Barriers to Mindfulness: When Things Get Tough
A fundamental aim of mindfulness is to become more engaged with the present. To have a greater awareness of the here and now in order to live a richer and more fulfilled life. But if you’re going through a difficult time, the here and now is likely the last place you want to be, which can really take the wind out of your mindfulness practice.
It’s not unusual to find it more difficult to focus on your mindfulness exercises when you’re feeling stressed or anxious. That’s because your body’s natural survival instinct has kicked in and you’re in a ‘fight or flight’ mode. In this physiological state, control over your conscious awareness is limited, which makes it harder to intentionally shift your focus and attention.
However, with continued commitment and practice, mindfulness can be a powerful tool to help you cope with challenging situations and difficult emotions. Here are some thoughts that might help motivate you to continue with your mindfulness practice, even when it’s the last thing you feel like doing:
1. We have to take the rough with the smooth
Remember that mindfulness isn’t just about paying more attention to the good things in life. It isn’t about suppressing or ignoring feelings such as grief or anger. It’s about accepting each moment for what it is, exactly as it is. Without judgment. Including moments that challenge you.
2. Labeling your emotions makes them easier to deal with
Avoiding or ignoring uncomfortable emotions gives them a power over you that makes them harder to deal with. They take on a new life in the shadows of your mind and often the fear of feeling them is much worse than allowing yourself to experience them would be. Mindfulness encourages you to intentionally acknowledge your thoughts and feelings and recognise that they are just that – thoughts and feelings. Facing them in this way reduces their hold over you and empowers you to let go of challenging emotions more easily.
3. Mindfulness can help you find a way forward
Another thing to keep in mind is that mindfulness can actually help you deal more effectively with difficult situations. With regular mindfulness practice comes the mental space you need to pause and observe a situation without being overwhelmed by your emotions. In this space, you’re better able to consider and control your responses rather than being reactive. This self-regulation can be liberating and often allows us to see a way through a difficult situation that we may otherwise have missed.
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