Self Empowerment

Why you should guard your alone time

The word ‘introvert’ used to really freak me out. I would picture someone at home alone, with no one to love, no one to share things with. It made me think of lonely people. So I wanted to be an extrovert – socialising often, partying with friends on the weekend, always looking to extend my social circle. Choosing time out with others over time alone, regardless of how tired I was, regardless of whether or not I felt a true connection with them.

No wonder I was unhappy. I was disconnected from myself, acting against my true nature.

Since developing my creative journaling practice and my online business, I have opened a creative channel inside me that longs to be expressed. When I’m out with others I often find my mind drifting to my creative projects – the things I’m truly excited about. Things I tend to work on alone.discover yourself

When I started to dive deep in my journal, I realised that I am very much an introvert at heart – and I love it. I felt the pressure of socialising all the time fall away. It turns out that spending time alone with myself is awesome.

But this can also present a problem. I often get invited to social engagements, catch-ups, parties and so on. Now I find myself carefully guarding my alone time. I want to turn down a lot of these events to be alone and work on my creative projects, but it’s hard. It’s hard to explain to people.

Most often I just say I’m busy. Because I am busy. With myself.

It’s funny how bad we feel turning down others or cancelling on friends when we regularly do it to ourselves. It’s something I’m really working on – if I want to spend time alone instead of going out, then I say no. Brene Brown has this fantastic saying:

Choose discomfort over resentment.

Choose the discomfort of saying no at that moment, rather than the resentment you will feel later if you agree to something you don’t really want to do.

For me it used to be about what my friend calls ‘FOMO’ – fear of missing out. I used to worry that friends would have an amazing night out without me. So I would go along, just in case, even though most of the time I would be longing to come home well before the others.

I’ve now realised that years of missing out on spending time with myself has been more damaging than missing out on one or two great nights out.

By embracing my inner introvert and indulging in alone time, I’ve reconnected with myself. I’ve learnt things about myself that I never knew. I’ve stopped worrying about offending people if I turn them down – those that really love me understand.

I find using Brene’s mantra helps me to say no to the things I don’t want to do. I’m working on not feeling guilty if I choose time with myself over others, allowing myself the time and space I need to unwind, create and dream.

And it’s lovely.

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Creativity

6 ways to get out of a creative slump

Lately, I’ve been in a real creative slump.

It began when I finished running my first course, Wild Intuitive Journaling, and I noticed my creative well was dry. I’d poured so much into the creation of the course that I had little left by the end of it.

Add to that the fact that I’ve been feeling unwell for about a month and I’ve had no interest or energy to create anything at all. I barely picked up my journal, struggled to write any blog posts or share on social media.

Yep, I was well and truly in a creative slump. 

I did what I usually do at this point – panic that all my creativity and inspiration had left me for good. That I would never write or paint again. That, it turns out, I’m not an inherently creative being – that was just a front I’ve kept up for a few years – and really I’m this sad and hopeless person underneath.

But I’ve been through enough creative slumps now to realise that none of that is true. More than that, I’ve realised that creativity is cyclical – like anything else. It waxes and wanes. It made sense that after a period of intense creativity, coupled with needing to look after my unwell self, that I didn’t have the energy or inclination to create.

I’ve realised that creativity is cyclical – like anything else. It waxes and wanes.

So I allowed myself the time to do nothing. To step back and be gentle.

But as the weeks turned into a month, and I found myself feeling better, I wondered how, exactly, I could get my creative mojo back. I was ready to jump back in but had no idea where to start.

Here’s what I’ve found helpful as I carefully step back into the creative arena.

6 ways to get out of a creative slump

1. Go easy on yourself

First of all, don’t beat yourself up for not creating. Don’t add blame and guilt to fire. If you’ve found yourself in a bit of a creative slump, chances are there is a good reason you are there. For me, that reason was illness and needing to refill my creative well.

And you know what? Even if there isn’t a ‘good’ reason that you can identify – that doesn’t matter. Don’t make yourself feel worse by adding guilt or shame – let yourself off the hook. You’re allowed to take a break.

2. Seek out inspiration

This, honestly, has been my favourite part. I’ve taken it as a chance to soak up the work of others, to seek out what excites me. I’m scouring the blogs of my favourite journalers, I’m going back through my Pinterest boards to see images that fill me with inspiration. I’m watching YouTube videos and going back through materials from past journaling courses I’ve taken.

I have certain journalers whose work I love, who never fail to inspire me. Looking at their work sparks a little inspiration inside, and the more I look through it, the more it fans the flames. Before long I’m grabbing my paints and scribbling in my journal.

3. Join a challenge or group

There are so many free art groups and challenges out there. The best thing about joining something like this is the accountability. You feel you need to show up and participate – especially if you’ve declared publicly that you’re doing it.

Not only that, but there is so much support from other creatives. The more you share, the more people will cheer you on. That feels really good. And when you hit a wall, if you share that with the group, you’ll be amazed to find others are feeling the same. Sometimes we think we are alone in our struggles, but when we share them with others we quickly learn we aren’t.

Another good thing about joining a challenge is that it can be a good way to jump-start your practice. Often a challenge will have a theme or prompts, or other guiding material which can help guide you as you step back into your creativity.

Here are some of my favourite art/journaling challenges and groups – all of them are free. Some of these have time frames and some are ongoing:

Journaling Dangerously challenge and Journaling Dangerously group

15 Minute Practice challenge and 15 Minute Practice group

Index-Card-A-Day challenge and ICAD-2016 group

Inner Excavate Along challenge and Inner Excavation Group

Journal 52 challenge and Journal 52 group

30 Day Journal Project

100 Days Project

4. Treat yourself to new supplies

This can be a really fun way to get out of a creative slump. And let’s face it – who among us doesn’t have a massive list of dream art supplies? Don’t break the bank, but it surely wouldn’t hurt to allow yourself to grab a few pots of that paint you’ve always wanted to try, or some new brushes, or a few balls of that gorgeous yarn.

Sometimes the excitement of trying a new material, colour or tool can be enough to get us creating again.

5. Sign up for a course

Is there an online course you’ve been eyeing for ages but never allowed yourself to sign up for? Now’s the time. Find an artist or teacher you love or whom you’ve always wanted to learn from, and indulge.

A word of warning – this can be an easy way to waste money, if you’re not careful. Obviously, signing up for the course alone won’t get you out of the slump – you’ll need to show up and do the work. But, if you sign up for a course that truly inspires you, one that ignites that creative spark inside, then that should certainly be a good investment.

Another thing to consider here is to take baby steps – don’t sign up for the six month intensive, maybe just start with the four week introductory course and go from there. The last thing we want is for you to feel overwhelmed, and then guilty for not following through!

6. Take time out from other things

It might be that you’re in a creative slump because you haven’t had the time or energy to create – your life has been too full. Maybe you’ve found yourself working extra shifts at work. Maybe you’re taking on more responsibilities around the house, or helping a friend or family member with something. Perhaps you’ve signed up for a new exercise programme at the gym.

Whatever it is, if you want to have the time and energy to create again, you might need to make some sacrifices somewhere else. I’m not suggesting you quit the gym or leave your job, but you might need to ask for help from someone else to allow you a little time to create. Ask your spouse to watch the kids one night a week so you can journal. Take your knitting to work and use your lunch break as a chance to knit. Wake up a little earlier to get 15 minutes of writing in.

Try to find a way to allow more time and energy in your life to get creative, even if that means taking some time or energy out from another area of your life. Chances are, you’ll feel better for it.

*  *  *

I’m now finding myself taking careful and gentle steps back into my creative self-expression. Writing this post is one of the first ways of doing that, and I hope it helps even one person find their creative footing again.

Remember, you’re not alone and your inspiration isn’t gone forever – it will come back around when the time is right.

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, Self Empowerment

Journal spotlight: Dream journal

One of my favourite things about journaling is learning more about myself – my values, desires, goals, fears, strengths and weaknesses. For me, journaling is a tool to dig deeper into who I am and what makes me tick.

One of the best ways to learn more about ourselves is to look into the symbols and themes in our dreams. Keeping a dream journal is a great way to record our dreams so we can better understand what they might mean.

I’ve always wanted to keep a dream journal, but whenever I’ve started one in the past I’ve never kept it up. After writing this post, I think I’m going to have a go, at the very least, at incorporating more dreams into my daily journal.

I have pretty vivid dreams most nights, and I certainly have repeated places, people, events and themes in my dreams. I love the idea of recording them to reread later and interpret some of the deeper meanings.

One of the best description of dreams I’ve ever heard is from one of my favourite movies, The Giver:

Dreams: A combination of reality, fantasy, emotions and what you had for dinner.

So what is a dream journal? Basically, you record the dreams you have at night, when you wake in the morning.

Why keep a dream journal?

There are lots of reasons to do so, but here are a few that resonate with me:

  • Greater understanding of yourself. You can uncover deeper feelings, desires, concerns and other things about yourself that are usually below the surface of your awareness. Recording them will allow you to dig deeper and possibly figure out what’s happening down there.
  • Inspiration. There are some really cool things that come up in our dreams due to the fact that our logical mind shuts down at this time. If you’re a creative who’s looking for ideas, you could stumble on some interesting things in your night time adventures!
  • Get better at lucid dreaming – that awesome state where you know you are dreaming so you can control what happens!

How to start your own dream journal

Choose a journal you want to record your dreams in and keep it beside your bed, or somewhere else you will remember to pick it up first thing.

Set the intention before going to sleep that you will remember your dreams.

First thing upon waking, record whatever you remember. It doesn’t have to make sense, just get it down – even if you have forgotten big portions of the dream, record what you can remember. Be as detailed as possible.

Don’t judge what comes up, just record it.

You can use drawings as well – you don’t have to stick to words! If you want to capture a certain place or feeling, you could draw it or use colour in your dream journal. Combining written and visual elements may also help to stimulate more dream recall.

Give the dream a title or sum it up in a sentence. This is a neat idea I read about here.

Practice – the more you do this, the more you will start to remember your dreams in more detail. Keep going.

And then what?

After you’ve been doing this for a while, you may like to look back through your dreams to get a better understanding of yourself. Certain images, themes, words, colours, events or people may reoccur. You could go through and highlight some of these, then journal about what they could mean.

You could use a dream dictionary for guidance, but personally, I believe that we are the experts on ourselves. You will start to notice patterns in your dreams that you will probably be able to interpret yourself. If you also keep a personal journal, you could possibly match up what has been happening in your life with what has been appearing in your dreams.

Try not to take it too seriously. While I think there most certainly are some deeper meanings we can uncover from our dreams, I also think that some of them are simply, as The Giver says, ‘what you had for dinner’.

Do you keep a dream journal? What do you enjoy about it? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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

How journaling can change your life

I’ve been journaling since I was ten years old, but it wasn’t until I committed to a regular journaling practice that things in my life began to really shift.

I’ve maintained that practice for four years now and in that time a lot has changed in my life. I don’t think it is a coincidence that these positive changes have happened since I’ve been journaling consistently.

In fact, my experience has shown me that regular journaling is one of the best tools we can use to transform our lives.

It might sound a bit too easy, but it’s true: anyone can use their journaling practice to create positive changes, overcome fear and bring their dreams to life.

Early on in my journaling practice I noticed some pretty massive changes in my life. In the space of two years, the following things happened:

  • I’ve begun and maintained a creative practice, including making and sharing my art
  • I’ve left a full-time job that was slowly sucking the life out of me
  • I’m more at peace and happier than I have been in a long time (as someone who has been through many depressive episodes in her life, I’ve not even been close to feeling that way since developing my journaling habit)
  • My relationship with my partner has improved dramatically (as a side note, he proposed to me shortly after I began my journaling practice, which I also do not think is a coincidence)
  • I’ve started and maintained a writing practice through a blog, something I’ve wanted to do for years
  • My partner and I have made our tiny house dream a reality – building our own house together after years of talking about it
  • I’ve created an online business using my writing, teaching and coaching skills
  • My partner and I have found a way to purchase our dream property and move to the countryside

In short: many of my long-term dreams have become a reality.

How is this possible? What is it about journaling, the simple act of writing down our thoughts and feelings regularly, that has allowed my life to change in such dramatic ways?

It comes down to a few simple factors.

Getting clear

Each morning when I open my journal to write, I find myself writing about what’s happening in my life: what I’m doing, how things are going, what’s working and what’s not.

I write about the things I dream of, what I hope for, what I long for.

This is what happens when you journal regularly: each and every day you show up to the page, you refine and clarify exactly how you want your life to look as you bring into your awareness the things that are and aren’t working in your life as it is.

You also get clear about the things standing between you and the life you want: journaling encourages you to dig deep so that you can uncover your doubts, worries and fears.

Before long, it becomes clear what it is that you want and what it is that is standing in your way.

It takes honesty and courage to get clear, but the more regularly you journal, the more clarity you will get.

  • Try this: make lists of the following:
    • What’s working in my life
    • What isn’t working in my life
    • What I want my life to look like
    • What I long for

Reread these lists as you journal over the coming days.

Connecting

Some believe that journaling, like meditation and other spiritual practices, allows you to connect with the divine or a greater power than yourself. Others believe that journaling allows you to connect with your own higher self, a source of inner wisdom. Some believe these two are the same thing.

God, inner wisdom, the universe, the divine… call it what you like, but something magical happens when you show up to the page often enough. You open up a channel to a higher source of wisdom, faith and courage to which you wouldn’t normally have access.

When you journal regularly, this connection is strengthened and can become a valuable source of guidance. This connection allows for inspiration. It helps you to feel strong and courageous. It reminds you to have faith even when you might falter.

Through this connection to something bigger, you can often find the answers you seek. By asking questions in your journal and being open, answers will come.

Fostering a daily connection with our highest and wisest self can only be a good thing.

  • Try this: take some quiet time alone with your journal. Decide how you would best like to address the source of higher wisdom you seek (e.g. God, inner self, universe, divine, etc). Then, write to this source asking a question you want the answers to. Be clear, direct and honest. Once you have written your question, take a moment to pause and sit in silence. Whatever comes to mind, write this down. This is the response. Be open to whatever you hear and allow it to come freely.

Overcoming resistance

So you get clear about what you want, you find the answers and guidance you need, but what about actually taking steps to make things happen?

The journal is a powerful tool to help you overcome resistance. Resistance is usually just fear disguised as procrastination, excuses, distractions, perfectionism, and other similar states.

Resistance is usually present when doing something new, making a change, or stepping out of your comfort zone in any way. Resistance is the reason so many wonderful dreams don’t become reality.

But I have found the fastest way to kill resistance is to expose it. Journal about it. Get honest and let it all out.

Why? Because when you write down your fears, when you put them into words and onto paper, they lose their power. They are no longer these big scary ideas floating around in your mind – they are mere sentences and words. And most of the time, you will see that they aren’t that scary after all.

  • Try this: in your journal, answer this question: what is stopping you from creating a life you love? Write honestly and let all your fears pour out onto the page. Don’t worry if they sound silly; just write whatever it is that is bothering you. When you have finished, write an affirmation encouraging yourself to be bold.

Staying in alignment

The daily act of writing means that you are regularly checking in with yourself. Instead of pushing through busy days without a moment to stop and think, the act of journaling forces you to slow down and reflect. It brings awareness to your life.

Each day that I show up to my journal and complain about something that is not working in my life is a reminder that I’m not doing enough of the things that bring me joy, that are taking my closer to my dreams.

Journaling daily – checking in with yourself emotionally, mentally, spiritually on a regular basis – can help you to stay on track.

Why? Because it highlights areas of incongruity in your life. You may journal about how much you hate being in debt but then in the same entry write about how you love shopping. What may not be obvious in your daily life can be easily highlighted when you write it down – and especially so when you write it down often.

Journaling regularly reminds you of your goals and values and brings awareness to your thoughts and actions. Slowly but surely, the two will come into alignment and, as long as you keep journaling, they will stay that way.

  • Try this: for the next week, write every day for 15 minutes at the same time. Use this time to check in with yourself emotionally, mentally, spiritually. How are you feeling? What is on your mind? What is your current energy? Note down anything else you want to.

I’m not the same person I was a year ago and it’s all because I pick up my pen to write and create for 30 minutes each day.

Why not give it a try?

Creativity

Journal spotlight: Morning pages journal

What are morning pages?

Basically, they are three pages written by hand first thing each morning. They are simply stream-of-consciousness and can be repetitive, whiny, complaining – there are no rules for the content, simply that you get out whatever is in your head onto the page, without stopping, for three pages. Another way of looking at them is as a ‘brain dump’ to get everything out of your mind. It is the junk in our mind that blocks us creatively, which is why the pages work well as a tool for creative recovery.

Julia Cameron – author of The Artist’s Way – says that morning pages are not negotiable:

Never skip or skimp on morning pages. Your mood doesn’t matter… We have this idea that we need to be in the mood to write. We don’t.

Some people swear by morning pages and won’t start the day without them. Others have tried many times to get into the habit, but can’t quite find their morning pages groove.

One of the other guidelines that Cameron recommends for the morning pages is to not reread them, at least not for a while – in fact, some people throw them out. This emphasises how they are intended as an exercise in emptying the mind of junk (something we would throw out) rather than gathering memories or recording our lives (something we would keep). Cameron describes morning pages as the following:

Three pages of whatever crosses your mind – that’s all there is to it. If you can’t think of anything to write, then write “I can’t think of anything to write…” Do this until you have filled three pages.

However, some believe that morning pages can hold wisdom in them, if we want to go back over them at some point. This makes sense. After writing them for a period of time – such as three months, say – if we look back over them then some things will become quite apparent: things we continuously complain about but never do anything about, patterns and habits that are not serving us, ideas for creative projects, areas in which we have grown, etc. Used in this way, the morning pages are not only a tool for creative recovery, but also a tool for personal growth.

Some people might not keep a separate journal for their morning pages – in fact, they might do their morning pages and journaling in the one notebook (and yes, morning pages and journaling are two different things). This is what I do, because I don’t strictly follow the morning pages ‘rules’ and I want to keep what I’ve written.

For those that are consistent with their morning pages, I can see how doing them in a cheap school exercise or composition notebook would make sense, because you would go through them pretty quickly. If you are using a beautiful journal for writing morning pages, you might find yourself trying to keep your writing neat, tidy and possibly even censoring parts of what you are saying, so as not so ruin your nice journal with whining or negative thoughts. In that sense, the morning pages won’t work nearly as well.

If you’re new to morning pages, I would recommend getting a cheap notebook to use. Make sure it is not something precious. You are going to be writing quickly, you are going to be writing about any and everything – sometimes it won’t even make sense. You are going to end up repeating yourself and probably complaining. But that’s ok – in fact, that’s good, because that is the whole point of the morning pages – to get that out of your head. It’s better on the page than in your head. Cameron says,

There is no wrong way to do morning pages. These daily morning meanderings are not meant to be art. Or even writing… Nothing is too petty, too silly, too stupid or too weird to be included.

And after all this, you might be wondering why even go to the trouble of writing three pages each morning? Besides unblocking your creative energy as mentioned above, morning pages have two other, very powerful outcomes:

  1. You will start to get sick of hearing yourself complain about the things you don’t like in your life, and this will lead you to take action. As Cameron says: ‘It is very difficult to complain about a situation morning after morning, month after month, without being moved to constructive action. The pages lead us out of despair and into undreamed-of solutions.’
  2. You will connect with your own inner wisdom and intuition, which can guide you in any area of your life: ‘Anyone who faithfully writes morning pages will be led to a connection with a source of wisdom within.’

Do you write morning pages? Or would you like to start? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.