Repetition and positive podcasts

I started listening to Tara Brach’s podcasts about a year ago. She’s a Buddhist teacher who runs retreats and is quite well know for her book Radical Acceptance (which I have since read and recommend) and also her meditations, which are also on her podcast (and I also now use instead of apps).

In the past I wouldn’t have described myself as spiritual but I am pretty open minded and feel myself opening up and respond well to Buddhist values and messaging.  Whether you are spiritually inclined or not, her podcasts are very soothing and have helped me see the world in a more positive light. If I am feeling anxious, they help me not take myself too seriously, provide practical advice on how to move forward and most importantly I think, help me realise that I am not alone and we are all struggling through something. We’re all connected.

When your walking, lying in bed, stretching or commuting, a podcast is an easy thing to put on and an easy habit to get into. With hardly any effort at all I believe listening to podcasts like this which open up your mind and help you put a positive perspective on things can really help day to day life. Also by repetition of listening to someone like Tara Brach, whether you are really paying attention or not, overtime, I believe those ideas and values naturally start to have a positive effect on you.

 

Other podcasts I like are:

The Good Life Project. Contemplations on ‘life’ and interviews with interesting people who have led a unique life.

Some of Tim Ferriss’ stuff. He investigates ideas on optimizing your body, life, work experience  (I find it a bit extreme and can’t relate sometimes).

When I do want to listen to the news, I listen to BBC Newshour Podcast

BBC Women’s Hour because it remind me of home!

I’ve also just started checking out The Rich Roll Podcast.

 

Letting go of self consciousness and self criticism

This is my biggest thing at the moment that I am working on. On Saturday I went shopping and I just felt so anxious and self conscious in the shops and just really weird and unlike myself. I could see myself being like that but I was caught up and couldn’t get out of that anxious headspace.

I unpacked it later and think it came from a combination of:

I always have felt lucky and spoilt growing up so have a lot of guilt around shopping and spending money.

I am very critical of how I look so trying on clothes and being near mirrors isn’t always easy.

I think out of feeling not sure of myself and who I am I get a bit lost when shopping sometimes as I am not sure what clothes I actually want/like (or need).

I think I also feel a bit of guilt around shopping because I am trying to be more minimal at the moment and not over consume.

New, more compassionate thinking

Yes you are lucky but you also work hard and have thought about what you want to buy. Try not to be so hard on yourself, if having a few new things is going to make you feel better and you’ll enjoy them that is okay. If you can afford it you can give away other bits to charity. You don’t need to feel guilty about this. Try and let it go, you know you aren’t a wasteful, greedy person. Trust your inner compass. 

It is just a thought that you don’t look nice. You are more than how you look. You are a kind and loving person. See this thought pattern and hold it in awareness, smile with it and let it go. It is a learnt critical thought pattern which has developed since you were little, being aware of it and offering yourself compassion is the first step to it loosing any hold it might have over you. 

I tested out my new thinking at the gym this morning. I often find it hard to look at myself in the mirror but I did a few times and when I could see myself being critical I was aware of that and able to let the thought go, rather than loosing myself in feeling bad about myself. What really helps me is to consciously try and drop back/relax back into my body, bring awareness to my hands, feet or breathe and turn to my inner self, my heart space, and live from their in presence. From that place, negative, anxious thoughts come and go but I am able to watch them and let them pass.

It is a daily journey but seeing it as a journey and offering myself compassion, rather than seeing it negatively as battle, has helped me start to be more present, less anxious and less self conscious.

Now I am going to go for a walk and try and be present and not lost in my head. I’m wearing  my new trainers which I love and don’t feel guilty about buying too 😀

 

Staying in and being true

You know how on Friday when colleagues or friends ask you what you are up to at the weekend, I always want to sound like I have loads on. There’s part of me part of me that naturally wants to puff up and tell people how busy/social/active I am at the weekend, I think out of insecurity of being seen not to have plans, ‘a life’ or friends. Like being busy at the weekend and having lots on is an indicator of success in some way? But there’s also an internal element to it. I find myself making lots of plans because I feel I should be busy, because it’s the weekend and because I want to get the most out of my time/life.

In reality, if I really listen to myself and do what I want to do, just 1 or 2 plans is good for me with time between to bumble about on my own. When someone asks me ‘what are you up to’ I would like to be confident enough in myself to be able to say yeah I have no plans and whaaaaaat. I have started being more honest and found that it makes me feel more authentic and I have a more authentic connection in the conversation.

The other side of it I struggle with is saying no to things I think I should do, or like the idea of in theory, but in practise know they don’t really suit me. Take this weekend. I’ve had a busy week with a work dinner on Wednesday and on Thursday I went to see The Big Sick with my flatmate at an independent cinema with sofas and ate dumplings (that is basically my ideal evening). It’s Friday now and I have dinner plans with some other friends tonight. Tomorrow, I want to go to the gym, skype a friend in the UK and I have lots of life admin I want to sort out. On Sunday I am going hiking and maybe an evening date (going to see how I feel as I do like my Sundays in to chill, do washing and meal prep). I know this level of busyness suits me, as I have a good amount of time on Sat to potter, it isn’t too boozy and I’ll be outdoors on Sunday.

But, I have also been invited to a dinner on Saturday night and drinks with other friends. I don’t know that many people in Melbourne so part of me is like ‘just say yes’, have 1 or 2 drinks and show your face, you don’t know who you’ll meet, but another part of me knows I don’t really want to go and a night in catching up on my life admin and relaxing would suit me more. It’s a hard one to work out what to do. I am trying to channel doing what my heart, my Self wants rather than thinking outside of myself of what I ‘should’ do. So I think I am going to stay in and chill, AND, if anyone asks I’m going to be authentic and proud in that decision.

Happy Friday 🙂 Reading that back I think I got carried away with the italics

Not rushing

Today I am trying not to rush. I had a busy day and evening yesterday and found myself waking up with a million lists in my head, plans for the day, weekend, things I want to buy, admin I need to do… I rushed to the gym and felt quite self conscious because I wasn’t very present perhaps, and because I usually feel self conscious at the gym unless I am in a really good place because of all the mirrors I think, but I still had a good work out and it makes my body feel good. I came home, got dressed and made myself sit and meditate to a guided Tara Brach meditation for 20 minutes before heading off to work.

Initially my mind was all over the place (maybe for half the meditation!) but I wasn’t hard on myself, saw how distracted I was and tried to separate those thoughts from myself. Eventually, I was able to relax back into my body and let them come and go without getting caught up in my head. Now I am sitting at working still feeling a bit manic and rushy but aware of that and able to drop back and let it pass, maybe do 1 or 2 errands on my to list but not get distracted too much in doing doing doing.

Tomorrow, I will try and get up a bit earlier so I can mediate before I go to the gym and not be rushing around in the morning.

I will lay out my gym clothes tonight so they are ready to go.

I’m going to set an alarm for 9.30 PM tonight to remind me then to put my phone on aeroplane mode/TV/laptop away and then read/listen to a podcast in bed to help me go to sleep earlier.

Good luck future me 🙂

Meditating

I first started meditating when I was mentally making the decision to break up with my ex. Realising I needed to do this awful thing to a lovely person caused me so much internal turmoil I didn’t know what to do with myself . I felt like I was living inside all the worries in my head and not moving forward in any way. I started to read this book about mindfulness and it sparked my interest into what is now an important daily ritual for me and has greatly improved my day to day ‘life’ experience and anxiety levels.

Mindfulness. A Practical Guide for Finding Peace in a Frantic World shows you how you can bring mindfulness into your every day life in easy ways. The book is broken down into chapters, each telling a relatable story about common anxieties in life, a bit of science behind it and then it gives you 1 or 2 daily mindful tasks to do that week, such as brushing your teeth and only thinking about brushing your teeth and accompanies that with a short 10 minute guided meditation on a CD which comes with the book. The book is split into 8 chapters, so it is an 8 week course.

I then moved on to experimenting with app meditation, first Headspace and then Calm, both of which I found useful. I now listen to podcasts by Tara Brach which tend to be a bit more spiritually based and I sometimes try and free style meditate by setting a timer for 10 – 15 minutes and trying to just follow my breathe. I try to meditate most mornings but don’t beat myself up if I over sleep (or snooze).

I have definitely gone through phases of not bothering for a few days, or a week, and often I know I just sit there and think about what I have to do that day… (FYI that isn’t meditating apparently). However I haven’t given up the habit, because overall, over time, I have noticed the difference, and there is so much science to back it up.

If you struggle with worrying, depression or anxiety I would say really give it a good go. What is 10 minutes out of your day? If you inforce the habit for a few weeks it soon becomes an easy daily ritual and the effort element of doing it is gone. Try the book and if you don’t see any benefits after 8 weeks then no worries, hit snooze instead.

Namasteeeee X

 

Gratitude

I write a few things I am grateful for each day on a post it note at work. It’s a good break in between tasks and I have a post it note saying ‘gratitude’ on my screen to remind me. It has been proven to help with depression and creating a positive mentality and literally is a 2 minute task if that. At one time, I would have been embarrassed to have a post it note saying gratitude but I am much more confident and happy in myself now that I don’t mind people seeing it or if they judged me in anyway. Most people would be interested or be able to relate to such a daily ritual but my internal lens would usually be that people are going to judge me negatively, a lens I am working on changing at the moment too just through being aware of it.

Today I am grateful for:

A sweet text from a friend I woke up to

The cappuccino I am drinking. Delicious! I used to feel bad ordering milky coffee and worry about being unhealthy or having too much dairy but that is a belief I gained from my Mum and I have decided to let it go as I love coffee and cappuccinos and it’s not worth wasting my head space worrying about that.

My sunny walk into work

The podcast I listened to this morning for the first time (Rich Roll) which I found I could relate to. I often feel I find my ‘tribe’ in podcasts but would like to find a few more real life friends who share similar interests. I am going to look out for a meditation group to join as I think that could be a good place.

The heating in my office keeping me warm.

The Spotify song playing in the background right now (playlist – Folk Rock Chill)

The feeling that I am getting to know who I am authentically more each day (but not stressing about the also daily set backs)

The sense I know when I am rushing/getting anxious and able to catch it more e.g. this morning I woke up and felt I didn’t meditate very well and started stressing about work and when I would go to the gym. I managed to catch myself rushing, smile with my mind for getting carried away and come back to the moment.

Today I am working on a marketing strategy at work. I’m going to try and go for a walk over lunch and tonight I am going boxing with my flatmate! Something I would have been terrified to try a few months ago but I gave it a shot, enjoyed it and find it fun to do with a friend and kinda meditative (because I am so badly co ordinated I really need to concentrate whilst boxing!).

 

 

Social Anxiety

So I think this is one of my biggest challenges at the moment which is holding me back in life. I feel like I have made some big fundamental progress in terms of getting to a good place with my Mum and leading a more authentic life in Australia and even feeling more confident about my ability at work and in dating (men and women). Massive, massive steps compared to a few years ago when I was deeply unhappy and still living in my head, but I still find myself getting really anxious sometimes often in casual social situations such as coffee shops or with new people. It is like I go into a trance and feel like people are looking at me and judging me and I start judging myself and feeling like I don’t look very nice and that I stand out or that I am some sort of fraud. When I really look at people I can see that it is in my head. Everyone is preoccupied with their own lives and even if they are looking at you it is usually in a nice way and if not, does it matter what a stranger thinks?

I do know that. But I need to try and move past this day by day. Knowing it is silly feeling like this doesn’t change how it feels and just adds a sense of judgement which isn’t positive. Instead of believing people are looking at me and I don’t look nice I am going to try and channel the energy that:

I am fit, strong and able and more than that a kind person.

Looks aren’t important to me in other people so don’t be so hard on yourself. Even if you don’t look great, that is just a tiny percent of who you are.

It doesn’t matter what a stranger thinks of me. You know you’re a good, kind person.

No one is looking, but offer compassion to that part of me that thinks they are and smile.

Drop back. Think about your breathe going in and out of your nostrils or the sensation of feeling/movement in your hands and feet. Speak and act from that place in presence, your heart, rather than believing the internal dialogue in your head and shutting off.

Give yourself a break, it has been a big few years and this stuff with Mum is quite upsetting, as is coming to terms with who you really are, accepting your bisexuality and living in a new country. It is natural you might feel a bit anxious don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s okay to admit to yourself that you are struggling sometimes and give yourself a break. Catch up with a friend, have a hot chocolate or watch a movie and chill, you’re doing great 🙂 Don’t ignore the feelings and shut off.

Learning how to comfort myself like this has been big for me as I have felt I have lost that sort of support from my parents and after splitting up with my ex I have at times felt quite alone. I do turn to friends and I am a lot more willing to do that and be open now, but I have found it important to be able to turn to and trust in myself too. When I do that, I feel I am able to be strong and happy anywhere, but it isn’t always easy and I do doubt myself sometimes.

Just saw this and made me lol so thought I would add it in…

 

 

Priorities

I used to feel like I didn’t have time to do the things I want to do, like going to the gym, reading or meditating, but I have learnt that it isn’t time I didn’t have, it is that my priorities weren’t in order. I was working long hours in London, stressing about work, constantly catching up with friends and drinking and eating quite a lot. I’d meet up with a friend for dinner and catching upm then booking them in for another catch up 2 months later when we were both next free. The conversations would be de briefs on what we had done for the 2 months since we had last hung out rather than real, present, natural conversations.

Since moving to Australia I have been able to redefine my priorities and how I spend my time. What am I interested in and who do I want to hang out with? As a relaxed person I’ve often ended up just doing what my friends or family wanted over the years without really thinking about it.

Here are some of my life priorities at the moment;

I try not to do much during the week and go to the gym most nights, usually HIIT workout classes. I know and can feel that it is great for me mentally and physically and I actually really enjoy it (when I am there).  You literally show up and the classes are organised for you so making yourself get there is the hardest part and it usually ends up being fun.

I have actually met a lot of my friends since moving here at the gym. Going to the gym and then for brunch and coffee is pretty much my ideal Saturday. I’ve realised that I would rather watch a film or go for dinner on a Friday and get up and go to the gym and have brunch on Saturday over having lots of drinks and socialising in a big group and being hungover. Having always been very sociable and a bit of a yes women it has taken a while for me to admit this to myself and to those around me when I am asked out for drinks and don’t really want to go. Getting the balance is an ongoing navigation and having the faith in what works for me over feelings of what I should do or might miss out on.

Another priority for me is getting outside walking and hiking. Again because of how it makes me feel mentally and physically and I really enjoy it, especially exploring new areas. I try and walk for at least 30 minutes at lunch time at work (listening to a podcast) and at the weekend keep a bit of time free for a walk (and coffee) with a friend or book up a few outdoorsy activities with other friends who have similar priorities e.g. I am going bouldering on Sunday for the first time ah! I’ve noticed my friends that go out drinking a lot don’t want to commit to a hike, as for them boozing the night before is still the priority, so the friends I have made at the gym are perfect hike buddies as we have similar priorities.

A priority for me is getting a balance of busyness so having a few social things on but knowing not to over book myself and giving myself most week nights and some time at the weekend to veg out. Even if I am asked to something tempting I am more inclined to say no if it might be too much for me e.g. my flat mate asked me to an LCD Soundsystem concert mid week butttt I was jet lagged and still settling back into Australia so I weighed it up and ended up saying no. I like that band but I’m not a die hard fan. I had a quiet week but no jet lag by the Friday and a fun weekend of gymming, brunching and hiking!

Another priority for me this year will be to travel more and I have already booked in a few mini trips and have started saying yes to those offers from friends.

I also make time in the morning to meditate and journal briefly which I think helps set me up for the day.

And I try and watch only 1 (or 2) episodes of a series in the evening, leaving time to stretch, read or listen to a podcast in bed.

I also try and keep Sunday evenings free so I can do a batch of meal prep for the week ahead (leaving my mid week evenings for the gym). I would like healthy eating to become a priority, which it kinda is but I need to curb my daily chocolate habit… I’ll aim to do this my eating fruit instead and having chocolate at weekends, lets see how I go…

Awe

So apparently those moments when you are outside in nature and are struck/in awe/your breathe is taken away, they are moments which not only give you a huge sense of presence and happiness in that moment, but they can create new positive channels in the brain. There have also been recent studies which link walking outside with creativity. [Heard this on the latest Good Life Project podcast On Awe, Positive Actions, Anxiety and Depression]

I get a huge amount of happiness just through walking to work each day and it is a commute I am hugely grateful for. I walk over a bridge by South Yarra in Melbourne for 15 minutes and I am at work. As I walk over the bridge I can look to my right and see the centre of Melbourne over the river. Sometimes there are rowers on the water and if I am lucky hot air balloons flying over. I often stop and take a look (and sometimes a photo).

I’m consciously endeavouring to spend more time outdoors in general as I do think it is a great way of getting you out of your head and helps put life into a wider perspective. At the moment this means my mini walk to work and also a short walk at lunch (sometimes just to get a coffee), plus I am trying to get out and about exploring Melbourne at the weekends.

Last Sunday I did ‘The 1000 Steps’ walk with my flatmate and we got hot chocolate and shared some carrot cake afterwards in Sassafras, a cute town outside Melbourne. It was ideal. I was feeling a little bit hung over/jet lagged but found the walk to be hugely calming and I hope to have taken some of that peacefulness into my week.

Namasteeeee

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Confidence and coming out

I’m not naturally confident in myself and I’m very self conscious. I constantly doubt and question myself. I think over the years, being a people pleaser and wanting to fit in I didn’t really think about me and who I really am, what I value and who I want to be. As have started to explore those questions and I feel I have a much clearer idea of who I am now my confidence has grown. Initially though, I felt scared and saddened by the disparity of the life I was leading and who I truly was. It also caused a shed load of anxiety as I kept acting in a certain way that weren’t true to me, too afraid to start making changes to my life and angry at myself for not being who I was pretending to be.

Now, I consciously try to be authentic and true to me and that has caused my anxiety to almost disappear and it has brought a great sense of inner faith and growing sense of confidence. I (mostly) don’t feel the need to act a certain way, puff myself up at work in terms of my ability or hide my values to try and fit in. When I do see myself being untrue to me I am consciously aware of it and able to try and welcome that feeling of uncertainty and combat it in how I act next time or tomorrow, without judging or being too hard on myself. Mostly…

I recently read The Life Giving Art of Not Giving a Fuck and realised I CARE(D) SO MUCH WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK OF ME. Really, why? I need to have faith in myself and not care. I know I am a kind and good human and my friends know that. Why do I care what strangers think of me or people on social media? If I believe in myself I don’t need external approval. I feel that caring so much holds you back from being true and expressing yourself so I am working on combating this.

2 years ago I knew I looked like I was nailing life with my boyfriend, house and business in London based on societal standards and what my parents may have sought for me, but in reality, I wasn’t happy in my relationship, I wanted to have more of a carefree existence and the ability to travel and I wanted to be meeting new people. Alone now in Australia with less friends than I can count on one hand and working for someone else in a non stressful but still challenging job, I am much happier.

I  can see that by facing and accepting our fears, anxieties and challenges and learning to welcome the uncertainty, we are able to overcome them. I would say I am naturally shy and don’t like to put myself out there, but I also enjoy writing, on a deeper level want to put myself out there and connect with people so I will challenge myself to keep doing that and welcome the anxiety/uncertainty it brings, such as through posting this. Day to day this also brings confidence but there is also a ride of anxiety I have to go through with each post which I try to be aware of and welcome. HIYA RACING HEART.

I like this article as it shows that we can all be confident really, it is just about facing our worries head on and welcoming them as part of us and testing ourselves in small ways every day to break down those barriers that hold us back. Whether that’s the confidence to go on a date, join a new gym, go for a work promotion. If you take the small steps towards them it gets easier over time and you can start to be the best you (corny sorry). Be kind and welcome your fears. They are part of you and can make you stronger.

A fun life challenge for me has been being open about my sexuality. I have always known I am bisexual but never had the confidence to explore it or be open with my friends. I come from a conservative English background and knew no one gay or bisexual at school or university. Although my parents aren’t homophobic, my Dad does refer to gay people as ‘them’ and I am aware of the homophobic jokes I’ve heard over the years at home and by my friends. I don’t actually know how they would respond if I told them I was bisexual, but as my Mum has got so angry with me for choosing to live in Australia and taken it as a personal attack, rather than seeing me leading my life for myself (and being happier for it), I do worry that she would take it personally and be embarrassed to accept me.

I am dating men and women and just exploring who I am. I’m cool with that and embracing the uncertainty. I love that my friends are getting married and I am happy for them but I don’t see that for me at the moment and instead of hating myself for being different like I have in the past, I’m honestly okay with it (with 5% doubt every so often and annoyance that I ‘can’t just be like everyone else’.) In reality, there is no ‘everyone else’ we are all working through something and feeling separate in some way. I think we can take comfort in knowing that. We are all at a base level the same and together.

I am slowly being more  open with my friends about being bisexual and feeling less embarrassed by it which is awesome for me. It was such a big deal in my head but in reality it hasn’t been that at all. For anyone going through a similar thing; give yourself a break and start small. It is a lot to get your head around if you are gay or bisexual even in 2017. Be kind to yourself, maybe sign up to an app and tell one close friend you know won’t judge you and go from there. There’s no rush to be completely open and you can work it out at your own pace. I found the idea of dating a women absolutely terrifying, and it was (is) ha, but what I have realised is that we are all kinda similar at the end of the day and people will often surprise you if you open up. What might be a big deal in your head in reality is actually totally okay and whatever happens, you’re going to be okay.

I don’t think now is the time to tell my parents, as my Mum isn’t in a good mental place, but I don’t see that as being unauthentic, just taking her feelings into consideration perhaps? Hilariously, when I mentioned I was reading The Life Giving Art of Not Giving a Fuck her response was ‘I thought you wrote that’ implying that I don’t care about her as I have chosen to live in Australia. OUCH. It stung a lot as I care so much and she just doesn’t know how much comments like that affect me. Normally I would probably feel bad and go back under my people pleasing shell and feel like an awful person. But instead, I said nothing, smiled, was aware of how the comment affected me, but also aware that I know that is her issue and I have not done anything wrong. I was almost able to laugh at it (internally) and see the progress I have made and my inner self confidence shine through.

I still have areas I want to work on and think I always will, but I’m enjoying the journey and trying to embrace life’s challenges and quirks as part of the adventure.

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Me and mum…

 

Written at work very quickly, sorry for rambling on.