Cliffs of Moher Retreat owner Michelle Moroney has written a book on finding self-worth and stepping back from our 24/7 lives. She talks to Marjorie Brennan about the need to unwind
IT’S a word that tends to inspire dread, particularly in a financial sense — nobody looks forward to an audit. But when it comes to our lives, there is value in taking stock of where we are and looking at the entries on our physical, emotional, and spiritual balance sheets.
As the owner of the Cliffs of Moher Retreat in Co Clare, and a health and wellness coach, Michelle Moroney is used to working with people who are reassessing and recalibrating their lives. Now she has drawn on that experience in The Life Audit, a workbook-style guide to how to get the most out of your life.
“There is something about the entire experience of a retreat that is so special, from being in nature and the lovely walks to eating healthy food, meeting like-minded people, turning the phone off for an hour, and focusing on the self. I love the work we do at the centre but I also recognise that not everyone can make that investment, whether it is time or money. I thought a workbook in particular would be something that anyone could do in their own time,” says Moroney.
The book is divided into 12 months, with each devoted to a particular element, such as health and wellness, community and friends, and finance and career.
“It is not like there is one answer, it is a constant seeking to find balance across our lives; when one area starts to work out well, we might need to bring attention somewhere else,” says Moroney.
“I wanted the book to be something that would be empowering for people — instead of looking outside of ourselves for answers, that we would start looking inwards and asking the questions that would help to steer us in the direction that we need.”
Self-acceptance is key to Moroney’s approach and at the core of the book is the message that we are all ‘good enough’. However, this is something people often struggle to take on board. “I think that part of it is that we often know what it is that we need but implementing it is the challenge. The workbook structure is there as a tool, an ally on your own self-guided journey. It provides a framework for people to start to implement change.”
Moroney is also aware there is often a genuine fear of facing and ultimately loving ourselves as we are. “I think self-love is a huge thing for many of us, that our inner self-critic is really tuned to ‘not good enough’. It can come from traumas from childhood, and those can become the lens through which we see the world. The tone I use is encouraging — there is a lot in the book about empathy, compassion, and forgiveness. It is OK if you can’t do it, just start from where you are at today and that is enough, you are enough.”
We live in an attention economy, where digital distractions are legion and it is easy to be overwhelmed by negativity in our newsfeeds or constant messages on social media about what we should or could be. Moroney acknowledges that while it is difficult to counter the psychological lures built into technology, we have a choice when it comes to switching off. “We can choose to turn off our phones and talk about digital detox. We can choose to be in nature more, so that when we go back in and watch the television, it seems a little less real to us. There is something we can do to bring ourselves into a more positive place. And if we are in a strong place on the inside, if we are empowered, we are less likely to be corruptible on the outside, we are less likely to be influenced by what is going on around us.”
Taking the first step is the hardest part but once people start to make the changes they need, it gets easier, says Moroney.
“There is no magic pill and no shortcut. We need self-discipline. But as we make changes, our brain goes ‘oh, that wasn’t so hard’. What we feared wasn’t so bad, and that small thing has made a big difference. We then start to create new pathways in our brains, and it is easier to change the hard-wiring.”
While self-care has become such a buzz word that the concept behind it is in danger of being lost, Moroney says putting ourselves first is one of the best things we can do in terms of our mental and emotional maintenance. She cites a quote from academic and author Brené Brown: “It takes courage to say yes to rest and play in a culture where exhaustion is seen as a status symbol.”
“My kids are aged five, nine, and 12. I prioritise my self-care so when life is particularly busy, I just go to bed early. I skip that glass of wine, I look after myself. I’m also a massive fan of baths. The kids know that the baths are my special time. I bring in a book or watch Netflix, light some candles, make a ritual of it. Or I go for a walk. It’s little or often. No one is going to give that time to me, if I don’t take it.”
The LIfe Audit, by Michelle Moroney, published by Gill Books, €16.99, is out now.