I've been thinking a lot lately on what it means to encourage yourself. In life we will all go through both daily moments as well as long seasons of struggling, frustration, feeling defeated, grieving and experiencing being overwhelmed. While it's wonderful to have those you love and care about most support you and encourage you along, sometimes it just doesn't work out that way. Maybe you're miles from home and don't have the listening ear of your closest friend or the pain you experience comes from a relationship where encouragement was once found. Whatever the scenario, it is important to know how to pick yourself back up during hard times.
This post comes at a time when I'm digging deep to encourage myself during a low time. For me, no one major earth shattering event has occurred, rather it's the culmination of smaller events and circumstances over months and in some cases years that have left me feeling a bit defeated, a tad unmotivated and a little sad. I feel so blessed to have an amazing husband who has always been such a great source of encouragement, motivation and love. I do know though, that no matter how awesome the people are in our lives, we are the ones who have to do the actual work, nobody else can do it for us. With that, I wanted to share some tips on how to do just that. While I'm still in the midst of working through all the thoughts, circumstances and feelings swirling around my own head, I have of course been on the other side of this, coming out ahead after having encouraged myself many times before. Sometimes it's nice to share a message though when you're in the middle of something vs. sharing after making it to the other side. I hope this post serves as encouragement to someone who is in this place right now and that it also gives you the tools to turn things around. :)
1. Become More Grateful- Right about now you might be wondering what there is to be grateful for. Don't let your present feelings and circumstances cloud the 'good' that exists in your life. No matter who you are, where you live or what you've endured throughout your life there is always something to be thankful for. Last year I began writing in a gratitude journal, documenting 5 things that I'm most grateful for each day-they teeny tiny things and the big things. I love that journal because likes these, I can flip page by page and remind myself all of the things that have come into my life or that make me smile. The act of physically thinking of those 5 things each morning or evening forces you to think about what is positive in your life, regardless of the chaos that exists at the same time. I got busy for a few months and stopped writing in mine and I realized a definite change of attitude and heart, so as you can imagine I'm back to writing in it again. Yesterday's entry was: (1) a croissant with organic raspberry jam, (2) my husband's smile, (3) a beautiful white orchid to brighten our home, (4) good health & my knowledge of natural health remedies, (5) the scent of freshly laundered clothing. Nothing else will change in your life until true gratitude is exercised daily.
2. Surround Yourself with Encouraging Words & People- I work from home and am thankful that the person I live with (and whose office I work next to) is uplifting & encouraging most of the time but I know that some of you are surrounded by catty co-workers, drama queens, gossips, negative family members, complaining friends, demanding bosses and manipulative people. Why do I know this? Because I've been there, I've worked in many office and job environments where this goes on daily. This can break you down if you let it. The best way to counteract the negative, unpleasant people in your life is to avoid them as much as humanly possible and balance your life out with positive people, uplifting TV shows/books/magazines/blogs and encouraging words. That was one of my goals when I started my Facebook community page, that it would encourage, inspire and uplift. Sometimes I also get blessed by the lovely comments you-my readers, leave. If you're feeling down about your finances, watching an episode of Million Dollar Decorators or even one of the Real Housewives shows probably won't make you feel better about your own bank account. Be choosy about what you allow into your life. For me, I choose to read my bible, listen to positive music (often with no words at all such as instrumental), watch Tony Robbins on YouTube or one of my favorite Pastors such as T.D. Jakes or Joel Osteen (which were all favorites of mine many years before Oprah introduced them via her Life Class series). I also love to read biographies about how others have successfully overcome many obstacles. One great book that I recommend is called 'Unstoppable'. It's a compilation of multiple stories of how others persevered and overcame. It's also a great gift idea for someone who is struggling.
3. Quiet your Mind with Prayer or Meditation-Time and time again, studies have proven the positive effects of both prayer and meditation when done regularly. Do whichever you're most comfortable with, neither have to be a big production. Some who are new to or still feeling their way around prayer often think that God expects it to be done a certain way or in a certain place. I'm here to tell you that's not true. You can pray anywhere, any way and any time. I have found personally, however, that my prayers are most effective when there are no other distractions so I can truly focus on God and my prayer or worship time. When I'm not distracted it not only allows me to think more clearly and focus on what I'm praying about but that solitude allows me to be present and hear His voice.
Meditation cannot be done effectively in a noisy space. I usually like to do this after a workout at home where I can sit on my mat without any music or noise, close my eyes, dim the lights and just listen to my breath and be still. I try not to 'fight' the thoughts in my mind but rather let them come and dismiss them instead of holding on to them and seeing where they lead and distracting my focus (this is the hardest part of meditation). When you're able to quiet your mind for even 5 minutes per day, you reclaim time for yourself, invite peace into your heart, let negative thoughts go and in the case of prayer, you're trusting a big God to unburden you from your problems by taking them off your shoulders. If you're not sure what to pray, here are a few short favorites that I often say: "Lord, order my steps and order my stops" (lest I waste too much time going down the wrong path), "God, remove every fear and fill my mind and heart with your peace." (fear robs us of our joy and prevents us from living our dreams), "Lord, forgive me for a negative attitude" (hubby and I always pray about this and wrong words spoken if we've argued, creating a less than positive environment in our home).
Of all the things I do, prayer is by far the best along with reading bible scriptures which is an immense source of encouragement and reminder during tough times.
4. Be an Encouragement to Someone Else- Taking action by helping others who are suffering will always make you feel better and encourage you too. Just be sure that the time spent with the other individual isn't spent commiserating over your pain-keep it positive! If someone you know is grieving a loss of a loved one-spend time with them, be their shoulder to cry on, bring them a fresh baked loaf of banana bread. When you build up others and encourage them along even in the midst of your own pain, you cannot help but feel better and it is character building. Sometimes seeing how they've been able to pick themselves up in a small way is just the encouragement you need for yourself. Keep the focus on them, be a blessing and not a burden to someone already experiencing pain. If someone didn't get that job they were sure was theirs, sincerely remind them of all the reasons why they'll get the next one! In the process, you should also be reminded that just because you are experiencing low times doesn't mean your best days are behind you. Spending time with others also helps us to focus on something other than our own problems and pain, even for just a little while. Often, knowing what someone else is going through in greater detail, makes us thankful for what we do have-yes it all leads back to being grateful. ;) I don't know about you but when I spend good quality positive time with others, I leave feeling happy and recharged in a new way. I love this scripture:
"Encourage one another and build one another up just as you are doing."
~1 Thessalonians 5:11
5. Reflect on Past Success- If your need for encouragement is with regards to where you're at personally in life and the direction of your future, look at your past track record for clues. We've all had success in life and while we may have hit a bumpy road that seems lonely and dark, we know what we're capable of because we've already proven it. Sit down and make a list of what positively accomplished in your life throughout the months and years. Think about your education-what level did you achieve? Ponder for a moment on all the tests, assignments, long study nights and hard work that went into achieving that level of success. You are capable, you are an overcomer and you've already proven that to yourself. What hard times have you already made it through? If you're in debt, how much have you already paid down? If you're working towards better health, what accomplishments have already taken place? Do your clothes fit better, maybe your blood pressure or cholesterol is lower? This is success and hopefully an encouragement to you that you are making progress. Do you feel like you're never going to meet someone worthy of marrying? Think about the people you have dated, the lessons you've learned and how each person helped move you closer to ideal mate you dream of because you know more of what you do and don't want in a partner as well as more of who you want to be also as a wife. We can focus on our failures or we can focus on our success. Make a list and write down everything that you've accomplished in the past week, month or year that makes you feel happy or positive.
6. Have an Action Plan- Part of the reason why many feel unsuccessful or need encouragement in the first place is because they've failed to plan properly and feel as though they're floundering around without any real direction. When we lack purpose, we tend to feel less happy and joyful. I can honestly say that contributing to my current low feeling is a bit of lack of planning on my part in a couple different areas. While we don't need nor should we have control over every detail of our life, there is something to be said for taking ownership and having some level of control to contribute towards a positive outcome. When we know that we didn't prepare in the ways that we could have, sometimes that feeling alone is enough to sink us. Even if it is a more emotional place you're in such as becoming recently divorced or losing a loved one, feel that pain, experience it but then release it and move on, don't live there. Your plan does not mean you'll feel a certain way by a certain date but as you make plans to move forward, those feelings will naturally change along with it. Set mini milestones for yourself. If you're grieving, try to get out of the house or visit with someone once per week, once per day-whatever you need since we all handle things differently. If you've just lost your job, take a moment to grieve that loss but plunge into how to replace the new loss of income. Vow to look for jobs and apply for 5-10 each day. When we set tangible goals that we can achieve (if we make the goals realistic and not pie in the sky) we can begin to see accomplishment and that alone will encourage us that we are moving in the right direction. As time passes, you will need new goals to reach. Be sure to update your list or action plan regularly. In order to stay accountable to your new action plan, keep it somewhere you can review daily to ensure you're staying on track. Here are some key tips on creating a plan of action that I wrote for a New Years' Resolution post a few years ago but apply to the everyday goals.
7. Envision Your Bright Future- Now that we've focused on the present moment, delved into the past and talked a bit about what to do for our future, let's discuss our bright future and the dreams we hold for for ourselves. We all need something to look forward to, even if the outcome does not turn out exactly the way we envision it, it's the dreaming which leads to action that matters most. When creating an action plan, as I just mentioned above, really feel each goal. Envision how your new healthy body will look and feel, really foresee your success in a new position or in a new company, dream of how your skills will be used in your own business, anticipate what your future baby that you've been praying for will feel like in your arms one day, visualize your bank account growing as you work harder to contribute to it. It's one thing to plan, but it's another thing to really believe and envision your future differently than it is today. If you are a visual person, like myself, you'll probably benefit from a vision board. It doesn't need to be fancy but it does need to be filled with things you're dreaming of-big and small. Whether it's an image of a diploma symbolizing a degree in which you wish to obtain, an image of the home you wish to purchase one day or hand drawn images of a product you wish to create, seeing it in front of you on a daily basis is very powerful. In some ways it holds you accountable too, so don't tuck it away or contain it in a binder. Use a poster board on the back of your bedroom door or pin images with a thumbtack to a pretty cork board near your desk which will inspire you daily to keep chasing your dreams.
Just remember that you've come this far already, don't quit now! There is so much of the story yet to be revealed to you if you would just keep pushing, keep dreaming and keep pursuing. Even when you feel as though every door you knock on presents a 'no' or you feel defeated, think of these words that may father has often said to me in the past while working in many different sales positions and facing much rejection, 'A 'no' is just one step closer to 'yes'. When I was much younger I didn't get that statement the way I do today because I hadn't seen it's proof. If we keep putting ourselves out there, keep putting one foot in front of the other, little by little a yes is bound to come. Here is a great video that I shared once before in this post which I think is one of the best motivational videos every. Can you imagine if these success stories had listened to their nay-sayers?
If we keep trying, keep fighting, keep striving, keep believing, that yes WILL come. The yes can represent anything from the right relationship, the right job, better finances, weight loss, the outcome of an ill loved, your own health and on and on. It tells us that even if we haven't yet arrived that delay is not denial. I believe in you, you're going to make it and you can do whatever you set your mind to do! Now go and do it! :)
I'd love to hear how YOU encourage yourself when the storms of life roll in! Leave your comment below and share your success tips. :)
From my heart to yours,