So I’m in Scotland, which means my ability to respond to comments is limited, but I did want to pass along something I learned on the flight over here. I do not own a TV, so those little screens on the seat ahead of me fascinate me, and I spend most of the flight noshing on documentaries or playing trivia games.
I came across one program created by the BBC and narrated by Michael Mosely. The narrator described himself as a happy child who’d grown into an anxious, insomniac man. For years, he’d lain awake at night fretting over the state of the world, the next day’s to-do list, or the previous day’s activities. Increasingly, he viewed the future with foreboding and life as drudgery.
This of course caught my ear, because I too, can get into ruts, and it’s no understatement to admit I view the world and other people with a certain distrust. I can be fretful and worried and heaven knows, my sleeping patterns aren’t ideal. I was curious about what can be done to reverse the bad sleep and bad attitude, if anything.
Turns out, there are steps to take to combat both pessimism and insomnia, and they’re simple. The first thing Mosely did was practice twenty minutes a day of mindfulness meditation. He sat quietly, eyes closed, and focused on his breathing. That’s it. No yoga contortions, no arcane diet, no biofeedback machine, just paid attention to breathing for twenty minutes a day.
The second change in his routine was to do a short brain-training game every day. It’s an easy, even fun game. He looked at panel of sixteen faces, the same sixteen, over and over. One face on each panel would be smiling, the other fifteen frowning. To play the game, he simply clicked on the happy face, over and over. To see the game he played, or to play it yourself, click here.
The point of the game to was encourage the brain to literally “look” on the bright side. After seven weeks, Mosely tested as more optimistic, and his sleep was greatly improved. Guess who’s going to try both the meditation and the brain game for the next seven weeks?
I want to see if I can effect the same changes, but I’m also struck by how small, even silly changes made consistently can create larger shifts in our lives. For example, simply smiling can improve your mood. Petting a dog lowers blood pressure. If you sit a lot, simply getting out of the chair every 30 minutes increases life expectancy. Modest savings can grow into a comfortable retirement if the habit is kept up over time.
At a time in life when I can easily feel overwhelmed, the idea that little changes can yield big results is a great comfort. What small changes have you made, or would you like to make, in pursuit of a big result?
To one commenter, I’ll send a $25 Amazon gift card.