3 Benefits of Practising Gratitude

For the last year or so, I’ve been practising gratitude on a daily basis with the help of my 6 Minute Diary. And, more recently, my daily goal setter, which was sent to me from the lovely people at Mal Paper.

I’ve realising that being prompted to find 3 things to be grateful for in the morning, and something that I appreciated about my day just before bed, is one of the easiest ways of expressing gratitude.

Before I had a planner, gratitude, and practising it on a daily basis, seemed a little contrived and woo. Simply because forcing myself to find good things that happened in my day didn’t feel authentic. Especially when I was having a bad day.

Now that I’m feeling the compound effects of being consciously grateful each day, I’m understanding just how important having an attitude of gratitude is in life. Here’s the 3 benefits I’ve personally felt in by flexing my gratitude muscle every day:

It Helps You Attract More Things To Be Grateful For

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Bear with me, I know this sounds woo, but carry on reading.

One of the ideas that I’ve read about over the years that is resonating with me more and more, is that what you focus on grows. For example, have you ever woken up on the wrong side of bed, stubbed your toe, burnt your tongue on your morning cuppa, then the day just went down hill from there?

The opposite is true too. By starting the day thinking of a few things that you appreciate in life, whether that be as wide reaching as your family and friends being fit and well, or as specific as the way your hair feels after it’s been freshly washed, it gets our brains into the habit of looking for other great things in our life.

You’ll then find good things just seem to be happening more and more, and that opportunities pop up out of no where. I’ve been feeling this more and more recently, and I know it’s a result of me training my brain through gratitude to see the good in every situation.

It Boosts Your Self Esteem

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When you’re in a more grateful mindset, it makes sense that you then feel more satisfied with your life in general.

This then stops us having such an urge to compare ourselves to others, as we feel content with where we’re at on our own journey. It also means that we can cheer our peers on from a place that feels genuine, rather than secretly resenting their success, or not feeling good enough ourselves.

This has been a very welcome side affect of practising gratitude for me. I’ve struggled on and off for years with comparing myself to others because of my own limiting beliefs. I’m not going to lie, it’s not something that’s happened over night, but consistently being grateful has helped put in perspective what’s important to me in my life, and not to strive after the idea of success that is shown on my social media feed.

It Builds Resilience

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Recognising everything that you have to be grateful for, even during the most uncertain and challenging times helps to build our resilience.

Being grateful for the little things in life, is what’s got me through some tough days during lock down, and continues to put things in perspective for me when I feel hard done by. Such as the fact that I have enough money for food or caught a glimpse of a cute squirrel on my lunch time walk that made me smile.

There is always something to be thankful for, not matter how small, which is sometimes the glimmer of hope we need to keep on moving forwards one step and one day at a time.

What are you grateful for today?

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4 Tips For Building a Resilient Mindset

Building a resilient mindset is something that I’ve had to work on over the years. When my marriage fell apart a few years ago, I was at a complete loss as to how I should move forward. It felt like I had to draw upon every single ounce of energy I had just to remain positive.

Although I believe we all start with a level of resilience that’s cultivated through our childhood and teenage years, it’s taken practice and time for me to build my own resilience to a stage where I’m not that phased by big periods of change. I believe I can deal with it, just like I’ve dealt with change before.

So how do you go about building personal resilience?

Well the 4 tips that I’m about to share with you are things that I’ve had as part of my daily routine on and off over the last few years. I’m now in the position where I do all of them, and to say that they’ve helped me with all he uncertainty that 2020 has brought with it, would be an understatement.

I urge you to give a few of them a go (if you don’t do them already) so that you can build your own resilience; hopefully facing whatever life has in store for you next with a greater sense of inner strength.

Start Journaling

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This is something that I returned to earlier this year when lock down set in. I find that by noting down what’s on my mind, and how I’m feeling about it, helps me deal with it much better, and builds my resilience in the process.

By getting curious about why I react to situations in a certain way, or why I’m feeling particularly emotionally charged towards something, has been a great tool in me getting to know myself better too. And when I know myself better, I can trust that the decisions I’m making are the right ones.

It hasn’t always been that way though. When I first started journaling, I struggled with what to write. That’s where prompts can be really helpful. You can look on Pinterest or Google to find useful prompts to get to know yourself better, or reflect on how your feeling about the curve ball that life’s thrown you. I even made myself a jar full of prompts at the start of lock down.

Recently, I’ve been preferring just writing for 10 minutes first thing in the morning about everything that’s on my mind. That way it’s out of my head and on paper. And once it’s out, that’s when I can start to deal with it.

Listen to Inspiring Podcasts

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It might sound a little strange, but my favourite way to listen to podcasts is in the shower. I used to listen to them on the bus on the way to work, and once I was put on lock down started, I had to figure out another way to get my fix.

The main reason why I listen to podcasts is because they inspire me to see things from a different perspective, or they affirm something that I’ve already been thinking. Both of which builds my resilience because I learn to trust my judgement more, whilst keeping my mindset in a more positive place. Things always seem easier to face when you can find the silver lining, no matter how small.

The podcasts I’m loving at the moment are:

Practical Positivity with Sophie Cliff – short bursts of weekly advice to help you find joy in your everyday.

Deliciously Ella – the podcast series covers all aspects of wellness and well-being. I particularly love the episodes about finding happiness and the importance of sleep.

How To Fail with Elizabeth Day – Elizabeth champions things not going right in life, and everything that we learn from them. Each episode she speaks to a well known person about their perceived failures.

Read Self Development Books

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Reading is the first thing that I turned to on my quest to build my resilience because I enjoy reading so much anyway.

I’ve written a blog post (you can read it here) about the 5 self-development books that have had the biggest effect on my life. Like I say in the post, I a big believer that the book you need the most at any given point in time will work its way into your hands.

Just like with podcasts, books encourage me to view my life from a different perspective, and they help with building my resilience because I’m learning that there is always a different way to view or approach a problem that will lead to solving it. This inspires me not to give up when things feel like too much, because I know there will always be another way.

At the moment I’m reading Super Attractor by Gabby Bernstein. It’s based around the idea of manifestation which is something that I’ve become more and more interested in. If you’re in need of some inspiration with what to read check out the ones I mention in my blog post that I’ve shared the link to just above.

Use Affirmations

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I’m admit, affirmations are something which I’ve only started to come back to recently. Mainly because I stopped them when they started working, not realising that for them to really work, you need to be saying them to yourself consistently.

Affirmations help to build a resilient mindset because they reframe negative thoughts you have either about yourself, or your situation into positive ones. When you say affirmations often enough you trick your brain into actually believing that they’re true.

I’ve been finding it tricky recently to really believe that I’ll make my freelance business plans work, but I’ve been surprised just how much affirmations have helped my mindset. I’m starting to believe in myself much more, and that makes it so much easier to face more challenging circumstances.

In case you were wondering, saying affirmations in your head works just as well as saying them out loud. (so no need to worry about the potential awkwardness of someone else overhearing you) And if you’re not sure where to start, I wrote a blog post featuring 5 affirmations to increase your positivity that you can read here.

Which of these tips for building resilience will you be trying first?

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4 Mental Health Benefits Of Spending Time In Nature

If there’s one thing that lock down has pushed me to do more of, it’s spending time in nature. What started off as being one of the only reasons I could go outside of our flat each day, has now turned into one of my favourite forms of self care. It’s become obvious too, that my previous office-based lifestyle wasn’t allowing me to get any where near enough of it.

Spending time in nature has become one of my daily self care rituals, simply because it has such a positive affect on my mental health. Being outside has become so important for me, because it’s 30 minutes of escapism. I can briefly get away from what’s buzzing around in my head that day, and momentarily stop worrying about what’s going on in the wider World.

I’ve been surprised just how much getting outside has improved my mental health. It’s definitely been something that I’ve leant on heavily through some big periods of change that we’re all feeling at the moment. (hello Covid and Covid-related redundancy) So why is getting outside so important? If you don’t already, here’s 4 reasons why you should think about getting out in nature more often:

It Lifts Our Mood

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Several studies have linked walking in nature to improved mental health.

I remember in the months before the break up, when I was feeling anxious and ridden with guilt as to whether I should end my marriage or not, I used to go on a walk almost daily. It’s been the same with my coping with other big changes in my life recently; mentally trying to get through Corona, and remain positive when faced with redundancy.

My walk of choice then, and now, is along a foot path close to a harbour that’s a few minutes away from my flat. The sound of the water always has a massive calming affect on me, and lifts the mental fog that going through such a lot of uncertainty brings. It’s the tonic I need to get some perspective.

It Boosts Our Energy

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It’s been said that a 20 minute walk can have the same energetic impact on our brains as a cup of coffee.

I definitely believe this one. Before Covid was a part of our lives, I had got into the habit of going for a 5 minute walk with one of my work mates every lunch time. My office didn’t have any windows, so it was great to get out and actually see daylight. It also meant we wouldn’t hit the dreaded afternoon ‘wall’ until past 4pm, which was much longer than we could last without having a walk.

Now, as a freelancer, I’ve made getting outside a non-negotiable part of my lunchtime routine. I always find that I get back to my desk feeling a bit more perky and with fresh ideas for the projects I’m working on that day.

It Encourages Us To Be Present

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Getting outside in nature gives your brain a much needed break from the overstimulation it has to deal with from our busy lifestyles. There’s always an email to look at, or a social media notification screaming for our attention.

Side note: if you’ve watched the Social Dilemma on Netflix, you’ll know just what this is doing to us as individuals, and as a society.

Leaving your phone at home, or firmly in your pocket, means there’s nothing dragging your attention away from the present moment and what’s around you. This is the number one reason why I think getting outside is so good for our mental health. Being present with what’s happening around you, even if it’s just for a few minutes, is a game changer.

When I went out for a walk earlier today, I was fascinated by just watching the clouds move and the changing light. It was beautiful. Taking a moment to really breathe in the intricacies that mother nature provides us with is the rest that our brain needs.

It Enhances Our Creativity

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For similar reasons to the ones I’ve already mentioned, getting outside gets our creative juices flowing.

I always find that I come up with some of my best ideas after I’ve been for a walk. That’s because it feels like when I’m in nature, my thoughts are given space to breathe.

If I leave my phone at home, there’s nothing else demanding my attention, so solutions and project ideas seem to pop up out of the blue. A lot of my ideas for blog posts have come about from being outside.

I’ve also come home from walks in nature equipped with a strong realisation as to what the next best step will be in helping me navigate out of a period of change.

Final Thoughts

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Now obviously not everyone has access to the woods or a beach on their doorstep. I’m lucky enough that I’m close to water, because, as I’ve already mentioned, I really do find the sound of waves calming. However, even getting out to your nearest green space, or a tree-lined street could help.

My advice to make sure you get the sustained benefits of spending time in nature, is to find a way to realistically factor it into your day so that it can gradually become a habit.

For me, this looks like a 30 minute walk as part of my lunch break. For you, it might be grabbing 15 minutes outside before your day begins, or using time in nature as a marker for the end of your work day.

What’s the biggest benefit that you’ve felt from spending time in nature?

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3 Things To Remember When You Feel Overwhelmed By Change

To say that 2020 has been a year of overwhelming change would be an understatement. It’s affected so many of us on so many levels.

In fact, for me, the last 3 years or so have be a roller coaster ride of various changes and my trying to cope with them. It started with my marriage ending, then getting out onto the dating scene, starting a new job, (and then another) and moving house. This year then brought a pandemic that forced me into redundancy and now into a freelance career. I bet that reading this, you’ve been through a similar amount of change in the last few years or so yourself as well.

Often, it can feel like big periods of change happen back to back to one another without giving you the chance to pause and regroup. That’s certainly how it’s felt for me anyway, and I’ve found myself feeling overwhelmed all the time.

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Having spoken with some of my followers on Instagram, I’m understanding that I’m not alone when it comes to not knowing where to start in the midst of an overwhelming amount of change.

When you’re overwhelmed, it can feel like your frozen; so much is different that you don’t dare take another step in any direction for fear of toppling an already unsteady ship.

So how do you deal with feeling overwhelmed? In my experience it all comes down to mindset. If you can get yourself into a positive and productive mindset as much as possible, the rest will feel so much easier.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have bad days. Feeling down and not wanting to face everything that’s happening is natural. We’re not robots. It’s especially on those days that I remind myself of these 3 things to help me feel less overwhelmed:

It Won’t Last Forever

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I know this is a difficult one, because when you’re in the middle of it, it can feel like the fog of change and the uncertainty that it brings with it won’t ever lift. That’s all part of the overwhelm.

It might sound like a bit of an obvious or cheesy analogy, but just like the seasons change, so do our circumstances. If we embrace everything that those seasons have to offer us, it can be that much easier to make the transition into the next one.

Lock down has been a Winter for us all; filled with darkness and storms of uncertainty for us to weather. Winter is a time for self-care and to rest, to prepare ourselves for the fresh start that moving into Spring inevitably brings. Lock down definitely felt like the rest I so desperately needed after being busy, almost to the point of burn out, in my last job.

Navigating a new normal, and what it means for our work and social life, is us moving into Spring. If we look hard enough, there will be opportunities to be had and silver linings to be found.

You Have People To Support You

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I’ve said it before in a blog post that I wrote about feeling lost, but I think it’s definitely important enough to mention again.

You are not alone in this. You do not need to suffer in your overwhelm by yourself. You have friends and family who want the best for you, and who will be there for you. Given the hand that 2020 has dealt us so far, they are likely to be feeling a similar way to you themselves, and you’ll both feel better for getting things off your chest.

I’ve found so much solace in connecting with like minded people on social media too. Being able to consume content from people who are going through, or have been through similar things to me has been a huge boost. Find your online tribe by searching for and following hashtags that interest and inspire you.

Control What You Can Control

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I think that a lot of the overwhelm that comes from change is that it can feel like there is so little that we can control; so why bother trying to do anything?

In the initial weeks of lock down I felt frozen and overwhelmed in this way of thinking for sure. I soon realised this was making me miserable though. Feeling helpless isn’t a good starting point for being able to move forward.

What began to be, and still is, my mantra is; ‘just control what you can control’.

From a practical point of view with Covid, this has meant washing (with gel or water) my hands as often as I feel comfortable when visiting new places and wearing my face mask according to government guidelines. The rest I can’t control, so I try my best not to worry about it.

When facing redundancy, I knew that in seeking out a new working opportunity, the one main thing I could control was my mindset. So to reduce the overwhelm I doubled down on the amount of self development (you can read about my top self development books here) that I was doing, and actively sort out opportunities to be positively inspired.

Which of these things could you do with remembering the most at the moment?

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3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Be Scared Of Change

If there’s one thing that’s pretty much guaranteed in life, it’s that we’ll experience change on some level. Some change is expected, and some really isn’t. (erm, hello Corona) Getting nervous about change is definitely a feeling that I’m familiar with.

In the final year or so of being married, I spent what felt like thousands of hours agonising over the reasons why, even though I was desperately unhappy, I should stay in my relationship. Taking a big step into the unknown just seemed like too much change to deal with. I was anxious, and let the fear of everything that change represented keep me frozen where I was for too long. I was scared to walk away from the comfort of what I’d known for so long.

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When I did eventually get divorced, (you can read everything I learnt from getting divorced here) rather than feeling overwhelmed, it felt like a weight had been lifted. Now, I’m going to be honest and say that overcoming my fear of change didn’t happen overnight, in fact, at times it was it was emotionally draining, and it took some real inner work. Was it worth it though? For sure.

I was originally inspired to write this post after reading a blog on a similar subject by Jodie Melissa. She wrote about how our anxious reaction to change is natural because we crave safety, and I would agree with this for sure.

However, as with pretty much everything that I’ve learnt, seeing things from a new perspective really does help when faced with change. I wanted to share with you the reasons why I’ve found that stepping away from safety and into the unknown isn’t something to be scared of, but instead, is something we all have the strength to embrace.

It’s A Learning Experience

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Change knocks us off course, and as you try to navigate through it and out the other side, things probably won’t happen exactly as you want them to along the way.

But that’s okay, because it’s through that experience that you’ll learn. Some lessons will be harder than others, but ultimately they will help you grow.

When my marriage was ending, I made, in hindsight, some questionable choices with my finances. This included putting a long weekend in Ibiza, (my way of escaping everything that was going on) all on my credit card.

Whilst this didn’t put me in the greatest position financially, as I was saddled with a substantial amount of debt to pay off, it did teach me the importance of budgeting effectively. Meaning that I can now experience the events and parts of the World that will leave me with the best memories, not a massive hole in my pocket.

You’ll Grow Stronger & Wiser

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It’s through things not going right, that not only will you learn, but you’ll also become stronger. As Kelly Clarkson famously sings “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, and by getting back up again, you gain the resilience to be able to face the next change that comes your way without feeling quite so scared.

I was terrified about getting back on to the dating scene after my marriage ended, but threw myself into the dating apps anyway. Through A LOT of trial and error, disappointments, and frankly weird experiences, I became wise to the behaviour of certain men on the apps, and the red flags to avoid.

I don’t view it as wasted energy though, because I became more resilient to rejection, and despite the ups and downs, I actually met my current boyfriend on a dating app.

What’s Meant For You Will Not Pass

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Although you may feel lost in the midst of all the change initially, I’m a strong believer that what’s meant for you will not pass. This can offer the much needed comfort that we crave as a knee-jerk reaction to change.

Forgive me for sounding a little woo, but, if you’ve set the intention for what you want from your life moving forwards out of the change you’re experiencing, and you’re doing the things that will get you there, then the Universe will step in and support you.

Even though I was stepping away from everything I had known in my marriage, I had a gut feeling that the pieces would eventually come back together again. I never imagined that those parts of my life would be gone, but I had faith that the new pieces would create a happier and more fulfilled picture for me.

What’s the biggest change that you’ve learnt from?

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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.

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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 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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5 Things I Would Tell My Younger Self

When I look back at myself when I was 18, it’s actually pretty shocking just how naïve I was. I’m not sure I would have it any other way, but there are a few things that I wish younger me knew so that she didn’t get quite so hurt trying to muddle through her days.

That’s the benefit of hindsight – it only comes through lived experience, and at the tender age of 18 I didn’t have very much of that.

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I arguably had a reasonably sheltered upbringing. Although I tragically lost a family member before their time, and witnessed the breakdown of my parents’ marriage in my teenage years, there was nothing much else that emotionally challenged me.

So if I could write to that eager, curious, bright, kind, and insecure 18 year old, these are the 5 things I would tell her:

Believe in Yourself

You’re far more intelligent, adaptable and talented than you give yourself credit for.

Try to stop comparing yourself to others; your friends at dance class, friends at school, and your siblings. You’re not the same as they are, you’re uniquely you, and that’s amazing.

If you carry on comparing, it will not only negatively affect your self belief now, it will carry on affecting you in the future.

Have the courage to just do you.

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I started with this, as it’s a biggie that I wish I’d taken on board at a much younger age. I’ve let (and continue to let) my lack of self-belief hold me back from opportunities that I would have been perfect for. Or, it’s held me back from starting a project that I’m passionate about (like this blog) sooner.

If you’re struggling with comparison, I highly recommend The Comparison Cure by Lucy Sheridan. I’m working through it at the moment, and gaining so much from it.

Don’t Do Things Just To Please Other People

Just because someone else thinks something is right for you, it doesn’t mean that it is.

Get to know yourself; what you like and what you want out of life. Don’t feel pressured to do things that you don’t want to or agree with.

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When I was 18 I had dreams of being a drummer, and wanted to move to down to London with a friend to try my chances at session drumming or getting into a band. It might not have worked, but I wanted to give it a go.

Instead, I was talked out of that and into going to University. I don’t necessarily regret it, but I often wonder what would have happened if I had done what I really wanted to do.

In adult life the people pleasing things I’ve done have mainly centered around social events. I’ve said yes to drinks out with acquaintances for fear they would think I was rude, rather than staying at home curled up with a good book, like the introvert in me really wanted. This has resulted in me feeling exhausted a lot of the time.

In the last few years I’ve definitely become a lot better at setting boundaries. If I’m tired, or not having a great mental health day, I’ll say so. I won’t worry about cancelling plans because those that I’m cancelling them with are good enough friends that they’ll understand anyway.

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Your Body Doesn’t Define You

Your dress size isn’t a measure of how beautiful or desirable you are.

Don’t let any one manipulate you into feeling worthless by body shaming you.

Your body is strong and capable no matter what size or shape it is.

Oh how I wish my 18 year old self had realised this sooner. Growing up at a time when size zero was seen as the ideal body shape, and taking dance classes from such a young age, meant I very much bought into the idea that thin equals beautiful. It’s sad that I wasted so much time and energy feeling unhappy with how I looked and working so hard to change it.

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As I’ve covered in more detail in one of my earlier posts, I let my ex manipulate me into feeling very insecure about my body purely by the amount of times he would tell me I was fat. It ruined my self-confidence.

Now that I’m in my 30s, I’m finally learning to appreciate the body that I see in the mirror more and more. I’m thankful for everything that it allows me to do, and that it’s fit and healthy.

Don’t Be Afraid To Speak Up

Your opinion matters. Don’t be afraid to share it.

You are intelligent and knowledgeable enough, and people will listen.

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This links back to lack of self belief, and for a long time in meetings, and even in relationships, I was afraid to speak up for ‘getting it wrong’, being mocked or being shouted at.

Being at the stage of my career that I am, I have found myself recently in more meetings with senior managers. I’m more confident in getting my point across because I go in prepared. That, and I know that I have the experience to back up what I’m saying.

I’m also at a point in my life now where I’m not afraid to speak up about things I’m passionate about, because I know it’s important. It’s just a shame that my 18 year old self didn’t have the confidence or conviction to.

Trust Your Instincts

If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

If you gut tells you something, act on it. It’s the universe nudging you onto the right path.

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This is definitely something I wish I’d known about sooner because it could have lead me out of some awkward or difficult situations.

I dated guys that I knew weren’t really right for me from the off, but stayed with them anyway because I was desperate for the attention. When I would inevitably end up getting hurt, it only worked to further dent my confidence.

On the flip side, in my late twenties, at roughly the same time I decided to end my marriage, I also made the gut decision to leave my job. I didn’t have another job to go to.

Literally everyone I knew thought I was crazy, but I made it work. The time I spent temping gave me the experience which lead me to the position I’m in now. It was also the fresh start I so desperately needed.

Would you tell your younger self these same things? What else do you think she would need to know? Tell me in the comments

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