I was at a work conference. I work for a company called Shopify.
If you’ve not heard of Shopify, that’s cool – Shopify provides the platform for people from all walks of life to set up an online store and enter the ecommerce world and so, as theglobeandmail.com put it:
“Shopify likes to remain hidden, like plumbing. It wants its customers to be the name brands”.
If you want to know more about them, have at it at shopify.com.
Anyway, one of the speakers at this conference was this Bressie fella.
If you’re Irish you probably know who Niall “Bressie” Breslin is.
But being a durrty foreigner on the Emerald Isle, I didn’t have a clue…
and Google told me that:
- he is an Irish musician and former Westmeath Gaelic footballer and Leinster Rugby player,
- who found success as the lead singer, guitarist and songwriter with pop band The Blizzards, as a co-writer and producer with XIX Entertainment, and as a solo artist.
- He was the winning coach on the first and third seasons of The Voice of Ireland.
But more importantly, Bressie was here to talk about his battle with anxiety.
Despite all his successes, Bressie spoke candidly and openly about how the problem with mental health isn’t mental health itself, but our inability to talk about it.
Every remote worker knows: sat on your own at a laptop for hours on end every day can be a lonely and incredibly anxiety-inducing experience.
He also commented on Ireland’s history of dealing with their emotions…
…and he lambasted the government’s notable lack of investment and infrastructure to deal with mental health issues.
It’s not that politicians don’t care, Bressie said, it’s that certain topics aren’t politically expedient. He went on to quote James Carville – strategist for Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 presidential campaign – who said “it’s the economy stupid.”
Politicians want to talk about the economy because that’s what they think people care most about, but Bressie has made it his job to get people talking about mental health.
One of the big takeaways was when he pointed out that you don’t have to have experienced some terrible trauma in your life for your anxiety to be valid, legitimate or worthy of serious concern.
You don’t have to have experienced some terrible trauma in your life for your anxiety to be valid, legitimate or worthy of serious concern.
In fact, as most people the world over will tell you: life is getting more anxiety-inducing across the board as we spend more time on our screens, in our virtual worlds, arguing on social media threads (guilty!) and generally disappearing into The Digital Darkness.
So Bressie threw down a challenge to us.
He outlined 5 rules to follow for 10 days, and to take note of how we felt at the end of it all.
And I’m going to give it a go.
Rule 1: Limit Your Exposure to Toxic Environments.
The biggest toxic element in my life is social media and the news. I used to treat following the news as a moral and social duty. You need to be informed, you need to be educated, you need to have a sense of perspective.
This is all true, but there comes a point when you’re no longer learning from, growing from, developing from your constant consumption of news.
First off, it’s always bad news.
Secondly, we don’t even really fully read or digest what we come across before we’re on to the next headline or image.
And THIRDLY, we are addicted to the bad news we keep receiving because we are evolutionarily predisposed to prefer bad news over good news – it’s called the Negativity Bias.
Hell, those are all reasons for why I started The Creative Atom – to instill a little more positivity in my life, but also to force myself to slow down.
So I’m going to leave social media for a good 10 days and record my experience here.
Rule 2: Say Something Nice About Yourself.
In that moment just before you fall a sleep you should pat yourself on the back for something you did that day. Congratulate yourself on achieving something, however minor it may be.
Whether it was going to the gym, developing a cure for cancer, or having the will-power to not eat the last cookie, congratulate yourself for it just before nodding off.
I’m going to do that here too, and you shall know about it!
Rule 3: Don’t look at your phone in the morning.
Ok, this would normally be incredibly difficult for me were it not for the fact that I actually completely destroyed my phone riding the dodgems yesterday in the funpark that Shopify booked out for us as an end-of-summit party. (I know, pretty cool right?)
Bressie suggested instead performing “Gratitude Meditation”. Now, this sounds a little hippy dippy to me, but in the interests of being kinder to myself I really must give the full 5 steps a go.
So you need to list 5 things you’re grateful for each morning. You could be grateful for slippers, or Doritos, your partner or the fact that your dog didn’t take a shite on your living room carpet this morning.
I’ll do that here too.
Rule 4: Practice mindfulness.
As Bressie actually put it “I’m not expecting you to pull on orange robes and disappear on a retreat”. No, the idea actually is to take a moment each day to intentionally and purposefully try to take in the details around you. Go for a walk along a beach, or go for a run. Lie in a bath for an hour with some music.
Rule 5: Stop judging people – be extraordinarily kind.
Now THIS is difficult.
I spend a lot of time judging myself, and by extension I end up judging others too.
Part of me thinks this is an essential part of being an engaged member of society – and perhaps that’s because I grew up in a country where everyone is so determined to NOT assume any responsibility for their actions (Malta, that’s a whole other blog post).
However I understand in essence that there’s a tipping point when you end up mired in negativity as a result of always judging people. When you take it too far.
And sometimes you need to challenge yourself by deliberately confronting judgement even as it starts to form on your lips. Asking yourself why the other person is behaving the way they are? What could be behind the (perceived) bad behaviour
So these are the 5 rules and I’m going to attempt to do all this religiously for 10 days and note what happens.
If anyone else has any other tips or suggestions, or if you want to give this a go too and let me know about your experience of trying it, please don’t hesitate to let me know – either in the comments or here!