Mindfulness & Me
Like so many people, I found the idea of practicing mindfulness extremely appealing. I read about it, attended courses on it and even studied it as part of my training to become a life coach, but could I get into the habit of practicing mindfulness on a daily basis? NO!
I tried practicing mindfulness in all kinds of ways; mindful walking, mindful eating, mindful listening. The list goes on. The funny thing is, even when I would feel real benefits, I just couldn’t get into a routine.
I became so obsessed with forming my mindfulness habit that I neglected to really appreciate how educating myself about mindfulness has actually had a really positive impact on me. Little mindfulness habits have seemed to creep into my daily life, without me really making the conscious effort to practice them.
I’d like to share my insights with you as I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who’s felt like a mindfulness failure!
Using mindfulness to deal with stressful situations…
One of the first things you learn when it comes to mindfulness is that your breath acts as an anchor. It is the quickest and simplest way to bring yourself into the present moment.
When I get stressed I lose productivity, concentration and most of all, feel downright awful. If I notice the signs of stress (for me, it’s the quick breathing, palpations and tense shoulders), I take myself off for a walk and do a mindfulness walking meditation. I simply concentrate on my breathing, in and out, as I walk.
The hardest part is breaking away from the stressful situation but once I’m into a steady rhythm of breathing and walking I instantly start to feel better and gain perspective. I can then return with a fresh head feeling ten times better.
Using mindfulness as a bookmark between work and play…
I’ve always found it hard to shake off the day’s work and truly relax. There will be thoughts flying around in my head and turning them off can often feel near impossible. On occasions I’ll be all ready for a nice evening of relaxation and instead it will feel like I’m lugging around a giant rucksack filled with all the thoughts, ideas and challenges brought up from my working day. How can I unwind with that kind of weight on my shoulders? That’s when I’ll turn to mindfulness meditation and it’s in those kinds of situations where it really does work for me. I’m not doing it just because I’ve told myself that this week I must meditate each morning. I’m doing it because this has actually become an effective coping mechanism for me.
I normally lie down (I know that’s not best practice but it works better for me). I put my hands on my tummy so I can feel them moving up and down with each breath, so I can get into a good rhythm. To begin with, thoughts of the day will be coming in thick and fast and I don’t try and push them away. I let them come and go and observe them, like standing by a motorway watching the cars pass. Gradually the motorway traffic gets quieter and quieter and this is when I’m truly in the present moment. Afterwards, I feel disconnected from my working day and ready to focus on me.
A peaceful mind…
Mindfulness isn’t just about practicing meditation, it’s about learning to be mindful of your thoughts and feelings and recognising when your thoughts are becoming negative, or even destructive.
When I think about myself before I was exposed to mindfulness my thoughts were often like a big pond full of murky water with lots of algae and weeds and now, although there are those murky days, I feel like my mind is clearer (much like a beautiful clear sea in the Caribbean!!) I have much better clarity of thought and seem to have found a calmness which makes me so much more focused and productive. As you know, I don’t meditate daily, so I put this down to the fact that learning about mindfulness has taught me to pay attention to my thoughts. By paying close attention, I am giving myself control over my thoughts, rather than letting them control me.
I still live in hope that I will, one day, master the art of the daily meditation routine but for now, I am more than happy with the positive impact mindfulness is having on my state of mind.
My biggest tip for beginners is to keep experimenting with different ways that mindfulness can help you. Like anything, different things work for different people. As time goes on, and as you continue to learn about mindfulness, you will begin to notice little changes and those seemingly small changes have the potential to make a big difference.