How hard can it be?
Yeah, because every successful venture starts out by asking “how hard can it be” right? Cue my own eyes rolling at me.
Here’s how it all began:
When I realized just how badly I had neglected my physical and emotional health while caregiving, I was desperate to improve my overall well-being and repair the damage I had done to myself. So I did what I always do and I started researching.
I wanted, no, I needed, to figure out how to develop a new wellness routine. It was time I faced my reality and make the necessary adjustments to my current and ongoing circumstances as a caregiver. It became very clear to me that mindfulness would be an important practice to adopt.
Okay, no problem. I mean really, how hard can it be?
Why can’t I do this?
I really thought developing a mindfulness practice was going to be easy. After all, I’m a therapist. Introspection is my jam. I love looking within, exploring awareness, understanding behavior, etc. So, imagine my surprise when I realized I wasn’t naturally “gifted” in the discipline of mindfulness.
For me, I found it challenging to stay focused and clear my mind. Sitting in “the traditional meditative position” (on the floor, legs criss-crossed, arms on my knees with my palms up, pressing my thumb and middle fingers together to form a circle) was awkward and uncomfortable. I often opened one eye partly out of habit, to seek approval, and partly to see if anyone was watching this disaster unfold. I was really frustrated and I started to internalize my anxiety, questioning my ability to be “good enough” to be mindful.
My “fight” with an inanimate object
For awhile, I would pass my meditation pillow and glare at it because of course it was mocking me and judging me – laughing at me really. Seriously, one day I swear I heard it chuckle!
Now, I realize, if you’ve read this far you might be saying to yourself, “Yikes, I thought this was going to be a blog that would motivate me to incorporate mindfulness into my every day life. I think I’ll just gently close out this piece and go pray for Elizabeth-Leigh, maybe even leave a comment asking her if she’s ok.”
Well, first of all, AWWWE, thank you for being concerned about me. [[ Hearts!! ]] Second, rest assure, I’m good. Like most things in life, it’s through our struggles that we reap the most benefits. I share this disaster of a beginning just in case anyone else out there has had the same beginning and given up, or is worried about having this kind of start to a mindfulness practice.
Don’t Stop. Keep Going.
I’m here to tell you, it does get better. I have come a long way with my mindfulness practice and I am so grateful I did not stop exploring or trying to figure out how to include mindfulness into my every day life.
It is my greatest hope that by sharing this, albeit, embarrassing beginning, you will reap the benefits. Below are my top two strategies for how to begin an every day mindfulness practice, especially if you:
- Are unsure of where or how to start.
- Don’t feel like you have a lot of time, or
- Think mindfulness is only about developing a formal meditation practice.
Strategy #1: Find Mindful Moments In Your Every Day Routine
If you are a beginner, like I was, I recommend going the informal route and start by trying to find simple, and shorter, mindful moments among your every day routine. Here are four moments I regularly rely on:
- When you wake up, as you are still lying in bed, take 2 – 3 minutes to experience your morning. How does your body feel? Try to focus your attention to the physical sensations throughout your body. See how long you are able to lie still before your thoughts drift to something other than your body and then see if you can extend that time frame over the next few days/weeks.
- Use every day activities to practice your mindfulness skills.
- For example, eating. Try chewing your food slower, and being fully aware of how your food tastes and smells. I still have a hard time with this one.
- Another great example, is when we are in conversation with others. Try to focus your full attention to the conversation at hand instead of other tasks you have to do. Ask yourself if you are truly listening with your full awareness, or are you impatiently waiting to speak again.
- Use music as a means to practice mindfulness. See if you can identify each instrument in the song. Are you able to focus on the music without allowing other thoughts to intrude? How is your body reacting to the music? What emotions are you experiencing?
- Set a couple of reminders on your phone and when you hear your alarm go off, practice being fully present. Pay attention to what you were doing when your alarm went off. Were you multi-tasking? Were you thinking about “all the things”? What was that like to stop?
Strategy #2: Utilize Affirmations
I have learned that I love affirmations. They are definitely my friend. For me, they help my wondering brain stay or get back into focus. In the beginning of my mindfulness journey, I would set reminders on my phone so I could stop and practice because otherwise I wouldn’t do it. It wasn’t a habit yet. Through that process, I have learned that even with the reminder, I found it challenging to make a hard stop. You see, my brain has a hard time with quick transitions. So, I set up my practice moments as an appointment – typed in the affirmation and set the alarm. When the alarm went off, the affirmation popped up and I would repeat it a couple (2 – 3) times.
Here are a couple of my favorite Mindfulness Affirmations:
Mindfulness enhances my well-being.
- Mindfulness teaches me how to be calm and strong. When I engage fully in the here and now I let go of anxiety and regrets. My body and mind feel more at ease.
Mindfulness makes me healthier.
- My heart slows down, and my blood pressure drops. My immune system works more effectively. I enjoy restful sleep and higher brain functioning. I experience fewer headaches and digestive symptoms.
Starting Is The Hardest Part.
So, there you have it. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I hope you found yourself laughing at different parts of this blog, but more importantly, I hope you also found yourself saying “I can do this” or “I can try this.”
If it still seems a little awkward, or uncomfortable, or maybe even like homework – I get that. I’m still going to encourage you though to start somewhere, anywhere, even if it’s just practicing mindfulness in the morning before you get out of bed.
Do your best to let go of perfection and simply allow some natural, mindful, moments to arise throughout your day. You won’t regret it and your body will love you for it.