Andy Puddicombe, mindfulness expert and founder of HeadspaceWhat sorts of things do Londoners tend to get most stressed about?
"Londoners tend to get stressed about most things. Public transport and the weather are probably the most popular things for us to whinge about. That said, the "stiff upper lip" mentality still prevails and for many people stress is something which is often experienced and yet not always spoken about."
What one thing could help cut down a person's stress level?
"To pause for 10 minutes each day to get some "headspace." But don't take my word for it. Science has shown time and again that practicing meditation, sometimes called mindfulness, for as little as 10 minutes a day can have a significant impact on our physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing. For most people it is very different from what they expect and it tends to impact the entire day, rather than just the time you close your eyes. An easy way to start is with the Headspace App
, which is free to download and available for all smartphones."
Where are your favourite places to relax in London?
"These days I'm lucky enough to live in LA and the beach is where I go to get some Zen. But whenever I'm back in London visiting the team, I always head for the royal parks. I tend to stay out east, so Victoria Park is a favourite. The Secret Garden in Regents Park is well worth a visit, too. And although it can be busy, there are some beautiful quiet corners in Hyde Park as well."
Any other tips for reducing stress and anxiety?
"In order to be well it's important we look after every aspect of our wellbeing. This can mean so many things: Looking after our mind, essentially training it on a daily basis with some calming meditation; getting some regular exercise, something which not only keeps us fit but which we actually enjoy; eating foods which promote a feeling of sustainable energy and comfort in the body; finding time to do something playful, something which makes you smile and laugh. So we can do all of these things to reduce stress and anxiety for ourselves. But funnily enough, it's when we turn our attention towards doing good things for others that stress has a really hard time to survive, because if we're not thinking about ourselves, what we have, what we don't have, what we want, what we don't want, then there is actually very little room for stress or anxiety to breathe."
What's the biggest misconception about stress?
"Without question it is that if we are experiencing stress, then either we are doing something wrong in not controlling the situation, or that life is being unfair in serving up the situation. Of course, neither is true. Stress is part of life and there is nothing wrong with experiencing emotions of any kind. The problem arises when we get too caught up in the thinking around the situation or are swept away by the emotions that arise when we get stressed. Training in mindfulness helps to prevent both of these things. As for life serving up challenges, although it can sometimes feel unfair, the truth is, it is always relative, and if we take a look around, we'll always find someone who has it worse, so judging it as fair or unfair is really not all that helpful at all. It's also worth mentioning that a certain amount of emotional drive and direction can be a very positive thing, especially if it is directed towards something useful, otherwise we just float around and don't really make the most of life."
What's your anti-stress motto?
"It is not the thing, it is the way in which the thing is perceived. This applies to any and every situation. It doesn't matter whether other people are involved or if we're on our own. It doesn't matter if it was something which could have been prevented or something out of our control. In any and every situation, we can choose how to relate to it and how to approach it. Sometimes it doesn't feel like this and before we train the mind it may feel as though we have no choice at all. But with regular practice, with daily mindfulness, this phrase quickly becomes a reality and we start to see the potential for experiencing life in a very different way."
Photo: Courtesy of Headspace