I first threw myself into practices of mindfulness and spirituality in 2018. I was in my final year of University and I was stressed out 99% of the time, but through hundreds of Oprah videos I discovered a whole new way of thinking that helped me deal with everything going on in my personal life.
As I’ve written before, one of the most beneficial mindfulness practices I discovered was the power of the present, and it was Eckhart Tolle’s teachings that helped me the most.
The act of focusing your energy on the present moment alone, and not worrying about what was coming up next or what had happened before, provided a unique perspective for me to ground myself in.
I found almost immediate relief in practicing the grounding techniques I learnt and I was thrilled.
Anyone who has suffered with mental illness or any form of chronic illness will understand completely how exciting it is when you find something that relieves your symptoms. It’s like an enormous weight being lifted.
I followed all of the advice from a variety of different spiritual teachers and influencers.
I started keeping a gratitude journal. Every night I’d write down five things that happened that day that I was grateful for.
Then I started to journal in the morning. As soon as I woke up I’d set down my intentions for the day, and I’d visualise how well it was all going to go and I’d channel all the positive vibes of the universe into my day.
Then, I’d get up and focus all my efforts on staying in the present. If my mind started to drift I’d catch it and put it back in its place.
At first, this was all great. I did feel better, but I quickly started to realise that I was becoming dependant on mindfulness.
I became obsessed with particular routines and actually started to become stressed out over completing them. I believed that if I stopped performing any part of this routine then my negative feelings would all come hurtling back.
I even made a YouTube playlist of inspirational and motivational videos that I would watch each morning just to keep myself in a positive head space. I genuinely thought that if I missed even just one step of this routine, then all my feelings of depression and anxiety would return.
On top of all of this, when I completed this routine and still felt depressed, it made the hopelessness feel all the heavier. I would feel betrayed and out of control because I had completed all of the steps and yet still felt entirely downtrodden.
It took me a while to realise that spirituality and mindfulness practices aren’t a miracle cure for any form of mental illness.
Yes, they can soothe symptoms.
Yes, they can encourage positive emotions in your daily life.
And yes, I still believe gratitude and grounding yourself in the present are the two most important keys to mental wellness (at least in my case).
But do I still watch an Oprah Winfrey speech every morning?
Do I still feel the pressure to perpetually ground myself in the present moment?
Now I realise that these practices should feel natural. They shouldn’t be forced. When I feel my mind drifting off into panicked thoughts of what the future holds, I just gently guide myself back to the present moment. (You can find tips on how to do that here).
I often think about things I’m grateful for before bed, and I set my intention on a morning, I just don’t write it down. Though sometimes I do. It all just depends on how I feel.
Mindfulness is about freedom, it shouldn’t be dogmatic. Its entire purpose is to soothe and restore. So don’t worry about whether or not you’re doing it perfectly. There’s no gold standard of spirituality. If it feels good, then it’s working.
I hope you have a stress free weekend ahead, and I will see you again on Monday!
My name is Aris Sizer. I’m a freelance writer and editor, but my passion is all things mental, physical, and overall well-being. I’m committed to sharing all the lessons I’ve learnt throughout my life so far with others, and hopefully something helps you out!
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