What are you thinking?

How often do you think about your thoughts?

It probably isn’t something we think about very often, is it? If anything, we’re probably too busy trying to work out what someone else is thinking, rather than ourselves.

So, I have a really simple exercise for you this week.

Set yourself a timer for the same time every day this week, where you know you can take a few minutes out of your day to ask yourself this question. “What are you thinking?”

You don’t have to spend a long time on it, but just get a general feel of what takes up space in your head as you go about your day. If you can, write down a few notes or record a voice note for yourself.

The things that come up might feel surprising or informative. You might be particularly stressed about something you’re doing at that moment, or you could be pleased and excited, thinking about something good. You might be running over a list of things to do, or worrying about something. Your mind might be peace and at rest.

By keeping a daily track like this, it might give you some interesting insight into the things that go through your mind. And if there is a similar theme cropping up, that can be really helpful too.

We often have a narrative running through our heads, and this can often be negative. “Why did I do that?”. “I bet they think I’m useless”. “I always get things wrong”. Recognise any of these? We’ve all been guilty of this self criticism at times.

But when this narrative is playing on repeat, it can have a really harmful effect on how we feel and how we behave. We might stop putting ourselves forward for things, or we become more withdrawn, out of fear of doing or saying the wrong thing, for example.

The sooner we’re able to identify some of the more negative or unhelpful thought patterns, the easier it is to challenge and change them.

Photo credit:   Caleb George on Unsplash

The downside of reaching up

An image of someone writing at a desk

January has been a busy month, as I’m preparing to start a new Post Grad course soon.  I love learning and am excited to be moving on to a new chapter,  but getting ready for it has taken priority in the last few weeks.  Which also means that my usual routines have gone astray recently,  and this got me thinking.  How do we deal with the downside of reaching up?

In an ideal world, we’d be able to do all the things in ample time. But in reality, juggling work and family commitments leaves us with little spare time as it is.  So when we add in another big project, whether it’s studying or working on another personal goal, somethings gotta give.

And for me recently, it’s been the time I would usually spend on myself, whether it’s exercise or meal planning or self care.  The things that can be put off in other words.  But until we stop doing them,  we don’t realise how important they are.

And another thing we don’t factor in is the sense of frustration and confusion we feel at not being able to get everything done. (Or done as well as I would have liked, should I say).

When did we start putting so much pressure on ourselves?

We all know that we can’t do everything all the time, and we know that we “have to be a bit kinder to ourselves”.  This is exactly what we’d say if we were talking to a friend. But doesn’t that make you want to throw up when you’re saying it to yourself?!

Its often much more difficult to take our own advice, for sure.

But this is where the change happens.  When we push through or make changes.  When we notice the pressure and actually do something about it, rather than let it go on until something gives.  Usually it’s us, falling into a heap or quitting.

So if you’re struggling to find that balance, stick with it. And know that this is part of the process.  It isn’t the just the end point that matters, it also matters how we got there. And stayed (hopefully) sane and resilient.

We can do hard things friends, and we can do them whilst being kind to ourselves too!

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

Busting the Blue Monday myth

Cute dog with a sad face

Apparently tomorrow is ‘Blue Monday’.  A phrase coined to describe the midpoint in January where we should all be feeling a bit meh.  Like we’re given permission to feel like crap.  Gee thanks.

However, the factors involved in this descriptor are based around some pretty innocuous things such as;

“It’s Monday, and everyone hates Mondays”.  Not entirely true. If you woke up next to the love of your life who brought you tea and almond croissant in bed,  then your Monday could be starting pretty well.

”It’s cold and dark and ruddy freezing”.   Yeah, it’s Winter. Not everyone hates it. And we get through several more miserable weather Mondays in December, or February.

”It’s ages until payday”.  We reach a midpoint of every month, so we should be used to the length of time between paychecks by now. Of course, we all have times where our finances have been stretched a bit too far,  but generally we know how much we have coming in and how much needs to go out, and we can plan from there.

In other words, there are a stream of reasons given as to why people should dread this time of year.  But when we look at those reasons and start to question how true they are, we may actually find that those same excuses could be used at other times, rather than pinpointing why one particular day is so special.

Isn’t this also true when we’re trying to look for reasons not to do something, or thinking of ways that something won’t work.  In other words, if you look for a reason to be blue, then you’re likely to find one.  But that doesn’t make it true.

And sometimes it’s easier to give off an excuse, rather than look at our own shortcomings.  Because that might involve some work.  Or we might find that actually we could be productive or successful at something, but right now we’re just too lazy or unmotivated to try.  Ouch, right?

So next time you notice that your thoughts or language are veering towards doom and gloom, ask yourself ‘how true is this really?’.  And if those thoughts are stemming from the noise that surrounds you, consider whether you want to listen to it.

Be brave enough to ask yourself the uncomfortable questions.  And certainly don’t allow other people to dull your mood, life’s challenging enough!

However your Monday turns out…just don’t call it blue.

Photo by Sophie Elvis on Unsplash

What Will Light Your Spark This Year?

A close up image of a lit sparkler

What will light your spark this year?

You may still be working your way through the remnants of the Christmas chocs, and haven’t got a clue what you want this year to hold.  Often we don’t.

We might have vague plans or ideas of what we want to do (or need to do!).  And that’s absolutely fine. Give yourself a break if you have got everything mapped out.

One idea I really like is the yearly list that writer Gretchen Rubin advocates.  The plan is that you write a list of 22 things for 2022.  This can be as big or as little as you want, and it can be a mixture of really important ‘must dos’ and fun things too.

The little niggly tasks that you need to get round to, or appointments that you’ve been putting off.  Specific events that you want to attend. Books you want to read. Places you want to visit. Experiences you want to have.

It like a mini bucket list, with some accountability thrown in.   It can be a good place to start if we want to get more organised.  You might want to add a month or year next to each item.  Or get specific things booked in your diary now.

And if you’re struggling with getting motivated, try a couple of the fun ones first and feel the flutter of achievement as you tick them off as done.  Or book something fun in after you’ve completed one of the more challenging ones (love a bit of habit stacking!).

Whatever you choose, I hope that this year sparks more creativity and fun in your days.

Photo by Wout Vanacker on Unsplash

 

 

How To Have A Happier New Year

An image of a calendar page for the month of January

Firstly, Happy New Year to you all!  It’s that time when we sincerely wish each other all the best for the coming 12 months.  And you may be feeling some trepidation about what’s in store, after the last two years.

Here are some ideas of how to have a happier new year.

Firstly, take stock of how the last twelve months have been for you.  For lots of us, 2021 was another challenging year and the thought of turning the calendar page may be welcome.

But if we’re feeling uncertain or anxious about the future, it can be helpful to give a few moments thought to remind ourselves what we’ve gone through.

Secondly, be patient with where you are right now.  New Year is traditionally a time for resolutions and goals, but if you’re feeling depleted and exhausted, then this isn’t the time to make any life changing decisions or set yourself huge challenges.

If you know that there are some changes you want to make in the coming year, start to think about what that might look like.  Why are you wanting to make those changes? How do you want to feel? Focussing on the general ‘big picture’ can help to clarify our goals.  For example, if you’re feeling really frustrated and stuck at work, do you need a new challenge or project rather than making a career change.  Or could you investigate starting a potentially profitable hobby or side hustle whilst you’re still working, to test out how your idea of being your own boss would feel.

Starting small is a good way to go at this time of year.  It’s a lot less pressure than going all-out on something, and you’ll still be making progress.

Likewise if you want to make some lifestyle changes, such as exercising more or eating healthier.  Start by making small incremental changes each week, commit to doing 15mins exercise a day for example, so that you get in the habit of working out at a certain time and then increase it gradually.

It’s estimated that up to 80% of New Years resolutions fail, and that is mainly due by people trying to do too much too soon, and becoming despondent when they can stick to the strict routine or cut things out too quickly.

Taking some time during January to get really clear on how you want to feel by 31st December this year, can help to cement that vision and give you the motivation to get started. And keep going.

Be good to yourself this year, there are still 11 months left to fulfil those New Year wishes!

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

Ready to get cosy?

Who’s ready to get all cosy?!! Except, there’s a million things to do first….

If this sounds familiar, then hopefully these tips will help you to create a little more comfort and joy in the run-up to the festive season.

Plan a festive bucket list.  Before the calendar gets too busy, have a think about the experiences that you want to have this year, and what memories you want to make.  It could involve taking in a Christmas market, or festive afternoon tea with friends.  Or a special date night somewhere cosy, or where you can get glammed up.  Plan the date in the diary with those involved so that you have something lovely to look forward to. 

Don’t feel you need to say yes to every invitation.   We are still all getting used to socialising again, and perhaps some of us are still cautious about gatherings, so plan your diary carefully.  If there is an event coming up that fills you with dread rather than excitement, consider whether you really want to go.   There are often events that we feel obliged to go to, particularly around work or with family/in-laws, but if you know it’s going to be particularly stressful or difficult, make a polite excuse and take some time for yourself instead.  

Use the quiet times wisely.   You might want to make a head start on some planning, before things get really busy.  Start your wrapping early. Write shopping lists for food and/or presents, or start buying a few bits to get ahead.  Doing little and often will buy you a bit of extra time and avoid any last minute panic.

Take care of yourself.   Try and get into a good routine now with healthy meals, plenty of water and regular exercise.  Sounds obvious, but taking care of yourself can help to boost your immune system and reduce the risk of feeling run down, or picking up a cold or bug.   I’m a big fan of homemade soup, and usually make a big pot which lasts a few days – it’s also a great way to get some extra veggies in too. 

Do something the ‘future you’ will thank you for.  If you know that you have a particularly busy week coming up, or maybe you’ll be working right up, or over Christmas, book in some self-care now.  Block out some time in your calendar that you’ll commit to keeping free, or book an appointment for some pampering.  Often we forget to do things for ourselves at this busy time of year, so planning something for yourself now will make future you very happy.

Start daydreaming for 2022.  It’s probably not the time for a big goal-setting session with everything else that you’ll have going on, but you might want to start thinking about what you want the next year to hold.  Holiday, new job, fitness goal?  Starting to imagine what you want to achieve is the first step in making dreams a reality, so allow yourself a few minutes to daydream.

Photo credit: Dan Gold via Unsplash.com

Add Yourself To Your Gift List!

How’s the Christmas shopping going?  And did you remember to put the most important person on the list?

That would be you!

It’s unlikely that many of us do add our own name to the present list, but this can be a really good time of year to remember a very important lesson.  That we need to invest in ourselves too.

I bet you’ve put a lot of thought into what gift to buy your nearest and dearest. Whether it’s something useful, extravagant or just plain heartfelt, we want to show our love and appreciation to those who mean a lot to us.  And it’s only right that we should show ourselves that same consideration too.

Investing in ourselves doesn’t mean splashing out on something lavish.  It can be as simple as buying something that will add value to our life, or booking in for some self care, or learning, or fun.   Spending money on a training course might seem unnecessary if you’re lacking in excess funds, but if it helps you to progress in your career or start a new venture, then looking on it as a long term investment makes sense.

Sometimes we feel stuck in a situation or are unhappy with something, which could be improved by investing some extra time or attention to.  So it doesn’t have to be about spending money, either.

And if we’re feeling low in confidence, wearing old clothes that make us feel drab, or living in an environment surrounded by things that have seen better days, can lower our mood too.

So when you’re spending out on other people this year, ask yourself what gift would truly light you up this year?  And if it isn’t under the tree at Christmas, you have permission to invest in yourself instead.

Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

How can we support ourselves through times of change?

An image of a young person in a confident pose

There’s nothing as certain as change, so they say.  So you’d think we would be able to navigate it with ease, the more we get used to it.  But of course, we know that change can be uncomfortable, and we may even actively avoid it.

But there are ways in which we can support ourselves to make any transition a little easier.

Accept that change is an inevitable part of life.

Our mindset can be the most important tool, so the more comfortable we get with the idea of change, the easier it can be for us to anticipate the changes that will be required.

Take control where you can.

Not all change will be of our own making, and it can be challenging when change gets forced upon us.  And when we feel that things are happening outside of our control, it can feed all sorts of negative thoughts.  But there is always a choice in how we react to the situations we find ourselves in.  We can choose to feel defensive, or we can choose to give it a chance.  If we are really unhappy with the situation that change has led us to, we have the choice to look for an alternative path.

Accept that failure or detours are normal.

Along with being comfortable with change, our mindset around failure is also really important.  If we spend a long time avoiding change because of our fear of failure, we can become stuck and feel hopeless.  Similarly, if we spend a lot of time going over and over our failures, without learning the lessons that comes with them, then that can hold us back too.

The bigger the goal, the likelier it is that you will have a detour or two along the way.  So again, anticipating that our plans may need reviewing from time to time will set us up to deal with hiccups as they arise, and ultimately get us to where we want to be quicker.

Stay in balance.

When we are going through a transition or change, it can be helpful to find some part of our lives which is stable and settled that we can retreat to.  Whether that is spending time on activities that we can lose ourselves in, or spending time with positive and uplifting people, having some time away can help us to process and rebalance.

Photo credit: Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Why Do We Resist Change?

An image of a girl with her head in her hands

None of us want to stay the same forever.  But it can be hard to make changes, even when we know we need to.  So why do we resist change?

Some of the most common blocks and barriers are quite obvious when we think about change.  Namely fear.  And more fear!

Fear of the unknown.  Fear of failure.  Fear of getting it wrong.  Fear of looking stupid, or worrying about what other people will think.  These are the most common ones that we all experience at some point.

If you’ve ever experienced change, then it’s likely that you’ve come across many feelings like this.  And it’s completely normal.  When we choose to step outside of our comfort zone, we are entering into the world of the unknown.  And when we’re faced with the unknown, our brain can go into overdrive, as it tries to keep us safe.

This is a good thing, because it can stop us from taking unnecessary risk or putting ourselves in harms way.

But some element of fear can also be beneficial, because this is where we learn the most.  And overcoming that fear can be lead to a new level of confidence.  Adrenaline sports and activities for example give us a big old dose of dopamine, and give us a natural high.  And if you’ve ever challenged yourself to do something really scary, the confidence buzz you felt afterwards was possibly worth all the worry beforehand?  Maybe.

But there can also be some other side effects of change that we may not have considered.  For example, sometimes making a positive change for ourselves, can affect how others see us.  And we might (consciously or otherwise) not want to put ourselves in a position where we stand out.

Rather than worry about what people might think if we fail, we also worry about what they’ll say if we succeed.

We might feel that if we succeed at something, other people might not accept us, or we might not fit in anymore.

Again, this links into the fear element.   But a fear of success is probably less talked about.  It could be something to consider, if you’re feeling some resistance to change, but can’t work out why.

Either way, accepting that feeling uncomfortable is a part of the change process can help us to anticipate it more, or put in some safety factors.  If we anticipate what might happen, we can plan for it.

We can’t foresee everything that could possibly go wrong of course, none of us are fortune tellers.  But we can be more welcoming to change with a little practice.

Photo credit: Dev Asangbam on Unsplash

How Do We Transition Through Change?

An image showing the stages of transition from chrysalis to butterfly

Change.  We all experience it, whether we like it or not. 

And even when it is change of our own choice, it can still be difficult to transition through it.  

This month, I’ll be looking at the theme of ‘change’, because it seems that no matter how often we experience change, or how welcome it is, there are still blocks and barriers that we might encounter…or even put up for ourselves.   Even when we know change is going to bring something positive.  So why do we do it?

There are a number of models of change, and what they all have in common is that they talk about the various stages that we go through, if we want to make change work.  You might recognise some of these phases in some of the situation you’ve encountered:

Pre-contemplation

This is the phase before change,  when we’re either blissfully unaware or blinded to the fact that we need to change.  But we are most likely feeling the impact, either we feel stuck or we’re getting negative feedback from our life, which alerts us to the fact that something needs to  change.

Contemplation

This is where we start to think about what changes we need to make.  And more importantly, we  start to identify the positive things that could come from making change.  If you’re looking to make a change in habit or behaviour, this is really key, because focussing on what we will gain  can be a strong motivator.

Preparation

The preparation stage is exactly how it sounds. This is when we start planning, research and collecting information in readiness for making change.  Being prepared is great, as it helps us to set realistic timelines or goals, but it can be an easy phase to get stuck in.  We can be in danger of putting all our time and energy into planning, without actually getting started.

Action

By this stage, we’re already on the way to taking direct action towards our goals.  Even if we start small, once we get started, it’s much easier for progress to build.  We might need to experiment or take baby steps at first.  The important thing is that we keeping moving forward.

Maintenance

Another key step in making lasting change, is being able to maintain it.  How often do we aim for something, then lose momentum once we’ve achieved it?  If our main outcome is reaching a specific goal, it can be very easy to let our habits and routine slip.  Having a plan for maintaining change can help to keep you on track.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be looking at how we can make change work positively for us, and how we can deal with the blocks that can get in the way.

Photo credit:  Suzanne D Williams via Unsplash.com