Wellness Wednesday: Give Yourself Time to Think

This Wellness Wednesday, I bring you a reflective piece about slowing down, giving ourselves uninterrupted time to think, and observing what comes up for us. There is power in bringing your attention back to yourself. I hope reading this post inspires you to invite more mindfulness into your day and to prioritize yourself.

Making time to think without interruption is something I consciously have to do these days. I know that’s a weird statement, but stay with me on this. We are constantly stimulated with things to do, media to consume, people to talk to, and things to buy. All-day. When I look at how much screen time I spend on my phone or laptop, I’m disturbed. Of course, nowadays, I spend more time than usual plugged in since many of the things I do or enjoy have to be done online now. However, seeing how many hours I spent looking at a screen each week shifted something for me.

I watch a lot of YouTube, like a lot of people I know. And if I’m not careful, I can spend around 2-3 hours looking at YouTube videos in a single day. Sometimes I find myself watching videos that are like junk food after a while – they don’t really satisfy what I’m hungry for or give me any kind of nutritional value. Last year in November I decided to block YouTube from all of my devices for an entire week. The intention then was for me to redirect my energy and focus on what was most pressing at the time. By the second day of no YouTube, I realized two very important things.

The first was that I craved some form of entertainment to get me through the day. Whenever I saw someone watching a video, my eyes naturally floated to their screen. At one point, I resorted to playing Candy Crush… I haven’t played that game in what feels like decades now. I don’t even care about that game. If that game was somehow deleted entirely without a trace to bring it back, I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it (no offense to Candy Crush fanatics). What was I actually looking for? Many things. I was looking for ways to entertain myself, relax, avoid my responsibilities, and soothe myself.

The second thing I realized was that I had so much more time to think. When I wasn’t feeding myself hours of YouTube videos or pacifying myself in other ways, I had more time in silence. I had more time to appreciate the present moment. I had more time to observe my thoughts and ask myself questions. The reality is that I still had the same 24 hours in a day that I always had, but with this space to think, it felt as though time went by slower. As a result, I started to feel better. I felt more grounded, connected to my own thoughts and opinions, and connected to the present moment.

This doesn’t have to be about YouTube (and it isn’t, frankly). Some people like to scroll down Instagram for hours on end, some are gamers all day, and some are just constantly working or taking classes. All of us have our own obligations and relationships to maintain, as well as our favorite mediums to entertain ourselves. What this is about is the fact that a lot of the time, we don’t slow down and consciously give ourselves time to be with ourselves – and nothing else. Even when many of us are encouraged to stay indoors for a while, we fill the gaps of our day with some kind of stimulant. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t work, connect with others, or consume our favorite media. I am saying that we could benefit from having some time each day reserved just for us. No videos, no games, no music, no conversations with others. Just you and only you. How does the idea of that make you feel?

To some people, that sounds like heaven. To others, it sounds a little scary and intimidating. Maybe to others, it just sounds kinda boring. I challenge you to try a few minutes in silence and notice your tendencies. Can you sit in silence for 10 minutes and not look at your phone? What do you think about while you’re sitting there? Does your mind immediately go to the tasks you have to do for the day, for example? Observe yourself. Without judging anything or going down the rabbit hole with one of your thoughts, notice what comes up for you.

When you give yourself time to think, you give yourself time to be. You give yourself time to come up with your own conclusions, work through challenging emotions, and appreciate the present. Perhaps what I’m recommending here is that we all commit to a few moments of mindfulness each day and see how that feels for us. After all, a big part of our wellness journeys involves checking in with ourselves. How can we work through limiting beliefs if we haven’t observed them yet? How can we notice how tired we are if we don’t take a second to acknowledge it?

Let’s give ourselves the gift of our own time and attention. Instead of question prompts this week, I would like to offer two challenges:

  • Spend 10 minutes of uninterrupted time today with yourself. Notice what comes up for you.
  • Take inventory of what takes up most of your attention and energy each day (e.g., working, watching the news, spending time with friends, social media, etc.)

I’ll check-in with you next week – have a well and beautiful rest of your Wednesday!

#6: Blessed, Overwhelmed, and Braided

Happy Sunday! Let me update you on what’s been going on recently.

For starters I had a wonderful birthday weekend celebration FILLED with partying, food, friends, and cake. My friends threw me a surprise party, and for the first time I went to the Cheesecake Factory! Their ‘Oreo Dream Extreme Cheesecake’ is amazing, and I’m missing it.

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With another year under my belt, I’m really excited to start another one. As I read my cards and spend time with loved ones, I find myself more mindful of the fact that these moments matter. I feel a wave of gratitude wash over me as I receive hugs, beautiful words, and massive amounts of affection. I’m a believer that every day we are alive is a blessing; a blessing that prompts us to create and decide. I’d like to add to that.

Every day is a blessing for us to create, decide, and love.

Aside from all the wonderful birthday wishes, I’ve felt pretty overwhelmed by the amount of work I’ve taken on. You know when you bite off more than you can chew? I took a realllllly big bite.

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I’m grateful for all the opportunities that have been attracted into my life, but it’s been difficult trying to manage it all. As a student, I’ve found some helpful organizational habits that have put my schoolwork in place. If you’re a student, or know someone who is, check out this article I wrote for HerCampus with tips and apps that will make the semester less stressful.

Lastly, I put my hair into braids! I’m going natural, and wanted to try a protective hairstyle before I trim my hair (I’m transitioning instead of big-chopping). I’m looking to learn as much about natural hair as possible. I’ve searched up Youtubers, asked friends, and researched on various websites. If you have any resources or helpful information, please comment below!

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No, this picture’s not of me. It’s of a beautiful goddess named Amandla Sternberg! Also shout out to the beauty that’s in the header photo! Not sure of what her name is, but we should be friends. I like her glow!

Weekly Favorites

From Monday to Sunday I enjoyed lots of good food, music, and conversation. Here’s some of what I enjoyed most:

  1. Nine Track Mind (Deluxe Album) by Charlie Puth – My favorite songs are Suffer, Some Love, River, and of course Attention.
  2. Holy by Jamila Woods – this song makes me feel so calm and empowered.
  3. He Like That by Fifth Harmony. I can’t stop watching the music video for this song! These women are incredible, and their songs are really catchy!
  4. “Our mission right now is to get better, to get disciplined. It might take some time to master all the elements, but that’s how it’s supposed to be. Aang didn’t master fire, water, earth, and air in one day” – paraphrased motivation from my accountability partner and best friend! (shout out to those who know all about Avatar: The Last Airbender… no that’s not the movie with blue people)
  5. The Cheesecake Factory! The avocado egg rolls made me melt. Also the cheesecake I mentioned earlier *drools on keyboard*

This week was eventful and beautiful. Cheers to another one filled with food for the soul, mind and body! I intend on being fully present, and productive this upcoming week. What about you?

All the best,

Valencia Saint-Louis

#5: Five Practices for Being Mindful of How You Feel

Hellooo! It has been quite some time; school has pulled me back into her arms recently.

At the end of my last post, I promised that my next post would be all about the practices and resources I’ve used to help me be mindful of how I’m feeling. By being mindful, I mean these practices have helped me open up an awareness and consciousness of my feelings. And guess what?

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It’s time for a self-checkup! Here’s a list of practices I use that cause me to ask myself, “Valencia, how are you feeling?”, and help me answer that question fully:

1. Pacifica

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This app has made me think about how I feel more than I ever have before. It’s very helpful if you are/have ever dealt with clinical or general depression and anxiety. The app allows for me to plug in how I’m feeling based on a scale (great–awful), and hashtags like #scatterbrained or #grateful, or any hashtag I want.

I’m able to track my mood throughout the day, and throughout the week. I’ve been able to identify what events caused me to feel really good one week and sought to duplicate those events the next week. It’s caused me to be really introspective about how I’m feeling. And no one sees it but me.

What’s more? The app gives me the option to engage in guided meditations, which I’ll get to later in this article and a hope board – where I can put anything that inspires me. Once I open the app, I am greeted with a quote and a calming background of my choosing. I think everyone should track how they’re feeling. Learn more about Pacifica here.

Have you used Pacifica or anything like it? How do you track how you feel?

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2. Voice Memos

I use voice memos purely for two reasons – to record myself singing and to record myself talking. Talking??

Yes, talking! To myself…

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Hear me out! When you vent to a friend or family member, you usually feel better right? When someone really listens to you and how you’re feeling you feel lighter, correct? Well, what if you don’t have someone around or don’t feel like talking to other people?

You should be your best friend – and as your best friend, it’s important to talk to and listen to yourself. When I make voice recordings, I usually talk about how I’m feeling in full. I talk about how I’m feeling internally, any thoughts that pop up, and how I’m feeling externally. Example:

“This couch is really soft. I like the feel of it a lot. I was a bit bothered today by (insert scenario here) though. I’m feeling a bit hungry at the moment too. That made me think…”

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What have I found by doing this? I’m glad you asked. Talking is very cathartic. And by having this recording – which you can listen to after or delete immediately – you have a feel for how you feel. Sometimes I end up solving my own problems by talking them out.

3. Journaling

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I am the BIGGEST advocate for journaling. As a pensive person, writing things down is my saving grace. When I journal, I free-write, allowing myself to write down whatever comes to mind. Usually, I write at the end of the day, detailing the following: how I’m feeling in the moment, how I felt all day, what I did today, what I learned today, what I’m grateful for, what I want to happen tomorrow, etc. The list truly goes on and on…

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Aside from emptying my brain onto pages, I’ve gained a lot of insight about how I feel about certain things in my life and what events cause me to feel certain ways. I’m able to look back and read my own development – you grow a lot from journaling, in a matter of days sometimes. It’s a safe space for me to be as aggressive, crass, sad, excited, grateful, or (insert emotion) that I want. Plus seeing how you feel can be a game changer. By writing in your journal you can express how you feel with all your heart’s intent, and by reading your journal you can look observationally at these feelings to see what they tell you.

Buzzfeed knows what I’m talking about, and there are dozens of Youtube videos to guide you if you decide to pick up that pen. Pssst, you really should!

Question: Would you like to see a whole post dedicated to journaling? I’m thinking of so many resources and tips that go along with journaling, but we have to get to the next on our list here which is…

4. Meditating

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Okay, okay, I’ll be honest. I don’t meditate as often as I’d like to. In fact, when I meditate it’s actually an accomplishment – but I’m striving to be better! What I’ve noticed with meditation is that it encourages the act of being mindful and of being in the moment. Some of the most helpful guided meditations I’ve listened to encourage identifying how you feel before and after the meditation. After I have a successful meditation I realize the following things:

  • Mentally I feel lighter, and I have fewer thoughts swimming through my mind. The thoughts that I do have are more pleasant and clear-headed.
  • Emotionally I feel good, stable, and gentle.
  • My body feels softer, and all tension that I had before the meditation has floated away
  • I feel much more present. No brain fog for me!
  • I take notice of my surroundings a lot more.

If you’d like to have a clearer mind and better understanding of how you feel, start with some guided meditations. There are free ones on Youtube and some free ones on the Pacifica app I mentioned earlier.

5. Taking a shower

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There’s something about running water that gets you thinking about life. Whenever I take a shower, I use that time to let myself reflect on how I’m feeling.

Am I worried at all? Stressed? Symbolically, I use the water from my shower to wash out all thoughts of worry or stress from the hours before. It really helps me to identify how I’m feeling, and to dissolve anything that doesn’t serve me at the moment.

Next time you take a shower, use that time to tune in to your star player… you! Take note of how you’re feeling, and let yourself feel that in full. Feel the water, feel the soap, and feel the feels.  

Let me know what mindfulness practices you’ve found helpful, and what tips or resources you’re considering using!

 

All the best,

Valencia Saint-Louis