Clearly last week was a slow news week as ‘MP takes bath’ made the front page of the Times in reference to my daily ablutions. Surely ‘MP never takes bath or shower’ would have been more newsworthy!
The slightly hysterical media coverage was in response to comments I made about using my daily early morning bathing routine to practice mindfulness as a way of composing my thoughts, de-stressing and being in my office by 8am set up for the day’s challenges. Those comments were made at a meeting I was co-hosting at Westminster when 20 MPs from 15 countries came together to promote mindfulness as one way of dealing with the epidemic of mental illness.
We have had mindfulness classes in Parliament for several years now and more than 170 MPs and Lords have taken them and definitely the standard of debate and mutual respect has improved. A number of overseas Parliaments have approached us to show them how they can reap the benefits too. I am usually quite sceptical about these things but I have seen schools in action where the use of mindfulness has improved behaviour, sharpened focus and raised results. Businesses are increasingly providing classes for their staff and we heard from one who has seen the number of days lost through sickness slashed by 70 per cent. In prisons this ancient technique is being used to improve behave and help rehabilitation rates.
Mindfulness is not a universal panacea but it certainly is another tool in the fight against depressions and mild mental illness which can lead to more debilitating conditions. One in four of us will experience some form of mental illness and alarmingly there has been a 500 per cent increase in the use of anti-depressants in the past 20 years so we need more investment and more appropriate and timely treatment and support.
After all the media frenzy has subsided this is great publicity for mindfulness and raising awareness of mental illness. I have been very grateful for all the gifts of rubber ducks and offers of discounted baths I have received!
Meanwhile back in the real world, I attended a fascinating and very well-attended talk about the history of St Mary de Haura Church given by archaeologist, Giles Standing, son of the former vicar. The 900-year-old masterpiece has a rich history, as part of the community, but is inevitably showing its age and more restoration work is planned over the next few years. I am sure everyone will want to do their bit to help make sure Shoreham’s jewel in the crown lasts another 900 years, when the time comes.
• If you would like to get in touch with me, please write to me at the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA, or email me at email@example.com