Destani Davies of The Solitude Project: “Shower Power”

Shower Power — Every day when I have a shower, I will allow myself to sit with some negative feelings and watch them leave as the water cascades over me. Once these feelings have washed over, I gently ask myself three things for which I am grateful for and experience the feeling of why I am grateful. […]

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Shower Power — Every day when I have a shower, I will allow myself to sit with some negative feelings and watch them leave as the water cascades over me. Once these feelings have washed over, I gently ask myself three things for which I am grateful for and experience the feeling of why I am grateful. I am grateful to have a hot steamy shower on this cold night with heated lamps because it means I am living a life of comfort and luxury. The water helps me to wash away my worries from the day and prepare myself for a great night’s sleep for a productive day tomorrow. The important aspect of practicing gratitude is to make a routine/habit of it. Incorporating shower power is a simple and effective way to start this process.

As we all know, times are tough right now. In addition to the acute medical crisis caused by the Pandemic, in our post COVID world, we are also experiencing what some have called a “mental health pandemic”.

What can each of us do to get out of this “Pandemic Induced Mental and Emotional Funk”?

One tool that each of us has access to is the simple power of daily gratitude. As a part of our series about the “How Each Of Us Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness” I had the pleasure of interviewing Destani Davies.

Destani Davies Destani is the Founder of The Solitude Project, creator of #HopeWall and host of the #HopeWall Podcast. She is the author of Resilience: Through the Eyes of a Child. As an International Speaker Destani often speaks on the topics of Resilience, Vulnerability and Adversity. Destani lives in Brisbane, Australia with her partner and five children.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about you and about what brought you to your specific career path?

I grew up in New Zealand, my mother was 18 when she had me and my father was 22. It seemed my resilience would be crafted before I was born as I was kidnapped as a baby and bought up around domestic violence, women’s refuge whilst I attended a multitude of schools. I also experienced sexual abuse from a young age and stayed in foster care too. As a child I was noticeably quiet and compliant. Always trying to toe the line however, as I got older things started to settle down in a sense on the home front and I started to view the world differently.

For some reason I was always put in leadership roles at school and would often be drawn to the stage presenting or sharing speeches. This continued through high school although in the first two years of high school I attended less than 50% of the time. I was quite headstrong and what you would refer to as a know-it-all. My poor mother. Lol.

One thing I loved was earning money. I had tried my hand at stealing which I do not recommend at all especially if you get caught. You are obviously not good at this and should look at a more honest path. Lol. In all seriousness though It was not the best choice that I had made however I learned very quickly after getting caught this was not my path and the impact was enough to stop me in my tracks at the age of 10.

By the age of 11 I started working for family in the courier business and then went on to work for KFC as a teenager. This really helped me to build a solid foundation for a customer service focused career.

Nearly 22 years on I now work in the Corporate sector having held over 60+ roles in multiple industries around Australia and New Zealand. During the day I work in a finance-based role and at night you can find me working hard as the Founder of The Solitude Project. This is where my heart lies inside this project which was created to raise awareness for those suffering in silence whilst raising funds for mental health and suicide.

I created The Solitude Project after hearing about 6 suicide of maori men within a two-week period from one Minister. The message hit home so deeply; I knew I needed to do something about it. One week later I decided to embark on a journey of running 10km per day for an entire year to raise awareness for the project (1st November 2020–31st October 2021) and it seems there would be many more initiatives to follow because of this one decision.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I was speaking at a Youth Training Organisation just like I had many times sharing parts of my story to connect with the audience in the hopes of inspiring and encouraging young people on their journeys. I always share the topics I feel most appropriate at the time and often I will be laughing whilst sharing stories even when the topic is heavy in nature. I had just finished speaking about how I got my name to the group and did not think too much of it. At the end of the workshop, one of the tutor’s came up to me and said, “one of the students would like to speak to you”.

I thought okay, this will most likely be related to careers as that is what I was doing at the time. I will go into a meeting a room and we can have a chat. However, as the student came into the room, I realized we were not there to speak about careers. The student resonated with part of my story and seeing him come forward to bare his own truth because I was willing to bare my own is something I always feel fortunate for. We spoke for some time and I realized as he shared his own story that his family was not present in his life. Graduation was approaching, so I asked him who was coming to support him.

He said he had a couple of friends however that was it, I made the bold decision to come and support him that day and the moment I said that I was coming his whole face lit up. A couple of weeks passed, and I eventually came to the graduation baring a gift for him to remember this milestone he had achieved. As a student his attendance at high school was less than 50% so this was a momentous occasion because he did not just attend, he had also passed!

As the ceremony finished, I gifted him a carved necklace which is special in the maori culture and read a poem I had written specifically for him. I told him that I had worm the carving to allow my own love to go into it for him and that anytime he doubts himself in life, he could hold onto that carving and remember what he has accomplished today.

Sometimes something so small and simple can make a huge difference in someone’s life, however I felt that it was he who had made the difference in mine.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why do you think that resonates with you? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

There is no such thing as failure, there are only lessons to be learned. — Destani Davies

I published and released Resilience through the Eyes of a Child in October 2019 and I remember when I released it because I was quite nervous and did not really put it out there. A couple of months passed, and I felt highly embarrassed about the fact that the book was not doing too well. I made the decision to unpublish the book. I did not express this to anyone at the time.

Fast forward 1.5 years after a failed business attempt, I had joined a Masterclass that was inspiring me to act. I remember the teacher asking us to google our names to see what came up under the search. Long and behold I googled mine and my book populated. I thought oh yeah, that thing. As if I have heaps of published books. Lol.

I remember thinking you have an opportunity here… You can either leave it as is or you can re-release the book. I opted for option two and had the cover redesigned and details updated on the back cover and re-released the book and you know what it was successful. I sold over 100 copies within a week and I just could not believe it. My book hit #89 on Amazon in Australia and I just thought to myself wow.

I remember reflecting on the experience trying to understand what was different from the first time I released the book and came up with the following:

  • Cover — Updating the cover made a huge difference I looked at books that had done well to see what I could do to improve my cover (because the first cover was terrible).
  • Marketing — The first time around I did not really own my book however this time, I was prepared and proud to own it and what a difference that energy made when I bought it to the forefront.

I realized in fact that I did not fail the first time around, although I felt that way there is always an opportunity to change the narrative and if you are paying enough attention to what works you may just be surprised where you end up. I also love sharing this story with anyone who gets down on themselves for not delivering on their original expectations to give them hope that anything truly is possible it all comes do to you.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story about why that resonated with you?

Living with a Seal by Jesse Itzler. I purchased online training with Jesse Itzler a couple of years ago and remember watching him speak at Grant Cardone’s 10X event. He had mentioned this book and part of the stories shared so of course I thought I would give it a read.

Wow, what a hilarious journey with so many insightful tips from David Goggins who is world renown for his ability to train outside of the realms of what we would consider normal. His approach was crazy and unorthodox however I loved his mindset and the fact that Jesse had shared it so openly in an engaging way made you feel like you were there. I enjoyed the book so much I started sharing it with my teenage son’s who also resonated with the style of writing and we would talk about what they gained from each chapter.

I loved the book because I resonated with both Jesse and David, Jesse for his experience with David and being tested in his own abilities and David in the sense that we really are limitless in our capabilities. I highly recommend this book for a laugh and some great life lessons. Anything is truly possible.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We will be starting to film The Solitude Project documentary which I could not be more excited about. The aim of the documentary is to educate people around mental illness in a real and raw sense and to share the message of love, hope and inspiration. This is something I am highly passionate about, sharing both sides of the story to give an overall perspective to the viewer so they can come up with their own conclusion.

I believe it will help hundreds of thousands of people around the world to feel less alone in the world, to realise that there are people and services that are out there that are willing to help them through their journey. That the journey itself may not be easy however if they have the right support and guidance anything is truly possible. The documentary is for the people to give them hope.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I am so grateful for my mum. We had just watched my aunty leave NZ on a plane as she travelled to Brisbane, Australia for a new start. It sounded cool to me as a teen as I had not travelled overseas however it was not on my trajectory.

My mother had decided from that day that we were also going to be moving to Australia. At first, I did not believe her however as she started to sell things in our home and her car especially, I knew this was going to happen. We had our passports ready, and the day was getting closer. I paid for my own ticket to Australia because I was earning my own money and that was part of the deal however, I remember running away the night before we were due to depart because I did not want to leave. I gave my poor mum a headache to say the least.

Despite my teenage rebellion she contacted friends and asked them to keep an eye out for me. Along the way one of her friends saw me in the middle of town sitting on a bench with stranger and my bag. He took me back to his house and I fell asleep on his couch. The next morning, I was back at home with my mum and ready to embark on a new journey. Although I was scared to leave everything we knew in NZ, I had my mum.

I was not appreciative of the move at the time as I felt like I was losing everything I ever knew, however looking back I realized my mother’s headstrong spirit has always been my strength. Her willingness to give it a go despite what everyone else says, not knowing if things will work out yet there she was. This is only one of many examples of why my mum is my greatest inspiration I could seriously go on but more importantly the thing I love the most is that she never gives up on you, even when you feel like you have given up on yourself. I love you mum.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now that we are on the topic of gratitude, let’s move to the main focus of our interview. As you know, the collective mental health of our country is facing extreme pressure. We would like to explore together how every one of us can use gratitude to improve our mental wellness. Let’s start with a basic definition of terms. How do you define the concept of Gratitude? Can you explain what you mean?

Gratitude is about expanding your thinking. When we are in a grateful state, we tend to see opportunities that others may otherwise miss. The more you look for opportunities to express your gratitude the more you will continually see in this same realm.

Why do you think so many people do not feel gratitude? How would you articulate why a simple emotion can be so elusive?

I believe that people do feel grateful however they tend to focus on the other side of the coin instead and do not realise in doing so that they are going to attract in more of what they don’t want. There is always a balance if there is good there is also bad it is all reliant on where your focus is.

This might be intuitive to you but I think it will be constructive to help spell it out. Can you share with us a few ways that increased gratitude can benefit and enhance our life?

When you ask your brain to find examples of things to be grateful for initially it may feel weird. Especially if you haven’t done this before. You might find yourself saying things like, I feel grateful for my car today for getting me to the train station on time to catch my train to work. I feel grateful for the train making it on time, so I could get to work on time. I feel grateful to have a job to go too when many others don’t.

Practicing gratitude can enhance your life in many ways including:

  • It helps to increase your self-esteem.
  • You are able to sleep better.
  • Reduces stress.
  • Helps you to heal.
  • Improves your relationships.
  • Acts as a natural shield towards negativity

Let’s talk about mental wellness in particular. Can you share with us a few examples of how gratitude can help improve mental wellness?

Gratitude impacts your mental wellness. You may have noticed in the example above when looking for things to be grateful for another example followed.

There are many benefits including:

  • Increases your optimism.
  • Allows more positive experiences.
  • Strengthens your resiliency.
  • Reduces depression.
  • Improves your physical wellbeing.
  • Improves your psychological wellbeing.

Ok wonderful. Now here is the main question of our discussion. From your experience or research, what are “Five Ways That Each Of Us Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness”. Can you please share a story or example for each?

#1 Understanding

I was next up to speak and although I was grateful for being their it was like that feeling was robbed from me because I had compared myself to the speaker just before me. If comparison or other similar feelings make it harder for you to leverage gratitude, I remind you that you are only human. Allow yourself to sit in this space and feel what the real issue is, in my case it was comparison which we know can be the thief of all joy. By recognizing the real reason for this feeling, we can see this feeling for what it truly is and that also gives us the opportunity to work on something within ourselves. Now that we’ve recognised where this comes from, we can review the situation to realise that I was actually grateful for sharing my message because it belongs to me and me alone, this is what helps me to connect with others and allows them to make positive shifts inside themselves by me sharing.

#2 Questions

Each day we have an opportunity to not only embrace this practice but to also teach others too. On any given day I would find myself asking my children after school, “how was school today?”. To which I would receive a standard response, much like the checkout operator at a supermarket. However instead of asking this question you could rephrase it to “what was the best thing that happened for you today, or what was a highlight of your day?”. It is simple yet effective as you have set the tone and framed the question in a way that the individual must search their mind for something positive. This also gives them the opportunity to focus on the feeling associated to this experience. This is all part of practicing active gratitude. If they need a prompt, you can share something even if it is small to help them see it does not need to be anything big at all.

#3 Focus

I remember when our daughter was in her darkest moments in hospital, she was two weeks old, and we had been told that we were going to lose her. We were preparing to take her to a room where we could then say goodbye to our beautiful daughter. As we were transferred to another hospital another family with a baby who was born with Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia was also in PICU. I remember going back to the apartment that night wondering if our baby girl would be alive the next morning however on return, I noticed the room of the family who had come through the day prior now lay empty. Although we were nowhere near out of the woods with our daughter’s journey, I was still able to appreciate the fact that we were lucky enough to have had experienced nearly two weeks with our baby girl and I knew in my heart that the family that had sadly lost their son would have given anything for more time. Even in the dark there is light.

#4 Shower Power

Every day when I have a shower, I will allow myself to sit with some negative feelings and watch them leave as the water cascades over me. Once these feelings have washed over, I gently ask myself three things for which I am grateful for and experience the feeling of why I am grateful. I am grateful to have a hot steamy shower on this cold night with heated lamps because it means I am living a life of comfort and luxury. The water helps me to wash away my worries from the day and prepare myself for a great night’s sleep for a productive day tomorrow. The important aspect of practicing gratitude is to make a routine/habit of it. Incorporating shower power is a simple and effective way to start this process.

#5 Re-Wire Thoughts

We all tell ourselves stories however it is the stories that we breathe life into by sharing these with others that have more power because of the feelings associated to them. Just like my failed attempt at publishing a book that did not meet my own expectations, it took some time for me to change the narrative on this journey and if it was not for the help of an amazing coach that gently shifted me into the realms of opportunity by opening a door, I had locked I’m honestly unsure if anything would’ve changed. I noticed as a new vision was created in my mind and the belief that this was possible, and I started moving towards it. Momentum picked up and I started to rewire my brain with a new pattern of thought. I could do this and this time it was going to be successful. Because I continued to believe and feel this experience this is what manifested into my reality and just like the negative train of thought these thoughts also hindered me from moving forward for 1.5years. The power of gratitude.

Is there a particular practice that can be used during a time when one is feeling really down, really vulnerable, or really sensitive?

Our brains instinct is to protect us from harm, hurt and so forth. My advice would be to close your eyes and find one example of a time or moment when you experienced happiness whether this is from your childhood or as an adult. Once you find this moment allow yourself to sit in its presence. Look around and note what it is you see, who is there with you and how are you feeling? You can express this feeling out loud. What is it like for you, say the words or speak about what is happening in this scenario? When you ask yourself these things and allow yourself to experience these moments as if it were yesterday, you are subconsciously tapping into your own happiness. This process can take as long or as short a time as you need. This is a simple and effective practice that anyone can do to change their state in a matter of seconds.

Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that you would recommend to our readers to help them to live with gratitude?

#HopeWall Podcast which shares stories of adversity including the tools individuals have used to overcome. The main theme is to share messages of love, hope and inspiration from a neutral approach. It focuses on the people providing solutions for the people by individuals with lived experienced in a wide range of situations.

I believe this is a helpful tool and will never claim to have the answers, however I do know that we can sometimes shortcut the learning process by learning through the experiences of others and the great thing is all you need to do this is have an open mind and tune in to hear the messages that resonate with you.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I am lucky enough to have created this movement through The Solitude Project which shares messages of love, hope and inspiration to individuals around the world in the hopes of helping them to find their way back to their inner light of guidance.

We recently released the #BareWithMe campaign after I did a nude photoshoot to walk into the same stigma that those with mental illness may be afraid to face because of being vulnerable. It was probably one of the scariest things I’ve done to date however I did it to help empower others in their journey so they would come forward with their stories so we could provide the help and support they need in their journey.

The campaign was powerful and I’m so grateful for those that chose to take part in the campaign, together we helped to inspire and hopefully gave courage to others inside their personal network to come forward so they don’t feel like they’re walking alone.

What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?, via FB/Instagram: @thesolitudeproject.2020 and my personal FB profile:

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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