If 2020 taught us anything it’s to expect the unexpected.
That can make it hard to look ahead with the same confidence we’d usually have at the start of the year.
So how do we find the strength to face these new levels of uncertainty? By going within.
I can hear the arguments already – “Taking time for mindful breathing exercises isn’t going to solve any of the problems vexing us these days.”
My question is, would finding a bit of calm within yourself make it any harder to tackle things than you are already finding it?
Imagine the scenario – you take a few minutes a day for a mindfulness meditation practice, in the same way you prioritise brushing your teeth or having a shower. It helps keep you feeling grounded and more calm despite any turmoil around you. You begin to find it easier to prioritise the things you do want to tackle. You can put energy into things in line with your values. Your relationships gradually improve as you become more in tune with your own emotions.
Further down the line this calm within that you’ve got to know through mindfulness meditation becomes like an anchor and gives you confidence to look ahead. Now you know you can trust yourself to care for yourself in this way – and you’ve seen how this care benefits the things you do and those around you.
This is mindfulness. It isn’t fanciful and it’s not magical. It’s as practical as doing some exercise regularly to get fitter.
Every time you put mindfulness in to practice, be that during daily life or during meditation, you strengthen your mindfulness skills.
Who am I to be saying all this? Well, I’m someone who’s known anxiety for most of my life.
In fact, I know anxiety better now than ever before.
Thanks to mindfulness, I can see when it’s creeping in, I can look at it directly as an emotional reaction, allow it to be and then see it leave just the same way it came.
When given a chance, emotional reactions do pass. Humans aren’t evolved to live with constant stress and anxiety. Through mindfulness we can get to know these states better and get to know how to respond to them in a way that lets them run their course.
Then we can come back to that anchor of calm and experience relaxation and all the other positive emotions that have space to arise once stress is lessened – joy, awe, compassion, love, gratitude.
We can find ourselves quite attached to worrying though – it certainly starts to feel familiar after a while! But because we are not evolved to live in a constant state of stress, it will eventually make life harder for us in the form of illness or strained relationships.
This could be your year to find that foothold in calm, get to know your own emotional reactions and live with less stress, despite how thoroughly 2020 shook everything up.
I suppose mindfulness meditation coaches ought to be very patient but actually one of the things that appeals to me most about all this is you don’t have to wait to try it out later. You could start now, this moment.
To activate your body’s relaxation response and nurture some mindfulness:
• Take a deep breath in through the nose counting how long it takes to breathe in.
• Pause for a second.
• Breathe out of the mouth slowly, making the outbreath at least two seconds longer than the breath in.
• Repeat twice more.
• Let the breathing go back to a normal pace.
• Put a hand on the diaphragm.
• Close the eyes if it’s possible and comfortable.
• Notice the rhythm of the breathing and the movement at the belly from each breath.
• Do this for five to ten cycles of breath.
• Pro tip: If you lose count or get distracted, smile and bring the focus back to the breath
Join me for a journey in mindfulness.
This article was originally published on Dorset Living on 5 January 2021