I love a good “TED Talks” video on YouTube. For those of you that have never watched these videos, they’re basically powerful speeches and people spreading their skills, ideas and knowledge. They always help me when I’m feeling demotivated or down.
Recently I watched a TED Talks video and couldn’t stop thinking about it. I couldn’t shake off everything the lady had said in the video. I’m always open to learning new coping mechanisms; I’m good at overthinking and I’m also anxious a lot. I’ll try anything these days to get me through life, but this is something I wanted to share with you all, because if it benefits me, it can benefit you too…
In this particular video, a young lady spoke about how she suffered with depression. She couldn’t get her head around the fact we are born ‘ just to die’. She didn’t see the point and this led to her not enjoying life despite having a husband and two children. Desperate to change this, she found a nun who was helping people with counselling and ‘spiritual direction’. She didn’t class herself as religious but really needed to find a new perspective and was willing to try anything. Whilst watching the video, I realized how similar it sounded to myself. I have suffered with anxiety and depression for many years now. I know how important it is to be grateful, and I am, but sometimes I just cannot rid myself of feeling as though there is no point and that I don’t have a purpose.
The nun sat and listened patiently to everything she had to say and tried to get to the bottom of why she was so unhappy. She then looked up and said, “you know, I think the secret to happiness is reflection and gratitude”.
She explained how this confused her at first, just like it did me when I was watching the video. I won’t lie, at first it was one of those ‘eye rolling moments’. Honestly, everything is so much easier said than done. You cant be cured of depression just because someone tells you what they think the key to happiness is kinda’ thing. It was all a bit underwhelming for her. She knew she should be grateful for her husband and kids, and she was. But she just couldn’t shake that feeling of having no purpose in life.
The nun advised her to participate in a 10 day project where she had to take 10 minutes out of each day and reflect. Reflect on conversations she had, the food she ate, things she did etc. She had to find something there that she was grateful for, but here’s where it gets interesting…
‘Do not look for things that you SHOULD be grateful for, but instead what you FEEL‘.
So she took her advice and she did it. She said it sparked something in her because she started to see things she wouldn’t have usually seen and they’re not the things you think, either. When the 10 days were over, she knew she had to continue. She knew she needed a lot more. Being a photographer, she decided to take a photo every day of something she was grateful for. She made sure that she had enough film to do this for 365 days – a year!
What she found when taking the photos were things she would never have usually seen or been grateful for. She explains how she began to appreciate very simple things, like the colour green. She had never realised before how beautiful the colour actually was. She took photos of her daughter helping her down the stairs and how on rainy days she was appreciative of the fact she got to use her favourite umbrellas.
The project made her realise that her expectations stopped her from fully appreciating not just people, but nature and certain smells too. She was able to reevaluate everything and look at things from a different perspective.
As I said, I am always willing to try things like this to help me. I couldn’t shake this off, it was like something was telling me to try it. I decided I would do it. I work a challenging job which can get stressful at times and I knew my mood would be altered over the following weeks because I was moving again. Not only is moving stressful and time consuming, it comes with a lot of emotions too. Change is hard. I’ve lived in numerous different places the last 18 months and haven’t had a great deal of stability. I knew I would need something positive to focus on and keep me in the right mindset so I decided I would document my project through words and pictures and share my experience with everyone.
Day 1 – 28/08/17
I thought it would be easy. I’m quite a grateful person as it is and a lot of the things were things that I am grateful for, so I really tried to feel the gratitude and think deep into how grateful I really was for certain things in my life. For me I thought it would be a good idea to look for things I appreciate in things that I usually moan about or things that get me down.
Recently my hair has been quite simply doing my head in. There is no style to it, it just falls on my face and I am forever chucking it up. In true female fashion if my hair is pissing me off then it affects how I feel about my whole image. So instead of moaning about the split ends, lack of colour and no shape, I put my energy into appreciating the fact my hair is long AND thick. My mum always told me I’d appreciate the thickness of my hair as I got older. People pay money to get the length and thickness I’ve got and a lot of people lose their hair so I really should be more grateful no matter what state it’s in at the moment.
The sound of the sea – in the evening my boyfriend and I sat on the beach. It might be a stony beach but any beach is a beach and I generally feel at my happiest when I’m on a beach. The sound of the sea crashing on the shore is something I used to massively take for granted. To be honest with you, it wasn’t until I was in my teens that I realised not everyone gets the privilege of living by the sea, despite studying travel and tourism at college hahahaha! It wasn’t until I visited Stoke and asked where the sea was that it dawned on me ‘oh shit, not everyone gets the privilege of the sea’. I’d been outside of my home town on holidays but only to seaside resorts. It made me feel claustrophobic. Never could I move away from the seaside! The sea always looks beautiful when the sun is sparkling down on it. I’m such a summer girl!
Day 2 – 29/8/17
The “well done’s” at work from numerous different people – At the end of the day, people don’t have to congratulate you for your hard work, they chose to take the time to say well done. It’s easy to reply “thank you” because it’s polite, but it definitely means a whole lot more to you when you really feel the gratitude.
One thing that did strike me was how truly grateful I am for music, and I’m sure nearly everyone will agree with me on this one. Like in all honesty, what the fuck would we do without music? Like music has played a massive part in my life right from my early dancing days to my teenage/early-twenties raving days lol! This definitely dawned on me whilst listening to Eminems “The way I am” on full blast in my car. It’s like his music somehow releases built up tension inside of me. I can always rely on Bob Marley, too.
Day 3 – 30/8/17
Moving out day. A fun task, said no one….. ever…..
It’s a chore. It also comes with a lot of emotions for various personal reasons. Despite knowing it’s for the best, change is never easy, not for me anyway.
I focused on appreciating all the stuff I do have. I may have lost a lot over the past 18 months or so but considering I walk past homeless people on the street with only a backpack of belongings, I’m definitely doing ok. I’m sure homeless people would love to have to pack up their two tv’s, wardrobe full of clothes, shoes, bedding, smellies, electrical equipment etc.
Thinking like this definitely gives you a wider view on situations. I can see how with practice, you could perceive the world in a more positive outlook. It helped me think about things differently which resulted in me being calmer and I was able to pack up a lot quicker than normal to be honest!
Day 4 – 31/08/2017
Doing well at work – I’m really good at knocking myself down, feeling like a failure and not thinking much of it when I do well in something. I really did try, and I’m not gonna lie I did find it hard, but I did try to feel good about the fact I’d exceeded my expectations at work, exceeding my own personal target which will result in a nice little pay packet. I tried to feel proud of myself and appreciate the feeling of feeling good about something I’ve done. I still need to work on this though.
Day 5 – 1/9/17
Road accidents cause traffic. Simple as that. How many times have you had to sit in traffic? It’s long, boring and results in an achy foot from copious amounts of clutch control. I got stuck in traffic. It took me an hour to get from Portsmouth to Southampton, it usually takes 20 minutes. But I did stop to take a moment and think, ‘I’d rather be sat in slow moving traffic than being taken away in an ambulance and having my car written off’. We’re lucky to be sat in traffic caused by accidents if anything.
Day 6 – 2/9/17
I am such a summer girl so when the sun makes an appearance I am definitely at my happiest. The sun was out and it was really hot by 11am which meant we got to chill in the park after we did some shopping. You’ve always gotta appreciate the sun, especially in the UK.
Smile from a stranger – In all honesty this is something you should be extra appreciative of if anything. It’s one of those situations where you’ve gotta laugh. Smiles from strangers are very far and few between these days. I politely smile at people if I make eye contact with them, but it is quite rare I ever get a smile back.
My boyfriend treated me to lunch at ‘handmade burger co’ which is something to be grateful for in itself… but I always am and I make sure he knows that, too. I appreciated each and every mouthful of that burger I’m tellin’ ya – it was delicious! I’m sure you’ll agree that working in customer service doesn’t always mean you have customer skills. I mean, how many times have you received bad customer service – probably quite a bit, right? How many times have you spoken to a rude agent on the phone? Which is why I appreciate good customer service because at the end of the day it doesn’t hurt to be polite and speak to people with a bit of respect. For those that really go out of their way for customers, thank you. We definitely got that at Handmade Burger Co and it was was also overlooking the sea and boats so we got to eat over a pretty view.
Day 7 – 3/9/17
Sunday; the day of rest. When it’s perfectly acceptable to lay in bed for longer in the morning. My boyfriend and I most definitely take full advantage of the laziness. This particular morning I noticed how much I appreciate the cuddles. Cuddling is so good for you. When you’ve had a long week at work, there’s nothing quite like cuddling your partner, it completely chills me out, helps me to unwind and makes me feel good physically and emotionally. Did you know cuddling lowers your heart rate and blood pressure?
We should appreciate the hugs with those close to us regardless; you never know what can happen tomorrow.
Movie night with my boyfriends family – I’ve always been a family girl. I enjoy being around my family and I think families are important. I’m so lucky I have good relationships with his family. And I can be myself as well, (weird).. but we’ve all got that little bit of weirdness in us don’t we?
As I’ve mentioned a few times; I’m a summer girl. I love the sun, the warmth, sunny days. Rainy days are never ideal, but wind AND rain? Something I have an intense dislike for. It ruined our plans and kept us inside all day. But honestly, I can’t complain. Our rainy day turned into a lazy day and we had a midday nap, which I haven’t had in for what seems a lifetime. I didn’t sleep all that well throughout the week so it definitely made me feel better.
Day 8 – 4/9/17
A bus driver – I don’t think I’ve ever felt so appreciative of a bus driver. Usually they decide to pull out right in front of me, then slow me down. But this particular bus driver made it possible for me to get a Starbucks from the canteen at work before I started. Every morning I get stuck on the same spot of road sitting and waiting for someone to let me go as the cars stockpile behind me, adding 5-10 minutes onto my journey. He stopped the bus and directed at least 7 cars over the road, moving his hand round in a circular motion to make sure it was done quickly. He made my morning. What a hero.
It only takes a single song on the radio to bring back a tonne of memories. “Believe” by Cher came on and instantly brought back reminiscences of my freestyle disco dancing days. It was played so much in lessons and at competitions, whether we were warming up or performing to it. I’m so thankful for my dance days and everyone involved; my dance friends, partners and teachers. I danced and competed from the age of 5. I was shy and it brought me out of my shell. I went on to achieve some amazing things surrounded by amazing people. It can get me quite emotional in all honesty.
Day 9 – 5/9/17
Out of the blue messages – from those friends that have been friends for years but you don’t get to see them all that much because life is quite simply busy.
Laughing so hard your stomach hurts – I love to laugh. No one will disagree with me when I say it feels so good to laugh until your stomach hurts. All those endorphins being released and that feel good vibe you experience.
Day 10 – 6/9/17
There are those days where everything goes to plan and you feel happy and content on the inside.
And then there are other days…
I was having a down day. I couldn’t really think straight through my cloudy mind. So I sat, chilled out and appreciated all the things we most definitely all take for granted every single day.
Nice and forward – my health. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not indestructible, I don’t have the body of superwoman, however I’m not terminally ill or anything like that. I can walk, talk, see, hear, speak and think. That can change in a heartbeat. You see plenty of athletes and footballers collapse on the pitch, unfortunately experiencing cardiac arrest. Some make it through, some don’t but they’re never the same again. I’ve witnessed CPR in front of me on more than one occasion, with the outcome always being fatal. You can be in a road traffic accident and never walk or talk again. It’s deep yet real and opens your eyes to all the small and simple things we should acknowledge.
All the setbacks that have ultimately made me stronger. As shit as things can be, and no matter how many times you break down, you always build yourself back up, move forward and grow as a person. At the end of the day, this year has been better than last and that’s a positive…
It’s important on those down days to focus on gratitude.
What I’ve learnt is that we will always experience hard times, times that give us that sinking feeling. Days where we wished we’d just stayed in bed, or even days where you struggle to get out of bed itself. It’s easy to feel grateful when life is good. It allows you to magnify the goodness. It’s harder when life isn’t so good and believe me, gratitude may not come naturally or easily on those days. But it is vital. Gratitude is a choice and it is what we need the most when things aren’t so good. What I found is that you begin to naturally notice and feel what you’re grateful for each day since doing this.
Try it. I’m not saying her way or my way is best, but find your own way that works for you.
Let me know how you get on.
& here is the video if anyone wants to watch it: Ted Talks – 365 Project