Mindlessness - the ultimate antidote to the pressures of events

Opinion / 

Aarron Mcgurk of Chorus Agency reveals why mindlessness - as opposed to mindfulness - is the ultimate antidote to the pressures of the meetings and events sector

“Don’t disturb me when I’m doing my mindlessness!” So says fashion icon Edina Monsoon, as played by Jennifer Saunders in the Absolutely Fabulous film.

It immediately struck me as a fun play on the mindfulness trend. But also, I think our minds are already pretty darn full, what with our busy calendars, to-do lists, personal lives, hobbies and don’t forget that gardening, weren’t you supposed to plant something by now? How is anyone supposed to have any space in their brain to bring forth all those things they appreciate, let alone us in the events world where things change 24/7!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking mindfulness - it works. But I’d also like to share some helpful and perhaps new approaches to trying this insightful technique with less work. I hear the sigh of relief from here – yes! Less work! Let's call this hacking mindlessness.

Mindlessness is all about doing little things that require no mental stamina whatsoever AND often no time, whilst ultimately being present and appreciative. Think watching paint dry but with a bit more pizzazz.

I spoke at CHS Leeds on how to manage stress in the events industry, and one of my points about “having time to check-in and get to know yourself” really resonated with the audience. After being on the road or delivering a four-day experience, we are wiped out and all we can or want to do is get under the blanket and watch Friends – that’s mindlessness.

Awe walks

Remember when you were a kid, and your friends would knock on your door and ask if you could come out to play? My playtime would always involve endless imaginary Star Wars battles or making dens in parks. These were always followed by adventure time. No, not the TV show – it wasn’t out then. I’m talking about dangerously far away from home walks that would freak out your mum – and you’d get to see new places for the first time. That's an awe walk!  

We all still have that inner child within us and, coupled with the psychology of awe walks and shifting your attention outward instead of inward, will help you notice the things around you that are beautiful. So, you are not thinking of the impossible turnaround of hired furniture or getting home for your friend's birthday in time.

Whenever you are walking, try making that walk an awe walk. In life we are always told to look up, to capture what we don’t see while we’re staring at our phones. Try completely switching off, walking further this time, or just getting lost!

Intentionally looking for beautiful things along the way is easy and can be done every day. A study published in 2020 in the journal “Emotion” found evidence that a regular dose of awe can boost positive feelings. Moreover, Dr. Virginia Sturm, lead investigator and associate professor of neurology and psychiatry at the University of California at San Francisco says “One of the key features of awe is that it promotes what we call ‘small self,’ a healthy sense of proportion between your own self and the bigger picture of the world around you” (Psychology Today, 2020). Simple but refreshing, I always get so caught up in the small things at work, forgetting the bigger picture.

Ta-dah moments

Hear it in your head, it’s the sound of something you do finally working out or going to plan. Usually, something that you have been a bit worried about.

This can take a bit of effort and practice, to begin with, but we already make lists. Copy and paste those major to-dos and turn them into ta-dahs, and over time you will have a massive library of all the amazing things you have accomplished, which you can turn to quite easily each week to build you up; or to revisit when five pitches come through the door at the same time.

Ditch the phone

Doom scrolling is the new smoking, only it's majorly affecting our brains rather than our lungs. We have increasingly become more addicted to scrolling, looking for bad news or just relishing in the hypnotic fixation of social media feeds for escapism.

A German survey from late March and early April of 2020 showed a connection between “frequency, duration, and diversity of media exposure” to increased depression symptoms and both general and pandemic-related anxiety (Springer, 2020). Researchers from Dartmouth College also found increased phone usage linked with more anxiety, depression and sedentary behaviours among college students as Covid-19 concerns increased in March (JMIR,2020).

We have to shake this habit and put the phone down when we get home from work, unwinding with scrolling may seem like a mindless activity but it comes at a cost. Spend time getting creative in the kitchen, have a long bath, jump into a good book, or try out my next tip.

Netflix and disassociate

When all is too much, I will allow some mindless TV but make the right choice of show. Humans are creative storytellers by nature, so put something on that’s captivating and mood-lifting. Or just switch on your go-to creature comfort, as there’s no better remedy to a long day than being immersed in another world that allows you to disassociate yourself from all the unneeded stresses of this one.

Pareen Sehat, a registered clinical counsellor and certified mental health professional at Well Beings Counselling in Vancouver says: “The repetitive and relational nature of programs such as Friends and The Office provides individuals with a means to escape their own daily stresses and feel relaxed.”

Dr. Ernesto Lira de la Rosa, a psychologist and Hope for Depression Research Foundation media advisor, agreed, noting that such shows bring us happiness “because we are familiar with the content and characters.”

When we are stressed multiple areas of the brain including the hippocampus, amygdala and prefrontal cortex are severely impacted making simple cognition become difficult. Stress’ effect on these parts of the brain “can lead us to feeling drained, overwhelmed, and on edge,” Lira de la Rosa said.

Watching comfort TV shows can do the opposite of what these stressors do: They allow us to recharge and reset. In fact, relaxing television can also “release serotonin, which stabilizes mood, promotes emotional well-being, and leads to an overall sense of happiness,” Sehat noted. (Sweatlife, 2022)

However, when all else fails, I can whole-heartedly recommend meeting up with some friends and have a good old fashioned mindless rant!

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