Along with ‘revoke’ and ‘sliders’, ‘mindfulness’ is a word that now occupies a place in the national psyche. It is one of those terms that, along with the ‘Irish backstop’, no one truly understands.

I have just referred to Google as to its precise meaning: it is about being ‘fully present’, ‘aware of what we are doing’ and not feeling ‘overwhelmed’.

Roughly translated, it is about finding some chill out time away from the trials and tribulations of everyday life. Now, that is seemingly an easy mantra to chant if you are in the right life stage, with financial resources, time and the ability to enjoy head space. At 5am on a cold wet Tuesday morning in November after you’ve been awake all night with a sick child, the boiler has packed up and your husband has just left you for a younger model is probably when you need mindfulness most, but are least able to practise it.

Stress levels are at record highs, with one in seven UK residents now on statins and one in 10 on antidepressants. This nigh on 50 per cent increase in the last decade either shows we are suffering more than ever, or that doctors are administering prescriptions more freely than before.

Stress can be a killer and leads to temper flares, heart attacks, marriage break ups and all other nasties so yes, it wouldn’t take an Oxbridge degree to surmise that we all need to ‘chillax’ and afford ourselves a little chi power.

But is it a ‘thing’ or yet another cut of the emperor’s new clothes? Telling someone to ‘take some me time’ is not a revelation and I am not going to pay a spiritual adviser to lead me down the mindfulness path. Fiscal recompense would add to financial pressure and therefore stress, so would be counterproductive. I have therefore taken the law into my own hands:

One of the boons of being a teacher is I generally get to spend the holidays with my wife and kids. This is not always the case however and an upcoming break is a week out. Suffice to say, my wife has given me a ‘pass’. Feeling as if I need some ‘me time’ and with mindfulness at the back of my mind, I decided against the cost restrictive trip abroad and have plumped for five days away on my own mountain biking, and writing, in the sticks in Wales. I have deliberately not invited any other humans as I feel I need some time to ‘zone out’, ‘re-engage’ and ‘reinvigorate’. Others find this penchant to be alone a tad curious: "there’s no one to share things with," they say. I agree, but there’s also no organisation required, no noise, fuss, waiting around or putting up with snoring or other habits. It’s just me, the road and a bike.

I have had such mindfulness periods presented to me in the past and us gentlemen very much relish the opportunity to destress. The anticipation however always outweighs the reality. I am fully aware that after a day smashing my bike down the mountain in Wales I will be alone in a hotel room. After mustering up the oomph to go out I will have a shandy and sit in the beer garden like Billy No Mates wishing I had someone to chew the cud with. If I attempt to strike up a conversation I am viewed as a weirdo, possibly in disguise and certainly on the run. I will no doubt call the wife and tell her bored I am before the inevitable "I told you so". A few days go past and you realise one thing: it is alien to many of us to know how to relax even when given the opportunity to be ‘present’ alone with our mindfulness.

Despite visions of going on a muddy bike ride through the Afan forest before writing a bit of the book and then slobbing out in front of Rambo and a takeaway, the reality will be somewhat different as I walk around the rented accommodation restless, trapped and imagining what life will be when I’m old and infirm. I am resigned to the fact that there will never be a time when I can feel truly comfortable with my solitude as is the case for many and it is imperative that we are mindful of that fact.

  • Brett Ellis is a teacher who lives in London Colney