I recently set myself a challenge. Instead of just snapping selfies and pictures randomly I would take a photograph everyday of something that made me happy and grateful. It didn't have to be a staged photograph or something for anybody else to see - just a moment that struck a chord and really made me feel something.
This seemed like a relatively easy thing to do but it was only when I started that I realised something quite alarming about my life. Not much of it was about the simple pleasures anymore. Somewhere along the way I had lost the things that made me shine.
There are times in your life when you simply need to take a step back and reflect on what on earth you're doing. Life is an ever changing, ever evolving experience and in this fast paced, media driven world it's easy to feel lost and overwhelmed.
I felt this way for a long time. I was on a racing hamster wheel, busy as hell, desperately chasing my tail but never really feeling like I was achieving much. I was so unhappy with my lot but too scared to take a leap of faith and jump the hell off that plastic hoop.
Feeling trapped in your life is sadly a common state of existence, particularly for modern day women who are juggling so many responsibilities. This message of perfectionism and ambition is driven at us more by social media feeds and Instagram pictures which seem pretty harmless but are actually feeding voraciously into this negative cycle . And it's not just a gender thing either. According to the Samaritans the highest suicide rate in the UK is men aged between 40 - 44. A tragic statistic but stress and pressure do not discriminate. Men feel it too. Backed into a corner and unable to see the light.
There are a lot of things we can do to make life better. We can make positive changes in our lifestyles, swap our jobs, adjust our diets, take social media holidays, exercise daily. All of this makes for a happier state as long as we don't make these 'positive changes' another to do list.
But to really make a difference in your life and change your daily routine for the better you need to adjust your thoughts and quite simply take care of your mind. The mind is so powerful - it is the driving force behind everything we do. Whatever we think, we feel. And whatever we feel, impacts our behaviour and actions. If we think we are busy, we feel stressed, which makes us do destructive stuff like drink alcohol and eat junk food, making us more sluggish and tired. It's a vicious circle.
Yet so many people neglect its importance and undermine its significance. Mental health issues for instance are a prime example of this. Break your leg at work and you get a card, a bunch of flowers and oodles of sympathy from concerned colleagues. Suffer from depression? You get a wall of silence and suspicious looks. Yet which body part is actually more important? I can cope with my leg in plaster but I can't function without a stable and healthy brain.
If you want to find happiness and get off the perpetual hamster wheel then do some real mind workouts. Don't wait for your brain to burn out or for the black dog to catch up with you. Have counselling now and talk through your feelings. Take an online course in CBT therapy and learn about your mind. Read self help books and engage with the story of others. Listen to motivational speakers and the wonderful advice they give about mindset. Read positive affirmations on Pinterest before you get dressed. Be thankful for the now and keep a gratitude journal. Practise mindfulness or meditation in the same routine like way you might comb your hair everyday. The list goes on.
There is so much you can do to protect your mind and change how you respond to the challenges of life. This is the gateway to happiness. With a clear and healthy mind that is well cared for you are better equipped to make positive decisions that please you not others. Mind care is the ultimate form of self care and it's something we all need to embrace.
As for my 100 snaps? Well these just got better and better. This project reminded me to take care of myself and do the things that matter to me. As a result I now have a 100+ album full of reminders of what makes me smile daily. To anyone else it looks like the contents of a cluttered brain but to me it's heaven. I only need to flick back through the album to feel those feelings of gratitude and suddenly everything seems a little lighter.
Do you need help to get your mind in shape? Try these top three tips for healthy mind care.
1. Take a mind break
Schedule 30 minutes in your day or even week to stop and reflect. Write down what is worrying you and try to resolve these worries practically. Doing this will relieve some of your anxiety and help you to feel more in control of your current situation.
2. Make a mind care list and box
Spend some time thinking about what makes your mind feel happy, rested and relaxed. When I did this I discovered a new love of listening to audio self help books whilst walking! For you this might be reading a good self help book, watching a film, listening to music or taking a relaxing bath. Make yourself a mind care box and fill it with the things that help you to feel mentally relaxed.
There are lots of ways to meditate and give your mind a rest. You can try more traditional guided meditation, an online yoga class, mindfulness meditation or mindful activities. Do whatever suits you best and makes you feel restful and at peace.
Find out more about Jude's work at Adspiro.