How Mindfulness Changed My Life
Let's get straight to the point here- how could being mindful really change someone's life?
That's what I first thought when I began practising mindfulness.
At that time, my stress was at an all-time high and I didn't really know what else to do, but try as many different management techniques as I could. Meditation, exercise, self-love and acceptance, mindfulness, organisation, relaxation techniques, spending time in nature, healthy eating... You name it, I probably tried it.
Stress was such a huge part of my life and slowly, it was creeping more and more into my days. It took me hours to fall asleep and I would wake up early, with my mind already racing.
It didn't matter how hard I studied, I never felt prepared.
I couldn't drive without my heart rate speeding up and feeling completely on edge.
I dreaded going to work and forcing an extroverted persona, when all I really wanted was some time alone.
Bills were stressful, holidays were stressful because I didn't want them to end, maintaining my household was stressful, going out with friends was stressful.
It felt like no matter what I did, I was constantly pushing myself up a never-ending mountain.
Looking back, I honestly can't believe how much has changed. Mindfulness has helped me transform my mindset from one of stress and fear and uncertainty, to one that tends to welcome abundance, acceptance, gratitude and positivity. Not every day is easy, but my resilience is so much stronger because I know how to bring myself back into the moment and release tension and stress. I can actually let it go and move forward, unburdened.
Coming back to that question again- how could mindfulness do all this?
For starters, mindfulness isn't just a technique! For me, it has truly become a way of living and thinking. Rather than waking up too early and immediately feeling bombarded by my to-do lists, I wake up feeling refreshed and energised because I've been relaxed enough to get a decent sleep. I now lie in bed for a few minutes each morning and practise being present. I notice the sounds, I notice what I can see, I notice what my body feels like, I notice my breath. Whatever that moment is offering to me, I ease into the experience of it and begin my day by being mindful.
It might seem like a small thing, but starting my days like this has been really powerful. Rather than feeling like I'm already a few steps behind (like I used to!), I now feel a stronger sense of calm and ease. And from this state of calm and ease, it's much easier for me to then bring mindfulness into the rest of my day.
When I say that being mindful is a way of living, it's because I'm realising more and more than mindfulness can be infused into nearly everything in my life.
I can practise being present when I'm having conversations with other people, I cook more mindfully by noticing colour and texture and smells and flavour of foods, I tune into my body when I move (especially during walking or yoga), I deliberately focus on the experience of each step of my beauty routine, from putting on my favourite necklace to rubbing moisturiser into my skin.
Even activities which don't seem particularly mindful, like thinking about the future and setting goals can still have an element of mindfulness, such as tuning into the feeling you get in your body when you decide on a goal. Does the idea of a particular goal feel exciting, inspiring and fun or is it already causing some anxiety, overwhelm or dread?
Now, please don't read this list and think that the idea of bringing all this mindfulness into your life is going to be a great, big effort, which you don't have time for!
Most of these great things happened without me even noticing. I started my mindfulness practice with just a few simple techniques, such as tuning into my breath a few times a day and sitting down to drink a cup of tea, mindfully.
Slowly, I started to notice that mindfulness was coming to me more and more naturally and now, I often don't even think about deliberately tuning into the moment- I just do!