The Importance of Learning To Practice Mindfulness On Your Personal Journey
Over the past eight years or so, my mentality has changed dramatically and even though I revisit the past or even do a little future speculation in the name of work, the fact that I am consistently happy and have a lot less drama and anxiety in my life is because I spend the bulk of my mental time in the present. Even when taking a trip down memory lane, I can differentiate between past and present while remaining cognitive of who I am and where I want to go.
Mindfulness is about being in the present – not worrying about what isn’t happening and not trying to anticipate what’s next.
Why is this important on your pattern breaking / building your self-esteem journey? Because you’re going to be looking at your past so that you can adapt your habits, but I am mindful of you getting stuck in the past.
Your primary objective with revisiting the past, with pulling up all of this information is to learn from the insights gained. If you get stuck on blame, shame, ruminating, feeling helpless, you’re not going to have the opportunity to learn, grow and love yourself more because you’ll be too busy being afraid.
This is why it’s important that even if it’s just one thing, each day that you do any work or you do a spot of raking over the past, that you make a note of something that you’ve learned on these days and express it positively. This means that even if you suddenly recognise something that you said or did that was not beneficial, it’s time to get ‘present’ and think about what you can learn from it, not beating yourself up for not being able to reach into the past with an arm like Inspector Gadget and change it.
There is no point in bathing in guilt (or even blame and shame) unless you’re going to ask yourself whether you’re doing the best that you can do for you now, whether you’ve [positively] learned something from the experience, and considering what you can [positively] do now and moving forward, even if it’s taking baby steps to put something in motion.
You’re not going to spontaneously combust into a person with different habits overnight. Be patient with you and if you have a bad day, remember that tomorrow and every day after is a fresh one to get up and try again. Sometimes you have to have bad days – you then, if you keep trying to come back to the present and on learning from the insights gained, start to have good days.
When you’re not mindful, you veer between worrying about what isn’t happening, analysing and trying to fix the past, wanting to ‘fix’ old mistakes with people from your past or people whom you’re frustrated with in the present instead of learning from your experiences for you and your future, and then veer to trying to anticipate what’s going to happen next, betting on potential, and trying to protect your future by not making decisions. Then you get stuck in your present which no doubt adds to anxiety about your future which you’ll no doubt anticipate as being dodgy and then feel helpless. Phew! Exhausting!
I had no agenda when I decided to take a different path – I hadn’t tasked myself with changing anyone around me; I just wanted to get on with my own life.
I didn’t know where it would lead – there was and is no destination.
As there wasn’t a destination and what I was doing was more about changing how I lived and how I felt about me, it meant that doing these things was for me, not about a goal per se. If I had a goal, it was to be healthier and happier but it’s not like I’d quantified it which is what many people do. Their goal is to be, for example, happier and it’s quantified by the fact that they think that they’ll feel that they’ve achieved this happiness when they, for instance, meet someone or own certain things. That would be like me feeling that my job was done when I met ‘the boyf’ but actually, I’ve spent the 6.5 years since continuing to invest in me.
Treating you with love, care, trust, and respect is something that you have the responsibility of doing every day for the rest of your life.
I’d started out looking for alternatives to steroids and to see if a change in diet could alleviate my symptoms but during the process, I’d also had some major epiphanies about my own behaviour and my life, namely unavailable relationships and my low self-esteem.
Not having a goal like “I’ll make some changes and my family will change or I’ll find a relationship”, meant that if I had a bad day or week, I didn’t think “Well I might as well not bother treating myself well because I haven’t met the man of my dreams yet.” If my family pissed me off (and they did), I didn’t think “Eff it in a bucket and chuck it. I may as well just give up now.”
Let’s be real: it’s not that the thought never passed my mind that it would be a lot easier if everyone else changed or something or someone else came along and fixed my problems, but I knew it was bullshit. Every single time I fell into my old habit of putting it on someone else, I ended up feeling unhappy and experiencing a setback. But I learned to get back up, dust myself off and try to live each day learning to treat me well.
And trust – there have been bad days and weeks and some of you may remember that my health was affected yet again by me forgetting to listen to myself because I was too busy treading water in stress. But, and there is a big but, because I overall treat me with love, care, trust, and respect and am very committed to me, overall and consistently, I am happy, independently and of course in my relationship.
That’s something else we can find ourselves taking our foot off the peddle on – making a commitment requires us to put the effort in day after day. Some days we’re better at being committed to ourselves than others but we just have to keep doing it. We live to try again. We learn from what does and doesn’t work and by trying and trying again, we strengthen the commitment through action and thinking. If you’re always looking to give up, to abandon the process, you’re not committed to the decision to change your habits and better your life.
The funny thing is that when you spend more time in the present, you get to have an active part in the future that follows. Life serves us lessons through our experiences to teach us where we may need to adapt our thinking and habits. Do your work in the present and the past will gradually start to take care of itself while your future opens up with possibilities.
Food For Thought
How much of your day is spent being in the present?
How much of your current stress is related to concentration of your energy and emotions on the past or trying to anticipate the future?
When you experiences what you regard as ‘uncomfortable’ or even ‘negative’ feelings, do you observe them and let them pass or do you judge them and you and then respond accordingly?
Check out mindfulness and meditation app Headspace. I’ve recommended it to so many students and readers with great results including improved sleep within days after a decade of poor sleep, feeling connected and self-soothing, able to navigate grief better, and being calmly able to respond to issues instead of freaking out or seeking unhealthy distractions.