milestones

365 Days Of Gratitude.

gratitude

For 365 days, I have been writing down three things I am grateful for each day and it has had some surprising results.

We all know the power gratitude can have. In the darkest times, if you can find at least one thing to be grateful for, even if it is something as simple as having running water, a warm home to live in or food in your fridge, it can change your perspective entirely. This is what happened to me.

I embarked on a journey of gratitude in 2016. It turns out, it was the perfect year to do it. I have had a difficult year. I won’t go into detail but it’s been really hard to stay positive most days. I downloaded the app Gratitude Journal on my phone on the 31st of December 2015. I wanted to see if writing down three things every day I am grateful for would actually impact my wellbeing and change my perspective when experiencing bad days.

It actually worked. Each night, I would write down three things I was grateful for that day. Sometimes they were very similar – my partner’s name, home and food. However, some days I managed to write down five or even six things I am grateful for. I didn’t feel like it changed anything at first. However, after a couple of months. It started to rewire my thoughts. Reflecting on my day each night with a list of things that made me feel grateful, happy and loved made me realise that life was about the smaller things.

Whenever I got caught up in a negative spiral of I hate my job, why does this always happen to me? and why am I not going anywhere?, I adjusted my thoughts. I  remembered my list. I am grateful for my friends, my partner and my home. It instantly reminded me to be grateful for what I have and not to focus on what I don’t have.

It had such an impact on my life that I’ve decided to carry on my gratitude list into 2017. It may not work for everyone but if you feel like you need to remind yourself every day of all the amazing things you have that make your life great, then start a gratitude list.

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Opinion

Why I Had A Facebook Detox And Why You Should Too

unpluggg

So after deliberating about it for a while, I decided to go cold turkey and delete my Facebook app on my phone. I was tired of the EU referendum related statuses and I knew it was definitely time to take a break from social media. I logged out on my computer and removed Facebook from my bookmarks, I deleted the app on my phone, excluding messenger and decided that I wouldn’t go on it for a week. I also didn’t go on Twitter or Instagram but I rarely use those on a day to day basis.

It wasn’t easy. On the second day of my detox, I decided to log in on my phone to take a quick look at the oh so familiar blue news feed of pictures and statuses. It took me a moment to realise what I was doing and I quickly logged out, feeling rather stupid. I never truly knew how addicted I was to Facebook until this detox week. It feels like a compulsive need, I must see what everyone is up to and it’s an unhealthy habit that has to stop.

Sometimes we have to take a step back to realise the mistakes we are making. My mistake was letting social media have a certain amount of control on my life. I had many moments when I was out with friends or having a nice meal when my first thought was ‘I have to make a status about this…’ I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks like this and it just proves how much space social media fills up in our lives.

I’m not saying I’m going to delete Facebook any time soon because I rely on it for my magazine Zest For Life and I use it to chat to my friends that I don’t see every day. Facebook has many great qualities but there is also a dark side to it and I definitely entered it on many occasions. I was scrolling down my news feed when I got up in the morning, and it didn’t take long for me to feel bitter or jealous about the people who were always going on holiday, buying houses, having families and getting their dream jobs when I was sat at home, unemployed, broke and feeling hopeless about my future.

There have already been many studies linking Facebook and other social media sites to depression and it definitely doesn’t surprise me. Looking down at our phones constantly is unhealthy and dangerous for our overall happiness and wellbeing. I always knew that but often ignored it because I assured myself that it’s just the way of life now and everyone does it.

Maybe I’ve finally reached a place in my mind where I don’t want to be like everyone else? I will use social media for its advantages but now I know I can actually log out and unplug for a while, it has definitely changed my attitude towards it and if you ever want to feel refreshed, I recommend that you also unplug and just be in the present moment for a while. Sometimes you have to disconnect to reconnect with yourself and those around you. I’ll definitely be doing a social media detox again at some point and maybe next time, I will log out for longer.

 

 

milestones

Reaching A Mental Health Milestone

beating butterflies

During the past few years, I have struggled with my mental health. I have General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), which means I constantly worry about everything and experience high amounts of anxiety for no reason at all. It took me a long time to accept that my anxiety was part of me, something that I couldn’t erase, something that couldn’t be ‘cured’ with a prescription of pills from the doctor.

A few months ago, when I reached a dark place with my anxiety and depression, I finally admitted to myself that I needed help. I would go days without leaving the house, I would sometimes sit and stare into space, pondering on the bad things that have happened in my life or bad things that ‘could’ happen in the future. I felt like I was trapped by my own mind, it’s a horrible feeling and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone.

Having an anxiety disorder is unpredictable. You may go through periods of time without any anxiety at all and then all of a sudden, it’s back and suffocating your thoughts like a dark cloud. I thought I was strong enough to battle my mental health issue on my own and convinced myself that I was ‘in control’ and my anxiety would get better over time, but it didn’t.

I had tried all of the ‘self-help’ options and nothing worked. I was crippled by anxiety, always worrying about the future or feeling sad about the past. I reached a dark place, where I thought medication was the only option for me to proceed. Then, a shining light appeared and everything changed for me. I found the strength to ask for professional help. It was a waiting game but I finally got on the list for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

I have to be honest, I was sceptical at first. I had convinced myself that my natural way of thinking, the negative way I approach life and every situation couldn’t be reversed. After a few weeks of therapy sessions, I started to notice a change. I had unconsciously started to think more about my ‘unhelpful thinking style’ and started to rationalise with the voice in my head when negativity surfaced. The great thing about CBT is that it strips back to the bare bones of how you think, how this effects your behaviour and how you can change this in the future.

David, my therapist was amazing. He was honest, critical and helpful in our sessions. Always sending me home with ‘homework’ to do, such as thought diaries and weekly schedules, he discovered what my triggers were and how to remove them from my life. For me it was during my alone time that I experienced more anxiety and more depressive thoughts. The answer for me was to always keep myself busy and distract myself by colouring, reading, doing yoga or simply doing some meditation.

Ever since I started CBT, I managed to pull myself out of the depressive state that I found myself in for months, started to fight against my negative thoughts and made small changes in my life that were going to improve my overall wellbeing. I am going to do yoga as often as I can, learn how to meditate, practice mindfulness and make sure I find time to relax each day. I’m going to still have bad days and now I realise that it’s okay to feel sad sometimes and it’s normal to worry, as long as it doesn’t take over your life.

I feel like I am reaching a mental health milestone. I have learnt in the past few months that anxiety cannot be ‘cured’ it can only be ‘managed.’ I have discovered that if I give attention to my anxiety and say to myself that I am mentally ill or there is something wrong with me, it only fuels my negativity and it will probably erase any progress that I have made.

I feel like I have reached a pinnacle of understanding. I accepted my anxiety was a problem, I asked for help and now I no longer feel alone on this journey to achieve a positive mindset. I have a long way to go but I finally feel like I can see the light at the end of a dark tunnel of worry, insecurity, anxiety and doubt. Like a butterfly, I feel free to go anywhere I want to go and do anything I want to do. I want to believe in hope instead of fear. I want to see the glass as half full instead of half empty. My anxiety will never ‘go away’ but I’m confident that I’m now in control of how I think, how I feel and how I behave.