Yeah, I went there – used that loathsome, click-bait headline. Sorry, but this post is two things – part social experiment to see if that kind of headline really gets more clicks (not that I care about clicks – and I really loathe headlines like that, but I am curious to see if it works) and part confession and insight from the past few months.
As most visitors to this site know, I spent all of 2017 practicing (and writing about) being more mindful. Mindfulness at its core is being aware of what is going on in your mind – thoughts, feelings, ideas – and using that awareness to focus on and live fully in the present moment. The simple act of writing about mindfulness gave me the nudge I needed to practice authentic mindfulness every day. Even as 2018 began, I was consciously meditating each morning and checking my thoughts throughout the days to bring myself back to the present and give my full attention to what was going on in the here and now.
A couple of months ago, I got lazy and distracted and stopped being mindful. I essentially quit my daily practice and drifted into my old unconscious habits. Recently, I’ve realized that not being mindful each day was causing some real problems for me. Here’s what happened:
- My morning routine became very inconsistent. Having a consistent, positive morning routine helps me to begin my day with intention and grace. Eschewing that routine makes it harder to meditate or exercise and creates space for negative habits and thoughts to creep into my day. When I wake up and the first thing I think is “ugh, I feel like crap”, that sets me up for a wickedly bad day.
- I lost touch with the present moment, activity, and people I was with. The whole point of being mindful is to stay present and experience what’s here and now to the fullest capacity. I’d be sitting in a room talking with someone but not paying attention to what they were saying. I’d be thinking of what I needed to do next or wondering why I was there at all. This dishonored the person I was with and made them feel less important and less loved. Some days when I did take my morning walk, I’d return home after 4 miles of walking and realize that I hadn’t even noticed if the sun was shining or not. What a waste of moments and opportunities!
- I started looking inward (being selfish), feeling sorry for myself (being resentful), and engaging in negative self-talk. Forgoing mindfulness practice is a great way to bring on self-pity. Mindfulness teaches us to be aware of all the things and people and places outside of ourselves, so when we spend all our time looking inward, it’s easy to become discontent. How can I be grateful for the roof over my head and the meals in my belly and the beauty of nature around me when all I think about is the past and future junk in my head? Using my energy to think negative thoughts is wasteful and unproductive, but it was effective at bringing me further grief.
- My panic attacks returned. Once I started feeling sorry for myself and feeling resentful about silly little everyday things instead of grateful for all the good and wonder around me, I’d lie in bed at night unable to breathe. My panic attacks are sneaky. They start with heartburn and progress to labored breathing – the feeling of not being able to get enough oxygen – and increased heart rate. I feel out of control and like I’m being smothered. This is not a good thing.
- My creativity plummeted. One of the best things mindfulness does for me is open up avenues of possibility and creativity. When I’m mindful and connected to the present, I feel hopeful, helpful, positive, grateful, and able to reach out to others with a level of compassion and creativity not accessed in any other way. I write more, I draw more, I offer my time and talent more often and with greater joy. Giving up mindfulness killed my creativity.
So, quitting mindfulness practice obviously had some serious consequences for me. I know this is no science-based study, but it’s my experience and hopefully a good lesson for others. That’s why I chose to share it.
The way back to physical and mental health for me is returning to my daily mindfulness practice. Simply recognizing what is happening to me is the first step to being more mindful. Call it mindfulness about mindfulness, I guess.
The world needs all the positive, loving, kind, mindful energy it can get right now, so I’m back on track and hoping to put more positive, hopeful, creative love out there from now on. Here’s to mindfulness. Peace and hugs, ya’ll!