You Want Mindfulness? Go Running!

Running is The Dogs when it comes to Mindfulness, IMHO

Original image: skeeze/Pixabay

In my day job, I’ve been writing a lot about Mindfulness lately.

Now that we’re all preparing for a second, six-month lockdown – panic-booking Ocado slots, stockpiling the Cushelle before it goes back on the ration – it’s understandable that we’re also after some mental reinforcement to see us sanely through the dark days ahead. 

So, having exhausted my usual array of mental sandbags on the first surge, I’ve gone back to Mindfulness after a break of almost three years.

I’ve dusted down the old Guided Meditation CD, sat in the same chair with my eyes closed and assumed the familiar pose, supposedly embodying a sense of strength and curiosity.

I spent 20 minutes noticing my breathing and the noises around me, trying to sit quietly with any troubling thoughts that popped into my head.

And it was all right. In fact, it was much the same as it was when I last gave it up: at least I was doing something to combat stress and getting a bit of restful ‘me’ time’.

But one of the thoughts that did occur to me was: “This isn’t as good as running.”

Continue reading “You Want Mindfulness? Go Running!”

Clunk-Click After Every Trip

I’m finally embracing my Voltarol Years – and the prospect of Death

Grim Reaper applies Voltarol
Original image: Rebecca Burg/Pixabay

THE OTHER day, disgusted with myself after a weekend of sinking lager beers in the garden, I forced myself out for a punishment run in the late summer heat.

I cajoled the legs into completing a slow 10k and felt better. Less trashed, that is.  

For the rest of the day, I sat working at the computer. But, by knocking-off time, found I’d seized up, tighter than a Tory’s tear duct.

Continue reading “Clunk-Click After Every Trip”

44 Pages Of Therapy Gold

I’ve only read a quarter of When Things Fall Apart, but it’s changed my life already

It’s a bit of a swizz, this post, because it’s based on a book I’ve only read a quarter of – and probably understood even less.

But I’m so excited by the ideas I’ve found in it already, I couldn’t wait to talk about them.

The book I’m taking about is When Things Fall Apart (Heart Advice For Difficult Times) by the American Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron, which was recommended recently by Matt Haig in The Guardian.

Continue reading “44 Pages Of Therapy Gold”

When Times Get Tough, I Buy Shoes: Running Shoes.

I’m depressed again, but I don’t need happy pills. I just need to run more.

Original images: Mizianitka/Pixabay and doc Price/Unsplash

I’ve been feeling depressed again recently, for the first time in a long while.

I had a knockback at work which – as is my wont – I took quite badly.

And then, there was the end of summer. After the heatwave in mid-August, there were weeks of unseasonal, autumnal storms and heavy rain. I started to sense the short dark days and the long black nights a-coming. And I didn’t like it.

Continue reading “When Times Get Tough, I Buy Shoes: Running Shoes.”

Just My Inbetweeners

I’m done with books that are just OK, now that my longed-for novel has arrived

A book with flowers

I’M STOKED this morning – just because I’m getting a new book.

I’m having to ram my arse down deep into my seat to make myself work, instead of doing what I desperately want to do: leap on my bike and point the wheels towards Waterstones, so I can finally pick up my longed-for new reading matter. 

I’ve been stalking this particular historical detective story– Execution, by SJ Parris – for almost a year now. As its publication date shifted, agonisingly, from early spring to mid-summer, I tracked it like Shere Khan followed Mowgli through the tall grass.

Continue reading “Just My Inbetweeners”

So, Have I Got Coronavirus, Or Not?

It’s time to recognise that there might be more Covid-19 symptoms than we think

When Matt Hancock returned to work after recovering from Covid-19, he told the BBC about the “Incredibly painful throat” that had been one of his main symptoms.

“It was like having glass in (there),” said the Health Secretary.

But when I got a sore throat just over a week ago, I didn’t immediately think: Coronavirus.

I thought it was just a passing thing, possibly hay fever. It was fine the next day, but then came back much worse – accompanied now by an aching in my limbs that reached to my fingertips.

I tried to watch telly with the family, but I was grumpy, and my wife ended up sending me to bed.

And, just in case, she told me to sleep in the top room on my own.

Continue reading “So, Have I Got Coronavirus, Or Not?”

How Coronavirus Can Lead To A Better World

Things can change – and yes, walls can come tumbling down!

The coronavirus as a wrecking ball
Original images: Sylvain Acher/Pixabay; Pete Linforth/Pixabay

THERE IS, literally, something in the air at the moment.

It may just be coincidence but, when I switched on the radio this morning, they were playing Walls Come Tumbling Down.

Remember that? Paul Weller’s rabble rouser from 1985, the zenith of Thatcherism, when he tried bravely to convince us that things didn’t have to be this way.

“You don’t have to take this crap,” Weller sang, adding: “Are you gonna try and make this work, or spend your days down in the dirt?

Well, we all know how that went…. two years later, Maggie got voted in again, and then John Major succeeded her. It wasn’t until 1997 that we got another progressive government.

Today, of course, there’s yet another Tory just been installed at Number 10, and still no end in sight to their dominance of UK politics.

And yet… the sense that things can change is perhaps more tangible these days than at any time since the 1940s.

What’s made the difference is, in a word: Coronavirus.

Continue reading “How Coronavirus Can Lead To A Better World”

I’m Pretty Fucking Far From OK

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week, so I’ll be honest: I’ve had it up to here with this m************ lockdown

Ving Rhames and Bruce Willis in a scene from Pulp Fiction

“ARE YOU OK? Are you all well?”

Have you noticed that, since the start of lockdown, people are asking questions like that and sounding as if they actually mean them, for once?

It’s one of the nicer aspects of being in the middle of a global pandemic – a sense that the person asking actually cares how you are, and isn’t just doing it out of politeness.

I reckon this comes from a tacit acceptance that we’re all vulnerable at the moment – so it’s all right to admit to a certain weakness.

Which is not the worst way to be in Mental Health Awareness Week.

But even now, when someone asks if I’m OK, I’m not laying my entire soul on the line.

I might say something guardedly revealing of certain susceptibilities – and then slap back on the stiff upper lip and add: “Of course we’re coping better than expected.”

So it’s not exactly full disclosure – but this is: today I feel pretty fucking far from OK.

Continue reading “I’m Pretty Fucking Far From OK”

How Putting On Weight In Lockdown Made Me More Humble

Coronavirus has helped me accept that it’s fine to be like everyone else

Man measuring his waist
Image: Michal Jarmoluk/Pixabay

I’ve been thinking a lot about over-indulging while we’ve been in lockdown – and I know I’m not the only one.

The other day, a friend sent a list of Coronavirus phrases trending on What’sApp, including “Covid-10” – meaning the extra 10lbs some of us have put on through comfort eating and drinking since March 23.

In the UK, alcohol sales jumped by 22 per cent in March, while the tendency to binge and put on weight – also known as “fattening the curve” – was likewise observed in countries that went into lockdown before us. 

When the UK followed Italy indoors, the novelist Francesca Melandri wrote from Rome to warn us of the changes that would take place in our lives, many of them involving food.

“First of all, you’ll eat,” Melandri warned. “Not just because it will be one of the few last things that you can still do… You’ll eat again. You will not sleep well… You will put on weight. You’ll look for online fitness training…You will eat again.”

Continue reading “How Putting On Weight In Lockdown Made Me More Humble”

Lockdown = Getting Weird Shit Done

Coronavirus is making us strangely productive – the allotment has never looked so good, we’re righting decades-old wrongs and… bleaching carrier bags

“Someone’s got too much time on their hands” Image: mrshit50s

Conventional wisdom says that it’s The Devil who makes work for idle hands to do.

But, if our family is anything to go by, the lockdown has actually unleashed the work ethic and creative juices that lurk – if you look hard enough – in the breast of every right-thinking Brit.

We’re still working from home but – as we don’t have to spend time on commuting, make-up or dressing properly – we have become wildly productive in some unexpected areas.

Continue reading “Lockdown = Getting Weird Shit Done”