Valérie Fernandez

By Valérie Fernandez

February 4, 2017


The Benefits of Letting Go

Article revised on 4 May 2018

5 questions for Dr. Serge Marquis, the author of Pensouillard le hamster

Dr. Serge Marquis is a doctor who specializes in health and wellness for organizations. He is recognized for his expertise in workplace stress, burn-out and psychological distress. A popular public speaker, he is also the author of several works including Pensouillard le hamster: petit traité de décroissance personnelle, published internationally. I met with him to find out more about Pensouillard and the benefits of letting go. His advice could help you conquer daily stress.

Stéphanie Chrétien: Who is Pensouillard and how did you discover him?

Dr Marquis: For 30 years, I have been counselling people who are unable to function at work or who are suffering from burn-out. Certainly a range of factors associated with work (responsibilities, conditions, relations, etc.) can contribute to this problem. However, I have found that often individuals bring a big part of this suffering upon themselves! What I mean is the way we think often causes dissatisfaction and doesn’t lead anywhere—somewhat like a hamster running on a treadmill. This realization hit me when a seven-year-old girl introduced me to her little pet. It was running very fast, using up a lot of energy, but going nowhere. It reminded me of my exhausted patients who were trapped in their way of thinking. That’s how I came up with the name Pensouillard (someone who overthinks things).

What type of thinking are you referring when it comes to letting go?

Many people have an internal dialogue that is not constructive: Why does this always happen to me and not to other people? Why am I never promoted? Why don’t I perform as well? etc. These thoughts are very destructive for the ego since they don’t provide any solutions or tranquillity. These individual spin their wheels, expending a lot of energy, and bring real suffering upon themselves. We live in a performance-focused society where the way other people perceive us is given excessive importance, contributing to unhealthy thoughts.

So what can we do to stop spinning our wheels like this? Do you have any tips?

First, we need to observe our hamster, which is to say identify when we have a tendency to think thoughts that lead nowhere. I like using the grocery store check-out line example. When we’re waiting to pay, we often have the impression that other lines are moving faster. We start blaming the cashier, the other clients and their overflowing shopping carts. However, this doesn’t lead anywhere and is very negative. We need to learn to let go and train ourselves mentally to transfer our attention to the present moment. At the grocery store, we can smile at the people around us, look at the headlines on the magazines or take advantage of the time to relax and breathe deeply. In fact, focusing on breathing is an excellent way to train yourself to stay in the moment.

What are the benefits of letting go and living in the moment?

If our thoughts can’t generate any possible solutions (and sometimes, there are none), but just dissatisfaction and negativity, it’s best to just stop. It’s that easy! By focusing our attention on the present moment, we can fully appreciate our life and enjoy the little moments of happiness: beautiful scenery, a good meal, an interesting discussion, etc. We also become more efficient and creative since we aren’t losing all our energy stressing over our thoughts. There’s no stress in the present moment. Only the past and the future cause anxiety.

Can an employer help employees to live in the moment?

Of course! He or she must first set an example and apply the same concept. His or her attention must be entirely focused on the present moment. For example, when greeted by their employer, employees must feel that the greeting is sincere and not a mindless routine. During meetings, he or she must sincerely listen to their suggestions and exchanges rather than managing things in his or her head or continually checking the smartphone. The employer must also ensure that this approach is reflected through the whole company by implementing a culture of recognition. This is very important because recognition is not something we can expect, but it’s something we can, and should, give!

To find out more about Dr. Serge Marquis, his public speaking and publications, go to (in French only).

The Viva Workplace health and wellness program is a turnkey program that’s specially designed to meet employers’ needs with regard to health and wellness promotion and prevention.

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