At the start of this year, my company tried to inflict a New Year’s resolution on all of us. Some people reacted badly - others embraced it.
I was somewhere in between and I don’t blame them. After all, a healthy and happy work force is a good work force.
The Managing Director tasked HR with encouraging us all to be healthier in 2017 in four ways – diet, physical health, mind and finance (although finance was a little bit weird in my opinion).
For diet, we were encouraged to eat healthily and they even provided fruit every Monday and brought in nutritionists to chat to anybody that was interested about the benefits of eating good stuff. I wasn’t interested in this because I actually eat very healthily, in my opinion (apart from the odd burger, full English and beer or two).
For finance, we were encouraged to look after our cash and assets with a newsletter pointing out the long term benefits of savings, spending wisely and generally not blowing all of your cash on stupid things. Again, I wasn’t interested because I think that myself and Mrs PM are okay at the moment. Besides, if they want to improve my financial well-being they can bloody well give me a massive pay increase for having to endure some of the shit I have to endure.
For health, various people who exercise were asked to give seminars about their chosen discipline, including kayaking, rock climbing, marathon running and even pole-dancing. Groups of people clubbed together and took on a challenge of trying to walk in excess of 10.000 steps a day, competing against each other for fun. I walk two and a quarter miles every lunchtime of every working day and I am proud to say that I think I walk the most during a working day. HR were very interested in this and asked me to take a group of people on my walk at lunchtime.
I politely refused. Why?
Because the whole point of my going for a walk is to escape work. I pound the streets around my office with tiny little jukebox blasting out pop, rock and heavy metal, to allow me to enter the zone of contemplation and drift into my own little world, expunging, temporarily at least, any work related issues that may induce stress. It works for me and the last thing I want is a group of people bitching about work to further ruin my day.
However, the final topic – the mind – intrigued me.
HR arranged a seminar, inviting a woman to tell us all about mindfulness. This was the only seminar I attended. I am fascinated with the power of the mind and the ability and capability of certain people to use their mind to escape and control other physical attributes. Having been a victim of stress many years ago, and having delved recently into things like hypnosis (for fun initially) I was keen to open my mind to new techniques to support my positive outlook this year.
When I started looking at hypnosis, my purpose was to write a mocking blog post about how stupid people were if they thought that listening to somebody appeal to their subconscious mind would in any way help them to escape their vices, or change their behaviour. When I actually tried it, I was amazed that the effect of being hypnotised can actually vaguely work. Not that I do this now, of course, but I no longer mock those who believe in at as an alternative therapy.
The same principle applies to mindfulness, which is a similar concept. Basically, mindfulness is a form of meditation. The woman who presented the seminar gave us an overview of mindfulness and told us that she had actually used it to help her get through a major health scare a few years ago. She had been diagnosed with cancer and thankfully she is now fully fit again. To help support her mind during those trying times, she used meditation techniques and this helped her cope.
Again, I had a healthy scepticism about it but opened my mind to the possibilities. It wasn’t until we actually tried meditating that I was surprised. She asked us to sit up straight, focus on our breathing and allow our minds to wander, quelling any other thoughts and allowing our minds to settle and drift. There were about twelve of us in the room and I suddenly found myself just listening to her as she guided us through thinking about our own bodies. What struck me was the clock in the room. That may sound weird but I have been in that room many times and never sensed the clock. All I could hear was the gentle ticking. After a few minutes, she spoke again and asked us how we felt. It was almost like being hypnotised and I actually felt really good.
Mindfulness had taken me to the same zone that I enter when walking at lunchtime. It was the same as listening to a favourite song and allowing the gentle melody to take you on a journey through your own imagination.
I actually loved it.
And you are reading the words of a man who, in the past, has taken such things with a pinch of salt and only feigned interest when using it as ammunition to mock people on a medium such as this.
Actually, the key thing is that you don’t have to go away and hide to give this a go – and you can achieve a calmer demeanour in as little as two minutes.
There was a little bit of Buddhist nonsense attached to it, which I have dismissed, but the principle is sound and I would recommend giving it a go, particularly when news about Brexit or Donald Trump appears on your telly box.