I’ve recently started mindfulness meditation; it seems to be mentioned everywhere you turn at the moment, so I though I’d give it a try. One of the key ideas is to be a passive observer to your thoughts: not trying to stop them, not chasing after them, but simply watching them pass by. By practising impassive observation, we are supposed to be able to more easily step away from problems / situations / stresses in day-to-day life.
We’ve all had the realisation at some point, that for our current situation the best – and possibly only – thing to do is simply to take a step back, take a deep breath, and (in the words of Frozen) let it go.
I’m led to believe that mindfulness meditation has various well supported benefits from reduced stress to increased happiness – and I can certainly believe that to be the case – but I’ve found that it has really helped me to notice when I need to stop coding and go for a break. It sounds like a minor thing, but it can be all too easy to ‘fall down the rabbit hole’ and keeping mashing the keyboard while not actually being productive when writing code. Knowing when to step back, take stock, and look at the bigger picture is an incredibly important skill for a developer looking to produce any kind of complex system.
I know developers that spend a lot of time and effort looking after their physical health, and we are all very much aware of the problems that such a sedentary job can cause; but I don’t think we spend enough time considering our lifestyles’ impacts on our mental health. Particularly with our industry’s problems with startup culture, burnout, et cetera (I read a blog post talking about how to effectively work 16+ hours per day as a developer. I thought it was a joke. It wasn’t.) I think that techniques like mindfulness are becoming ever more important in looking after ourselves.