The break up

Normally I would begin my posts with an image to either help people relate to the material I’m producing, or to brighten up the post if I think it could do with a little bit of ‘something’. This time however, I think I’ll just talk through how I’m feeling.

My partner and I decided to no longer be in a relationship.

That right there is the crux of it. Though I think the reason for our break up should certainly be acknowledged, as it was particularly difficult to understand whether or not it was time.

A little context first. We were together a little over three years and for the most part had a great relationship. So much in common, great conversation, and a deep love for one another.

Over the last few months however, I noticed that my feelings began changing. My feelings were based so much more on memories than the future and I’d find myself thinking back to when we had a particular moment rather than what we could be doing in the future. This confused me. I decided not to dwell on it too much, though I was constantly aware of it.

Then it hit me. I’d remained in love with the memories of my partner, but fallen out of love with her. This was horrific. My partner had not necessarily changed, n’or had I. There was no big immediate factor, no fight, no relationship-defining argument or anything of that sort. No, there was just an admittance that my feelings were no longer romantic.

Having the inevitable conversation regarding this was tough, really tough. To love someone but not be in love with them is very confusing, and throughout the conversation I found myself flicking back and forth constantly questioning myself. I was able to gain some respite in the revelation that my partner realised she felt the same way. It’s difficult to articulate feelings at the best of times. We did our best. We ended our relationship on good terms, with the hopes that in the future we could be friends.

I think it’s of so much importance to be ready to have these conversations with your partner, for a variety of reasons. We need to look after ourselves. Staying with someone for their benefit doesn’t benefit anybody, and is sure to only lead to resentment and no chance of friendship later down the line.

Whilst this is a particularly difficult time for me, I take great solace in the knowledge that I did the right thing by both myself and my partner. I have a great little network of friends, I love my job and have good prospects for the future. I don’t necessarily believe that things happen for a reason, but I certainly believe that we can take invaluable lessons from those things that do happen.

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Is it time to break up with my phone?

Image result for apple iphone 7

Source: Apple

After dedicating more and more time to myself in the past few weeks, I’ve come to realise how much of an influence my phone has over my life. To say that I’m always checking it would be a great injustice to how much of a hold it has over me. If it was just that it was within my proximity and that I often checked it, that would be less terrifying as I would have the option to simply move away from it after having a quick peak at my notifications.

Unfortunately, it seems to be a lot more than that.

I was in the shower this afternoon and found myself thinking “I wonder if I have any notifications.” I was in the shower for roughly 10 minutes, which to me should not be anywhere near the threshold in which I can switch off from my phone. After I got out of the shower, I almost instinctively went to grab my phone from my bed to find that I indeed had no notifications. This is another issue. I don’t talk to enough people, n’or have a job demanding enough, to allow for the constant justification of me checking my phone.

Shortly after my shower, I was cooking some food. After putting the food on to simmer, I left my phone on the table away from me so that I could sit back and watch a little television. This was way too difficult. I found myself checking my phone every time I stood up to do anything. Upon reflection, it’s rather alarming to think how much of an impact my phone has on how I go about my day.

It should be noted, my phone does me a lot of favours. Without my Headspace app, my sleep and mindfulness would be greatly impacted. Without my social media, most of my friends would not be able to get in touch with me.

With this in mind however, I think I need to start planning certain times of the day in which my phone should be away from me. How can I really have me time if my phone dictates such a large portion of my life? I was able to sit down for an hour or so today and read a chapter of The Picture of Dorian Gray, one of my favourite books. Just that hour without my phone allowed me to do something that I had been planning to do for months, which was to just sit down and read. Not a difficult pleasure to accomplish, in theory.

If anybody else has had to have the talk with their phone, I’d love to hear how you managed to handle the separation!

The misconception of inspiration

Tech heroes: sources of inspiration for innovative entrepreneurs

Source: Elite Business Magazine

When we see portrayals of individuals becoming inspired within the media, we’re often presented with this image that the individual has suddenly undergone a monumental change in which the world appears to literally be spinning and swirling around them. Imagine how good that would be! Based on my own experiences however and those of whom I’m familiar with, inspiration often appears to be a tiny spark. I believe this is extremely important to remember.

I’m the first to admit that I’ve been feeling quite uninspired for a long time. Very recently however, I began to question why I was feeling this way. Is it because I don’t have many hobbies? A big circle of friends? A passion that I’m able to throw myself in to? I couldn’t quite pinpoint what had occurred that could have led to this seemingly total lack of inspiration. Safe to say I was eager to explore other possibilities, which led me to consider what it is to be inspired.

Oh my word I’ve been misunderstanding inspiration.

This hit me pretty quickly with a force I can only describe as being supernatural. I’ve been sitting here, waiting to be inspired through some incredible spontaneous change that would shake me to my very core. What an idiot! I can look around my sitting room right now and spot 5 things that have inspired me in a realistic way. Inspiration is not about having your world turned upside down, it’s about highlighting small aspects and noticing how sometimes they may shine a little brighter than before.

Daffodil, tea, music, candle, cabinet. For whatever reason, I took the time to think about these 5 things and finally thought to myself “this is making me think to the point in which I wish to develop a thought or idea”. That’s inspiration! I was a little dumbfounded at first, I didn’t really know what to do with this information or how I would use it in a way that would benefit my life. Then, in a similar thought, I realised that this information was not going to be immediately life changing. It would bring itself to light when it is appropriate and do so organically.

If you’re feeling uninspired and have done for some time, it may be your perception that requires questioning rather than the availability of inspiration around you. I’m still not quite sure on how this information will impact my life, however all I know is that I’m feeling a little better about myself and that it never a small thing.

It’s always a good idea to stop and smell the roses.

Headspace – mindfulness at its finest

Headspace logo

Source: Headspace

It’s safe to say that there are plenty of things occurring in my life currently that are not exactly ideal. Among these are increasing levels of pain to be corrected surgically, as well as a particularly poor sleep schedule partly as a result of this pain. However, there is one constant that is able to ground me and enable me to glide in to a state of mindfulness and serenity – that being Headspace.

For those of you who are unaware, Headspace is a mindfulness app that essentially allows users to be guided in to a state of gentle meditation in order to aid in a variety of daily aspects. These aspects are neatly categorised and can help you to handle anxiety, motivation, productivity, and reflection, to name but a few. Something I find particularly appealing is that the exercises don’t require you to be an expert within mindfulness, rather they slowly build you up to achieve a level of relaxation through carefully constructed lessons that neither patronise or infer pre-existing knowledge.

A new feature I’m especially fond of are the sleep exercises, specifically designed to fall asleep to. These scenarios take place within a variety of environments, such as a launderette or a garden, and allow for a deep state of relaxation that allows one to seamlessly drift off to sleep.

It should be understood that this is understandably not a substitute for seeking medical help for any issues, rather this is simply a tool to aid you in your daily life. If you’d like to experience Headspace, feel free to click here (this isn’t sponsored!) – I’m extremely confident that you’ll fall in love with it. Should you download it and give it a go, or have any questions, I’d love to hear from you!

The importance of Stardew Valley

Source: Steam

To kick this off I wanted to stress that this isn’t necessarily a game review, rather an acknowledgement of why I believe Stardew Valley to be an important game. I must admit however, I will probably mention frequently how much I love this game. It is fantastic.

In a nutshell, Stardew Valley is focused around the player who in the epilogue is seen to be living a stressful and unfulfilling city life. The player’s grandfather is witnessed on his death bed leaving the player his farm in the small town of Stardew Valley, as he understands how the player is feeling and believes that this could be the opportunity for real change. This is is when you begin your life on the farm.

Now, the majority of what makes Stardew Valley a profound game is within the interactions you have with the citizens of this quaint town. When you gain control of your character, you begin to talk to others within the town and find that they’re a varied bunch who have a wide range of personalities. The friendships you forge with these people are influenced by how often you talk to them, pay attention to the gifts they like to receive, and how you interact with them in particular situations. Not all of the townsfolk react the same however, with some of them described as having their own demons.

One member of the population is known to have a problem with alcoholism as a result of depression, whilst another is shown to be a sufferer of anxiety, with another suffering from PTSD. These issues are in no way shoehorned into the gameplay, rather they are highlighted through the interactions you have with them and the various encounters you observe. To me, this is incredible. The game conveys the particularly simple idea that if you invest time into the people you care about, you’ll be rewarded with deep friendships and meaningful interactions. The portrayal of these issues is delicate yet somewhat hard-hitting, and definitely has the potential to provoke thought.

The gameplay itself is fantastic, as there are no rules or obligations. You can either create a produce-focused empire in which you grow hundreds of crops and gain massive amounts of wealth, or you can simply chat to others and spend your days fishing or exploring. There is a story, though it is never intrusive and there is never any pressure to further the story as the game will happily carry on until you’re ready to progress. I personally love to take my time with games, and in fact with most activities – I’ll roam and explore and just enjoy myself. Sometimes I really need that couple of hours of winding down, and Stardew Valley feels purpose-built for that task.

It’s definitely worth mentioning that the soundtrack is beautiful, and has on multiple occasions managed to calm me down whenever I’ve felt myself getting worked up. The graphics also allow it to be incredibly accessible on consoles, PC’s, laptops, and soon mobile phones. Plus, it’s very reasonably priced.

This game means an awful lot to me, as silly as it may sound. My girlfriend and I often play together through multiplayer and find ourselves losing massive amounts of time to it. A game that can elicit such strong feelings whilst being incredibly relaxed, is nothing short of a masterpiece.

Getting into volunteering – overcoming hurdles

Source: Me!

As those who follow my blog closely will notice, I’m a massive fan of volunteering and I’m a massive advocate for volunteering in general. One thing people have mentioned to me recently however, is that they are struggling to get started with it for one reason or another. I thought I’d spend a little time going through some of the potential hurdles that may arise and hopefully help a couple of people out through some simple tips.

I don’t have the time they require – this is possibly one of the biggest reasons people are hesitant to volunteer in the first place, they quite simply don’t feel as though they have the time. There are SO many volunteering projects and organisations available, that there is guaranteed to be an opportunity for someone in your shoes. Organisations appreciate all the help that they can get, so as long as you’re willing to ask for accommodations I’m can say with some certainty that they will do their best to ensure you’re given the chance to help out.

I can’t find a cause that I relate to – when people say this to me, I often smile to myself. If you have a genuine desire to volunteer, then there WILL be a cause somewhere that you will find yourself falling in love with. The main difficulty here from my experience is in finding the places that you’d want to work with. Many towns and cities will have resources available for those who wish to start volunteering, with my city having drop-in sessions and advice for those wishing to volunteer. It also helps to be proactive with your search – make the most of social media and maybe even nip in to charities you’re aware of!

I don’t feel like I’d be good at it – if you want to succeed, you will. That lesson there isn’t related purely to volunteering, but works all the same. I’ve known people who have been extremely shy and anxious who have turned out to be TREMENDOUS volunteers when it really boiled down to the matter. Natural ability and aptitude plays a part, but you will be trained and educated and so long as you immerse yourself in this you’ll be fantastic.

I could go on for a whole long longer, but these are the main barriers that people seem to face when it comes to taking on new volunteer projects and new opportunities in general.

In conclusion, if you have the will to help others – everything else will fall into place.

World Mental Health Day

Source: World Federation for Mental Health

It has been over a year since I began my volunteering at the University of Hull as a Hull Uni Angel, and what a year it has been. When I first began volunteering, I genuinely had no idea about the level of impact that the project would have on both myself and those who I have been able to assist on a weekly basis. One of the most interesting things to experience is the huge level of difference between individuals and how their mental health may vary.

I’ve been exposed to a large amount of people who have been in distressing situations, and despite the volunteering taking place at the same time every week within the same area and demographic, no two individuals have even come close to being similar. Everybody has their own experiences with mental health, and I can guarantee we will never be able to see the true picture of what is going on in people’s minds. This is why awareness is of paramount importance.

Awareness is a word that is used abundantly when it comes to mental health. Is it always appropriate though? Is it still the word to use?

In my mind, the time for the sole focus to be on awareness is passing. Awareness still has a highly important role, though I’m quite certain action and attitude need to be the focus of our attention. Mental health is widely understood to exist, which in itself is a monumental feat. If we continue to focus solely on awareness, we’re going to lose sight of the fact that action is needed now more than ever.

I know this sounds a little scary. Helping others isn’t a monumental task in itself though, it’s a small extension on top of how we normally go about our lives. Sure you can volunteer, but you can also just ask that person who doesn’t really say a lot how they are, or you can get in touch with a friend who is a little more secluded than usual. You can shine the light inward and think about whether you need any help.

People often forget to look after themselves. If you feel as though you need support, reach out to someone.