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Any kind of calm will do: The growing trend of mindfulness

As we return to ‘normal’ after lockdowns and pandemic disruptions, more and more people are struggling with the intensity of the lives we have created. Walking, meditation and mindfulness have grown in popularity as we return to our busy schedules.

This weekend, I will be attending a Zoom workshop called How to Be Serene. I’m aware that this is such a whopping oxymoron that it should be tap dancing and wearing a hat, but this is 2021, and hey, at least it’s not on Teams.

It’s also funny because anyone who knows me even in passing will vouch for the fact that I’m about as serene as a chipmunk trapped in a well. It’s going to be like trying to calm Raoul Moat with a glass of water and a couple of drops of Rescue Remedy. But that’s why I’ve signed up. I NEED it. And also, it was free.

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Maybe some wisdom is starting to creep in, though, because I’m beginning to realise that we all need to arm ourselves with as many tools as possible to get through this crazy thing called life. And recently I’ve spotted that even the most unlikely people are eschewing the bright lights of celebrity to concentrate on calmer pursuits.

Just look at Michaela Strachan. Once she spent all her evenings standing in Ritzy’s in Grimsby observing the animalistic behaviour of sweaty ’90s people with mullets and billowing white shirts. Now she makes a living peering at otters through night vision cameras on Autumnwatch – a logical yet also incredible pivot to wholesomeness.

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Then there’s Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse catching pike and setting the world to rights, Johnny Vegas and his caravan, Noel Fielding on Bake Off, and even Danny Dyer has signed up to do Celebrity Antiques Road Trip. Pop stars are also on the wellness wagon. Sobriety, mindfulness and pottering are the order of the day. Adele and Lily Allen are clean and serene, and recently Will Young admitted on The One Show that he’d given away his Brit Awards because they didn’t “spark joy”. Radio 1 DJ Annie Mac has also ditched the decks to become a novelist, and a rather good one, too. It’s almost as if they’ve realised that being famous and having loads of money isn’t all that important – while also still being famous and having loads of money. What next, Nick ‘Grimmers’ Grimshaw presenting a show about rambling in Northumberland?

WELL. There I was, sitting on my sofa, head melting from deadlines, boiling with rage about everything from the breakdown of democracy to the broken switch on my kettle, when Walking with Nick Grimshaw appeared in front of me like an incomprehensible mirage.

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This former London party scene stalwart, who has so many celebrity friends the contacts folder in his phone probably looks like the cast of Ab Fab: The Movie, was waxing lyrical about the low-key joys of going for a walk on the coast of a weekday afternoon. He explored an abbey. He had an awkward chat with a wise old man by the sea (who had obviously been given a tenner and told to sit there to tell his life story). He spoke about real things: his mental health, growing up, being gay, having children, enjoying the little things in life. He was totally and disarmingly honest and by the end of it, I was practically weeping. Even Grimmers is more serene than me, FFS!

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But I can learn. One day, I hope I get to the point where I can present a rambling show or drink a Cup a Soup by a lake with Bob Mortimer. I don’t even care what kind of serene I get; any kind of calm will do. Autumnwatch calm, Grimmers in an abbey calm, I’ll even settle for dangerous, strategic, gimlet-eyed calm, like a middle-agedlady-at-M&S version of Shiv Roy.

All I know is, I need serenity now. I’ll let you know how I get on but, before that, I just need to have eight hours of anxiety dreams about missing the workshop because my login doesn’t work.

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