This week's exercise requires you to be a bit of a detective in your own life.
Take a fresh page in your journal or on your phone and make 2 columns, head one "Nourish", and the other "Deplete".
At the end of each day, take your page and note in each column what Nourished you during the day, and what Depleted you.
When considering your day, give as much weight to your internal life as your external life. For example, you might have listed Work in your "Deplete" column, but don't stop there. Were there thoughts about your work that also depleted you? Maybe you were thinking about work while you were having dinner with your family? Note these too.
At the end of the week, look back and see what you can adjust so there's more nourishment in your life.
If you feel stuck in terms of making changes in your circumstance (after all, we all have to work!), remember that you have control inside your head. Set an intention to be fully present at dinner with your family, so you can receive the nourishment that spending time with your loved ones has to offer, instead of allowing thoughts of work to deplete you further.
If there's not much in your "Nourish" column, make a plan to add to it. You are the best equipped to take care of yourself, and you can't take care of others if you're empty.
“Where is your water? Know your garden.”
The clocks changed this weekend, so we have darker evenings, and we saw the first real signs of winter after a mild autumn. This can be a challenging time of year for some, with less sunlight, and bad weather can make getting outdoors less fun. Some of us can experience more isolation and lower mood at this time of year, and we need to take a little extra care of ourselves in winter months.
Here are a few things that can help:
"What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness." - John Steinbeck
When's the last time you had a good laugh?
Sometimes, adult life can become very serious, with too much work, too many bills, all those things to get done, all the people to look after—and all that before we watch the news!
It's important to remember that life can also be fun, and one of the purposes of life can simply be to enjoy it.
This week, take a look at your schedule and see where you can insert some fun. It doesn't have to be a big commitment, even setting time aside to watch a show that makes you laugh (I go for Benidorm on Netflix, don't judge me), or playing a silly game with your kids, or having lunch with a light-hearted friend can do the trick.
Much like the Two Wolves we talked about last week, remember to feed the Fun Wolf, the Responsible Wolf gets enough to eat!
An old Chief and his grandson sat in the shade of an ancient tree, staring at the river below.
The elder looked troubled.
Softly the boy asked: “What is the matter Grandpa?“
The old man frowned and said: “It is as if there are two wolves fighting in my heart.“
"Tell me about the wolves?” said the boy.
“Well, one is a nasty, vengeful, aggressive wolf and the other wolf is gentle, forgiving and peaceful.“
The boy thought about this and then asked: “Which one is going to win?“
“Ahhh, my boy….“ replied his grandfather and his face lit up “That’s easy …… the one I feed.“
I look at this little story and apply it to where I put my attention. If I allow my thoughts to wander into the past, and bad things that may have happened, or wrongs people have done to me, I am feeding the wolf of hurt and anger.
If I am reading all those negative stories online about Brexit, climate change, who is richer and prettier than me, I am feeding the wolf of fear, helplessness, and inadequacy.
However, if I am out for a walk with a friend, taking in the beauty of the countryside and chatting, I am feeding the wolf of connection and joy.
If I choose to do a meditation, some yoga, or a gratitude practice then I am feeding the wolf of self-care and self-love.
We are what we do, and each day is another opportunity to feed the right wolf.
Check in with yourself regularly this week, and see which wolf is growing fatter.
"Whatever we put our attention on will grow stronger in our life." - Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
If you pay a little attention as you go through your week, you might notice yourself living in "What if" land. You'll know you're there because you will be having thoughts like:
I don't know a single person who doesn't have thoughts likes these, so don't feel bad if you have them! The funny thing is though, if you do have these thoughts, then you likely are making yourself feel bad. By wishing things to be different, you are doing two things:
If you can change this "What if" thinking into "What is" thinking, you bring acceptance to yourself and the situation. You are starting where you are, and not from a place of lacking (I/This is not good enough).
Examples of "What is" thinking are:
Set a reminder to check in with yourself as you go through each day, and if you find yourself "What iff-ing", change it to "What is", see how different you feel.
“You'll never get anywhere if you go about what-iffing like that.”
What happens in the privacy of our minds often remains unquestioned, we tend to believe every thought we have. Why is this a problem? Because our thoughts are so easily influenced by our moods.
Imagine this scenario: You didn't get a great sleep last night, then, in work, you're told you didn't get the pay rise you had requested. You walk down the street at lunchtime and see a friend on the other side of the street, you wave but she doesn't respond. Given your already crappy day what are you likely to think? "I must have upset her"; "She must not like me any more"; "She's so rude!"
Now imagine this scenario: You slept like a baby last night and bounce in to work feeling energetic. You meet with HR and they tell you you got the pay rise you requested and they thank you for the great job you're doing. On your way to lunch you see a friend across the street and you wave, she doesn't respond. In your good mood you might think: "Ah she mustn't have seen me"; or "Gosh that's not like her to pass me, I must check in with her to see if she's ok".
When we are in a negative mood, our thoughts can follow suit. Negative thoughts lead to a more negative mood, and the cycle continues. The opposite is true for the positive mood and thoughts.
Remember this as you go though your day, and see if you can hold your thoughts lightly, question them to see if they are really true, or if they are a reflection of your mood. Questioning your thoughts gives you back control over your day, and stop the cycle of negaitivity.
"In mindfulness, we give our thoughts less importance. We know that while our thoughts can be useful, they can also be deceptive and unhelpful. One of the benefits of practising mindfulness is that your thoughts begin to take their proper place in your life. They become the servant and not the master."
With the change in season, many of us undertake a change in ourselves too. We sign up to a class to learn a new skill, embark on a new diet to shed a few summer holiday pounds, decide to take a break from alcohol until Christmas.
Whatever your change might be, it may come along with a nagging voice that says: "Catch yourself on, remember the last time you tried? You lasted a week and gave up!".
Predicting our own failure can stop us in our tracks, and become a self fulfilling prophecy—we tell ourselves we'll never finish what we start, and so, we prime ourselves to drop out.
What about if we did the opposite? What about if we were to tell ourselves that this time, we will do it. AND, really feel that in the body. Picture yourself on the last day of the pottery class taking home your wares. Picture yourself feeling lighter and brighter in those jeans that haven't fit since before the summer BBQ's.
When I say 'picture it' I mean let your mind daydream there for a while. What does your body feel like in this daydream about your achievement? Is your posture different? Perhaps you're standing a little taller and breathing a little more deeply? Are you smiling? Do you feel a sense of pride well up in your chest at your job well done? What else do you notice in this daydream?
What you're doing here is breaking old habitual neural pathways and introducing new ones. Even by imagining fully that something is true, the body and brain will believe it, as it isn't that great at knowing the difference between a thought and reality.
There have been studies done on how people who just imagine themselves working a set of muscles, actually strengthen those muscles. Your mind is a powerful tool, use it to your advantage!
Set a reminder to do this daydream exercise every morning, just for a few minutes, and before your desired change activity. This will keep your intention strong, and reinforce those new neural pathways.
“By taking just a few extra seconds to stay with a positive experience—even the comfort in a single breath—you’ll help turn a passing mental state into lasting neural structure.”
When we decide to make change in our lives it can be tempting to think that it will happen overnight, and we will all of a sudden be new and better versions of ourselves. Life isn't a TV movie though, and the reality can be quite different.
Change comes through choosing to do something differently every day, over and over, until the choice becomes less of an active process, and more of a natural habit.
This isn't very glamorous, I'll admit. I remember one of my tutors sharing this idea when I was training, and I was so disappointed, I wanted it to be more instant, more profound, more dramatic! But much of life isn't dramatic, it's lots of normal little moments put together one after the other.
If we take a minute to look at this, we can see the huge potential for little changes offered to us in a day, if we can change our attitude to celebrate the little wins.
Whatever you are trying to change, celebrate each small decision that contributes to that change. Every time you choose an apple over a cookie, a walk over the sofa, a minute of mindfulness over the pull of worry or rumination, clap yourself on the back for taking another step forward. This is change in action.
“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” - Mary Anne Radmacher
It's the last Monday in January, and I am hearing lots of people talking about how tired they are feeling this time of year, and how difficult it is to find the motivation to get things done. It would be nice to be like bears and find a nice cave to hibernate quietly in until the flowers bloom, but, life goes on for us humans.
What can help us get through our daily tasks with greater ease is to begin them with a smile. When we smile, the facial muscles used in turning the corners of the mouth upward send signals to the brain, telling it that something positive is happening. We essentially trick ourselves into being more positive, and when we approach tasks with a positive attitude, they are more likely to go well. And seeing as we are not bears, we may as well put our best foot forward as we walk on toward spring! :)
"Start every day off with a smile and get it over with." - W. C. Fields :)
With 7.53 billion people on the planet, the odd disagreement is bound to happen from time to time. Add to that the daily pressures of work, family, bills, and it's easy to see how we can get into arguments with each other!
Being at war with someone (or something) can exert a severe toll on you mentally and physically, we can spend lots of time mulling over what was said, full of outrage at the wrongs that have been done to us, or insulted by the injustice of it all!
The truth of this is that the person who you are at war with is not suffering from all this thinking, you are. Thinking stressful and angry thoughts take their toll on the body, and on your peace of mind, and by keeping it up you are serving the person you are fighting with, not yourself!
So, a helpful question to ask yourself when conflict arises is: Do I want to be right, or do I want to be happy?
If we can take the long view, and remember that in a week this conflict will likely be forgotten, then is it really worth the mental anguish now? Isn't life too short to be stressed and unhappy?
Maybe we can put our own well-being ahead of the need to be right. It might be a challenge, but it's worth it!
"Resentment is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die." - Unknown
The Weekly Minute is a blog I write each week with the aim of providing legitimate tools to help promote positive mental health.
The collection of short, practical mindfulness and therapy tools for self-reflection and self-improvement, can equip people to take their mental well-being into their own hands, and improve their quality of life.
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