It’s been a tough two years out there for everyone.
The pandemic introduced new stresses to an already stressful world, so it's no surprise that we have all felt our mental and physical health take a turn for the worse, at one point or another.
In response to this, we thought we would focus some effort towards education on the topic of wellbeing. Not being experts ourselves, we’ve interviewed Linda Corcoran (see her website here), mindfulness teacher and generally fantastic person to educate ourselves and hopefully some of you on the topics of mindfulness and wellbeing.
Without further ado, here's Linda:
Tell us about yourself and what you do.
My name is Linda Corcoran and I’m a mindfulness teacher. I work with people of all ages both individually and in their workplaces. As part of my practice I also mentor children and young people who are struggling to get the start in life that they deserve.
At OQ we are committed to championing individuals like yourself who create your own vision. Tell us how you got into mindfulness? What influences led you down this path?
Like many people, I became disillusioned with the corporate world and wanted to make a difference, so I re-trained to become a secondary school teacher in my 30s. I did that for 10 years and taught a whole range of creative subjects, which I loved, but throughout this time I was seeing a downward trend in children’s mental health. I started putting on wellbeing workshops during lunch, a safe space for kids to hang out and work through their feelings using art or embroidery. I also began running mental health courses and meditations to my sixth form students who were stressed out leading up to exams. Around this time I decided to study mindfulness dedicatedly, having found it hugely important and supportive in my own life as well as beneficial for my students. That was about 5 years ago now.
What does the topic of well-being mean to you?
We all have different needs, different values but there are some pillars that are important to everyone for maintaining wellbeing – connection to others, being in the present moment (or mindfulness), being active physically and mentally, giving to others, learning new skills. In my mind, an individual in a state of well-being would be ready to deal with and enjoy life as it presents to them, however that may be.
Do you feel as though the challenges of the last couple of years have pushed us towards a place where we are prioritising our well-being?
Yes I really do, I think collectively we have all been through so much over the last couple of years and many people are still dealing with the aftereffects. We all know someone who has either passed away or has had their lives turned upside down during this time. I think it has made us all acutely aware of our own mortality and the need to do what we can to stay grounded and healthy.
What would your 3 pieces of advice be for anyone who is wanting to focus on their physical and emotional well-being this year?
- Exercise 3 times a week. Take your time and figure out what you enjoy. Don’t just follow the latest Instagram trend. There are so many activities to choose from, so choose ones that make you light up and feel alive.
- I would of course say learn mindfulness. There are so many books, apps and courses available now so find a way to learn which makes sense to you in your life and your stage of practice. When we are present in the moment and in our lives we’re not ruminating on the past, which can lead to depression, and we’re not overthinking what might happen in the future, which can lead to anxiety.
- Connect with people more, in the flesh. Be honest about how you feel, life is messy, we have all been through a lot that needs to be worked through. If you can volunteer to help others figure it out too, amazing! There are a lot of people struggling who would love your help. If you are able to connect with and help others then great, that way you are meeting all 5 conditions for optimum wellbeing with these 3 tips.
What are the benefits specific to Mindfulness?
I truly believe that mindfulness is incredibly and particularly important now. So many people are finding the constantly changing Covid rules really anxiety provoking and the longer we can stay in the moment the better. Mindfulness can help if we actively try to savour the good moments, for example a walk in the park with a friend, if we focus on the positive feelings this creates for just 15 seconds we can help our brains build new positive neural pathways. We need to rebuild these happier pathways after so much negativity.
Many people think January is the best time to set intentions for the upcoming year and define new resolutions. Which well-being practices do you hope to implement for yourself this year?
I am hoping to spend a lot more time being creative this year purely for play and pleasure. I love working with textiles either making clothes or art and I’m looking forward to exploring the practice of collage more.
What impact do you hope to see your work make this year?
I’m really excited and committed to making mindfulness accessible for all. I’m currently working on a couple of longer-term book and course type projects, one about infusing everyday moments with mindfulness such as when using social media and another about combining mindfulness with art and craft practice, both using what we know about neuroscience to increase wellbeing. I’m also planning some retreat days and courses aimed at holding space for people coming to terms with our new normal.
I have been working a lot on a one-to-one basis recently so I hope that my upcoming projects will allow mindfulness to impact as many people as possible.