How do we find inner strength?
Although writing a rigid life plan could potentially backfire and set you up for disaster, having an idea of which direction you want to head can only be a good thing. If you are aiming for fortune and/or fame, then it’s wise to have a back-up. Being talent spotted in the street or winning £100 million on the lottery carry the same kind of odds, and are almost definitely not going to happen to you or anyone you know. It’s time for a realistically optimistic outlook, and to see what you are capable of achieving. Stop getting bogged down with the problems and instead start figuring out the solutions!
Have you fallen into the trap of thinking money will solve everything? I can safely say that although money can make life more comfortable, money alone will never guarantee happiness. It is absolutely imperative to become a happy person first and it’s utterly pointless pinning all your hopes on an elusive windfall. Even if millions did land at your feet they would mean nothing if you were not happy beforehand. Once you like yourself, are surrounded by good people, and are content with your life, you will be rich in your own right. In this chapter we will talk about all the things I have done over the years to boost my own happiness; I hope they work as well for you.
Find inner strength by having a sunny outlook on life
A positive mental attitude is essential if you are to break the cycle, and although it doesn’t come naturally to a lot of people it will get you far. However, there is absolutely no point in putting on a brave face and adopting an air of positivity unless you genuinely believe in it. Positive thinking is addictive and infectious. Once you are emanating happiness, others around you should soon follow suit. Over time I’m sure you will find yourself really enjoying the new positive you and won’t have to work so hard at it any more.
I used to think that people who were always happy must be faking it and putting it on for the benefit of others, but now I realise otherwise. I was the one who wasn’t capable of true happiness back then because my life was in such a mess. I was the one who wasn’t able to be happy every day and I assumed everyone else was the same. But we’re not. When we assume, we make an ASS of U and ME, so it’s always best to try and gather the facts instead. By not assuming you might be pleasantly surprised to find some situations aren’t as bad as you thought they were.
Find inner strength by waking up to social Media
It’s becoming widely known now (not so much in 2014 when I published this book) that social media can be very fake. In the world of InstaBook people rarely post photos of themselves looking like they need to go on a diet or buy acne cream. For the most part they are trying to create the illusion that all is fabulous and they have the trappings of a ‘perfect life’. Even though in our heart of hearts we know it’s all being put on for show, it is so easy to end up thinking everyone else is faring better than we are. Ask yourself how much of your time goes on social networking sites and how they make you feel as a result. If you feel they’re a lifeline and provide you with nothing but happiness then great, you don’t need to change anything. If you end up comparing yourself to others and it causes you sadness then we need to think of a solution.
Completely coming off any social network can feel like a big statement which most of us are not prepared to make, but scaling down the amount of time we spend on these sites can be really beneficial. I used to feel the need to check my feeds hourly but I can now easily go an entire day without looking at all. I got bored of the same people posting the same things; the silent stalkers; alpha mums and pushy parents. For me it was another habit that needed to be broken. I feel social networks have their place, but they are also a time-suck and I know I’m better off without the constant distraction. Although at first it was strange, and sometimes people would assume I knew things because they had posted them publicly, I got used to the new situation pretty quickly. I have come to the conclusion that genuine friends will want to share their lives with me in real life, and they won’t hold it against me if I don’t comment on every single post.
A simple strategy for cutting down
Make it less easy: Delete the apps from your phone or tablet as it can be too tempting to click on them every time you have a spare five minutes. By having to log into an actual computer you are making it more difficult to be permanently ‘plugged in’.
Cold turkey: See if you can last an entire day without logging in at all. I promise you the world will not stop turning, and you might find that it’s a surprisingly liberating experience. You could post about your plans and challenge your friends to do the same. It could be fun to see who is willing to join you, and who was able to last the day.
Little by little: When you feel ready to cut down begin with logging in three times a day, then after a week cut down to twice a day and after another week cut down to once. By gradually reducing the time you spend on these sites you should still feel part of the loop, and not that you are missing out on anything important.
Find inner strength by consuming information wisely
While you are going through this process I’d like to highly recommend not watching what I call ‘scheduled junk’ (aka Reality TV). Would it be the end of the world if you didn’t know who got to the final of the latest so-called talent contest? Does it really matter if a new series of people sitting around a house all day has just started? Or that a handful of Z list celebrities are eating spiders in the jungle? What do you really get out of these shows? What’s in it for you?
Rather than letting others dictate how you should be entertaining yourself, take back control by making quality viewing choices. Don’t just watch what everyone else is watching because you’re worried you might be left out of the conversation. These shows are addictive because they are intrinsically linked to the advertising industry. Advertising is big business and millions are pumped into the industry every single day to make their job as sleek as possible. They exist solely for one purpose and that is to sell you stuff! Adverts are full of portrayals of the ‘perfect life’ which can leave us feeling inferior and gloomy.
While you’re at it ditch mainstream news, papers and magazines as well. They are full of shocking and depressing stories. They can leave unwanted thoughts and images in our heads, which are detrimental to our happiness. If you want to keep yourself well-informed you could scan a reputable news website instead. I’m not saying for a second that you shouldn’t know anything outside of your own life and live in a bubble, but I think being selective about the information we consume is a good idea. Rather than waste your time and money on trashy TV and magazines, start spending it wisely.
Here are a few suggestions of what you could do instead:
- Read a book that you’ve been wanting to read for ages but haven’t got round to. Reading books in their paper form can be a magical experience which is not replicated on electronic devices. Browse your local library or charity shop for free or low cost options.
- Work your way through a boxed set or good film that you’ve been wanting to watch but haven’t had the time to. Catch up channels and streaming websites are full to the brim with fantastic telly, and many of them do not have adverts.
- Use your spare time productively by learning valuable life skills. Be it cooking good food, taking better photographs or turning your hand to DIY, practise often and you will get better. You can then share your new found skills with the people you love and respect.
Find inner strength by controlling our thoughts
While I was feeling my worst, negative thoughts and flashbacks to dark memories used to take over my mind. They would muddy almost everything else I tried to think about, leaving me anxiety ridden and stuck in the past. During the recovery period after my second breakdown I realised that if I didn’t learn to control my thoughts they would eventually end up controlling me.
It took a few months of diverting my mind elsewhere every single time I had these thoughts, but I trained myself to switch my brain off and think of other things instead. It was a huge problem for me, so I made it my mission to change it, and I can honestly say that I can’t remember the last time I felt it was an issue. The simple distraction techniques detailed below worked really well for me. Try one of them next time you need to banish unwanted thoughts from your head.
- Close your eyes, concentrate on your breathing and picture yourself on a memorable holiday or during a fantastic experience. Transport yourself there and remember how happy you were in that moment. From now on this becomes your ‘happy place’ and it is always accessible, ready to pick you up whenever you’re feeling down.
- Recite something familiar in your head such as the lyrics to your favourite song, dialogue from a movie or a passage from a well-loved book. This works in the same way that counting sheep can help falling asleep. Mundane tasks such as these will take your mind off the unwanted thoughts.
- Look into the mirror, smile and tell yourself that you will not think about those things. Instead you will think about the good stuff going on in your life. Divert your attention to happiness, plain and simple.
No-one I know was ever given amazing opportunities unless they deserved them. Dream jobs do not fall into laps; it is up to us to make them happen. Rather than getting upset about not being recognised or rewarded enough, work harder and figure out how to set yourself apart from the crowd. Make yourself shine through with your confidence and capabilities. Take on extra projects and get yourself noticed by the people that make the decisions. Become an integral part of the team by making yourself as indispensable as you can.
Start thinking about what you really want to do with your life. If you’re feeling unsatisfied at work then move role or company, don’t resign yourself to a crappy career path just because it’s easier to stay where you are. Look up careers advice online and seek some guidance from an expert.
Think about the answers to the following questions; we will talk about this more in the next chapter.
- Can your current employer offer you another job in-house or would you need to leave the firm to progress?
- Would you need extra qualifications or training for a more desirable role? If so, could you gain them while working or would you need a break from the workplace? If so, could you cope financially?
- Is it worth thinking about moving abroad for the best opportunities?
Educate yourself by gaining knowledge on any subject matter that interests you. This is where the internet really comes into its own, because there will always be a blog, forum or website based around whatever it is that you want to learn about. If you are out of work then see what others are up to and get inspired. There are many incredible initiatives crying out for input from good people willing to work hard. Consider offering some assistance to a start-up or a charity for free to gain some valuable experience. Working for a company that excites you could ignite your own passions. It might also lead to paid employment eventually.
A suggested plan of action
- Think of your happy place as often as you can, especially as a way of banishing unwanted thoughts.
- Switch off and tune out from mass media by only consuming information that will enhance your life. Don’t be dictated to by television companies, tabloids and trashy magazines.
- There is a famous quote by Theodore Roosevelt that is worth remembering: ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’. Stop comparing yourself to others because it’s a pointless exercise. Instead feel safe in the knowledge that no-one has the ‘perfect life’, we are all flawed in some way or another and everybody has problems. While you are lusting after another person’s life, there will more than likely be someone out there lusting after yours. Forget about everyone else and concentrate on becoming the best possible you.