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).