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 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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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.

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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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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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