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How to make discipline “joyful” – and, consequently, life better

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Viv Groskop is won over by a meditation app called Buddhify. Yes, really

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By Viv Groskop on

There have been a few times this year when, for the sake of my sanity, I’ve urgently needed to find some moments of calm. This month, I’m up at the Edinburgh Fringe doing my show, Anchorwoman, every night and that need is stronger than ever. The Fringe is like a compressed version of life: there’s a lot of pressure (“You have a reviewer in tonight”), there’s feedback from people who love you and who hate you (thanks, guys!) and there are many weird things that you can’t control.

The key to peace of mind at times like this is “joyful discipline”. This is a life-changing notion I discovered thanks to the meditation app Buddhify. I never thought I would be someone recommending an app, let alone a meditation app, but life can surprise us.

“Joyful discipline” is a brilliant idea. It’s a rewriting of “discipline”, which has developed a bad reputation in recent years. Many of us think of discipline as something we should resist. It’s the dullard teacher telling us to stop talking at the back of the class. It’s the irritating parent telling us not to go out without a coat. It’s the pedant boss who taps their watch when you come back from a lunch at 2.11pm. It’s the voice of “the man”. We have all learnt to stick it to the man and quite right, too. The man is a tit.

Find the things that represent kindness to you, whether it’s making sure you drink enough water, go to a yoga class, read a book, take the proper time for lunch

But what if discipline could help us instead of hinder us? This is what “joyful discipline” teaches. Find the disciplines that help you in life. Find the things that represent kindness to you, whether it’s making sure you drink enough water, go to a yoga class, read a book, take the proper time for lunch, spend a few hours a day away from your phone or just be alone for a bit. It can often feel like a chore to do these things, even if we tell ourselves that they’re what we want and need. This is why, says Buddhify, it helps to try to do them “joyfully”.

I came across Buddhify earlier this year when I was reading This Is Happening by Rohan Gunatillake, a great, practical book about mindfulness. He founded Buddhify as a solution to a problem. He was always meeting people who said they wanted to meditate “but didn’t do anything about it because they thought it took too much time and was too hippy”. I am one of those people.

The genius of Buddhify is that you can choose how much time you have, even if it’s only a few minutes. The app delivers a guided meditation: a voice talks to you in soothing, comforting tones, reminding you to breathe, concentrate, relax, remember what really matters. It tells you all the stuff that we know in theory but that is hard to actually “know”. (You know what I mean, right? It’s the difference between telling yourself you should take time to sit and breathe and calm down, and actually doing it.)

I have tried to apply “joyful discipline” to using the Buddhify app itself. Part of the joy? I’m allowed to be silly enough to forget and do something else kind instead, like taking a bath or watching Ladybug & Cat Noir with my kids. I now make listening to the soothing voice that recommends “joyful discipline” part of my routine most days. It has infinitely improved my capacity to cope with stress and anxiety.


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