WHEN you go to fill up your car at the petrol station, do you find yourself getting into a rage when you fill it up to £30.04, instead of £30?
You do? And you insist on going up to £31, or even £35, so it’s nice and neat and tidy?
What about “unexpected item in the bagging area”? Does the red mist descend when you get hassled by a machine when you’re only trying to buy a loaf.
Welcome to modern life. It seems we’re a nation completely wound up, stressed out by modern living and ready to rage at the slightest little thing.
Author Gavin Oattes has a message for us all. Actually, he has quite a few. One of his biggest, though, is that we should all learn to let things go.
He has an interesting take on those little things that drive us to distraction. You might not like his theory… it might stress you out.
But, according to Gavin, we actually choose to let those tiny things stress us. We should all just, well, let them go.
Gavin, from Edinburgh, has written a book along with the UK’s first doctor of happiness, Andy Cope.
SHINE is kind of a guide to modern life. It aims to find new ways of dealing with those things that wind us up, with the goal of improving our mental health.
In a world where one in three of us is thought to be affected by a mental health problem each year, you can’t help but think we need something to help us deal with everyday living. Billed as a book to help you rediscover energy, happiness and purpose, Gavin is practising what he preaches.
And he’s come a long way.
As a child growing up in Troon, he was a classic worrier.
“If I got on a plane, it was going to crash. If I got an illness, I was going to die. Even being asked to read aloud in class was an ordeal,” he remembers.
“I didn’t know how to switch off those thoughts. At the same time, I had a passion for comedy. I had an ambition to get up on stage but I just couldn’t do it.”
Suppressing his comedy dream, Gavin went on to train in primary school teaching.
“Training as a teacher means you have to learn to enlighten, educate and inspire,” he says.
“I wanted to do it properly, so that these kids had positive memories in 20 years. I learned that no one remembers what you tell them or made them do – but they remember how you made them feel. I fell in love with education.”
Teaching and inspiring children gave Gavin the courage to take the plunge and try stand-up, along with a friend.
“It was such a rush and we wanted more of that excitement,” he says. “Then we failed, too – but it taught me to fail and not to be scared of failure.”
Gavin had his “lightbulb moment” when he went to a workshop run by a company called Tree of Knowledge.
“It mashed my two loves together – teaching and stand-up comedy,” he says. “It blew my mind. I quit my job that day, went to work for Tree of Knowledge and nine years later I led a management buyout.”
Gavin now teaches courses to workplaces, schools and others.
He met Dr Cope when they were both booked to speak at an event in St Andrews. “Andy is one of my heroes. They say you should never meet your heroes, but it’s worked for me,” he says.
“I read one of his books called The Art Of Being Brilliant and it made me so angry. I’ve read loads of books like this and they’re not for me. But this one was edgy, a wee bit sweary, rude and energetic. I was so annoyed. It was the book I should have written.”
After meeting at a conference, the pair began writing together.
Gavin and Andy believe we need to stop getting so wound up. That £30.04 at the petrol station? It’s fine. Let it go. Still festering about what your boss or your ex did in the past? You guessed it. Let it go.
Always busy and on the go? You need to stop that, too.
“You need to sit and do nothing,” Gavin says. “We very rarely live in the now. We’re too busy worrying about the future, or thinking about the past. I looked out of the window for 15 minutes. How many of us do that these days?”
Gavin believes technology has a lot to answer for in our daily lives.
“We’re always switched on, thanks to our phones and social media. It’s amazing to think when mobile phones first came out, they were praised for allowing us to live freer lives,” he says. Now we rarely stop and just be in the moment.”
Gavin, 38, believes it’s OK to be sad and have down days, though. “Being sad is an important part of being happy. If we’re not ever sad, bored or lethargic, we won’t know what happiness is.”
So how does he cope when he’s got the blues?
“I run. I only came to it about two and a half years ago,” he says.
“Then I lost my dad to pancreatic cancer six years ago and got the fright of my life. I tried running and I couldn’t even make it round the block. But my wife Ali made me get back out there, until I could run one kilometre, then 10.”
Last year, Gavin ran the London Marathon and raised £11,500 for a pancreatic cancer charity.
“That was one of the most emotional days of my life,” he says.
“I tried to film myself thanking people who’d helped me raise the money at the finish line. But I was so emotional I couldn’t get the words out. When I run, the worries of the world that can be sitting on my shoulders disappear.”
Needless to say, Gavin believes we need to get outside, stop staring at our phones all the time and talk to each other more.
Oh, and next time you get wound up because someone’s put the butter back in the fridge on the wrong shelf – just let it go.
SHINE is published by Capstone and available on Amazon, £9.46.
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