By Laura Bradley

How’d we all go practising empathy last week? Did you draft a letter to someone doing it tough, or drop a meal off at a neighbour’s house? Do you feel a bit happier?

If you’ve got no idea what I’m talking about, I’ve been writing a series based on the book The Resilience Project by Hugh van Cuylenburg, in which he argues that in order to be happy, one must integrate gratitude, empathy and mindfulness into their lives.

I started practising empathy this week by spending an afternoon at food charity Our Big Kitchen, where I baked and packaged cookies for nurses on the COVID frontline. (I know I advised last week not to gloat about volunteering online, but it’s a good idea to share the charities’ work if it helps spread the message… and you should definitely come and join me some time).

This week the focus is on mindfulness, or the act of being present rather than worrying about the past or the future. Mindfulness is something that I admittedly struggle with, and often I can be having a conversation with someone while simultaneously turning over what to cook for dinner and fretting over whether I correctly proofread the micenet e-newsletter.

The benefits of mindfulness are many. It allows us to regulate our emotions, and decreases stress, anxiety and depression, as well as improving our sleeping patterns. The most common way to put it into practice is through meditation, and there are some great videos on the YouTube channel ‘Goodful’, as well as some exercises on the Headspace app. It may take some time to quiet the thoughts in your head, but the advice from my Zen friends is to just keep at it.

In the Resilience Project, Hugh suggests practising mindfulness by going on a walk and thinking about three things you can hear, three things you can see and three things you can feel, and then writing them down in a journal. This means no headphones, no phone calls and no two-metre-away walking buddies.

Go on, have a try of it today. Just be sure to stay a safe distance from those doing the same.