These past 10 days I’ve been keeping a kind of gratitude journal, called Reasons for Staying Alive. I’ve just read Matt Haig’s book of the same name about his experience with depression, and it inspired me to think, on a daily basis, about what being alive means, and why being alive is worth it.
I’ve mentioned before that I suffer from depression. I’ve had it all my life and it won’t ever go away. I can have long periods where I’m not depressed, but it always comes back at some point. I’m a fairly happy, optimistic depressive, however, and I’ve learned ways to live with it when it’s here; and the better I get at living with it, at treating it as part of me, rather than something to be resisted, the easier I find it, and the less time it spends hanging around.
Mindfulness and yoga have taught me how to tolerate my depression and be aware and acknowledge the good things that are there, even when I feel awful. I might feel dead inside, but I can still be looking out of the window watching the majestic trees in our garden move in the breeze and hear the birds sing. I don’t necessarily feel any better, but I draw comfort from the fact they are there.
So paying attention to things I am thankful for is a good practice for me and it made sense whilst reading Matt Haig’s book to make this more public. The more we shine a light on depression and other mental health issues, the easier it becomes for all of us. If one in four people will suffer from a mental health issue, then even more of us are affected through caring for and about those we know and love who are in pain.
Weirdly, the week I decided to do this project also coincided with half my family and me getting struck down by food poisoning / tummy bug (public health inquiry is still pending). You would think that this might have been a good excuse to bin the project, or whether it would be possible to scrabble around towards the bottom of daily existence to find a reason for why life is good – or maybe just OK. But actually, despite feeling rotten, despite the concerns over missing out on money (#selfemployedprobs), despite the post illness depression, I actually found it easy to find things that are worth living for.
I’ve listed all my Staying Alive Reasons at the end of this article, and what you’ll realise is that they aren’t big, amazing, life changing, awe-inspiring things. It’s not that I might get married one day, or my upcoming trip to Ibiza, or my new niece who arrives in the autumn.
No, the reasons to stay alive are often small, mundane details that mean you exist, that you mean something, that there are others you want you to be around. They are the small pleasures of life, whether for yourself or for others. It is the beauty of the world around us (even when it’s raining).
So here in summary, are my Reasons for Staying Alive (in no particular order)
The power in creating
- Being productive over materials for my online Mindfulness course
- The satisfaction of getting chores done
- According to my reiki therapist sister, a tummy bug can act like a cleansing, so I should feel great once I get better!
- Human enough to teach my Pembury yoga class
- My lovely Yoga students
- Feeling well enough to get some work done
- Getting work back on schedule even though it’s a Saturday
- Time to write
The Delight in Taking Pleasure
- A great workout at the gym
- Cauliflower roasted in cumin and turmeric with tahini dressing
- Lovely new curly hair products
- My pre dinner yoga practice to the sound of the birds outside my window
- A hot bath with a Lush bath bomb
- A glass of wine in a sunny garden
- More resting
- Oven chips
- The fact that some work involves recording meditations which can be done lying down
- Mars ice cream whilst watching Euro 2016
- A chocolate brownie from Juliet’s
- Drinking wine with my flatmate whilst we watch Euro 2016 on TV
- Raising the next generation
- Acknowledging the existence of something bigger than ourselves
- England winning?!?!
Family and Friends
- Chatting to Lorna in Ibiza (before the wifi had a siesta)
- Modern technology which allows me to message family and friends and watch TV on my phone without leaving my bed
- The hilarity of the family whatsapp group (only funny for us of course)
- Having a guy flirt with you even though you feel and look disgusting, are wearing old pyjamas, and your hair resembles a birds nest (the flirting was by text and it might have been a joke. But still)
- Hanging out with my family
Doing Things for Others (and others doing things for you)
- The delight on a customer’s face when I fm find her size in the stockroom
- My manager at work giving up a day off to cover my shift
- Driving my sister to the doctors
Finding Peace in the Smallest Detail
- My walk through a quiet and empty early morning town centre on my way to work
- The 45 minutes of solitude and silence at lunchtime
- Sunshine and warmth
- The sound of the breeze in the trees
- getting to do my yoga practice in the garden
- The blackbird singing outside my window (and his friend singing back a few houses over)
- Feeling slightly more human again
- The green of the trees in my local park
- A peaceful day at work