Show yourself love and respect…please!

Today’s post is going to be about my journey with mindfulness and intentional thinking. My last mindfulness post was really well received by you all so I wanted to do another one reflecting a bit more on my own mindfulness journey and why it is so important for the quality of your life!

If you haven’t seen my other mindfulness post yet check it out here.

I will first give a bit of background to my attitudes towards mindfulness, manifestation and the ideas of cultivating a positive mindset. I was never one to think it worked, in fact I used to think it was naïve to have a positive mindset because to me it just seemed unrealistic to be happy and positive 24/7. To be honest I do still believe this, the world can be unkind, positivity cannot constantly flow from you. You can’t feel positive all the time. The trials and tribulations of life show us all that. Someone telling you ‘look on the bright side of life’, is still something I think is patronising and way easier said than done. I think instead finding a balance between the two is important. It is okay if you are not being your best self everyday, people fall out of routine and that’s okay. However, developing a mindset where you can be intentional with your thoughts and emotionally agile in situations of distress or conflict, that’s what mindfulness is all about for me. It’s not necessarily about being happy but showing yourself the respect and love you deserve. Being mindful allows you to become resilient, strong, and aware of your emotions. You gain the ability to to deal with issues that arise and handle them calmly and appropriately.

I practice mindfulness in multiple ways as mentioned in my last post. I think meditation is extremely effective for achieving a calm and centred mindset. Each morning taking 10 minutes to deeply breathe and just focusing on that breathing can release tension and clear your mind so that you are ready for the day. As well as this, positive affirmations. They feel a little cheesy sometimes, but they don’t have to be. You decide what you tell yourself and how you want to speak to yourself. So, speaking positively about the day you’re going to have, the emotions you are going to feel, being intentional about where you focus your energy. This can be really helpful for steering your day and keeping you on track. Combined with this, being conscious of negative thoughts and doubts, acknowledging them but not feeding into them. Finally, for me journaling is so important. It helps you keep track of your emotions and also shows how far you’ve come in your journey. Sometimes we don’t notice our growth so having a journal that you can reflect on reinforces to you that you are growing. Emptying your thoughts onto paper can feel relieving, writing about what you are grateful for and how you want to improve in life, setting goals and saying you will achieve them. This is all part of intentional thinking. Being aware of what is going on inside your head and taking control.

Developing all these habits requires a lot of self-discipline. It’s an ongoing journey so don’t be hard on yourself if you skip a day or don’t stick to routine. Developing these activities to be habits is vital to noticing their impact but don’t be strict, show yourself compassion in your own personal journey.

The one I find the hardest is talking to myself positively, but intentionally showing myself love has allowed me to jump start my way of thinking and outlook on life. Developing this frame of mind is about saying no to the negative thoughts that come into your head, the doubts or lies you tell yourself. Sitting in negativity isn’t good for your mental wellbeing. Making it a habit of saying no to those thoughts is so important. Often if I am having a bad day and I continue to tell myself things like: ‘today sucks’, ‘I can’t do this’, ‘I’m too tired’, the more I will sink into the bad day and struggle to pull myself out of it. I won’t allow my brain to see any redeeming parts of the day, I just continue walking under my own rain cloud. Pulling yourself out of that frame of mind is what mindfulness is all about for me. Being intentional with your thoughts is all about controlling your mind.

Actively and intentionally choosing to love yourself, love your body, speak kindly to yourself, self-invest and just overall respecting yourself and what you as a person have to offer is key to a better quality of life. Self-hating and self-deprecation feel easier sometimes than self-love. It feels easier to see the negative parts of ourselves and often we give more energy to those parts of ourselves instead of all the great parts. Practicing mindfulness means that I have given myself time to appreciate myself and to mentally check in. A lot of the times if we aren’t mentally checking in we aren’t controlling our thoughts, they are just running free, because it feels habitual to dwell we don’t realise we are just constantly hating on ourselves. This kind of mindset leads to depression and anxiety and the more we stay inside of it the more we struggle to get back out again. We should instead be intentional with our thoughts, actively focusing on positives rather than letting ourselves sit in the negatives. I know that this is sooo easy to say, and hearing it when you are going through it is the literal most annoying thing ever, but once you are out of it, it ends up making so much sense. Of course speaking to yourself with love and respect will overall make you a stronger and healthier person. You just have to get to that point where you are willing to try it, it takes strength and commitment. But you owe it to yourself to at least try to speak to yourself with compassion.

So please, especially in times like these, speak to yourself with respect and love. Be aware of your thoughts and focus energy onto the ones that allow you to grow and feel good. Take time to yourself to reflect and feel gratitude. Most importantly, don’t doubt yourself, remind yourself of your worth everyday!

Practicing mindfulness

I’ve been uploading quite a few politics focused posts recently, so today I decided to talk about another subject I am equally passionate about…mental health. I love to write these posts and they get a great response from you all, so I hope you enjoy.

If you’re in the UK, like myself, you’ll be in lockdown 2.0 right now, with not much longer to go before another set of changes. Uncertainty is the theme of 2020, honest to god, who knew we were going to be in another lockdown in November. With that uncertainty for the future has come a huge amount of anxiety. Feeling okay with just not knowing what next week is even going to look like can be very hard, I know I’ve definitely struggled with it.

For a lot of lockdown I felt the constant need to fill my time and to be as productive as possible. Whether that was taking online courses, reading, learning a new skill, even making this website, I had to be doing something otherwise I would be worrying about what was going to happen next or where I’d be in a post-corona world (whenever that is lol). I was desperate to not feel like I’d wasted a large chunk of life watching TV and pretty much doing nothing, however throughout an on and off lockdown from March to now, I’ve learnt that doing nothing sometimes is perfectly okay and in some cases is hugely important for our mental health, we can’t always be go go go! I spoke about this more in a recent post called ‘The Wonders of Self Care’.

Since that post I’ve been working on being more mindful, showing myself more respect and being more self-aware, and I have to say it’s done a lot of good. I think the fact that we just never know what’s going on at the moment or what the future holds can be very un-nerving. I’m definitely one to look to the future and worry things won’t work out, but with our current climate it can be even more worrying not knowing what is going on. I’ve decided that in order to combat that feeling I have to be more mindful and self-aware, I need to be doing what I can to stay sane in the moment. We never really know what is going to happen in the future, so instead, focusing on what is going on right now can settle that worry and uncertainty.

What is mindfulness and why is it important?

It is easy to end up living in our own heads and not being aware of what is really going on around us, how we are feeling, or what our thoughts are really telling us. We end up becoming stuck in auto-pilot, living out our days, unaware of our thoughts and how they effect the way we view and talk to ourselves. Mindfulness unlocks the ability to show ourselves self-respect and kindness, this then translates into our everyday lives.

When we practice mindfulness it allows us to see our own thought patterns and why certain situations or scenarios make us feel a certain way, we can train ourselves to better deal with these situations. When we are mindful of our emotions we can notice signs of stress or anxiety and mange them more effectively. If we are more self-aware of what is going on in our head we can control it and not fixate on negative feelings or emotions. We learn self-discipline and how to ensure our thoughts don’t control us, we control them.

Meditation and mindfulness has lots of proven benefits to our mental and physical health. It can lower stress levels, improve your sleep, improve your focus and attention span, help to prevent depression relapses, reduce anxiety and increases the size of grey matter in your brain. It was found in a study that consistent meditation and mindfulness increased grey matter in the left hippocampus, the posterior cingulate cortex, temporo-parietal junction, and cerebellum. These areas of the brain deal with the regulation of emotion, learning processes, perspective and memory. As well as this, there has been evidence to show that mindfulness can reduce chronic pain and lower blood pressure. Overall mindfulness is significantly helpful in improving our wellbeing.

It can be scary or intimidating for some people to meditate or practice mindfulness, when you stop and sit in silence a lot of worries and thoughts come flooding in. It is important to remind yourself that these are just thoughts in your head and the more you focus on them the more they fill you with anxiety. You should instead turn away from them and remind yourself that these are just feelings, they don’t manifest in reality, they are just doubts, they are not real.

How have I been practicing mindfulness?

Each day I’ve been doing a meditation / affirmation morning routine to focus myself for the day. I’ve never been one to think this type of exercise is effective but I have found that it really helps to calm me and start my day right.

I put on some meditation or wave sound music and I breathe slowly and deeply, focusing on that breathing, any thoughts that would try to jump in I turn away from and focus my thoughts back onto following my breathing or listening to the sounds in the music. After this, I continue breathing and practice positive self talk and affirmations, reminding myself of what I’m grateful for right now in my life and focusing on the good, even if they are small things. The constant reminder of these affirmations each morning allows me to check myself and fight doubts I may be having. The journey of self-improvement is never an easy one, some days it is harder to focus than others, but sticking to the routine is so important.

I think meditation and mindfulness teaches you really important skills about controlling your thoughts. It’s easy to slip into a pattern of negative thinking, so forcing yourself even for 5 minutes to sit and breathe and to only focus on that breathing shows you that you have the ability to say no to the negative thoughts or doubts trying to enter your mind. It shows you that you have discipline and that you are in control of what’s going on in your head. I think this is an important mindset to learn and so far this routine has been incredibly helpful for me to centre myself and start my day correctly. Without showing discipline to your thoughts and being more aware of them, it can become much easier to fall into a negative spiral because you aren’t always aware of what does cause the spiral. Understanding your thoughts and being mindful of them is a good way of understanding what can trigger a path of negative thinking and then ensuring that you don’t take that path.

You should take the time to focus on the right here and right now, being grateful for what you have and reminding yourself of the good in the very day you are in, even if it is one small thing like the weather. Reminding yourself of the bigger picture means you get a better perspective of what’s really going on, and maybe that one thing you were stressing about soooo much, really isn’t as big as you thought it was. I think that there is a lot to learn about being mindful, and a lot it can teach us in terms of emotional agility and resilience through challenges times, like this very pandemic. Many of us have found this year challenging, it has affected our whole way of life, even our perspective on life. Checking in with yourself and being mindful of how you are really feeling is more important now than ever. So, take this as your reminder to crack open your window, let in some fresh air, breathe deeply, be grateful, and remind yourself of who you really are, remember that you can control the thoughts in your head.

The Wonders of Self-care

In honour of world mental health day being today, I wanted to share a post all about self-care and the positive benefits it can have towards our outlook on life, as well as the way we view ourselves. I encourage everyone, every now and then, to take a mental health day, recharge your batteries, and incorporate your own form of self-care and self-reflection into your lives on a regular basis. It can realign your perspective and allow you to start fresh and get back to whatever keeps you busy each day with better focus and a clearer mind. Self-care is about slowing down and enjoying the silence for a moment. We are all constantly focused on everything in our lives rushing by and occupying us. Instead we should take some time to reflect and have a mental check in with ourselves about how we are really feeling.

Enjoying quality time alone is unbelievably important. Finding the perfect balance between socialisation and quality alone time is key to a healthy and happy life. It’s hugely important to take time to yourself to recharge your batteries and reflect on your life. We all need to feel comfortable and calm in our own company, focused on ourselves, not preoccupied a million miles away thinking about everything stressing us out this week. Self care is about investing in yourself, it is no way selfish because it lets you excel better in your relationships and life. You have to invest in yourself before you can invest in others.

Finding the right balance of self-care is very important. You should in no way isolate yourself from your loved ones or use ‘self-care’ as a means of distraction or procrastination in getting something done that needs to be done. However, if you’re feeling burnt out and lacking in energy to fulfil a task, if you’re overthinking or anxious about small things that wouldn’t normally irritate you, then taking some time to yourself is an important remedy.

Self-reflection

Whilst self-reflection isn’t technically part of self-care, I think the two come hand in hand. Taking time to look back on the week, the highs and lows and how they made you feel, can allow you to better understand yourself. This can simply be done by just sitting with yourself and thinking about it, or a more popular version, journaling. Having this form of self-reflection can allow you to keep track of your thoughts.

I think these moments alone are so important because it allows you to understand yourself, what you like and what you don’t like. If you’re reflecting on your week you can ask yourself why a certain scenario that played out frustrated you, or why something made you stressed or anxious. Moments of reflection really let us look inside ourselves to understand our behaviours and emotions.

Feeling comfortable in your own skin and in your own company is a form of self-love and self-acceptance. When you slow down and just sit with yourself you learn things about yourself that you potentially hadn’t noticed before, sometimes comforting or uncomforting things, but you do learn. During the pandemic I realised how much of a workaholic and perfectionist I really am. Although I already knew I was this way, having so much time alone allowed me to understand why I behaved the way I did and how to control those emotions. As a person I have to fit in time for my own forms of self-care for my mental sanity and to prevent burn out. Sometimes self-reflection can feel like a reality check and a wake up call to who you really are. It can shake you out of a rut you are in and wake you up.

I’m not really someone that knows a lot about the law of attraction and manifestations, but self-care or self-reflection is similar because of it’s consistency. Self-reflection is very important for your mental health and outlook on life, it can give you a lot of clarity and help to change up your mindset when you’re feeling low or overwhelmed for whatever reason. It’s like a reset period. I like to use self-care time for affirming behaviour and readjusting my sense of direction, such as setting out monthly goals or focusing on what I achieved in the past week and how that outweighs whatever may have gone wrong. It is similar to manifesting and changing up your mindset because you are taking time to reflect and push yourself in the right direction towards what you want to improve in your life and achieve. Taking time for yourself is one of the most important steps in that process.

Another reason why taking the time to sit with yourself and self-reflect is so important is because a lot of the thoughts we have are sub-conscious, we don’t always realise we are having them and they become part of our nature. Overtime, if we continue to have sub-conscious thoughts revolving around stress, anxiety or lowness, it can build into something much worse. Our minds are powerful; our thoughts have the ability to affect our emotional lives. When we have an irrational or low thought, that has a huge impact on our emotions, even when that thought is falsely interpreted from our reality, it will still have a huge impact on our self-worth and emotions. When we self-reflect, we take the time to actively question these thoughts and stop our mind from taking control.

Self-care is a habit

Turning self-care into a consistent habit is very important in seeing it’s benefits. We have to make it a regular occurrence to take time to ourselves, to self-reflect and to recharge our batteries. It doesn’t always have to be the same activity, but making self-care a part of your routine is revitalising. Keeping up with it means you are always looking out for yourself and showing yourself love and respect.

Self-care really can be anything, it’s completely subjective, but it should be slotted into your week, even your days. For some people self-care is their skincare routine, others it’s watching TV or playing a game, even tidying your room. Something where it’s just you and you are giving undivided attention to yourself.

My own personal self-care really does fluctuate. I find the gym very therapeutic and destressing. Endorphins and moving your body is unbelievably good for your mental health and makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something. However, I also cherish unwinding at the end of the day slowly, either reading or slowly going through my skincare routine, throwing in a face mask. Whatever allows you to relax and focus on yourself…do that.

Finding happiness in the simple moments

I think that taking time alone to breathe and relax, maybe on a walk or just sitting in a spot you find comfortable, can allow you, even for a second, to really feel content and grateful. It’s a difficult feeling to explain, but it is feels almost like a glow. You could get this feeling maybe looking out at a view after a walk, the fresh air in the morning, the comfort of your own home, looking at old pictures. Anything that sparks gratitude and peace.

Holding onto those moments is important because they can keep you going and motivated. I think it’s encouraging to know that there is a potential for peace in your life. No matter what you’re going through, those split seconds can show you that it’s there. It doesn’t mean that things are great right now, or that things will be better in a week. But those simple moments where you feel at peace and grateful for something, potentially during your self-care, is something to hold onto and to cherish. They ground you and they keep you sane.

Moments like these are so important because it allows us to take control of our thoughts. When you are sat alone in silence and that feeling of happiness comes rushing in, even for a second, it shows that happiness or peace is out there for you still, no matter what you are going through. Negative feelings often have the ability to take a strong hold in our mind, removing and displacing them can become a hefty task. A lot of the time repetitive thought patterns keep us feeling low or anxious. Replacing the negative repetitive thoughts can be done in moments of silence. It gives us the time and space we need to turn away from those thoughts, breathe and refocus ourselves and our mindset. Constantly and actively choosing to change your mindset and not let the thoughts consume you. Reminding yourself of something to be grateful for, like those simple moments, can keep you going.

A disclaimer regarding mental illness

Although self-care and self-help techniques are helpful in keeping your mind clear and taking time to relax. It is not a complete remedy to mental illness, it may help you in your bad days, but if your bad days consistently continue you should seek mental health support. It doesn’t have to be taboo and there really is nothing wrong with asking for support when you need it. Reaching out to a loved one or looking for therapies and counselling is normal and should be done more. Don’t undervalue your feelings or disregard them just because they don’t feel as big as other peoples problems because that’s how problems worsen.

It can be frustrating when a family member or friend tells you to just take some time to relax, meditate or write everything down when you are in the midst of feeling low. The same techniques don’t work for everyone and you have to find what works for you. It can be particularly hard to self-reflect productively when you have allowed your anxious, irrational, or negative thoughts to consume you because in moments of self-reflection you can find yourself spiralling. Sometimes you can’t help your self and you need more support, which is why therapy or counselling is a great option, especially cognitive behaviour therapies (CBT), which focuses on displacing those irrational or negative feelings. So, if you are feeling low or anxious and taking time to reflect and focus on yourself is not helping to relieve any burdens, then do reach out for more support. Also remember that your bad days do not equal to a bad life. This is a feeling that you will get through.

Mental health support links

  1. https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/helplines/
  2. https://www.samaritans.org/
  3. https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/?WT.tsrc=Search&WT.mc_id=Brand&gclid=Cj0KCQjwt4X8BRCPARIsABmcnOr94uOrYxgOCHVkR4eYhAB0A0i08VNKgL_xqb4JIh5odFRGdpBHbUIaAtCqEALw_wcB
  4. https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/nhs-services/mental-health-services/
  5. https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/guides-to-support-and-services/seeking-help-for-a-mental-health-problem/where-to-start/