Friday, 30 September 2016

You Create Your Own Happiness

"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions." - Dalai Lama


As September draws to a close, so too does my resolution to Create New Things. Time flew, and despite a few half-hearted efforts, I didn't quite get as immersed in my resolution as I had hoped.

The month started out well. I read Stephen King's 'On Writing' which was not only motivational, but highly informative on how to capture your audience's attention. Despite being written for novelists, there is much for bloggers and journalists alike to get out of it.
And I returned to own my favourite writer and inspirational woman in general, Patti Smith. Writing about how much reading her work has inspired me reminded me of the influence she has had on my life over the past year.

But rather than feeling flooded with creativity as I had hoped, it came in bursts; dipping and rising depending on what I read.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Creativity and Nature

I love Autumn. So much so, I even created an autumnal printable last year to celebrate it's arrival.
Needless to say, I was thrilled to find a way to combine my September resolution and my love of the season this week.

'Mindfulness and the Natural World' by Claire Thompson celebrates the positive effects of the outdoors on our mental health. But not only that, she also believes that immersing yourself in nature can also spark creativity.

"The natural world can invigorate our minds."

Spending time in nature is well known to boost mental wellbeing. It  gives us fresh air, exercise (even if it is just a leisurely stroll), and a sense of calm.
It also gets us away from the routine of everyday life and technology; giving our minds the freedom to expand.

Thompson argues that nature is conducive to creativity; cultivating curiosity in the process.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Create a Vision Board

You create your own luck

Back in January I chose to create a vision board. It was a simple, but creative act to help me map out my plan for the year ahead.

Wake Up! Your Life is Calling and Self Care for Life are just two of the self-help books I looked at this year that encourage their readers to create a vision board

A vision board is a poster, or creative space, where you depict what you want to attract into your life. Don't just select 'things' you want though. Think about what you want to feel, achieve or see. 

And as I was also creating 1, 3, and 5 year plans in my Life Handbook, I tried to tie my vision in to that as well.

My vision for 2016 was to bring more happiness into my life. I wanted to travel more, make an effort in my search for love, improve my career, reignite some friendships and work hard at my blog. Using newspaper and magazine cuttings, I mapped out where I wanted 2016 to take me - a place of happiness, romance, and success.

I placed my vision board on my bedroom wall as a daily visual reminder of what I wanted to attract into my life.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Find Your Muse

or, How Patti Smith Changed my Life

A muse is the source of an artist's inspiration.
WB Yeats had Maud Gonne, Pablo Picasso had Marie-Therese Walter, Patti Smith had Robert Magglethorpe.

Patti Smith
I first heard about Patti Smith’s book ‘Just Kids’ a year ago. I can’t remember what I was reading at the time or where I read it (this anecdote would be so much better if I did!) but I do remember what I read. “Patti Smith’s ‘Just Kids’ is the best book you will ever read and it will change your life.”
I ordered it, read it within a few days, and it did change my life.
‘Just Kids’ is lauded as the seminal biography of artist Robert Magglethorpe. In reality, it details the thought processes of a young woman trying to make it as an artist in 1960s New York. Her roommate and lover Robert is also trying to ‘make it’. This isn't a book review, if you do want to read one, check out this epic piece about 'Just Kids' from the Guardian.
“We gathered our colored pencils and sheets of paper and drew like wild, feral children into the night, until, exhausted, we fell into bed.” 

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Create a ritual

Creating a daily ritual has come up in many of the self-help books I've being looking at this year.

Earlier this year, I shared my morning routine. But a ritual is different. A ritual is a 'series of actions performed according to a prescribed order' (Oxford English Dictionaries).

Sports stars have rituals they partake in before games or events; often superstitions performed to ensure good luck. Apparently, Benjamin Franklin wrote naked for an hour every morning to 'refresh' his mind in the cold air (source).
In 'On Writing' Stephen King divulges his own writing ritual. He dedicates mornings, every morning, to writing. His advice for fellow writers is to set a daily writing goal. He sets himself a word count - 2,000 words, or 10 pages per day. He closes the door to his dedicated writing room, has a quiet atmosphere, and doesn't leave until he reaches his goal (hopefully he does leave when nature calls...).

Saturday, 10 September 2016

My escape from suicidal thoughts – World Suicide Prevention Day

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. You can follow the conversations around preventing suicide on Twitter at #WSPD16.
To mark the occasion every year, I share some of my own personal experiences with suicide. This year, my message is a message of hope. It’s a message of survival, coping and recovery.
When considering suicide, it's hard to find any trace of hope. But I assure you, it is there, hiding in plain sight. And when you find it, it sparks you back to life.

My experience of depression was debilitating. I stopped eating, sleeping, showering, attending classes. I walked from point A to point B in a trance. I paid no attention to traffic lights, assignments, deadlines, my health. I just didn't care.

My depression brought with it thoughts of self-harm and suicide. For years I had punished myself for signs of weakness and failure internally. By the time I was 18 I needed to externalise that self-hatred. I turned to hurting myself as a way of coping with the internal pain.

Shortly before my 19th birthday I began treatment for my illness. But while some of my symptoms became regulated, my sense of self remained critical to the point of punishment. I continued to harm myself secretly, not telling my psychiatrist, counsellor or my family.

This is where it starts to turnaround. This is where I find hope. This is where I learn what I needed to survive. 

As my long, slow road to recovery continued through counselling, psychiatry services and medication, I began to realise that I needed to self-motivate if I was to reconstruct my life. I needed to find hope.

Hope came from finding a way to celebrate life.

As I was sorting through boxes of old mementos - letters, photos, leaflets, tickets, postcards - I decided to make use of it all, and also give myself a hobby. I decided to start a scrapbook.

Scrapbooking would be a way to detail my life, show me what I had achieved, what I had to be thankful for, that I was loved and cared for, even when I couldn't see it.

But more than that, scrapbooking provided an outlet for my self-harming thoughts.
Rather than hurting myself, I had another way to channel those feelings. Instead of scratching or cutting, I could cut up old magazines, stick them into place and make a collage. I could glue and stick my life back together.
The time I spent working away at my little life scrapbook was time where my head was clear and calm. It felt rewarding to finish a page, take a step back and admire that I had made my life - something I considered so banal - look pretty.

By 2013 cutting and sticking wasn’t enough for me. I had spent the year struggling with my mental health. I had lost friendships, relationships, my sense of place in the world. I needed something new to free my mind from consuming negative thoughts. I needed to compose.

Expressive writing means to put into words how you feel and what you’re going through. It can help bring healing in difficult situations, such as mental health difficulties and suicidal thoughts.

And so this blog was born. I had no intention of making any of my writings public before this. I was used to keeping a mental health journal to chart my bad days and my moods, but this was a chance to use what I was creating to help more than myself. I could find a solution to a difficult situation or challenge my negative thoughts through my writing. Reflecting allows for learning. But I could also write about my experiences, learnings and feelings and inspire others in the process.

Expressive writing has become one of my go-to coping mechanisms. I still scrapbook and use other creative tools to help me cope with my illness. I go to my bedroom at 9pm each night and colour for an hour before I go to sleep.

Finding my inner-creative has helped me to develop the confidence, self-worth and supports that were necessary for me to overcome suicidal and self-harm ideation.
It lead me to hope; that little knowledge in the back of my head that I am not a waste of space, that things can and do get better, that my experiences can empower me to help others who feel as lost and alone as I once did.

Once you find hope, no matter where or how, I've learnt that it's not so easily lost again. Where you find hope might not be where I found it; in a box of mementos, an empty sketch book and a tube of Pritt Stick. But I promise you it is there, waiting for you to uncover the spark of joy it brings back to your life. Don't give up.

If you have been affected by any of the issues discussed in this post, please visit my Getting Help page.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Create Happiness for Others

"Happiness never decreases if it is shared." - Tal Ben-Shahar
If I am to create my own happiness this month, I have to take Tal Ben-Shahar's advice and share a little bit of happiness around. Inspired by a beautiful anecdote from a 14 year old who used to leave anonymous, positive messages in her classmates' lockers every Friday - Hope you have a lovely day - I wanted to give something back to the kids I work with.

So with a freely available flyer template online (just Google 'free flyer template' until you find one you like) and a little bit of editing on my behalf, with compulsory Disney text, I made the below. Hopefully it will bring a smile to a face, and it will all be worthwhile. 

What do you think? 

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Tap into your Creativity

As my Create New Things resolution gets underway, I want to share my tips for living a more creative life with you all.
"A creative life is an amplified life. It's a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life." - Elizabeth Gilbert
I want to tap into my creativity this month to find new and inventive ways towards wellness and the pursuit of happiness. Is it possible to foster a creative mindset that brings happiness with it? Well I'm going to try, and here's how.

Tips for tapping into your creativity
  • Always carry a notebook
You never know when inspiration may hit. A notebook and pen is perfect for recording your thoughts, ideas and experiences throughout the day.
  • It's okay to have bad first drafts
"Your 20s are about having the courage to write a frightful first draft." - Paul Angone, '101 secrets for your twenties'
It's okay to make mistakes, to make a mess and even to fail. Terrible first drafts can become something better in time.
  • Don't be a critic
Everyone has a spark of creativity in them. It's not your place to put out that spark. Look to your own spark in the same way. Don't be too harsh on yourself. 
"The worst enemy to creativity is self doubt." - Sylvia Plath

  • It's okay to start with replicas

"Imitation preceeded creation." - Stephen King
Copying what others who inspire you do is a good first step. If it helped Stephen King become the best-selling author he is now, who's to knock this tip?
  • Good is as good as perfect
Don't get hung up on perfection. Good ideas may not be perfect ideas, but they're a step in the right direction.
"To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong." - Joseph Chilton Pearce
  • Ask questions
The best way to find what you are looking for is to ask. Question everything to find new, creative solutions and answers. 

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Intro to Create New Things

"If you're alive, you're a creative person."

So argues Elizabeth Gilbert, author of 'Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear'. The only reason you don't feel creative, she says, is that you are afraid you have no talent or you're afraid to embrace a creative life.

The penultimate resolution for my Romeo Project this year is to Create New Things. Inspired by how often the word 'create' appears in self-help and self-improvement books, I want to spend the month not only flexing any artistic genes I may have, but also creating opportunities, memories, rituals, and maybe even my own traditions.
"A creative life is an amplified life. It's a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life." - Elizabeth Gilbert
It's not about art or writing, or even talent. It's about living a full life; living Gilbert's amplified life. Gilbert, by the way, is also the author of Eat, Pray, Love. You know, that movie starring Julia Roberts who travels around the world in search of fulfillment that's based on a book? Yup, that's the one! 

There is so much writing dedicated to how creativity and happiness go hand-in-hand. 'The Scientific Reasons Why Being Creative Can Make You Happier' talks about the strong connection between creative expression and overall wellbeing. 'The Link Between Creativity and Happiness' says creativity allows us to express and process emotions as well as focusing on living in the moment.