Training my wild elephant to help with post-holiday blues


How do you deal with the end of the summer holidays? For me, this time of year brings the routines of home and work into sharp focus. Having got used to spending more time outdoors or dedicated to creative activities, in the house I notice my impatience in the midst of sorting socks, stacking plates, folding washing and sweeping floors. In the workplace, as someone who is used to handwriting and dealing with paper folders of patients’ notes, I’m aware of having to dig deeper to tolerate my organisation’s increased reliance on unfamiliar electronic recording and storage systems. Being prone to the winter blues, my mission to bring more playfulness into my life feels even more important as I contemplate the coming months of nights drawing in.

In his article, 6 Hacks to Create a Job You Love, Paolo Terni proposes that we turn the routines of life, the activities we find mundane, into games. I’m experimenting with this idea. How about breaking all the rules of effective time management and turning your ‘to do’ list into a lucky dip?  Or awarding yourself points for tackling those tasks you keep putting off and giving yourself a reward at the end of the week for a high score?

This idea reminded me of one of the exercises developed by Jan Chozen Bays in her book ‘How to Train a Wild Elephant and Other Adventures in Mindfulness‘. Bays suggests that we look deeply into our food- using our powerful brains to imagine where the food we eat comes from- bringing to mind all of the people involved in planting, growing, harvesting, packing and transporting that food to our plates. She advocates envisaging all of the people whose energy has contributed to the journey that food has made to reach us. In a nutshell, she wants us to notice that everything and everyone is connected and that remembering these interconnections can help us to approach everyday activities differently.

I realise that I can choose to adopt this playfully curious approach to virtually any of the routines I participate in. Even sorting socks.