I often find myself in a state of what I call ‘forgetting to live’ and wasting my time away thinking about what I want from life, what I need to tackle and other life worries. I know this is a habit I’ve had since I was a child and every now and then I’ve tried to change it, never breaking free and always falling back into the trap of thinking this way.
It frustrates me every single time I catch myself inside my own head instead of looking up at what’s around me. Over the past few months I’ve attempted to increase my focus on a gratitude practice in an effort to break free of my unwanted habit. I started daily gratitude journaling for a while in the new year and really enjoyed the act of writing down my appreciation of things during the day. Unfortunately, this didn’t last long due to suffering some increased pain from a herniated disc injury last summer which combined with some house selling stress resulted in my gratitude journaling falling by the way side.
After my back pain settled down again, I attempted gratitude journaling a second time, but tiredness from starting a new job again meant I didn’t even achieve my normal daily journaling let alone any added gratitude journaling. So, yet again my attempt at gratitude journaling fell by the way side. Today as I sit here writing this I am now in a place where I’ve suddenly realised, I have been ’forgetting to live’ once more and it’s so frustrating.
In considering what else I can do to break this habit I recognised the one thing I have stuck to constantly for the past year is a daily meditation practice. I’ve dabbled with meditation on and off for the past four years but never really thought it did much for me as I didn’t notice any obvious differences in my daily life (I’m not sure what I was expecting). However, recently during the course of doing various MAPP assignments and trying different kinds of meditation practices I’ve started to truly understand how helpful it is for me. Not a day has gone by for the past 300 days where I haven’t sat down for at least 10 minutes and listened to a daily meditation. The app I enjoy using the most provides a mixture of silent or guided meditation followed by a four-minute spoken focus on different topics and aspects of mindfulness, always ending with a powerful message. These messages often resonate so deeply with me they could have been written directly for me. I always feel de-stressed and refreshed after doing the sessions and I am starting to find myself turning to meditation at other times during my day when I am experiencing any unwanted feelings in order to help me find my equilibrium again.
A recent daily meditation session prompted me to realise I am again ‘forgetting to live’ and in the course of writing this blog post I am now beginning to understand that the benefits I gain from my meditation practice come from the session’s ability to switch my focus into a mode of mindfulness, rather than staying being ‘buried in my head’. However, I still seem unable to fully be mindful for the rest of my day, gradually slipping back into my thoughts. Interestingly, I read this week the announcement that mindfulness is being introduced into 370 schools in England as part of a study to improve youth mental health and still I didn’t relate the importance of continued mindfulness to myself until now. Is this the key I need to break my habit of forgetting to live? And how as a MAPP student have I not realised this before? (seriously, I feel a fool for letting this concept pass me by!). It is now so obvious to me that a continued mindfulness practice helps a person, in my own words, ‘remember to live’ as it involves the practice of living in the moment which is exactly what I forget to do!
Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre says the following about mindfulness: “It’s easy to stop noticing the world around us. It’s also easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up living ‘in our heads”. This describes me perfectly, it’s an easy trap to fall into and whilst it is seemingly a simple thing to change, I’m definitely a work in progress. After chatting to colleagues and friends it’s clear that meditation and mindfulness activities seem to be a deeply personal thing, what one person likes, another doesn’t like. For example, a colleague of mine is finding huge benefits from a daily ‘sit and mantra’ type meditation whereas I couldn’t think of anything worse. Other people I know prefer adult colouring as a mindfulness practice or as my teenage daughter discovered, sewing helps her relax and forget about her upcoming exam stress. Personally, I decided that to fully break my unwanted habit and replace it with a new habit I needed a permanent in my face reminder to practice mindfulness as often as possible. Rather impulsively last week I got a tiny tattoo of a balloon on my inside right wrist to remind me to let go and surrender to the moment every time I see it, it’s not an option everyone would want but it’s working for me and finally I’m starting to remember to live 😀
About the Author: Emma Willmer
‘We Are The Positive Psychology People’