Posted in lifestyle, Planning and journaling, psychology, wellbeing

Monday Matters: 9 benefits of practising gratitude and how to get started today

Last year, I wrote a couple of blog posts about gratitude. One was about how I was practising gratitude despite the situation with COVID-19 and the local lockdowns that were being enforced, and the other presented a few ways in which you could start to practice being grateful. Today, I want to dive a little deeper into the core benefits of a daily gratitude practice and share ideas on ways you can get started with a view to make it part of your routine.

What is gratitude?

Gratitude is about being aware of and thankful for all of the positive things and situations in your life and their impact on you. It’s about regularly taking a moment to reflect on and appreciate what you have, even during particularly challenging times.

Finding gratitude is a skill that anyone can develop and there are so many benefits of a daily practice. Read on and you’ll see exactly why I’ve made it a habit and part of my nightly routine.

9 Benefits of practising gratitude

Makes us feel happier Gratitude encourages us to focus on the positives in our life, helping to reduce negative emotions such as anger, resentment and regret. It can also minimise feelings associated with depression such as sadness, worthlessness, self-hate and guilt.

Reduces stress High levels of stress can leave us feeling extremely tense, anxious, restless and overwhelmed. Luckily, cultivating feelings of gratitude is the perfect antidote. According to research, being more grateful lowers the stress hormone (cortisol) in our body, making us feel much calmer. It can also minimise negative self-talk which can help you to feel confident in dealing with everything life throws at you.

Improves our self-esteem One of the main things that ruins our self-esteem as adults is comparing ourselves with others in an unfavourable way. Instead of engaging in this destructive behaviour, try focusing on gratitude instead. Boost your self worth by thinking of all of your strengths and their impact on your day. Rather than feeling envious of or resentful towards others, try complementing them on their skills and be grateful for how they help you in your life.

Better sleep Finding time each evening to pause and reflect on what you’re grateful for helps you to end the day on a calm and more positive note. This can help you to wind down before bed and has been shown to improve sleep quality and quantity. If you’re really struggling with your sleep, I recommend doing some reflective journalling (see point number 1 of this post) before spending time filling in your gratitude log.

Improved physical health Those who practise gratitude have been shown to exercise more regularly and have medical check-ups more often. When we reflect on what we’re grateful for, we’re likely to show more appreciation towards good physical health and this can prompt us to take better care of ourselves.

Increases resilience We might have lots going on right now which is making life super tough for us, but practising gratitude can help us see the bigger picture, appreciating that we still have lots to be thankful for and assuring us that we have the ability to cope with what’s going on and get through it, coming out stronger on the other side.

Improves our romantic relationships Gratitude plays a key role in strengthening our loving relationships. By actively pay attention to the positive things that our partner does, we learn to appreciate them more, show our gratitude and give them thanks. Expressing your thankfulness is likely to motivate them to do more things to show they love and care about you. Also, when you feel gratitude towards your partner, the chance of you behaving in a positive, kind and caring way back is greatly increased.

Reduces materialism There’s strong evidence that being materialistic i.e. being overly concerned with material things rather than spiritual, intellectual and cultural values leaves a person feeling depressed and dissatisfied with life. Learning to be grateful for what you have reduces these feelings and increases happiness and life satisfaction.

Increases optimism Developing a daily gratitude practice can help you to become a more optimistic person by encouraging you to focus on what’s going right rather than dwelling on negative aspects of your life. If we perceive our current life to be good, we’ll start to believe that this will continue in the future.

My top tips for getting started

With this many benefits, you’ll probably want to get started straight away so here’s a mini guide to help you begin:

Keep it simple It’s best not to develop some elaborate routine that will become too onerous and make you feel like finding gratitude is a complete chore and one which you can’t keep up with. When I first started I made a simple ‘two line a day’ spread in my bullet journal and decided to come up with two or three things each day. This takes me less than 10 minutes each evening and things often pop into my head during the day which I want to add (a benefit of the practice being ingrained).

Choose your method of recording Think about what style of journal appeals to you most – would you prefer writing in your notebook or BuJo or are you happier writing notes on your phone using a dedicated app? I use my bullet journal but I have looked into a couple of apps for research, Gratitude App provides daily prompts and also challenges which run for between one and three weeks. Examples of prompts are ‘Why did you start gratitude journalling? Express gratitude to yourself for taking this step’ and ‘Express gratitude for the new beginnings life gives you’. This is good if you need a little help on the ideas front. The other app is Presently, which is a lot more simple and just gives you space to free write what you’re grateful for each day. Both apps offer alarm prompts as reminders to write.

Make it a habit I’ve written before about ways to cement habits but in brief, you need to start with a cue or trigger which reminds you to do your daily practice e.g. a time, such as 8pm (for which you can set an alarm) or before/after another habit such as when you’ve emptied the dishwasher, after dinner or before you settle down to watch TV. Then, you need to focus on the benefits you receive from the habit, so, for example, you might re-read this list, or, when you get established, you might reflect on how you feel as a result of practising e.g. calmer, happier or sleeping better.

Add a little variety Try to find different things to be grateful for each day and make sure you are really specific so you can see the impact of things in your life e.g. the sunshine because it dried my washing nicely, my ability to persevere with an arduous task until I got it finished, the reassuring words my friend said to give me the strength confidence to get through a difficult time etc.

Share your gratitude with your family and friends If I write about something my husband said or did which I’m grateful for, I tell him. This helps him to know that I don’t take him for granted and that I really do appreciate him. The same can be applied to other family members and friends.

Final words…

As you start to practise gratitude, remember it takes time and effort to make it a habit. Each evening, I like to read through all of the things I’ve listed so far that month as a positive reminder of all of the great things and experiences my life brings. And, I make sure that I express gratitude for the fact that I’ve kept going with my daily routine, even during tough times or when lack of motivation kicks in. Of course there have been a couple of days when I’ve been super busy and a change of routine has meant that my ‘two lines a day’ didn’t get filled in, but I’ve just accepted it and reflected on why it happened so that I can put in place strategies to ensure that not completing my gratitude practice doesn’t become a habit instead.

Posted in Planning and journaling, wellbeing, wellness

Grateful in April: being thankful for what I have despite the current circumstances

This month, as I mentioned in my vision board post, I want to focus on the positives in my life despite the awful situation that we as a nation find ourselves in currently. In order to do this, I decided to make a one-line-a-day gratitude log in my BuJo. I also remembered that I bought a little book from Paperchase a while back which is a little journal called ‘5 Minutes Before Bed’ and in it you record thoughts of the day. I hope my post will inspire you to do something similar and, with any luck, it might lift your spirits at this difficult time.

A quick check on the Paperchase website has shown me that the book is no longer available to buy but it would be really easy to do something similar in your bullet journal using sentence starters such as Today…, Thinking about…, Happy about… Dreaming about… etc. You could even add your own brush lettered messages and decorate them in different ways.

It might seem that, in the current situation, with Covid-19 and all of the anxiety and sadness it has brought, that there might not be much to feel grateful for right now. However, if you focus on thinking about the good things in your life, despite all the bad, you can definitely find at least one reason to be thankful each day. Here’s a list of some of what I’ve come up with this month so far, in no particular order:

I’m grateful for…

– The NHS staff who are working tirelessly and putting their lives on the line every day

– The bright sunshine and breeze which dried my washing on the line

– My husband for supporting me in everything I do and being so understanding

– The shop which was open and had an artist’s board and a flat wash brush so I could do my watercolour painting successfully

– The staff at my local supermarket who are working harder than ever to keep the shelves stocked and serve me with all of the items I need

– My little collection of gorgeously scented Body Shop soaps that have kept my hands clean

– The cute moorhen chicks in the park that brought a smile to my face

– The blog readers who enjoy my posts and give them a like or a comment

– The memories of days out in the past which I can talk about with my husband

– WhatsApp and Messenger so I can keep in touch with friends and family

– My hamster, Rosie for making me giggle with her antics

– The mental health nurse who listened so carefully during my telephone therapy and provided such helpful advice

– Watercolour painting tutorials on YouTube that I’ve used this month to develop my basic skills

– The funny clips about the current situation that have made me laugh out loud

– The kindness volunteers have shown to people in need at this time

I hope you have enjoyed reading my short list and it has made you think more positively about the current situation. I’m not saying life is all wonderful right now but there are so many things to be grateful for, including the fact that we’ve all come together to do our bit to stop the spread of this awful virus. I would really encourage you to write down or draw a gratitude list or do some reflective journaling each evening as a way of improving your mental health and wellbeing during this difficult time.

Keep safe and keep well everyone,

Posted in Planning and journaling

Journalling about nature

Last week, I went on a short walk in my local park and spent some time looking at all of the different trees. I wanted to find some pines as my husband would like some pine cones for a project he’s currently working on – a DIY bug hotel for our garden!

I found a huge cone but it was much too big so I left it behind and will return to the park another time in search of smaller ones. There were plenty on the trees but I couldn’t find any wind fallen pine cones of the size required.

This morning, I documented my walk and my learning about pine cones and bug hotels in my Webster’s Traveler’s notebook insert and though you might like to see my finished pages.

Remembering my walk with a little journalling to go with a photo of my pine cone find!
Some information collected from The Woodland Trust blog on their website
Some bug hotel images found online plus ideas for what to add to our bug hotel

I hope you enjoyed seeing my journaling pages. You can find plenty of bug hotel inspiration online if it’s something you would like to have a go at making. Watch this space to see my husband’s creation when it’s finished!

Bye for now,

Laura x

Posted in Planning and journaling

A little update from me…

Hi all, I know, it’s been ages since I did a new blog post but what can I say, I’ve been super busy with my growing Etsy Shop. I’ve been getting creative (mainly with my shop photos) and I’m still very much a bujo and creative journaling addict but, I’ve let my blogging slide. What can I say, something had to give and unfortunately, this was it… sorry!

But, I’m back and I would so love to hear from each and every one of you with a mini update of your creative / plannery life and what your priorities are right now.

new supplies for November
Treat to myself for being a good girl (you can still be a girl when you’re in your 40s right?)

So, here’s some of my (best) reasons for being AWOL, AKA what I have been dedicating my precious time to:

  • Planning and having a creative Monday – two or 3 hours, most Mondays when I shift focus from my shop to getting messy. I’m talking brush lettering (I’m a leftie so I always get covered in ink!), colouring in, drawing (I’m getting better, slowly), painting, cutting and sticking (AKA collage) and anything else which takes my fancy and can be crammed in to my time.
  • Making daily plans. I’ve discovered I work best if I sit and create a daily timetable each and every day. This is drawn up in my bujo during my quiet, focused time that I dedicate to planning and preparation before I start work on my Etsy shop.
  • Putting into place ideas from my two favourite (and newly discovered) books on productivity. (see below – one is on my Kindle so I’m making notes in my bulging bujo as I like to record most of my learning so I don’t forget!)
  • Reaching out to other planning and journaling addicts both IRL (Bev, that’s you my lovely!) and virtually (UKPA you are an amazing, wonderous group – where would I be without you!).

That’s it for now, but I (pinkie) promise, I will be back with another post very shortly (you can berate me in the comments if I don’t!).

Much love and best wishes to you and your loved ones for the Christmassy period.

xx

Posted in bullet journal, Bullet journaling, creativity, Planning and journaling

Bullet Journal Beginner (How I’m setting up my new planner system)

Bullet Journal Beginner

As many of you who follow me on social media know, I got a gorgeous Webster’s Pages TN in fuchsia for my last birthday and have been using my handmade inserts to design my own planner layouts. I also add my habit trackers, shopping lists and meal plans in there as well as a notes section at the back. As I hand stitch my notebooks, and use premium paper, I was finding that the maximum thickness I could make, without the booklet looking too bulky, was about 24 pages. So, as I needed a WO4P (week on four pages) I was getting through a lot (and I mean a lot!!!) of notebooks throughout the months and kept having to transfer key information from one to another. I also had about 5 other notebooks on the go all at the same time and, unsurprisingly, I was becoming a bit overwhelmed by my system. Don’t get me wrong – I love notebooks, the prettier the better, but I was craving a set up where everything was all in one place.

So, fast forward a few months, to when I ordered a gorgeous Scribbles That Matter notebook from Amazon and became obsessed with watching YouTube videos and their related blogs on BuJo systems. I also started searching out creative bullet journal peeps on Instagram to follow for inspiration (there are so many amazing set ups out there). My favourite and most informative YouTube channel and blog has to be Kara’s at Boho Berry and you’ll see why when you check it out.

My A5 Scribbles notebook is amazing. Here’s a list of its main features:

  • A bullet grid for all of your amazing layouts
  • A page to write your key, including any colour coding you might have decided to use.
  • 3 index pages
  • Page numbers so, with the index, you can find all of your collections easily
  • A space at the back for testing all of your pens (well, maybe not all of them, but the ones you intend to use!)
  • A fantastic pocket at the back for keeping stickers, receipts or whatever you want to keep with your planner / journal.
  • Two ribbon bookmarks (I’ve got mine marking my index and what will be my weekly page when May comes)

For my first bujo, I decided to keep it simple with some highlighting (using my fab new Mildliners – also from Amazon), some brush lettering (using my Tombow Fudenosuke hard for smaller text and Tombow Dual Tips for larger titles) and a few stickers (from Pebbles). I might also add some washi as the months go on (after all, I have plenty of it in my stash!).

Here’s my set up for May. It’s not perfect, but I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out.

BujoKey
My key makes use of the original rapid logging bullets and signifiers invented by Ryder Carroll click here for more info. I’ve also added a little one of my own at the very end.

I started colour coding in my Traveler’s Notebook system a few months ago and loved how effective it was and how colourful it made my planner. I’ve stuck with the same 5 colours and I’m continuing to combine personal and business goals and tasks. As well as running my Etsy Shop I also volunteer for the RSPB once a fortnight by going into schools to deliver sessions to primary aged children with a focus on giving nature a home in the school grounds. I get bookings and have to keep in touch with my line manager regularly so I gave my tasks their own colour.

BuJoIndexPage
My index entries so far. Who knows how many pages May is going to take up, I’m on page 10 already!

I hand wrote my calendars for my future log but I messed up with the numbering (and I didn’t use a Frixion pen!) so I had to create little stickers to cover up my mistake. For this, I worked on Microsoft Publisher, creating tables for each month for the rest of the year.

BuJoFutureLog
I used my Mildliners to add a pop of colour. I got my inspiration for this layout from a wonderful blog by Christina over at Christina77star

I deviated from the original Bullet Journal monthly set up, preferring to use a grid format:

BujoMayMonthly
A simple set up using my Tombow Dual Tips and a few accent stickers.
BujoMayHabits.jpg
Personal and business habits for May
BujoMayGoals&Meals.jpg
Goals for the month and a meal plan for the first week of May.

And finally, my first weekly plan, which is now on just two pages. I’m hoping the rapid logging system means that I need much less space for each day but I can always change my layout if it doesn’t work. I have, however, swapped over to a 0.7 pen so my writing might not be small enough. If anyone knows of a decent fine pen which you can use Tombows or Mildliners over the top of, let me know in the comments!

BujoMayWeekly1

If you’re new to bullet journaling and have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below. And, if you have a must see blog, YouTube channel or Insta account which you want to share, I would love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading,

Much love,

Laura xx

p.s. If you are worried that my gorgeous Webster’s Pages TN is going to sit unloved on a shelf collecting dust, don’t be – it’s now full of my creative journals!