How would you like to feel calm and centred, with better concentration and memory, an ability to deal with life stresses and liking yourself more? This is what engaging with regular mindfulness practice promises and I have been putting it to the test over the last 2 months.
There is a huge body of research behind mindfulness techniques helping with anxiety. Mindfulness is based on Buddhist meditation practices where you are invited to be still for a little while and just notice and observe what is happening right now. Recently I was listening to professor Daniel Siegal, a world expert in neuroscience and mindfulness, who believes that regular practice is the most effective way of developing self-compassion. From my clinical practice I know that self-compassion is one of the most difficult qualities to develop for clients who are self critical so I was immediately interested.
I found a local class of Yoga Nidra- a type of yoga where you meditate in a lying down position, supported by pillows and bolsters, with the teacher’s voice guiding your attention to different body parts, the breath, using visualisation and noticing your sensations, feelings, thoughts and emotions. My first observation was that I NEVER normally give myself time to be still for a while and so lying down and doing ‘nothing’ was on some level a challenge initially.
However, the benefits I began to notice after just a few sessions really inspired me. I noticed that I felt deeply restored after a session, as if I had just returned from a long holiday. I also seem to be dealing with life stresses better and noticed what’s really important in life more. On a physical level my psorisis- a condition I had lived with for many years- had calmed right down and my concentration and memory are back to what they were when I was younger. Most importantly, I found professor Siegal’s assertion to be true: I do like myself more and accept myself as I am more. It is so good to feel well and comfortable in your own skin.
Why would it work so well? We know that self compassion is the effect of being paid attention and care by our parents or caregivers. Being noticed and responded to send us a message that we are important and worthy of love and care. Mindfulness teaches you how to notice yourself even if your parents never did. In that way it gently fills in some developmental deficits we can have.
I now practice mindfulness most days. 20 to 30 minutes of just noticing and being still is so worth the rich rewards that have come my way since. It’s the perfect way to stay well after finishing therapy or the perfect first steps towards calm and self-accepting you. Try it- you will not regret it!