Mindfulness has become a focus for me in the last 12 months – exploring it is a journey I have undertaken, a mountain I have chosen to climb.
The word ‘mindfulness’ probably means different things to different people. I’m not actually aware of the dictionary definition but to me it’s the concept of just being happy and calm, here, now, in the present moment, not worrying about past mistakes or future possibilities.
A completely quiet and care-free mind is something I’ve always struggled to achieve, my entire life. Some of us, we just worry and we don’t know how to switch off. As I reached my late 20s a few years ago, the chaos didn’t show any signs of slowing down. In a busy and noisy 21st century world it can be difficult to find quietness and just be.
So, I’ve been on a little journey of self-discovery the last year or so, deciphering what the things are that make me mindful, and what the things are that make me feel stressed, anxious, unhappy, not present, confused, worried, forgetful, busy and so on.
I made a turning point years ago by promising myself to never feel trapped by my anxieties, but liberated by them. If I see every bump in the road as an opportunity to learn and move forward as a better and stronger person, anything negative – magically and suddenly – can become a positive.
Being able to see any mental health challenges as great opportunities has been life-changing, and a new positive me has definitely emerged this year as a result of embracing that. I don’t wish to change myself, rather, just gather some more quiet moments and little enlightening lessons along the way. I’m constantly trying to learn from life, and I love that about myself. I try to embrace every mistake and challenge, look at it square in the face and say, come on then, show me what you’ve got. Show me what I am missing, what I should know.
I spent this weekend in Wales with my boyfriend. We celebrated six years together with long snowy walks, fire-side mulled cider and my slightly less romantic constant sneezing and coughing. It’s a miracle we got there and back in the treacherous snowy conditions that have swept the Midlands this weekend, but – we were prepared, and we were safe.
On the drive up to Wales, we listened to Russell Brand’s latest podcast. In an open and honest conversation with survivalist Ed Stafford, they discuss Ed’s mental health challenges, and the battles he has undertaken with his own mind, ultimately facing it head on after sixty days in isolation on an island with nothing but a camera and the inner ramblings of his own brain.
After years of spiritual journeying, Ed talks about the importance of getting outside of your head – “valuing experiences and feelings over thoughts”. Admittedly as someone who is always ‘thinking about’ something (hence the blog titles), someone who places thoughts on a pedestal, looks at them, analyses them, writes them up, shares them with the world… Ed’s comment got me (ironically and counter-productively!) wondering – did I need to let go of the concept of ‘thoughts’ more in order to achieve a more mindful daily living?
If you’re anticipating my answering my own question, the beauty of this mindful journey is that it will remain unanswerable for now. I blogged about my desire to really focus on 2018 as my year of slow but I’m also not anticipating to find the key to happiness magically in 365 days. I don’t think there is a finish line to happiness, that’s the whole point of being in the present moment. Mindfulness isn’t a box to tick, a milestone to reach, it’s just here, already. We just need to find the right tools to dig it out of ourselves.
In the podcast, Ed talks about the meditation app Headspace which I cannot recommend more to anyone looking to find a little bit of mental quiet. Headspace has become just one of my own recent tools of practice, alongside others. I also:
- Try to schedule in ‘me’ time in the form of nature walks or solo spa days
- Take hours out with my monthly mindfulness magazines
- Have started ‘crafting’ and visiting craft fairs with a friend who is on a similar mindful mission
- Have reduced my time spent on technology (living in an area with no mobile phone signal, we’ve reinstated the nostalgic landline in our house which we’ve loved!)
- Deleted various apps and social profiles over the years to reduce the noise (as a digital marketer who can spend up to ten hours per day looking at social media, making steps like this in my personal time has been so important)
I was chatting with a close friend the other day about mental health and she reminded me to see any arising anxious thoughts as just temporary discomfort, which I think is the most perfect way to think about any negative feelings or situations that might tackle you to the ground on any idle day of the week.
Temporary discomfort – a reminder that we don’t have to be trapped in the blizzard forever. If we keep warm, look after ourselves, be prepared with the right tools and people around us, the snow will melt away and we can eventually break free.
This week I am listening to this on repeat. Guaranteed to put a spring in your snowy step and a smile on your face.