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“In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.” Bertrand Russell

Having not long returned from a summer holiday I have been struck by the importance of getting some distance from one’s life and climbing out of the rutted track that the daily routines of life forge into the psyche.


Away from what has become habitual, a new awareness emerges about simple day-to-day activities. Eating was something I could take time to enjoy. Wandering aimlessly through sleepy Spanish back streets, without a deadline to meet, I could actually take in what was around me, heightening my awareness of how, in the day-to-day routines of my working life, I move so quickly and efficiently from one place to another, marshaling all my physical and psychological energy to steer the most effective path from tube to street, street to office. The habits that form the structure of a busy working life appear somewhat ridiculous from a different perspective.

Stepping off the ‘hamster wheel’ of one’s life at regular, even if only brief intervals, ensures that the neural circuitry of the brain is not becoming welded into narrow paths that lead to us living life on autopilot. It is true that we need routine and structure to provide stability, but conversely we also need variety and spontaneity so that our lives do not become too predictable and rigid.

“Why not seize the pleasure at once? How often is happiness destroyed by preparation, foolish preparation!” Jane Austen, from ‘Emma’