How 10 Minutes of daily intentional activity encourages wellbeing.
We are all busy, we love to make excuses, to find why we haven’t got time to follow through on the careful evidence based research that well-intentioned Positive Psychologists spend hours over. Gratitude Journals litter our desks with post-it notes of retreats we mean to attend, we download mindfulness apps, make lists of inspirational Ted Talks and then turn on the telly and open a bottle of wine…or is that just me?
I want ways to integrate research is natural to my way of being, fits my lifestyle and can be attached to existing habits, because I know that’s how it will stick; when I do something that doesn’t require a great deal of effort, feels like fun and soon shows me tangible results I will keep doing it.
I like to get creative, don’t follow rules and play around with other people’s ideas to fit my needs. I designed a ten day experiment for myself to try out a range of varied interventions supposed to increase my well-being. Each practise was for ten minutes a day, a bit like high intensity training but a psychological version. I wasn’t necessarily expecting huge leaps in happiness, I was looking for things I could add in to my life easily that would accrue long term benefits. Each day’s intentional activity was like taster to try out my feeling of how committed I may be to continuing with it in the future.
This is what I did and what I learnt:
DAY 1: Mindful Moments
I did ten minutes whilst in the shower; I love the fact with mindfulness that it increases the feeling of any experience. When you use all your senses to build up an in-depth picture of the world around you, are aware of each tiny nuance. My bathrooms not luxurious, I noticed the sun coming through window-cobwebs makes great patterns, the unhurried way the less than fast-jet of water from the shower spray splashes me delicately and the smell of cheap soap is really good. My towels are not fluffy but that slight rough sensation is invigorating and my coffee tasted better, the ten minutes ran over bathroom time.
I learnt that I love living life mindfully, I am intentionally mindful whenever I remember to be. I’ve noticed that when I truly take the time to be mindful even normal routine events take on a magical feel, the dishes on the side glow with loveliness as the water droplets sparkle in the sun. My pile of washing makes amazing shapes and toothpaste can be squeezed onto your brush in so many ways!
DAY 2: Inside Awareness
I spent ten minutes listening to my heart and my gut-feelings, noticing thoughts and self-talk. What is happening on the outside to create that sensation on the inside? When I feel that moment a smile begins to form asking “where is my mind?” And taking notice of where that smile spreads to in the rest of my body. We often pay more attention to physical sensations of unhappiness; we notice a heavy heart, than we do of joyful sensations.
I learnt that my internal ‘light up moments’ get stronger when I pay attention to them. I notice that they often occur when I am in my kitchen on my own baking. I go into the flow ‘zone’. Paying attention I become focused, peaceful and operate in a space that transcends time. I get this sense when playfully creating in other ways too; cutting, sticking, collaging, making a mess with paper. I can feel like this when I dance and sometimes in a yoga class. These are the things that I go back to time and time again because I know they are guaranteed to make me glow from the inside.
DAY 3: Step Outside of Time
I stopped everything for ten minutes just being still, being quiet, just being (some call it meditation) to remove normal clock time; I had no intention to notice anything, so not mindful, no requirement to change anything. I found this hard. But just accepting thoughts and letting them move on, a kind of ‘oh that’s interesting but if I need to I can catch up with that thought later’ kind of attitude helped me be patient with my mind.
I learnt that some days whizz past and others drag on, minutes seem like hours, hours can pass in seconds and both the speeding up or slowing down are interesting to observe.
I now have a non- time day whenever I can, a day when you haven’t got to be anywhere or do anything in a set time it’s lovely to not to wear a watch or look at the clock. Who cares what time you have lunch or shower? Just watching the day go by without a list is luxurious. There will always be another day to step back into.
DAY4: Do What you Love (just because you can)
I did ten minutes of dancing in the kitchen with utter abandonment. For the sheer pleasure of it, for me. This is easy peasy, music up loud; chuck myself about without any thought to anyone but me.
I learnt that baking, creating, dancing and yoga make me feel happy not because of the end result; the cake to eat, the image to look at, the calories burned or the fact that you can master breathing whilst standing on one leg, but just for the sheer pleasure of doing them. I will do them as often as I can and the best way is to schedule one of them in my diary everyday as well as allowing space for spontaneous ten minute slots of pure me-time.
DAY 5: Do Something Differently (as opposed to doing something different)
I did ten minutes of listening to a podcast by someone with opposing and extreme views, this was very uncomfortable. I love to use the digital experience to reinforce the knowledge I already have and to hear opinions reflected back to me that I agree with. Doing something I already enjoy but from an altered perspective, even for a very short time felt as if I had put my shoes on the wrong feet.
I learnt that I like to see myself as curious and flexible however I have developed habits that are fixed and narrow my vision of the world. Recalling this when I am operating on autopilot has made life a bit more fun. I love cakes but don’t love sugar so I’ve learnt to tweak recipes and find inspiration in alternative ways to bake; same amount of pleasure in both the making and the eating; I used to shy away from dressing in anything bright but now wear loads of colour I have learnt to branch out rather than move to a new neck of the woods!
DAY 6: Share
I spent ten minutes sharing my time with a complete stranger. I wanted to see how it felt sharing my consideration, giving a stranger my undivided attention for ten minutes. I stopped and asked the man on the pavement how he was? I listened completely to him attempting to understand his views without being distracted by my own thought process. I actually did this for a few blocks of ten minutes that day as each time I came out for a break he was still sitting in the same spot. He said it was nice to have someone to talk to who wasn’t drunk…we often think that we need to share material goods when sharing time may be relevant.
I learnt that I am lucky to be surrounded by people I love and when I have finished my happy making baking (or messy play) they are there to share the enjoyment. We love to exchange our private creative worlds to gather together and reconnect. I am very lucky to have common interests with my closest family; they too like cooking, creating, dancing and yoga. We all enjoy each other’s creativity, and like to extend that pleasure by sharing with friends, and friends of friends, sometimes the more the merrier. However I am also able to share aspects of myself with people who I may never encounter again and that can enrich my life.
DAY 7: Find Time for Awe
I spent ten minutes looking out of the window at my neglected garden seeing how nature has taken over to create a ramshackle but beautiful cacophony of colours and forms to make a stylish setting where the birds, squirrels and foxes seem more than content. I have huge admiration for the environment’s ability to generate such beauty unaided.
I learnt that awesomeness is just as available in suburbia as it is in far flung travel locations; I don’t need to explore exotic places to be awed by the world.
DAY 8: Be Grateful
I set aside ten minutes to message as many people as I could how grateful I am to have them in my life. A bit like speed-gratefulness and not how you are usually advised to practice gratitude, savouring it being the more normal recommendation. I liked the challenge of sending out as many messages with meaning as I could; it was silly but still made me feel good.
I learnt that there are days when I want to walk around hugging everyone and saying how much I love them; how grateful I am to have them in my life. It can get on peoples nerves. I wasn’t designed to be cynical (yes I’m lucky… and grateful for that!)I’m lucky to be alive. I don’t want to take that for granted though; I’m very grateful for those who aren’t and who have taught me to value the preciousness of life.
DAY 9: Accept the Appreciation of Others
Finding how to do ten minutes of being loved required outside help. I didn’t want to ask for ten minutes of being told how wonderful I am (UGH!) but I have got a folder with emails in from people sharing how they appreciate me and so I re-read them for ten whole minutes.
I learnt that sometimes taking complements or hearing a ‘thank you’ makes me feel uncomfortable; I feel awkward when a friend says “I think you’re super….thank you for being there.” But in a written form it’s okay.
I can tuck away the thank you for a rainy day when I need reminding of how loved I am.
DAY 10: Silly Moments
I did ten minutes of being silly, pretending to be a clown, pulling faces, attempting cartwheels, generally larking about on my own. With no one to watch I didn’t feel embarrassed, it was very freeing. I noticed that I felt relaxed in the same way that meditation leaves me feeling.
I learnt that I am good at being silly. I can be inappropriate, do daft things and not care. I can laugh at myself. I am good at standing on one leg but not on my head .I can no longer manage cartwheels but smiling whilst blowing bubbles is a breeze. I assign myself a daily quota of blowing kisses, chasing clouds, following rainbows and even wear coloured tights! Life doesn’t have to be serious all the time.
High intensity thriving (Mind-HIT) only requires ten minutes of daily intentional practice which can be adapted to suit anyone whatever or wherever they are in their life or the world. It doesn’t need expert training, internet access or money.
For my ten minutes today I am going to lie on my kitchen floor and ponder the marks on the ceiling allowing my mind to take me wherever it wishes. Tomorrow I may walk barefoot on wet grass. Each day I take ten minutes to experience life from a new angle. Ten minutes to Love more. To eat more avocados if I want or to finger paint with mashed up avocados if I prefer. To make daisy chains or paper chains. All those ten minutes soon add up to a whole package of learning what makes you thrive in your own unique way.
Originally published at medium.com