Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Developing my Zen Attitude

I've experienced a few setbacks with this month's resolution. The Romeo Project is all about finding the self-improvement tools that work for those with a mental illness, and the reality is that mental illness can often get in the way of productivity. Lacking any inspiration to write, post or even experiment for the past week has left me feeling stuck in a rut when it comes to the blog.

But yesterday I discovered some new found motivation to improve my sense of calm this month; becoming Zen.

Zen, according to my best friend the Oxford English Dictionary, is;
"A Japanese school of Mahayana Buddhism emphasizing the value of meditation and intuition rather than ritual worship or study of scriptures. Zen Buddhism was introduced to Japan from China in the 12th century, and has had a profound cultural influence. The aim of Zen is to achieve sudden enlightenment (satori) through meditation in a seated posture (zazen), usually under the guidance of a teacher and often using paradoxical statements (koans) to transcend rational thought."
That's not exactly what I meant, and is a bit too wordy for my liking. So instead, I found this perfect short descriptor of what I want to bring into my life during the last week of my resolution Don't Rush.
"Zen deals with things as they are, that is with reality." Source.
So for the next seven days, I will be practicing mindfulness, meditation and finally succumbing to my promise to try yoga.

And to spark my new attitude, I found some encouragment to help me along the way.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Periodic Table of Emotions

As many of you know, for Don't Rush month I have been trying to embrace mindfulness. To stay mindful, I find it really important to recognise my moods, feelings and emotions. Awareness is a huge part of mindfulness, which is why I reflect on how I feel every day.

Acknowledging our emotions accepts them, and allows us to work towards challenging and improving our feelings. So everyday in my journal, I keep track of my mood and record how positive or negative I felt on average over the day. Focusing on my emotions has reminded me of  the wonderful Disney Pixar film Inside Out. Some days, I really do feel that there is an internal battle between my emotions for dominance. Sadness and Joy are in a constant struggle to try and win out. But there are so many other feelings not covered by the stagnant 5 of Inside Out.
And to fully help me accept my feelings, I find it really important to find just the right words that describe exactly how I feel each day. So inspired by the characters of Inside Out I have developed a Periodic Table of Emotions.

One day I went to write in my recovery journal about how I was feeling, and I was stuck. I just couldn't think of the right word to convey my hurt and pain. So I googled some alternatives that might fit my mood. With depression, it isn't always easy to know how you feel at a particular moment in time. I often use words like 'numb' when I refuse to explore and choose to ignore my feelings. I stay 'numb' because I don't want to process all of the feelings.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Press Pause

Have you ever tried to do nothing?

I am one of those people who likes to keep busy. In some ways, it's a coping mechanism; a distraction from my worries and pain (see Spinning-my-wheels). In others, having so much to do gives me a sense of pride. My self-worth is valued based on my volunteer, ambassador and teaching roles. Not to mention my job and, dare I say it, career. But sometimes I do feel too busy. I find myself stressed and anxious, and rushing. It can be hard for anyone to find time for themselves in this day and age. Every week, I try to have one evening free for myself, but when teaching evening classes and balancing two jobs, that isn't always possible.

That’s why I’m pressing pause. I need 'me time' every day; not just one night a week.

It’s time to sit back and do nothing. Except, doing nothing isn't really doing nothing. Doing nothing is time to take a break; have down time; unwind; and refocus.

On the importance of learning to be idle, I really liked the following quote:
"The more you practice, the easier it becomes to enjoy the benefits of a calm, focused mind." - Patricia Macnair and Ilona Boniwell, 'Change your life one day at a time'
One way to spend your pause time is in meditation.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Check-in: A Mental Health Update

It’s been quite some time since I’ve written a specific update on my mental health. Having been caught up in my monthly resolutions, an update didn’t seem to fit in with the themes. But this is Don’t Rush month, and pausing to reflect is precisely what this resolution is all about.

As I type this I am slowly recovering from a case of the summer cold. Mysterious in ways like the man-flu, the summer cold is one of those lesser spotted juxtapositions of life. My chesty cough and sore throat came at precisely the moment when the weather was spectacular and I had plans to make the most of the outdoors. Typical.

How I spent my Sunday

I spent the weekend indoors, away from the sun, hoping to heal. I hate being unproductive but illness rendered me so and there was nothing I could do but accept that fact. Unusually for me, my mood was not altered by my lack of productivity. Normally that becomes a trigger for me – the need to keep going, to keep busy, to constantly create, motivates me to the point of burnout.

In fact, apart from some mild anxiety last Friday, May has been a month of positive mental health. My moods have not altered dramatically; steadily tracked in my daily mood tracker to be in and around the same level each day.  I actually sat down to write this update and thought, ‘what’s the point? My mental health has been boring all month?’ Boring because it’s actually been going well.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Living in the Moment

If I want to fulfill my resolution to Don't Rush, then I have to start living in the moment.

Living in the moment really means moving on from your past, and not fretting about the future. For me, someone with a history of severe depression and general anxiety, it's not that easy to do.

Thankfully, there is a book to help me along the process.

'Living in the Moment' by Dani DiPirro brings together mindfulness and meditation to guide you through how to increase your awareness and focus on the present.

For DiPirro, Living in the Moment means 'fully concentrating on what's happening in the present' and 'not dwelling on the past or worrying about the future'.

The book was designed to be accessible and make it easy to cultivate awareness everyday by interspersing quotes and activities throughout.
Di Pirro gives tips for staying present like Don't Look Back.

And advises us to accept difficult times, live fearlessly and use your time well. In fact, the book is full of advice and rather cliched phrases: -
Get the most out of everyday.
Keep your eyes (and heart) open to opportunities.

But it also has great advice for living mindfully. Di Pirro advocates for mindful moments where we make more of an effort to observe the world around you. From trying to observe an experience objectively to the more practical writing down your worries to set them aside, these are practicable activities to increase awareness of the present.

The book is very short, but I found it to be the perfect starting point for trying to live in the moment. Hopefully it's something I can keep up as I continue to live my resolution - Don't Rush.

Until next time,

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Mindful Journaling: 10 Beautiful Things

I have another mindfulness journaling tool for you all today.

Having enjoyed my Here I Am reflection, today’s tool also focuses on accepting and responding to your surrounds. A large part of mindfulness is based on finding happiness in the present, rather than seeing it as a far-off in the future achievement.

I'll be happy when I'm rich.
or I'll be happy when I find a man.
These thoughts just put happiness off, and relegate it to something that you have no control over now.

Instead, mindfulness accepts happiness as more of a mindset, something achievable in the present. This journaling tool will help you find beautiful moments of happiness right now.

10 Beautiful Things I Noticed Today

To capture your 10 Beautiful Things you must reflect on what you see, hear, taste, smell and feel and keep note throughout the day. This tool forces you to notice the little things going on around you. I spent my day actively seeking out beautiful moments and found myself constantly noticing how much beauty there is around me. I was surprised at how many little things are actually beautiful moments when we take the time to stop and appreciate them.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Here I Am

This month, I want to slow down the pace of life and be happy with where I am; here in the present moment. The theme is Don't Rush - and what better way to do that than by stopping and acknowledging my present?
“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.” 
― Thich Nhat Hanh
So to kick off the month I've come up with a simple journaling tool to increase my mindfulness and help focus on the present. Last month, I rediscovered the power of journaling, and it's something I will be returning to throughout the rest of May. Journaling is a great way of practicing mindfulness, as it can be used to acknowledge your feelings and appreciate every moment.
A huge part of mindfulness is about finding peace where you are. So today I'm acknowledging where I am - right here.

To use this journaling tool, think about the following questions:

  1. Where are you physically? What can you see, hear, smell?
  2. Where are you in your life right now? What’s going right? What’s going wrong?
  3. Where are you mentally? What’s your mood like?
This tool allows you to practice mindfulness by situating yourself in the present moment, and also reflecting on why and how you are where you are. To use this, try to keep in mind the stream of consciousness technique where you write in one continuous flow. Put down in writing whatever comes to mind as you consider the above questions!

Here I Am:

It’s Monday evening – 6:24pm to be precise. I’ve just had dinner and am sitting at my desk. My desk is a bit of a mess, and I wish I had the time to give it a good clean. My curtains are opened to my right hand side; with the windows both open too. The smell from outdoors is permeating into my room and reminds me of how much I love letting the fresh air in during the warmer months.

In front of me is my book shelf – in need of a good dusting around the two rows of unread books. I have a book buying problem (I bought another two this morning...). But I can admit it, and so therefore my logic tells me I am not an addict. And to my left is my bed; made in haste and looking rather untidy.