Self Empowerment

Join me for a simple, free, nourishing practice in December

There’s something about this time of year that makes me excited about the new year to come – new possibilities, new opportunities – a fresh start.

This time last year I noticed how much I wanted to rush forward into the new year, even with a whole month of 2016 remaining. In fact, I always feel this way at this time of year! And it’s not just me: I think a lot of us are tempted to rush through December and get to the new year.

So last year I asked: what if we slowed down and really savoured December? Rather than crashing into the new year and attempting to start fresh then, we can step gracefully into the new year with a nourishing daily routine already in place. We don’t have to wait until January to start feeling good – let’s do it now.

This led to a simple project called Deliberate December – where you are intentional with your time each day. Initially it was around starting (or ending) the day with intention, but this year I’ve expanded it a bit.

The idea for this round of Deliberate December is to take some time each day – any time of day – to slow down, be present and feel grateful for the things around you. It’s to really sink into the moment, to find the stillness and savour what is left of the year. You might like to actively do something for each day of the month (like journaling, or mediating, or walking), or you might just take a minute each day to be still. The choice is yours – but the emphasis is on being present and enjoying the month, rather than waiting for the new year to start.

How it works

You don’t have to sign up for anything or pay for anything. Simply, all you have to do is commit to doing something deliberately every day (or most days) in December – in whatever way feels good for you. I’ll provide some simple prompts for each day of December (below) to help guide you if you need.

If you feel like it, you can share an image each day with the hashtag #mydeliberatedecember.

Some things you might want to consider for your own Deliberate December practice:

– What time of day do you want to do it?

– What do you want to include? I recommend really thinking about what will make you feel good, not what you think you should include. Some things you might like to consider are:

  • Meditation
  • Morning pages
  • Journaling
  • Exercise – yoga, walking, swimming, etc
  • Reading
  • Prayer
  • Time outside
  • Painting, drawing or other arty things
  • Self care such as taking a bath, applying some lovely body lotion, deep breathing, a lovely cup of tea, etc.

Note: This practice is about the practice, not producing a product. The focus is on what you are doing and how it feels, not what you might be producing. It’s about being deliberate with your days, not producing a collection of paintings or reading a certain number of books. Being present in the process is what is most important.

Prompts to guide you

I created some prompts to help you in your Deliberate December practice. You don’t have to use these, but they might be helpful. These are very simple, and can be used in any way that feels good to you.

Deliberate December 2017

You could use the prompts each day as a guide to:

  • Write a journal entry
  • Paint or draw
  • Take a photograph
  • Write a blog post
  • Do some hand lettering/calligraphy
  • Share a thought/image on social media
  • Find a quote that inspires you
  • Pray
  • Meditate/visualise
  • Contemplate how you can bring more of each quality into your life
  • Remind you – use as a guiding word of the day and come back to it throughout the day
  • Any combination of the above!

My practice will include a combination of journaling (written and visual), photography and sharing on social media.

What to do when you miss a day

Right now, acknowledge that you will likely miss a day, you will ‘mess up’. This practice is exactly that – a practice. It is not meant to be perfect. It’s meant to be gentle and nourishing. This is not another chance to beat yourself up.

If you miss a day of your Deliberate December, then simply get back to it the next day. No blame, no criticism, no guilt.

Remember, it’s about the process, the practice. Even if you were only practicing every second day you would still feel better than not at all. Be open to not doing it perfectly.

The other thing is that you can change the practice if it’s not working for you. Don’t panic about being locked into doing something. If you get a few days in, or halfway, and it’s not working anymore, then change it! You have permission to do what works for you.

Before you begin: Prompts to get you thinking about your own Deliberate December practice

  • What is most missing from your life right now?
  • What do you need more of?
  • What do you want less of?
  • How could you nourish and care for yourself more?
  • What feels manageable for you to do each day?
  • Imagine it is the start of 2018 and you’ve spent December more deliberately. What things might have you been doing? How would you feel?
  • What tools could you use to help you stay on track?

Comment below and share your ideas for your own Deliberate December practice.

Advertisements
Self Empowerment

Join me for a simple, free, nourishing practice in December

I always get excited at this time of year. As the new year comes closer, I sense the chance for fresh beginnings, new dreams, growth.

Of course, there’s still a whole month of 2016 left to go! And by rushing to prepare for the new year, I’m shortchanging myself for this year.

A little while ago I shared an image from my journal on Instagram where I talked about how I had this bad habit of getting onto social media first thing in the morning, and how it made me feel crappy for the day ahead.

So many people commented and said they felt the same way. It got me thinking.

What if we set about to be a bit more deliberate with how we spend our time – whether morning, evening, or in between?

And then I thought, one of the most stressful times of year is coming up. If you’re working you might be rushing to get stuff done before the end of the year. If you’re a mum, wife or homemaker you might be stressing to get Christmas things organised – gifts, meals, decorations, whatever. You might be preparing to travel or have family come and stay. Or maybe you find the holidays a lonely and sad time, for whatever reason.

I think a lot of us are tempted to rush through December and get to the new year. But what if we slowed down and really savoured December? Rather than crashing into the new year and attempting to start fresh then, we can step gracefully into 2017 with a nourishing daily routine already in place. We don’t have to wait until January to start feeling good – let’s do it now.

So the idea for Deliberate December was born.

Deliberate December - a simple, nourishing practice to end the year feeling calm and content.

How it works

You don’t have to sign up for anything or pay for anything. Simply, all you have to do is commit to doing something deliberately every day (or most days) in December – in whatever way feels good for you. I’ll provide some simple journaling prompts below to get you thinking about what might feel good for you in December, and then you do it!

If you feel like it, you can share an image each day with the hashtag #mydeliberatedecember. Here’s how my Deliberate December is going to look:

Mornings: Each weekday, before 9am, I’m going to journal first thing and then do timed writing. I may or may not do these things on the weekend – I’m leaving that part open. The main thing is for me to not get straight onto social media, but to start my day deliberately.

Evenings: I also want to end my days with more intention, and I’ve been neglecting some essential pregnancy self-care rituals, so these will be done in the evenings. Before bed on weekdays, I’m going to do some gentle stretching and massage, meditation and reading before bed. Ideally this will take about 30 minutes, with the goal of getting to sleep by 11pm.

That’s it. Pretty straightforward.

Some things you might want to consider for your own Deliberate December practice:

– What time of day do you want to do it? I chose mornings because I’m off work now and am finding myself sort of drifting aimlessly into my days. This isn’t a good feeling. I added in evenings because I think if I go to bed with intention, I’m more likely to wake up with intention. Without the structure of work to guide me, I need to create my own structure.

– What do you want to include? I recommend really thinking about what will make you feel good, not what you think you should include. Some things you might like to consider are:

  • Meditation
  • Morning pages/journaling
  • Exercise – yoga, walking, swimming, etc
  • Reading
  • Prayer
  • Time outside
  • Painting
  • Self care such as taking a bath, applying some lovely body lotion, deep breathing, a lovely cup of tea, etc.

img_0436

Note: This practice is about the practice, not producing a product. The focus is on what you are doing and how it feels, not what you might be producing. It’s about being deliberate with your days, not producing a collection of paintings or reading a certain number of books. Being present in the process is what is most important.

Tools to help

I’m using a few tools to help me with my Deliberate December practice. These are things that can help keep me accountable and just make the whole process a bit easier. Here’s what I’m using:

  • The hashtag #mydeliberatedecember – sharing my progress with others will help to keep me accountable.
  • My journal itself is a way of keeping me accountable as I’m forced to confront myself each day – and why I may have chosen to not do my practice!
  • The Forest App – I have this as an app on my phone and a Chrome extension. It stops me from opening up other apps/tabs when I’m focused on doing something (like writing) and times my progress. Brilliant!
  • 750words.com – this is an online platform that tracks my daily timed writing to ensure I write a minimum of 750 words. This was originally based on the idea of Morning Pages, which are about 750 words long, so could be useful for that.
  • Guided meditation – I’m not sure which one I will do yet, but it will be short and easy (5-10 minutes). I’m thinking something from the Insight Timer App.

You could also use things like fitness trackers or timers if your practice includes fitness or exercise, updating Good Reads if your practice includes reading – or just simply share using the hashtag. Make it simple and fun!

What to do when you miss a day

Right now, acknowledge that you will likely miss a day, you will ‘mess up’. This practice is exactly that – a practice. It is not meant to be perfect. It’s meant to be gentle and nourishing. This is not another chance to beat yourself up.

If you miss a day of your Deliberate December, then simply get back to it the next day. No blame, no criticism, no guilt.

Remember, it’s about the process, the practice. Even if you were only practicing every second day you would still feel better than not at all. Be open to not doing it perfectly.

The other thing is that you can change the practice if it’s not working for you. Don’t panic about being locked into doing something. If you get a few days in, or halfway, and it’s not working anymore, then change it! Total freedom to do what works for you.

Prompts to get you thinking about your own Deliberate December Practice

  • What is most missing from your life right now?
  • What do you need more of?
  • What do you want less of?
  • How could you nourish and care for yourself more?
  • What feels manageable for you to do each day?
  • Do you want to focus more on how you start or end your day – or both? Or perhaps the middle?
  • Imagine it is the start of 2017 and you’ve spent December more deliberately. What things might have you been doing? How would you feel?
  • What tools could you use to help you stay on track?

Comment below and share your ideas for your own Deliberate December practice.

Creativity, Spirituality

Depression, journaling and your soul

Depression and your soul

A friend of mine – who is also a coach and healer – recently said to me that depression is simply when we become disconnected from our soul.

My first response to this was to feel a little angry. As someone who has experienced depression on and off for nearly two decades and isn’t afraid to get help in the form of medication and therapy when necessary, I felt that comment was a little unfair.

I know I’m not alone in experiencing depression – I’ve watched family members and many friends experience it too, and I know all too well how painful it can be when we are in the midst of it.

I nodded along with her comment, unwilling to rock the boat. In my graduate diploma in psychology we looked at various causes for depression, primarily chemical and behavioural – but not once did ‘disconnection from soul’ come up. Unsurprising, really.

A few days of letting that comment sink in and I began to wonder – what if it could be true? Western Medicine has many chemical, mechanical, logical, scientific and rational explanations for depression (although there still exists debate within the scientific community around what causes depression). But what our Westernised culture fails to take into account is spiritual explanations.

In fact, our culture in general keeps the spiritual at a distance, because it can’t be ‘proven’.

And we are more depressed than ever. Could it be that connection with spirit – in whatever form – is the missing puzzle piece?

Here’s my experience: the more I listen to my soul, through journaling, meditation, being in nature and just turning inward more often that I turn outward, the less I experience depression. The more I act on what my soul guides me to do – that is, moving towards my purpose by sharing more of my true self with the world, expressing my creativity and letting go of what no longer serves me, the more I begin to forget what depression even felt like.

For me, this always starts in my journal. On the page I can let out all my worries, concerns, fears, hopes and dreams – and my soul responds with wisdom, guidance and support. I’ve been doing this steadily for two years now and I have never felt more on purpose, in alignment and Divinely supported in my life.

For two years I have not had a depressive episode and I attribute this to regularly connecting with my soul and letting it guide me in living my life ‘on purpose’.

I’m not saying that a disconnection from our soul is what causes depression – I’m no expert. Even the experts can’t agree on what causes it. I’ve also not ruled out other more conventional forms of treatment for depression – namely medication and therapy.

But of all the things I’ve done in the past, this feels like the ultimate remedy, for me at least: daily connection with my soul in my journal.

Creativity

What are your words hiding?

When you establish a regular journaling habit, and you have been at it for a while, you will start to notice something.

There will be certain words or phrases that are repeated, maybe unconsciously, throughout your entries.

You may even notice as you’re journaling that you’re repeating something you’ve already said that day, or a few days earlier. Or you may only notice when looking back through entries that you have a habit of repeating certain words or phrases.

When I’m journaling, words that come up time and time again are exhausted, fear, creative, inspired.

I almost always realise when I’m writing ‘I’m just so exhausted’ again, but I didn’t realise quite how much I used this word. Looking back through past journals, it’s in almost every second entry. I also tend to use ‘creative’ and ‘inspired’ in most entries – which is hopefully a little more positive than ‘exhausted’!

Our tics are a road map to our most hidden and sensitive wounds.

Shapiro says, ‘If we are interested in delving deeply, if we are students of the observed life, we’d best take a good hard look at these easy fallbacks. Repeated words. Familiar phrases. Consider them clues. When you discover them, slow down. In fact, stop. Become willing to press against the bruise – it’s there anyway – and see what it yields.’

That makes me wonder, why do I feel the need to constantly state that I’m exhausted in my journal entries? Is it because I am usually journaling first thing in the morning (6am) when I haven’t quite woken up and, quite literally, feel tired? Or is it easy to use a blanket term like ‘exhaustion’ to cover all the different negative emotions I feel – particularly in my job – like boredom, apathy, frustration or anger?

When my life isn’t going how I want it to go it’s easy to say I feel exhausted. But I think in many cases if I were to look closer, there would be more to it than that.

It’s not until I can be truly honest and confront these difficult emotions that I will make progress. The next time I go to write ‘I’m just so exhausted…’ I will pause and ask myself, is that what I am really feeling?

Have a look back through any journals you have and see if there are any patterns – any phrases or words that you tend to repeat. What might they be covering? Press against the bruise.

Creativity

7 Things you can do right now to create a daily journaling habit

The start of a new year brings the chance to re-establish good habits. For me, this of course includes my daily journaling practice – a chance to recommit to my favourite ritual. Most importantly, I want to make sure that it is a priority each day.

I want to make sure that this year I will continue to maintain my daily journaling habit and not let it get lost in the chaos of life.

I’ve journaled pretty consistently for over two years now (and inconsistently for over a decade before that), so I know the best ways to make sure I stay on track. If you’ve struggled to make your journaling a priority every day, then these tips will help you.

1. Schedule it into your day

This might seem a bit obvious, but when you’re busy it’s easy to not make daily journaling a priority, or to just simply forget in the busyness of life. You could write it down with your important tasks for the day into your paper planner, or put it into your Google calendar to get a reminder. Even writing it on a post-it note to stick on your desk would be helpful.

2. Set your alarm earlier

One of the best ways to make sure your daily journaling gets done (much like exercise, so they say) is to do it first thing. And if you just don’t feel like you have the time, then set your alarm 10, 20 or 30 minutes earlier. It is such a positive way to start the day – to connect with your deeper self, get clear headed and invite purpose and inspiration into the rest of your day. Alternatively, get ready for bed a little bit earlier then spend a few minutes journaling before switching off the light. This is what I’m doing right now and it’s a wonderful way to wind down for bed.

3. Tell someone else

We all know that one of the best ways to stay accountable towards a goal is to share our goal with someone else. Maybe you can find a journaling buddy with whom you can share journal inspiration. Or join a group of like-minded journalers who have the same goal of daily journaling. Check in with them each day and share your progress. It can also be really inspiring to see others working in their journal each day – and it can push you to keep going with yours. Sharing your journaling journey can be a great way to keep you feeling inspired.

4. Prep your journal

This can be as simple as putting the journal and pen on your nightstand so you naturally pick it up before going to sleep, or it can mean preparing a background to write on when you get the time. For example, if you like to write in the mornings, you might prepare a background before bed the night before, so it’s ready to go when you wake up. If you like to use prompts, print out a bunch at once, maybe for the week ahead, and glue them onto a few pages. Then you can just pick up and go!

5. Work in the cracks

I can’t remember where I heard this phrase, but it makes so much sense: we think we need a good 30 minutes undisturbed to sit down and journal, but really it can be done in bits and pieces throughout the day. For example, if you leave a journal open to a spread you’re working on, it can be easy to swipe a bit of paint across the paper right before you head out to work. That literally only takes 2 minutes. Then when you get home and the paint is dry, you might stamp a few images or glue something down while you’re waiting for dinner to cook. Watching a movie with your partner that night you might scribble a few words down. Before you know it, you’ve got a page done.I find this really helpful when I’m busy – I will leave my journal lying open on my desk and then when I get a few minutes – say, if I’m waiting for the kettle to boil – I will scrape a bit of paint across the page and put down a piece of washi tape. It doesn’t have to be all done at once! Chip away when you have a minute or two free.

6. Take your journal with you

This can offer another opportunity to work in the cracks. If you’re sitting at the bus stop, or you’ve got 10 minutes free on your lunch break, or you talk to people on the phone a lot and doodle on a notepad – work in your journal! It can be mindless doodles or deep and thought-provoking -it’s up to you. So often I find myself killing time at work or waiting places (doctor’s waiting rooms, at cafes when meeting friends etc) that could be used creatively. I now take a tiny notebook with me for on-the-go journaling.

7. Get clear on your why

You won’t be able to create a regular journaling practice unless you really want to. It takes commitment to showing up each day, working through stuckness and dealing with the discomfort of trying new things and facing your thoughts and feelings. If you do want to create a daily journaling habit, get clear on why, so it’s easy to keep showing up. It’s not enough to just think it would be fun, because some days it isn’t. Some days it’s frustrating, disappointing, even painful. But it can bring so much growth, it can help you to create a better life and become a better person, and it can nourish you creatively. For me, those things are reason enough to show up each day, even when I’m busy. What is your why?

*  *  *

If you’ve maintained a regular journaling practice most days, what do you use to help you stay on track?

Creativity

Journal spotlight: Personal journal

The personal journal is your ‘dear diary’ sort of journal, where you pour all your thoughts and feelings, hopes and dreams, fears and doubts onto the page.

Some people argue that the terms ‘journal’ and ‘diary’ have different meanings – that a diary is to record daily events and experiences, whereas a personal journal is a lot more, well, personal.

Regardless of what you call it, it’s the sort of notebook where you are usually quite candid and it’s the kind of thing you tend to keep private.

I started keeping a journal (although at the time I called it a diary) when I was about 11 years old. At that time it mostly was a daily record of events, with a few thoughts and feelings mixed in. Slowly I started to include crushes, conflicts with friends, worries about the future, feelings of inadequacy.

IMG_8803
My first journal, started at age 11. Somehow this tiny notebook lasted me for two years!

I didn’t think much about what I was doing or why I was doing it, although it was right when I started middle school (what we call intermediate school in NZ). I think I did it to have a record of my experiences, but the practice grew into so much more.

My personal journaling practice has grown and evolved over the past two decades.

I spent most of my teens and early twenties turning to my journal mostly in times of trouble: breakups, career concerns, friendship dilemmas, existential crises. It was my go-to place to process these things, and I almost always felt better for doing so. When I was deep in a depression a few years back, simply writing in my journal each day made me feel much better.

Now I keep a personal journal for many reasons, including processing emotions more effectively, developing a sense of self compassion, overcoming fears and creative blocks, and increasing my self confidence, among other things.

I certainly still turn to my personal journal in tough times as I’ve always done, but I write a lot more often and explore many more positive things too.

It functions as a record of my life, a portable therapist (accessible 24/7 and a fraction of the cost!), a friend and mentor, a creative coach, a life coach, a container of fears, dreams, secrets, and the mundane.

If you’d like to keep a personal journal, it’s very simple.

You write by hand (it can certainly be done digitally but I think there are many benefits to writing by hand). You write stream-of-consciousness, you write honestly, and you try not to edit yourself. You don’t share what you write with others.

You can literally write about whatever you want, but the aim is to include personal aspects. If you want to describe your day, great, but bring in the personal elements of it too – how did you feel today? What did you think about? What do you hope for tomorrow, or next week, or next year? What bothered you today? And so on.

There really aren’t that many rules when it comes to keeping your own personal journal. You can write as often or as little as you like, however, writing more often than not can be very rewarding.

I think the most important thing is to write for yourself, not for someone else – that means keeping the journal private and writing openly and honestly without censoring yourself.

Do you keep a personal journal? What do you include in it? Share your personal journaling experiences in the comments.

Creativity

Creativity: lover on the side or lover in the center?

In Page after Page, Heather Sellers asks, ‘Is your writing life going to be a lover in the center of your life? The thing you pulse toward, the fever in your soul? Or is your writing life more of a casual crush, something you think about, but don’t do much about?’

I would ask you the same thing, but about all creative pursuits – whatever sets your heart on fire. Is it a lover at the center of your life?

For me, it’s creative journaling… and a bunch of other creative interests I have difficulty categorising:

  • Painting
  • Writing fiction
  • Creating found poetry
  • Creating inspiration cards
  • Blogging
  • Typography/handwriting
  • Collage and mixed media
  • Visioning journals
  • Crafting – using stamps and washi tape and stickers…

These are the things I ‘pulse toward’. These are lovers at the center of my life. How do I know? Well, it’s much like a love affair:

  • I can’t focus on my job.
  • I don’t want to make plans in case I can spend that time with my ‘lover’.
  • I need to see my lover each day.
  • I feel complete with my lover, like I don’t know how I lived before.
  • I get a rush of excitement at the thought of spending time alone with my lover.
  • Instead of checking my phone for texts, I’m checking my instagram and browsing blogs for inspiration.

Sometimes, the feeling is almost too much to bear. I want to spend every spare minute with my lover, but other things get in the way. Work gets in the way. Housework gets in the way. I’m tired after a day of taking care of others. We try to steal moments together, but it never feels like it’s enough.

I wish I had a solution to offer here. But I don’t. All I can say is that this feeling is so delicious, so exquisite; I have to keep following it. Nothing sets me alight like it. Even though I can’t spend all the time in the world with my lover, I know we are meant to be together. I need to just keep following my heart.

What is the lover at the center of your life?