Last week was International Day of Happiness, and at the opposite end of the spectrum in January it was Blue Monday- tipped as the most depressing day of the year. Both made me focus on what I want to do differently or what I wished to maintain. In 2005 Dr Cliff Arnall, formerly of Cardiff University, came up with a light-hearted formula for predicting the glummest day of the year based on factors including debts, weather, time since Christmas and motivation. After the excitement of the holiday and the rush of ‘New Year, New Me’ resolutions it is the day when most of us struggle with the plans that we’ve made. January often starts with a long ‘to do’ list. Perhaps we’ve committed to a daily run, a healthier diet or to take up a daily mindfulness practice. By mid January it’s cold, it’s dark and the rain is lashing down – putting on the trainers and getting outside can feel like a particular struggle while that packet of chocolate biscuits in the office is calling.. We can start off with good intentions and a healthy dose of willpower but this can be hard to maintain.
Although I try to formally practice Mindfulness everyday, occasionally other things get in the way. Just as with my mindfulness practice, it can be easy to feel that we’ve fallen at the first hurdle and give up. However, Dr Arnall suggests we could use Blue Monday as a springboard for change- to make the most of our lives and live it to the full. Instead of seeing Blue Monday as a time to look at what we’ve failed to achieve…we can use it as a time to reflect and renew…we can always re-start. It’s as simple as knowing what we want for the future and re-committing to it. So we can see ‘Blue Monday’ as a time to begin again. International Day of Happiness reminded me to begin again..again.
This is Mindful Leadership – being present, reconnecting with who we want to be and coming back to that even in times of uncertainty or struggle. For me, my Mindfulness practice allows me to re connect with not just what I want to achieve but also the question of who I want to be. It allows greater clarity. Being more mindful is not an intellectual exercise or one that we ‘fail’ at. Although I can be self-critical if I miss a practice, I remind myself that re-starting can be as simple as becoming aware of my breath, letting my mind settle and observing it for the next 5 minutes. Mindful Leadership allows us to live life one breath, one moment at a time and when necessary, observing the opportunity to begin our practice once more. By constantly committing to be more mindful one practice at a time, it can have real impact. We just need to start.
A simple and quick way of doing this is to start the day with an attitude of renewal and purposeful intention.
1). On waking and before ‘starting’ your day, bring your attention to your breath and follow that for 10 breaths. If your mind wanders, just bring it back to the sensation of the breath moving in and out of the body.
2). Next, think of one thing that you are grateful for.
3). Finish the practice with one intention for the day.