One recent research project found that 81% of us feel dread on a Sunday evening about the coming week.
It’s easy to take this idea of ‘Sunday dread’ at face value: you’ve either got it or you haven’t, in the same way the sky is either cloudy or it isn’t. The absence of dread means all is well, in the same way that the absence of cloud means the sky is blue.
But – with my mindfulness hat on – what about looking at this a little more closely, perhaps by focusing on the non-dread feeling or blueness of the sky instead of the dread and clouds?
After all, we know what the dread feels like, but what exactly is the non-dread feeling? For if we can gain a better understanding of its constituent aspects (other than the words ‘Saturday’ and ‘Sunday’!), then perhaps we can begin to cultivate it, rather than waiting for it to descend like a blessing every Friday afternoon. Gaining this capacity to understand and then to cultivate certain mindsets is a large part of what mindfulness meditation is about – for me, at least.
Let’s do a quick experiment. Picture yourself walking down a familiar street. Make it a route you regularly take both at weekends and on weekdays. So why do the trees you pass alongside seem so much more alive on a weekend? The leaves greener and the air crisper? Is it something you are projecting onto them? Or is it that, on weekdays, you are somehow blinkering yourself from the joyous aspects that you naturally notice at weekends? Our commute can be akin to plopping ourselves like a part on a factory conveyor belt, after all.
Now, simply beginning to notice more richly the detail and variety of your mental phenomena does mean you can immediately start swapping one (Sunday dread, say) for another (Friday positivity). Making the working week feel like the weekend is not going to be that easy! But with more and more noticing – and mindfulness meditation really is the best tool we have for that – I really do believe that we can gradually recalibrate our relationship to our mental storms, whether that’s Sunday dread, fear of failure or any of the other emotions that impact our lives and careers.