The Mindful Art of Being Sick

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A couple of weeks ago I succumbed to the flu and I must admit I was pretty down. For anyone living alone, getting sick is truly horrible – there’s nobody there to make you chicken soup or give you a hot water bottle, and when you’re used to constant ‘busyness’ as I am, it’s really tough to change this default setting.

Of course I naturally assumed that I’d be right as rain the next day – I was super fit after all – I worked out most days and took the best multi-vitamins and supplements, and admittedly I did feel slightly better but not well enough to do anything too demanding so when I woke up I wandered despondently into the kitchen. However, instead of grabbing a coffee and toast as I usually would, I sat down and thought about what I really wanted and chose fruit and muesli which I ate slowly in silence at the kitchen table.
After that I took a shower, and instead of using my usual leftover Body shop gel, I remembered some beautiful organic body wash I’d been given for Christmas, and as I breathed in the gorgeous aromas of lavender, geranium and neroli, my spirits began to lift (and I chucked the old stuff in the bin afterwards!).

As an exercise addict, whenever I’m not working I’ll shoot off to the gym for 90 minutes, whether I feel like it or not, but as this wasn’t an option today I decided to get a manicure, something I’d never do on a Monday morning. I didn’t choose red as usual either, but opted for dark blue, a colour I’d never had before. I normally find manicures a bit of a drag, but today was different as I chatted to the nail technician about her country, Vietnam and her impressions of London, whereas generally I’d just sit there with my hands out, fixating on what I had to do afterwards.
After my nails, I went shopping. Usually I’d race around the supermarket buying the same things each time, but today as I wandered slowly down the aisles, I spotted products that I’d never normally notice in my default mode, and afterwards I came home and made a sweet potato and chorizo soup – something I’d never done before.
What I’m basically saying is that in my sick state I couldn’t do things quickly as I simply didn’t have the energy. Consequently I was thinking more about what I truly wanted from each moment and focusing on one thing at a time which was infinitely more rewarding. Of course it’s awful to be sick, but the biggest thing it’s taught me are the benefits of slowing down and you don’t have to be sick to remember them.

Slowing down

1/ Makes you unitask rather than multitask. It’s human nature to try to multitask but by focusing on one thing at a time, you do that thing more thoroughly and feel more satisfied and less stressed as a result. A simple thing such as sitting down to have breakfast can make it feel like a special event, as it continues to do for me.

2/ Makes you truly consider your choices and gets you out of your default mode of always doing the same things in the same way. Trying something different (blue nail polish and sweet potato and chorizo soup for me!), can cultivate a sense of curiosity in your life and make you feel as if you’re truly living it.

Unless you consciously seize control of your auto-pilot, life will continue slipping through your fingers
̴ Dr Danny Penman

3/ Helps your mind become quieter as you focus more on the present. By slowing down your body, your mind adapts accordingly and you feel calmer and less worried about the future. I’ve come to realise that the only time that matters is now!
4/ Improves your personal interactions as you completely focus on the other person and give your attention to that conversation (as was the case for me at the nail salon).
In a guided meditation I did recently, the speaker discussed the importance of personal interactions and really listening to what the other person had to say. In so doing,

the power of our connections become infinitely more intimate and meaningful
̴ Joseph Goldstein.

January is said to be the most depressing month of the year and it’s obvious why. It’s cold, there’s little to look forward to and nobody has any money. It’s also the time when many people get sick, but there’s much we can learn from this experience, and as I approached the end of the day I talked about above, I found myself wishing that all my days were like this, with each activity segueing seamlessly into the next. Despite being sick, I felt calm, stress-free and happy and I’m sure this had a lot to do with having slowed down.

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