"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'
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.
February – Self Care is not Selfish
But what would an amazing transformative journey be without a few bumps along the way? My resolution to practice self care in February grew difficult to fulfil as the month wore on. I was beset with gloom, weariness, self-doubt and nerves. My mental illness got the better of me and I struggled to actively practice the aspects of self care I had publically committed to. I wished I had chosen some other month, any other month, to write about such a positive, caring aspect of mental health recovery. To be honest, I felt like a failure. But, surprisingly, I never considered giving up on my resolutions. I persevered and continued to battle just to get through the month and move on, and by March I was glad I did.
March – Embrace Your Past
"Some things you can never leave behind. They don't belong to the past. They belong to you." - Rick Yancey, The Fifth WaveI finally hit my groove and felt comfortable progressing through the project by March. Yes, openly exploring and discussing your personal mental health experience can be draining and emotional. Yet it was therapeutic to let my fears and worries out into the world. By sharing them, they’re effect on me lessened. Writing this review now in May, I can fully appreciate how beneficial it was to finally acknowledge and accept my illness. I’ve seen the change in myself. I felt less psychologically burdened. I felt mentally freer.
April – Be Free
This is the month where I finally sat back and thought ‘I’m happy.’ As I continued to apply self-improvement tip after tip, eventually creating a routine of positivity, life felt good. There were a few days in April that were a write-off. My head physically hurt with the incessant and unrelenting negative thought my brain kept repeating. I took those days as a ‘break’. I stopped worrying about what my next post would be or what I needed to write, and instead applied the practices I had been learning. And it pulled me through. Rather than letting my anxiety win, I ditched the blog for my journal, restarted colouring-in and made small changes to my diet and daily routine. It was a full application of everything the past few months of the Romeo Project had taught me.
May - Don't Rush
Don't Rush was a broad theme where I tried to fit in everything from mindfulness, yoga, living in the moment and finding calm. From the huge lists of ideas I had generated for the month's resolution, I ended up only writing about a small few. This was the month where journaling took over my life. I became more focused on writing by hand in my journals rather than online on my blog. It was often a challenge to find time for both blogging and journaling. And losing my motivation mid-month was another set back I had to overcome while struggling with my physical health. I'm proud of the positive steps I took in the last week of May to turn things around. It was a sign of how much my personal strength has grown over the last five months.
“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.”― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
So much has changed in my life in 2016 already, how much of that can be attributed to my self-improvement project or to other sources is yet to be seen. But as the months have progressed, I've gradually seen my own feelings of strength and resilience improve. I have a confidence that I didn't possess in January, and a new found sense of direction.
You see, happiness is what we make of it. I've been complaining about being unhappy for years, but now that I've started to be proactive in fighting for my happiness it's within my grasp.