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Why Focus On Happiness Exists

Whatever you like to call them – struggles, stresses or anxieties – these things do not have to define who we are.

Every person on the planet goes through these at some point in their life, in one way or another. We grow through what we go through. I strongly believe that it’s vital to know the tools to deal with life’s challenges productively, to have a place to express who we are and somewhere to connect with others.

I’ve lived with Cystic Fibrosis my entire life and in my 30’s I also found out that I’ve always had Anxiety too, I just didn’t realise it.

When I learn something about myself, I like to know all about it. To me knowledge is power, so I wanted to reflect and understand how this has affected me in the past and why I didn’t realise I had anxiety.

What is normal?

I always knew I was a bit different, even when I was a child. I had something that we call ‘’CF’’ and that my sister Karen also passed away from this at the age of 12, when I was only two-months-old. I suppose this was the start of my anxiety. One vivid memory I have is a check-up I had when I was around 8 years old…. I’m sitting in the usual, slightly uncomfortable green leather chair in a creamy yellow colored office, only half listening as the doctor speaks. I was more interested in looking at the medical stuff that was lying on the table to the side of the room. I like gadgets.

The doctor is flicking through his notes, but then turns speaking in a slightly apologetic tone which caught my attention. ‘’From what I see here, there is no reason Trevor won’t be around for maybe 10 more years.’’ He then turned to me and said ‘’You know, Trevor, any mistakes you make from now will affect you later in your life’’.

It took me years to realize normal is relevant to each person, so everyone’s life can and should be normal to them. In the early years, I coped best by just doing what made me happy and basically ignored everything else. It was working great and in fairness it helped me through those tough teenage years. Unfortunately, the things we try to ignore have a habit of popping back up.

As the years went by, my fear and anxiety towards my illness grew. Some unhealthy habits formed due to this. I struggled to push myself outside of my comfort zone in any way and I felt I was constantly fighting against my illness, even though I was a very healthy “sick person”. I needed to feel like I was always a step ahead of CF, to ensure I was winning the fight. A fight that I wanted to keep completely to myself as I carried huge amount of guilt because I understood how lucky I was to be such a healthy person with the condition.

Photography Finding Me

Photographs and the memories they create, were always a huge part of our family home. The walls are covered in family photographs from throughout the years. There is a large picture of our beautiful sister Karen that takes pride of place in the middle of our sitting room. I have always loved looking at pictures ‘’even when I was very little’’ and I believe that photographs and memories are one of the most important things we can all have in life.

When my school days ended, my cousin had just started his own photography business in Killarney. I was extremely lucky to go straight to work for him. This was definitely one of many turning points in my life.

Working in photography, helped me to see a possible future and an opportunity to make money doing something creative which I loved to do. While also still being able to remain in the background (in my comfort zone) as I was working for someone else.

Photography was like an awakening. It became the perfect tool for me to express myself and the best thing about it, is that you never stop learning about yourself and your abilities. I learned how to use a camera, but my camera helped me develop a focus, grew my social skills, gave me some confidence, helped me slowly exit my comfort zone bit by bit and the most important thing, I now know it helped me keep my Anxiety at bay for years.

My hobby/profession gave me a huge sense of achievement. I got to creatively express myself, while capturing amazing pictures and memories for others, which brought us both joy. I grew so much as a person through my photography journey over the years. It definitely thought me more about myself than I would ever have learned in any other schooling environment. My workdays were spent creating memories for people which I loved to do, and my weekends were spent exploring in nature and learning with my camera. From here I developed an interest in taking pictures on the hills and this encouraged me to exercise more and more, which also helped me to keep my body physically healthy.

Starting My Own Business

The biggest turning point for me in my life was when I grew enough confidence to start my own business. The fighter in me said ‘’failure is not an option’’. I took all photography work that came my way and was unable to say no. Work was coming in, I was busy and things seemed to be good, but the business wasn’t progressing to where it probably should have been. My anxiety was obviously rearing its head once again.

I thought I needed to learn how to run a business correctly. A friend invited me to his business group and that was another great turning point for me. In there I met some amazing people including a mind coach who I also started working with. They all helped me to learn about myself. I went into the group hoping to get some knowledge on how to successfully run my business and what I got out of it was so much more. It was a place to give and receive support and encouragement, a place to look at myself honestly, a place where I realized that struggles are actually a very normal and essential part of life. The biggest thing I learned was that a happy life needs be created and not found. You must look after yourself first and the business second. Otherwise failure of some sort is never too far away. Learning this was a lot easier than putting it into practice. I was always trying so hard that I sometimes would start to neglect my own self-care in the process. Luckily it was around this time I found Mindful Photography, but things had to get a little worse before they got better.

I began to understand my struggle and I didn’t want to spend my whole life fighting with my illness. I knew there had to be more. A way to live my life, not fight against it.

Burnout

Self-exploration was unfamiliar territory and it scared me. I did my thinking in nature with my camera. Even though it scared me, I couldn’t get enough of it. I started doing multiple courses to learn more about this newfound passion of the mind. I now know this was just me fighting once again. I made the mistake of not lessening my existing workload when I added all this new thinking and learning. I just kept adding and adding. I felt I was tough enough for anything that came my way, so the fighter wanted to do more and more. However, this time around that mindset just led me to complete mental and emotional burnout.

Burnout is a very scary place to be, but it is also something I am very grateful for. It forced me to stop, take a breath and look at myself truthfully, rationalise the fears I had around my CF, leave go of any unnecessary guilt I was holding and finally understand my own Anxiety.

The learning, I had been doing previously had helped me to deal with these in a much more productive way. The truth is everyone has stress and anxieties in life. It’s a balancing act. If we choose not to correctly deal with any of them, they may lead us to some scary places. Mindful Photography was my burnout recovery tool and it really worked. It was awesome. I was starting to put the puzzle pieces together about how I had been practicing my photography along with my other hobbies over the years.

A New Chapter

 

We are all lifelong learners. We learn about ourselves and grow every single day whether we are aware of this or not. These days I just give myself the proper time to do it. Through the multiple courses, on mindfulness, mindful photography, neuroscience and NLP, I learned how my photography had actually been my wellbeing tool and keeping my anxiety at bay for years. It was my own personal therapy and I never even realized it. The photography combined with being outdoors and mindfulness had been my savior.

We live and learn through life. I’ve always done my best to look after myself, taken my medication and there have been major medical advancements for CF, but it turns out that photography done in a certain way, can be extremely good for your health and well-being also. I am living proof of this with 100% lung health at 35 years of age, even though my life expectancy was supposed to be around 18.

Well-being and mindfulness need to be the next big thing in all our lives. I felt it was time for me to share my story and bring what I have learned to the world in the hope to help someone else along in their journey.

For the first program, I have combined my pastimes of walking in nature, mindfulness and photography to create an inclusive program for all. And so Mindography was born. Mindography is a new type of well-being and happiness course, developed using the methods of mindful photography and a few other self-improvement practices. It’s a self-learning course and to make sure everyone can get the most of it, we have it placed inside of an amazing community we call Focus On Happiness. I use it to calm my mind and it helps me to keep a productive mindset. It’s a hobby that challenges me to be more creative along with so much more.

I wish I knew and understood these things when I was younger, but we live and learn in life. You can call it whatever you like Photography for Happiness, Photography for Anxiety, Photography for Wellbeing, Photography for Resilience. Photography for The Mind. It’s all the same. Its photography to make you feel better

 

I always knew there was more to be had, more to do, a passion to fulfill. Through mindful photography I have finally found it. It has changed my life in many ways. I hope you will come along on the journey with us and let it change your life for the better too.