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.
I wanted to create a #mymindfulbujo challenge for March that would offer a short pause in each day to be mindful whilst connecting with nature. Being in a natural environment often gives me my greatest sense of mindfulness and grounding with the earth and I’m not alone. Nature has been proven to calm the mind and reduce the physiological symptoms of stress and anxiety (see this excellent article from National Geographic). When I examine myself, I think there are a number of reasons why this is the case.
- Nature provides a sense of perspective that we can lose in everyday life. Often we get so caught up in our thoughts and the everyday rush of life that it becomes all encompassing. Our mind perceives these thoughts and stressors as ‘threats’ and acts accordingly. When we connect with nature however our sense of the world expands and we see how large the earth and the Universe are. We see beyond our immediate problems and gain a new perspective on their impact on our life and those around us.
- Nature also tends to offer some very tangible and useful ‘anchors’ for our attention. Think of sitting on the sofa watching the rain on the window or listening to the waves break on the beach. Our mind naturally wants to rest on and connect with the natural world around us. We are drawn to the soothing and calming pull of nature.
- Nature is also out of our control. There’s nothing we can do to stop the rain from coming or make the waves calmer. We can relinquish any agenda or expectations and simply be with whatever the Universe decides to send our way.
I’ve chosen the sky for this challenge because it’s nearly always available to us at any time of the day (unless you happen to be stationed on a submarine). One of my favourite things to do each morning is look out of my kitchen window, from which I can mainly see trees and sky and see what the sky is doing. Sometimes it’s brilliant blue, sometimes it’s vivid reds and purples and sometimes it’s grey. It serves as a useful reminder of the impermanence of each state in our life and that every day is a new day with something new to look forward to if we approach it with open curiosity.
The beauty of this challenge is that you can approach it in any way you want to, but here is how I will be doing it.
- I’m going to set a regular time each day to observe the sky so it becomes routine and I don’t forget to do it. For me, this will be around 6.30am when I go downstairs with the girls for breakfast. The morning sky just after dawn tends to have the most beauty and variety in the colours. In your lunch hour or at sunset would also be good times however if this suits the rhythm of your day better.
- I’ll probably start by taking a few deep breaths just to settle my mind and let go of any thoughts. All that is left then is to observe the sky with mindful attention and curiosity for a few moments. Let go of any preconceptions you have and notice what is happening in the sky; clouds, movement, birds, colours. It’s unlikely the sky will be one uniform colour, so try to notice the full spectrum of colours in the sky and decide which colour is more predominant or that you connect with most that day to record in your journal.
- I’m going to record this in my journal in the style of a mood mandala with a ring for each day to represent the colour of the sky. There’s a picture of my initial set-up below and I’ll update every now and then on Instagram so you can see my progress as it gets filled in. This can be as simple or as fancy as you like however. So, if you just want to create a page of boxes to fill in or have a box next to your daily log each day, that would work brilliantly as well. The key here is to focus some mindful attention on the sky. Recording in the journal is just a fun way to remind you to do it.
Update! The completed mandala.
You can find more #mymindfulbujo challenges on my resources page.
Welcome to the first #mymindfulbujo challenge! This is just a little bit of fun for those who love to use their planners or journals but if you want to join in all you need is a notebook and 5 minutes a day to notice things.
One of the first benefits I felt when I started to practice mindfulness was that I noticed so much more. Good things and bad things and all the things in between. There was joy in living a richer, more detailed life. Value in paying attention to the bad. Could I help someone who needed it? Should I ask someone for help myself? All of this contributed to a more balanced and happy state of mind.
So the challenge this month is simply to record what you notice during a mindful 5 minutes each day. Here is my suggested daily practice.
- Use a mindful check-in to help you enter a more mindful state of being.
- Take a few deep breaths, noticing the feeling of the breath moving into and out of your body
- Notice what is happening in your body. What sensations can you feel? Are you holding any tensions anywhere? There’s no need to label any of this as good or bad. Just notice it.
- Open your awareness out again from your body to the world around you. Use all of your senses to notice what is happening – sight, smell, taste, touch and sound.
- Consider what you have noticed that you may not ordinarily have done so. Maybe the distant sound of traffic, the feel of your socks against your feet or the sound of your children playing as you wash up. There’s no need to label what you notice as interesting or not, just allow yourself to absorb what is there.
- You don’t have to be sat still to do this. Obviously, it’s best not to do this when your full attention is required elsewhere (e.g. when driving or in a meeting) but if you’re walking to work, doing housework or enjoying a cup of tea for instance then those are also good times.
- The key is to pay mindful attention to what is happening around you.
- It may be interesting to change the time of day and location throughout the month to really get a sense of the scale of what you can notice.
- Record what you’ve noticed in your journal. Be as creative as you like with this. Drawing, writing, photography etc. Whatever brings you joy. I’ve shared my set-up below to give you an idea of what I’ll be doing. I’ve allowed a box for a small drawing and also space to write down what I noticed as well as how it made me feel.
I’d love to see what you noticed and how you recorded it so please do share your work using the #mymindfulbujo handle on Instagram. If you have any questions, then feel free to get in touch through the contact page.