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.

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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, 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: Sensitivity is a gift

I don’t really know how to say this without sounding dramatic, but it is the truth: all my life I have felt different from others. Even though I’ve always had friends and been part of a group of some sort, I’ve never fully felt the same as everyone else.

I noticed in high school that other people just seemed to ‘get on with life’ while I struggled with some of the most basic things – I would feel easily depressed after watching a movie, on a high and inspired for days from the words of a song, or I would take a comment or a joke to heart.

While other friends seemed to easily bounce back from breakups and bad grades, I would retreat to my room to let feelings of misery sweep over me. Not to mention I was easily overwhelmed and exhausted by life in general and spent a lot of time sleeping to recover. When I wasn’t sleeping I was writing, drawing or playing guitar.

I was told I took things too seriously and needed to lighten up. I was told I was too sensitive.

While I certainly knew that sensitivityadolescence is supposed to be a tumultuous time, I was also aware that I seemed to be having some issues that others around me weren’t. For years, I just assumed I was somehow defective. I learned to try and hide my sensitivity around certain people.

It wasn’t until recently, in the past couple of years, that I came across the term ‘highly sensitive person’ (HSP). This opened up an entirely new world for me. I wasn’t defective, I was just one of the 20% of the population who was easily overwhelmed and more aware of the subtleties of my environment than others.

For HSPs, the brain works a little differently: they are more likely to observe before acting. It is an innate trait that is often found in other species too – such as birds, fish, dogs, cats, horses and other animals.

Learning more about this trait also gave me answers in other areas of my life – why I am more likely to feel the cold, struggle to pay attention with a lot of loud noise around me, get easily overwhelmed when I have a lot to do in a short period of time, why I am easily moved by films, books, music etc. This trait also explains why I can’t watch really violent or upsetting films, and this also includes watching the news. Yes, I deliberately avoid the news because it upsets me too much.

But aside from these difficulties, I’ve learnt how wonderful it is, for me at least, to be a highly sensitive person.

  • I easily feel love, empathy and compassion other human beings, not to mention animals. While this can be draining at times, I think it is one of the best ways for us to function on this planet. Of course I get mad and impatient, I get bitchy at times. But for the most part, I feel a strong sense of compassion towards others.
  • I have a rich inner life. I experience emotions strongly, which again has its downside, but it means that I get to experience the most intense and fulfilling positive emotions. I get to be overcome with gratitude and joy, struck by awe or filled with inspiration. I get to look at my loved ones and feel myself full-to-bursting with love. And when I do have to deal with the intensity of negative emotions, they always lead to personal growth, and often give birth to new creative ideas.
  • I am a very creative person. Not only do I experience strong emotions, but I have a vivid imagination and big hopes and dreams. I allow myself to spend time in my own inner dream worlds and I often turn them into art or writing. Having a rich inner life allows me to be the creative person that I am, creating and expressing myself in ways that I can hopefully use to inspire others.
  • I can’t hide who I am. I am an open book and don’t do well at covering up how I am really feeling (I could never play a serious game of poker!). While this may seem like a bad thing, I’ve found it helps me to remain authentic. It helps me to stay ‘me’; to be honest. I don’t find myself playing lots of different roles or putting on different masks. It also means that I can’t stay in situations that make me unhappy for very long, which can only be a good thing.
  • I’m very observant. I often notice details and specifics about my environment, other people or situations. I remember things clearly and this has been very helpful in many situations. As well as getting easily overwhelmed by the environment, I am also easily inspired.

These are just a few of the things that make me feel blessed to be HSP. It certainly comes with challenges, but I wouldn’t be anyone else but me.

>>> Prompts:

What does the word ‘sensitivity’ mean to you? Does it have negative associations? Why?

In what ways do you see being sensitive as problematic? How can you reframe this view?

List as many ways you can think of that being more sensitive than others is a gift.

In what ways can you honour your sensitivity more?

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

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.