Tag Archives: Nature

Self Care In A Pandemic (39): A Thoughtful Start To The Day…

Whatever time you get up in the morning, whether you are an early bird or a night owl, it can be helpful to start the morning in quietude and contemplation before the day begins.

I personally like that bit of extra time in bed when I can pray to my Creator God and think, but I also like to read Scripture in the morning. Sometimes I’m not as disciplined with doing this and read more later in the day, but when I do have that time set aside with God spending time with Him and in His Word I do feel strengthened and ‘fed’ spiritually.

I don’t stick rigidly to a particular practice in the mornings as some people do, and we are all different and respond better to different things in line with our unique characters and personalities.

It can be beautiful just to take a few moments to look out the window at the start of the day, especially if you have a bit of sunshine or in this season some frost. As I write I notice what looks like a tiny little bird huddled amid the bare branches at the top of a tree. The sky is a light gradating blue, darker higher up and fading into the palest of blues, almost white, at the horizon. It is good to pause and notice and reflect at the start of your day, or at any time of the day for that matter, when you are able to carve out that time for yourself.

I often enjoy gaining an insight into what other people are doing with their time. On You Tube there are so many morning and evening ‘routines’ that people share that can inspire. I like to approach each day afresh but even the most spontaneous among us have certain key ‘building blocks’ that they include in their day to day lives.

Some people find the benefit from writing ‘morning pages’ of free flowing thought, of writing out goals or lists at the start of the day to give them focus, or of journaling or reading.

Perhaps you use your time for blogging as a form of reflection instead or as well.

2020 has taught us in many ways to slow down. It’s important to allow our lives to progress as we renew our minds. I don’t recommend starting the day with the noise of the world (as in the news of what’s going on in the world) but to strengthen you own mind and heart in some way.

We pay attention to our bodies as we eat breakfast, exercise or go outside, but it is important to also pay attention to our spiritual health and our mental wellbeing and for me that means taking in the Truth and spending time with God, even if for a few moments until I’m fully awake and ready for the day and can ponder more of those ideas later on as the day progresses.

What do you like to do to incorporate contemplation and reflection times into your day? Perhaps it is something you can write about in your blog and make sense of the many thoughts going on in your head through this pandemic? x

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Self Care in A Pandemic (10): Nurture Your Soul…

Yesterday, we thought about how it’s ‘ok not to be ok’. It is ok to sit in those difficult moments and learn to endure those difficult feelings, knowing that ‘this too will pass’.

With that being said, once we are ready to get up again, to take the next deep breath, and to make that next step in life, however small it might feel to us, it is so important to move forwards in a way that nurtures the core of who we are.

That might sound fairly profound, but the practicalities of getting there, one small moment at a time, needn’t be an overwhelming or big thing.

What do I mean by that? I suppose we could look at this through the lens of ‘slow living’, of learning to slow ourselves down, be more present in the moment and despite whatever we are feeling inside or what is going on around us, just take a moment to enjoy the moment we are in.

Last night I wasn’t feeling my best. To be honest I was struggling a bit. Yet, with a new day today, I have found new possibilities, new moments, and new reasons to hope, and to smile and I feel good in *this* moment. While that may change from time to time, as it does on this journey as human beings, we can seek to ‘collect’ and experience more and more of those precious moments that feed, nourish and nurture our souls.

After getting ready this morning, and preparing my room to be a place that I’d enjoy being and working in, I checked my work emails, did a bit of correspondence, and then took some time away from my desk to walk in my parents’ back garden. It was wonderful. Something so simple as feeling the fresh air on my face, the softness of grass beneath my soft shoes, to hear the birds chattering away, to see the trees, some with colourful leaves, but most with bare branches, and to look up into the sky and see the sunlight gently filtering through the clouds – in that moment my soul felt happy, and I drank it in, and even now I feel happy thinking about it and it reminds me to look out of my window and enjoy the little bit of nature that is around me.

I know from experience that nature while being a wonderful balm and tonic to our souls, isn’t always readily accessible to everyone. I spent the first four months of lockdown here in the UK from the end of March to July on my own, in the 10th floor of my flat, at first not having opportunity to go outside at all for weeks, and for most of the time with no face to face human contact at all. Even for an introvert, it was hard going at times.

Yet, there are ways we can nurture our souls even without being able to enjoy the fresh air and the calming effects of nature. The other day I had an experience of one of those ‘soul food’ moments. You know those moments when you are eating something hot in temperature like a broth or some kind of potato or vegetable dish, or some other comforting home cooked meal with healthy ingredients, perhaps something that is your ‘go to’ comfort food. Unlike unhealthy ‘fast food’, the heat of it causes you to slow down, you can feel the warmth in your belly, you are more awake to the senses of taste and texture and the beautiful aroma of different ingredients that awaken your senses. Perhaps as you read this different memories come back to you of homely times, or of times by yourself where you have taken a moment to really enjoy what you were eating and the experience has lingered with you.

Slow down, enjoy, nurture yourself. Whether that be by feeling the fresh air on your face, by taking time over a healthy meal, by making yourself a comforting wintery hot drink and eating your favourite snack, by creating a cosy environment, lingering over a good book or getting cosy and watching a film that makes you feel happy, there are so many moments that we can seek to experience more deeply, whether we are facing this pandemic alone or with other people. Amidst the ups and downs of these times, think of how you can nurture your soul, even if that is the tiniest moment at a time that no one else will ever see. Add to these moments day by day, bit by bit, and you will feel all the better for it.

Stay safe, and much love dear friends. xx

Photo by Taryn Elliott on Pexels.com

Finding Beauty in The Everyday – Autumn Leaves.

One of the lovely things about moving away from the city for a while, at least during the pandemic, is that I have a view of trees and my parents’ garden (in the city, it was a bit of a rigmarole leaving my 10th floor flat simply to step outside – you know the drill: facemask, hand sanitiser, stress of being around people, etc! I can’t tell you how much I missed just going for a walk in the park and seeing squirrels – now I can watch a little squirrel at play among the leaves most days, and it makes my heart happy to see, rather than to feel that bit ‘cut off’ from nature while I was in my flat).

It is a very blustery day today, the autumn leaves have changed from vibrant oranges and yellows to dry and crumpled (still somewhat golden) browns. The trees are daily being stripped of their leaves now by the wind and rain.

However, one source of delight, especially for my mum has been a vibrant red acer tree in the front garden. Knowing that the season of autumnal fullness is passing, she has been enjoying gathering its fallen leaves to press at home.

I took the opportunity to capture their natural beauty, so I hope in these dark and difficult days of 2020 they bring at least a glimpse of colour and happiness into your day.

And mum, this is especially for you, with Love ❤ x

LIFE AFTER LOCKDOWN. *A Breath Of Fresh Air*.

*A Breath of Fresh Air*.

The coronavirus pandemic has stolen far too many people’s ability to breathe. It is a virus that can have a devastating impact upon the human respiratory system, however, it is not just the virus itself that has stifled many people’s lives.

The consequences of the virus, and the resultant public health policies and initiatives that countries across the world have rightly taken to stem the spread of the virus, has meant that for some, or perhaps for many, and maybe yourself included, a time of enforced lockdown has also made people feel like they can’t ‘breathe’ fully in some way or another.

The things that may have left some people feeling stifled or not being able to breathe in life fully may be physical, or a combination of the physical, emotional, psychological and other factors.

I know some people who have ‘sailed through’ lockdown as it meant time off from the busy pace of everyday life, more time to spend with their family at home, more flexible work-life balance, time to enjoy the fresh air and to spend time with home and garden projects or personal hobbies that they had wanted to do for a while.

Unfortunately, for many of us, things have not been so easy. Perhaps like me you went through 4 months of lockdown alone, and didn’t have any personal garden space to safely enjoy the outdoors, but instead had to navigate the concerns of staying safe in a block of flats and only managed to go outside for a short walk perhaps once every three weeks. Maybe you’ve had issues with your job, income, family, health, loneliness, anxiety, and so forth.

Now that in many places around the world restrictions have been beginning to ease, and also in certain places been reinstated because of covid-19 ‘spikes’, many people have taken the opportunity to get out and breathe in more of life.

In an increasingly busy world, it can be hard to find quiet spaces in nature. However, I personally feel that this is so important to our overall health and well being, in so many ways. As restrictions ease it is a good opportunity to think of ways we can safely find quiet natural places even if that means just a few minutes somewhere where the air is clean and we can hear birds singing and see the ebb and flow of natural life around us. Many of you may have been blessed to have had this all through lockdown, but many of us have not. It is important to find safe and responsible ways to do these things without travelling too far or unnecessarily and without putting other people or ourselves at risk.

Even in busy cities, there are places where there are trees or quieter areas that can have a calming effect, even if you are not so fortunate to have your own or access to some garden space.

However, going forwards, we need to think of ways in which we can breathe Life in more deeply, cleanly and freely, apart from those ways that relate to our environment.

Fundamentally, what is it that gives us the breath of life? What refreshes us deep in our soul when we cannot get out to nature or other such things? For me it Is only the Life Giving and Beautiful Presence, the Streams of Living Water from The Living God that can satisfy my soul. Only Jesus Christ’s sweet and refreshing Presence can enable me to Breathe in Life deeply and freely regardless of environment or circumstances or anything else.

And what about the other areas of our lives that we have had the chance to think about during lockdown? What, perhaps less fundamental, things help us to breathe in life more deeply, satisfy us and give us a sense of well being? As we transition (perhaps back in and out of) from lockdown, what are the things that will help us to live more fully and live less stifled lives?

Is it choosing not to worry, but to exercise our muscles of faith? Is it maintaining and caring for our bodies by getting rest, sleep, exercise, healthy food and nutrition? Is it by connecting or reconnecting with people that mutually enrich our lives rather than drag us down or cause conflict? Is it spending a few minutes a day with our hobbies, slowing down, taking time to enjoy the little things, as the cliches go, to ‘wake up and smell the coffee’ or to ‘stop and smell the roses’? Is it taking time to read and find ways to look after our mental health? To continue reaching out to help, encourage and inspire others? To include more creativity in our lives? To make time for the people and things that really matter?

As we move forwards, we are all in different ways, and to differing extents, searching for purer, cleaner, and more refreshing air to breathe.

What are you looking to to find this in your own life? What time, space and opportunities do you have and how will you use them as we all move forwards into hopefully not just a ‘new normal’ but a ‘better normal’?

Stay safe. Be blessed. x

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Help for dealing with A.N.T.s – Automatic Negative Thoughts…

ANTS can be a nuisance. Automatic Negative Thoughts, that is.

They creep across our minds from time to time, and pester us. The thing is, for those over-thinkers like myself, ANTS can pester us with greater frequency and intensity than other people who find it easier to ‘switch off’ or not be so aware of or bothered by their thoughts. It’s not that we choose to be over-thinkers (why would anyone choose what can often be and feel like an affliction?), it’s just that’s how we are wired, and our brains are always ‘whirring’ with action, whether we like it or not. Many of us are also highly intelligent, creative, analytic and kind and sensitive souls. We know all too well the two-edged sword of positive and negative attributes to having a highly sensitive mind and disposition.

We may also have in common the condition of ‘Generalised Anxiety Disorder’ which until you get a handle on and figure out how to train yourself to get on top of, really sucks! So my sympathy for any other sufferers out there. However, we are not our thoughts and we don’t need to be defined by our ‘conditions’, it’s just a part of our life experience, but so too is overcoming it, learning and growing from it, helping ourselves, and quite incredibly growing to the point of inspiring and encouraging others.

So, back to the infestation of ANTS. What do you do? I think, although I can’t be sure, that probably almost everybody experiences the nuisance of ANTS from time to time. Unwanted thoughts, memories, etc. flash through our minds and make us feel uneasy.

Something I have learned not all that long ago (and Katie Morton’s videos on YouTube have helped me to see this), is that ANTS become a nuisance for people like me, and perhaps like you, when we are unable to ‘shrug them off’.

Some people notice a negative thought, and ‘shake it off’ in the words of Taylor Swift, or just ‘Let it go’ (if you prefer the ‘Frozen’ theme song). For those of us whose minds, brains, personalities, characteristics or whatever it is, are more sensitive to what’s going on inside of our heads, we tend to think about the thought.

For example, take the negative thought that might stem from seeing someone struggling to climb down some steep steps in real life. Maybe you’ve seen something on a TV programme where someone has fallen and had an accident, or maybe somewhere within yourself it’s just something you fear, I don’t know, the mind is a complex place. A thought flashes by that the person you’re seeing in real life falls down these steps.

Now, for people who aren’t particularly affected by ANTS (and as Katie Morton helpfully points out in some of her videos), they might just think ‘Oh, that’s not a nice thought, I hope that doesn’t happen’, and get on with their life.

For those of us more hypersensitive, over-thinking, anxious types, we would feel the distress of the thought. We’d then probably feel guilty for having that thought. One ANT becomes two, and then they seem to keep multiplying. We think about the thought about the thought. We wonder if we’re a horrible person, we question ourselves as to whether we are a danger to society (which in most cases of normal but anxious people we aren’t in the slightest but we’re just over reacting to hidden fears of ‘what if’ – what if we’re the type of person we don’t want to be?), we try to ‘fix’ the thought, ‘erase’ the thought, we ruminate on the thought, we apologise internally, we perhaps are ‘triggered’ into remembering or thinking of other things we have seen, we then imagine ourselves falling down the steps, we kind of internally ‘freak out’ and all of a sudden we are surrounded by ANTS! Sometimes we may even ask for reassurance from someone we know because the thought has become so BIG and so ‘REAL’ to us!

If you recognise yourself in any of this, then take a deep breath and remind yourself that you are not your thoughts. I can’t explain the human mind, and sometimes upsetting thoughts come into our minds, but the problem arises when we start dwelling on them, fixating on the possible ‘meanings’ behind them such as what it says about you as a person (there is a place and time for such self-reflection, but not in an anxious, fear-filled, reactionary way), or ruminating on them.

These things can lead to a cycle of anxiety and / or depression. I well know.

We need to be able to ‘talk ourselves’ into a calmer place. Some ‘mind doctors’ 🙂 have given various helpful analogies of how to deal with such ANTS.

For example, take time to be still each day and allow your thoughts and mind to do what it does without judgement, stress or fear. It’s not easy, it takes time, keep at it.

Think of unwanted thoughts as clouds and simply let them drift across your mind. Don’t follow or pursue or chase them down, just let them drift away and replace them with a positive thought.

Or think of unhelpful, distressing thoughts as fallen leaves upon a stream and let them drift and be carried away by the current of the waters. Don’t grab them, look at them, pick them up or analyse them, just let them go.

Once we are able to cognitively grasp that we are not the conditions we may suffer from, that is to say we are not all of our thoughts, as some thoughts are like ‘fiery darts’ to our minds, we are able to better ‘diffuse’ the emotional intensity of the experience.

Maybe you have your own way of ‘dealing with’ ANTS. Perhaps you could combine the analogies noted above into something more light hearted and imagine a tiny ant sitting on a leaf, floating down an imaginary stream in a clouded sky and let them all just move past.

Learning not to analyse or overanalyse all of our thoughts can for some of us take a lot of time and practice, but the first place to start is to rid yourself of the fear that these ANTS are in control of you – they’re not, take back control, and steer your mind to more helpful, positive, lovely, excellent, noble, pure and just places. It can be done. Let’s get to it! And if these negative things bother you again, remind yourself ‘Oh, they’re just ants!’ 🙂 x

 

Here’s a link to one of Kati Morton’s helpful videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mz7xVjo57ik

The First Day of Winter?

This morning, Monday 18th November 2019, I awoke to what feels like the first day of winter this year.  I have been enjoying the beauty of the autumn season, and anticipating winter, and it seems to have arrived on my doorstep all of a sudden!

Last night I was blessed to watch a glorious sunset over the city, as the sky exploded into a golden orange, a sight I rarely see most days, and the buildings across the skyline stood as stark black silhouettes against the backdrop of colour.

At 5pm, I remarked to my parents as I spoke to them on the phone how suddenly the evening had fallen into black, almost as if a switch had been turned off, and it was night.

This morning I awoke to a beautiful sun rising in the east over the city, on the opposite side of my view from last night. I very rarely see such vibrant sunrises and sunsets, perhaps because of my location, when I’m at work, or the timings that I am able to look out the window, but the evening and the morning brought me a vibrant treat.

I could see the hills and mountains in the far distance. I got my camera, opened my window slightly and took a picture of the sunrise. The air was colder, icy, and so fresh and clean. Perhaps you think that is unusual for a city, but I live quite high up where the air may be clearer.

I shut the window, as much as the air was fresh, it was very cold, and as I looked down through the glass I noticed the first real frost of the season. Not snow, but a drizzling of soft white powder upon the tops of cars, and dustings of it upon the grass, the roads had iced a little too and all of a sudden the once beautifully arrayed with golden autumn leaved trees had turned to sparse twigged statues.

Winter had arrived! There would be snow on the tops of the mountains in the far distance. You could see the air from people’s breath. The tops of fir trees looked like Christmas trees.

As I walked to work, I noticed the sudden chill. In the breath of a morning, winter had arrived, so suddenly, not unexpected, but without any doubt that autumn had passed and a new season begun.

I couldn’t help but smile to myself as I walked to work. The pavement was patterned by icy leaves, embedded onto its surface. Such simple beauty, but ordinarily spectacular! The trees around me were also twig like and as I walked, leaves fluttered continuously to the ground, drizzling themselves upon the golden heap of leaves that had fallen before them. Now the roads and pavements were more beautiful and mesmerising than the trees themselves!

As I arrived in my office room at work, encased with tall glass windows on two sides, I stepped into an ice-box. But what a beautiful ice box to step into! Sun shone gently in as I pulled up the blinds and the glass greeted me with an enchanting lacy picture of snowflake patterns that glinted in the sunlight. The tall fir trees across the road are dusted with white, which will soon melt in the snow, but they reach up in praise to their Creator, and already sing of Christmas as they stand tall, deep dark green and authoritative against a gentle pale blue winter sky.

Sun shines through gaps in the trees lower down, a smaller, pretty, more delicate little tree, and its golden leaves flutter and fall continuously like glitter to the ground.

I pray for those for whom the crisp, fresh, cold air and these beautiful wintery scenes are not so much of a delight to them as a threat to their survival. Those for whom the cold is painful, and those who may not make it through the night. I hope you will pray for and reach out to them too, for together we can do far more than any of us can do alone.

This is a beautiful, sensitive yet stark season, filled with contrasts, filled with wonder. The leaves are falling all around us, creating beautiful piles of gold dust on the ground, and yet for some the mid-winter will be bleak, as frosty wind makes moan.

Winter heralds in a greater Light, a Warmth, Comfort and Joy – the Promise Hope and Peace of the Saviour, the Messiah Jesus Christ – the One Who came to the poor, the homeless, the cold, hungry, needy, downtrodden, hopeless and downcast. He came to the rich, the self sufficient, the spiritually blind and proud as well. He came for us all, to bring Forgiveness and New Life to any and all who will turn to Him, no matter who we are, where we are from or what we have or have not done. So no matter whether this winter is beautiful or bleak for you and yours, there is a certain Hope, for us all – if we would but humble our hearts and receive Him.

pine trees covered by snow
Photo by Tobias Bjørkli on Pexels.com

Surviving Winter: A Beautiful Wintertime Diary…

Saturday 16th / Sunday 17th November 2019 (00:35hrs) :

I hope you’ve all been enjoying and following my series of posts in my ‘Winter Survival Guide’, and have found some of my suggestions helpful.

I thought it would be a nice idea to actually share with you my own efforts to put some of my ideas into practice, and hopefully you will be inspired to join in.

This isn’t necessarily going to be in the order of my original posts, and for some of the ‘smaller’ and more lighter hearted suggestions (such as dancing along to Christmas music! 😉 ) you’ll have to browse through the comments sections of my Winter Survival Guide to see any updates I’ve put in there, but for the more eventful suggestions I’ll write longer posts.

My first 2 posts in the Winter Survival Guide were fairly introductory, and number 3 was about making the most of walking outside while the weather is still amenable to this. You can read the post here: https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/129815114/posts/4807

I’ve actually been stuck inside all day today by myself, and truth be told I had a bit of a dip in my mood this evening as some things have been bothering me, but I’m working through them and have been enjoying some quiet reflective times listening to Scripture, cosying up on my couch and watching Grey’s Anatomy, as well as doing some tidying up around the house, talking to my parents on the phone, blogging – of course, and having a little ‘dance party’ of my own. So although the updates on my wintery walks aren’t from today, I have been putting into practice some of the other, cosier, indoor tips from my Winter Survival Guide. However, here are some pictures from some wintery walks in the park and observations in the city’s main train station from a little earlier on. I hope that it brings some joy and inspiration to you even if you can’t get outside yourself today. Be blessed, and happy beautiful wintery journey to you. x

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Winter Survival Guide (3) ~ Walk While there is Light.

At this time of the year, the days are growing shorter and darkness sets in a lot earlier. It can be oh so tempting to spend most of our days inside, however, our bodies still need whatever sunlight we can get and while the days are still light, and reasonably temperate, my encouragement is to make the most of that by stepping outside whenever we can. It’s early November, and here although we have rainy and windy days, they are also interspersed with days like today where it is calm, still, and reasonably bright, albeit a little cold.

The ‘Brits’ are probably well known for talking about the weather a lot, but it’s probably because  things are so changeable over here. We can’t be guaranteed sun in the summer, and when it comes, we all get very excited about it. In Scotland, like Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’, these can often occur in one day!

At the moment, we are blessed with some crisp, cold, sometimes even bright autumnal days. I need to remind myself to make the most of these, to not spend an entire Saturday indoors, but to go for a walk while I still can, to wander down to the park and to enjoy the wildlife. It is beautiful, and so good for us to take in a bit of nature and breathe in some fresh air. Bearing in mind the winter seasons here often bring with them wilder weather, lashing rain and wind, and even snow, I really ought to enjoy as much ‘outside time’, even if that means a simple short walk, while I can.

It is good not only for the body, but also for those of us who have to work at our mental health, whether that may be depression, anxiety or some other condition, it is good also for the mind. So let’s make the most of the brighter and more temperate days while we can….for we know that they are very likely set to change very soon!

photo of person holding umbrella
Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com