So, you’ve decided mindfulness may help and you’re giving it a go but it’s hard, you’re coming up against a few hurdles. How do you keep going?
Our minds naturally wander and resist staying focused. We time travel to the past and the future. This is normal and it’s important you don’t judge yourself. Just as your thoughts came into your mind, gently let your thoughts go and bring your attention back to the task. This is part of the practice, no matter how many times you need to do it, you’re not doing it wrong—some times will be harder than others.
Expectations, impatience and self criticism
You may want immediate results. Setting unrealistic expectation may lead to disappointment. Being impatient and judging yourself is unhelpful. Approach the whole process and your experience of it with curiosity and an open mind. You’re unlikely to see immediate results, it’s important to keep this in mind.
Removing pressure from yourself may feel alien, perhaps this is exactly what you need. If you’re used to being harsh with yourself, perhaps consider how you would talk to a friend. Remember, you can always try against tomorrow.
Time constraints and inconsistency
Deciding to prioritise mindfulness means prioritising yourself and this may be a new experience. You may find yourself saying “I don’t have time today”. But when a practice can be 2-3 minutes long, it’s something that can be fitted in before bed. However, it doesn’t have to be a separate practice—mindful-teeth-brushing takes no extra time.
If you’re struggling to prioritise yourself it’s important to consider what’s underneath this. Have you been conditioned to put other people first? Is your self-esteem measured against other people’s expectations? Are you a perfectionist? Overcommitted? Are you struggling with time management? Or do you lack an understanding of your personal needs?
Mindfulness is only part of the picture. It is not a quick fix. You are not a bad person or selfish for choosing to prioritise yourself. Cultivating self-compassion is part of mindfulness, your can choose a balance that suits you and your life.
Doing the same practices may feel boring so it’s important to find activities that suit you. Walking, chores, eating, colouring—all activities that can be undertaken mindfully.
At first you may choose guided practices. Eventually, mindful living will come naturally.
Overwhelm and intrusive thoughts
Unwanted thoughts and feelings may come up when trying something new. Having thoughts that do not align with who you are does not make you a bad person. Acknowledge the thoughts, without judgment and bring your thoughts back to your chosen task.
It’s ok to take a break if that’s what you need. Breathing techniques can help with grounding. Remaining non-judgmental, no matter what your experience aids with the process.
In a world where everyone else appears to “have it together”, it’s only natural when we’re struggling with something to feel we’re doing it wrong. Everyone’s journey with mindfulness is unique. Provided you’re being consistent, remaining curious about your process and not judging your experience, you’re not doing it wrong. If you do notice you’re judging yourself, simply do that, notice it and bring yourself back to the chosen task.
Stick with it, it’s about personal growth, not a specific goal.
It’s important not to have distractions when practicing mindfulness so make sure you’re comfortable. Adjust your posture using cushions, use a different chair or lie down. Don’t practice for longer than your body can manage—practice being kind to your body as well as your mind.
If you experience chronic pain, mindfulness can be helpful. We often judge the pain as “bad” but for a few minutes we can just let it be a neutral part of our experience. While doing a body scan, the thought “I have pain in my knee/neck/shoulder” may occur but this is neither good nor bad. The thought can leave your mind just as it entered.
Facing difficult emotions and barriers to the process means it’s natural to face resistance. Being open and curious to face this resistance and willingness to explore the discomfort takes courage.
It’s ok to seek support from other people but remember everyone’s experience is unique.
Mindfulness is a skill that takes time to develop. Never has it been more true that the journey is the experience. Approach the challenges as opportunities for learning and growth.
It’s ok to need support from a professional, they can provide tailored strategies to address specific concerns.
If you’re interested in working with a counsellor who can incorporate mindfulness into your work together, please contact me here.