I can sometimes feel a bit down when reading the news headlines and learning more about the terrible and dark things going on in the world. I’m sure each and everyone of you can relate. We weren’t ultimately made for a reality like that, our hearts yearn for something complete, loving, perfect and whole. Our hearts yearn for comfort from within, and an everlasting comfort, for a Love that goes beyond what we see day in and day out around us.
It got me to thinking that while so much bad is going on in the world, each and every one of us can make a difference, even in the smallest of ways, each day of our lives. We can make a difference by sharing kindness, encouragement, Truth and love.
You can make a difference in your blog, in how you treat the person you are with in this moment, of how you treat the people you encounter in your day.
It might not seem much, but it can be. So make a difference today ❤
On a much more light-hearted note from our previous self-reflection prompt, prompt number five will have you thinking about the good times.
5. What has made you laugh, smile, or find little pockets of happiness during quarantine / lockdown?
As difficult as this time may be for you (or you may not be finding it difficult, in which case that is great), we don’t want to go through 2020 with only or mainly negative thoughts about our experiences.
Which is why it is important to take time to think about and even note down the good times. Maybe you have found laughter to be therapeutic and a part and parcel of how you’ve got through these times, or perhaps you can’t initially think of any happy times.
If you can think of a lot of things, that is wonderful – take a moment to note them down so that you can look back on them positively in the future and remember the things that brought happiness to you in otherwise difficult times for the world.
If you are struggling to think of anything, start small.
Did you watch a video clip that made you smile or laugh?
Did a friend or family member say or do something to cheer you up?
Did you find solace in hobbies or creative pursuits or projects that helped refocus your mind on more positive things?
Did you see a bird in flight, a beautiful flower, a rainbow or a sunrise that touched your heart?
Did you feel the cool breeze on your skin when you went out for a walk?
Did you wake up in the morning without being in pain and looking forward to the day ahead?
Did you enjoy simple pleasures such as a phone call with a friend, helping someone else, some tasty food or a good film?
However negative you might initially feel when you think of 2020 so far, there is bound to be at least some small moment of happiness or hope in your life. It might not even directly be from your own life, but something you can appreciate as having observed such as community spirit, colourful pictures that children have drawn and put up in their windows to encourage other people, the applause people have shown for front line and key workers.
Can you think of anything? If you can, take a few moments to write it down. Sometimes the very act of documenting these seemingly ‘small’ moments can do wonders for our mental and emotional health as we acknowledge, remember, engage with them and treasure them as things we can be grateful for.
This in turn will help you to help other people to find the happiness and hope in their day to day experiences, and to move forwards with increasing strength.
It’s not too late to start. The year is not over yet and even if you still feel very negatively about how things have been so far, it is not too late to reframe your thoughts and choose gratitude and appreciation as you move forwards.
If you’d like to encourage other people, please comment below with some of the positive things this year that might also uplift others.
As we move into the third instalment of this interactive series of reflection prompts, today’s question will hopefully help and encourage you to recognise your developing strengths and abilities during this time of global change.
Think of some positive things this time of lockdown / quarantine / restrictions has taught you about yourself that you didn’t know, or weren’t as aware of before.
Write down some thoughts about what you have learned about yourself.
Do you find this one difficult to get started on? Try breaking this big concept into smaller, more tangible parts. For example, think of your living situation. Have you spent lockdown alone or with others? What qualities were you able to notice or develop in this situation? For example, did you surprise yourself with selflessness, acts of kindness and patience towards others, being thoughtful and respectful of other people’s needs? Or did you discover a resilience you didn’t know you had to ‘tough it out’ all on your own?
Have you discovered a new skill that you wouldn’t have had the chance to develop before? For instance, did circumstances throw you into an unfamiliar world of home schooling your kids, if you have any? Did you become more resourceful in managing finances, food, and household maintenance? Were you able to share your expertise with other people and in doing so see new aspects of yourself? Did you get to grips with new forms of technology and communication? Did you take part or take initiative in helping people in your community in some way? Did you fundraise, did you inspire others, or did you develop new ways to keep yourself fit, healthy and occupied?
Remembering that we’ve all been living through a pandemic, the positive things you have learned about yourself, or developed further, needn’t be ‘big’ things. Things you might not have paid much attention to before do have a significance and an importance, no matter how small. Perhaps you’ve been the caring friend who has ‘lent an ear’ when someone needed to get in touch, maybe you’ve made facemasks and PPE for key workers, or maybe you’ve kept on keeping on through depression, anxiety, fear or weariness, and just kept ‘showing up’ for yourself and those around you in whatever small and seemingly ‘ordinary’ way you can.
Take a moment to jot down a few thoughts taking into consideration something positive or new you have learned about yourself throughout this time.
So perhaps you are wondering what I might choose to share. I’ve learned that I had the resilience to manage lockdown with almost zero human company (in person – I’m very thankful for technology that allows phone calls and communication with others) for almost 100 days. It was in fact 96 days of almost complete solitude. It wasn’t always easy, but I did it, and without the lockdown / quarantine situation, I probably never would have done this. I chose to press through the difficulties and be positive and helpful to others where I could, and learned that I can cope in isolation. We are allowed to encourage ourselves for getting through some challenging situations.
So take a moment to acknowledge something about yourself and tuck that lesson away like a treasure in your heart, so that when you think back over 2020, you will take some positive things with you as you press on. ❤
Words of Encouragement (8):
*Can I feel happy and sad?*
In short, yes. This is a confusing, strange and distressing time. We are alive, we are surrounded by life, but also by continuous news of death and suffering on a mass scale, on a global scale, yet also right in our own towns and cities. We are all learning how to be happy with those who are happy, and to also mourn with those who grieve. We are surrounded by contradictions that we are all learning to hold in balance. We are trying to find ways to encourage and support each other, to enjoy the gift of life and be grateful for those in our lives, to make the most of ‘isolation’ and keep our spirits up, and encourage our friends and families and especially children, while at the same time living through wave upon wave of tragedy crashing in upon humanity. You might feel guilty for the times you smile, laugh and enjoy life in this strange season, and you also might feel a burden of grief at times as the world around you wails. It can be confusing, it can be tough, but there is no right or wrong way for you to feel, and your experience of this situation and your feelings are valid. Take time to just sit and be with your thoughts and feelings for a moment if it is all a bit much. Breathe deeply and try to find ways to be calm and relax. This is affecting people in different ways, and that’s ok.
Take care to try to maintain a balance. To know that even while it is a very dark time for many people across the world, it is ok for you to smile, and to share something positive, because those around you may just need that joy and that hope to be able to keep going.
Words of Encouragement (6): *A Happy Community and an Inspiring Place for your Mind to go to*.
Create a positive and inspiring space online, one with no bad news, for example, one that helps us appreciate the places we have travelled to before and perhaps dream about the future adventures we may have. Somewhere inspiring, fun and hopeful, a positive little community, safe and set apart from everything else going on.
Think about creating one yourself, or even if that’s not for you, do something whether on or offline that is purely uplifting, a place you can look forward to going, because we all need something positive in these days, something we can look forward to everyday and a place that feels peaceful, restful, happy and encouraging.
Human beings thrive on narrative. We need things to make sense, and we try to bring order out of chaos through talking things through, discussing them, or compartmentalising them in our minds.
Women perhaps more than men make sense of the world through verbal narrative. Men may be bemused at why women seem to talk things through so much, but what they probably don’t realise if their brains are wired differently is that there is a lot going on socially, emotionally and psychologically through the process of talking about things. By this I of course don’t mean gossip, but if a woman has a problem you may find that her instinctive response is to talk about it, whereas men are more ‘solution – driven’. The verbal narrative helps us to process our thoughts and emotions, make sense of things, find validation and connection as we engage with the person we are talking to and also work through possible solutions without jumping straight in.
Yet regardless of how we approach the narratives of our lives, we all need our stories on some level to make sense. Isn’t this one of the deepest reasons for why we write?
In trauma, a lot of our experiences, memories and sensations simply do not make sense nor do they fit into a ‘timeline’ because these unprocessed parts of our experience, and of us, are up front and in the here and now just as much as they are from the past and we often experience them in the present with great intensity.
Whether or not you’ve experienced trauma, you do have an innate need for reason, logic, the unfolding of a story and for things to make sense. I personally think that’s one part of being human. And so we write, we talk, we listen, we express.
Yet, some of the ways we think actually impact our unfolding narratives. Which is why we need to work on our ‘mind map’ – our own internal mental journey, because this impacts how we move through life.
Regardless of what your experiences have been you can find purpose and meaning in them, even the most difficult, as you gradually reframe them and make them part of something bigger. Seeing the difficulties as chapters in a book for example, and discovering how these form the identity that you are walking into. Look back at my post on superheroes and origin stories for a better idea of what I mean.
The more we are aware of the mental road map we are forging out the more we are able to navigate our way forward with purpose and positivity, taking the difficult things and allowing them to be used for good, for a greater purpose, as part of a bigger narrative.
According to popular culture, ‘Blue Monday’ is a day in January – typically the third Monday of the month – when many people feel low. I don’t use the phrase, ‘the most depressing day of the year’, as some do, because as someone who has clinical depression, I know that feeling blue and being depressed are and can be very different things, and I know other people who suffer with this very real medical condition would also not appreciate the term being used lightly to mean just feeling ‘a bit sad’.
However, on a lighter note, as far as ‘pop culture’ goes, this is one way in which trends are noted, trends which can be used by retailers and advertisers to sell things to make people act in a way that they think will make them feel better about themselves and their lives – through consumerism.
Yet, could there be something that we can actually learn from the idea of there being a ‘Blue Monday’ or the concept of the ‘January blues’? I don’t think there’s any particular significance about the day itself, but psychologically I can understand why people might feel low at this time of the month and year.
Typically, in many parts of the world, it is still winter season, and the communal festivities have passed, and spring is a long way from having sprung. People may have fallen short already in terms of living up to their ‘new year resolutions’ and with the holiday season passed, it is back to work for most people, while the weather is still fairly gloomy and without there being anything imminent to look forward to. Motivation may have dwindled and life may have become a bit ‘hum drum’ once again.
There are many ways in which we can avoid or overcome such negative feelings. For example, we can address our mind-set, thoughts, attitudes and so forth. We can also take care of ourselves physically by getting appropriate sleep, rest, exercise and eating healthily. We can try to stay interested with hobbies, and maintain contact with friends and family.
However, I did specify ‘one way’ in the title of this post, so I’ll let you into a little ‘secret’ of mine. Although the festivities may have passed, I approach each brand new month a bit like a mini ‘new year’. It is a fresh start, time to re-evaluate, to set new goals, and to see new possibilities. I personally like to ‘plan’ and decorate my diary / planner, so it means getting creative with a fresh new approach and new doodles and designs for that month. Sometimes I have a theme in mind for things I’d like to think about or explore or achieve for each month as I go through the year. It keeps things fresh, and it helps me to stay hopeful, rather than seeing an expanse of time stretching out before me with all the ‘new ideas’ falling behind.
If by the time January 20th, 2020 comes around, you are feeling a little ‘blue’, don’t worry. February will soon be around the corner and chance for another new start. So celebrate these mini new beginnings throughout your year, and stay vibrant, hopeful and blessed. x
This time of year could be the perfect opportunity for you to experience personal growth, make new connections and step out of your comfort zone. It could also simply mean giving yourself the chance to do something that you enjoy but usually don’t make time for due to competing priorities, or just the ‘hum drum’ of letting daily life trundle along without being too aware of your choices and chances.
Maybe, like me, you’ve had to work hard at overcoming anxiety. Perhaps there is something you’d like to do, some event you’d like to attend, or some new people you’d like to connect with – BUT you are allowing anxious thoughts to talk you out of giving it a go.
Maybe you’re brimming with confidence but are used to doing the ‘same old, same old’ that you haven’t even thought of saying ‘yes’ to that new opportunity.
Perhaps there are people, causes or needs that you can give your time to, to alleviate someone else’s burden at this time of year.
Wherever you find yourself, think about some of the opportunities in your life coming up that you might automatically say ‘no’ to.
Think of whether it is a good and positive opportunity in your life, and if it doesn’t compete with other more important things, and if it ‘ticks these boxes’ and it is something you actually think you can benefit from doing, then try saying ‘yes’.
Who knows where that simple ‘yes’ might take you, and what further doors of opportunity and friendship it might open…..
Sitting around a lot, or staying indoors more than usual during the colder seasons when life tends to become a bit more sedentary, can lead to achy muscles, and tension in our body. Take some time every day to do a few simple stretches, even if it’s just for five minutes a day. It will help you feel better, calmer, more relaxed and supple and will ease away some of that tension that we hold in our bodies throughout the day, especially when those days are spent curled up on the couch indoors!