Review of Build Yourself Happy by Abbie Headon (DK, 160 pages)
When you think of mindful, relaxing activities that take you away from all the hustle and bustle of daily life, Lego building may not immediately come to mind… But then, as Abbie Headon points out right from the beginning of her book, Build Yourself Happy*, there is something joyful and liberating about allowing yourself to get lost in play even when you are all grown up!
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It certainly provides a much needed break from your everyday routine and you will be reassured to know that no prior knowledge of Lego building is needed, and you don’t need a massive collection of bricks to get started.
Discovering a love of Lego (later in life!)
It may come as a surprise that while I dabbled in a bit of Lego play here and there as a child, I never really got into it! My two sons, however, love building all kinds of constructions with their Lego bricks and relish the infinite opportunities that it holds for their imaginations. Over the years we have accumulated many Lego sets, have drawers stuffed full of all sorts of bricks, and I have got pretty good at helping them put their sets together. It seems to be an activity that suits my eye for detail, sheer determination to solve problems, and penchant for following instructions to the absolute letter!
It wasn’t until a few years ago, while I was in the grips of acute anxiety, that I found some solace in putting Lego together. I dug out a few sets that my son had not got around to building and, with time on my hands, my head incredibly foggy, and my thoughts on a loop, I decided that might be one thing that I could actually sit and do.
I would turn on some of my favourite music and then just simply concentrate on following the instructions, step by step, page by page, until I had produced the finished article. In doing so I experienced a very mindful activity, time flew by as I was building, my thoughts were quieter, and my physical symptoms lessened. I felt like I had managed to press the pause button on the anxiety for just a moment and, of course, I got the great satisfaction of seeing the final piece come together.
How to bring some Lego fun into your self-care routine
Once you have borrowed or purchased a selection of Lego bricks you are ready to go! Choose a time when you can get away from it all, remove as many distractions as you possibly can, go with the flow and start connecting those bricks, piece by piece!
Headon provides plenty of activities in the book to help you to create a mindful experience as you build, which then gently encourages you to be very much in the moment, simply paying close attention to the look and feel of the bricks and the sounds they make as you connect them.
Now personally, when I am building, I quite like having the instructions there to tell me what to do but Headon persuaded me to throw caution to the wind and cast aside my preferred method of building (i.e. obediently following the step by step instructions…) in order to ignite my creativity and to let it flourish.
In her light-hearted and humorous manner, Headon inspires you to recreate the spontaneity of play, to silence your inner art critic, and allow yourself to connect the bricks together to see what emerges from your imagination, without judgement or the need for absolute perfection. However, if you really want a guide to follow then Headon has got you covered and suggests model building ideas and illustrations throughout the book.
I particularly liked constructing the Lego vison board (where you can use the bricks to resemble goals that you have), creating my very own peaceful Lego garden, and exploring my feelings by using the bricks to represent an emotion. It really felt like an opportunity to tune out, relax and to simply concentrate on building and amending the design I had in mind. Check out my creations in the photos below!
Naturally, my children became curious about what I was building and soon wanted to join in, coming up with new ideas and making their own contributions to my designs, which then turned into a lovely moment of collaboration!
It does not have to be just you and your collection bricks, after all another vital way of maintaining your wellbeing involves connecting with others. Consequently, the book contains many fun games that will encourage you to get together, put away your phones, and enrich your bonding time with family and friends as you build your constructions. You can even use Lego to bring a little something extra to your team building sessions and Headon includes insightful icebreakers and other activities that will spark some creative ways of solving problems.
What can Lego teach us about life?
Getting back in touch with our childlike imaginations, where absolutely anything is possible, can also have the benefit of stimulating creative thinking in our day to day lives and Headon cleverly makes this link between Lego building activities and our approach to life. When we open ourselves to trying out new things and experiment with our creative side then we learn to broaden our horizons, adapt our plans and pivot when things don’t turn out the way we expected them to, and discover alternative ways of overcoming our obstacles.
The book not only inspired me to raid my son’s Lego collection, to revel once again in being young at heart, and to build like no-one is watching but also to start thinking more creatively about how I can use the time that I have for self-care. It can encompass many different activities and you can really experiment with your self-care routine, bringing in lots of playful and creative exercises that give you those precious moments of joy and peace so that you are ready to face the world again.
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