As we settle into January, with its new challenges, I’ve been journaling daily. There’s something very therapeutic about the sensation of the pen gliding across the paper of my journal. I recently dug out my old fountain pen, one that I used at college, and bought some ink for it. That in itself is a pleasure to use. The ritual of filling up the fountain pen, wiping away the excess ink and then beginning to write puts me in the right frame of mind.
There are days when the pen moves across the paper effortlessly as my thoughts are transcribed into my journal. At other times, the process is slower. It’s interesting to notice the difference and see why it should be so.
I can usually tell by the writing which becomes larger and larger on an emotional day. On contemplative days the writing is neater and more even. On angry days the ink seems darker as I’ve pushed the pen harder onto the paper.
Journaling helps me to make sense of the events, thoughts and emotions that I experience in my life. It also helps to put things into perspective. When something is written down, we can stand back and reflect. Re-read it from a different viewpoint and find insight.
Sometimes I write in the morning. These entries tend to be lighter and are a good way to start the day and set positive intentions.
The evening entries are much more reflective, more emotional. For this reason I try to end the entries with a couple of sentences of gratitude, closing the day with a warmer feeling in my heart than when I started.
Journaling has helped me to connect with my inner-self, and to gain insights that might otherwise have passed unnoticed.
If you’d like to find out more about journaling then I invite you to join me for a 4-week Mindful Journaling Workshop, beginning on February 3rd at 7.30 pm GMT.
For further information about the workshop, visit my Welcome Page, or book your place below.
I hope you are keeping well in these difficult times.
I wanted to let you know that I will be repeating my Introduction to Mindful Journalling Workshop.
I have had such positive feedback from the first event. Many of you now have your own mindful journalling practice and are feeling the benefits, especially those who are under quarantine restrictions, or shielding.
The workshop will be held via Zoom. Numbers are limited to maintain a sense of community during the session, and to give people the opportunity to reflect and ask questions.
The workshop will explore:
-What is mindful journalling?
-What are the benefits?
-Experience a mindful journalling session
-Reflect and Q&A
If you’d like to take part, tickets are £5 and available from Eventbrite:
One of the things that I have discovered about Zoom during the pandemic, apart from the fact that there is no way of hiding a bad hair day, is that it really is possible to form a connection with others.
This has surprised me. I remember the very first Zoom session I attended. I felt self-conscious and worried about how it all worked.
However, once I got past the first fifteen minutes I was very relaxed and have since been able to attend meetings and courses, connect with friends and family and now host my own events.
Last week I was joined by a group of people who were eager to learn more about mindful journalling. It was very relaxed. We had taken our laptops to a comfortable place with a cup of tea and snuggled down with our notebooks ready for journalling. There was an almost hygge quality to it. Although we were miles apart, some of us in different countries, it felt as if we were in the same room.
After discussing the key points of mindful journalling we did a short meditation, then journaled while soft background music played. We then came back together to reflect on the experience.
Everyone agreed that it was almost magical to journal in a group instead of alone. I think most of us were surprised that we were able to relax enough to let our thoughts free-flow onto the paper. The session ended with people feeling very uplifted and eager to explore mindful journalling in more depth.
So, next week we begin a 4-week course! I’ve decided to keep the group small to enable everyone to feel comfortable and to maintain that friendly sense of community.
However, don’t worry if you feel you’ve missed out as I will be hosting the Introduction to Mindful Journalling Workshop again soon.
How can we tell if a tree is healthy? It stands tall and strong through the seasons, withstanding the downpours of rain, and the frost and blankets of snow that decorate its branches. In the autumn it sheds its leaves in a flurry of red, yellow and brown. It’s roots reach deep and wide, anchoring it to the ground to enable it to withstand storms while providing essential nutrients for growth and renewal. A tree offers shelter and refuge for animals and birds. It provides us with oxygen.
I’d like to use the image of the tree to think about how we ourselves stand strong throughout our lives. If we imagine ourselves as the tree, then our own roots will keep us strong and healthy.
The roots of place – the safe place we create for ourselves in the world which keeps us anchored in difficult times.
The roots of nourishment – what we put into our mouths will be evident in our bodies and their ability to function to the maximum.
The roots of relationships – which are the relationships in your life that are steadfast, providing support and lifting your spirits?
The roots of creativity – what do you create in your life? Do you bake? Write? Draw? Make things? Dance?
The roots of spirituality – this isn’t necessarily religion. Do you feel at one with nature? Do you feel connection with a certain place?
The roots of solidarity – what do you do for others? Helping others can create a deep sense of well-being in ourselves.
What nourishes you? What inspires you?
Finally, here’s a poem about a tree to share with your child, from my upcoming book of poetry for children. You can get them to stand tall like a tree and invent some accompanying actions.
There’s a tree at the end of my garden.
It stands tall, majestic,
Branches out wide, reaching up to the sky.
Trunk strong, roots deep.
It stands through the seasons.
Spring – the new leaves form and spread to provide shade in the summer.
Autumn – In the autumn the leaves fall in a shower of red, yellow, orange and brown.
In winter the snow dresses its bare branches.
It sways with the gentle breeze and bends with the storm. But never breaks.
Quiet, companion, showing me that no matter what happens,
Today I’d like to explore a question that I’ve been getting a lot from busy mums: “I haven’t got time for mindfulness, so what can I do?”
It’s a good question. I know how difficult it is to find time as a busy mum. I’ve been there. I was a full time teacher and mother of two and by the time I got home I didn’t have any energy to do any of the things that I should have been doing, like exercise or yoga or cooking amazing meals for my offspring. I’m ashamed to admit that all I could drag myself to do was to collapse on the sofa with a cup of tea and two or three biscuits or more depending on the day I had and surf the internet for a while. Hardly a good role model, I know, but that was the situation at the time.
I was so busy tending to others all day that I didn’t take care of myself but at the time I just couldn’t see my way out of the fog of exhaustion.
I really wish I’d known about mindfulness then as I’m certain it would have made such a huge difference to my life.
So what is mindfulness anyway?
Mindfulness is about awareness, it’s about realising how you’re feeling physically and mentally. It’s not about zoning out and disconnecting, quite the opposite – it’s about connecting with yourself, your body, thoughts and emotions and going through your life with awareness and living in the present moment. When you realise what’s going on with yourself then you can take small steps to help and that doesn’t need to be spending 30 minutes doing a meditation while the kids go nuts in the background. If you’re a busy mum it needs to be simple and doable.
So, I’d like to look at a simple way of making quality time for yourself. Surfing the internet like I did doesn’t count!
If you can, then find a time when your kids are safe with someone else and give yourself some breathing space.
Kick off your shoes, maybe change into something more comfortable. Put the kettle on and make a brew, preferably not strong coffee. I only drink decaf now as I realised that I was getting so many ups and downs throughout the day and coffee made me feel very jittery. There are some good herbal teas around. I don’t usually like them but I have found that the ones from Yogi Teas are really tasty, especially the lemon and ginger – it’s got a warm kick to it.
Take your tea into a quiet area of the house, or the garden.. Just sit and be for as long as you can, without your mobile phone and not feeling that you should be doing something else. The chores will get done, but you need your time, your space to ground yourself before carrying on with the rest of your day.
I think it’s hard for us as mums to put ourselves first. And when we do, we feel guilty. So, try to stick with the guilt as you begin this new routine and realise that as you are caring about yourself it will also make you better able to care for others as you feel renewed even after just 10 minutes to get your head straight.
Some of you may be thinking that it’s absolutely impossible to get 10 minutes peace at home. So, how about work?
When I was teaching, one of my colleagues said that she would actually go and lock herself into the loo for 10 minutes just to get some peace. I know that’s not exactly the most scenic place in the world, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Do what you can, sit at your desk for a few minutes without working, just focusing on your breath. Or go for a walk outside at lunch time if that’s possible.
If you’re interested you can also do a simple mindfulness meditation. This doesn’t have to be hippy or woo-woo. You don’t even need to sit on the floor if you don’t want to. You can sit on a chair with your back straight and slightly away from the backrest. If you’d like to have a go to the meditation section of my website.
And if you can’t manage any time alone at all, then stop for a second, take a deep breath and carry on.
There’s something very calming about colouring. The gentle movement of our hands as we colour. The focus. The beautiful rainbow of coloured pencils or felt-pens that we can spread out to choose from.
When we sit and focus on colouring, it relaxes the amygdala, the fear centre of our brains, reducing the production of adrenaline. The gentle focus of colouring can calm a restless mind after a busy or difficult day. Our breathing slows to a more natural rhythm.
As we colour our breathing becomes slower, relaxing us further.
When combined with soft music in the background it can offer us a relaxing and welcome space to be in.
There are many colouring books to choose from. I found one on Amazon that is perfect as it has a combination of simple or complicated pictures, so there is something for the whole family.
Here are some ways to bring mindfulness into your everyday life – you can download them at the end too!
When you wake up in the morning take time to take some deep breaths and stretch your body. This will begin the process of bringing awareness to your day.
Be aware of your posture during the day and thoughts/feelings and emotions. Note any tensions and use your breath to recalibrate yourself.
Have a reminder on your desktop or phone as a “mindfulness bell” to bring you to the present moment. This will allow you to step out of automatic pilot.
Take time to do the 3 Step breathing space to ground yourself at regular intervals to give you a sense of clarity.
Eat mindfully, paying attention to the tastes, textures, colours and origins of your food. Chew your food properly and be aware of when you are full. In this way you can enjoy your food with appreciation and avoid overeating.
As you walk from one place to the other use this as an opportunity to be aware of the ground beneath your feet, the temperature of the air and your surroundings and the present moment.
When someone is talking to you, give them your full attention, without interrupting. And when it is your turn to talk try to get your message across in a succinct way. If you are feeling angry or upset, take a deep breath before beginning to speak and choose your words wisely. This avoids impulsive conflicts and misunderstandings.
Use moments such as supermarket queues to stand tall and ground yourself instead of getting wound up. There is nothing you can do to change the queue, so accept it with grace.
Take time to stretch and breathe throughout the day to release any tensions.
Give your full attention to routine activities like showering or tooth brushing to bring yourself to the present moment.
Show a kindly and compassionate attitude towards yourself and others, enriching your relationships.
Before going to bed at night, take a moment to show gratitude for the pleasant things that have occurred throughout the day. Taking time to steady your breath will help you fall asleep and positive thoughts will hopefully encourage sweet dreams.
Look after yourself! What does it even mean? If you’re struggling to find ideas for self-care then start here:
Try something new like gentle yoga. There are a range of yoga videos online. Choose something that will suit your fitness and strength level.
Listen to classical music and colour in – have you seen all the mandala and mindfulness colouring books for adults? They’re amazing! Pick one, switch on some classical music and let your mind wander and see where it goes. If it wanders too far bring it back to the movement of your hand on the paper and the colours before you.
Have a bath. You can use essential oils to restore a sense of calm and wellbeing or pour in the bubble bath, lie back and relax.
Read – pick something you wouldn’t normally choose, you may discover a new genre or author.
Walk – paying attention to everything around you using all your senses. Feel each step as you walk. Connect.
Start a gratitude journal – each day write down three things that you are grateful for in your life, they’ll soon add up.
Treat yourself to a new nail varnish and give yourself a manicure.
Curl up on the sofa with a cuppa and a comedy. Laughter is the best medicine.
Have lunch out with an old friend.
Be you – it’s a strain trying to be someone else!
What are your favourite self-care ideas? I’d love to hear them…