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Recognizing Who and What Light You Up

No shadow

No stars

No moon

No cars


It only believes

In a pile of dead leaves ...

trees with no leaves pile of dead, orange leaves on the ground
Recognize who and what light you up

Since this morning, I have the song, “November” by Tom Waits playing in my head. Tom Waits is not exactly the most uplifting musician to listen to during the dark, damp November days (of course this is just my opinion). But his music offers me so much so I can’t help myself but to listen to him and entertain his songs in my head …

I’ve been writing and talking a lot about all sorts of things related to authenticity, well-being, and leadership. I feel particularly passionate about managing and preventing stress, honouring our values, practicing self-compassion, and learning to become our own best friend.

Often, I find November to be not an easy month--at least not a cheerful one.

Regardless of what part of the world I’m in, it seems to me that the days are short, dark, and dreary. As Tom Waits in his song tells me…

Stick your spoon in the wall …

November has tied me

To an old dead tree

Get word to April

To rescue me

November's cold chain ...

back of woman with long hair facing the sea
Practice self-care and promote your well-being

November obliges me to embody and express all the things I’ve been writing and talking about. This means, I must practice self-leadership and actively promote my well-being, including finding ways to better energize myself throughout the day.

One of the ways I energize myself is by blocking some time in my calendar for a personal well-being retreat. Depending on my desires, needs, and mood, my personal well-being retreat can last a couple of hours, half a day, or longer. I use the time to reflect on the things that promote my well-being and to practice self-care, for example, I may do yoga, meditation, or mindfulness and breathing exercises. I also use this time to take stock of the things that energize me and deplete my energy. I think about the people, things, and activities that serve me, light me up, or contribute to my development and growth as an individual, as a human being in relation with other beings on this planet. I also think about activities or habits that may have served some purposes previously but are no longer serving my well-being. In fact, they may be depleting my energy!

How about you? How do you feel at this time of the year?

What are your self-care and well-being practices?

woman smiling, with a grey hood over her head and wearing a black jacket
What are your self-care and well-being practices?

I would like to share with you my well-being practice at this time of the year. I’ve learned this well-being practice in various forms through my expressive arts therapy, leadership, and well-being programs. I hope you will also find it useful and beneficial. This practice involves taking stock of the things that light me up and those that deplete my energy.

Well-Being Practice: Taking Stock Of Who And What Light You Up

white and pink journals, two pencils
Create a list of who and what light you up

First, get a piece of paper, journal, or notebook and something to write with. If you have coloured markers or pencils and crayons, I suggest having them close by as well.

Then find a spot where you will not be distracted and put away things that may distract you, for example, put your phone away, turn it off, or put it on silent mode. You may do this well-being practice sitting comfortably on a chair, meditation cushion, or a yoga mat on the floor.

Once you find a comfortable sitting position, ground and center yourself by paying attention to your physical body and your breath.

Scan your body with your mind and breath from the top of your head to your toes.

When you’re done with your body scan, spend a minute or two noticing your breath, being mindful of each inhalation and each exhalation.

Set an intention to allow yourself to write freely without censoring yourself or judging your experience. Remember, no one will see what you write but you.

young woman sitting on a chair writing
Notice who and what light you up

With your piece of paper or a blank page in your journal make a line down the middle to create two columns on the page. If you’re using a journal or notebook, use two pages that face each other.

On the left side column or page, take about five minutes to write down the people, places, things, and activities in your life that light you up, make you happy, and/or inspire you. Try not to censor yourself. Write whatever comes to mind without analysis or judgment. The point of the practice is to get as much down on paper as possible. If you find it challenging to write down words, you can try drawing in symbols or images or using different colours to represent the objects you have in mind.

On the right side, take the next five minutes to write down the people, places, things, and activities in your life that takes up or deplete your energy. Don’t worry if you notice that the same people, places, things, and activities appear in both columns. Sometimes this happens when you list family members. If that happens, try to be more specific about their characteristics that are positive for you and those that are taking up or depleting your energy.

When you are done with the exercise, take a few minutes to center yourself before reviewing your list.


Acknowledge yourself for undertaking this simple self-care and well-being practice.

I hope you find the practice I shared with you useful.

pink lotus flower coming out of a pond
Who and what light you up?


Take a look at your list, are there surprises or new discoveries for you?

How do you feel?


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