Taking notice and connecting

In this month’s Barnet wellbeing column Rory Cooper says life in lockdown can feel like Groundhog Day.
By Rory Cooper

Source: Canva
Source: Canva

I recently watched a new film called Palm Springs featuring Andy Samberg. The plot involves the two main characters living the same day over and over again, waking in the same place at the start of each day at a family wedding. If it sounds familiar, it should do. The 1993 film Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray followed the weatherman Phil Connors suffering the same predicament, and from which we have adopted the phrase ‘like Groundhog Day.’

This made me think about an important aspect of our wellbeing which is where we put our attention and how we spend our time. Both films ask: what are the different ways you can spend the same day?  Over the last year, during the Covid-19 pandemic many of us will have felt and joked with each other that we were living in our own Groundhog Day; living a similar day over and over, stuck doing the very same things in our local area.

Mindfulness is spoken about a lot these days. It is often a misused term that makes people think of meditation or solitude. This isn’t the whole story. One of the Five Ways to Wellbeing is to ‘take notice’. Taking notice is about simply paying more attention to the present moment and how you are feeling. This might include your current thoughts and feelings or how you are feeling physically. It can be as simple as that. This increased awareness can help you make positive choices about what you really need to feel well and look after yourself. It can positively change the way you feel about life and how you approach challenges.

In both films, the characters repeat the same day with exactly the same people, opportunities and resources each time. Their enjoyment and understanding only change with their approach and attitude. Some of the fun and silliness of the films sees the characters initially taking advantage of their situation; eating, drinking or partying the day away which occasionally ends in dangerous or unhappy situations. They take advantage of the people around them for pleasure and entertainment. After a while, these baser urges still lead to loneliness and tedium. The characters are led to focusing on what really makes them and those around them happy.

In Palm Springs, the characters ultimately open up to each other, fall in love and get to know some of their family and friends more closely along the way. They resolve to be kinder and gentler to themselves and appreciate the rituals and relationships of life that they had spent much of the film exhausted and bored by. In Groundhog Day, Phil Connors chooses to start making the most of his situation. No longer feeling trapped by his existence in an unfamiliar small town he starts to get to know the residents and develops new skills. He makes use of the time to learn the piano and even gets to grips with ice sculpture, saving a few lives and making some new friendships along the way.

In the end, our characters embrace the repetitiveness of life and take what they can from it by connecting with themselves and with others and pulling meaning and change into their life. It is something we can all think about when we are feeling like we are stuck in a time loop or our own Groundhog Day of routine and seeming monotony. 

Awareness of repetition is an opportunity to be mindful. What will we notice this time? Where will we choose to put our attention? Will we connect with the things that really matter to us?

To keep up to date about some of the things you can do in Barnet to connect sign up for Wellbeing Matters, the bi-monthly newsletter from the Barnet Wellbeing Service.

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