work as a materials planner for factory and my place of work is a 30 mile commute from home. This means I am usually out of the house for 10 hours each week day, leaving at 6.30am and returning home by 5pm. Since I am now working from home, I get to spend more time with Laura. I’m also saving lots of money on fuel as I buy approximately £35.00 worth of diesel each week.

I am spending most of my day working in Laura’s ‘craft room’ (although I do manage on my laptop for the first half hour, sat at the dining table downstairs so I don’t wake my wife up tapping away on the keys!). When Laura gets up (usually around 7.30 – 8am, I’m able to take my things upstairs and spread out on her large desk, making use of the very comfortable office chair and connecting my laptop and keyboard to a large monitor, kindly loaned by work so I can actually see what I am doing on the various emails and spreadsheets! We are lucky as, with the nature of our business, we still have plenty of orders and with the factory operating with less staff we are probably busier than usual, especially as we have issues with getting hold of the materials from different sources as our suppliers are self isolating too.

Although Laura and I have the chance to converse more during the day, our company is still really busy with production and I am always typing away, making calls and having meetings. The only time I really see Laura, when I’m hard at work, is when she brings me coffee (and sometimes a biscuit or two!).

When I was at the office, I used to mainly spend my lunchbreak still sat at my computer but now I’m able to stretch my legs and enjoy my lunch at the dining table so my wife and I can spend quality time together, something we would never be able to do usually. I can also have a pop out into the garden and check out all of our various plants and see what needs to be done out there in terms of weeding, mowing the grass, digging etc. At weekends, there are of course all those little jobs in the house or garden to finally tick off as we are spending much more time at home.

The not so good aspects of the lockdown

When I first started working from home, I only had my laptop and keyboard and could barely see what I was doing. The company decided to arrange for us to have a monitor to use at home as ours are affixed to our desks in the office but I had to wait a while for this to be arranged and ended up having neckache each day and everything seemed to take twice as long to do. I’m getting used to the new way of working now but tasks still take a little longer as you can’t just pop over to a colleague’s desk to check something with them like I would usually do.

Laura and I used to enjoy getting out at weekends. These days we can’t really go out, except to the supermarket, which is now a stressful experience, queuing outside, trying to keep your distance from other customers. Trying not to touch my face whilst in the shop, or feeling like I’m nagging Laura to do the same. Some essentials, such as bread or vegetables are often sold out, so you have to go to ANOTHER shop even though we have been advised to only go to one place! When we return from the supermarket, there’s all the hand washing to be done, which has been making my already cracked and sore hands much worse.

Lots of other things have changed besides, too numerous to mention, or even worth thinking about without being overwhelmed. The situation is ever changing, but for the right reasons and will help us come out of this faster with less lives lost. Stay kind, stay safe.

Michael

Thanks to my wonderful husband for sharing his experiences. I am sure others who work in an office have had similar issues with setting up their space at home, although many of you probably have less to do or have to complete tasks a little differently. Also, now I know how much money we save in fuel costs, I’m thinking of all of the things I could buy with that £35.00 each week!

Posted in Blogging, mental health, productivity, wellbeing, wellness

Life during lockdown: A guest post from my student friend

Today, we hear from my friend Larissa who is a postgraduate student at our local university. I first met her at the compassion group which we both attended last year. I found her really lovely to talk to, so we swapped phone numbers and have stayed friends. We recently met for coffee and cake but I guess we won’t be seeing each other in person for a while now. Anyway, I’ll hand this post over…

Hi, I’m Larissa, a 21-year-old student living in Sunderland. In January I started a Masters Degree in Media Production, but obviously due to the global pandemic we’re all experiencing, I’m stuck at home.

How have my week days changed?

My weekdays have changed quite dramatically, before I was at University five days a week, learning production management, to use cameras, sound equipment and editing software. Now I have limited amounts of work I can do at home and most of my week days consist of playing Animal Crossing on my old Nintendo DS and trying out new vegan recipes.

I’ve also gone from seeing a twenty-plus group of friends and peers, to only seeing those within my household.

How have my weekends changed?

My weekends haven’t changed all too much in honesty, I do occasionally go out drinking on weekends when things are normal, but had been limiting how much I was anyway. However, recently myself and some friends had been having ‘Games Nights’, and I am missing getting together, relaxing and having a good laugh.

What’s one of the worst things about lockdown?

Undoubtedly, there were always going to be negatives about being in lockdown; most people don’t enjoy being stuck in their house, unable to leave. I had considered myself a home-bird until the UK’s lockdown began, but it has made me realise how much I enjoy the freedom of being able to leave my house and pop to see a friend, to the beach, to grab a coffee.

My mental health has also been negatively affected during lockdown; most people (including me) are likely experiencing anxiety regarding their own and other’s health, but personally I struggle with not being able to see my loved ones often (you might call me clingy), and as overwhelming as day-to-day life can prove to be, the lack of normal routine has left me feeling unmotivated and low.

What have you found to be positive about lockdown?

Of course it’s not all doom and gloom (although it’s okay if it feels that way at the moment), I feel there’s been an increase in community spirit, and lots of children in the area have been drawing and writing nice messages and sticking them up in their windows for everyone to see.

I’ve also started exercising daily, something I’d been meaning to get back into the habit of for months. Basically, I’ve had a lot of time to focus on practicing self-care and doing the things I enjoy such as:

-Meditation

-Sketching

-Writing (including this blog post, something I probably wouldn’t have been doing had I not been stuck indoors with all the free time in the world!)

-Gaming

-Cooking

-Spending time with my cat Loki

-Walking in nature (for the government approved one hour per day might I add)

I hope you and your loved ones are all staying safe and well. I know people are going through some horrific things collectively at the moment, but I suppose what I want to finish with, is use this time, if possible, to reconnect; whether that be with yourself, you loved ones, nature or whatever.

Thank you for reading, and if you liked my writing and would like to link up with me, you’re quite welcome to message me on https://uk.linkedin.com/in/larissa-hird-9b29b9183

Larissa

I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about lockdown from the point of view of a student. I know Larissa is keeping in touch with people on Facebook, but it’s not quite the same as enjoying face-to-face contact time with friends and being with lots of other students during the week. Hopefully we can meet up for coffee and vegan cake again soon. Take care and message me any time,

Posted in mental health, productivity, wellbeing, wellness

How is my day-to-day life different now the U.K. is currently in lockdown?

Whilst in the shower this afternoon, I had an idea for some new blog posts which will help to document life during lockdown in response to COVID-19. I want to record how life is currently different from the perspective of different people in my life as everyone’s experience is unique and some individuals are coping with the situation much better than others. So, for this series of posts, I’m going to record how things are for me right now and then ask some of my family and friends how the lockdown has changed things for them and how they feel about it. I haven’t asked them yet, but I’m thinking of featuring guest posts from my husband, my mum, my eight year old niece, a friend who is at uni (or rather not at uni right now!) and one of my teacher friends who is mainly working from home).

I hope this idea appeals to you as much as it does to me and more importantly, fingers crossed the aforementioned family and friends are up for a bit of writing. I’ll start with me and hopefully everyone else will oblige me!

How have my week days changed?

As I run my own online business on Etsy (and this blog), I’m used to mainly being at home during the day, but also popping out to different places such as the post office, the shops and to my different classes at my local college and my yoga sessions at a wellbeing centre in the city centre. So, during the week, I’m usually mainly on my own between the hours of 8am – 5pm but do make sure I have some face to face interaction with others each day such as chatting to someone I see regularly in the park, catching up with the ladies who work in the shop which contains a post office where I hand in my shop orders, or talking to fellow students at my classes.

Now, I’m no longer home alone during the day, as my husband, Michael is working from home. I’ve lost my desk in my craft room as he needs to use it and I have to work either on the dining room table, or in the living room on the sofa with my laptop on my laptop tray. It’s nice to have him at home as I enjoy the company at lunchtime but most of the day, he’s hard at work on his laptop and I try to do things super quietly downstairs to avoid disturbing him.

As my classes at college, my access to the college gym and my yoga classes are all cancelled, I’m making sure I do at workout at home and go for a daily walk. I usually drive to a local park but we’ve been advised to avoid using our cars to go out for exercise, so I’m now walking around the block with my iPod playing some of my favourite tunes. I used to find my daily walk really relaxing and a great chance to get in touch with nature, but now, my walks are more stressful as I’m always on the look out for people coming towards me on the pavement so we can try to keep the recommended two metres distance. I’m also trying to interact with a range of people online in my Facebook groups and other online communities that I belong to. There’s lots of talk about how the virus is impacting on our lives but I try to avoid too many of these discussions as some of them can be quite negative and I’d rather focus on the positives of the situation.

Another of my social outlets which I’m really missing is my weekly choir session. As I’ve mentioned before, singing is really great for your wellbeing, but as well as this, I also miss the chance to interact with others which these times brought. I did sign up for Gareth Malone’s online choir but unfortunately the rehearsals are at 5.30pm when I’m usually making dinner for my husband and I.

How have my weekends changed?

My husband and I used to arrange at least one day out over the weekend which invariably included a picnic (sometimes in the car!) or a meal out, plus a trip to a different town (either for sightseeing or shopping), the seaside or a local nature spot. Now, we no longer do this and as the lockdown becomes stricter to ensure public safety, we are tending to stay at home almost all day. This has meant lots of time for DIY projects, gardening and housework. In the beginning we were going out for a walk somewhere different but now, as I mentioned before, we’ve been advised not to use our cars for leisure activities as popular tourist spots were getting too crowded and individuals were unable to maintain the safe distance.

What’s one of the worst things about the current lockdown?

I think one of the worst bits for me is the lack of real life social contact and interaction with others. Even when I was depressed and anxious, I still tried to make sure I spent time each day with other people. Luckily, I’ve come out of my bad patch and my mental health is much better. I’m just grateful that I am no longer struggling day-to-day as I think I would be finding this situation we find ourselves in a lot harder if I was like I have been for the last 5 months or so.

What have you found to be one of the positive things about the lockdown?

I’m loving seeing and hearing about how people are going out of their way to help and support others during this difficult time. It was so heart-warming when we and so many of our neighbours took to our door steps and front gardens to clap for the NHS and to show our thanks for their hard work. Also, lots of children in my local area have made beautiful rainbow pictures and displayed them in their windows with messages thanking NHS staff or reminding people to stay safe.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about my life during lockdown. All that remains for me to say is – stay safe, keep washing your hands, remain at home as much as you can and try to find little things to celebrate about the situation, even if there are lots of sad, worrying and negative aspects.