The smugness of mindfulness has made self care stressful
It’s 3.48am on a Thursday and I’m wide awake. Oops. In traditional early morning fashion, my mind has launched into a wormhole of ridiculous concerns. What if Brexit means we’re trapped in the UK? I shudder, staring up at the moon through the glass. What if I’m getting worry lines at 22? What if there’s an escaped viper in my bed?
At a human time in the morning, my brain would be smart enough to dismiss these ludicrous musings as something born of stress and too much caffeine. Alas, at 4am, my synapses disagree.
And that’s exhausting. Happily, I have a solution.
- Grasp wildly in the dark for my earphones
- Look up an incredibly dull documentary on aubergine harvesting or Etruscan silverware
- Set ‘play’ on an incredibly low volume
- Listen until my mind switches off.
I guarantee that I’ll have fallen asleep within ten minutes of listening to a bloke called Harold drone on about wine merchants in ancient Tuscany.
Those annoying, preachy mindfulness videos will tell you I’m doing it all wrong. I should be listening to my absurd fretting and working through my worries to a place of calm. Ha.
I strongly doubt that’s worked for anyone who has a busy brain. If I thought for one moment that my concern for my left eyebrow were deeply rooted in my childhood loneliness then maybe I’d bother to work through that. But most normal thoughts, for most people, don’t really need much attention. In fact, I’d brazenly tell you to ignore them.
That’s right, disassociate. I said it.
There is a time for thinking, and a time to build a fictional island in your head to stop yourself thinking about what Aunt Sarah said to you three years ago.
I’m a strong believer in the 3 Ds: daydreaming, distraction and disassociation. Modern fad ‘do it yourself’ psychology would probably recoil in horror at that. It’s as if anyone who likes to relax into a quick meander through a passing fancy is as unhealthy as someone who smokes 50 cigarettes a day.
And this is (if you don’t mind me saying so) a load of rot. Daydreaming is normal. Healthy even. We’ve all wondered what we’d do if we were absurdly made PM, or what we’d do if the 7.09 to Kennington accidentally ran through to Bali. Daydreaming is just processing hopes and curiosities and is in no way this weird extreme illness that stops us from understanding ourselves.
Daydreaming and zoning out is normal when our emotions are overwhelming. Like everything dull and healthy, it’s about a balance.
If you put a human in a room with no creative stimuli, you’d find a pretty whacko human after a week or two. The human brain needs to wonder about things, and it also needs to think less pragmatically at times. Providing daydreaming isn’t damaging your work or safety, it can be a great thing.
If we spent our whole time out in the grasslands 200,000 years ago thinking “Oh no, a lion might eat me” we’d never have found out about what happens if you blow through a hollow branch, or smudged ochre on a wall. Being totally stuck in ruthless meditative realism limits creativity and it limits your wellbeing.
Zoning out on your own emotions is also fine. I actively encourage it, when appropriate. Whether you choose to lie under a tree and think about ballet, or wonder what soup you want for supper, disassociating from your environment (or feeling) isn’t always a bad thing.
It does what it says on the tin: it removes you from a boring or unpleasant situation. You don’t want to feel anxious when it isn’t helpful. You don’t need to be in touch with your inner self when hoovering the drawing room.
If listening to music, having a bath, doodling a fairy or imagining you are a football legend makes you feel good, just do it. Ignore the snobs, the yoga mats, the self help books and the tuts when you work out that traditional meditating isn’t your thing.
You do you, kid. If it works, it works.