How To Create A Powerful Morning Routine

I first realised the importance of a morning routine after reading Hal Elrod’s book; The Miracle Morning. It’s also one of the self-development books that’s had the biggest impact on me, which you can read more about in this post.

I’d come across lots of morning routine ideas before then, but nothing really stuck. I’d got so used to the comfort of mindlessly looking at my phone, and watching either the news or morning telly before I got ready for work. I knew I wasn’t doing myself any favours doing this though.

In the years since reading the book I’ve honed the activities that I do in the morning before work (when I wasn’t on furlough) to include slight variations of what he shares. I definitely think it makes sense to set your physical and mental well-being up in way that will hopefully keep you in a positive mindset throughout the rest of the day.

A steaming cup of tea as part of my morning routine
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Before I share with you Hal’s advice from the book, I want to stress the key thing to remember when starting a morning routine is being patient. It may take trying different combinations of the the below ideas, or doing them for a different lengths of time in order to come to a set of rituals that works for you; that makes you feel powerful and ready to face the day ahead.

My top tip with this is not to over complicate it. Go with your gut instinct as to what feels right. Having an approach that is too regimented will make it feel like a chore, rather than self-care time.

Also bear in mind your own specific time constraints. If need be, you can literally just spend 1 or 2 minutes on each of these things, and they will still set you up well for the day. As you will see, I combine some activities together, as I feel that this really makes productive use of my time.

Silence (or Meditation)

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If you’re a regular follower of my blog, you’ll know from an earlier post that I did on meditation that this took me a while to get in to, but has definitely been worth while for the benefits that I’ve felt. The jumble of thoughts I have lifts, and I can gain a moment of clarity and calm. You can read my beginners guide to meditation here.

At the moment I’m spending around 5 minutes focusing on an affirmation or positive intention that I have for the day, closing my eyes, and breathing deeply. Sometimes I like to visualise how I want my future life to look – I really just go with what feels good on that particular morning.

As I’ve recommended before, you could try a guided meditation on an app like Calm instead. Or, you could try a breathing technique for a minute.

Affirmations

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This is another area that I’ve created a blog post about and if you don’t know where to get started with practising them, reading that is a great place to start.

Affirmations essentially train you to re-frame negative thought patterns that you might have into positive and motivational ones instead; setting you up with a powerful positive intention to start the day.

It’s best to make them as personal as possible, and address the negative thoughts that are really weighing you down at the moment. For example, you could transform the thought of “I’m always tired” into “Today I am full of energy and excited for what the day holds”.

I’ve only just started getting back into practising affirmations again, and I’ve written them out on a sheet of paper. I then read that sheet of paper several times and recite them in my head every morning whilst I’m eating my breakfast. A method I’ve used before has been saying them out loud in the shower too.

Visualisation

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Visualisation is a powerful tool for focusing on your goals, (just ask Olympic athletes) which is why it’s so great to do it in the morning.

By visualising our dreams and goals; how it will look, taste and feel when we achieve them, it motivates and focuses our mind on how we can take the steps to get there. By visualising a scenario in detail including all of the senses we would feel, it tricks our brain into thinking that it’s already happened. That’s why it’s such a great mental tool for athletes.

There are definitely a few ways that you can approach visualisation. As I’ve already said, sometimes I combine it with my meditation, as it always makes me feel really positive about the day ahead.

Another method you could try is creating a slide show of images that fit with how you want your life to look in say the next 5 years. You could then play this slide show on your phone every morning whilst you’re eating breakfast. I’m also a fan of doing this the old fashioned way and creating a vision board out of magazine cuttings, and sticking it up somewhere that I’ll definitely see in the morning.

Exercise

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I have to admit that during my time on furlough, I don’t think I would have had the motivation to do very much at all if it hadn’t been for me exercising every morning.

The Body Coach (aka Joe Wicks) has a whole ethos around exercising for the mental well-being benefits that it brings rather than losing weight. He says that he’s better able to face any challenges that the day may bring because of it. This makes sense because the same endorphins that give you a high afterwards also help you concentrate and feel mentally sharp with the tasks ahead of you.

How much exercise you do will obviously be dependent on how much time you have available. If you only have 10 minutes in the morning, you’re not going to want to try to schedule in going for a 1 hour run. As I’m on furlough at the moment, I’ve been doing 20-30 minute fairly high intensity workouts each morning.

When I was working, however, it would have been totally out of the question to exercise for that amount of time without getting up even earlier. Which, as someone who’s not a morning person, wasn’t something I was willing to do. I would just do a couple of simple yoga stretches instead to get my body moving, or dance about to one of my favourite tunes whilst I was making my breakfast.

Reading

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I love reading, and if you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that I like to do a lot of it. In the mornings I think it totally makes sense to feed your mind something inspirational or motivational rather than the negative stream of stories that are on the news. It just gets you in a better head space to start the day.

At the moment I’m rotating between a couple of self-development books, as well as some anti-racism education for myself. Even just 10 minutes of reading something that encourages me to change my perspective helps me figure out how best to approach my day with that new way of thinking in mind.

Even on a day when I’m feeling less motivated to sit and read a book, I’ll catch up on my favourite blogs, as I find they’re a great way to inspire me creatively. Some of the ones I enjoy are Unexpected Adventures, Nicole No Filter, and Holly Soulie.

Writing

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This is an area that you could approach in loads of different ways. I think the real strength that lies behind writing things down is that it gets in out of your head and physically on to paper, and that can feel like a weight has been lifted just in itself.

Writing down goals and affirmations also helps them to be cemented in your subconscious and therefore that bit more likely to happen.

If you’re short on time I would really recommend starting the day by writing down 3 things that you’re grateful for. These can be as general or as specific as you like. The key is that it then starts you off with a grateful mindset for the rest of the day, and you’ll hopefully be more aware of things that happen during the day that you could be thankful for. I do this every morning and feel like it makes such a difference.

If you have longer, you might want to consider finding some journal prompts online to help you reflect and dig deeper into why you feel the way you do about certain things. I progressed from this into free writing just whatever is on my mind in the morning; things I might be worrying about, situations that have played out, and why I might be feeling how I am about them.

As I’ve said before in other blog posts, I find that if I understand myself and my motivations more clearly, then it allows me to show up as my best self. That’s why I’ll always ensure that I make time for writing at the start of the day.

Do you have a morning routine? And has this inspired you to give any of these suggestions a try? Let me know in the comments

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3 Unexpected Benefits of Being Made Redundant

The aftermath of lock down has unfortunately brought with it just as much uncertainty for businesses as there was going in to it. Many companies have had to drastically restructure to make up for the short fall in income. The harsh reality of this for many, has been that they’ve been made redundant whilst on furlough.

I’m one of the people living that reality. Going in to lock down I worked for a global hospitality brand. Although I knew that the pandemic would of course have a negative effect on business where I worked, I, perhaps naively, thought that working for such a large company would offer some job security.

My Experience

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My redundancy journey started with a very sudden (and unexpected) request that all employees at my work attend a Zoom call with the big boss. What followed was the announcement, that in no uncertain terms, there would be job losses in the coming months.

As is standard with redundancy in the UK, there then followed a consultation process, where each team that had job roles at risk could discuss possible solutions to help lessen the need for people to actually lose there job.

It was during this period of time that anxiety really hit me hard. After the initial announcement, I had a brief period of sadness. I was sad because I knew that the place I worked at wouldn’t be the same again for a long time.

It was a grief for the loss of my work life as I had known it pre Covid too, and to be honest, it shook me more than I thought it would. However, it was the uncertainty of everything that was to come afterwards that sent me into an anxious spiral.

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I definitely think anxiety is a perfectly natural reaction to have when faced with so much uncertainty. I soon realised that I needed to do some serious work on myself so that I didn’t wallow in anxious and fear laden thoughts constantly. I started to properly meditate, (read my beginners guide to meditation here) journal, and basically get more curious about the emotions I was feeling.

It was through this work on myself that I felt strong enough to make the decision to take voluntary redundancy. For me this was my way of taking control of the situation. As I had already grieved the loss of my pre Covid work life, it made sense to me that my period of furlough would end with starting a brand new chapter elsewhere. Was it a scary decision to make? For sure, but I felt in my gut that it was right for me.

It’s with this idea of a new chapter in mind, that I’ve been able to approach my search for a new job with a more positive mindset. Here are the 3 unexpected benefits of being made redundant that I’ve uncovered along the way so far….

An Opportunity to Evaluate What You Really Want Out Of Your Work Life

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Being made redundant is the perfect time for you to think about what you want out of your work life moving forwards, as you head into the next chapter of your career.

As I’ve already discussed before, spending so much time at home during lock down has brought a lot of things into perspective for me, and allowed a lot of time for self reflection. After being thrown into yet another period of uncertainty, it felt natural to start reflecting again.

I got initially upset at the prospect of losing my job because I really did enjoy it. However, there were certain aspects of it that I didn’t enjoy. They were seemingly little things that I put up with, but in hindsight I can actually see were having a negative impact on my mental well-being. (read my guide to mental well-being here)

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Things like only having 30 minutes for lunch, working in an office with no windows, and having a relatively long commute. When searching for new jobs I’m bearing in mind that I don’t want to have to put up with these things next time.

After spending time reflecting on what I wanted moving forwards, I also realised that I’m at a point in my life where other things are more important to me than my work. I want a job that yes, I enjoy, but also allows me the balance to live life how I want to, rather than just being stuck in a monotonous work routine where there’s little time or energy for anything else.

Identifying Your Skills

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One of the good things about sitting down to freshen up you CV is that you actually realise just how skilled you are.

Listing your employment history and your career achievements needn’t be a dull process. I found that putting down everything that I’ve done made me see just how much I had learnt over the years, and how I had applied what I’d learnt in each role change I made. It felt good to see just how far I had come.

It’s with this perspective that I could also see all the transferable skills I had gained, like excellent interpersonal skills, and working well in busy, hectic environments. It’s with these kind of insights that you can see how you can really add value for prospective employers and sell yourself on that all important cover letter.

Knowing your transferable skills can also be useful in the current job market. Although I have initially started to look at jobs related to my more recent experience, having transferable skills in my back pocket means that if need be, I can look at other options further down the line that still play to my strengths.

Getting Out Of Your Comfort Zone

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I’ll admit that this one doesn’t sound like it would be a benefit, but bear with me.

Opening ourselves up to new opportunities can feel uncomfortable for sure. Stepping away from what we’ve known for so long and putting ourselves in situations that make us feel vulnerable (hello awkward Zoom interviews) is scary, and frankly, triggering.

If we’ve got limiting beliefs about ourselves this is when they’ll crop up. For me, my initial barrier with job hunting was actually believing I would be a valuable asset to the organisations I was applying for. Yes, I had written down everything that I was skilled at, but I still needed to make the connection with my inner self to actually believe it was true. That’s why I’ve been doing so much work on myself recently.

What I’m saying is that all the new experiences you’ll be having as part of your redundancy journey, although probably won’t feel great, will definitely help you grow. We don’t learn anything if we keep doing the same things day in, day out. Being thrust into a new environment forces us to adapt, develop, and ultimately grow into a better version of ourselves than we were before.

Have you been made redundant during the pandemic? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear them in the comments.

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The Healing Power of Forgiveness

Truly forgiving someone can be difficult. Believe me, I’ve been there. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll already know that I got divorced a few years ago, and one of the biggest lessons I learnt from it was the art of forgiveness. (you can read the full post here)

I also think that forgiveness has different levels to it. Forgiving a friend for turning up an hour late to meet you is very different to the level of forgiveness required if your partner has cheated.

I personally thought that I didn’t have a problem with forgiveness, until it came to my ex-husband. I’ve been reflecting on this a little recently, and it’s only with the hindsight of being 3 years further along with my own self-development, that I can see more clearly why it became such an issue for me.

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When I was actually going through the practicalities of getting divorced, I felt like I was losing myself to the stress of it all, so I invested in a course of life coaching with some one I trusted. My coach was great, and she posed some questions that felt very difficult to answer at the time. One of them was; ‘How would it feel if you forgave him?’

Although initially painful, that one question felt like a key that would unlock a door inside me that had been keeping all my painful and difficult feelings at bay. By choosing not to forgive him up until that point, I was also choosing not to properly deal with the rawness of what I was feeling. I was keeping it bottled up, and the negative effect it was having was actually making me physically unwell.

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Forgiveness allows us to grow, move on, and ultimately be happy. I was holding on to my hurt, resentment and anger so tightly that I couldn’t see that it was doing me more harm than good; I wouldn’t be able to properly move on until I let them go.

By giving so much of my energy to feeling that way, I was giving my power to him, not to myself. I definitely didn’t want him to have power over my life any more, so I knew that by forgiving him I would feel better.

‘Forgiving doesn’t make you weak, it sets you free’

This quote resonates with me because I felt that by forgiving him, I would be giving in or giving up; something that I saw as a sign of weakness. It’s funny to think now, that all these negative thoughts were pretty much born out of my own stubbornness. In a relationship where it felt like what I wanted always came second, I wanted to win for once.

Woman stood by the water with her arms out, feeling free
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The first step in the process of forgiving my ex was writing him a letter (that he will never see) as if he was an old friend, thanking him for everything he had brought into my life, and offering understanding for why he had acted like he had. That first step felt like a massive one. I could feel the tension lifting from my shoulders straight after I had written it.

Rather than holding on to bad memories and feelings of resentment from the past, forgiveness frees us to live in the present. I now focus on my life and what I want to achieve from it, rather letting myself feel like a victim for everything that happened in that past, frankly toxic, relationship.

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‘There is no love without forgiveness, and there is no forgiveness without love’

This is another quote that I emphatically feel is true. Although I no longer love my ex-husband, there was of course love in our past, otherwise we would never had got married in the first place. I believe it’s the memory of that love that’s allowed me to forgive completely. I realise he was trying his best at the time, and so was I. We just couldn’t be what each other needed any more; we had grown, but in different directions.

As I had written in my letter to him, there were certain things that he did, that although hurtful at the time, brought me to where I’m at now in my life. I’ve returned back to my maiden name, and feel more myself and content than ever. I see that our relationship was the journey I needed to go on in order to get to this point. The journey may have been painful, but it taught me a hell lot about myself on so many different levels. He was my teacher, and that is why I forgave him.

Is there someone you need to forgive for your own mental well-being? How would it feel if your forgave them?

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5 Self-Development Books That Changed My Life For The Better

Thankfully, I think that the stigma that there was around reading self-development books is fading. More so because of the wealth of different kinds of people, from all kinds of backgrounds, and with a variety of experiences, sharing what they’ve learnt, being so prevalent right now. This has lead to thousands of self-development books on so many different topics.

I also think that, even if it isn’t necessarily a strictly conscious feeling, we all want to feel better on some level. Reading about other people who’ve made their lives better inspires us. We know that better is out there, we just have to be willing to see situations, and ourselves, from a different perspective.

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So what are the best self-development books and where do you start I hear you ask?

I’m a strong believer that the book that you ‘need’ most will present itself at the right time for you. There’s some books (a couple of them are on this list) that I started reading and couldn’t get in to simply because in hindsight I can see they weren’t right for me at the time. I kept them knowing that I would be able to benefit from their wisdom in future.

Basically, the message I want to get across is that don’t give up on self-development if a book isn’t right for you. Try a different one instead and come back to it when the time feels more fitting.

1. The Universe Has Your Back – Gabrielle Bernstein

Read it if you’re struggling with feeling abundant.

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‘The more joyful we are, the more light we shine on the world, the more power we have to express our presence, and the more positive energy we put out’

I’ll be honest, I’ve probably started this book about 3 times, but never finished it any of those times, simply because I couldn’t get into it. As I’ve already said, I definitely think that the book you need to learn from the most will fall into your hands when the time is right.

I’m reading this book at the moment for that very reason; it just feels right. Gabrielle is an author and international speaker, and is all about transforming fear into faith. Faith in the Universe to be exact.

A word of warning; due to the spiritual nature of this book, you’ll probably only take something from it if you’re open to that kind of thing. Through the universal lessons that she shares, it can help us relinquish our need for control and relax into a sense of certainty and freedom. This is definitely something I’ve needed recently.

Image of a book
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Covid-19 has brought with in so much uncertainty on so many levels, and given that I’m currently facing redundancy, I knew that I needed to loosen my grip if I wanted to feel less anxious.

At the moment I’m getting so much benefit from the meditation and affirmation based exercises in the book. When I come away from the meditations I feel like I’m tingling all over and so much lighter; most likely because I’ve raised my positive energy. It’s the tonic I’ve needed to maintain a positive mindset as I move forward into a different chapter post lock down.

2. Rising Strong – Brene Brown

Read it if you’re finding it hard to overcome past struggles.

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‘If we’re brave enough often enough, we will fall; this is the physics of vulnerability’

I finished this book earlier this year, and it’s another one that when I tried reading it before, I could never get into it. The reason why I gave it another go was because I knew that I still had some resentful feelings lingering towards my my ex-husband.

If you’ve not heard of Brene before, her TED talk on the power of vulnerability is one of the most watched TED talks of all time. She’s spent years researching vulnerability and being brave, and shares what she’s learnt, as well as her personal stories in her books, including this one.

Rising Strong presents a powerful process to rise from falls, overcome mistakes and face hurt in a way that brings more wisdom and meaning into your life.

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I found the most useful part of this process what she’s called ‘the rumble’. This is the part where you do the work; facing up to all the uncomfortable and difficult emotions you feel as a result of falling, as well as the mindset that got you there in the first place.

If would perhaps be hypocritical when writing about vulnerability Brene isn’t vulnerable herself, and I enjoyed the fact that she shared so much of her personal experiences in the book; it made it that much more relatable. I especially like the lake swim story that she circles back to.

I gained a much kinder perspective towards myself from reading this book, and it’s for that reason that I’ve recommended it several times, and even bought it for my friends.

3. The Goddess Revolution – Mel Wells

Read it if you want to repair your relationship with your body and food.

Image to portray the idea of a goddess
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‘The scales will tell you the numerical value of your effect on gravity. They will not tell you how beautiful you are, how loved you are, or how amazing you are’

As I’ve already gone into more detail of in an earlier post there was a point a few years ago when my marriage was breaking down that my eating became disordered. It’s taken quite a long time to heal my relationship with food and how I view my body, and it’s something that I do still have to check in with from time to time.

This book, as well as her second book, Hungry for More, has really helped me. If you’ve ever struggled with diets, food, body image or your weight, then The Goddess Revolution is for you too.

Mel’s face is on the back cover, and you might recognise her, as she used to be in Hollyoaks in the early 2000s. She used to be a model too, and had an unhealthy relationship with food and her body image for years. In the book she shares techniques that she’s used herself to transform our relationship with food, and have healthy, satisfying, guilt-free relationship with our bodies.

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I think this book is a breath of fresh air in a society that is still very much focused on fitness and reaching that ‘goal weight’. A society that basically shames women into feeling inadequate. Mel is so honest with the way she writes; sharing her own experiences with openness, kindness and passion. You can tell it’s something she really cares about.

Since reading her books, I can 100% say that I am so much more comfortable around food. I’ve stepped out of the guilt/shame cycle and now trust my instincts with what I put in my body, knowing that I’m nourishing it in a way that feels right for me, and maintains the natural weight that I’m meant to be at, rather than what society deems to be acceptable.

4. The Miracle Morning – Hal Elrod

Read it if you’re wanting to create a set of habits that will benefit your mental well-being.

Image to show what the start of a day typically looks like
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‘In order for you to stop settling for what you deserve….you must first dedicate time each day to becoming the person you need to be’

I’m not usually a fan of the direct, ‘get your act together’ type of self-development books as in the past they’ve tended to trigger limiting belief that I still have that I’m not good enough.

I managed to see past the writing style with this book though, as I could really see the benefits of the method that Hal shares. He calls them 6 life S.A.V.E.R.S, and by doing them each and every morning, it will take you that bit closer each day to what you want to achieve.

S = silence (or meditation)

A = affirmations

V = visualisation

E = exercise

R = reading

S = scribing (or writing)

Although over the years the time I’ve spent on each of these activities have varied, having them in my morning routine every day has really helped me to face the day with a more positive mindset, no matter what’s been going on in my life.

5. What I Know For Sure – Oprah Winfrey

Read it if you’re a fan of self-reflection.

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‘And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance’

This book is just so beautifully written; it’s one of the ones that I keep on going back to, especially if I’ve going through a period of feeling a little bit lost.

The book is a collection of all the best bits from the column that Oprah has in O magazine. It’s a delightful mix of personal anecdotes and life lessons that make you feel warm and fuzzy, and for me have often sparked bigger light bulb moments.

The sections in the book cover the big self reflective topics of joy, resilience, connection, gratitude, possibility, awe, clarity, and power. I flicked back through the book before I wrote this post, and literally every other page is turned over because I’ve taken something from the words written on it.

Every bit of wisdom that Oprah shares encourages you to lean into the messiness of life and embrace the lessons that it teaches you. It’s for that reason that I dip back in and out of it at least a couple of times a year; through her words I’m reminded that things will only change if I change the way I look at them.

Have you read any of these books? What self-development book has had the most impact on you?

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You may also like: 5 Powerful Affirmations To Increase Your Positivity

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5 Signs That You’re An Introvert

I think there can be quite a lot of confusion about introvert characteristics. People often come to the wrong conclusion that introverts are shy, quiet and anti-social. I identify as having an introverted personality, but I wouldn’t say I’m any of those things.

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Whether you are an introvert or extrovert all depends on how you get your energy. Extroverts feed off others energy and social scenarios in order to fill up their cup. On the other hand, introverts recharge their batteries by having quiet time by themselves.

Intrigued to know if you’re an introvert or not? Here’s 5 signs that you could be:

Being Around Lots of People Drains Your Energy

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There have been points in my life, particularly when I was younger, when I’ve worried that I was strange for preferring one on one time with friends rather than being at a big party or social event.

As I’ve already mentioned, introverts recharge their batteries by spending time on their own. It perhaps makes sense then that being around so many other people drains them.

Before lock down, a major part of my job involved standing up and speaking in front of others. I also enjoy dancing and performing, being silly, and generally making people laugh. However, after a week of these kinds of activities I feel exhausted and crave time alone.

You Have A Small Group Of Close Friends

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Introverts love to build deep connections with other people, so having a large social circle of people they only know on a superficial level really doesn’t appeal to them.

I can count the amount of people I would consider my close friends on both hands, and a handful more that I would class as good friends. It’s just the way I roll.

There’s few things I love more than catching up over dinner, drinks or a cuppa with one of these friends. This is because introverts gain so much joy from focusing their full attention on others, listening, and reflecting; basically having deep and meaningfuls.

You Enjoy Time On Your Own

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As I talked about in my post last week, I realised that before lock down kicked in, I was feeling exhausted because I wasn’t getting nearly enough time on my own to rest and recharge. Spending all this time at home has affirmed to me just how much I love sitting alone either reading, writing, or watching one of my favourite shows on Netflix.

There are times in my life that I’ve felt strange or the odd one out for wanting to spend time on my own rather than with others. My Mum told me about a time when she saw me playing in the play ground on my own when I was about 5. Her heart broke for me because she thought I didn’t have any friends. As a young child I was shy, which made it more difficult to make friends initially. However, the truth was that whilst my Mum saw a lonely child playing on her own, I was content in my own company; I was in my own little world.

Too Much Stimulation Makes You Feel Distracted

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When introverts spend a lot of time in hectic environments, they often feel distracted or overwhelmed.

An example of this for me is being at big parties or social events, especially when I don’t know many other people. I have a few friends that are much more extroverted than me, and I will put myself in hectic situations if I know it will mean a lot to them. However, I’ll be honest and say that I don’t enjoy them. In fact I usually feel uncomfortable the entire time; like I can’t properly be myself.

It comes back to the fact that introverts much prefer situations where we can get to know some-one else one-on-one. Therefore the idea of meeting a lot of new people all at once in a social situation can be overwhelming.

You Are Very Self Aware

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As I’ve already said, I’m very happy to spend my weekends at home rather packing my days with seeing other people. I’ve come to learn that this quiet time is where the strength of the introvert lies.

Introverts tend to be very inward thinking, and spend a lot of time examining and exploring their own internal experiences. This is probably why I’ve found my journey with self-development so interesting. I’ve read lots of self-development books over the years (watch out for a blog post on that topic coming soon!) and love the insights that they give me.

I’m a massive fan of self-reflection and getting to know myself better, and I’ve taken the opportunity to do a lot more of it during lock down. For me, if I understand myself and my motivations better, it means that I am more able to show up as my best self for the people I care about.

If a few of those signs resonated with you, the likelihood is that you’re an introvert too – welcome to the club!

Are you friends with more introverts than extroverts? (or vice versa) How do you think their characteristics affect your relationship?

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Productivity: 7 Things To Help You Plan For A New Month

Any one else not quite believe that we’re half way through the year already? It’s so easy for the months to blend into one another without feeling like you’ve achieved anything that you wanted to at the start of the year. So what’s the best way to prepare for a new month so that you can get the most out of it?

At the start of this month, I was feeling like I lacked a bit of purpose – 3 months not working will do that to you! I’m also very much of the mindset that if you declare something on paper, the more likely it is that you’ll achieve it. There’s studies to back up that way of thinking too. So I decided to create a mind map of everything I would like to do this month. I intend on doing the same for the rest of the year too.

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It doesn’t matter if I don’t manage to do them all, but just writing them down has already got me feeling more motivated and intentional with my actions. It’s a technique I’ve used before with planning out my goals for the year ahead, and it can work for you too.

So grab a pen and paper, and use these 7 areas as a monthly planning template for everything that you want to happen in the weeks ahead.

Mental Well-Being

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A great question to ask yourself in relation to this is; how do I want to feel this month?

More than likely that will then guide you to the kind of activities you’ll want to be doing on a daily and weekly basis to keep you’re mental well-being in check. If you’re not sure what mental well-being is, I’ve got you covered in my easy guide here.

This month, I want to maintain my feelings of calm and being in line with the universe. (I bit woo I know, but that’s just me) Bearing that in mind, I’ve written on my monthly plan that I want to incorporate affirmations into my morning rituals, and to keep up with the daily meditation practice that I started last month. If you’re intrigued as to what affirmations are, and want to give them ago yourself, check out my blog post here.

Physical Well-Being

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Physical well-being doesn’t just cover moving your body, it’s what you put into it too, so it’s important that you consider both when you’re putting your plan for the month together.

Do you want to build strength with your workouts? Or feel like you need to stretch more and focus on your breathing? Or do you just want to drink more water?

Figure out what apps or equipment you’ll need in order to do what you have planned. Write these down too so that there’s no nasty surprises and you don’t end up feeling defeated before you start.

The likelihood is that your plans for your physical well-being will link in with what you want to do to aid your mental well-being. For me, I’ve really been reaping the mental benefits of exercising pretty much on a daily basis, and as part of my plan for the month I’m making sure I get in 5 short workouts a week. I’m a sucker for the endorphin high and just feel so much more motivated for the day ahead after I’ve worked up a sweat.

I have realised though that my body needs the time to recover more than I’m allowing it, so I’ll be making sure I fit in at least one session of yoga or stretching a week so that I’m not pushing things too hard.

Budget

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First of all, if you’ve not already got a basic budget of your monthly bills, other out goings, and how much you want to put away to save, I would definitely recommend that you get one sorted ASAP. This blog post should help with that.

There’s so much power to be had from knowing exactly what’s going in and out of your bank account on a monthly basis. Trust me, this comes from a girl who used to ignore her statements for months on end before she pulled her head out of the sand and started working to pay off her debt.

Once you’ve got your basic budget sorted out, you can plan what you want to spend your money on that’s fun. Have you got a Zoom murder mystery with you pals that means you’ll have to buy an outfit for your character? Or do you have date nights with your other half on the cards?

I’ve got my boyfriend’s birthday coming up, so I’ve taken the time to figure out how much I want to spend on gifts as well as topping up my skincare and book addictions.

Work Life

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Again, you can link this back to your mental well-being.

If you wanted to feel calmer, perhaps this means that you make time at the end of each week to plan out everything you need for the following week. This could be making sure you write a to-do list before you leave your desk on a Friday, or spending an hour on Sunday prepping your lunches for the week ahead.

On the other hand, if you’re after a sense of achievement, it could be that your plans for the month involve figuring out the steps you’ll need to go through in order to complete an important work project or goal.

As my work life is looking uncertain after my time on furlough ends, I’m going to spend time updating my CV and scoping out the jobs market in my local area.

Relationships

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Relationships don’t just mean your significant other. (if you have one) It’s your friends and family too. Take time to think about how you want to nurture each in the month ahead.

The likelihood is that your plans will link back to your budget too – so make sure they’re factored in. Now that we can go to pubs, are you planning a few drinks with friends? Or maybe a picnic in the park?

It could simply be factoring in time each week to catch up with loved ones over the phone, Face Time or Zoom.

My boyfriend is a key worker, so although I’m spending pretty much all my time at home, he isn’t. We’re getting to see each other pretty much the same amount as before lock down kicked in. I therefore make it a mission each month to make sure we get some quality time together.

This used to be a classic date night out for dinner, but we’ve had to get more creative recently. Last week we spent a lovely afternoon out in the sun drinking gin. We do also love a good Scrabble tournament. If you’re stuck for date night ideas at home this blog post has you covered.

Home

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If you have home improvements planned, or a DIY project on the cards, this is another area that you’ll want to link back to your budget. Making sure you have the money set aside for all the supplies you’ll need will hopefully stop there being any road blocks further down the line.

Are there cupboards or drawers that are annoying you so much that you really want to get them organised this month? I find that when there’s a task that I’ve been putting off for ages, it’s best if I break it down into a few steps so that it doesn’t feel so overwhelming. I also put my favourite music on whilst I do it!

Even though we’ve lived in our new flat for over a year now, there are still some walls that are looking a little bare, so my plan this month is to source some posters and frames to make our place seem that bit more homely.

Passions/Hobbies

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For the benefit of your mental well-being, I would personally recommend that you try to factor in time each day to do something that you enjoy.

One of the big lessons that I’ve learnt in lock down was that before the pandemic I wasn’t getting enough time to do the things I loved because I was too ‘busy’. I think that making time for ourselves is actually key to our overall happiness. I know I have a much better day when I’ve done something I’ve loved.

This could be as simple as reading each night for 15 minutes, or making a new recipe from scratch a couple of times a week. Or, it could be a bigger project that you’re working on such as embroidery or crochet.

As you’ll have gathered, I’m passionate about writing and helping others, so a big thing for me is making sure I have time each week to work on my blog content and the social media channels I use to promote it.

Have you ever made a plan for the month before? Do you think they help? Let me know what you want to achieve this month in the comments.

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The Lessons I’ve Learnt In Lock Down

It’s been a strange old time hasn’t it? The last 3 months or so of staying at home for the majority of our time have been trying to say the least.

Having shared with you my honest thoughts about lock down already, as we start to get some normality back, I wanted to take some time to pause and reflect. Just what have we learnt during lock down?

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I’ve seen several of my favourite influencers and bloggers taking the time to consider the parts of lock down that they unexpectedly enjoyed, what they’ve learnt about themselves, the habits they want to keep, and different mindset they’ll have moving forwards.

I think one thing is for sure for all of us; we won’t be taking things for granted any more, because it can, and has, been snatched away from us so quickly.

Here’s the 4 lessons that I’ve learnt in lock down:

Life Isn’t All About Being Busy

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I think that being forced to slow down has definitely been one of the biggest silver linings to take away from this whole experience. Not working (I’m on furlough) for such a long period of time has for sure put into perspective just how busy I was before. How exhausted it was making me, and to be honest, how it was affecting my happiness.

As an introvert, I replenish my energy by spending time on my own being quiet. In hindsight, I can see that I wasn’t getting any where near enough quiet time to recharge on a daily basis.

I always felt guilty for not doing anything, when I could be doing something productive instead. I know there has been a lot of discussion about this on social media too. It’s clear a lot of us having been feeling it, even during lock down.

I now realise that taking the time to slow down isn’t selfish; it’s actually key to keeping my mental well-being in check. When I eventually go back to work (I’m still not exactly sure when that will be yet) I’ll 100% be making it a priority to block out pockets of time to recharge each day.

The Simple Life Is Better Than I Thought

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I never thought I would enjoy the simple things in life just as much as I have. This comes back to the point about being busy.

When we’re rushing through life at break-neck speed, we literally don’t have chance to smell the roses. Or, look in wonder at gorgeous blossom trees, appreciate the way the sunlight dapples through the branches of trees above, or reflects off the water like tiny specs of gold. To hear birds tweeting rather than traffic, and to just be content with what we already have. I’ve found myself really savouring these kinds of moments, and taking away the small joys that they offer.

Lock down has definitely forced me into thinking about about everything I’m grateful for having, rather than focusing on what I don’t have. Being faced with the devastating reality of the number of lives lost to this virus has jolted me into changing my perspective of just what’s important. It turns out the little things actually mean the most.

That Self-Reflection Is Underrated

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Not working has been the pause I’ve needed to step back and evaluate where I’m at right now, and the vision I have for my life moving forward. Big stuff.

It’s allowed me to actually do the activities that I didn’t have the time to do before because I was so busy. Those activities have brought me so much clarity; journaling, reading inspiring books, and getting outside for long(ish) walks.

As my partner is a key worker, who at times has worked back to back night shifts, I’ve ended up spending a lot of time alone in our flat. It’s perhaps the introvert in me, but I’ve not found the alone time lonely. Peace gives you strength. The strength to get to know yourself better, work through difficult emotions, and trust your instincts.

One of the conclusions that I’ve come to through self-reflection and embracing the simple life, is that I don’t want a career, I just want a job. By this I mean that I’m not craving the thrill of pushing my career forwards any more. (and the long hours that inevitably come with it) I would rather do a job that, although less challenging, I enjoy, and gives me the mental head space to spend time on the things I’m really passionate about outside of work. Basically I don’t want to live to work, I want to work to live.

Boundaries Are Everything

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Living off 80% of my wage throughout my time on furlough has forced me to re-evaluate what I spend my money on; what I really ‘need’. It turns out that a lot of my money was being spent on the social activities that were draining me.

It’s put into perspective just what I will be saying yes to in future. My close circle of friends will always get my time, but I will be more careful with other commitments. If I feel like it’s an event I ‘should’ be at to show face, then that’s a signal that I shouldn’t be wasting my time or energy going to it.

Through lock down I’ve come to value preserving my energy for the things that only make me feel good; my mental well-being deserves it.

Do you agree with any of these lessons? What have you learnt that you’ll be taking forwards after lock down properly ends?

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5 Powerful Affirmations To Increase Your Positivity

Like with meditation, when I first heard about affirmations, I thought they were a load of woo.

Surely talking out loud to myself would make me seem more unraveled that I already was?! So just what exactly are affirmations, and how can they help you feel more positive day to day?

What Are Affirmations?

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Put simply, affirmations are a method of changing your negative thought patterns into positive ones. They re-programme our subconscious mind to believe certain things about ourselves or the world and our place in it.

They are powerful because what we believe about ourselves on a subconscious level has a massive impact on the outcome of events. Henry Ford sums up what I’m trying to get at best in his quote; ‘If you think you can do a thing, or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.’

As I’ve written about before, I’m very aware that often the only thing holding me back from achieving what I want is what I’m thinking in my own head; my own lack of self-belief. Sound familiar to you too? Affirmations are a great way of empowering you to think differently about yourself.

5 Powerful Positive Affirmations

To remind you that you are in control of your own life:

I am the architect of my life; I build its foundation and choose its contents

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To set a positive intention for the day:

Today I’m brimming with energy and overflowing with joy

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To reinforce your total well-being:

My body is healthy; my mind is brilliant, my soul is tranquil

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To boost your confidence:

I have been given endless talents which I begin to utilise today

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To remind yourself just how strong you are:

My ability to conquer my challenges is limitless; my potential to succeed is infinite

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The thing to remember with affirmations is they have to resonate with you. If you’re not able to connect with what you’re telling yourself, then they won’t work.

So, if none of the affirmations that I’ve shared sit well with you, research your own positive affirmations online, or, you could even write your own.

To write your own affirmations the best place to start is writing out your negative beliefs. Then, write a positive statement in the present tense, (the opposite of your belief) and make it filled with as much kindness to yourself as possible. After all, it’s how you’ll be speaking to yourself every day! Hopefully the affirmations I’ve shared above will give you a good idea of the most impactful words to use.

How to Practice Affirmations

First things first, you don’t have to say them out loud if you don’t want to. They’re just as powerful saying them in your head.

To be honest, affirmations aren’t part of my daily routine currently, but they have been in the past, and they made such a difference to my mindset. I felt that little bit better equipped to face the day because I’d given myself a pep talk first thing.

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As with anything that benefits my mental well-being, I tend to have the bad habit of only practicing them when I ‘need’ it, rather than just having it as part of my daily routine as standard. It’s something I’m working on.

Affirmations helped me over come so much of my negative thinking in the past, so I’m definitely keen to give them a go again. I encourage you to as well.

My first tip with affirmations is to try not to overthink when you’ll practice them. I think that’s what’s held me back from having them as part of my morning rituals at the moment.

What used to work for me best was writing my affirmations on post-it notes and sticking them around the mirror in my en-suite bathroom. I was brushing my teeth in front of that mirror, so they were one of the first things I saw in the morning and one of the last things I saw at night. I would recite them in my head in the the few minutes I was brushing my teeth, and in the mornings, whilst I was putting my make-up on.

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It did feel strange at first because I’d got so used to having negative thoughts floating around my head, and yes, I did feel a bit weird talking to myself, but, the more I said the words, the more I began to believe them. Looking myself in the eye as I was saying them in my head always used to help me really connect to the words too.

You might choose to write your affirmations on cards and carry them around in your pocket or purse, getting them out to look at and recite when you need a boost.

Or, to get you feeling positive and powerful from the get go, you could recite them during your morning shower.

As with anything powerful, it may take some trial and error, but it will be worth it. Just find a way that feels most comfortable for you.

Have you tried affirmations before? Which are your favourites of the ones I’ve shared? Tell me in the comments.

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An Easy Guide To Mental Well-Being

There’s nothing like being thrown into a pandemic to make you evaluate your mental health. It’s something that I think that we’re probably more aware of now than ever.

In the last few years especially, it almost seems as though ‘well-being’ has become a buzz word to cover all manner of things, so I wanted to investigate further what exactly it means in relation to our mental health.

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So what are the components of mental well-being? How can we look after it? And how can looking after it help when we’re facing a particularly challenging point in our lives?

Here’s your guide to what exactly mental well-being is, and how you can go about nurturing it:

What Is It?

Mental well-being describes your mental state; how you are feeling and how you can cope with day to day life.

As we’ve all probably noticed throughout lock down so far, our mental state definitely isn’t fixed. It can change on any given moment, day or week.

The mental health charity, Mind, describes someone as having good mental well-being if: you have a relatively good level of confidence, can feel and express a range of emotions, can build and maintain good relationships, feel engaged with the world around you, live and work productively, can cope with the daily stresses of life, and can adapt in times of change and uncertainty.

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Be honest with yourself, are there things on that list that you could benefit from working on? I know that I still struggle with my self-esteem and confidence, and adapting to a lot of change all at once can be challenging. (hello Corona)

How To Look After It

Awareness

With anything related to our mental health, it all comes down to awareness. Tuning in to why we might be feeling how we are, gives us a potential path to go down in order to make ourselves feel better.

Loss, relationship issues, stress at work, and money worries could all be potential triggers to cause our mental well-being to go off-kilter.

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I’m the first to admit that the end of my marriage totally knocked me for six, and lead me into finding more ways to look after my mental well-being because I knew I needed it.

Currently, I find that journaling a great way to keep track of my mood on a daily basis, and often I’ll end up writing something that I wasn’t even really aware was causing me issues.

On days when I’m not feeling quite so in tune with myself, it can simply be a great way just to dump the jumble of thoughts that are going on in my head before I start the day properly. It allows me to think more clearly about the day ahead.

Talk About It

There’s the old saying ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’, and I definitely think it applies here. Talking about whatever is throwing your mental well-being off with a person or people you trust can not only be sounding board and a method of support, but can also help you approach things from a different perspective.

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My group of close friends have been great when I wanted to vent about the frustrations of my divorce, and more recently we’ve all been sharing our lock down anxieties. Just chatting with others and knowing you’re not alone in your situation can be a great tonic, and it’s something that I’m passionate about championing.

If you find that after talking things through with the people you trust that you’re still struggling, you may feel that you need to speak to a professional, and that’s totally okay too. You’ll know yourself what feels best.

Make Time For Yourself

Doing things that you enjoy and taking time to take care of yourself really can help get you back to feeling more of ‘yourself’. It’s a great way of maintaining your sense of mental well-being on a daily basis.

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As I spoke about in my last post, I make sure I incorporate reading, writing and dancing into my day. It’s what I enjoy most, and is guaranteed to give me a lift.

Think about what you love doing – even as little as 5 to 10 minutes of it a day can help with your mental well-being.

Learning a new hobby or skill can also help boost your mental well-being. It can up your confidence levels and give you sense of achievement. It could be getting crafty with crochet or pom poms (is it just me or are pom poms everywhere at the moment?!) or learning a new language.

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Towards the beginning of lock down I started learning Portuguese using Duolingo. If you’ve read my previous blog post, you’ll know that Portugal is one of my favourite places, so it made sense that I learn a few words and phrases. I’ll be honest that I’ve let my daily practice on the app slip, but I definitely want to get back into it again, as I loved the little thrill I got from learning new words.

Have you tried any of theses ways of looking after your mental well-being? Or do you have any of your own ideas? Let me know in the comments.

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4 Things We Can Learn From Monks

Since lock down started the clocks have moved forward to British summer time and we’ve welcomed some much sunnier weather. Well, in between all the thunderstorms that seem to be happening at the moment anyway. It feels like Summer is finally in the (muggy) air, and this time of year is often linked to fresh starts.

I think I’ve seen just about all of my friends clearing out their wardrobes or tidying up their cupboards on their Instagram stories. I’ve joined in on this too. It’s like the combination of lock down and it suddenly being Summer means we want to clean and sort everything!

We’re obviously no stranger to giving our physical space a spring clean, but what about our mental head space?

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I find that being reflective can often help me gain a new perspective on situations in my life, or those going on around me – a perspective that benefits me more mentally.

However, I’m also mindful not to let these reflections lead me into the negative self talk that I know I’m capable of. Without conscious effort otherwise, our brains will always latch on to the negative rather than the positive.

I read an article recently about a former Monk. I was really interested in how his studies influenced his approach to life now – in particular how to create purpose, reach his potential, and find inner peace.

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It got me thinking that this approach could be really good for our well-being; by taking the time to think about our passions and strengths it can actually mean having more of them in our life. For this, Monks believe that there are 4 areas for us to consider:

What are you good at, but don’t love?

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Unfortunately this can often describe someone’s job. This doesn’t mean you should automatically leave it though.

Think if there are ways that you could learn to love what your strengths actually bring you. Or, is there an aspect of your job that you love and could work towards doing more of?

To be honest, I don’t enjoy all the elements of my job, but (when I can go back) I plan on cultivating more of what I do enjoy and seeing how it can be incorporated into my other responsibilities.

What are you not good at, but love?

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This is a tricky one to admit, but there’s nothing to say that you can’t get better at whatever this is. You could use coaching or online courses to help you improve.

For example, although I knew what I wanted to achieve with this blog, I didn’t necessarily know how to get there. Not on my own anyway, so I joined the Grow & Glow Community.

I’ve been learning from the great resources they have, and the other members are really supportive too. I wasn’t going to let my lack of initial knowledge hold me back! (side note – if you’re a creative or blogger, and want to build a personal brand, I definitely recommend that you join – it’s well worth the membership)

What are you not good at, and don’t love?

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Hopefully it’s obvious that these are the kind of tasks that you should be spending the least amount of your time and energy on as they don’t give you anything back in return. More than likely they will be the daily chores in life that grind us down.

Things like keeping track of your monthly budget, or doing the ironing. Think about if a friend or your partner could help you with them. (if it’s something they enjoy) Or, could you invest in a tool or app that will make them easier to deal with? If you have the money, you could also out-source the task to some one else completely.

What are you good at, and love?

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This is ideally how we all want to be living day to day – spending time on our talents and doing the things that we love.

For me, it’s been finding that extra little bit of time each day to write, read, and dance about to my favourite tunes!

On reflection, what do you plan on adding more of into your life? Or trying to eliminate completely? I’d be really interested to hear, so lets have a chat about this in the comments.

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