Barriers to Mindfulness: Why Don’t I Feel Any Different?
In today’s world, practically everything is available on demand, and new knowledge is often simply a click away. Perhaps then it is unsurprising that many people who are new to mindfulness meditation expect it to be a quick fix solution with immediate benefits. However, the truth is that like any other skill, mindfulness takes time to learn. It requires practice and patience.
So how do you prevent impatient thoughts like “nothings happening” or “why don’t I feel any different” throwing your mindfulness practice off track?
Here are a few tips.
1. Embrace the Challenge
Learning to be patient is part of mindfulness training. Accepting things as they are in the present moment, rather than rushing ahead to what we think could or should be is part of learning to live more mindfully.
So when you feel impatient, accept the challenge as part of your training. Acknowledge the thought or feeling of impatience, then let it pass and return your attention to the focus of your mindful meditation; whether that’s your breath, the food you’re eating or the scenery around you.
The more you practice, the easier this will become.
We come to every mindfulness practice with a host of ‘stuff’ – things that have just happened, thoughts, emotions and plans for what we want to happen. To avoid these thoughts and feelings distracting you from your practice, it can help to visualise setting that ‘stuff’ down beside you as you meditate. It will still be there when you finish. But consciously setting it aside will help you to focus. Personally, I find it helps to envisage a heavy shopping bag with glasses and tins in it. I don’t want to drop it, but I also don’t need or want to unpack it. So I gently lay it down beside me. Then I close my eyes and meditate.
2. Track Your Progress
An effective way to quiet impatient or frustrated self-talk is to remind yourself of your developments and achievements.
At the end of each mindfulness exercise, make a written note of how you found your practice. Was it easy to find your focus? If not, why? What was distracting you? How did you feel before and after your practice? Making these notes will help you hone your exercises and recognise the positive impact mindfulness has on your wellbeing.
When you feel as though you’re not making any progress, looking back through your notes can serve as a reminder of how far you’ve already come and motivate you to keep going.
3. Create a Routine (and stick to it)
To reap the rewards of mindfulness, it’s important to make regular practice a part of your everyday routine. Without this regular commitment, you’re unlikely to feel its benefits, meaning any feelings of impatience or frustration are likely to be strengthened.
Build mindfulness into your daily life one step at a time. Start by deciding what you can realistically commit to each day. 5 minutes? 10 minutes? Even just one minute can make a difference if you find time for it every day.
Next, decide when during the day works best for you. First thing in the morning? Before or after lunch? When you get home from work? Finding a comfortable slot in your day when you know you’ll be able to set aside time will help you stick to your regular practice.
As you continue to practice, you will find more opportunities for mindfulness throughout your day.
Many people like to start their day with a morning mindfulness meditation; 2-5 minutes of meditative practice upon awakening before getting on with the morning routine. It’s important to do this sitting up, on the side of your bed, especially if you have the tendency to feel sleepy during your meditation.
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