Thursday, 30 June 2016

Appreciate the Journey Conclusion

"Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well." - Voltaire
My June journey has come to a close. It's been a month of highs and lows and I spent the majority of my resolution to 'Appreciate the Journey’ struggling internally.

If you ever wanted a test case of how unpredictable mental illness can be, take my month as an example. I had hoped to complete my bucket list of fun and exciting new things to do. Instead I spent any evenings or days off on my bed, frantically colouring-in to avoid my own tangled mind.
I didn’t give myself time to process my thoughts. I didn’t want to. Most of my time was tied up with work, or travelling with work. I had to move house. I had to say goodbye to housemates I’d lived with for three years. I had to cope without my biggest support for almost 3 weeks.
I kept putting myself down, doubting my accomplishments and my experience for a new job. I kept imagining ‘what if’ scenarios.  I spent most of my days waiting for a message from the boyfriend in France to ensure he was still alive; as my mind kept inventing detailed scenarios in which he wasn’t.
I wanted to stop blogging. Not just for the month, but forever. I didn’t see the point. I felt the shame of my own failures. I felt embarrassed that people could link my blog back to me, the offline real-life person.

Reason after reason for feeling ungrateful circulated my mind. It was hard to find any positives, or anything to appreciate.

However, as the month comes to a close I do not want to end on a negative note. When I write about mental illness I like to show that there is hope and light out there, even when I cannot find or feel it myself. As I wrote on Tuesday, there are always moments - beautiful moments of hope that we can appreciate, even when we feel ungrateful.

So to finish off this month’s resolution I have found taken the time to write a list of things that are worth appreciating. Despite what your mind might tell you, there's always something wonderful if you look hard enough for it.

My Week in Photos #4

This week has been another busy one; but despite continuing to balance two jobs, my mood was positively and firmly boasted. From Wednesday on I felt more relaxed, happy and able to manage the never-ending pressure and stress of work. The source of this new joy? Possibly the impending return of my boyfriend from his three-week trip. Or maybe the fact that the end of Job No. 2 was in sight, and I could finally spend a weekend with the family.
Either way, my photos of the week reflect this new mindset. I made the most of my weekend off to get outdoors. I finished three books in the space of two days. I had more energy to commit to Job No.1. All in all, it's been a good 7 days.

Wednesday 22nd June - Everyday I get to walk past this beautiful piece of stone work. Why this nautical image appears on a building on Dame Street, I don't know. But I love it. And walking by it reminds me of the calmness of the ocean.

Thursday 23rd June - The sun finally came back (albeit only briefly), and I snapped this quick shot on the Ha'penny bridge on my way to work.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016


This month hasn't always been easy. Depression can come unannounced and give you a beating. You're left on the sidelines for days, struggling to make it back on the pitch. But just because my mental illness came back swinging doesn't mean that there aren't moments to cling to - moments of happiness.
“Moments never stay, whether or not you ask them, they do not care, no moment cares, and the ones you wish could stretch out like a hammock for you to lie in, well, those moments leave the quickest and take everything good with them, little burglars, those moments, those hours, those days you loved the most.” ― Catherine Lacey, 'Nobody Is Ever Missing'

I discovered this quote today which reminded me of the importance of moments.

They don't tell the whole story. Often they vary off on their own tangent, with little respect for sticking to the main narrative. But they are important. Moments provide light in the dark; hope in the midst of a raging sea of depression. Moments are what we cling to, look back on, feed off. Moments are our sign from the universe that there are good days, the bad days don't last, there is hope.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Appreciate the Natural World

"I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery - air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, 'This is what it is to be happy.'" - Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
This weekend I am delving into nature. After 18 straight days of work without a day off, I finally have time to myself. And the first thing I wanted to do was head straight back home to the countryside.
As a child I was an outdoors type of girl. Often, I was called a tom boy for climbing trees, rolling down hills, and exploring in bushes and behind rocks. This sense of exploration is something we often lose as we grow up. But I've been learning that we still need to make time to appreciate the world around us.


And when it comes to appreciation, where better to start than mindfulness?

In ‘Mindfulness and the Natural World’ by Claire Thompson, Thompson urges us to use the natural world to find inner calm, sense of purpose and gain perspective.
"So many of us rarely take time to appreciate the beauty of the sunlight through the new leaves on the trees or the peace there is in feeling a gentle breeze against our faces."
For her, mindfulness and nature are interlinked. Taking a step outside or, better yet, finding a forest or city park to sit in can bring us closer to nature and offer escapism from our everyday lives. But rather than the natural world only being looked to as a break away from from city life, Thompson argues that we need to appreciate the nature around us every day. And her book is full of tips for how we can do that. She suggests we use our senses to take in the natural world. Whether it’s the smell of summer flowers, the sound of bees buzzing or just the very fact that the air we breathe is oxygen created by plants, using our senses help us to be mindful and centred in the present moment.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

My Week in Photos #3

It's been a difficult week. For the past fortnight I've been working 7 days a week, and I'm starting to feel the effects. I'm worn out, run down, and seriously wishing I'd pre-booked a nice holiday to help me unwind. This week's My Week in Photos reflects my hectic schedule. There was no time to get outdoors, or divert from my usual routine. A lot of the photos were taking on my way to or from work. The rest were taken at my desk.

In fact, it was hard to find the motivation to take any photographs this week. To me, they felt mundane. I didn't see the point in sharing them. But I am proud that I persevered with my challenge, and although it hasn't been exciting, this was my week.

Wednesday 15th June - Making a Father's Day card for my Dad.

Thursday 16th June - Thursday was Bloomsday, so I grabbed a quick snap of the Ulysses characters on my way home from work.

Friday 17th June - I made a detour on my way to work to find this Roy Keane mural put up for the Euros.

Saturday 18th June - I treated myself to some macrons for the weekend. Because you always deserve macrons.

Sunday 19th June - My goals for the week weren't exactly awe-inspiring. But honestly, making it through the next 5 days without having a total mental breakdown is essential.

Monday 20th June - A pre-work selfie in my bare room as I prepare to move out for the summer.

Tuesday 21st June - After working until 11pm on Monday evening, and getting to my conference at 7:30 am on Tuesday morning, I desperately needed this caffeine and chocolate pick-me-up.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Go Somewhere New

Since the beginning of January I have been actively trying to fulfill my resolution to appreciate the journey.
Even though this month has been a struggle, with bad mental health and a struggle to find the positive in any day, I have had six months of my Romeo Project to explore new places and gain new experiences.
My resolutions aren't just one per month - they're for the whole year. And so I've been embracing adventure after adventure during the year. I cannot embark on new journeys at present. My mental health and my hectic work schedule won't allow me. But I have done so much this year already. So why not celebrate that?
Today I am celebrating the journeys I have taken so far this year. Guided by my little green 'plans for world domination' notebook of places to explore, I have set out this year with one mission: Go Somewhere New.

Visited Copenhagen
In February I ended up on a long weekend stay in Copenhagen. The city had so many palaces and folklore sites to explore. You can read about my Scandinavian adventures in search of happiness here.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Acts of Gratitude

"Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom." - Marcel Proust
Never underestimate how inspiring a simple act of gratitude can be.

As I struggled to find appreciation this week, I was reminded that gratitude is not something we have to feel. While the self-help books continually urge us to be grateful for what we have, they often miss the bigger picture. Sometimes what we feel and how we act don’t have to be in sync.

Gratitude is a way of expressing our appreciation for the journey we're on. It’s easy to spout gratitude rhetoric.
“I’m grateful for the air I breathe and the spring in my step.” 
Who really wakes up first thing in the morning and thinks that?
My first thoughts are, “Thank God I didn’t sleep in and miss my alarm.”

Rhetoric is meaningless without grateful acts to back it up. So even though I have been feeling crap, alone and pretty ungrateful for my mental illness, I have shown others how much they mean to me.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

My Week in Photos #2

Last week I started my new challenge - to take a photo every single day this month. Even though I have felt low and down during the past few days, I continued with my resolution. On the days I lacked motivation and self-esteem, I snapped a quick photo in my room. It felt good to be able to fulfill at least one task on my to-do list every day. 

Here's my week in photos:

Wednesday 8th June - A quick coffee pick-me-up.

Thursday 9th June - A brief trip out to my old University to watch my housemate's team play tag rugby.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Appreciation isn't always easy

I am struggling with this month's resolution.

Gratitude and appreciation are tough. Tougher than they appear.
Sure, if we're good polite people we will feel these things. That's what we're told. That's what many of us believe. That's what I keep repeating to myself.

But when you can't feel anything, when you feel empty inside, it's hard to foster a sense of thankfulness.
There are times when I do not feel thankful to be alive, yet alone for the warm heat of the sun on my skin, or the bitter taste of coffee that I can regularly afford to buy.

And as I turned to record my 'Favourite Moment' in my journal every night this week, I have struggled to think of even one thing to write.

"Today was crap."
"I have nothing to be thankful for."
"Nothing good happened today."

I had planned on keeping a Gratitude Journal for month - counting on the rain for farmers, and having food and shelter as good back-ups in the chance that nothing else major occurred in my daily life.
But if I can't even feel thankful for the air in my lungs then what's the point in writing it down? It would just be a list of things I SHOULD feel thankful for while the guilt sets in. 

"I'm being ungrateful again."
"You have so much more than then other people but you're so unappreciative."
"Why are you so selfish?"

My depression has hit me with force. The only thing that keeps me going is that I have to. I have to get up at 6am. I have to make breakfast. I have to grab the Luas. I have to go to work. I have to go straight home afterwards. I have to do it. 

I watched myself as I smiled and shook hands and made general chit-chat with my colleagues and complete strangers.I say 'watched' because it was an outer body experience. I appeared happy. Social even. I was putting up a front. I used to be so transparent. But I have somehow mastered the art of holding it together. Until I get home, of course. And that's when the tears come. That's when I can't stop crying. When I fear I will never stop crying.

Appreciation isn't always easy. In fact, it sucks to know that I have so much to feel grateful for, but I can't. I can't feel anything.

I stood out in a heavy rain shower this morning and I didn't mind. As the rain soaked through my 'waterproof' rain jacket and into my skin I was wet and cold and tired. But I finally felt grateful. Grateful that I could finally feel something again. Even if it was just the rain.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Appreciate the Little Things

"It's the little details that are vital. Little things make the big things happen." - John Wooden
I love that quote. It really got me thinking over the week about how essential all of the little things are.

Little things are small, but significant things that affect our mood. Little things can be as simple as how much happier you feel with a cup of green tea, or a quote that resonates with you in the novel you're reading. Little things can be what you actively do for yourself, or be an unexpected positive surprise from someone else. They are so important to our overall wellbeing that there's a mental health campaign in Ireland called The Little Things.
Little things make the journey possible. But we don't often take the time to appreciate them.

But the little things got me through the week, and I want to take the time to acknowledge how instrumental they have been in keeping my mood positive over the past few days.

x My hotel room was upgraded.

A phone call from the boyfriend to cheer me up when my laptop broke (again).

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Embracing Gratitude

For Appreciate the Journey month, I am turning to gratitude to foster my sense of appreciation.

Being thankful has long been lauded as an important tool to find contentment and happiness. The self care books are full of gratitude tips. It has popped up as a main theme in Self Care for Life, 50 Ways to Yay, Gratitude, Change Your Life One Day at a Time and The Flourish Handbook.

Today I'm going to look at two of these books and find ways that I can foster more gratitude in my own life.

50 Ways to Yay! by Alexi Panos promises to be a transformative tool that brings happiness to your life. With 50 practical tips, advice, missions and reflections, the book has a lot to offer. One of these tips is choosing to be grateful. Panos talks about a state of true gratitude and training your brain to find more of it. "Happiness is created by a moment-to-moment choice to be grateful."

Gratitude by Dani DiPirro is full of tips on how to show gratitude at home, work and even after a tough day. Mixing inspirational quotes with illustrations, it's the perfect go-to guide for finding happiness. The book suggests that the benefits of gratitude are enormous; and can even promote a healthy body. The Top 10 tips at the back of the book are my favourite, and I have summarised some of my favourites below.

Taking the tips from these two books I have compiled this list of how we can foster more gratitude -

- Keep a Gratitude Journal - write down three things you are grateful for everyday.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

My Week in Photos #1

This month I am committed to taking a photo every single day. I hope that taking pictures will help me to find something beautiful, noteworthy or at least interesting to appreciate everyday. With the bright, clear weather, it has been an easy challenge to keep so far. Here are my photos for the first 7 days of the month.

1st June - Why not start off the month with a selfie? Well that's what I did. In my most favourite summery outfit I went out to face the first day of summer.

2nd June - The heatwave continued in Ireland, and I snapped this beautiful view of Dublin city on my commute home from work.

Monday, 6 June 2016

June Bucket List

I have spent the past few days travelling to and fro with very little time to spend at my own home, yet alone blog. 

My magical laptop, which chooses to work in all locations bar my own house, has also contributed to my lack of blogging. But I must confess, I have rather enjoyed life without technology

It has given me the time to get artistic and creative. And to actually apply my resolution rather than just researching and writing about it.
To help me appreciate the journey, I have created a bucket list to find appreciation for the world around me.

I want to try new things, get outside and explore.

Friday, 3 June 2016

June Resolution: Appreciate the Journey

Intro to the month

"Every journey begins with a single step." - Confucius

For me, June is the first month of sun, summer, and holidays. My attitude always changes come June 1st. I am more inclined to relax, be social and find an adventure. It’s something that has been ingrained in me since childhood.  

This year it is especially noticeable. As the weather gradually improved towards the end of May, resulting in this glorious heat wave we now find ourselves in, I started to feel calmer and carefree. Could it be that my ongoing self-improvement project, the Romeo Project, is contributing to this? Or maybe that June's resolution to Appreciate the Journey is finally ready to come into fruition?
Quite possible, but for now I am just basking in the sun.

Ezra Bayda's 'Beyond Happiness: The Zen Way to True Contentment' encourages us to appreciate the journey. For Bayda, this means appreciating the good and the bad right alongside each other - in other words, finding happiness with where you are.

This month I am looking forward to savouring the good weather, my happiness and my life. I want to create a bucket list for June, explore the little things, and taking a photo every day.

While my laptop refused to work over the past few days, I must try to look at it as an opportunity to get outside, be productive offline and appreciate the world outside the internet.

I look forward to finding my grounding, even if it means less blogging for the month.

Here's to the journey.

Where is the destination?
It's the journey that matters in the end

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

The Romeo Project | Mid-year Evaluation

"Happiness is absolutely a feeling and a state of well-being, but the key to happiness is understanding that it is created through action.”
― Kristi Ling, 'Operation Happiness: The Three Step Plan to Creating a Life of Lasting Joy, Abundant Energy, and Radical Bliss'

My May resolution to Don’t Rush was the perfect time to sit back, slow down, and reflect on what’s happened so far during my Romeo Project. I am now 5 months into my project and it has been a real learning curve,
I started the Romeo Project to see whether all the tips and tricks in self-help books can be applied to someone with a mental illness. For those of us with a mental illness, 'living in the moment' and 'learning to love yourself'' need to be more than a chapter heading in our lives. It can take us longer to break down the barriers our illness has built to protect us. It can be near impossible to stop worrying about the future when you have generalized anxiety disorder. But that's what this year has been about - trying to find the methods and practices that will help me do all of those things, and find my own road to happiness. My 10 resolutions were chosen as they encompassed the recurring themes throughout the self-help literature.

Let's take a quick recap of the Romeo Project resolutions so far...

January – Be Authentic
January seems like so long ago already. So much has changed for me in 2016 already. How much of that can be attributed to my self-improvement project you ask? Well, let me just say that I cannot emphasise enough how life-changing creating a Life Handbook was (and because it needs further stressing, I will be dedicating a whole post the power of a Life Handbook later in the year). I knew my goals, my vision, my values and I could fully visualise the life I was working towards. It was empowering, and it allowed me to pursue paths I wouldn’t have otherwise, gain self-belief and take risks. January set me up for what I was convinced would be an amazing year.