“What you focus on grows.”
5 little words that changed my perspective and changed my life from lying under the ocean waves on the sea bed, to standing tall on a sunny mountain top.
It was these 5 little words that helped me recognise the power of my mind. It was those 5 little words that helped me turn my anxiety, stress and diagnosis of adrenal fatigue and clinical depression in to a sense of calm and inner peace that raised my energy levels and cheerfulness to an all time high.
I took these 5 little words instead of the prescribed anti-depressant pills and gave them time and patience.
The first step to any recovery is awareness. And I took my time becoming aware of my thought process and what the voices in my head were saying in the silence of my surroundings.
In my journey, the next step was a recognition. I realised that my focus, my mental torture of replaying traumatic events was causing me more pain, more grief, more fear of the future, the problems and unanswerable questions that I faced. And I recognised that these thoughts were not helping me. In fact, they were making me ill, unhealthy and very unhappy. They were the cause of my depression.
While I sat with the awareness and the shocking realisation that it was me, my mind, making me sick, not my circumstances, I knew I had to take action to change. And those 5 little words were the key to unlocking my transformation back to health and happiness.
The next step was a clear decision, backed up by a motivation that wouldn’t allow me to fail or fall away from my path. I made a decision that I no longer wanted my fear, pain, misery, illness to grow. I have two wonderful young sons. My reason for change and my determination was driven from a desire to become my happy, sparkly, confident self again, not only for myself, but also for them. I wanted them to have a mother as a role model and inspiration to live the best life and to live it with energy and fervour, surrounded by warmth, security, kindness and love.
I had to mind my mind, change my thoughts and focus on what I wanted to grow. At the time, I had read quite a few self-help and personal development books and I had a few ideas on what practices would help me make those first steps and those first steps morphed in to a few more ideas of my own.
As I am always inspired by quotes, my practices to help me make progress in my quest to move my focus to what I wanted to grow, all stemmed from further quotes. The quotes and the practices didn’t all start at once; they would manifest at just the right time; when I had made one practice a ritual, the next would appear and I would use these as my tools to lift me up to the next step, the next ledge on my rocky climb out of the ocean and scale the mountain.
“Do what brings you joy, so that you can bring joy to others”
These words inspired me to write my ‘Joy List’. I knew I didn’t want my pain, fear and sadness to grow, but I did want my joy to grow. The first question to myself was, ‘what brings me joy?’ By focussing on what and who brought me joy, I could refocus my mind on those, rather than who and what brought me pain. I wrote a list of about 8 things I loved to do and pinned them by my mirror. At the beginning of each day, I would set my intention on doing at least one of the items on my joy list so that I knew by the end of the day, I would have spent some time focussed on doing what I loved and enjoyed precious moments of joy. What I focussed on grew. Today, I still have my joy list, and I find that at the end of the day, my time has been filled with the majority of items on that list. I am joy.
“Love yourself so that others love you.”
When diagnosed with depression, I was at rock bottom. My previously high-self esteem, self-worth and pride for myself had also plummeted along with happiness. I didn’t know who I was, I didn’t like the image I saw in the mirror and the chain of events leading to my decline had me question whether I was even likeable, let alone lovable. I felt totally and utterly alone.
When I read this quote, I realised the only person I needed to like me, love me, was me. Brene Brown writes about being in the wilderness. When you are there, the only person you need to not feel alone, is yourself.
This started my journey to re-find and even re-create an authentic version of me. I had been so influenced by society and social pressure, that I didn’t know who I was anymore. I started at the very beginning. I answered the questions, ‘who am I?’and ‘who do I want to be? by following an exercise to determine my values from Dr Rohan Weerasinghe in his book ‘Turning Point’.
With my values written down and pinned against my mirror, alongside my joy list, I could see the person I wanted to be for that day ahead. I knew I liked that version of me and she gave me a reason to get up and out of bed in the morning. I knew how to live, by my values, I knew who I was and I knew what I was going to do in life.
That took care of the inside of me. But I also had a severe issue with my self-image. This was deeply ingrained from my childhood, but as part of this exercise I knew I needed to change. The exercise I dreamed up was so simple and perhaps childish. But it has worked. Each day, I took a photograph of myself, regardless of what I was wearing and then looked at it and gave myself compliments. Lots of them. Sometimes I even posted it on Instagram (@reflecting_pineapples) and made witty or funny comments. It was a 6 month project. But it has worked. I have trained my mind now to look in a mirror and where I used to find fault, I find ‘fabulous’!
“If you don’t have 10 minutes, you don’t have a life.”
In the lead up to and during the slow and painful death of my mother, I used mindfulness to bring me back to the present moment, to free me from the overwhelm of feelings. When I was suffering from post-traumatic stress, I found mindfulness wasn’t quite enough. I had previous dabbled in meditation, enjoyed it and felt the benefits afterwards, but then life got in the way and I was ‘too busy’ to meditate.
Until I heard Tony Robbins say these words. And now there are only rare days that I don’t find 10 minutes to breathe, be mindful and find quiet in my mind. When all is quiet, quiet from the negativity, the positivity had a chance to find it’s way in.
This is my adapted version of the guidelines Tony gave for his daily 10 minutes.
I lie down, plug in my earphones and use a meditation app to chime bells every 2-3 minutes. After each chime, I move on to the next thought process. If I don’t feel ready to move on, I continue as I am:
- Focus on deep breathing, how the air goes through my body, relaxing my shoulders and neck.
- Focus on 2-3 things that I am really grateful for and allow the emotion to wash through me, removing all fear with gratitude and abundance.
- Follow a complete body scan, connecting with myself and all parts of my body. I breathe in to sore / tight areas and visualise them relaxing.
- To finish, I visualise myself as happy, confident and the person I want to be. I ‘hang out’ with the happy version of me and let her rub off on me. I can be doing anything or anywhere, I just let my mind find her.
Then I smile and start my day energised!
“The quality of your life is determined by the quality of your thoughts”
This quote was from Robin Sharma’s amazing book, The Monk who sold his Ferrari. The first virtue is to ‘Mind your mind’ and he uses a garden to explain how this works.
If you consider your mind as a garden and nurture and cultivate it like a rich garden, it will blossom beyond your expectations. Do not let anyone throw toxic waste into your garden of mind.
I like to call it ‘mental gardening’, the daily habit of pulling out the weeds of negative thoughts and cultivating the bulbs and shoots of positive thoughts. In an overgrown garden, the weeds strangle the beautiful flowers and prevent light and growth. Gardening once a year can help, but to be effective it needs to be frequent and tended regularly.
I also became very conscious of whose opinions I listened to and the people I spent time with. If I felt they were ‘littering in my garden’ or blocking the light and growth, I would either remove them or myself.
“Everything is created twice, first in the mind and then in reality.”
As I am a writer, I love to daydream. I like to imagine.
This quote opened up a new thought process for me. If I could consider my past and my history as previous chapters and perhaps even a previous book, what would I like to write in my next chapter? What would I like to happen in my next book?
If I could start over, start from scratch, what would my dream life look like? How would I be feeling? Who would I be with to make me feel this way? What would I be doing? Where would I be? Characters, places and images started to fill my imagination.
In a previous life, I would have said that what I could visualise in my head would never come true. But I was a point in my life when the unimaginable had happened and then happened again and again. So if that could happen, why couldn’t the imaginable?
As it happened, I wrote the prologue of my new book, visualising all the small details of my dream life. By doing that, I was able to write the epilogue of the book I wanted to close.
As I focussed on positive thinking, I began to find solutions for my problems and answers to the unanswerable questions. My fears started to be bowled over by a love for my life, myself and those I surrounded myself with. All that is left of my pain are the scars and war wounds that I will always wear, but now am proud of as they are medals of my strength.
Yes, occasionally, a weed will sprout up rapidly or someone will throw toxic waste over the wall and run away. And they can have me run for cover and hide back in the shadows.
But not for long. I have worked too hard. I still have my tools to get me out of the darkness, out from under the ocean. They remain by my mirror and I still find 10 minutes most days, and more on the dark days that sometimes surprise me.
And so here I am. Eighteen months after my original diagnosis of depression and adrenal fatigue, I now self diagnose myself to be happy, passionate for life and healthy.