How to Start a Personal Development Practice

If you have been following my journey for a while now, you know that I talk about my personal development practice A LOT. My practice has evolved over time, but a few key pillars remain that I would like to share with you. To give you some back story, I never knew that I had anxiety. I went through my middle and high school years completely oblivious to the negative patterns that I was developing. Most of these negative patterns were around food, body image, social status, you know… “normal” teenage concerns. When my father passed away, my entire universe changed. My anxiety went from mild to debilitating panic attacks. I coped in the only way I knew how. I stopped eating and I threw myself into school. All this to say, I was definitely not healthy. During my initial period of mourning, someone miraculously gifted me with a journal. I didn’t touch it for probably a year.

One day, in my deteriorating mental state, I picked up a book called Bikini Bootcamp. Yes, I know. You can tell that my priorities were definitely aligned at that moment. What I didn’t realize is that despite the superficial title, this book would lay the foundation for my personal development practice for the rest of my life.

Bikini Bootcamp

The book states that it can help you get your “bikini body” in two weeks. But I believe the authors cleverly trick their readers through daily activities to ACCEPT their bodies as bikini-ready, regardless of how they look. Here is the deal: the book is broken down into different segments – Journaling, Meditation, Yoga, Walking and Strength Exercises. Every day, there is a new journal prompt and a new concept to meditate on.  What began as a desire to lose weight, actually created a habit that turned into my personal development practice today. It is amazing how God (or the Universe) works to give you exactly what you need.

So, without further ado, here is my personal development practice:

Journaling

Every single day, I write in my journal. I set a timer for 15 minutes and write whatever comes to mind. Typically, I use the first ten minutes to recap the day before. For example, “Last night, I went to the Rainbow Kitten Surprise concert with my friend Dhwani and had the most amazing time.” It can be as mundane as that. I actually love recapping my experiences because then I can look back and see what I was doing that day. It helps me remember events more vividly, which can be very entertaining when stumbling upon an old journal. The last five minutes are spent actually diving into how I feel. This happens because I simply run out of things to recap from the day before and have no choice but to keep writing (thanks to the very helpful timer). When I write, I use “stream of consciousness”. I try not to over-dictate what I write because I want to discover the truth about my emotions that day. This is not necessarily applicable to everyone. Some people need journal prompts, while others might prefer to journal about a quote. I have a Pinterest page with a bunch of journaling tools that might help you get started. Commit to 15 minutes every day for one month, and I promise you will see significant improvement in how you process stress and difficult emotions.

Meditation

In my room, I have a meditation pillow. Every day, I sit and just breathe. I do this for five minutes at a time. Sometimes, I put my legs up the wall. Often, I use music to help calm me down, or meditation apps such as Insight Timer. In today’s technologically advanced world, there are tons of meditation apps, including Headspace and Calm. Although you have to pay for these, if it will help you commit to a daily meditation practice, I say “do what you gotta do.”

A common misconception is that meditation is the absence of thoughts. Meditation doesn’t have to be that rigid. It is simply seeing your thoughts and letting them pass without attachment. It takes practice and can be challenging. I often face resistance toward meditation because it forces me to actually feel. I believe that this resistance has a lot to do with the “go” mentality of professional school. It is really hard to slow down, but five minutes of meditation every day will change your life.

Move

My daily “To-Do List” has had yoga listed on it as my form of movement for at least the past two years. Yoga is important to me because not only do I teach yoga, but the practice drastically improves my quality of life. Recently, I started to do more HIIT workouts. These workouts have been a fun addition to my daily routine, especially because I do them with a friend. An added bonus is that these workouts had made my yoga practice even stronger! Movement is so important for not just your physical health, but your mental and spiritual health as well.

Every single day, I commit to 30 minutes of movement. This could be yoga, a HIIT workout, or walking my dog outside. Additionally, I attend at least one yoga class per week at my favorite local Athens studio. It can be hard to find the time in professional school, but I know that 30 minutes of movement every day is an attainable goal. Attainable goals are key to achieve consistency. You do not want to overwhelm yourself with too many goals at one time. Without consistency you will not see change.

Read

Did you know that if you read ten pages of a book every single day, you will finish a 300-page book in a month? Seems pretty logical, but many of us fail to pick up a book at all during professional school. We are “too busy” to read. And yes, sometimes I am too busy and I give myself grace on those days. However, reading personal growth books is one of the most important things I can do to flip my perspective. After all, it was a book that started my personal development journey.

So, in my daily practice, I commit to reading 10 pages of a book every day. It doesn’t always have to be “self-help”. Even taking a break to read something fun can help your brain function more efficiently. It is a heck of a lot better than sitting in front of your computer screen watching Netflix. I am not hating on Netflix – I still binge watch TV shows when my brain feels like it is disintegrating into mush (I actually feel like my brain is melting pretty often… ugh I love vet school so much).

my Personal development practice Summarized:

The Daily Do’s (and I mean DAILY!):
  • Journal for 15 minutes
  • Meditate for 5 minutes
  • Move for 30 minutes
  • Read 10 pages

These four simple things take a maximum of one hour. One hour equates to just 4% of your day. You can use the other 96% to work or study. If you commit to these four activities in your personal development practice, you will not only achieve greater mental health, but you will learn how to live… not just exist.

Journaling is how we start to process our emotions.

In this way, we cease to take things out on other people. We have our memories cataloged to refer back to if we are ever nostalgic. Journaling is how we connect to ourselves and find gratitude in the past.

Meditation is how we look within.

Through meditation, we begin to examine areas for improvement. Before we know it and almost inadvertently, we are dreaming again. Don’t you remember being a little kid and dreaming about your future career? Meditation can give that back to you. All it takes is a bit of silence. Meditation allows us to look at the darkest parts of ourselves, at our deepest desires, at our core values. Meditation is how we become self-aware.

Movement is how we maintain and build strength.

The strength to deal with long days, to move through challenging situations, to make tough decisions. Movement helps us pump blood throughout our bodies, thus delivering oxygen and nutrients to our muscles. Movement is how we step outside, look up at the trees and the sky, and say “Damn, how amazing is it that today I can move? My legs move when I tell them to. I can walk or hike or jog or dance. I can breathe in the fresh air and my lungs expand.” Movement reconnects us to our bodies, to the present moment.

Reading is how we grow and learn.

By reading about others’ experiences, we can learn from their mistakes and triumphs. We can bring wisdom into our daily lives. We can help others by spreading that wisdom through our words and actions. Reading is how we begin to enact change. Reading helps us move into the future.

I hope you find my personal development practice helpful and begin to incorporate these activities one by one until you too have a daily practice. Let it evolve as you do. Find what works for you. As always, I am here for you and available to answer any questions you might have.

Did you miss my last post? Check it out here.

Love and light to all of you beautiful humans.

Shelby

traveling dogtor foster kittens personal development

 

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.