The theme of Chapel this term is all about the things that you love doing, be that listening to music, sport, going to the theatre, reading etc. And of course, doing things that you love tends to help with your wellbeing.
The things that I love to do, that certainly heighten my feeling of wellbeing and happiness are very simple activities which bring an often much-needed level of calm to my day. I don’t get to do all of them every day, but I will certainly always try to incorporate one of these activities into each day.
The first is walking my dog. I go out at six every morning with Albert, in the dark or just as dawn is breaking, and we walk for fifteen minutes. So, it’s not a long time but it is long enough to get my head around the forthcoming events of the day. It’s enough time for me to notice things like the amazing sky over the silhouette of the castle, to hear the morning birdsong and, of course, to talk through any thorny issues with my confidante, Albert. He’s a good listener, as I am sure any of you with a pet will understand.
The second thing that I love to do is my jigsaws. I am quite particular about the type, make and size of jigsaw that I like to do. It has to be 1000 pieces, it has to be made by Gibsons, one of the oldest jigsaw companies in existence, and the image of the jigsaw is always a classic scene such as the one I am completing right now called The Golden Hour. Jigsaws allow me to take myself completely away from whatever is on my mind. It is a form of meditation which, of course, is another way of focusing on my wellbeing.
The third thing that I love to do is read. I have recently stumbled across the authors Nicci Gerrard and Sean French, two Suffolk authors who write together under the pseudonym, Nicci French. They write psychological thrillers and I am absolutely hooked! I love the whole process, from choosing the book to turning over the last page and finishing it. Reading is utterly immersive and I don’t think there is anything better than having a book that you simply don’t want to stop reading.
According to recent studies, there are interesting patterns emerging that suggest society as a whole, and especially younger generations such as yours and those in their twenties, are looking for ways to slow down the pace of life, to take more time to focus on wellbeing. The patterns suggest an increase in nostalgia, a desire to go back to the old ways of relaxing, doing things that require more time and patience and as a result bring more gratification. But why are we looking to slow things down? Why are we becoming increasingly nostalgic? For example, why are people turning to music played on vinyl, on record players? and to books made of paper that we hold in our hand, whose corners we turn down?
Amazingly, more than 5 million vinyl records were sold in 2021, the highest total since 1990. If you want something on vinyl, you need to find it, buy it, buy yourself a record player. You slip the record out of its sleeve, you check for marks, you check the needle of the record player for dust, you place the record on the turn table carefully and drop the arm onto the record. It’s quite a process, and in following that process, we slow ourselves down. Many say that the music we hear through vinyl is more honest and less perfect than the music we hear when we download a track. There are imperfections but, in those imperfections, somehow, we find a more real, authentic experience and we feel closer to the musicians. The effort is worth it.
Similarly, the footfall in independent bookshops has dramatically increased as more people are looking for the experience of going into a shop, of touching the books, of picking them up, reading the blurb on the back and moving onto look at a different one. Some people, I’m one of them, like to smell the books – there’s nothing better than the smell of a new book, other than the smell of a musty old one of course!
Slow TV is another example of this desire to slow things down. You might think that it would be boring to watch a group of reindeer ambling through a snow-covered landscape: no action, no words and no sound other than the trudge, trudge of their paws through the snow. Weirdly it’s really calming and more weirdly you might think, slow TV is increasingly popular.
Some say that it is the pandemic that has led to this need to move away from the intensity of life in the digital age. Having been forced to slow down, there’s been a realisation that this is actually a good thing for our wellbeing. Perhaps the fast-paced, instant lifestyle with everything on demand is just a little bit too easy. The gratification and fulfilment that we get from living this way is perhaps not quite as strong as achieving things with a little more thought, effort and personal investment, or to put it another way, by doing things the “old fashioned way”.
To relax and focus on our own mental health and wellbeing we need to find ways of being still. It takes time to work out how to block out the distractions, noise, hurly-burly, background blurb in our life. Perhaps some of you can relate to my enjoyment of the simple pleasures that I have mentioned but either way, make sure you do have techniques for slowing down. If you don’t, try wandering round a book shop, try walking for fifteen minutes or try watching some slow tv. You never know, you might fall for those reindeer too.