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.

Creativity

Feeling uninspired? Try the creativity switch

I’m in a wee bit of a creativity rut. Despite journaling every day, blogging every day and planning a creative business, I’m still feeling a bit uninspired.

I’m not sure why this is. But my partner told me about something interesting today: the ‘creativity switch’*.

Apparently, the idea is that when we get stuck in routines in our daily lives, we can also get stuck in a creativity rut. When we get up each day and go through the same motions in our lives, we start to coast without needing to think too much. We aren’t stimulated.

This is bad news for creativity.

But the solution is supposed to be simple: mix it up! Change things in your life – in a simple way. Switch things around.

For example, if you usually get up and take a shower and then have breakfast, do this the other way around. Or shower in the evening instead. Drive a slightly different way to work. Go to a different cafe to get your coffee.

By changing the order or the way in which we do things, we force ourselves to pay a bit more attention and notice things. This creates the chance for novelty and creativity.

You could also switch up your journaling. You could journal at a different time of day, or in a different spot. You could try a different pen, drink a different tea while journaling, or listen to different music. You could bring a new ritual into your journaling – perhaps light a candle or draw a tarot card, if you’re so inclined.

The change doesn’t have to be huge – just enough to make you notice.

Here’s a few things I’m thinking of changing:

  • The way I drive to work: taking a different route and seeing different scenery will be more interesting, I won’t have to sit in the same traffic, and I can spend more time singing in the car. Win!
  • New music: this always inspires me. An hour or so exploring on Spotify and I have a whole new playlist.
  • Journaling in different places: I’ve already mentioned how I’ve taken to journaling in my car, and that offers me the luxury of picking a different location and view each time.
  • Walking my pup in different neighbourhoods or different streets.
  • Trying different types of journaling in the morning: rather than just writing, I’m thinking of bringing drawing and watercolour into my morning journaling routine.

What tiny change could you make to get you paying attention again? How can you make a small switch in your routine to inspire you and reignite your creativity? Post your changes in the comments below.

*Note: full credit for this idea of the ‘creativity switch’ goes to Jay Abrahams.

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: Making yourself happy

This has taken me years to learn, and even now I need to keep reminding myself of this truth:

It is my job, and mine alone, to make myself happy.

lesson 16It is not my partner’s job to make me happy. It is not up to my friends to make me happy. It is not my family’s job to make me happy.

Of course, that’s not to say that these things can’t make me happy – they certainly do!

But ultimately, it is up to me to make myself happy – it is my job to fill myself up.

That means, when I’m feeling crappy, the first thing I need to do is check in with myself. I need to know what my core needs are, and I need to check that they are being filled – and here’s the hard part – by me.

Some of my core needs are:

  • Love
  • Security
  • Solitude
  • Freedom
  • Creativity
  • Self-expression
  • Inspiration
  • Contribution

How do I know my core needs? Because I’ve taken the time out to think about these things, to work out what really fills me up. If I’m not aware of the things I need in my life to be happy, then I can’t make sure I’m happy.

If I’m feeling crappy in my life, most of the time it’s because I’m not meeting my own core needs. It’s not fair for me to pass the expectation onto my partner or friends to make me feel better, when I’m not doing that for myself.

There’s something really empowering about being able to fill yourself up. It doesn’t mean you can’t accept help or anything from others, but it means you don’t need it. It totally changes the nature of a relationship when you come to it already satisfied with your life. You have a lot more to offer others.

>>> Prompts:

What are your core needs? Start by making a list of all the things you like to do, the things that fill you up, big or small. Then, try to identify the core needs underneath. Usually it will be stated as an abstract noun.

In what ways do you rely on others to make you happy?

How can you do more to fill yourself up and meet your core needs?

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: 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

Don’t have time to journal? Think again

Sometimes we don’t have the time and space we need to be alone and journal. We may have the best of intentions but the universe puts obstacles in our way.

I like to think that these are little tests to see how committed we really are.

For a while I was getting up super early… but it wasn’t really working. I naturally need a reasonable amount of sleep, and I was struggling to get myself to bed by 9pm in order to get my 8 hours. I feel like my evenings are my time to be creative, play in my art journal, or spend time with loved ones.

I’ve been really reluctant to give my body the extra rest it needs by sleeping a bit later. Last week I started to get headaches and when I found myself contemplating a fifth cup of coffee one day I decided I just had to go with it.

But my journaling! I tried just working for a couple of days without journaling first – I thought, maybe I could journal in the evening? But it didn’t feel right. I didn’t start the day with the usual positivity and intention. I felt a little… directionless (if that’s a word).

I can’t exactly journal at my desk when I get to work because I have colleagues sitting next to me. Not exactly an environment conducive to pouring my deepest fears and desires onto the page. Plus, work is associated with, well, work. Not creativity.

As I mentioned I don’t actually have to be at work until close to 9am, so I found an unusual solution:

I journal in my car.

This way I can miss the bad traffic, but find a nice quiet place to pull over where I can write for a while before I get to work. Sure, it’s not ideal. But it’s better than not journaling at all! Given that my job is only short-term, this will work in the mean time.

At first I felt a little ridiculous pulling out my giant pencil-case in the front seat (it needs to be giant to fit my selection of pens and some washi tape).

But then I thought, who cares?

I reclined the seat, tucked my feet under me and just wrote. It was fine. I even brought coffee from home in a travel mug (bonus points to those who recognise the company logo on my coffee mug!).

The other thing I noticed is that a change in view is good. I can choose a different spot if I want a different view. I feel close to nature with trees and the rain just outside, but my car is warm. It’s still a personal space, and while I miss having my pup at my feet and burning my essential oil, it still gives me the time I need.

I’m talking about all this because I want to point out something:

Journaling can be done in many places.

I know I have talked about making a ritual out of your journaling but really if need be, it can be done when and wherever. If you’re stuck for space to be alone, why not try journaling in a cafe? You could always find a table in the corner or somewhere that you can get a little privacy. Or if you’re running between appointments and find you have a spare 30 minutes, you could journal in your car. Or in a park. Or a library. I’ve even heard of people journaling on the subway ride to work!

Find what will work for you. And if you need to, do something a little different. Don’t let life get in the way of your journaling.

How have you made more time to journal? Share in the comments.

Creativity

How to journal when you don’t know what to say

Sometimes I just feel like journaling. I just want to pick up my journal and my pen (and my washi tape and other bits and pieces) and play in my journal.

Although I do love to use paints, stickers and washi tape to decorate my journal pages, my main focus in my journal is often writing.

And some days I sit down with my journal and I have nothing to say.

Or, at least, I start out thinking I have nothing to say. Usually once I put pen to paper and ease into it, I find myself talking about all kinds of things. Often I end up writing about something that I had no idea I would even talk about.

But we all need somewhere to start.

It can be daunting opening a fresh page and thinking, ‘I want to write’ or worse, ‘I should write’ – but not knowing how to begin.

Anais Nin (a journaling legend) offers this advice:

Put yourself in the present. This was my principle when I wrote the diary – to write the thing I felt most strongly about that day. Start there and that starts the whole unravelling, because that has roots in the past and it has branches into the future… I chose the event of the day that I felt most strongly about, the most vivid one, the warmest one, the nearest one, the strongest one.

I love this. I think sometimes we feel that an entry into our journals needs to reveal some profound truth, or be really deep. But it is the normal moments of each day that make up our lives.

Choose something that stood out to you today, for whatever reason. It might be as simple as sitting in the sun with a cup of coffee, laughing with a colleague, or taking a hot shower after a long day.

It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it warm, near or strong – to you.

It can be harder to follow this advice if you are writing first thing in the morning, in which case you are usually starting fresh, without the events of the day to guide you. You could recall the events of the previous day, or you could start where you are.

In A Voice of Her Own, Marlene A. Schiwy suggests using a basic Gestalt exercise to begin: write for ten minutes on each of the following starters:

‘I feel… I need… I want’.

It might not seem like much but these simple starters can open up to much deeper ideas.

If you are using this first thing in the morning, you could use these prompts to guide you for the day ahead – how you feel in the morning, and how you’d like to feel later in the day. What you need to do that day to feel fulfilled or satisfied (avoid using this as a chance to make another to-do list: most of us do that enough!). You could list what you want from the day to come.

In either case, the idea of starting with today, or right now, is the best way to begin.

You don’t always have to know what you will say when you journal – you just have to start where you are and let the words find you.

Creativity

Creativity: Why I’m going it alone

If you’ve been following this blog for some time, you will have noticed the changes around here.

It started out as just me, a blogging newbie and journaling enthusiast, then Kelly came on board, and if you’ve been paying attention, you’ve noticed that it’s back to little old me – still a journaling enthusiast, but with a little more blogging experience under my belt.

So what’s been going on? Why all the changes?

It’s been about a year since I first waded into the world of creativity in earnest. It started with an innocent journaling course, then I found myself falling headfirst in love with everything to do with journaling, art journaling and any and all aspects of creativity.

I found that these things perfectly complemented my training in life coaching, psychology and teaching.

I’d always wanted to blog, and had attempted it several times, but this time it stuck. Why?

Because I finally found a topic I’m so in love with that
I just all you need is love and journalingcan’t help but talk to everyone about it.

My bestie Kelly was also in love with the same things, and she also wrote a blog, so we started to plan ways we could share our passion. It made sense to write a blog together, to create a community online around the things we both love.

So she came on board here with me. We both started blogging about the things we loved: creativity, self-love, self-care and journaling.

But things started to change, for both of us. Instead of being inspired by each other, we started to feel stuck. We couldn’t figure out why, so we just kept going.

I started wondering where the magic had gone.

What happened to that feeling of wanting to share any and everything I love about journaling and creativity? Why was I suddenly feeling uninspired and stuck?

It turns out, our creative dreams can be a very personal thing.

Despite the fact that we both loved journaling and blogging, what we didn’t love was sharing one online space together. We felt as though we were cramping each other’s style – unknowingly, and unintentionally, putting creative limits on one another.

I missed the freedom to just be myself, to follow my own creative whims and share my strange imperfections.

I realized that if I am to evolve creatively and truly follow my own deeply personal creative path, I need to go it alone.

This can be scary, and there was something so reassuring about having Kel right by my side. She was there to bounce ideas off, to brainstorm with, to laugh over endless cups of tea as we dreamed big creative dreams together.

Since we’ve gone our separate creative ways, I really miss those moments.

I believeBut even more rewarding is the sense of building something all by myself: fueling my own creative fire and lighting my own path.

I think we certainly need others out on the creative path – people to reassure us when times are tough, to tell us that they too struggle, to share ideas and inspiration, to cheer us on when we doubt ourselves.

Ultimately though, I think creativity is a solo expedition: an excavation of our own inner selves – our fears, our dreams, our lives.

While support from others is certainly valuable and I would say even necessary, ultimately it’s up to you to venture within.

So, Journal Wild is back to just me. What started as Journaling Dangerously, an experiment in journaling more often, has become Journal Wild, a full-blown commitment to a creatively nourishing life.

I’ve got my inner creative fire to light the path ahead and I’m going it alone.