Still your mind and move your body!

A friend was telling me about a colleague who was giving a talk about mental health.  He seemed a robust and cheerful man. He was talking about his grandfather and his father and how they had led long and healthy lives.  He then came to himself and revealed that he had spent a considerable part of his life on anti-depressants.  A shock to the audience, as no one would have guessed that to be the case. It is great that people are feeling more able to come out and have these conversations, and recognise that mental health issues are not something to be ashamed of.

It got me thinking about why there is this apparent increase in depression and mental health issues, and whilst I personally don’t have the scientific evidence to prove this, I do have some theories.  I suspect that this chap’s father and grandfather walked a lot more than he does.  I would imagine that physical activity made up a more significant part of their daily life than his.  I wonder whether they went to church and, irrespective of their beliefs about God, just spent some quiet time sitting and reflecting; possibly thinking about last week’s events, maybe saying a couple of thank-you prayers and considering anything they may approach differently in the week ahead. Sunday afternoon may have included a walk with the children.

Depending on their jobs they may have spent a quiet 10mins polishing their shoes while their wife knitted. Though her life may have been physically harder in many ways, time polishing the silver or washing up may have had her in peaceful contemplation.  I recognise I am painting a romanticised picture here and there could have been many stresses and strains in their lives, it is unlikely that they had quite so much competition for their attention. There may have been more and harder domestic chores before dish-washers, washing machines and vacuum cleaners, but those chores weren’t competing with text messages, e-mails and facebook conversations, combined with the background noise of the TV.

Family meal-times and saying grace gave an opportunity to be together as a family, to talk, and say thank you for their food.  One couldn’t be expected to travel as far as we currently do because transport wasn’t as convenient.  If you partook in regular activities it is likely that they were local to you.  I suspect that people didn’t try to cram as much in, and when they did go places they will have often walked at least some of the journey.

So I suspect that people had more quiet time or even silence.  They had more space to think and more stillness.  There were possibly more rituals where people said thank you and I suspect everyone moved more.

I take people walking and teach them mindfulness because I believe that our bodies need to move and our brains occasionally need to be still.  I believe these elements are essential to our mental and physical wellbeing. When did you last still your mind and move your body?

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