It’s shocking, but it’s not. I found it refreshing to see that the BBC has posted that the primary reason for days off work is due to a mental health concern. One in three sick notes written by a doctor is for depression, anxiety, stress, or whatever other internal crisis many of us are dealing with. Yet it’s still taboo to talk about it, let alone even think of calling in with one of these ‘invisible’ ailments when you need time off work. Things have got to change.

I was sat at my desk yesterday chatting to two of my closest coworkers about said statistic. One of them asked, ‘OK, so do you think it’s because mental health issues are increasing or that we’re simply becoming more aware of our mental health?’ It was a great question, but I only pondered it for a mere moment before feeling an overwhelming sensation that my belief was with the former. We are designing our society in a way that hinders – not helps – us mentally.

We’re becoming more urbanised, This means cramming more people into concrete jungles and, ironically, not placing emphasis on the importance of community. We all work too much for too little satisfaction. We return to our homes too tired to do the things that we genuinely want to do. Then we wake up the next day and do it all over again. We complain we have no time for all the things we’d like to do. But we’re constantly distracted by our smartphones.

When we create the image that those doing overtime in their corporate jobs are ‘heroes’ and something to aspire to, we’ve got a problem. In my opinion, someone who isn’t able to be strong enough to draw a line, close the books and turn off the PC for the day isn’t an inspiration. They aren’t a role model to look up to.

If there’s a collective thinking that taking time off or learning to call it a day when it strikes 5pm (or whenever your work hours finish) means you’ll fall behind, there’s momentum created in a negative direction. It’s a sure-fire way to a downward spiral of much unhappiness. You feel unfulfilled from not making the time to do those things that truly satisfy you. There’s the stress of feeling like you simply can’t keep up. And no matter how much you try to suppress the anxiety that is seeping out of your pores, it will catch up with you in the end.

Over the years, I’ve seen co-workers give themselves all kinds of skin conditions, auto-immune diseases and panic attacks from working themselves to the bone. And for what? If you’re too sick to do the things you want to do, you’re living (albeit barely) to work. And if your job does not fulfill you, what then?

This is what we’ve got to start realising; we are only human. And we operate best when we are at equilibrium. Some hard work will always be required. If it’s in a field you’re passionate about, even better. But there is always some give and take. You can’t apply an excess of pressure in one part of your life and expect not to suffer in another. Balance.

The topic I always return to is that of social media. I find it so useful to connect with inspirational people. I find it useful as an extension of my voice in living a more ethical and conscious lifestyle. But it also serves as a great distraction and sometimes, demon. Through social media platforms, our lives are able to become much larger; reach much wider and the result is constant reminders of all the things that we don’t have and aren’t doing. It can be a really quick way to undo any gratitude practices, looking at a synthetic life created by someone else and believing it to be real and much better than your own.

I’ve decided to take a break for the month of September. This post will link to some of my platforms where you might be reading this from, but be sure to leave me a comment at the bottom of this post rather than on Facebook or Twitter if you want to discuss anything as I won’t be checking those.

For the entire year of 2017 I’ve been and am continuing to do a different ‘wellness’ challenge each month. As a blogger, social media is part of the deal. It’s an incredible way to connect to people with similar values and also influence others to make small changes for the better. But I couldn’t not do this. I’m genuinely really excited to see what I notice/learn by the end of the month.

My mental health is always on knife-edge. I have a depressive streak, suffer from SAD and have to combat suicidal thoughts from time to time. This is partly genetic, partly situational, partly from PTSD. For the entire year of 2016 I was at crisis-point and yet 95% of people in my life would never have guessed and didn’t know a thing. This is because it’s so much more difficult to talk about mental health and it makes people uncomfortable.

In the corporate, politically-correct, ‘must have a brave face’ society of the UK at present, there is no time for negativity. It’s simply, ‘well, love, pick yourself up and get on with it.’ I stick two fingers up to that, quite frankly, and say actually, what if we all prioritised our happiness? Don’t you think things might be a bit better and we wouldn’t have quite an armpit of a nation and political system?

Employers don’t have productive workforces because their employees simply can’t cope. Their stress is not always work-related, but we’re a nation of people plagued with ill mental health. Too much urban living, not enough time outside and in communities was always bound to fail. What will it take for things to change I wonder?

Photo via Unsplash

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I was a sucker for The Matrix trilogy back in the day. I grew up wanting so desperately to be Trinity. The combination of badass choreography, epic shots of Zion and time aboard the ship all made for such brilliant cinematography. But then there’s the concept of the matrix itself. Bizarre idea, but plausible? Sometimes you can be sat at your 9-5 wondering about the meaning of life and feel as if your time is wasted. But the idea that we’re strapped into a big machine that’s using our life-force energy? Surely not. Until well, it might be.

Elon Musk is one of my heroes. I’d say he’s in my top 5, to be specific. His brain fascinates me, truly. But what I respect most about him is that his heart is in the right place. You’ve got a genius that wants to improve the world. From his epic plans for underground highways to SpaceX, his creativity sees no limits on earth or in air. And to be honest, although I’m pro-saving the planet that we do have, he’s thinking 10 steps ahead about how to cope if it does meet an eventual doom. Sad time. But realistic, I guess.

So he’s amazing, we all know that. But his latest mission is to get the UN to ban the use of automated ‘death’ robots – machines built to kill. A terrifying concept that’s not only doable, but likely, in this day and age of extreme hostility. Isn’t it sad that we even have to be having these conversations? That our world’s great minds have to even be wasting their time discussing a future ban on machines created purely to destroy. What a waste of a creation to begin with. What a waste of time, effort, and resources. But the truth of the matter is that humans tire, machines do not.

I guess it makes sense. And in fact, it’s smart thinking from the likes of Musk and Google’s Mustafa Suleyman. Calling for a ban now, from scientists who have seen the capabilities of AI, is a wise move. I was saddened to read that the UK objected to said UN discussion. Surely we’re better than that? The Foreign Office told the guardian that they see no need for a specific ban on AI because international humanitarian law already covers that area. Strange, don’t you think? If they’re so concerned about the people, why not leap at the chance to offer extra protection? Why not support by default?

It went on to essentially say, ‘hey guys, don’t worry. All military operations will always be under human control, so there’s no need to panic.’ Still strange. And to be frank, stupid. You’ve got to stop and think, how did we get here? It’s 2017. But then you look around at who’s supposedly running our countries and it all makes sense. When the UK is being run by a coward and the US by a small child in a man’s body, it all makes sense. It suddenly becomes clear exactly how we’ve got to this point where these kinds of conversations are having to be had by our world’s greatest minds.

AI is a brilliant thing. I think it will save us, in many ways, from the mundane tasks that we really don’t need to be doing. If this frees us up for truly human, creative pursuits, then that’s awesome. But as long as we have bigotry, xenophobia and discrimination of all kinds prevalent, it’s no wonder we’ve got to plan for the worst. We are constantly treading water. We’re doing the delicate dance of keeping the peace amongst those who crave war.

The greatest thing the humble ‘nobody’ like you and me can do is to talk about these issues. Make your peers aware of how real a possibility ‘death robots’ are and how we need to think ahead and prevent the worst. AI can increase the efficiency of our agriculture, bring us automated transport and smart homes. Let’s make these the primary areas of focus – not the death and demise of humans and subsequent Matrix.

What are your thoughts on Artificial Intelligence?

Photo via Unsplash

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I’m a big thinker, right? And I’d say my brain is at capacity most of the time. I’m constantly mulling over how I can improve things. Not just the goings-on of my inner world through various mediums of self-improvement, but also the outer one. From a vegan diet to living plastic-free, I’m on a constant mission to try to do my best with what I have. The world needs to change and I’ve dedicated my life to helping that come to fruition. But there’s an extra element that’s thrown into all this. Guilt. And it eats away at me from time to time.

Let me back-pedal a bit to talk about my time in university. Whilst there, I was a key member of the Amnesty International Society – a society that I still very much support. Nowadays, however, I do so from the sideline rather than actively. When I was heavily involved, my perspective was rather different to how it stands today. When day in, day out, you’re following the stories of the most broken of humanity, you are grateful for simply having a roof over your head and food in your belly. And freedom, of course. Just having those basic things is incredibly wonderful. If you get choice added in too, you’re flying.

But as I say, time went on and I left university and began placing more and more focus on environmental issues. The causes I was fighting for were marine habitats, rainforests, native woodland, animals facing extinction, coral bleaching and microplastic pollution. It became less about the people and more about the environment. If I think about it logically, without a planet there are no people and so of course these are worthy causes to be fighting for. But as I sit here with a regular income, enough money to pick and choose my food, my clothing, my lifestyle, I can’t help but feel an element of guilt.

Millions of people around the world – including many on these wealthy British Isles – can’t afford the luxury of choice. They can’t afford the time to even think about being able to shop in fancy food stores that offer aesthetically-pleasing vegan foods and household cleaners and beauty items that are made with an array of delightful natural ingredients. Their priority is getting food on the table for hungry mouths that need feeding. Their priority is being able to afford the rent each month. Their priority is being able to make it through each day. Living on the breadline is no place to be.

So I can’t help but feel guilty when I preach about how we should all be eating vegan foods and living waste-free as much as possible when in truth I don’t understand what it’s like not to have the choice. I don’t come from a wealthy family and in fact growing up I witnessed the stress that a single mother goes through trying to put food on the table for her kids. Her priority was keeping her children healthy and happy. But even with this, I don’t know what it was like to be her. I can’t fully understand.

My dilemma is not wanting someone living a polar opposite life to my own to look at me and see naivety and an unachievable goal. It makes me sick to think that I could evoke anger in someone over my lifestyle choices, values and priorities. It’s this fine line to teeter along, with compassion for humanity on one side and an inner environmental warrior on the other. I don’t yet know the best way of figuring all this out. And in truth, I might never. (To clarify: no one has raged at me. This is purely hypothetical.)

But one thing I do trust in is my gut instinct; as should we all. It guides us. The reality is that there’s no way I could compare my life to that of a low-income single mother with 4 children where the fight for survival is first priority. I’m not living that way – fortunately. So all I can do is what feels right to me, based on the scientific evidence I have ready, with wthe resources I have. If I can afford to choose the most ethical foods to eat, not consume plastic that ends up in the oceans and write about my lifestyle choices in the hope that it might influence someone else who can also make those choices to start living differently, then why not do it? It seems logical…

I’m part of a whole generation wanting to do life differently. We want to live more harmoniously with our planet, improve our infrastructure using renewable energy and live lives that place emphasis on creativity and passion rather than the mind-numbing and mundane. I frequently refer to it as ‘the vagina lottery’ because we don’t know what kind of family we’ll be born into. All we can do is the best we can based on what we know.

We don’t all fight for the same causes and in a way that’s actually kind of great. If some of us could keep doing the great work for humanity while others clean up the environment, we should have a sound future ahead of us. Perhaps that’s all I need to trust in; the fact that we’re all different for a reason and it’s best to just embrace it, even if it does seem flawed. We need each other; that’s the simple truth of it. We’re stronger together.

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These past few weeks have been a rollercoaster. In a good way. I’ve been touring Ireland with my family and it has been utterly incredible.

Cliffs of Moher

But I’m currently on a zero-waste journey and so being out of my natural habitat was a challenge when it came to regulating my plastic consumption. At home, I believe we can all quite easily take leaps and bounds towards living with less waste. Or rather, consuming less waste, I should say. But that’s because we’ve learned how to do exactly that. We know where to go, what to do, and essentially which resources to use in our area. It’s the element of familiarity. It’s not always so easy when you’re out of town.

Travel is a sure-fire way to put you out of your comfort zone and force you to be present. The environment is new; the flavours, the smells, the dynamics and the language. You’ve got to stay focused in order to be able to navigate your way from A to B and digest those experiences you are encountering. So in that respect, being out of your comfort zone is incredibly satisfying. It’s also a potent way to grow and develop yourself.

But then, on the other hand it’s really difficult traveling if you’re trying to maintain a particular kind of lifestyle. For me, that’s vegan & low waste. I am always hesitant to say I live zero waste because in truth I don’t. I’m not sure that any of us actually do. But I am fully determined with every ounce of flesh and bone in my body to reduce my footprint on this planet. Every day is a new challenge and there are obstacles aplenty. But I want to know that when I leave this Earth, I’ll have made my very best efforts to have not left it worse off.

Plastic waste is the one. The baddie. Not so much the recyclables (although let’s be honest – they’re pretty ugly and horrid) but really the single-use stuff. The non-recyclable packaging that will go straight to landfill. That stuff is the bane of my life. And well, the whole planet really. And it’s everywhere I look: in every person’s hand and every supermarket shelf. It feels like all the odds are stacked against me, but by hook or by crook I’ll be damned if I give up the fight to live in a way that means I’m not having to consume it.

I’ve modified my lifestyle and consumption habits so that I’m using biodegradable or packaging-free alternatives to commonplace items. I’m still very much on a journey and learning of new solutions every day, but I’m trying. After doing my research and familiarising myself with where I can go for bulk bins, loose produce, raw materials for DIY cosmetics etc. I’d say that I’m bossing Bristol pretty well. But throw travel into the mix and it’s a bit of deer in headlights action. It’s also incredibly difficult when you throw family into the mix, or a group of friends who all have different priorities. You can love them to the moon and back, but still not see eye-to-eye on fundamental things.

So with this trip around Ireland (and our first family vacation in 2 years), there were definitely times when I had to refrain from getting angry about the consumption habits of my family. I didn’t want to rock the boat too much; after all, we were there to enjoy ourselves. However, there are some knacks to keeping the sea smooth while still living in alignment with your values. If you’re an aspiring zero-waster, these might just help you too.

  1. Do your research & offer to do the buying. It’s not that your family and friends don’t care about your values; it’s just that they have other priorities and unfortunately don’t understand the pressing desperation that some of us feel to not leave behind a large plastic footprint. To avoid confrontation and any defensiveness, it’s a good idea to offer to be in charge of the food shopping while you’re away. Ask them beforehand to put the money into a kitty if they’re happy to do so and let them know that you’re very happy to do the shopping. Chances are, they’ll be relieved that they don’t have to think about doing any grocery-shopping while on vacation and instead sit back and relax. You’ll have saved yourself the stress of a mountain of plastic packaging in the process.
  2. Prepare snacks for the day. If you get hangry anything like I do, then you’ll know that it’s not a pretty sight or any fun to be around in the slightest. Avoid stressful situations of feeling starved to death but having the inner turmoil of not wanting to consume plastic packaging by making sure to have a stash of loose fruit and nuts to keep you going until you can find a café or restaurant for something more substantial.
  3. Take produce bags with you. In some countries, supermarket produce must be put in plastic bags and priced before paying. Avoid this by being sure to have your trusty cloth bags in tow.
  4. Have your zero-waste essentials kit on you at all times. This is part of the daily life as a zero-waster, but when traveling be sure to have a reusable bottle, cup, tupperware, silverware and a stainless steel straw (if you can’t be without one when consuming your beverage of choice). This way, your family and friends can do their thing, but at least you know that you’re prepared. You might even spark some curiosity when they see your swanky little kit and see how easy it is to package take-away options.

For more zero waste tips, check out one of my latest on Peaceful Dumpling: Still Think Zero Waste Is Hard? 6 Easy Steps To Make It Work For Your Life

Are you passionate about low-waste living? What are your tips for making it work when you’ve got company?

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Define corporation: “a large company or group of companies authorised to act as a single entity”

We all know the corporate feel. Suits, white walls, stuffy meeting rooms, boards of the expressionless, and not much in the way of light-hearted humanity. It can be a soul-crushing worklife, but one that many of us must engage in for at least a short while until things work out for us. So let’s say that at the moment where you’re at in life means you can’t afford to be picky. You’ve got bills to pay and mouths to feed. I get it. This job isn’t inspiring or active in the way that you’d like it to be, but it’s what has to be done, for the moment at least. How can you make it through without feeling like your head is either going to explode or shut down at any moment? There are ways! I’m telling you, there are ways.

First we’ve got to look at how desk-based corporate work affects our health. It’s not rocket science: the answer is badly.

More and more of the jobs available to us in developed nations are sedentary. They are jobs involving sitting at a computer. If we add in using a car to get to and from these jobs, we’re talking about the majority of our waking hours spent on our asses without actually using our bodies. That’s a pretty morbid (literally) thought, isn’t it? How do you go about killing yourself slowly but surely? You engage in a lifetime pursuit of slouching in the same position every day, likely also consuming some heavily-processed food at your desk. You wonder why you’re putting on weight. You wonder why you’re so miserable. Your skin doesn’t have a glow to it anymore. You look dull, tired and damn right down.

Part of the human evolutionary process is to make things easier for ourselves. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles. But this backfires immensely when it comes to the corporate agenda. You see, no matter how hard we (I say “we” meaning the powers that be) try to monopolize this world with dull, pointless corporations, we have to realise that humans will never be able to act like robots and be consistently happy. No matter how much they want it, we’re meant for so much more. We need movement and creativity and freedom in our lives to maintain true happiness and success.

So, with that being said, here are 4 ways to engage in the corporate world short-term without losing all of your mind, body and soul:

  1. Commute in the most active way possible. You may well live a ridiculous distance away from your place of work and need a car. If so, unless you fancy moving closer then there’s not much you can do for this one. But to those driving when you could instead be walking or cycling, now is the time to make the switch. An active commute does so much for your health – both physically and mentally. A study found that those who cycled to work were 40% less stressed than drivers. The opportunity to commute in this way gives you time to relax and work any stress off prior to beginning your day. Likewise, at the end of a busy day. It can also be a great time to listen to podcasts and enrich that brain of yours. (Hello, Hello Internet)
  2. Make a conscious decision to take a lunch break. I know what it’s like. As soon as one of your colleagues takes a working lunch at his or her desk, suddenly the standards are upped. Everyone feels that in order to prove themselves, they too must work through their lunch. Newsflash, though: you aren’t being paid for that break! Therefore, do yourself a favour and take it. Change the scenery and get some fresh air. Take a short walk if you can manage it. This is a great way to hit refresh and be mentally prepared to kick ass during the second part of the day.
  3. Keep inspirational material visible. Whether this is a calendar with all the exciting things coming up or a photo of where you’ve saving to go on vacation, remind yourself of why you work to live – not live to work. This will save you during your mid-afternoon slump.
  4. Be nice to your co-workers, because you might need them one day. Depending on where you work, there might be a bit of a competitive streak that runs through the company. But there’s no ‘i’ in team, after all, and all that ‘my way or the highway‘ attitude gets you is loathing and isolation. Plus, in the distant future when you’re doing your own thing, you might just need to call on one of your colleagues from the past. Remember that karma isn’t afraid to come round and bite you in the ass. Therefore, be nice and it will go a long way in your success.

Have you managed to kick ass at corporate thing? What got you through?

Photo via Unsplash

 

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