Flying into London from Stockholm, I watch our gradual descent over the capital towards Heathrow airport. I’m returning home but all I can think about is where and when my next trip will be. Which is the next foreign city I can tick off my list?
I blame London for my all-too-familiar thought pattern. The city may look like a toy town from way up here, but the extent of choices we’re faced with and the extremes of culture available can often be overwhelming. It would be impossible to sample every single cultural offering this city plays host to. But no matter how much I try to do these days, it never seems enough. There’s this insatiable part of my mind that keeps telling me to do more, read more, travel more. Consequently, I forever end up trying to do too much and never feel satisfied at the end of it.
And yet, I don’t want my life to be one big ‘to do’ list. It’s all very well having an appetite for culture and experiencing the world, but what kind of pleasure can be garnered from always focusing on the next thing and ignoring the present?
According to a therapist friend of mine, my thought pattern is not an uncommon one, especially among those living in big cities. What she told me was that instead of focusing on trying to do everything that London has to offer, I should give more quality time and energy to the fewer things I really love, like discovering a hidden vintage shop or walking through Dulwich park. Not to try and read every book that has ever been written, but to identify the authors or genres I like the best.
I can recognise this as perfectly sound advice, but it’s not a way of thinking that comes naturally to me. I’ll have to consciously follow it for a while, but hopefully it won’t be long until it becomes a second nature. In the meantime, here are some top tips I’ve found on enjoying the present and not letting the enormity of London take over…
- Make a list of the things in your life that give you the most pleasure – be it gardening, modern art or spending time with your family – and focus more of your time on that
- Learn that you don’t have to be doing something all the time. Book a night in your diary every week just for you, when you don’t go out but go home and spend some quality time alone, doing nothing
- Keep a thank you diary, where you note down the positive things that happened to you each day
- Discover something new about the area where you live. You might realise that you don’t have to venture as far to experience the hidden gems of London as you might think.
Image by Paul McGhie