During the eight-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course (MBSR), participants go through an exercise with the aim to increase awareness of the activities they are involved in on a daily basis. These activities are then, based on how the participant views them, divided into two groups: nourishing and depleting activities.
A nourishing activity is something you enjoy doing, something that makes you feel good and happy. A depleting activity is something you don’t enjoy, something that drains you. The unfortunate way it often works is that when we are stressed, when we don’t feel good about life, we tend to only do what we have to do. As a result we neglect the nourishing activities which are so important for our wellbeing!
This is how the nourishing/depleting activities exercise works in the MBSR program:
On a piece of paper, start by listing the 10-12 things you do most days. You can perhaps start by writing something like this:
- preparing breakfast for the family
- walking the dog
- going to work
Keep your list general and real. Then, once the 10-12 items are down, write “N” for nourishing or “D” for depleting after each activity. If you find some activities to be both nourishing and depleting, no worries, simply write both “N” and “D”.
As you are doing the exercise, perhaps realising that there is no way around some of your daily “depleting” activities. That’s okay, most of us are daily involved in something we don’t particularly enjoy.
What this list gives you is hopefully a better idea of what is happening in your life? Maybe you realise you need to start changing things around, perhaps adding a nourishing activity you somehow let go of some years ago? Or maybe you’d like to try something totally new? You now also have an opportunity to do something about the activities you find depleting: you can bring more awareness to these activities, by tuning in to exactly what you are doing, which involves getting more often into the present moment.
The first time I did this exercise was in a group setting during my teacher training. I was a bit shocked to discover that I considered over half of my daily activities depleting! Luckily our teachers quickly assured us that writing a lot of “D’s” was normal and nothing to worry about. We were asked to partner with the person next to us and discuss our “findings”. It quickly came to light that we all had a possibility to turn things around by becoming more mindful in what we were doing, instead of letting our mind dictate how we viewed each activity. And also perhaps start taking up an activity we used to enjoy and that we had long forgotten about.
Two of my depleting activities were food shopping and cooking. Although something I could not get out of, I could see that by being more aware while involved in these activities would definitely help. Now, I actually enjoy walking around the supermarket picking food from the shelves (can’t believe I just said that!). Perhaps you would like to discover what you could do differently to bring more nourishing activities into your daily life. Why not prepare your list now and discover how you view your activities? And hopefully find a way to turn things around to do more things you find nourishing – creating more happiness in your life!