When can I find time for mindfulness?
For many people, one of the biggest barriers to practising mindfulness is time – there never seems to be enough. But there are lots of opportunities to find a mindful moment, for example when you’re brushing your teeth, washing the dishes, eating, or walking the dog. Even if you only have a very small amount of time, it can be helpful to try and get into a routine with mindfulness. So, try to make a realistic commitment and be consistent.
For me, 10 minutes of focused attention is more beneficial than setting an unrealistic promise to practise for longer.
Does mindfulness get easier with practice?
At first, you might struggle to focus during mindfulness. Life gets busy and taking time to stop and focus your attention on the present moment might not come naturally. Like all things that are good for us such as eating more fruit and veg and drinking enough water – if we make a habit of them, they are more likely to continue.
The key is to start small and link your new behaviour to something that you already do. For example, each time you brush your teeth, make it mindful. It may feel difficult at first, but over time (and with a bit of persistence) it should become more automatic.
Learning how to practise mindfulness and making it part of your way of life can be tricky too. In my own work, I often hear people saying that it feels silly, pointless, or frustrating. This is not unusual when engaging in a new practice.
Think of it like starting to run. When you begin, you may find that you can only run a short distance before you become out of breath or notice a cramp. As you practise more and more, however, this distance increases. You get better at running and it starts to become more natural for you. The same is true of mindfulness. The more you practise, the better you’ll get at it.
When will I see the benefits?
If we have too many expectations of what we should experience or how we should feel, it can distract us from being mindful. Try not to focus on all the benefits you hope to gain when practising mindfulness. Instead, it may be more helpful to try it with an attitude of curiosity and interest. This way, you’ll allow yourself to notice how it feels and then later reflect on any benefits that may happen.
The benefits of mindfulness may be small, but they build up over time. For example, when you feel stressed at work, pause to focus on your breath for a few moments. This may help you deal with the situation in a calmer manner. If you get angry while stuck in traffic, pausing to notice this emotion and being mindful of it may help. You can then make an active choice about whether to act on this emotion or reconsider the situation and respond in a different, and more helpful way.