Looking for answers?


Sometimes it would be lovely to have somebody just tell us what to do in a situation, rather than have to ponder, procrastinate and put off making a decision. Where do you turn if you need answers? Your friends? your mum? Google? self help books? Alexa?  It is quite common to search for answers to life situations or setbacks externally.

The self help industry is booming. With more than one in four adults experiencing a mental health problem at any one time, GPs are now prescribing self help books on anxiety, depression, stress and other mental health conditions through a scheme called “Shelf Help” whereby patients will get preferential treatment loaning books at libraries.

Bookshops are awash with self improvement books. Whether it be boosting your confidence, becoming a better parent or falling back in love with your job there is a book for you. Is it that we are desperate for advice or suckers for a quick fix? We are seeing more academics such as Brene Brown and Malcom Gladwell open up the audience for self help books. The natural follow up of making a TED talk further mainstreams the popularity of self development.

There are now apps being developed to help you get through life’s crises. Mend is an App that is marketed to be a “personal trainer for heartbreak” and helps you get over your ex by providing a supportive community for the heartbroken.

Sometimes the answers to our questions can be found right in front of us. You don’t need to go to a retreat or take a holiday in order to find the answers to the big questions, the answers are on your doorstep.

Street Wisdom is an international social enterprise that was formed to bring inspiration to every street on earth. “Walkshops” are run by volunteers who give people skills to see the urban environment in a different, fresh way. Participations pose a question they would like an answer to and through a series of exercises they experience a “walking based problem solving.”

This weekend Brain Train Me ran a walking workshop that supported people to use the local environment to find clarity and answers to life questions. Street Wisdom’s annual “World Wide Wander” happens over a weekend in September, using a mixture of mindfulness,  cognitive science and psychology to help people gain clarity from their surroundings.

Once participants had opened their minds to the idea that the streets were capable of teaching us and that our desks were usually not a very fruitful place to problem solve, we explored the streets with 3 sets of 10 minute exercises.  Once acclimatised to how we could use our immediate environment we clarified the question each of us was asking and then set off on a “street quest” allowing the environment to provide answers.

 What I found quite remarkable about the whole experience was the process  allowed me to quieten my mind, tune into my senses and clarify the question I wanted answers to … All of the things I usually didn’t do when trying to solve a problem!

So next time you are struggling with a problem why not look at the familiar with fresh eyes?

Nicola Strudley