Do you have a regular columnist you read in newspapers? Maybe Richard Glover in The Sydney Morning Herald or Sally Morrell in The Herald-Sun. From time to time I read Nikki Gemmell in The Weekend Australian. I loved her column this year on taking the bus.
Nikki wrote, “the bus; that mode of transport Margaret Thatcher once had stern words about, declaring anyone who uses it over the age of 26 is a failure … So here I am, bus-ensconced, and according to conventional wisdom should be curling in the foetal position at what my life has become — but actually I’m revelling in it. I’m dissenting from where I’m meant to be in the thread of the outwardly successful modern existence, and it feels subversive, reviving. And so to a column in praise of the quieter way.”
Nikki wrote that at first taking the bus felt odd but she came to think of it as a “kinder, gentler, more observant way” of travelling.
“Driving feels like you’re pushing through; being on a bus, surrendering. And in the cram of living, that feels oddly relaxing. A bus is a shared place, yet in the modern world we try to erect high walls, hiving away in our car bunkers if we can. The car is the supreme symbol of how we increasingly live — ramming our way through life, impatient, harried, isolated in our own little boxes and focused on the self at the expense of everyone else. The humble bus feels like it’s giving me gentle lessons in the art of patience. Surrendering control. Relaxing into a rhythm of a life not your own.”
It was a really beautiful column and I recommend you read it in its entirety. Nikki explains that from up high in a bus she sees the world afresh, and waiting at bus stops has forced her to slow down. She also gets to watch people on public transport and she quotes actor Benedict Cumberbatch who said, “One of the fears of having too much work is not having time to observe.”
How can you slow your life down?
My question to you today is how can you slow your life down and give yourself more time to meditate, think and observe other people? How can you put the brakes on your life?
I love people observing. I just like to put myself in other people’s shoes. I wonder what they are experiencing, what their challenges and joys are. I guess it reminds me that no one’s life is perfect, and we all do the best we can. It reminds me to approach others with feelings of empathy and love, and to avoid being judgemental.
Here is a texting game you can play on public transport with a friend, who might be travelling home on a different train or bus. By text describe a stranger near you on public transport and guess who they may be. For example there is a middle-age woman near me in really artistic clothes and purple hair. I think she is a university professor, who teaches feminist studies and she’s married to another academic and they have four dogs – all Saint Bernards. It’s a fun, crazy game but you will find you start really observing and even caring for, the strangers around you.
Walking gives you time to think and it’s good for you!
Another great way to watch the world is by walking. It gives you time alone in nature. You can be with your own thoughts and watch the world, and it’s great for your health. Walking increases heart and lung fitness, reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke, helps with high blood pressure, cholesterol and join and muscular pain. It also cuts the risk of diabetes and strengthens bone as well as improving balance. And it increases muscle strength and endurance, and helps you lose body fat.
But walking and being active are so good for your mental health. Walking improves self-perception and self-esteem, mood and sleep quality, and it reduces stress, anxiety and fatigue. Physically active people have up to a 30 per cent reduced risk of becoming depressed, and staying active helps those who are depressed recover.
Dog walking is not ideal
Lots of people who own dogs walk regularly. The upside of having a dog is that you feel compelled to walk your pet every day and you often strike up friendships with other dog owners. The downside is that dogs like to stop and sniff, but to get the most out of walking you need to move at an even pace. To get the health benefits of walking, try to walk for at least 30 minutes as briskly as you can on most days of the week. Brisk means that you can still talk but not sing, and you may be puffing slightly. Moderate activities such as walking pose little health risk but, if you have a medical condition, check with your doctor before starting your new exercise program.
Other exercises that are good for your mental health are aerobic exercises like jogging, swimming, cycling, walking, gardening, and dancing. These all have been shown to reduce anxiety and depression. Exercise can make you feel better, even if you’re feeling pretty good (hey, you’ll feel even better). Exercise improves your mood because it releases happy chemicals like endorphins and serotonin. It can also get you outside, helping to reduce any feelings of loneliness and isolation, and it puts you in touch with other people.
Don’t forget to be still
But again I say to you, think of an activity that will give you some time with your thoughts. This might be bike riding or swimming or walking. It’s a great thing, combining exercise with meditation. Sure, take the bus, but make sure you first walk to the bus stop!
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ABOUT PAT MESITI
Pat Mesiti is a best-selling author, coach and educator in the area of personal development. Having built some of Australia’s largest people-driven organisations, Pat understands the power of harnessing human potential. He has shared the stage with some of the world’s great business minds and has sold over millions of copies of his books and materials.