April has been a busy month and I’ve been taking stock of what I want to do next with regards to my blog and my career. I’ve not been writing much while I’ve been working on my vision, but now I have a clearer picture in mind, I’m ready to pursue it! The thing is, I lack confidence in my ability to achieve my goals as many of us do. Every setback confirms the negative bias in my brain and the years of critical reflection are a difficult habit to shake. I’m therefore going to shake up my routine somewhat this month by adding in some daily affirmations.
There are many descriptions of what an affirmation is, but the definition I subscribe to is that an affirmation is a statement of what I intend to be true. So whilst I may not be there quite yet, the affirmation provides a clear picture of what I intend the truth to be and what I am working towards. Affirmations are typically repeated many times a day over a period of time to reinforce their effect on the brain. By repeating the affirmation many times, we send a clear message to ourselves that this message is important. That we should prioritize cognitive activity around this intention. As this intention beds in, our brain therefore starts to work both consciously and subconsciously to help us reach this goal.
Affirmations also help to overcome negative thinking. We are in essence defined by our thoughts, so if we continue to accept the same self-limiting thoughts that we’ve always believed (“I always fail” or “I’m no good at talking to new people”), we find it difficult to instigate new, more successful patterns of behaviour. Affirmations work by crowding out the negative thoughts and replacing them with new, more positive thinking that is better aligned with what we want to achieve.
As I’ve been busy, I decided to take it easy on myself this month and take inspiration from the Maven Circle for #mymindfulbujo. I’m following their 30 day affirmation challenge and writing down each daily affirmation in my journal. I’m going to leave it on my bed side table so I can read it each morning as I wake up. I’ve been working to create a new morning routine that doesn’t involve screens, so this is the perfect activity to start the day with positive intent.
I’ll then return to my affirmation throughout the day and repeat it at the end of every meditation or breathing space I take. If you have any favourite affirmations that have worked for you, please do share them below.
If you’d like to see previous months of #mymindfulbujo you can find them on my resources page.
Kindness isn’t always easy, but sometimes it’s necessary. The people we love can be antagonising, frustrating or just plain wrong sometimes. Meeting them with kindness can be transformative. Kindness breaks down the walls of conflict and allows you to re-connect in a more positive space.
There are always those days where it feels like we don’t stop. Like the demands are continuous and we don’t have time to catch our breath. It might be a pressurised day at work, or a day at home with children on your own. The nature of the stressor doesn’t matter. It’s the relentless nature of it that affects our wellbeing. Shamash Alidina uses a good analogy of the water cup. If you had to hold it for one minute that would be no problem. Hold it for an hour and your arm would ache. Hold it for 24 hours and your arm would be in significant pain. It’s the duration of the pressure that causes the problem.
“If the pressure is too high for you and lasts for long periods of time, it can cause chronic stress, and that’s where the danger lies.” Shamash Alidina in ‘The mindful way through stress’
It’s not always possible to change our lifestyle, at least in the short term, but we can draw upon some small changes to alter our perception of the demands placed upon us. To create more space for us to breathe, to think and to rest. What I’m going to describe now is how you can feel the pauses in your day to break-up what seems like a continuous barrage of stimulus and demands.
Let’s explore this together with a short exercise using our breath as an example. We often think of our breath as being continuous. It’s the one activity that links our lifetime from birth to death. We are wholly dependent on our breath continuing in order to survive, and yet the breath is also punctuated with short pauses all the time.
Feel the pause exercise
- Close your eyes
- Draw your attention down into the body and become aware of your breath
- Allow yourself to observe the natural rhythm of the breath
- When you’re ready, see if you can observe the subtle pause between the out breath and the in breath of the next breath
- Keep this going for a few breaths until you can consistently feel the pause
- See if you can notice the stillness and lack of tension in the body in this pause
- Now see if you can observe the even more subtle pause between the in breath and the out breath
- Again, see if you can notice the stillness present in this pause
- When you’re ready, bring this meditation to a close and allow yourself to notice how you feel as a result
In the same way as the breath, there are often small pauses within the day that we don’t notice. Bringing mindful attention to these pauses can help us to metaphorically put down the water cup for a while so we can rest, before starting again. Drawing attention to these pauses can be difficult at first until we get the hang of it so it can help to start with a specific intention. Perhaps if you have a lot of driving to do you can use every red light to take a deep breath in and out. Imagine coming away from every red light feeling more positive and rested, rather than more stressed and aggravated! If you’re spending the day at home with children, perhaps use a task like boiling the kettle to remind you to take a deep breath in and out. Just feeling a moment of stillness. Anticipating the positive experience of a warming cup of tea. Or if you’re in the office, you could decide to breathe deeply and mindfully while drying your hands at the hand drier. Think you don’t have time to dry your hands at the hand drier? Try counting. It’s normally less than 20 seconds. Imagine using those 20 seconds to rest, clear your mind and appreciate the warm air on your hands rather than rushing out of the toilet with half dried, damp hands.
Once you start to notice the pauses you’ll find yourself noticing more and more pauses and embracing the chance to rest, albeit briefly, before continuing with your day. Take the opportunity to nourish and shine affectionate attention on your body and mind, and everyday demands will start to feel less overwhelming.