Wellness and inner city living aren’t immediately synonymous. Our experience of cities is often marred by crowded commutes, chaotic schedules and stressful demands on our physical and mental wellbeing.
However, inner city living also offers the key elements for positive mental wellbeing, being social connectivity, ability to learn, to be active, to give back and to be grateful.
Director of Neometro James Tutton, CEO of Smiling Mind, Dr Addie Wootten and the Director of The School of Life Australia, Kaj Lofgren, met at the MPavilion to discuss how inner city living supports positive wellbeing
Living in an urban context gives the ability to connect, whether it is with our colleagues at work or with those we share interests at our wide variety of public programing or with a stranger on the tram.
Speaking to strangers is socially uncomfortable, however once the barrier of interaction is broken, it’s likely to result in a pleasantly surprising experience. The panel acknowledged their memories of such unplanned encounters, with neighbours and with people on the street. Extending a hand to connect with each other is readily available to us in inner city environments, yet is so often avoided or overlooked.
A similar phenomenon can be seen of people traveling up and down St Kilda Road, moving from one office building to the next without entering the Botanic Gardens. We need to remember that Melbourne is a beautiful city; we need to bring ourselves to be present, and be aware of what’s in front of us.
Mindfullness is a term rightly cited by the panel as being ‘at risk.’ It’s thrown around carelessly as an industry builds its profits around it, promoting itself as the antidote to our contemporary existence.
Removing mindfulness from the hype, it remains a tool to support us as we navigate our way through unavoidably stressful circumstances.
The resources available to us in the inner city are there to similarly support us. We must take the time to be grateful for our city gardens, our architecture, our galleries, our concert spaces, our public art and our proximity to the river. We must be responsible for our ongoing use of these spaces to engage, to learn and to be active.
Stop saying you’re busy is a good start. Don’t do anything when you’re not doing anything. Get off at a random train stop and break the ‘rut’ of getting home from work. Breaking up your routine is important. Enjoy what we have, meditate, read said the panel.
The onus is on the individual to go and find the infrastructure, the architecture of happiness. Remember that mindfulness is a practice and you have to work at it every day.