At the end of her podcasts Jen Hatmaker likes to ask her guests ‘what is saving your life right now?’
My list of things that are saving my life right now is evolving, but at the moment these are the books, apps and practices that are working their magic in my life:
- Five Minutes of Mindfulness
There are a thousand ways to approach mindfulness and over time I hope to try them all. This is a fairly basic practice which my psychologist introduced me to that has been the perfect introduction to mindfulness for me.
I just set a 5 min timer and for 5 minutes the goal is to observe everything within and around you. Notice thoughts but don’t engage with them. I like to close my eyes, start with some deep breathing exercises and focus on my breath, then listen to everything around me and try to identify what specific sounds I can hear. Then open my eyes and observe everything around me, the way the light is resting in the room, the new leaves on our house plants, the way the candle in front of me is flickering.
I also like to be very still and observe the emotions I’m feeling, which is usually anxiety, and just notice everything. It’s like an audit of that moment in time. Tuning into specific observations and tuning out of the thought-loop on play in your brain.
- Basic Guided Meditations
The meditations I do are really an extension of the mindfulness practices. I like the guided meditations on the Headspace and Simple Habit apps – I’m that stingy person who just uses their free material and likes to try guided meditations on YouTube. I’m still on the hunt to find the best YouTube/app for me.
- Morning Pages
Morning pages are MASSIVE for me. They’re from a book called The Artists Way by Julie Cameron. Julie Cameron best describes morning pages:
Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing,
done first thing in the morning. *There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages*–
they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about
anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes
only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and
synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put
three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.
I’m going to write about journalling and the fabulous work by Janet Conner in Writing Down Your Soul in a seperate post because it’s really been a cornerstone for me – but I can’t recommend these two books enough and I can’t recommend morning pages enough.
- Meditation Journaling
Because I’m a visual person and I love morning pages so much I like to do something I call mediation journaling. Using an A3 visual diary and a stack of coloured textas I like to write down a seed thought in the middle, something that I’d like to meditate on – something that’s been coming up for me a lot. For example it might be ‘I never feel like I’m enough’ – and then I mind map everything and anything that comes to mind around that seed thought – if any of those thoughts jump out at me I then mind map from that thought – tracing a rabbit warren of thoughts that dig me deeper and deeper into the truth behind my original statement. There are colours, arrows, drawings, icons scattered all over the page – and most of the time at the end I’ve dug out a piece of gold I never knew I had. It feels like finger painting with your mind.
- Letters To Myself
I’ll writing more about this in the future but I have found writing letters to your future self – about anything and everything is really helpful for your mental health. When you focus on your future it reminds you that everything you’re experiencing now is temporary and it gives the day you’re living now context in the timeline of your life. When you write a letter to yourself, seal it and put a to-be-opened date on it for 30 years in the future it starts to change the way your view your everyday life. It’s indescribably powerful and confronting.
- Deep Breathing
I’ve written about deep breathing before but I do need to highlight the BreathingZone app again – it’s fantastic and I use it everyday.
- Pocket Fuel Devotional
This is a faith based devotional app that’s unlike any I’ve ever used. I find it dovetails perfectly with all my mental health practices and I’m slightly addicted to it. Refreshing, easy to understand and profound. Perfect if you want something for your spirit that’s laced with grace and non-judgemental.
I’m new to yoga and I’m getting into it for two reasons, firstly because it’s recommended over and over again as a fantastic mental health tool and secondly because I’m someone who naturally feels very disconnected from their body – I primarily live in my head and my body has always been more of a nuisance for me than anything else – I’m trying to use yoga as a way for me to connect with my body in a new way and, hopefully, start to feel a little more aware of and fused to this skin I live in.
I love Yoga with Adriene which is available for FREE on YouTube.
I hope that’s helpful. I’m finding the simple practices are best – the trick is consistency (blah, worst!) and practice. For me it takes around 5 days of daily meditation, mindfulness and morning pages for me to start to feel things shift…but once they do it’s worth all the awkwardness of trying…and you improve and learn faster that you think you will.
[Art by Yvo Hählen]