This had us chuckling the other day. It’s a pretty fair point – poor mental health is often a direct result of our circumstances and until those circumstances (like working conditions) change then there is only so far movement and meditation can help to improve everyday life. Yoga is seen as the tiny plaster papering over a broken leg, and it’s an insult.
We agree, of course. If you employ people, you have a responsibility to make sure that the job they do for you isn’t making them physically or mentally unwell. No amount of free yoga negates that.
That said, our experience as the folks who turn up and bring circus skills to unsuspecting workplaces has been pretty different. In general, if a company is progressive enough to have their employees play with circus props during lunchtime, they probably understand a lot more about the importance of playfulness and regular movement than your average business.
Most people assume a chance to play with circus skills is not really useful, because it’s fun. But the truth is that putting aside time for fun physical activities and playfulness actually makes you more productive and energetic, and can improve mood and mental health. Studies from the Black Dog Institute show that exercise helps to dramatically improve mental health, improve focus and is also a preventative measure. So… maybe that yoga session isn’t such a laughable suggestion for improving mental health. It’s at least a step in the right direction.
However, one of the biggest benefits for doing circus at work is that you can work on your growth mindset. Children at school now get basically taught how to learn, by cultivating an attitude that you always have the ability to improve your skills and abilities. It’s more a question of spending time on self development than having natural talent. But lots of us who didn’t go through school in the last five years aren’t benefiting from this. So it’s great to do a new skill where you can really isolate your own learning patterns and see how you can improve quicker when you accept failure and work with it as an expected part of the process. If that sounds ambitious, don’t worry, we’ve got exercises to help with this, and we’re still working on improving our mindsets too.
Our recent workshops for International Women’s Day at the Scottish Rural College was a great example of this – we used circus as a way to get people talking about gender balance in the workplace, encouraging people to think about how they juggle their work/life commitments as they literally juggled! Sometimes an obvious analogy works wonders.
Sometimes all you have to do is create the space for people to talk to you and they will tell you exactly what would make their lives at work better. If they tell you they need more support at work, give them this, because it’s essential to their health. In our opinion though, circus, meditation, yoga are the best kind of non-essentials, and are much more than a quick fix.