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How to practice gratitude

May 6, 2019
how to practice gratitude

Gratitude practice changed my life

I’ve previously about how gratitude practice changed my life. It turned me from perpetually being a ‘grey sky thinker’ to seeing the positives in life.

I had gone through life feeling like the odds were stacked against me. 

Good fortune and luck were things that happened to other people. I was great at seeing the negatives in any situation which helped back up my theory (let’s face it, none of us like to be wrong…). My train was 2 minutes late: this always happen to me. Didn’t get the call for a job interview: that’s just typical. 

In pretty much any situation, I found it easy to dissect what was wrong about it, I just struggled with thinking what was right.

I first learnt about gratitude after reading the Secret and falling down a Rhonda Byrne / self-help book rabbit hole. I decided to give it a whirl for a few weeks and here I am 7 years later with my cup still half full.

For me, the greatest change has been to stop sweating the small stuff and to notice the positives more. I feel happy when I’m running late and my train is equally late too. I look for opportunities in situations, rather than being a naysayer and I’m much more in control of my feelings instead of being led by them. 

However, the main benefit is, I feel much happier overall.

Now, that’s not to say I find positives in every situation. When my Dad died very suddenly, I can’t say I found anything to feel particularly grateful about. I could barely function. However, a few years on, I can see the experience has changed me for the better. I have a deeper level of empathy and understanding towards other people, which just didn’t exist before. Obviously, I wish my Dad dying had never happened – but I guess as it did, I’m grateful I learnt something along the way.

What is a gratitude practice?

Gratitude practice involves regularly paying attention to the good around us, such as being around nature, meeting friends and time spent with family. 

It’s looking out for those small moments and feeling grateful for them. The cheery smile from a stranger or enjoying a really nice meal. 

Happiness is a feeling we can cultivate. So the more regularly we practice feeling grateful, the more aware we become of the good around us and the happier we feel.

Most of us take our lives for granted (a roof over our head, regular access to food, good health) and we forget to recognise it. Gratitude helps us remember this and all the other positives in life.

The science behind gratitude

There is a lot of science behind practising gratitude and the benefits it brings to both our physical and mental wellbeing. Researchers have found it helps with sleep, moods and overall physical health. 

There is also evidence that it retrains our neural pathways in the brain. Our neural pathways carry messages to and from the brain and are created by learnt behaviour so most of the time we don’t know we’re doing it. They’re not just physical responses, but emotional and behavioural too. 

Think about when you cross the road. In my case, I’m generally listening to music or a podcast and am pretty much in a world of my own. However, I still know to press the button and wait for the green man before I cross. I’m not diving into the road because I’ve done this task so many times my brain knows what to do.

Ever felt anxious when you know you’re going to have to navigate a tricky conversation? That’s because your brain knows this might result in conflict and so has sent that message to the brain and your emotions are heightened.

In the same way, if you’re always noticing negative events and situations, then your brain starts will send messages as soon as these things take place so you’re more aware of them. 

By focusing on feeling grateful when good things happen, then your neural pathways will send happier messages and you’ll be more aware of the positives in life instead. 

4 ways to practice gratitude

Here are 4 ways, I practice gratitude.

1. I follow a process I learnt by reading ‘the Magic’ and keep a gratitude journal where I write out 10 things I feel grateful for and the reasons why. I then read it back and say ‘thank you’ 3 times.

2. I use an App called Gratitude Plus. This sets a daily reminder, which prompts me to fill it in. This is great for being on the go and I use it on my commute.

3. I try to pause throughout the day and feel grateful for small moments. 

4. I reflect on the day before I go to sleep and pick out things that happened which I feel grateful for. It takes seconds and is a really nice way to end the day.

Please note, I’ve included links to Amazon for books that I’ve read. I’m not not suggesting you use this store over another – it’s just to be helpful. 

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Tidying up with Marie Kondo: 5 lessons learnt

January 3, 2019
Tidying up with Marie Kondo

A few years ago, it felt like Marie Kondo was everywhere talking about her KonMari method of tidying. I read a couple of articles and watched some YouTube videos showing how to fold clothes and left it at that.

By nature, I’m reasonably tidy and like everything to have a home. However, my life has changed from being a single person to having a husband and child. My living space has grown with it but I feel every surface is covered in piles of clutter. Our house has become so much of a dumping ground, it’s actually hard to open the front door because of the assortment of coats and shoes blocking the way (sadly not a joke).

I saw Tidying up with Marie Kondo whilst scrolling through Netflix. As I love to watch people go on a ‘personal journey’, I thought this would be a programme for me. I was right.

The first episode focuses on the Friend family. The Friends are a married couple with two young kids, busy lives and cupboards bursting at the seams. The parents are frazzled, snappy and life feels a bit disorganised – pretty much the universal experience of anyone with a young family.

Keep only those things that speak to your heart.

Marie Kondo

Marie Kondo comes to their home and gently teaches them how to organise their lives better. It’s less about tidying and decluttering but more about learning how to go through your possessions and storing the things you love in a systematic way.

The five lessons I learnt from Tidying up with Marie Kondo are:

  1. Pay gratitude to your home. It’s so easy to just view your house as a mess but it’s something to feel truly grateful for. It’s where you are raising a family, it’s giving you warmth and shelter, and is helping you build a life.
  2. Organise by category. Marie Kondo suggests you organise by category and not by room. I tend to tackle decluttering room by room but this doesn’t give you the full overview of what you really have.
  3. Declutter in order of clothes, books, paperwork, kitchen/bathroom/garage/shed and sentimental. I think she suggests sentimental last so that you are more invested in the process and less emotional about belongings. This makes complete sense.
  4. Hold each item to see if it brings you joy and thank it for its use. I have a tendency to hold on to clothes in the hope that I shrink back into them. Marie Kondo taught me to thank them for their use and let them go. Let’s be honest, keeping items of clothing to body shame myself with is not sparking joy.
  5. Use drawers and boxes to store items. Anyone else have a cupboard of doom? Marie Kondo advises storing miscellaneous items in storage boxes. It makes much more sense to organise things into smaller boxes so you can see what’s in drawers and cupboards instead of shoving it all in and closing the door.

Marie Kondo has definitely given me a bit of a kick to start sorting out our home. There is a box of old Christmas decorations sitting in our spare room since we got them down from the loft with a lot of old rubbish in there. Before watching Tidying up with Marie Kondo, I would have left all the old Christmas decorations in there and piled the new ones on top – after all, they will be up in the loft where I can’t see them. However, I feel inspired to go through everything thoughtfully: all the old unwanted Christmas decorations can go with thanks and we will hold on to the ones that spark joy.

wellbeing

How to change your life (when you don’t have a clue what you want to do)

August 5, 2018

I realised I was starting to drift about three years ago. I’d fallen out of love with a job I’d felt so passionately about and knew I was no longer feeling fulfilled. I had this inner feeling that things weren’t quite right – but I couldn’t work out exactly why. I knew I wanted to change my life; I just hadn’t got a clue what I wanted to do.

They often say change happens to you if you don’t make change happen yourself. It forces you to take action. Well I had major life changes: a baby, a death of a parent, a house move and yet still… I knew I needed to make some changes; I just didn’t know what I needed to change.

Buying every ‘how to change your life’ book on the market

I bought every self-development book on change and worked through exercises to try and work out what set my soul on fire. I spent hours googling how to unlock your life’s purpose and tried to create a lightbulb moment. I followed Instagram coaches and hung on their every word hoping some of their wisdom would seep into my skin. I created vision boards, set intentions, released energy and tried to break through some of my blocks.

Yet, the more I wanted to change, the harder it seemed to become. I felt paralysed by my indecision and overwhelmed by the enormity of the decisions I was trying to make.

Change is a journey, not a destination

However, in the few months, life change has happened. It wasn’t a bolt in the blue but a series of tiny changes that grew into something bigger. I’ve refocused my job role and am building up new skills to open up a new career path. In turn, I now have a clearer understanding of my direction and what I want to do.

How I made change happen

  • I made small incremental changes, not always knowing why but because it made me feel good. I set up this blog to get serious about my own wellbeing, as well as to create content I wanted to write about and enjoy.
  • I became braver about pushing myself out there. I still cringe a bit when I post a blog on Twitter because I feel I’m opening myself up for judgement. However, each time I do it, I become more comfortable.
  • I moved away from right/wrong thinking. I had started to lose the ability to think clearly and became very black and white in my thinking. I have tried to retrain myself into understanding there is more than one path to happiness.
  • I asked for what I wanted. This doesn’t come naturally to me – but I recognised I needed to become more open in asking for opportunities. I let myself be vulnerable and ask other people for help.
  • I let myself just be. I can find it hard to settle and allow events to unfold. It means I often feel frustrated when things aren’t moving fast enough. For once, in my life, I’m trying to trust in the process and let things unfold.
self-care

10 quick and easy self-care ideas

July 31, 2018
quick easy self-care ideas

Self-care for when life gets busy

I fall into bad habits quickly. Lack of time means I reach for junk food instead of eating a more balanced diet and rushing around means I forget to think about my needs altogether. When life gets busy, self-care tends to fall to the bottom of the to-do list. The irony being that when life gets hectic, we need to look after ourselves more than ever. There are only so many hours in the day, and of course, there are times when self-care can’t be prioritised. So here are 10 quick and easy self-care ideas to consider for when time is short.

10 quick and easy self-care ideas

  1. Prioritise small life admin tasks. I’m the queen of procrastination and push any small admin tasks as far down the list as I can. It’s easy to delay something that isn’t urgent but the reality is, it still hangs over you as something to do. Give yourself sense of achievement and stop the list from building up.
  2. Declutter. There is a lot of evidence which shows a clearer space is good for the mind. It gives you room to think and breathe. Prioritise one room at a time and objectively clear things you don’t use or need anymore.
  3. Take time out from social media. Sure, social media can be fun. However, it can also be a time hoover and leave you with feelings of inadequacy. Switch your phone off for a set period of time and always unfollow or mute anyone who doesn’t make you feel good about yourself.
  4. Check in with your body. How are you really feeling? Do a full body scan and notice signs of aches and pains. Do you need to rest? How is your mood? Understand what your emotions are telling you.
  5. Breathe. There may not always be time for mindfulness practice but there is always time to breathe… Take 3 deep breaths and use the moment to pause and reflect in a busy day.
  6. Pay it forward. This may not sound like a self-care strategy, however, doing random acts of kindness helps uplift us and feel more positive. Try leaving a bottle of water for a homeless person in summer or buy a coffee for the person in front of you. Small acts can make a big difference.
  7. Gratitude. My gratitude practice often falls to the bottom of the list when I get busy. During those times, take a few minutes out of the day to notice what you feel grateful for.
  8. Walk outside. We should all try to have 15 minutes outside to make sure we’re getting enough Vitamin D. I try to take some time away from listening to music and really notice the world around me. It’s important to see the beauty in everyday life.
  9. Give yourself permission to take time off. I will sit down to read a book and within minutes get up to start putting the washing away or some equally innocuous domestic task. I struggle to make time just for me. It’s important to remember, we all need breaks and no one’s energy is limitless.
  10. Do something just for you. I know baths and candles are a bit of a joke when it comes to self-care. However, there is something in the idea of taking time out just for yourself. We all deserve a break.
mind

Six ways to boost your confidence (that actually work)

June 21, 2018
ways to boost your confidence

The biggest thing I wish I’d known in my 20s is that confidence is something you develop; rather than being a permanent effect of your life situation. I spent far too much time feeling restricted and paralysed by my lack of confidence often to the point of just giving up. I constantly compared myself to others – especially those who seemed so much more confident and thought opportunities only happened to people like them and not ones like me.

 My lack of confidence was also a story I told myself and used as a form of self-protection. It was easy to hide behind so I didn’t have to push myself out of my comfort zone. When things went well, I put it down to luck and everything else, I blamed on low self-esteem.

It was only when I realised that confidence is something I could control, that I decided to do something about it. I started to recognise confidence isn’t something you’re born with, it’s something we need to develop and there are ways to boost it. Confidence is essentially a muscle that we grow and build upon.

Six ways to boost your confidence

Affirmations

There’s a reason why affirmation cards are so popular and that’s because they work. Positive affirmations help retrain our brain away from negative self-talk to thinking better about ourselves. There are lots of cards available online or write your own and put them somewhere you’ll see them regularly like your bathroom mirror or front door.

Stop comparing yourself to others

Perception of confidence is relative and only something we can determine for ourselves. There are some people who come across as being widely confident, who aren’t; and others who appear much less self-assured but have an inner strength. I constantly compared myself and judged myself on what other people thought of me. Whilst feedback can be hugely beneficial, it’s fundamentally important to find a sense of your own self and determine your own criteria of success.

Practice being confident

We all know the phrase, ‘fake it until you make it’ and essentially that’s what we need to do – we need to practice being confident. I used to be really horribly shy and felt awkward around people I didn’t know. With my friends though, I’d be the life and soul of the party so I came across as being aloof and only interested in people I knew already. I made myself be friendly to people even when I was cringing and dying inside. The more I did it, the easier it became and I feel pretty confident when meeting new people now.

Positive body language

Amy Cuddy, an American psychologist gave a Ted Talk all about how standing in a power pose will boost your feelings of confidence. It’s not always appropriate to break into a Wonder Woman pose but just smiling and standing upright are instant confidence boosters.

Be conscious of negative self-talk

I made a conscious decision to stop the running commentary in my head criticising my every move. It still appears from time to time – but I am more able to recognise it as just a voice in my head and not my reality. Try writing a list of the qualities you really like about yourself and keep them to hand (such as the notes section of your phone) so you can refer to it whenever you need a boost.

Take baby steps

Remember confidence is something we grow and develop over our entire lives.  It’s a habit we need to get into. Make sure you check in regularly and reflect on how far you’ve come. Each little step forward is helping your confidence to grow and grow.

mind

Learning to be brave

May 8, 2018

Being brave

At the beginning of the year, I thought about changes I wanted to make in my life and to stop letting fear stand in my way. I realised I was going to need to start learning to be brave if I was going to live a more authentic life.

Part of transitioning from my 20s into my 30s and beyond has been to recognise that actions have consequences and that not everyone is interested in my opinions. Along the way though, I’ve perhaps taken that to the other extreme. I’m starting to realise I lost the risk-taker, the dreamer and the person who wasn’t afraid to stand up for what she believed in. I’ve started to couch my words so as not to offend – and whilst it’s good to think of other people’s feelings – along the way, I’ve lost the ability to speak my own truth.

Becoming vulnerable

It’s easy to play it safe and keep ourselves protected. We don’t have to open ourselves up or make ourselves feel vulnerable. The downside is of course, that you don’t allow yourself to feel truly fulfilled and you never know what might have been.

When I first starting writing, just putting words out there felt intimidating. I worried about judgement – both my own and from others. Pushing myself out there is a leap of faith and doesn’t always sit so comfortably with me. Change can be intimidating. It can be slow and we put barriers in the way to make it even slower.

Learning to be brave

So how do us once rebels start living in a place where we feel more confident in our decision-making and abilities? Is there a way we can get back to becoming ourselves? We’ve all read stories about women adventurers who threw in a high-powered job in finance to become a Mongolia horse seller or set up a best selling bee keeping instagram business. But what do you do when you’ve got bills to pay, kids to collect from nursery and life is just about getting through each day with the minimum amount of stress possible?

The good news is we don’t all have to go through dramatic life changes to become braver. What we need to do is have the desire to reclaim the person we once were. We can start moving forward by remembering who we are, what we want (try remembering the feeling you want to create) and inching towards it taking incremental baby steps.

And what I’m learning is that with each small step I take, the easier it is and the little bit braver I become.

mind

Six ways to help you step out of your comfort zone

April 3, 2018
six ways to help you step out of your comfort zone

What if I Fall, Oh but my darling what if you fly.” – Erin Hanson

Ever have that niggling feeling that there’s something more out there for you? Things feel pretty much ok – but you’re a bit bored. Are you telling yourself that things are good enough? Whilst really feeling that it’s not good enough really. If you’re saying yes, then it sounds like you’re in a comfort zone. Comfort zones can be magical places keeping us safe and secure. They help protect us and look after us. However, there are times though when we know we’re capable of more and it’s time to step out and reach our potential.

How to move out of your comfort zone.

So how do you move out of a comfort zone? Here are 6 ways to help.

  1. Think about what would you do if you knew you wouldn’t fail. It’s easy to dismiss our dreams as feeling unrealistic and unachievable. But, what would you do if there was no way you could fail? Try to think about what you would do if time and money weren’t issues and you had everything you needed at your disposal.
  2. Focus on how you want to feel. We don’t always have a big goal in life and sometimes we’re stuck in a rut, which we want to get out of. What does success really mean to you? Focussing on how we want to feel can help give us clarity on what we really want.
  3. Take baby steps. I used to be painfully shy. I felt awkward around people I didn’t know and gave off a bit of a negative vibe. I started to overcome it by being friendly, changing my body language and being more approachable. It took time and work on my part, however, I’m much more relaxed around new people now.
  4. Go for progress, not the finished product. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received is to just start and refine as you go along. Otherwise, I have a tendency to focus on perfection and put so many obstacles in the way, that it becomes overwhelming.
  5. Become aware of excuses. Notice what you are telling yourself. Making excuses is a way of procrastinating and avoiding leaving your comfort zone.
  6. Live with discomfort. Comfort zones are comfortable. The downside is that they don’t allow you to reach your full potential. It can be daunting stepping out – just remember this is helping you grow.
wellbeing

5 podcasts for wellbeing (and beyond)

January 7, 2018
wellbeing podcasts to inspire

Wellbeing podcasts to inspire you

Honestly, I love podcasts. For anyone who is time poor (aka me), they’re such an easy and brilliant way of picking up new information. I use them to learn about the world, learn about myself and to simply relax. This is one of the reasons why I’m always on the lookout for great spiritual, self-care and wellbeing podcasts.

Here are five of my favourite wellbeing podcasts which inspire and lift me up with each episode.

Super Soul Conversations

Oprah interviews leading speakers and interesting people on all things wellbeing and spiritual practices in her Super Soul Conversations designed to help unlock your growth. I always pick up at least one great piece of advice, which I know I’ll use in daily life.

CtrlAltDelete

I stumbled across Ctrl Alt Delete and loved it so much, I’m now ploughing through the archives. Emma talks to people on a range of subjects from careers, self-development to feelings around social media and I find I learn something new every time. Whilst a business podcast primarily, I find she often veers into wellbeing in an interesting way.

Happier with Gretchen Rubin

I learnt about Gretchen Rubin through the two podcasts above and love the way she talks about happiness in a scientific yet accessible way. Her sister co-hosts the podcast and I really enjoy the relationship they have with each other.

The High Low

The High Low is a weekly discussion show covering everything from the trivial to the political. This isn’t a wellbeing podcast, however, it’s directly targeted at women. Some of the issues covered such as the myth of the pregnancy glow really resonated with me.

Life, death and the Space in Between

Dr Amy Robbins interviews spiritual teachers and mediums to talk about life, death and what exists in between. She deals with complicated topics in an easy way and I learn something every time.

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