No one has a perfect life, stress and negativity creep into the minds of most of us probably more regularly than we'd like to admit. I always considered myself a positive person yet despite my best efforts felt a lot of the time that life was a bit of an uphill struggle and even though I had big dreams often couldn't see how I'd be able to achieve them.
Then in 2014 I discovered the concept of "positive mindset" and how although we can't control all that is happening to us we can control our reaction and that creates the outcome. It was a true "aha, lightbulb moment". Realising that I spent a lot of time unwittingly caught up in thinking about what I didn't have, what life lacked rather than what it was filled with and on the negative - tiredness/bills/bad weather/other peoples dramas & blame instead of finding solutions and taking action.
I discovered gratitude and started setting intentions each morning that the day would be amazing and couldn't believe the impact it had. So much so that I decided this would be my new career and held a motivational evening where I spoke about the power of our mindset and self care to a room of 150 people. I was hooked and felt sure that my days of anxiety, stress and overwhelm were over for good.
I was wrong.
At the same time I was also training and dieting with the goal of stepping on stage as a bikini competitor in October 2014. Though it wasn't clear to me then my extreme diet and obsessive exercising were simply making my low self worth and unhealthy need to create a "perfect" body and disordered eating habits seem normal.
Stepping off the stage after the competition I knew competing wasn't something I wanted to do again, and was excited, ready to pour all my energy into building a career as a motivational speaker. I felt unstoppable.
The thing about getting your body into stage condition is that it's not sustainable - you cannot look that way forever and as I began to try eating a normal diet after two years of extreme restriction my body naturally began to gain weight. As the pounds increased so did my anxiety. At first just flutters but as my clothes got tighter my fear and self loathing grew and grew until by the end of November I could barely leave the house and felt a complete failure.
The enormity of this,made more so by the fact that I was the one telling people to practice self care, gratitude and positive thinking and here I was realising I hadn't liked myself for a really long time.
I felt a fraud and as it became clear that I wasn't going to be able to move forward with plans for the business meant I had let down my website designer, investor and everyone who believed in me...my negative inner critic was having a field day and it all seemed too much. Faced with the prospect of what then seemed to me unforgivable - to let people down -I seriously contemplated ending my life.
Apologies, you were thinking this was about joy and things got dark fast - but I promise joy is always close and rainbows do follow storms.
Choosing to live despite how difficult it felt to be inside my head, was the first and most important act of self kindness I ever took. Allowing myself to be a flawed and imperfect human.
But I aso knew that if I was going to hang around, I didn't want to be this anxious, depressed woman who hated the sight of herself. I didn't want to live with that person and I definitley didn't want my children to have her as their Mum.
That's the thing about self care it's not selfish. It's the opposite of that because how we treat ourselves has a direct effect on everyone around us. Particularly those closest to us. Want your kids/partner/sister/brother to know how amazing they are? Well, do you acknowledge how amazing you are?
Remembering how good I'd felt when I started focusing on positive mindset was an embarrassing reminder of how far that place seemed now, but with nothing to lose - that's the thing about rock bottom it's true the only way is up - decided to see if it would really work. With me an utter mess could I really turn things around with my mindset?
So my six month experiment was born on 4th February 2015 that truly transformed my life and it has evolved into the Joy Project which now, I'm excited to say transforms the lives of others too.
The basis of it was daily rules that I followed for six months and these are the joy triggers- Sign up here for your free printable download of the triggers http://eepurl.com/dzYVn9
One thing I have to be clear on is that this is not about being a constantly shiny, smiley,perfectly positive human. Perfect doesn't exist and energy spent aiming for it is the thief of joy. I've had highs and lows since 2015 including bouts of post natal depression after the births of my two youngest sons, they were times that I had to reach out for help from my GP.
I've learnt that putting our self worth into anything external means the joy from it isn't lasting - our bodies, bank balances, health, relationships and careers can all change in an instant, and every day I'm still learning. But what I do know for sure is that being alive and breathing even with the struggles and battles we all face one way or another is a gift and one we need to embrace. To be confident and courageous enough to stand tall and live a joy filled life that is true to you.
The Joy Project although not an instant solution to all life's problems- we really are like onions and have many layers- but it is something, that I guarentee, will have an immediate positive effect on your wellbeing. That in itself will create a joy ripple in your life that spreads far and wide.
Link to podcast where I'm chatting about the Joy Project here https://audioboom.com/posts/7481748-fancy-a-little-joy-in-your-life-hannah-lilly-explained-to-lynsey-dolan-how-easy-it-is-to-achie
Hannah Lilly is the owner of Hannah Lilly Fitness and Mum to one daughter Jessica (14) and three boys Leon (11), Charlie (2) and baby Joshua. Her passion for fitness and sharing that with others led her to qualify as a Personal Trainer in 2013 and to start up the hugely successful Absolute Beginners Run Club. Run Club stemmed from her desire to create an environment that was non-competitive and where everyone could be themselves without any fear of being judged. She has also been a frequent speaker at schools and live events over the years and writes honest accounts of her daily highs and lows on Facebook and Instagram which to her delight have become a source of positivity for others.
But it hasn’t all been positive and after training to compete as a bikini competitor in 2014 Hannah Lilly had a mental breakdown while struggling to come to terms with the fact that her disordered eating habits, obsession with fitness and achieving the “perfect” physique were ultimately damaging her relationships - with her children, herself - and her quality of life.
It was from these struggles with anxiety, low self-esteem and more recently post-natal depression after the births of her last two children that The Joy Project was born. Beginning with a mindset experiment, she created the Positive Exchange, which included following daily habits such as gratitude and kindness. Hannah credits the Joy Project and her now healthy dose of exercise with changing her life for the better
Future goals include publishing a book, travelling back to the US in 2020, spreading fitness and joy, being the best Mum, she can be. Along with remembering that perfect doesn’t exist!
We’re all human it’s OK to not be OK but it’s more than OK to want things to be better.
If you would like to know more about Live or Online Beginners Run Clubs, One on One Live events or Joy Project Speaker bookings contact firstname.lastname@example.org