When I gave up my permanent and pensionable job as a psychologist with Rehab Group many people thought that I was crazy. I did not leave because I was unhappy but rather because I wanted a new challenge. I wanted to be a psychologist that would empower everyone (not just those people who had symptoms) to a better quality of life. For all of the previous years I had met professionally people who were unwell and unhappy. This will always be very important work and we must always reach out to those who have fallen into the darkness with competency and above all compassion. But I was convinced that many people who I was meeting during those years should never have ended up speaking to someone like me in the first place. The best psychology tends to be kept in storage for people who have taken a hit in life. Psychology can also be utilised to prevent illness, to identify and harness strengths and to promote inner peace and greater life satisfaction. And crucially psychology can help people prepare for the inevitable challenges of life and negotiate better outcomes through such periods. There was no job for this type of psychology (there still aren’t any jobs for health and happiness) so I had to jump!! It was nerve wrecking but I had to do it.
I designed a course called Moodwatchers which would be open to the general public and focus on the science of health, happiness and resilience. The first course was delivered in the Iontas Theatre in Castleblayney about twelve years ago. The plan was to offer a free talk to the general public – to educate them about what I was attempting to do with my new course. I wanted them to know what it was and what it wasn’t. It wasn’t a support group although I have a lot of time for such groups. It wasn’t therapy although therapy works for many people. I wanted people to jump with me! The course was basically a journey where over a space of eight weeks participants would learn and be encouraged to integrate strategies into their lives that were scientifically validated to improve their heath and happiness outcomes. I was nervous. Would anyone turn up at all?
Thankfully, the course turned out to be a great success and each week the class attendance grew in size. I now knew that I could travel with Moodwatchers. People wanted and needed it. Over the next eight years the course would be delivered at numerous venues throughout Ireland. Then I started delivering adapted versions of the content to management teams, teachers, students and parents throughout the country. As a former teacher I knew that the seeds of mental wellness could be sown in school communities and within families.
It was Donegal that soaked up all my enthusiasm at the beginning. As a county it welcomed my approach with open arms. Indeed, it is with sadness that I remember the late Mary Ann Kane, who as CEO of Donegal VEC, introduced me to every VEC school in the county and to her own team. I can safely say that I got to know practically every road and bye-road throughout this beautiful county. It’s hard to believe it but since then I have visited over 400 schools nationwide. Donegal was the starting point of this incredible journey. I was also honoured to be invited to speak to the psychiatric team at Letterkenny General Hospital. More doors started to open for me. My work brought me into the studios of RTE television and radio. I was offered a contract for a book by Orpen Press. It will summarise the best material that I have taught and offer glimpses into the journey than I have been so fortunate to have taken. I couldn’t have wished for more. This would never have happened if I hadn’t jumped.
It took time for me to feel secure but I have been blessed. I have addressed nearly all of the national conferences of the key educational organisations in Ireland. I have lectured on the topics that I am passionate about in university. I have been invited to work with some of the most successful companies in Ireland within the public and private sector. There is always a risk when we decide to ‘jump’. Change is challenging but sometimes it’s exactly what we need. Many people avoid what they tend to need, mostly due to a sense of helplessness. I have counselled people who readily admit that they should have changed years ago. My message is that we need to believe in ourselves more.
In recent years I have tired of all the travel and confine by journeys to within driving distance of Monaghan or my second home Sligo. I now deliver the occasional one-day seminar on Saturdays. These seminars called REFRESH YOUR LIFE are open to everyone and I teach the best material that I have gathered over these exciting years of my career.
It’s not often that I get an opportunity to bring my seminar to Co. Donegal. Indeed, this coming Saturday 16th will see me do so for the very first time. I will be in the Mill Park Hotel, Donegal from 10-4pm. I will focus on strategies linked to greater life satisfaction, inner-peace and better mental/physical health. Open to the general public this day will offer an opportunity for participants to leave the stresses and noise of life behind and learn how to embrace a better quality of life. The cost is €75 which is inclusive of tea/coffee break, light lunch and all the materials, including a CD. Anyone who is interested in attending need only email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or book by phone on 086-7921804.
We have to be brave to change. We have to contemplate failing. We have to estimate risk. But there is nothing definite about life. Yesterday is over and cannot be changed. We can plan for tomorrow but have no control of it today. Sometimes we have to jump to know what it feels like to land soundly!!