Photo credit: Brie Seavey, Olga Dossa, Gvantsa Mamatsashvili, and Ellie Savoy. (Edited by Adedayo) The image used is with their permission along with their stories submitted for purposes of the book and related work with "The Art of Being Alive" project.
This is the first of my many series on "The Art of Being Alive."
My number one biggest fear is the fear to live and exist as if I don't matter.
As I reflect on my year, one thing I realize that I battled with greatly is with the range of feelings from "I am not good enough," to "maybe my voice in the world does not matter," or "who cares about the work I am doing anyways..." These continuous negative feelings of self-doubt, self-criticism and fear, that we are not visible, or that the things we are trying to create in this world; impact we are trying to make do not matter or worse still, that our lives do not matter; is unfortunately what leaves us continuously playing small and never really optimizing our potential or maximizing our abilities.
It is what usually allows us to not live life to its fullest feeling awake and alive to its infinite possibilities. We believe in the self-doubt and allow fear to rule so we exist in mediocrity. First, Can we change the stories we continue to tell ourselves so we can emerge more fully alive?
What makes us feel Alive!?
Graphics credit: Jacen Aguilar
The first time I thought about the question, "What makes us feel alive?" I was in the middle of the #30daysofwriting challenge, that was organized in a private Facebook group by Andrea Balt, the cofounder of Rebelle Society. The theme was "#writeyourselfalive" I guess I took this theme to heart and indeed everyday for 30 days in August this year, I wrote first thing every morning with the intention to write self into feeling alive. The feeling of waking up, and pouring my heart out as it flowed was epic to me, I was able to tap into my deepest self and just allow myself to breath by writing everyday whatever came to mind that day. That commitment to a task that awakened my senses, made me feel so alive, I felt like I could fly.
It's funny because now that I say the story behind "The Art of Being Alive," an ongoing documentary book project that explores what it means to come alive and to live fully by documenting stories of people who are finding meaningful ways to live fully alive; I ask myself if that background story is a good enough story for the reason I am doing this? It's not that I travelled to Bali or Paris to feel alive and came out with an epiphany...
YouTube trailer is produced by "Shawn Barfield"
This is the point it gets more interesting here. I currently work in mental health full time and I've been in the field of mental health since I graduated college four years ago. I graduated college young at 19 because I started at 15.
What no one ever tells us is that there is no manuscript to how we should live our life especially when you get done with fulfilling the general expectations required by society -- feel free to fill in the gaps as see fit. The reason why that writing exercise was just the awakening I needed or nudge required for me to begin asking this question of what makes us feel alive, is because by that point as at August -- I felt really exhausted. I felt exhausted emotionally and mentally and was not feeling alive and vibrant. I've always carried a sense of higher purpose since being a little girl, so I know that in my head that I'm meant for more; but first I will have to pay attention to my everyday way of way of living to explore what I can do better or differently to feel more awake every day.
Being exposed to the world of psychology, mental health and wellness, I am generally curious about subjects that heighten our degree of awareness and consciousness -- like on happiness, purpose and meaning. Perhaps it is because of my exposure that I ruminate in wonder a lot about life and of course the world we live in today.
It is more than apparent the current state of the world. The depth of the ever-existing chaos mixed with the strings of tensions that seems to relay deep stress in our tissues. We seem inevitably entrenched in the magnitude that no matter how much we attempt to escape, we are in it and we can't really run. The next best thing, so we can do beyond merely surviving but to thrive as capable as we can is what it all comes down to.
In the book Spontaneous Happiness by New York Times best-selling author, Dr. Andrew Weil, he raises an important question that I find relevant to talk about today, he states "Why is there an epidemic of depression today? Why are so many people unhappy?" What can have changed in our society in the past few decades to account for the unprecedented escalation of depression diagnoses...?" I think you will like to check out his article on happiness here.
Depression statistics by the National Institute of mental health suggests that 11 percent of adolescents in our society suffer severe depression, generally women are more affected than men, and according to the World Health Organization, globally more than 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression.
The reason for an important look into the statistics on our general mental health , our well-being as a society, and our predisposition to the anxieties we face about our future due to the state of our world is because only through awareness of what is going on in our society can solutions be created. The numbers in depression diagnoses are staggering and even our levels of happiness can't be spoken too highly of on a global scale.
Still frantic about how my writing challenge made me feel alive; I looked further into why my writing exercise brought me immense joy and aliveness, my curiosity led me to look into current research being done on the science of happiness. Research done by the University of California Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center suggests that up to 40 percent of happiness depends on our habits and activities which means activities we do can foster our social and emotional well-being and improve our happiness.
The Pursuit of Happiness, a site I discovered in my research that is invested in bringing to the light more findings about the science of happiness suggests that The cultivation of "sacred moments" in daily life, whether through journal-writing or daily spiritual exercises has been associated with reduced levels of stress and an increase in psychological well-being. Perhaps it is that improvement in my own psychological well-being due to my daily writing exercise that made me feel more alive and awake?
There seems to be a huge focus now on the science of happiness and using positive psychology to enhance our well-being by exploring more on concepts surrounding the areas of life meaning, purpose, the greater good and more.
This is just a scratch on the surface of my desire to explore what it means to come alive, feel alive, be awakened and live fully. The essence of my quest is about bringing to the lime light, a combination of how people have used their pain points to find meaning for themselves, how other's stories of finding aliveness can inspire us to come more alive, feel less alone in our own personal struggles because there will always be a story we can identify ourselves with; and the bigger picture is to use this as a subtle research and relay emphasis of how our daily practices can improve our aliveness in relation to our general well-being. What habits can we start doing more of to improve our happiness and our well-being, what things and practices makes us feel alive that we can begin to get more conscious about and start engaging with more; what makes us feel alive and how can we apply that to our lives? Essentially, how do the stories we tell ourselves impact the way we show up in the world?
Using our stories to find aliveness in each other is a great way to begin the mission. To be continued on next series.