Switching Off to Reconnect
It's been six years since the fateful Parks and Recreation episode but "Treat Yo' Self Day" continues to be one of the best days of the year. This goes out to all the Batman suits, spa packages or baller meals that suddenly become acceptable, just for one day of the year. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zefwz95_wnQ
On a less capitalist side, it's also a helpful reminder to take time out and take care of yourself - even if it's for that extra piece of chocolate or having a long bath. In fact, treating yo' self shouldn't be restricted to just the one day. Taking some time to be mindful and feed your body and your soul with a little indulgence should be practised on a regular basis and even on holiday.
Parks and Recreation's episode may have been the perfect balance of hilarious and relatable to enshrine the mantra into popular discourse. But the idea is not revolutionary nor new. Mindfulness has been fundamental to the doctrines of Hinduism and Buddhism. Rising awareness of mental health has also popularised the idea of taking time out and logging off. Moreover, our increasing consumption of digital technology has equally given rise to the importance of a "digital detox."
As someone working in social media, I've continuously found it difficult to completely switch off. I'm restless, distracted, with too many tabs open in my mind. That's not to say that I don't embrace "treat yo' self" as my own mantra or wanted to integrate self-care more into my life. I've dabbled in meditation at the end of a yoga class and played around with the Headspace app.
But it doesn't quite compare with turning off completely, leaving your phone behind and heading to an ashram in the jungles of Bali for a meditation retreat.
When you're faced with three days of meditation, yoga and self-reflection, there is no doubt that you'll embrace mindfulness. Mornings progressed in silence and other free time left too much room for journaling or further meditation. In the tranquillity of the ashram, it became difficult to even raise your energy and enthusiasm for a cheeky game of ninja.
With no distractions and actually no ability to do anything else but be mindful, it was strangely freeing. Surrendering oneself completely to self-care is something we shy away from so often. The feeling that we needed to maximise the experience never completely escaped me - but rather, was channelled into meditating better or trying to make the most of letting that idea go.
Yes, it thrust us into the world of mindfulness with the force of a great typhoon. I may have had a breakthrough or at least started to understand the world of meditation a little more. I also may never seek out an experience quite as intense (yet, then again, never say never). But, it did reveal something so fundamental about the role mindfulness plays in our day to day lives.
Why is it so hard to bring mindfulness into our "normal lives"?
Why does it feel like a chore, even a waste of time to forsake times for "work" to take care of yourself instead? Why do we need three days in the middle of the jungle to finally reconnect and remind ourselves of its importance?
Productivity and efficiency are enshrined in how we think about work. Beyond getting ahead or completing tasks, the culture breeds the endless improvement of these ideals. What app can help me manage my work better? What tactics can help time management? How can I write a better email or hold a better meeting?
Outside of work, there's always a feeling that we are wasting time that we are running out of. We're running out of our vacation time or the summer sunlight or even of our youth. Why take time out to meditate when you can be travelling or working on a side hustle?
And then there's the push for altruism, especially for the selfish, self-centred millennials who should stop wasting time and money on selfish endeavours for themselves.
The ironic thing is that with all these competing pressures you really do feel like you need a break. Yet its always accompanied with the justifications of why we deserve this particular treat. Or we're just riddled with guilt. Or we leave it to the one, Treat Yo' Self Day in the year or even the "once-in-a-lifetime" meditation retreat.
Bluntly put, it shouldn't be that difficult to be mindful. So this is your reminder - and my own - to treat yo' self without judgement or guilt. You'll thank yourself for it.