This week I would like to share my journey into creating a mindfulness habit and how it has helped on my journey to happiness.
I have played with the idea of mindfulness for a few years. Not fully embracing it. I have meditated in yoga classes for a number of years and some of that time, I was definitely being mindful as we focussed on each area of our body using a tense and release method, therefore being present in the moment. However, I had not managed to make mindfulness a habit.
I had taken some great classes with Adam Dacey who is the founder of Mindspace. Adam runs 8-week beginner courses in Mindfulness. They encompass all types of mindfulness, from walking to eating and of course sitting meditation. I also attended a couple of his advanced courses where we discussed things a little more philosophical. For a while I managed a short-term habit, but when I couldn’t attend any classes for a while, I broke the fragile practice of daily mindfulness meditation. If you are interested in attending a class in the West Midlands, Adam’s introductory classes are very accessible, especially for beginners in their mindfulness journey.
So what helped me to really ‘get’ the mindfulness habit? Well, it came from the ‘Exploring what Matters’ course from Action for Happiness. You may remember from last week that I facilitated a course late last year. The sessions introduced the idea of mindfulness week by week, at the beginning of each class, as a method of tuning in. This was a great introduction for all participants. Even more amazing was the offer of a year’s free subscription to Headspace as a thank you for completing the post course survey!
Soon after the end of the course, I claimed my free subscription and began using the app every day. To begin with, I was using it first thing in the morning. But then I began to use it both morning and night. It is a great app, especially for beginners, or those who find it hard to get into the routine of regular mindfulness meditation. That was how my mindfulness practice became a habit. I have now meditated, using the app, for a total of 45 hours and completed 288 sessions. I have also meditated quite a lot without using the app. If you are thinking, that is a long time, imagine what else you could’ve been usefully engaged in with that amount time. Well, it is less than 20 minutes a day and most of that time would have been previously spent on one of my social media accounts. So I consider mindfulness meditation an infinitely more productive use of my time.
The change that it has made in my life is quite difficult to measure accurately and hard to explain because it has been a gradual change. But perhaps by describing one story I can give you an example. This is probably quite a revelation and I haven’t shared this before; I hope that it helps. At times, I used to feel anxious about the future, I used to worry that if I anything happened to me or my job, that the family would not thrive. My thoughts quite easily went into a downward spiral (known as catasrophising). You may recognise it, it went a bit like this: ‘My day didn’t go well at work, what if I can’t do this job, what if I need to leave, what if I can’t earn enough to keep the family, what if I couldn’t pay for all the extra curriculur activities, that would be the end of their hopes and dreams, what if, what if… My final thought was usually, well at least we could sell the house and move somewhere cheaper and that would help for a while. I don’t really understand where this anxiousness came from as I have had far less in the past. But at its worst, it could affect the way I spoke to my family. When I felt like this, it led me to say things like, ‘If I don’t have this job, then you will have to give up (insert activity). It came from nowhere, but left a lasting hole in our pleasure of enjoying the fact that for timebeing, at least, I did have that job and we could afford to pay for that activity. I feel quite sad that I passed that anxiety on to my children, especially now that I feel very differently and I know that they were only passing thoughts – never the reality.
In using mindfulness to interupt the chain that leads to the feeling that ‘we’re all doomed’ your thoughts can take a different path. In using your breath to stop for a moment, remind yourself they are just thoughts, it is just your mind doing what it likes to do best; chatter away often negatively. But we are not our thoughts, our thoughts come and go endlessly. If we can break the chain by reminding ourselves that all we actually ever have is this moment anyway. What has gone has gone and what is to come is only in our imagination – another thought. This moment, this breath, this body, this time. We can learn to just ‘be’.
Next week, I will be sharing how using Gratitude has been another step in my happiness journey.