How to Practice Mindfulness that Works for You
Meditation and mindfulness look different for everyone.
Anxiety is one of the most prevalent mental illnesses in the US. According to the ADAA it affects about 40 million adults in the United States and 36.9% of those people never receive treatment for it. Given that we live in production centered society, it’s not a surprise that most Americans deal with this kind of mental illness. Now throw in the pandemic we are currently in, and it makes sense that many people are dealing with more aggravated symptoms, or are experiencing them for the first time now.
It also makes sense that many of us with anxiety have been told to try mindfulness and grounding in order to help cope with our anxiety. I’ve been told by therapists, psychiatrists, random family members, and once, even a priest. I tried it, eventually, and I just thought it didn’t work for me.
I hated the idea of sitting still, of meditating, of trying to focus on my body when my mind was running rampant.
And even when I did try, I could never get myself to get “zen” and “just stop being anxious”. I felt like this whole mindfulness/meditation thing was not something that really helped people and was just some way to undermine the whole experience of people living with anxiety disorders.
I think a lot of the way people have talked about mindfulness and meditation has a ableist lens. As if all it took to stop having mental illness is to just like sit down and clear your mind. For me, and for many others, it makes the whole mindfulness space very toxic. This toxic positivity was all I really knew about mindfulness and mediation and it made me really resistant to try it again.
Flash forward to this year while in quarantine, I found myself experiencing new levels of anxiety that I hadn’t felt in a really long time. I found myself once more deciding to give mindfulness a try again.
This time I came into more open, more willing, than the last time. And it didn’t really help, until a few weeks later, I realized I felt better. For the first time, I found myself leaning on mindful practices to keep me grounded and connected to myself. A lot of that, however had to do with finding the best practices for me and finding guides online that I connected with.
How I Practice Mindfulness and Meditation
For starters, mindfulness is a process of acknowledgement and grounding. It’s not about being optimistic in the face of hardship or anxiety, but rather getting to know your emotional states and physical states. While there is a wave of toxic positivity, there are people out there who can teach you mindfulness from a perspective of genuine healing and not just blind optimism.
Another thing I quickly learned is that meditation really does look different for everyone. While we might be use to meditation looking like sitting crisscross applesauce on the floor, it doesn’t have to look like that. In fact, for many people, this type of mediation is not an option. I realized after watching some youtube videos and reading more about meditation, that it can actually take the form of anything that grounds you and gets your brain to stop thinking about anything but the present moment. For instance, my mom knits. This is how she meditates and grounds herself everyday.
Once I realized these two things, I found myself looking for how best to practice mindfulness. For me, I journal daily, I read my tarot cards, practice yoga, and bake.
All of these things allow me to reflect on my emotional state and to focus on the physicality of things. As someone who dissociates frequently, sometimes the stereotypical version of meditation just doesn’t ground me.
There is something to be said for acts of meditation like cooking, sewing, stretching, or just talking a walk. Throwing in a layer of movement is something that reminds me to be aware of my physical body and the connection it has with my mental state. It takes me out of my head and into the present moment.
Now, it’s not enough to just do these acts. It’s an active mental process that keeps you connected to what you are doing.
For instance, if you’re journaling, take the time to ask yourself how you are feeling, what you are feeling, and why you’re feeling this way. Take the time to think and reflect. Or, alternatively you could look up prompts to help journal or write a story. Really focus on your hand on paper, on the ink or typing sounds.
If you’re baking, focus on the sounds, smells, and feelings. Take your time with each step and try to connect to your senses.
The other key thing is that you need moments of meditation and moments of reflection. Both of these create mindfulness. So once you’ve knitted maybe later that day or even week, you can try to reflect on your emotions and mental state. On the other hand, maybe you need to work on getting out of your head more, try to go for a walk and feel the air, listen to music, and try to notice your surroundings.
For me, a large part of mindfulness is facing emotion in a calm and loving way. It’s also about becoming more present. That’s why I tend to do more physical actions of meditation in order to bring me to a peaceful state before trying to reflect on why I felt ungrounded or anxious.
- Find what makes you feel grounded. It might not look like the traditional version of mindfulness and that’s okay. The goal is the same: peace.
- Find gurus or apps that help keep you dedicated to this practice and gives you the flexibility to work the way you need.
- Take time everyday to meditate and reflect. It won’t help you if you don’t give time for your practice to become a habit. Dedication and consistency is key.
- Follow mindful people on social media. I follow a few on Tik Tok and it’s honestly been super helpful for me to find folks who talk about it.
- Give yourself space and time to try multiple things our before settling into a routine.
Interested in writing for An Empowered Life? We need you! Read more here.