Mindfulness & Mental Health

Social Media and Comparison-itis

Last week I saw a post in one of the Facebook groups I belong to. One of my fellow members has a son who has decided to look into to how much screen-time adults have, on the belief that adults are on their phones more than children are.

Well. I do believe he was right. For pretty much as far back as I can remember, I’ve been dealing with anxiety, partly about perfectionism, and partly social comparison. Over the past year or so I have noticed that the social comparison part of this has gotten worse. I am finding it harder to see other people’s success or talent and be excited about it, like I used to. Now, it feels like competition. And I’m usually the loser.

I really, really don’t like this feeling. It was wonderful to see someone do something awesome and feel inspired, or just respond to their work as a reader/viewer. This space of judgement sucks.

Last time I was in this place, I worked on my self-acceptance, and this feeling went away. While I am trying the same approach this time, I’ve discovered that I need to work harder to get the same results.

So back to the experiment. We were asked to download a tracker app onto our phones (I’m on Android so got QualityTime) which shows our usage. The first day I had SIX HOURS of screen time. Imagine what I could have got done in the time that I was checking in on my phone? My average for the week so far (Sat – Thurs, so 6 days) is 4h 15m, with social media taking up about 2h of that time.

Now, there is definitely value in social media. I have made some beautiful connections and very real friendships. It helps build my presence as an author / artist, and also helps sell my books. I can help other creatives out by sharing their work, too.

But do I really need to be on there for two hours a day? I don’t think so. Do I need to be researching, or checking emails, or getting advice from <insert expert here>, or whatever it is I’m doing for another two hours? Definitely not.

I feel that this has something to do with the feelings of comparison-itis. If I am scrolling through other people’s highlights for so much time in a day, and reading or listening to other people’s advice (people who I deem are higher up the food chain), then maybe it’s only natural that this feeds into my social comparison.

Phase one of the experiment ends today, when we will send our stats in and get back suggestions to reduce our usage. I look forward to sharing my reduced usage time with you, and letting you know how I am feeling next week!

Mindfulness & Mental Health, Thoughts & Ramblings

On squiggly journeys and a changing self

My writing journey began on the back of what could reasonably be called a breakdown. It was my second year in full-time classroom teaching, and I had some big emotional losses as well. On top of that, my depression and anxiety had not been diagnosed – and therefore had not been treated – so I wasn’t in a strong place to begin with.

In true Capricornian style, I was incredibly goal-driven; when I really wanted to achieve something, I would make sure that I did. My first goal was to have a publishing deal within 2 years (it took me 2 years and 3 months), and to publish 4 books a year (I published 3, plus 2 colouring books).

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NZ Book Festival 2015 – 9 months into my publishing journey

But that year, I received some cutting criticism from an author ‘friend’. She was trying to be helpful, but I allowed her words to knock my confidence. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever be brave enough to write fiction again. I turned to non-fiction, intending to give myself time to heal and get back into it, and found comfort in non-fiction.

It was easier than fiction. I wasn’t putting my heart on the line, or doing anything wildly new. I wasn’t experimenting with language, and as someone who became a strong essay writer I was comfortable with my skill level. It was valuable work (I Am An Artist and I Am A Writer were made to help others, and also supported kiwi creatives in the process). I could make a deadline and write to it. It kept me feeling like a writer.

At the same time, I returned to my painting practice. My brief stint in art school was far back enough in my past that I felt I could give painting another go. I was back in my comfort zone, feeling free from outside expectations, and enjoyed the immersive process that painting has for me.

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Immersing myself in emotional, process-driven painting

I did get back to fiction, completing the 5th book in my children’s fantasy series, You Can’t Cure A Witch’s Curse, but even with my non-fiction I found it harder and harder to motivate myself. My confidence had picked up, I had 12 books’ worth of evidence behind me that I could do this, I was getting positive reviews for the most part, and I have supportive friends and family.

What on earth was going on?

I was readingΒ Jonathon Hagger’s eBook on mindfulness when the change began to become apparent. Throughout my journey as a writer and artist, I had been on a parallel (and intertwining) journey of personal growth. I was rediscovering myself, and working on my mental health. A practice in mindfulness was a big part of this. Jonathon wrote that mindfulness is about being, not achieving.

I didn’t realise immediately, but this is what had happened to me. I was no longer as goal-driven as I had been when I set out on this journey: I had become a different person.

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Finding pleasure in slowing down.

So if my motivations were no longer achieving a goal, then what were they? Honestly, I’m still working that one out! I’ve been journalling a bit, and the topic has been on my mind since the ‘eureka moment’, but I’m not quite there yet. It’s got something to do with helping others, something to do with being ‘in flow’, and a lot to do with what makes me happy; the process more than the product. I know it’s something I need to work out moving forwards, because the way I motivated myself as a goal-driven person will not work on my current self.

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Journalling – January 2018
Depression & Anxiety, Mindfulness & Mental Health, Running

Two weeks in – Auckland (half) Marathon Training

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve signed up to the Auckland Marathon as a ‘Charity Hero’, to raise money for the Mental Health Foundation of NZ. It’s now been two weeks since I started training for the 21km run in October. What have I learnt?

For training, I’m alternating walking and running, with a day or two off. I’ve been keeping it pretty casual, and this worked well for a while. I went from only being able to run 2km (and finding it difficult) to running 4km without trouble.

My best run yet – the views helped! @ Kiwi Esplanade, Auckland.

However, I only got a couple more small runs in after that because I was too sore. I managed to push myself too much, in too short a time period, and my body was not going to let me get away with it! To counter this, I’ve spent some days ‘off’ only walking, and finding yoga routines to help stretch my muscles (see my playlist here). I might also use it as an excuse for a hot bath. To be fair, I did expect this to happen, I just thought it would happen further down the line.

What came as a surprise was how much I enjoy the act of running. I had thought that, like going to the gym, I would appreciate how I feel after a workout. Well, I do, but while I was running along the coast I was elated; lit up. People around me have noticed a change as well, in my general happiness and energy levels as well as my appearance.

So where to next? I’m going to stick to a six days on, one day off schedule, but listen to my body more. I’ll be incorporating more yoga, and doing more squats/stairs to build my quads which can’t handle the jandal right now. My goal is still to get under 30mins by the end of May (see progress here).

I’ve been fortunate to find two running-friendly tracks on the way to my two dayjobs (Kiwi Esplanade and Pakuranga Rotary Walkway). I know I can run anywhere, but it’s the views that keep me going so I’m really grateful for living in a place where views aren’t hard to find πŸ™‚

Shameless self-promotion time:

 

Depression & Anxiety, Mindfulness & Mental Health

Serving others by serving yourself

On Sunday, I wrote a post about enjoying the journey, not just the end goal (which you can read here). I was then chatting with a friend over on Twitter, and we talked about the Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

I’m not sure where I first heard about these, but I go back from time to time and re-read these as a reminder to live in a way that will be fulfilling and enjoyable on a daily basis, not just when I reach my goals.Β (Of course, I’m not saying I need to be happy all the time. Sadness is a part of life. I’m okay with that.)

The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, by Bronnie Ware

I found a TEDx talk from the nurse who came up with these ideas to begin with – Bronnie Ware. Her talk started out how I had expected it to, but I especially love what she talks about near the end of her speech. She tells us that if we follow our hearts, without thinking about how it will help others, we will end up in service.

“Enjoy it. Do things that seem absolutely irrelevant to service of others if that’s where your heart is calling you. Because ultimately the more connected you become with your heart’s longing the more it will eventually lead you to service anyway but it will be in a field that will bring you joy as well.” – Bronnie Ware

Mindfulness & Mental Health

The Joy Diet, Wild Creative Life, The 100 Days Project & Nature

I had the last couple of weeks (mostly) off my dayjob, and took the opportunity to spend a few days away from home as a personal writing retreat. I spent it in the most wonderful cabin, nestled in native bush and kept company by the birds (or at least the sound of the birds, tui and fantail during the day; ruru and kiwi at night).

I got a fair bit of writing done, but mostly just spent time sitting, enjoying the sounds and smells of the forest, and the warmth of the fire. I felt at home.

A perfect little writing desk in a perfect little New Zealand forest.

This year I’m participating in two year-long community groups. One is Wild Creative Life and the other is The Joy Diet. Both of these are coming together in a way I hadn’t expected, and are pointing me towards the natural world.

In The Joy Diet, April’s theme was Truth. Truth is the quality of being true; true means in accordance with fact or reality. The takeaway from my time away was being reminded what my truth is: a connection with nature; reality. Wild Creative Life is about making art in nature, inspired by nature, and with natural tools.

Writing in the cabin.

I’m also doing the 100 Days Project this year, and my project of choice is nature journalling. It begins on May 22nd and I feel like it will be a life-changing project for me – not to put too much pressure on it! But I have no doubt that taking time every day to observe, reflect on, and immerse myself in nature will make a change for better.

Shameless self-promotion time:

  • If you’re interested in my more nature-inspired art, have a look at these prints on Felt. Your purchase will also be supporting the Mental Health Foundation of NZ via my half-marathon run.
  • To kick-start your own creativity, check out my ever-popular DIY Zine Kit.
  • And to catch up with me in person, my next event is the Hamilton Zinefest on Sat, May 13th. See details and other events on my events page.