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, Self Empowerment

Journal prompts: Home

I’m a real homebody. I love winter time, because it’s the perfect excuse to stay in, wrapped up warm and cosy.

I think it’s important that we make our home a safe and comfortable space, especially if we spend a lot of time there.

This is particularly important for people like me – HSPs and introverts. We need a safe space to retreat after being out in the world. We need a place to feel that we can just relax and be ourselves, a place where we are inspired and our creativity is nurtured, and a place to be safe.

For me, the feel of my environment home 3is important. At home, I want it to feel inviting, warm, inspiring, cosy, light, safe and comfortable.

A lot of this comes down to the way the place looks, including the colours, images, light, and arrangement of the furniture. I’m careful to include images on my wall that make me smile or think. I use colours that lift me up and also colours that soothe. I keep the place tidy and have objects on display that inspire me.

Besides my desk, where I do most of my creative work, my bed is my favourite place. It has to be just the right level of comfort – it’s a little like Goldilocks – not too hard and not too soft. I have a lovely duck down duvet (or ‘comforter’ for my North American friends), big pillows and a beautiful bedspread cover. I have extra blankets for winter and hot water bottles.

Some people see the kitchen as the hub of the home, a place to entertain guests, the most important part of the house. For me, the bed is the symbol for a cosy house. As a highly sensitive person, I need to know that I have somewhere warm, safe and delicious that I can go when the world becomes too much. The bed symbolises rest and renewal, safety and security.

This way, when I am out in the world dealing with stress at work, traffic jams, difficult people, bad weather or just a plain bad mood, I know that I have my wonderful haven to come back to – my home – and things seem a little more manageable.

>>> Prompts:

What does ‘home’ mean to you? What do you associate with the word?

What do you love about your home?

What would you like to change about your home?

Describe your ideal home. Include the way it looks, sounds, smells and feels.

Note: this post was originally part of a series of 30 life lessons and journal prompts for my 30th birthday. You can access the rest of the lessons and prompts here.

Creativity, Self Empowerment

Journal prompts: Move your body

I’m going to come right out and say it: I don’t like to exercise.

I’m not exactly the fittest person in the world. I don’t enjoy running and I loathe going to the gym (I can’t think of anything more absurd than driving to the gym to walk on the treadmill).

But that doesn’t mean that I hate moving my body. I’ve found ways to do so that I enjoy.

move your bodyIt took me a while to get to this place, though. Because I used to be so focused on losing weight, I exercising solely for this purpose. It was all about burning the most calories, regardless of how much I might have hated every second of it. Exercise was simply a chore that needed to be ticked off the list to remove a little more guilt for being bigger.

Funnily enough, I’ve never really managed to maintain a regular exercise routine. I guess that’s because I kept forcing myself to do things I didn’t enjoy.

At around the same time I quit dieting, I also quit forcing myself to do exercise I didn’t enjoy. Now, I move my body only in ways that bring me joy.

Does that mean I’m not burning the most possible calories? Yep.

Does that mean I’m not the slimmest, fittest person ever? Uh, yeah.

But does that mean I enjoy the exercise I do? You bet!

So instead of pushing myself to go to the gym and run on the treadmill, I now go walking outside, in nature – with my pup. I do yoga using an app on my phone/computer. And when I have the time, I go cycling – outdoors. (Note – I have nothing against the gym. If you love the gym then that’s awesome. I just have something against forcing yourself to do exercise you don’t enjoy, which, for me, is the gym.)

How nice to finally give myself permission to enjoy exercise.

>>> Prompt:

What ways do you choose to move your body?

How do you exercise for pleasure, and how for other reasons?

Is exercise an enjoyable thing for you, or is it associated with negative feelings such as guilt or punishment?

What are some forms of exercise that you actually enjoy? What ways can you move your body that bring pleasure rather than pain? What would you like to do more of?

Note: this post was originally part of a series of 30 life lessons and journal prompts for my 30th birthday. You can access the rest of the lessons and prompts here.

Creativity, Self Empowerment

Journal prompts: What lights you up?

We all get bogged down by the necessities of daily life – working to pay the bills and put food on the table, sitting in traffic, arguing with others, catching up on sleep, and trying to find time to exercise, and so on.

But what about finding time for the things that you really love?

If you’re exceptionally lucky, then you are one of few the people who manages to make a living doing what you love – you get to do it every day. But I would guess that most of us don’t fall into that category.

So it comes down to making time whenever possible (every day?) to do the things we love – be it knitting, meditation, learning a language, painting, hiking – whatever.

Sometimes, though, after doing all the necessary tasks of the day, we just don’t have the time/energy/resources to do these wonderful things.

I lived this way for years. I had an lesson 15interest in writing, in being creative in some form, and sharing that creativity with others. But I got so bogged down with working full time (or more, if you consider teachers also work on their weekends and evenings) and so exhausted that I could do little other than work. Sure, teachers get regular ‘holidays’, but after working non-stop for ten weeks, all I could do was sleep and try to rest (when I wasn’t marking piles of essays).

Perhaps it’s my own fault for going into teaching. I guess it doesn’t matter what I was doing, all that matters is that I wasn’t exploring the things I loved, the things I felt most pulled to.

I carried on this way for years. Slowly I became more negative, more depressed, more bitter and more cynical about life. I was disillusioned and felt that growing up sucked, basically. I felt like there was no joy in my life, nothing I was doing just for me.

Since taking Susannah Conway’s Journal Your Life course where we were encouraged to journal every day, I started to learn about what was missing from my life. I got back in touch with myself and reconnected with the parts of me that had been ignored. Mostly, that was my creativity.

But then I hit another road block: fear and resistance. It became abundantly clear through my daily journaling what I wanted to do – to write, to paint, to create, to share my work. I got back in touch with these desires, but for a while didn’t do much with them.

Why? Because I was afraid. I didn’t really believe I could start a blog, that was terrifying. And painting? I had no formal training, who was I to attempt painting, let alone share it with others?

It took a lot of hard work, mostly by working through it in my journal, but I found a way to feel the fear and create anyway. I found a way to admit what I really wanted and start taking steps towards it. I reasoned that the fear of taking these creative risks could be no worse than the terrible feelings of ignoring these desires.

Now my life looks a lot different. I have a regular daily creative practice that ensures I remain creatively fulfilled, and a regular journaling practice that means I know when I start to feel like something is missing from my life.

>>> Prompts:

What lights you up? List or brainstorm everything that absolutely makes your heart sing with joy. Are there some things you are afraid to write down? Why?

How often do you do the things on your list? Are there some that you don’t allow yourself to think of, or that you actively avoid? Why?

How can you make more time for the things on your list?

Fun bonus prompt: If you won the lottery and never had to work again, how would you ideally like to spend your days? Describe what a day would look like (after you did all the fun stuff, like shopping, travelling etc – what would your daily life look like?)

Note: this post was originally part of a series of 30 life lessons and journal prompts for my 30th birthday. You can access the rest of the lessons and prompts here.

Creativity, Self Empowerment

Journal prompts: Rest and self care

This is something I’ve talked about before, but I don’t think it can be said enough.

It is ok to rest.
It is ok to take time out for yourself.
It is ok to be unproductive and just do nothing.

In fact, I would go so far as to say it is not only ok, it is essential. It is an act of self care.

What is self care? It is any intentional act to care for yourself – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. This means self care can take many forms: one day it might be going for a run, another day it might be sleeping late. One day it might be making a green smoothie and taking time out with a novel, another day it might be having a drink with a good friend. It all comes down to doing what you need to do to take care of yourself.

lesson 12An essential aspect of this is listening to your body, and tapping into your emotional needs. The reason I’ve singled rest out is because, while I don’t think anyone would argue against you going for a run or making a green smoothie to take better care of yourself, I do think that our culture has an absolute abhorrence to rest and being unproductive.

But sometimes, what you need most is rest. Sometimes what you need is to sleep late, or get some early nights, or say no to social engagements because you just want to stay in your pajamas and watch a movie. If this is what you feel you need, then do it. I can guarantee that denying that overwhelming urge to sleep because you’re just too busy will only come back worse later. Remember the oxygen mask – if you look after yourself properly, you are of better service to others.

>>> Prompts:

In what ways do you already practice self care? Consider how you do this mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

How balanced is your current self care? For example, do you spent a lot of time at the gym but no time tending to your emotional needs? Or do you take care of yourself emotionally but do little to look after yourself physically?

How could you introduce more self care into your life? What might be some obstacles to doing so, and how can you overcome these?

What does the word ‘rest’ mean to you? Do you view it as positive or negative? Why? For example, some people associate it with laziness or sickness. Challenge any negative beliefs – how could they be wrong?

Note: this post was originally part of a series of 30 life lessons and journal prompts for my 30th birthday. You can access the rest of the lessons and prompts here.

Creativity, Self Empowerment

Journal prompts: It’s ok to say no

This has taken me years to learn. I must say that I’ve had a little help in getting there faster with some words of wisdom from Brené Brown:

Choose discomfort over resentment.

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this before. It’s become my personal mantra to ensure I don’t over-commit myself. As an introvert and HSP I need lots of downtime, lots of alone time. This entails saying no to people.

Basically what Brené means is to choose the discomfort of saying no to someone at the time, rather than committing to something you would rather not do/don’t have time for and resenting it later.

This makes perfect sense, but in reality it can actually be pretty hard to do.

The more I have learnt about who I am and what makes me tick, the more I have come to see how important it is for me to honour my needs. This means saying no to people sometimes, even if it disappoints them. At the end of the day, I find that this statement (attributed to Dr. Seuss) is so true:

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.

Saying no means offending or usay nopsetting some people, but I think that is ok. Those closest to me know I need a lot of time alone and if I say no to them they are usually pretty understanding. They know that is part of who I am. The more that people get angry at me for not committing to doing what they want me to do, the more I feel like they don’t understand or appreciate who I am, and potentially don’t matter as much.

Is this a harsh way to approach life? Maybe. But I think it is so essential that we look after ourselves and meet our own needs, because most often others aren’t going to do it. Besides, it’s my life and I get to choose how I spend my time. I want to do the things that make me happy, not just what makes others happy.

It might sound selfish, but I think of it as the whole oxygen mask thing – we need to look after ourselves first so that we are better help to other people. It’s an act of self care. I have more to offer others if I’m looking after myself properly, than if I’m rushing around trying to make everyone else happy.

>>> Prompts:

How often do you find yourself saying yes to people when you would rather say no? Write about why you think you do this.

What are the consequences of saying yes when you would rather say no?

What are some small ways you could start saying no to people, when it feels right to you?

How might your life feel different if you honour yourself and say no when you want to?

Write/print out the saying ‘choose discomfort over resentment’ and put it somewhere you will see it often.

Note: this post was originally part of a series of 30 life lessons and journal prompts for my 30th birthday. You can access the rest of the lessons and prompts here.

Creativity, Self Empowerment

Journal prompts: Know yourself

The practice of journaling regularly has allowed me to get to know myself in ways unimaginable.

There’s something about the process of writing our thoughts, dreams and fears out onto the page, getting them outside of ourselves and having them there for us to look at, that enables us to better connect with and understand ourselves.

My journal is a mirror I hold up to myself, reflecting back my deepest values, highlighting my darkest fears and loftiest dreams, showing me who I am.

Through this process I have gained greater clarity about myself, about things I never knew before; I’m a highly sensitive person, an introvert, I often let resistance and fear stop me from doing things but paradoxically I also believe that anything is possible.

lesson 7When I began my journaling journey, I didn’t set out to ‘get to know myself better’, it just sort of happened along the way. And while I’m sure there are other ways of getting to know yourself and how you tick, I have found journaling to be the most invaluable tool to do so.

It’s like an ongoing therapy session with myself that I always have a record of to reread. Patterns and cycles become clear, images, symbols and words are repeated, certain themes emerge.

And by seeing myself on the page, I start to become a character in a bigger story, distinct from myself. I find this allows me to learn about ‘this person’ with compassion and acceptance, without judgement.

In short, journaling has deepened my relationship with myself. I can now listen to that small, quiet voice inside – the one that accepts me as I am and comforts me when the world is too harsh, that tells me when something feels off, when I need to rest more, when I need more self-love.

In fact, the small voice inside has gotten louder and louder. I now no longer look at my life and wonder why things are happening the way they are happening. Because I have a deeper sense of who I am, because I know myself and why I think and behave the way I do, I have a greater sense of purpose and control over my life. I find myself reacting less and acting more purposefully.

This post is a lot more rambly than I intended, so I apologise if you’ve struggled to follow my train of thought!

>>> Prompts:

How well do you think you know yourself?

What practices do you engage in regularly to maintain a good relationship with yourself? It doesn’t have to just be journaling, it might be painting, meditating, exercise such as yoga or running, seeing a therapist, etc.

What practices would you like to try to create a deeper sense of connection with yourself?

Note: this post was originally part of a series of 30 life lessons and journal prompts for my 30th birthday. You can access the rest of the lessons and prompts here.

Creativity

Journal prompts: Creativity and wellbeing

This post is featured as part of the Journal Chat Live Open House, hosted by Dawn Herring

I have had issues with depression for most of my life.

I’ve tried many different things to deal with this – counselling/psychotherapy, herbal supplements, exercise, medication, changing jobs/houses/partners etc.

However, last year when I began to consistently tap into my creative energy and express myself creatively on a regular basis, I noticed that the feelings of depression that tend to surface quite frequently with me didn’t visit so often.

In fact, if I keep tapping into mcreativity is essential for wellbeingy creativity on a daily basis, as well as doing a few others key things (exercise, rest, play, connecting with loved ones, eating well, etc), I tend to feel pretty damn good most of the time.

With all that other stuff I’m doing, how do I know it’s creativity that’s brought about this change? Because I tried all the other things before, and they didn’t work. At least, not without adding creative self-expression into the mix.

I’ve always been a creative person at heart – drawing, singing, writing since I was little, but once I hit adulthood most of that stuff sort of got forgotten about as I got ‘serious’ about life. Funnily enough, I have also spent a good portion of my adulthood dealing with depression.

I’m not suggesting that creativity is a cure-all for mental illness. But for me, personally, I have found creative self-exression to be essential to my mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. I can’t imagine my life without it now.

From my journal:

Ever since I’ve been exploring my creative side I’m a totally different person. I’m happier and more fulfilled. I feel like I know myself, what makes me happy. I feel a greater connection to the divine, to my own inner resources of strength, courage, wisdom and faith. I know that through developing a creative practice, I have a routine that supports me in daily life.

Creativity comes in many different forms. It doesn’t have to be artistic, it can be anything – cooking, building, the way you organise your furniture, or dress.

I believe that everyone is really a creative person at heart, and those that don’t think they are creative simply haven’t found the kind of creative expression that works for them yet.

>>> Prompt:

What does the word ‘creativity’ mean to you?

In what ways would you consider yourself to be creative?

In what ways would you like to be more creative?

What does creativity bring to your life? Why is it worth making time to be creative?

What are the obstacles to creativity in your life? They might be time, the opinions of others, resistance, fear, money, etc. What could you do to overcome these obstacles?

Note: this post was originally part of a series of 30 life lessons and journal prompts for my 30th birthday. You can access the rest of the lessons and prompts here.

Creativity, Self Empowerment

Journal prompts: Dealing with dieting

This is a bit of a controversial topic, and I’m talking about it with the understanding that some people will disagree and possibly even get angry.

I’ve touched on this before, and I can’t possibly cover the entire topic in one post, but it is definitely one of my most important lessons.

dietingIn my personal experience over 20 years, dieting has never, ever worked. Oh sure, it gets the weight off, and usually pretty quickly. But it never stays off. Even when I’ve attempted so-called ‘lifestyle changes’ – for example with something like Weight Watchers, which seems pretty healthy and reasonable.

But over the course of my 20 years of dieting and hating my body (yes, it was around age 10 that I realised I was bigger than others and it wasn’t a good thing) I’ve learnt that it’s pointless.

It’s the same old cliche – lose some weight, gain back more. Steadily, over this time, I have gotten bigger and bigger.

You may be thinking, and indeed my thinking was similar for a long time – that it is my own fault, obviously, because if I’d just stuck with it, then the weight would’ve stayed off.

Maybe.

But given how much I have loathed being bigger, I can’t help but think that if it was just that simple, then I would’ve kept it off. I mean, it’s not a matter of being ill-informed; I know how many calories I should be eating, how many steps I should be doing, what foods to avoid, what foods to increase, what exercise is best, etc. I think most of us do.

The issue is not with a lack of education (although there are many conflicting and often confusing dietary guidelines out there, such as less carbs or less fat, 3 big meals or 6 smaller meals, etc).

You could argue it’s a lack of willpower. But honestly, having to force myself to eat less than my body seems to need forever, well… that’s doomed to fail.

Anyway, I’m not writing this to justify why I am overweight.

From my journal:

We are taught that we must try to be smaller to be good enough – we are not taught to question this. I had to find the idea and the permission to question it on my own. I had to dare to consider that I am not flawed – the whole system is.

You see, I simply decided to stop dieting. I decided to stop looking around the corner for the next diet, the one that would finally work. We are taught that if diets aren’t working, then it’s a problem with us – we just need to try a little harder, want it a little bit more.

I call bullshit. image

Dieting itself is the problem. Instead, I’ve chosen to love my body and stop punishing it for being imperfect. Does that mean I eat junk food? Sometimes, although after learning about intuitive eating, I’m eating less of it. Does that mean I’m fatter than I ‘should’ be? Yes. Is my health at risk? Well, I’ve had blood tests and they all seem to be fine. Not to mention I usually exercise several times a week.

And exercise is another thing – I now actually just do exercise I actually love, which is usually walks in nature, yoga or sometimes cycling. Gone is the guilt for not pushing myself to the point of almost throwing up – instead is the pleasure of moving my body in ways that really feel good.

I would like like to lose weight, I’m not going to deny that. But I just plan to do it gently, from a place of love, and if I don’t lose much weight when doing things I consider to be reasonable and sustainable, then that’s that. I won’t be pushing myself further.

I choose to love myself as I am, even if it’s bigger than I’d like. I believe I can love and accept who I am, but still work towards positive changes in a (mentally and emotionally) healthy way.

I once did lose a lot of weight and got down to a size smaller than I had ever previously thought possible. But I was so miserable, questioning and regretting every bite, and so insecure. I felt fatter then that I do now. Even though I am bigger now, I have more love and acceptance for myself than I did at my smallest size.

I have nothing against those of you that choose to diet, or to exercise for weight-loss reasons. Please don’t be offended by what I have said, this is simply a lesson I have had to learn for myself, about my own life.

To quote one of my favourite health at every size bloggers:

You are the expert on you.  You do not need to pay someone to tell you how to live your life.  You do not need to follow a blogger or weight loss success story to know what to eat or how to exercise.  There is no point in any of it unless it is something you personally are willing to continue for life.  What that is is necessarily different for each person.

I’ll leave you with that.

>>> Prompt:

What does the word ‘diet’ mean to you? Have you ever dieted? Did you manage to keep the weight off? If so, how? If not, why not?

If you were to reject the idea of dieting and perfecting your body, what else could you spend that energy on? How might your life look different if you chose to accept your body as it is, and focus on other things?

In what ways do you treat your body poorly? How could you do this less?

In what ways do you show your body that you love it? How could you do this more?

If you’re interested in learning more about some of the things I’ve discussed, I recommend the following resources:

Online:

Books:

Note: this post was originally part of a series of 30 life lessons and journal prompts for my 30th birthday. You can access the rest of the lessons and prompts here.

Creativity

Journal prompt: Goodbye 2014, hello new year!

I love this time of year. It always feels like a chance to reflect on the year that’s been and get excited about the year to come.

It feels like a fresh start, a clean slate, a do-over. It feels full of possibility.

But the only real way to get the most out of a new year is to make peace with the year that’s been, then set some clear intentions for the year ahead. If you don’t let go of what’s been, you may drag it into the new year with you.

i am so blessed

I cherish this time of year as a chance to spend extra time with my journal; reflecting, dreaming and planning.

For me, this has been a tremendous year, personally. I’ve started a blog and welcomed my soul sister Kelly on board, I’ve created a regular journaling and creative practice that lights me up, I’ve gotten engaged to the man of my dreams and he and I have begun a journey to build our own little house. I couldn’t be happier with these things.

Professionally, this year has been challenging for me. I’ve been working full-time in a teaching job that I find stressful and, at times, overwhelming. While it certainly has its rewarding and enjoyable moments, as a highly-sensitive person and introvert, it is harder for me than many. Perhaps not the ideal career choice, I now realise after getting to know myself a bit better through my journal. Nonetheless, I made it through the year in one piece.

Our school years run from the start to end of the calendar year in New Zealand, so I am currently in between jobs, deciding upon my next move for next year. Instead of being fearful about this, I’m excited for what could be ahead.

So now, I’m going to take out my journal and explore the year that’s been and the possibilities that lie ahead of me.

>>> Prompt:

Take a fresh page in your journal and create a heading: Goodbye 2014, welcome new year! (Or whatever floats your boat).

Begin by answering some of these questions, and if something stands out to you, go as deep as you like:

  • How would you describe 2014 in one sentence?
  • If you could redo 2014, what would you do differently? Why?
  • List three things that went well for you this year.
  • List three things that did not go well for you this year.
  • What was the absolute highlight of 2014?
  • What was your lowest point?
  • If 2014 was a book, what would be the title? Come up with a few chapter names.
  • Draw a timeline of the year from start to finish with all of your achievements and greatest joys.
  • What was the predominant feeling for you in 2014?

Now, think about the year ahead:

hello 2015

  • If you were writing this at the end of 2015, how would you ideally like to be able to describe the year in one sentence?
  • If 2015 could be a book, what would you like it to be titled? Come up with a few possible chapter names.
  • What do you hope to achieve/do/complete/have happen next year?
  • What will you absolutely make happen, without a doubt?
  • How would you most like to predominantly feel, next year?
  • Create an art journal page or collage that best represents how you would like 2015 to be.
  • Choose one word to guide you through the next 12 months. The word I have chosen for 2015 is focus. Kelly’s word is joy. Choose whatever word most sings to you. If you’re a bit stumped, visit Susannah Conway for guidance on this. Once you’ve chosen your word, write it in big bold letters and put it somewhere you will see it every day.

Most importantly, be kind and gentle with yourself while you go through this process. If this hasn’t been the best year for you, try your best to acknowledge that and then look forward to the new year. It’s a new beginning for us all.