Why we shouldn’t avoid the negative

*Content warning: mention depression and suicide*

Welcome back, are we settled in?

Now, talking about the negative I don’t mean the news. Avoid that all you want if it worsens your well-being. I am talking about our negative experiences, our emotions today.

I have long been fascinated by the scope in which humans feel, the array of emotions and moods we face. I have also been fascinated by why we try to avoid feeling anything resembling ‘negative’. I thought today, I would share some of my thoughts on this, and this is purely my opinion and experience of emotions and pain and is not representative of other people’s experiences.

Having experience of mental illness has obviously meant that I have seen all emotions, both highs and lows in the most intense way due to my personality disorder. Looking back, it feels like since I was 15 I lived in nothing but emotional turmoil, always wanting to die. I always wanted to escape the pain, I would try and fight it and lock it away in a heavy safe to chuck in to the ocean. I despised my own experiences, understandably. However, since having therapy I have learned a thing or two about the purpose of what we view as negative emotions and suffering and the purpose.

I am writing this as I feel in a position to feel okay talking about it, if you must know, I am feeling very cosy right now wrapped in a fluffy blanket with fluffy socks on a very grey day…

I feel like there is this notion within society that to be a perfect human, everything in life must be perfect and happy and all sunshine and rainbows. Nothing less. It is also one of the worst lies I have ever witnessed. For life to be real to us, we as humans will experience the very depths emotionality and experience have to offer. No filtered façade. We experience things like anger or rage and worry and sadness for very real purposes.

Anger teaches us when our values or boundaries have been crossed. Worry tells us when something is wrong or we may feel guilty because we know we have done something wrong. Sadness teaches us the meaning of loss or change from what we knew. I feel we learn a lot more about ourselves during these harder times than we ever would as someone constantly seemingly happy. I say seemingly on purpose. Because no everyday person goes on in life without experiencing these emotions.

We learn our strengths. Our resilience. Our meaning and values. Maybe even our purpose.

I recently learned that to overcome problems, we must make friends with the problems (so our emotions, our thoughts…) almost as a “self-antidote”, there we will be able to travel the road much more easily. Shying away or putting our head in the sand, or distracting ourselves won’t help. It may temporarily ease our minds and our hearts but the problems will only get bigger.

Feel what you need to feel, but accept this and don’t fight, then, you may find a resolution just that little bit more easily. You then learn more about yourself.

I have definitely fought within myself countless times, from thoughts to feelings to actions I have done. I just wanted it all to go away. But it never goes away until it is dealt with, a tale as old as time. I understand the pain and wishing it all away on a lonely night, but trust me, put that fighting energy to good use, and find that resolution, seek out the light.

Much happiness to you,

L x

The power of journaling

Hey all!

So I have spoken a bit in the past about journaling and thought this week would be a good time to discuss it. As we come to Autumn in a few weeks and many people start to take stock of the year ending and year beginning. I find I am quite reflective as I cosy down in blanket nests, certainly.

So journaling, at its core essence, is writing your thoughts and feelings, privately for you. It has become quite a popular technique in therapeutic settings in recent years as well as in the wellness industry. Journaling has also become popular through a technique known as Bullet Journaling which can be made into art for many people, but I will not be discussing that. There are an endless amount of ways to journal, depending upon your needs and is a versatile activity.

Journaling for you mental health can be a brilliant tool and is recommended by a lot of clinicians, it has the benefits of reducing worry and stress, improving the ability to rationalise and improving mood. Using journaling can help you organise and priorities thoughts, reflect on behaviours, track moods and symptoms also.

I used to journal quite a lot when I was younger, often writing page after page after page my thoughts and feelings. However, by the time I started therapy, I realised I could turn this into a more effective strategy for me. This is because I did not really feel much better and when journaling can help us reflect, I cringed at what I read which should most definitely not be the case. I started a new method for a therapy journal last year using a key for what I had learned in the session, a part for my homework and a part for reflections.

For my birthday, my best friend gifted me a wonderful journal to track sleep and my mood, noting a cause of the mood but with only space for a couple of sentences. I loved this because it really made me consider my mood and be able to learn from what was going on. I learned just how sensitive I was to lack of sleep, or lack of food. I was still doing my rambles in another journal, but when I became really low I found that I just did not want to write anything, which lessened the impact of this well-being tool.

Now that journal has been filled up, I have created my own in a basic red notebook. Underneath the date I list the rough time I fell asleep, woke up and how many hours I had to sleep, then comment on the quality or if I had woken up. I then reflect on how I am feeling at the end of the day and briefly state why. I go on to create a ‘highlight reel’ of things I have done that day, no matter how repetitive or mundane it may seem, this helps me when I have an off day to see how much I did actually accomplish. Finally, I list a minimum of two things I am grateful for.

I have seen a greater increase in my own engagement with this streamlined journaling method, I can easily reflect on what I am doing well and where I feel I could make improvements upon my own life and spot patterns in my behaviour. I certainly think my method will change in the years to come but for the time being I am happy with what I am doing.

Do you have a particular journaling method, let me know!

Kindness to you all,

L x

Book review: the self-care revolution

Good morning, good morning sunshine!

I thought I would do something a little bit different today and give a little review on a book I have recently read. Naturally, it is well in keeping with positivity, it is called The Self-Care Revolution by Suzy Reading. I have to say, I really did like this book.

Blurb/About: The Self-Care Revolution is designed to help and restore your day-to-day energy reserves so that, rather than running on empty, you will have the strength and spirit to excel with whatever life brings. Discover the Vitality Wheel – a complete body and mind Self-Care Toolkit that will boost your health, happiness and resourcefulness.

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

In general, this book is wonderfully organised with a bright and easy to follow design and some beautiful, relaxing imagery. As Reading is a Chartered Psychologist, she has definitely evidenced her knowledge of self-care and well-being. She follows through on giving guidance around the essentials of self-care with some added extras of yoga for each topic.

Reading has created a vitality wheel which encompasses every part of self-care as follows:

  1. Sleep, rest, relaxation and breathing
  2. Movement and nutrition
  3. Coping skills
  4. Physical environment
  5. Social connection
  6. Mood boosters
  7. Goal-setting and accomplishment
  8. Values and purpose

Reading starts off each chapter describing her personal experience of each of the above categories, goes on to talk about the benefits and what each section involves as well as tips and advice on how to implement healthy strategies, she has ‘little gems’ as a useful summary and concludes with yoga poses that can aid in implementing the right energy for each section. You do not have to read the book in the sequence given, you can skip back and forth as you need which I found to be really accessible. I love her style of writing and enjoyed the personal touch of her experiences.

I learned some new things and am definitely keeping this book handy as a reminder. The yoga is also useful for first thing in a morning and I enjoyed completing some of the poses.

I highly recommend this book, especially if you are unsure of where to start your well-being journey.

Love to all,

L x

Having a well-being toolbox

Welcome back.

Got a cuppa and ready for a light read?

I have been reflecting more and more recently about general things in life, a life I am currently in love with, with its humbled and ordinary nature. One thing I have finally realised is that I have a very full well-being toolbox.

If you have had a similar experience to myself at all, in mental health services I was often asked what I did to keep well, or when I was unwell and it was a very small list – sleep or listen to music. In essence, a well-being toolbox is every activity that you can use to maintain or improve your well-being and mental health and I have come to my conclusion that I am now in a place to maintain my recovery with many tools are my disposal.

Each person’s toolbox should be as tailored as possible, and having activities that really work to maintain recovery. Some people may have more activities than others but this really is a case for quality over quantity.

I’m quite pleased that my list of two activities has expanded. For me, I have activities I do on a regular basis to maintain recovery and those that are there for when needed. For example, in maintenance I meditate every day, journal every day (I have streamlined the way I journal and will be sharing this in another post), plan the next day, have my routines. Each week I will have basic jobs such as laundry or cleaning out the piggies as well as budgeting my money, I also read quite a lot as it is a restful activity. I do also like to walk when I can, this is proving difficult in the last few weeks due to terrible weather and arthritis flare up but I hope to get back into it soon. Then for the days I need a little extra boost I know I have yoga, creative writing, origami, a long bath, power naps, my DOG days, baking and scrapbooking. 

This obviously paints quite the picture of who I am as a person, I am very much a beginner in a lot of these activities but that basic level is enough to bring me to my baseline and that’s brilliant for me. But these activities are mindful and can give me purpose just for that little bit of time. I love having that time of peace and my own calm. Others may need something more physical like rock climbing, gorge walking, cycling, DIY or renovating, painting, the list is endless.

What’s in your toolbox? 

Much happiness to you,

L x

The importance of rest

All cosy and rested? 

One of the definitions of rest (and the one we need for the purposes of this post) is to “cease work or movement in order to relax, sleep or recover strength.” Gosh, to me, even reading that seems relaxing?

Previously, I have spoken about my journey with resting, being prone to burn out and overdoing it when I feel good. I wanted to talk about the importance of rest as a gentle reminder for you all as you all matter and deserve rejuvenating rest. Especially during these times.

Sleep

Everyone knows it. We need at least 7-9 hours of sleep every night to have maximum executive function, a good mental state and good cognition to function throughout your day. But did you know 1 in 3 people suffer from poor sleep with stress often being blamed and that a severe lack in sleep can put you at risk of serious conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and can shorten your life expectancy (NHS)? 

It sounds quite serious, and yes this is with long-term poor quality and shortened lengths of sleep but sleep is so vital to us as humans. The occasional night may mean irritability the next day but after several nights you become far more frustrated, increase the likelihood of severe burn out and a large drop in mood. It would become harder to make decisions and concentrate properly too.

On a more positive note, having plenty of sleep means a boost in immunity, lessens the risk of diabetes as studies show deep sleep can impact how the body produces glucose. Of course, feeling like you’ve had plenty of rest can boost your mood and lower levels of depression and anxiety. 

On a personal note, I have seen both sides of the spectrum. I wasn’t always the greatest sleeper as a child and come 2012 in my depressive state I only slept on average about 3 hours for months before GCSEs. My sleep didn’t improve much beyond that for years averaging around six hours until 2018 when I went back to 3 hours or no sleep at all. I didn’t know what to do about it and everything in my life seemed to keep getting worse. My antipsychotic medication did help me, and now that I have a decent night routine that works for me and I have developed more of a daily routine I do find I settle much more easily. I found that even if I had a draining day I would sleep even worse, but having some downtime has helped.

The NHS offers some good reminders on what can drain you and reduce your quality of and time sleeping. One thing I have found incredibly useful as someone with a long-term illness is known as The Spoon Theory and I have found it such a powerful reminder (there are too many links but easily searched!)

Downtime

We are, of course, awake for most of the day but what we do with our time is just as vital as getting plenty of sleep. If we are constantly in doing mode, full of stress or worry or adrenaline, this can be just as unhealthy and can lead to a severe anxiety disorder. We, as creatures, are not built to be constantly switched on. As we have evolved so too have our ways of relaxing, it’s no longer purely sleep. 

This could be through hobbies, passions, routines, a retreat, getting away. It could be as small as ten minutes having a bit shower or a long holiday away. We all need a rejuvenation at the end of the day to prepare us for the next and regular time away from life’s responsibilities. I often hear people say “well there’s not enough time in the day!” Believe me, I understand this, but you need to make time, for the sake of your health. Physically block the time off in your schedule and do what you need to do to feel better. It’s for your health in the long run, hardly selfish. Remember that. 

How you do it is up to you and it make take some time figuring out what it is you need to sustain your well-being and rest, but start with hobbies and simple things like changing habits and go from there. the way you do it is as unique and as wonderful as you.

Rest up my lovelies, I’m thinking of you,

L x

Article inspired: hobbies

Happy Sunday!

I occasionally like to read well-being magazines so today’s post has been inspired by Issue 30 of Breathe magazine. I know many likes my previous post so thought I would have another small piece.

In this issue, Kat Smith wrote about hobbies being turned into “side hustles” and found that in our current society, society tells us nearly everything we do should help us turn a profit. The article states that turning something in to a business may end up being less fun in the long-term.

This is true, in our modern society, productivity reigns supreme and many people are finding that doing something purely for joy is falling further down their list of things to do. A New Zealand study found that having a “creative endeavour” can improve general mood until the end of the following day. 

When did this happen? When did we lose joy in doing things that being us contentment and boost our well-being? I am all for people having additional businesses and income. But I am even more for people having activities being done for pure enjoyment. 

There are so many activities that can be done from reading and creative writing to embroidery and cross-stitching, taking up a fitness class or tai chi, to mindful activities like calligraphy (which I am thinking of taking up myself). If something brings joy, carve time out for it, I promise you won’t regret it. 

Having hobbies in turns let’s us have a positive outlet for emotions and improve our mental and emotional well-being as well as an escape from the minutiae of life. So take this as a sign to do some searching and finding an activity you love just because.

Happy hobbying,

L x

What we all face: the hedonic treadmill

Hello my lovelies! How are we this sunny Tuesday? Today I want to talk about a concept you may have heard of before, the hedonic treadmill, or hedonic adaptation. I find it fascinating and relate to it very much. It was a term coined by Brickman and Campbell (1971) and has become force for change in positive psychology (a field of Psychology that focuses upon happiness and well-being). It is where cognitive processes similar to sensory adaptation occur when faced with emotional events in life; our emotional system adapts to current life circumstances. It is where we react positively or negatively to a situation and then return to a neutrality or a baseline, a set point. It is a concept that presupposes why we are constantly seeking happiness in the next goal or action in order to maintain happiness levels. This notion can be a contentious topic among psychologists as the original theory declared we cannot do much to alter levels of happiness on a long term basis. The whole idea can seem counterintuitive too – would large moments that define our life trajectory change our baseline? Humans are an adaptable species which is why things may feel ‘neutral’ quite a bit, we get used to what we have. But evidence has shown activities such as altruism and self-care can impact short-term happiness which could possibly alter long-term happiness in the bigger picture. Hobbies that bring enjoyment such as art, crafting and reading can bring much happiness. Seligman termed these gratifications, and by consistently engaging we can alter our set points to be more satisfied with life. Diener et Al (2006) feels revisions must be made upon extensive research. The idea surrounding us going back to a neutral may indeed be wrong, they found the majority of people are happy or above neutral most of the time and suggest that there is no singular universal set point. They suggest that many factors including heritability (likelihood of transmission between parent and child) and personality impacts what the set point may be. There may also be multiple set points for an individual depending upon the factor impacting a person’s satisfaction with life. Longitudinal studies over a period of over a decade showed evidence to suggest that our happiness does and can change from previous levels on both a long and short-term basis. While we may have to face negative life circumstances, we will be better equipped when satisfied in other areas of our lives, and while this does take effort, being aware of where we are in our sense of self can help a great deal. For many years I felt my baseline, my set ‘neutral’ was depressed. The rush of retail therapy quickly faded, fun nights out turned me even worse the next day then back to depressed again. I felt I had to be out every weekend chasing the high, constantly achieving high grades at school, college even in the early years of university and nothing could keep me happy. I would return to my baseline. The past two years have changed all of that, I’m much happier in myself and while life events are not impacting my mood the majority of the time compared to mood swings I feel very satisfied with my life. While I have goals to achieve, they are end goals with a purpose such as overcoming phobias. So do what you love, whether that 5 minutes of sitting down with a cup of tea or spending a day painting, make that time! Please contact me and let me know your thoughts or any other topics I should cover! Much love, L x

I’m back: part 1

Hello to all of you wonderful beings!

First order of business! I absolutely cannot believe it has been two months since I had my first ramble. I really want to apologise to you all for taking so long in coming back. As it will be clear going through my posts, I am someone who has mental illness. I am trying my best to get better though I feel like I am only getting worse right now and as appreciative of the NHS as I am (believe me, I love the NHS), they’re not helping too much at the moment but hey, everyone and everything are doing their best!

There are a few other reasons as to why I have taken so long to post. I wanted to make sure I knew where I was going with this blog for starters. But a big reason why is because I was ashamed. I felt that to talk about wellness and well-being as a whole, I myself have to be some form of enlightened being who had it all sussed out. I felt like I had to have the aesthetic, the perfect being who has it all figured out. Then something happened that usually does with me. I read a book. This book is about the science of self-love (there will be a review, most definitely) and the author felt like me early on in his journey as a speaker, but learned that sometimes, going through the journey can have some very interesting insights and you don’t have to know everything to speak what you are passionate about.

So… I am back.

I hope you are ready to join me in my next evolution (I don’t feel like journey is a word that suits me, personally). Tomorrow I will be going more in-depth about how I am hoping to grow from what is happening to me right now.

Next order of business! I wish to say welcome to all of my new visitors and followers, please know I am so truly happy and grateful to have you here. I hope you find some positivity from reading my posts and thoughts, maybe even learn something new. Also, please feel free to comment or message me in the contact form if you have any questions, comments or just want to chat: I love speaking to new people! i will definitely be more active from now on.

Finally, if you cannot already tell, this blog will be now be used for my process as I try and recover. I will be writing about what I know best, which is mental health and illness, alongside wellness.

Thank you all so so much for reading this, I can’t wait to see what the future brings.

Much happiness,

L x

Routines: the morning

Hello all you lovely people! I apologise for not posting last week but I was away and spent my time making the most of the relaxation. Today I want to talk about morning routines, we all have them in some way whether actively intending on specific activities or just rushing through the morning doing what we need to do to get out of the door. Now, I firmly believe that a morning routine can help set the day with the right tone and I want to talk about the benefits of having a solid morning routine because there are plenty. There are life coaches specialising in productivity of whom agree that how we begin our day can have a large impact on how the rest of our day will be. So setting the right tone in the morning is very useful. If you wake up with the right intentions and purpose for the day, it gives you more control on how the day starts. From this you can reap the benefits of feeling refreshed, fulfilled and bring about a positive attitude and peace. This in turn is known to increase your resilience to stress. Having a set out morning routine filled with purpose allows you to make priorities for the day to be healthily productive. It can also reduce stress knowing what to do, helping to reduce decision fatigue. A morning routine helps you to become more mindful of time and improves the chances of getting some ‘you-time’, Recently, I feel like my morning routine has not been it’s best and I am not helping myself with having slow starts and feeling groggy from the get go. So I listened to a podcast (Jay Shetty On Purpose) featuring Dr Rangan Chatterjee who spoke endlessly of the benefits of having a morning routine and provided a framework of activities that should be done in the morning and it sounded interesting. He gives the framework of having mindfulness, movement and mindset activities placed into a morning routine so that the benefits mentioned above were happening. He spoke about how if his daughter was awake he would often complete affirmations with her and incorporated his family into his routine which I thought was quite wonderful. This week I decided to test it out myself. My morning routine is as follows: 7am Wake up 7.30am I have made my bed, tidied up any mess and fed my pets, dressed and sorted myself out (brushed my teeth, you get the drill) 8am I have had my breakfast, done some stretches and meditated 8.30am I have journalled stating my aims, giving myself an affirmation and mantra for the day and read some of my book (currently into personal development) Whilst I have only done this for one week so far, I have been able to wake up with the right energy, given myself the right mindset for focusing, feeling refreshed and like I have actually accomplished something already so early in the day. I hope to make this a permanent habit and will occasionally report back how it is going because I do feel so much better. I understand, however, that morning routines are very unique depending upon your circumstances, you may feel like you have no time to do this sort of thing or you may be well versed and have a morning routine that works for you which I applaud. I wanted to talk about this because I find it fascinating. If you would like to find more information I do suggest the podcast I mentioned as Dr Chatterjee makes some very poignant points as a starting framework. There are also many sources out there, and if you would like to improve your morning routine remember to make small changes first to build the habit. Please let me know in the comments or message me your routine if you have one you recommend! I am always looking for new inspiration 🙂 Much happiness, L x

Gratitude

Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough. Oprah Winfrey
Gratitude is a word, a concept, a feeling, that we all know and understand. But so many of us do not truly know the power of it. Simply put, gratitude is an overwhelming sense of being thankful, a need to return kindness or show appreciation to another. To actively practice gratitude is a must-do for well-being and increasing positivity in your life. Many do not do this and today, I would like to take this opportunity to share why I now love practicing gratitude. Gratitude is so vital for positivity and happiness as feeling thankful allows you to feel joy, it can, literally, bring happiness. There is also increasing evidence showing that grateful people are more enthusiastic, interested and optimistic than those who aren’t. Having this kind of disposition means you are less likely to be anxious or depressed and within psychology, gratitude is often highly associated with life satisfaction. Even more than that, gratitude is also related to your ‘sense of coherence’, helping you to feel like life is more manageable, comprehensible and meaningful. (Salutogenesis, Antonovsky, 1979) Many people do struggle with being thankful. It is so easy for us to fall into the trap of focusing on our burdens and remaining in a negative mind state rather than seeing the abundance of goodness in our lives. But practicing gratitude regularly can condition your mind to see things in a more positive light, to be able to reframe experiences. Whilst life inevitably gets in the way of positive emotions, your energy is better spent on finding solutions to your problems rather than wondering what will go wrong next. One of the most common ways to practice is to keep a gratitude journal, whether that is a good old paper and pen version, or electronically in this modern age. Whilst many recommend writing every day, I myself found that it quickly became a chore, an alternative is spending just 15 minutes at the end of the week, writing down everything you are grateful for that week. It does not have to be major accomplishments it could be as simple as being grateful you took a water bottle on a run when you started to feel dehydrated. As months go by you will hopefully notice that you will start looking at life more positively and feel better in yourself being able to look back at the positive moments happening in your life. If you wish to do it every day, feel free to do so, even thinking of a couple of positive moments from earlier that day can boost your mood. Another simple exercise, from Professor Martin Seligman, is known as ‘what went well’. For this exercise, you first think of three things that went well that day and then you describe why it went well. This has been a tested and proven way to increase happiness and gratitude. Every day I find myself thankful for something and it reminds me of how much goodness I have in my life, despite anything negative also occurring. In those moments I feel lightened and happier and I hope you can feel the same. Happiness to you, L x