Mindfulness can help us in so many ways. It helps us feel more calm and centered. So why is it so hard to make it happen?
Practicing mindfulness can feel complicated and can leave you feeling discouraged or thinking you’re “doing it wrong.” Who would have thought that something associated with serenity and emotional health. could be so frustrating?
It’s only more frustrating when we realize that feeling frustration might be the opposite of what mindfulness is supposed to create.
If you’re feeling stuck, here are 9 things you can do to include mindfulness in your life even if it doesn’t come easily.
1. Remember: It’s OK If You’re Not Relaxed
Remember that mindfulness meditation isn’t a relaxation exercise, it’s an attention exercise. It’s OK if you don’t feel more relaxed after a session of mindfulness meditation. Relaxation is sometimes a byproduct of meditation, but it is not the goal.
2. Take a Nonjudgmental Stance
When practicing mindfulness, try to maintain a nonjudgmental attitude toward whatever comes up in your mind. Your job is simply to observe what you’re experiencing—not to control or shape it.
3. Look for Quick Practice Opportunities
If you don’t have a big chunk of time available for daily meditation, you can still be mindful throughout your day. Consider practicing mindfulness for part of a walk down the street or take a brief mindfulness break when you’re at your desk at work. The three-minute breathing space exercise is a simple way to include more moments of mindfulness during your day.
4. Patience is Key
If you’ve tried practicing mindfulness before and felt like it didn’t “work,” that doesn’t mean it’s not for you. Instead, it’s possible that you were expecting to see results too quickly. Mindfulness is a practice that has its effect over time—often over weeks, months, and years.
5. Control is Not the Goal
If you meditate and feel like you can’t get control of your thoughts—welcome to the club! This experience is common and normal and does not mean you aren’t good at meditating. “Successful” meditation does not involve eliminating thoughts. It’s more about cultivating an increased awareness and familiarity with our minds and the thoughts that endlessly present themselves. Human minds have an inherent tendency to wander; becoming more aware of that tendency is one of the goals of practicing mindfulness.
6. A Gentle Mindset
Throughout your efforts to practice mindfulness, try to be gentle with yourself at all times. You won’t get anywhere with the process if you don’t. Pay particular attention to frustration that may arise if your attention isn’t doing what you’d like. Remember, your job is to gently refocus your attention to your breath and senses, not to admonish yourself for the distraction.
7. You are Not Your Thoughts
Don’t believe everything you think! In your mindfulness practice, notice the difference between having a thought and believing that thought. If we believe our thoughts often enough, it can become hard to tell where they and we begin! In practicing mindfulness, just observe the thoughts.
8. Accepting What Is
Remember that the present moment is reality; it’s good to have a healthy relationship with that reality. Mindfulness practice helps us take this important step. Practice accepting whatever you’re seeing, hearing, and feeling.
9. It’s All Temporary
In mindfulness meditation, we regard emotions and thoughts in essentially the same way: both are passing phenomena to be observed as they come and go. And make no mistake — they all come and go. Consider thoughts and emotions as if they’re twigs or leaves floating down a stream as we sit safely nearby. Try to simply notice them without passing judgment.
If you’re looking for more substantial guidance on this topic, consider seeking out a mindfulness or meditation group near you or check out our mindfulness page that discusses the topic in more depth.
The author would like to acknowledge the contributions of meditation instructor Jane Stevens to the material presented here.
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