We all thought we knew the score: eat well and keep fit and we’re winning on the health front. Only recently has awareness really started to grow about the importance of looking after our minds. You might have heard celebrities mention mindfulness. You might have seen me banging on about it on Instagram over the past couple of months. If you’ve been wondering what mindfulness is all about, I’m going to reveal how it has changed my life for the better.
I should start by saying, I am no expert. This is all new to me so please don’t mistake me for a preachy, “I’m so happy” know-it-all. I’m talking purely from my own experience in the hope that others might find it interesting, and maybe even discover it benefits their own life, too.
After finding out about some of the benefits of mindfulness, I signed up for a four week course at Lifeworks Dubai. Little did I know then that it would be the best Dhs1,000 dirhams I’ve EVER spent (that’s the price of just two Dubai brunches!)
As well as learning breathing techniques that genuinely help to focus and declutter the mind, the course taught me how to observe my thoughts in the present moment and guide my emotional reactions to them. I should say that this didn’t happen overnight, but slowly, after reading more, and as everything I learnt sunk in, I encountered the following changes:
- Repetitive (often negative) “auto pilot” thought patterns considerably lessened
I was completely unaware how much my brain operated on autopilot, endlessly going over (often negative) thoughts I had experienced the day before and the day before that. The more I learned to notice this pattern, the more I realised how all thoughts are fleeting, continuously coming and going. I gradually began to see that I no longer had to identify with every single thing that popped into my head.
- More ease in letting go of past emotions / feelings
One of the biggest differences I noticed was how I was beginning to leave stressful/frustrating situations exactly where they were at the time of them arising. Before the course, I was unaware of how I was often carrying past feelings around with me until the next time I felt frustrated. I started to notice how this “backpack” of past emotions was getting bigger, creating situations completely disproportionate to the present moment. Often, my negative reactions were an accumulation of past emotional issues, be that things I hadn’t dealt with for many years ,or frustrations from the day at work.
- Less worrying and less compelled to try to control everything
As a self-confessed, border-line control freak, I was painfully familiar with procrastinating, worrying, over-thinking… all things that create anxiety about the future and life in general. Realising that because I, myself, was creating this, I too had the power to stop it, was an amazing revelation. I clearly saw that dwelling on thoughts about the past or the future for days, weeks or (let’s be real) months is highly unproductive and a huge waste of energy. I stopped focusing on perceived problems that I couldn’t change.
- Accepting situations as they are
This was the realisation which astounded me the most – I was often unconsciously living in a state of wanting things to be different: “If only X situation were different, if only I had Y or Z, then I/my life would be complete”. I learned to accept situations as they are with significantly less mental resistance. Until this point, I had no idea how negatively draining this internal struggle had been.
- More accepting of myself and improved body image
I gradually started to be less critical of myself. Instead of focusing on the things I didn’t like, I started to appreciate my qualities and strengths. I began to observe myself with less judgement and much more acceptance.
- Less judgemental of others
In becoming more accepting of myself, I noticed, in turn, I was a lot less judgemental towards other people; hugely beneficial for my own state of mind and my relationships with others.
- Feeling calmer and much more positive
As a result of all of the above, I now feel so much calmer and much more positive. Obviously, I still encounter challenging situations but I’m able to take a step back before reacting emotionally. . I’m able to cope with these situations in a much more level-headed way.
Before the course, I would’ve said I was reasonably content with my lot in life. Previously, I had no idea just how many unnecessary thoughts and feelings I was experiencing. Now don’t get me wrong, emotion provoking thoughts still arrive in my mind, its just now they have space. I’m able to put them in perspective. I still have “control freak-type” concerns from time-to-time but I’m able to notice these thoughts for what they are; completely unproductive and a negative drain on energy. I’ve finally loosened my grip on the reins, and I feel so much happier to let life take its course. My goals, hopes and dreams are still just as important – but I no longer feel the need to control everything.
Although I’ve learnt a huge amount, I really don’t think there’s ever a moment when you finally arrive and think “yes I completely get it, I’m sorted for life.” Mindfulness is a continuous work in progress, applying it to real-life situations to learn and grow along the way. I should say that this time last year, I would’ve never spoken so publically about what I previously perceived to be such personal experiences. However, since I have started to live outside the intricacies of my own mind, I now understand we are all the same; we all suffer stress, anxiety and self-doubt in some shape or form.
Throughout my whole life, growing up as a child, I have witnessed at close hand the devastating affects of mental health issues. Since discovering mindfulness, I truly believe the more wide spread this way thinking becomes, the less mental health issues we’ll see throughout the world. If you asked people “would you like to be happier?’, I’m sure, if answering completely honestly, many would say “yes”. Mindfulness teaches you the skills to achieve this in a self-sufficient way, not because you’re looking forward to your next holiday or excited about buying your next handbag (although both of which are exceptionally enjoyable) Mindfulness gives you the tools to achieve more happiness in every day life. It has truly opened my eyes to a new way of living. I no longer feel like life is passing me by, constantly stuck in repetitive thought patterns. I no longer feel the same bitterness about things in my past and I find it much easier to let go of negative emotion. Like I said: the best Dhs1,000 I’ve ever spent.
READ MORE ABOUT MINDFULNESS AND MEDITATION IN THE COMING WEEKS….
Courses in Dubai: www.lifeworksdubai.com
(I did the course at Lifeworks and I can not recommend it highly enough!)
UK based courses:
Posted: 24th August, 2016