Have you heard the word of the year concept? Major dictionaries usually choose a word in December that sums up the events and vibe of the previous year. For example, Oxford languages Word of the Year last year was Vax.
I love the concept of the word of the year, but the traditional dictionary word of the year sums up what has come behind us. There is another meaning to The Word of The Year, which is all about looking forwards.
In the world of personal development and personal growth -where you choose a word of the year that acts like a replacement for a New Year’s Resolution and which you use to prioritise your focus and goals for the year ahead. It's an inspirational word that will motivate you to take action.
This year I chose two words; connection and love, which is to say that this year I have been making more of a conscious effort to love more and feel more connected to myself, my environment and all people I come into contact with.
I started well, but with mist resolutions, I lost my way. I have spent most of the year feeling anything incredibly disconnected and struggling for connection -to feel it strongly and to build it. But connection is something I crave, and I wanted to make a change.
So I read a book. This is typically my first response to any challenge - anything can be fixed or found by reading a book, right? Spoiler alert - It helps, but the application is key; ultimately, everything is found and fixed from within. Perhaps more on that another day.
Anyway, the book I read is called Connection: How to find the life you're looking for In the life you have by Kristine Klussman.
This book is one of the best and most valuable books I have ever read.
It's all great - but there were a few paragraphs in the book where Kristine describes a challenge she completed where she took one photo every day of things in her life that she felt connected to or was meaningful to her.
Ah! Photography, connection and meaning all in one place - that has my name all over it.
So I decided I would do this challenge and post it on Instagram.
To start the challenge, I had to define what connection and meaning mean. And I was already in the right place. Kristine Klussman suggests starting with self-connection and notes that self-connection has three parts: awareness of oneself, an acceptance of oneself based on the awareness and an alignment of behaviour with the awareness. These three parts lead to Klussman’s definition of self-connection as 'being in tune with and in touch with your deepest feelings, wants and needs and are taking action in alignment with those needs.”
And meaning as “the significance a person ascribes to their experience of reality.” With meaning, Klussman breaks it down to the micro and macro levels. The macro is all about understanding your life within a wider context of feeling that it makes sense and has significance, and the micro is all about the significance and importance we place on specific activities, people, life events, and memories based on the pleasure, value and satisfaction we derive from those things.
So then I could start.
Here is a breakdown of my 30 Days. I began on 15 July 2022.
Day One - A photo of the definitions of meaning
Day Two - A close-up of my mum’s blanket, which she gave to me before she died.
Day Three - A Sunrise
Day Four - The 'Best thing' wall at the shop.
Day Five - A video of a playful Muntjac on my morning walk.
Day Six - A sunflower
Day Seven - A collage of my first ten Podcasts
Day Eight - The early morning dog walk
Day Nine - The doorway to the shop
Day Ten - A tree
Day Eleven - A photo of my Sister and me
Day Twelve - A photo of a painting my mum and Dad gave me as a graduation present
Day Thirteen - The woods
Day Fourteen - My dog
Day Fifteen - My friend Nadia
Day Sixteen - A photo of my husband and me
Day Seventeen- The fountain in Welwyn Garden City
Day Eighteen - Artwork in the Premier Inn
Day Nineteen - Dinner
Day Twenty - The bookshelf at the shop
Day Twenty-one - The Decor of Erpingham House In Norwich
Day Twenty-two - Trees and clouds
Day Twenty-three - Another tree
Day Twenty-four - The entrance to the secure dog field
Day Twenty-five - Photo of a pub I had lunch with family at
Day Twenty-six - Photo of handwritten lyrics of a song by Dizraeli.
Day Twenty-seven - A rose surviving amidst it
Day Twenty-eight - morning walk
Day Twenty-nine - The night Sky – So blue!
Day Thirty - A photo of my sister, an old friend and me
And because I lost track, there's a bonus
Day Thirty-One - Photo of my first painting as an adult
If you would like to read more in-depth descriptions of the connection and meaning behind the Photos - and indeed the photos themselves, please feel free to head over to Instagram and take a look. I created a hashtag on Instagram so they’ll be easy to find - #30daysofconnectionandmeaning.
Mine are the only photos under the hashtag so far, and they are feeling pretty lonely, so if you'd like to do the challenge - my photos would love some company.
What was the experience like?
I was pleased that a friend of mine joined me in the challenge, so as well as posting on Instagram- we would WhatsApp each other our daily pictures with commentary. And halfway through, a friend of my friend's also joined us. I loved doing this challenge with those ladies- I enjoyed checking in with them, enjoyed their photos and felt so much more connected to them as people, which was beautiful. I gained so much joy, laughs and warmth by connecting with them.
The whole 30 days had quite a significant effect on me. It made me more mindful throughout the day and much more aware of what was around me that I really appreciated . Surprisingly, once I had opened myself up to look around me for more meaning and connection, it came quickly to me. It has been remarkable to reflect on the important things.
What I learned
Typically, wellbeing professionals often tell us it's not things that are important but experiences and people and completing this challenge backed that up.
When I reflect on my 30 days, I'm struck by the following:
- the love I have for others
- how much I am loved
- kindnesses that have been offered to me
- how restorative nature is
- how possible it is to feel peace in my chest when I slow down my body and mind
- how much I value the way I spend my time
I also learned where there were gaps in feeling connected and where I struggled to feel connected and find meaning. This has been an invaluable insight.
What has changed as a result of completing the challenge?
I stop and pause much more throughout the day. I set an intention in the morning to do this, and I take those mindful moments periodically to reflect and concentrate n the connection, meaning and positivity in my life. This inevitably leads to the gratitude I also feel for those things. I cultivate many more moments during the day that make me feel peaceful and contented. Because I can enable them. The things I connect to and find most meaningful to me are entirely in my control and accessible.
I ask myself throughout the day a question that Kristine Klussman recommends in her book – do I feel connected at this moment? A simple yet compelling question to bring me back to myself and how I want to feel.
I’ve started a journalling practice specifically around connecting and meaningful moments so I can build a better sense of well-being and resilience.
I say yes, much more. Some of the things that meant the most to me throughout the challenge required long journeys, required me to work through a tired mind and body, or there was initial resistance and hesitation - but it was all worth it.