I've spent a fair bit of time outside in the last few days, exploring my local area as lockdown exercise restrictions have been relaxed.
I am restless just now, and I think that's down to having been no further than a 3 mile radius of my house for the last 10 weeks. From what I can see, this kind of thing is affecting a lot of people's mindsets, and it's something we have talked a lot about in work.
It has raised again the concept of mindfulness. I have to be honest, I've never really bought into this idea, as it has struck me as a way to make a lot of money out of businesses who (rightly) have put an increasing focus on their employees mental health.
I have not engaged actively with any particular mindfulness solutions, but quick look at the NHS website tells me that it was developed because "it's easy to stop noticing the world around us. It's also easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up living 'in our heads' – caught up in our thoughts without stopping to notice how those thoughts are driving our emotions and behaviour".
I've struggled with the idea of consciously 'practicing' mindfulness. I have attempted, on several occasions, to connect with the sounds and sensations of my breathing, to try to prevent my thoughts from wandering.
I find this hard. Maybe that says more about me than mindfulness itself, but reading on, through the info from the NHS, it is clear to point out that the jury is still out on how effective it is.
For me, I've always found the best way to find some greater peace of mind is to get active. Sitting still, not doing anything usually makes me more anxious if anything. Getting out, maybe for a run, or more recently, to be out in our countryside, is a much more effective tonic.
Of course, experiencing the wildlife, the views, the sights and sounds of nature has always been something that helps me feel more grounded. And far from actively trying to prevent my mind from wandering, filling it with thoughts and appreciation for the gifts our natural world keeps giving, particularly through this Covid 19 crisis, has been hugely beneficial.
Taking in the details, the way things change, grow and develop through Spring and into Summer, paying attention to the movement around me, the insects landing, working out which bird is singing, or watching house martins tearing down the river. All of these things occupy my mind, keeping it busy but crucially making me happy.
Look at the face in this picture! How could that not make you smile?
I'm not saying mindfulness doesn't do something for some people...I know some friends who are big advocates.
But for me, it's about putting yourself somewhere that your mind is stimulated and your heart is happy. If that's in silence in your bedroom, in your place of worship or on the top of a wild and windswept moor, I guess it doesn't matter too much.
I'd sooner be outside and putting more stuff in my mind, rather than keeping things out of it.