Why you should start journaling

Remember when you were a child and you had a diary and would write down all your little secrets about what you and your best friend got up to? Well that little diary was a form of journaling and is something that has far more benefits for us as adults than many people realise.

In recent years, a lot more research has been done on the benefits of journaling and the findings are pretty amazing. Journaling is a superstar when it comes to helping us manage our emotions in a positive manner. In a study done in 2006, journaling was found to reduce symptoms of people with depression, anxiety and hostility

Journaling simply refers to the act of writing down or keeping a diary about your thoughts and the everyday events of your lives including what may be going wrong or right.

This simple act has been found to be extremely powerful for helping individuals deal with conflict, reduce stress and manage difficult emotions

In particular, when it comes to conditions such as depression and anxiety, journaling can work wonders.

I started journaling reluctantly in 2018 after a friend of mine suggested it to me during a very difficult and stressful time in my life. I did it reluctantly because I had this fear of someone finding my journal and reading all my innermost thoughts and the thought of that used to put me off. I eventually overcame that fear and started to write down my thoughts and feelings from day to day, my emotions around certain events, feelings of anger and hurt, basically I wrote down anything and everything that came to mind.

What I found from doing this is I had more clarity of mind, less emotional baggage and I started to feel much more at ease with myself. I also felt less encumbered, like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I had discovered the power of journaling.

I went from strength to strength at that point, writing down inspirational verses from books I was reading or the bible and my interpretation of what I read and how it impacted me. This became the beginnings of my foray into writing. Before I knew it, I was addicted to writing.

One day I sat and read through my journal and was startled to see how meaningful, helpful and uplifting it was and that moment of realisation, that day was the day I decided I was going to write a book loosely formed from the writings I had done in my journal.

My book “Screaming helps” was published in 2019 and the whole journey of writing it has been an amazing experience for me, so much so, I am in the process of writing a second book. Of course, after this experience, I am a complete convert to journaling and I believe it forms an essential part of a robust self care package.

If you’ve never journaled, a great way to sample this form of expression is to try using the Pandemic Project website. A resource created by Psychology researchers to help people explore their challenges, experiences and emotions around Covid-19 and the Pandemic.

Otherwise, you can easily buy a notebook or a custom designed journal and start your own journey of journaling.

If you want to know why you should journal, I share below some surprising benefits of journaling ;

  1. Writing things down gives you much more clarity about what may be bothering you and helps you to identify more clearly what your problems and challenges are
  2. Helps you to identify negative thought patterns and your triggers
  3. Acts as a tool for self reflection and self evaluation as you can look back over periods of time to see how you have changed
  4. Writing allows you to engage with difficult emotions or experiences
  5. The routine of writing regularly can help you build more structure into your life
  6. Writing can encourage you to take action on things that are bothering you. When we put our thoughts and worries down on paper, they become more real and with the added bonus of clarity we gain from seeing those thoughts, it can help us actually decide what type of action we need to take to improve things in our life.

These are just some of the many reasons that you should start writing your thoughts down. It can be a force for good, forcing you to confront difficult emotions and giving you the opportunity to see what you are grateful for and how you can improve. Although you can buy journals which already have prompts and question that form the basis for your writing, it is also possible for you to decide how and what you want to journal. You can buy a notebook and try your hand out at doing it freestyle and see how you do on a day to day basis. I favour both styles of journaling and I have a journal which I purchased that has prompts and suggestions which I like to use as a formal way of journaling but I also like journaling free style. It really depends on my mood.

I feel that if you are a beginner, it may be useful to have some guidance around what to write but this is of course totally up to you. However, some useful prompts and questions for what to write in your journal for your morning routine include;

  1. What you are grateful for at the start of the day
  2. One thing that you will try to do that day
  3. A positive affirmation
  4. How you will make that day a good one/ good deeds

At the end of the day, prompts can include

  1. What was the best thing about the day
  2. What didn’t go well and how you would improve
  3. What good deed you did that day
  4. What you are grateful for at the end of the day

I hope this article has inspired you to start your own journaling practice today. If you want some more tips and help to get started, feel free to email me at tayokutiwrites@gmail.com

Tayo xoxo

Why your mindset affects everything you do.

Mindset matters. Fact. Whether you realise this or not, the type of mindset you have will affect what type of life you have and what you are able to achieve. Many of us do not realise the importance of our mindset and even many more do not even know what type of mindset they have or how this affects their everyday decisions.

So let’s start there. What is your mindset and why does it matter?

Your mindset is what you believe about yourself and your capabilities. Your mindset is formed from your thoughts and beliefs about life and of course this is shaped by your experiences. Your thoughts will affect how you behave and what you do. Basically your mindset is how you interpret the world and make sense of what goes on in your life from day to day.

So it makes sense that a good mindset means a purposeful and good life and a bad mindset may mean a difficult and more painful life but what does a good mindset and a bad one look like?

How do you work out what type of mindset you have? Well, it starts with asking yourself questions about the things you believe about yourself. Are you open to learning new things, do you give up easily? Do you try to work out how to do something or do you prefer to accept that you are probably too old or not smart enough to do certain things. Questions such as these will start to give you an indication of the sort of mindset you have and once you realise what your mindset is, it is quite easy to see the link between how your mind works and the kind of life you are living.

There are many definitions floating around about mindsets, the one I’d like to explore in this article is the very common themes of the fixed mindset versus the growth mindset.

A fixed mindset is one where an individual is not open to learning new things and where they believe that their intelligence and talent and other qualities are fixed traits that cannot be improved. This normally results in them being unwilling to try and raise their game or to try new things. Someone with a fixed mindset will make statements like “I will never be able to do this”, “Its too late for me to learn this”, “I am going to fail at this so there is no point trying” and so on.

You can see how these sorts of statements can be very limiting and if we truly believe this to be true, we become very convinced about our inability to change, to learn and therefore we may end up not living the life we want, feeling frustrated, demotivated, stuck and unable to discover what we want or what we like. In addition, any attempt at giving constructive criticism to an individual with a fixed mindset is usually met with hostility, they do not take well to any sort of criticism and tend to see it as a personal attack. A person with a fixed mindset may also encounter jealousy or envy when they see others doing well, they constantly compare themselves to other and always find that they feel unworthy.

The growth mindset is the opposite side of the scale and is where an individual is open to learning, to trying new things, to taking risks and is prepared to fail. People with growth mindsets understand that learning and being good at things can develop through hard work and practice. Usually people with a growth mindset will have more resilience and understand that failure is not fatal and that through failing at things, they can learn how to be better.

They also understand that they need to do things over and over again to get good at it. When you believe that your intelligence and your talent can be developed over time, you are always open to new ideas and this is where you will find the lifelong learner who is willing to give things a go. An individual with a growth mindset can accept constructive criticism and sees it as an opportunity to learn and to grow. In addition they are not jealous of other people’s success, instead they use this as their motivation and to fuel their own ambitions.

A positive outlook on learning is crucial to developing oneself and helps to build self esteem and self confidence. Trying out new things and being able to learn and do things you felt were out of your comfort zone will give you the confidence to believe in yourself and your abilities.

So how can we move from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset?

It is important to acknowledge at this point that most people are somewhere in between the two types so what we really want to do is have more of a growth mindset and less of a fixed mindset. There are a number of ways to improve your mindset but the very first step is in acknowledging that you need to do some work. Coming to the realisation and acceptance that you can do with improving your mindset is important before you actually start trying to fix anything.

Here are some of my suggestions for improving your mindset. Even if you find that you are somewhere in the middle between a fixed mindset and growth mindset, it is always useful to continue to do the work that will take you to having more of a growth mindset mentality in all you do.

How to change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset;

  • accept that this will take time
  • start shutting down that inner voice that tells you, you cannot do something or you are not good enough
  • remind yourself of your strengths, everyone has things they are good at
  • spend more time around positive people and less time around negative people
  • try out new hobbies that take you outside your comfort zone without any pressure or expectation, e.g. learning to knit or learning to skate etc.
  • accept failure as part of the process and an opportunity to learn what doesn’t work
  • stop comparing yourself to others

Remember that even talented people need to work hard so that they can harness their talent and be better at what they do. Be prepared to work hard, have knockbacks, fail and get going again. If you keep doing that, I guarantee you will see some progress and changes in your life.

xx Tayo

Tayo Kuti is a mindset and life coach. Get in touch with her by email to tayokutiwrites@gmail.com

How to do what seems impossible.

Have you ever had a goal or vision for your life that seemed so huge that you had no idea how to even get started?I have definitely had that feeling before, you look at whatu want to achieve and you have no idea how or where to start.

This is one of the most common reasons why people fail to start working on their goals or fail to meet their goal. That feeling of overwhelm, being stuck and not knowing where to begin can be scary however, being scared does not have to stop you and I have my own formula for attacking big or little goals. Most people use or talk about the acronym “SMART” but I find it a bit overused and sometimes unhelpful so this is how I coach my clients. Examine your mindset. Do you believe in yourself? Are you willing to go all the way even if you think people may not get what you are doing? Will you keep going when it gets hard, when no one seems to care and nothing is happening? Preparing yourself to be in it for the long haul is the first step to success

Examine your motivators. Are they mainly extrinsic(external) or intrinsic (internal) factors. E.g. I want to lose weight so I can get a man or so people can like me is extrinsic. I want to lose weight so I can feel good about myself and have better long term health is intrinsic.  Having goals linked to extrinsic factors can work but inherently they are not linked to sustained and long term success. So you might lose weight in the short term but what happens when you lose weight and you don’t find a man? Finding intrinsic factors to power your goal may help you stay in for the long run

In the 3rd part of the process we put together some of the SMART criteria especially ensuring your goals are specific, measurable and achievable. Wanting to lose weight is not specific but wanting to lose 10 kg in 3 months is specific. Also we need to have realistic expectations when we set goals, expecting to lose 20 kg in a month is unrealistic, expecting to lose 4kg in a month is realistic and definitely possible

Once all of the above are in place, the next piece of the puzzle is to take baby steps. Fear of stepping out and failure can really stop us from doing anything but if we design our plan around taking really small steps that move us away from doing nothing and actually get us in the direction of our goals then we are off to a good start. So now you can set about moving towards your goal by having a plan

I talk about a way to do this in my reels from yesterday. (to see my reels, visit my Instagram page @avoda_wellness I had so much fun messing around with that yesterday and using the speeded up voice, it made me laugh! and that brings me to the final bit of my process…..

5. Have fun! Enjoy the process. 

https://www.instagram.com/avoda_wellness/

Taming the beast that is anxiety.

Anyone who has ever suffered from anxiety will understand why I refer to it as a beast, it’s presence in your life can feel large and looming and impossible to tame but I can assure you that having anxiety does not have to be a life sentence of misery, worry and fear. This article will share with you how to tame the symptoms of anxiety and ways to manage and overcome the effects of anxiety so you can get on with the simple act of living your life.

Anxiety is a simple word but the emotions and challenges that it presents when it is present in full blown range is extremely complex hence why I refer to it as a beast. Indeed, there are many that say you can never fully tame anxiety and perhaps that is true but I know you can certainly find a way to manage and live with it and actually having anxiety can have some advantages such as making you more resilient, more empathetic, more strategic in your thinking and planning.

Sometimes, people are unsure as to whether they have anxiety or are simply just overthinkers so here are some of the symptoms of anxiety. They can include but are not restricted to worrying obsessively, panic attacks, feeling nauseous and sweaty, feeling overwhelmed, procrastination, uncontrollable overthinking, depression, racing thoughts which may include feelings of dread, inability to concentrate, irritation, lack of appetite, inability to enjoy anything, feeling that something bad is about to happen all the time, feeling disconnected from or disassociation from yourself. These are just some common symptoms, there are many other symptoms which may point to anxiety. If unsure, please consult your doctor

One of the most common questions I get asked is where does anxiety come from or what causes it?. This can be a difficult question to answer as the causes are varied and it can also be caused by a multitude of factors. However, in general, anxiety is usually caused by some sort of trauma or negative experience that we are not able to get past.

Anxiety will usually be triggered by a big event such as a bereavement or a series of small events such as financial difficulties which get worse over time. It is important to recognise that what causes anxiety in one person may not cause anxiety in another as individuals have different levels of tolerance and resilience and also experience things in different ways. This is why it is very important to not compare your symptoms or the way you feel to someone else just because they have experienced a similar life event to yours. We all deal with trauma differently.

It is also worth noting that there are different types of anxiety e.g. social anxiety, phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic attacks and many more. I will be speaking in general within the context of this article about generalised anxiety disorder also known as GAD.

Feeling anxious, worried or scared is a normal feeling we get when we are facing something that we are worried about or is new to us such as going for a job interview, meeting new people, walking down a dark alley etc. When we are anxious, our bodies experience a physiological response commonly known as fight or flight. This response was very important for prehistoric man and for humans in general as it helps us to determine whether a situation requires us to flee or to fight and this is supported within the body by the production of a number of hormones primarily adrenaline and cortisol.

It is these hormones that are responsible for the physical symptoms of anxiety such as nausea, feeling faint, heartbeat getting faster, mood elevation, increased blood pressure and many other symptoms. This response is usually self-limiting and once the perceived threat is gone, the body adjusts itself. However, in a person with GAD or other forms of anxiety, their perception of what is dangerous may have become altered through a number of negative experiences and the body may interpret situations that are not dangerous or fearful as such therefore initiating the fight and fight response which will result in the physiological response and production of hormones. Continuous exposure to stress hormones (cortisol and adrenalin) damages the body and can cause a lot of illness, disease and malfunction.

In addition the fight and flight response in itself is only useful when there is a real threat, when there isn’t one you end up experiencing the quickened heartbeat, nausea, feeling faint and other physical symptoms which then make you feel unwell.

So what can you do to manage these symptoms?

Well the first and most important point to note is that if you notice that you start feeling unsafe in situations that are actually safe, it is because your brain has been rewired to think so (due to your experience of stress or trauma). Your first step is to work on changing how your brain reacts to situations and this comes from changing your thoughts.

Acknowledging you have anxiety is a good starting point, once you have done that, you may want to start writing down your experiences of your anxiety episodes and trying to identify the triggers and where possible avoid them. (E.g. watching news/consuming media can be a trigger, this can be easily avoided). In some cases, it will not be possible to avoid every trigger so you need to retrain your brain to see that the situation is safe by repeating safety mantras for example or reminding yourself of times when the said situation has occurred without any danger. (E.g. fear of driving in a car, remind yourself how often you have done this without any danger or the number of people who do this daily without danger, acknowledging that there are risks but they are minimal and more so, being trapped at home is not a way to live your life and you will find more happiness if you learn to overcome this and other fears is a line of thought that may be useful)

It is very important to remember that, your thoughts affects and creates your emotions and your emotions will determine what sort of behaviour you display. So if you can change the way you think then you can alter your emotions and hence your behaviour.

However, I know this in itself is not easy and can take time to master particularly if you have had anxiety for long periods, so here are some practical tips to help you manage your anxiety

  • Talk to someone. It is so important to speak to someone and express how you are feeling, this can make such a difference. If you don’t have close family or friends, speak to your GP or you can consider contacting any one of the hundreds of charities that support people with this. Alternatively, you may want to speak to a life coach or therapist.
  • Exercise has been shown from many studies to impact anxiety and depression positively, it will make you feel better about yourself and the feel good hormones that are produced when you exercise can negate your negative moods
  • Be careful what you eat and drink. Food is very powerful and what many people fail to realise is that the types of food you eat can harm you or heal you. Limit your intake of sugars, caffeine and alcohol as they can make your symptoms worse. At the other end, a Mediterranean diet which emphasises more healthy fats and comprises a good variety of fruits and vegetables, fatty fish such as salmon and tuna, wholegrain and legumes has been shown to reduce the symptoms of anxiety
  • Spend time in nature, go for walks in the park or any green area or natural spaces.
  • Make time to do things that you love. Even if its for 30mins a day, always make time for yourself and choose to spend the time doing something that makes you happy
  • Try mindfulness meditation or yoga. Mindfulness is learning how to live in the moment, focusing on the moment and enjoying each moment as opposed to worrying about the future. Mindfulness practice has been very successful in treating anxiety
  • Try to improve your sleep as poor sleep has been linked to anxiety and depression. The body rests when you are sleeping and if you are not getting enough sleep this can lead to elevated levels of stress.
  • Practice Gratitude. Find things to be grateful for. When we practice gratitude, it can shift our perspective of things and give us a more positive mindset
  • Deep breathing can be important especially when you are feeling stressed, when we are anxious, we tend to have more shallow breaths which means oxygen is not distributed as well to the body and this can result in us feeling like we are out of breath or cannot breathe properly which causes more panic and elevated levels of anxiety. Deep and slow breathing, inhaling for 4 and exhaling for 4 can be helpful. Try to do this for a count of 10 times.
  • Finally, they say laughter is the best medicine. Find something or someone that makes you laugh. I usually turn to a comedy series that is guaranteed to make me laugh that I enjoy such as “friends”. It never fails to cheer me up. Find your own source of laughter.

I hope you find this helpful, feel free to add any tips that you find particularly useful in the comments as it may help someone else.

If you need someone to talk to, I am happy to chat, please contact me by email or direct message.

Tayo xoxo

Don’t let the scales dictate your self worth.

We’ve all been there, at least most of us women have. We get out of bed in a good mood and decide to weigh ourselves, we are hoping for good numbers, essentially lower than the previous day or at the very worst the same as the previous day. Instead the scale dispassionately informs us that we have gained a kilo in 24 hours.

We step off the scales in disgust and now our day is ruined. We wonder if we can spare an extra 30 minutes to add in a run today or maybe we will have to scrap that lunch meeting with friends we had scheduled. In effect, seeing those numbers set us on a rollercoaster of emotions, all negative. Constantly weighing yourself can be harmful if it starts to affect how you feel about yourself. It can lead to self sabotage or quitting from weight loss programs or diets because we feel demotivated and that our efforts have not been rewarded. One of the most overlooked facts is that even up to 8 weeks after starting a diet, the scales may fail to show significant drop in numbers so if you are expecting a massive change from day one or even day 10 of your new weight loss regime you may end up being very disappointed.

I decided to stop weighing myself obsessively a few years ago after I realised how much of a mind f*ck the scales were. This was an inanimate object that caused me so much distress and in the space of a few seconds could obliterate my mood totally. As a fitness trainer at the time, I was doing the exact thing that most of my clients were also doing, allowing the scales to dictate my self worth.

I realised the constant weighing had to stop as I did not want it taking over my life and with this realisation, I also knew I had to help my clients do the same and learn how to put less of a focus on the number on the scales and more focus on how they felt mentally, how their clothes fit, the improvement in their performance in the gym, the way they are now able to make better food choices or food swaps because all of these things were little wins which added together are all a sign of progress instead of just focusing on that one thing, the number on the scales.

So many women (and men) have a terrible relationship with the scales weighing themselves obsessively and letting their self worth and self esteem be tied in to whether they have managed to lose a kg/pound or not. Sadly, many women are bombarded daily with pictures in magazines and in the media of what an ideal body/figure should look like and their perception of what a normal body should be is perhaps skewed to a degree. The truth is that most of the bodies we ogle and admire have perhaps been photoshopped or altered in some way or have had cosmetic surgery. Even if that’s not the case, we have to remember that every single one of us is unique and our bodies don’t have to look the same. Our focus should be on our health and physical and mental wellbeing instead of aspiring to be a certain size.

It is fair to point out that the scales are not really the problem per se, it is how we feel about what we weigh that really causes the problem. Keeping track of your progress during a weight loss journey by checking your weight regularly is a good way of seeing how you are doing and knowing what works and what doesn’t. The problem is when the number on the scale starts to take over your life and affect your day to decisions and moods.

There are so many reasons why stepping on the scale can be harmful to your mental health and hamper your weight loss journey such as;

  • Stepping on the scales is a trigger for most people. I remember the feeling I used to get before I stepped onto the scale. My stomach would have butterflies and I would get really anxious. This is not healthy for anyone and if you are experiencing these sorts of emotions then you need to take some time away from the scales and find other ways of measuring your progress
  • As mentioned above, it may be useful to find other ways to measure your weight loss progress. Monitoring and tracking is an important part of a weight loss journey but it needs to be done in a way that amplifies all the hard work you are putting in not diminishing it. There are times when the scale alone is not a good reflection of all the work you’ve put in and other methods such as how clothes fit you may be more useful
  • If you do want to weigh yourself, only do it once a week. Many women weight themselves daily and sadly this is not useful at all. There are so many reasons day to day why your weight will fluctuate such as retaining water, hormonal issues, stress, lack of sleep and so on, therefore weighing yourself daily is usually quite inaccurate and will usually result in you getting frustrated.
  • Instead of being fixated on a specific number, focus on a range where you will be happy and make that your target. So ideally, I would love to be 65kg but I haven’t even come close to that number in many years. I have found my peace at a range between 68 and 74kg. It means anything within that number is fine and that makes it less stressful for me when I do weigh myself.
  • If getting on the scale is starting to affect your mental health, I would suggest getting rid of your scales completely, At a point in my life, I did not weigh myself for 2 years and guess what? nothing happened, I was totally fine and in fact, I have to say I was much more happier about my weight and the way I looked during this period. If getting rid completely is a big ask, then you could put the scales away and decide not to weigh yourself for a period of time and see how you get on.

If you need help with your weight loss or have any questions, feel free to shoot me an email or message me through one of my social media channels

Tayo xoxo