Is it co-incidence, or do the people I know start trends? Seriously. My husband has been talking about mindfulness for years. Now it’s the buzz word in mental wellbeing. When I was at uni, my friend Iszy championed pink wine. There was a boom in sales and now it’s everywhere. My mate Hannah said she liked kale. A few months later Beyonce was papped wearing a kale-emblazoned jumper. God, Beyonce, start your own trends!
I suppose it’s the same as thinking a new band were quite good, then they burst onto the popular scene and I thought it was all thanks to me. But really I know, if I like something, I’m not the only one and I didn’t cause a revolution by myself.
But still, my husband (and all them Buddhists) liked mindfulness before you did, alright?
I, on the other hand, can’t really be arsed. I’ve tried yoga a few times but I hate all the meditating at the end. I say meditating – while other people are meditating, I’ve lying there with my eyes closed thinking: “BORING!”
It’s not that I don’t like my own company or thoughts – I love what’s going on in the old think tank. I just don’t want to do things slowly or concentrate on one thing at a time.
Popular culture, and my mindful husband, would have me believe that a dollop of mindfulness is good for the soul and whatnot, so I decided to sign up to Do Something Different.
Do is “an online behaviour change programme that makes it easy to embrace new behaviours and break the habits that limit us.” (PR jargon alert, but sounded like a bit of fun.) For 30 days I was sent little instructions and suggestions for daily mindful tasks.
At first, I loved it. ‘Take a moment outside, smell some flowers,’ Do said. No probs – done. Flowers are great and it was lovely to stop scurrying around for a minute and just enjoy being alive.
Today is Appreciation Day, Do said. Great! I appreciate life! I stopped what I was doing (staring at my computer) and went outside to give my chickens some peanuts. They go nuts for peanuts. I tuned in to the birdsong in the garden, something I often miss because I’m too busy listening to Radio Kimberley in my head. I realised the kitchen smelt like coffee. I liked Appreciation Day.
Then came ‘Ask a friend or neighbour for help’ day. Confide in a friend, reach out to a colleague, seek advice from an expert, ask a neighbour to lend a hand.
Uh-oh. I hate asking for help. It would have been good to get our neighbour to get up on our roof and fix our leaking chimney, but she’s about 50 so it seems quite unfair. In the end we did it ourselves, after seeking advice from an expert called Google. Does that count?
A few days later, Do told me it was No Moan Day.
Uh-oh. I moan. I bitch. I whine. It was good to be aware of that somewhat undesirable trait and stop myself being a critical old wench, if only for a day. (I presume one day’s self improvement was all that was required, as opposed to actually permanently changing my personality.)
There were various days where Do instructed me to touch base with someone I cared about. To let them know I was thinking about them. To ask them how their day was. To listen to the answer. To make someone feel loved.
And herein lies the problem with me. I’m lazy. I could have called a friend, but Gaz was right here in the room with me. So I’d get up and casually wander over to him.
“Hey Gaz. I care about you. How you doing?” I’d say, stroking the hair from his forehead while imagining us having a deep and meaningful chat as a result of my generously connecting with him in my new mindful fashion.
“You’re doing your little mindful project on me again aren’t you? It doesn’t count if you just come over here, say what you’ve been told to say and tick it off your list.”
He’s such a jerk.
Do told me to call someone I loved. I can’t be fussing about calling people, so I emailed my brother. ‘How are you, brother? How are my nephews? How is your life?’
That’ll do it, I thought. My brother will write back a long, loving email and I’ll feel connected to him.
A day later, brother replied.
“All good in the hood.”
That was it. Don’t these people realise I’m trying to be mindful, by the easiest route possible?
My favourite day was the Spread Happiness Day, where I was instructed to smile more. Smiling feels great and, I discovered, makes other people smile too. Wiping off my permanent scowl and going about my day with a smile on my face really did spread happiness, and unlike other challenges that I could / should have held on to in order to improve my personality, this one was a keeper. I’m still smiling now. Yup, right now.
Make People Matter Day. I liked this one. You know when someone is talking to you and you’re also checking your emails? It’s what I call Not Being On The Mountain. The mindfulness mountain. So you’re in the room, present, but your mind is elsewhere and the person talking to you has not got your undivided attention. That’s not cool. This Do helped me respect conversations and really, actually, like, listen to the words coming out of my husband’s gob.
Let It Go Day. All about realising you’re holding on to a load of crap. Not sure if it meant perpetually reminding your husband he broke that tea mug you loved, or going through your wardrobe and bagging up all the clothes you never wear and giving them to your niece. I went for the latter. Because he did break that tea mug I loved and it’s important that I remind him. (I once broke my husband’s camera. Smashed it to smithereens. He never reminds me about it, the bastard.)
There was Good Feedback Day, where Do asked me to ask some people whose opinions I valued what they thought my best assets were. Er, hello! This isn’t America! There is no way in hell I’d ever ASK for a compliment.
If you’re into mindfulness, and who isn’t these days, there is a movement going on, then give Do Something a whirl. It’s good to take on little challenges and practise being in the moment. Because if you’re not in the moment, you’re in the past or the future, neither of which are satisfactory places to be, when you think about how quick life is. I’m not saying I’m any good at it. I’m already thinking about what I’m going to do when I finish typing this sentence (go and sit in the sun and read a little book) and if I’m honest, once I get there I’ll be thinking about what’s for dinner while I’m trying to read, resulting in my having to re-read several paragraphs.
But I believe mindfulness is just a muscle that needs training. And it’s quite fun to give someone or something your undivided att…. oo, a puppy!