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)

An image of a desk with a laptop on to show the idea of working from home
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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.

Woman balancing on a rock because she feels free
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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.

A door opening to show bottled up feelings being released
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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.

Woman in a field with her arms in the air, feeling free
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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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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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