Some thoughts on being present, meditation and mind control for wellness, particularly in difficult circumstances.
This week I started another wellness challenge based on The Science of Well-being course I’ve been taking. Except it’s not a new challenge.
We’re at a point in the course where all the lessons are complete and we’re now in the application portion which involves an assignment. The assignment is to pick one of the habits and practice it for four weeks then measure any change in our overall happiness or wellbeing.
Here are the habits again:
- Signature Strengths: discover and intentionally use your character strengths in new ways
- Savouring: be fully present in and enjoy the things you’re doing
- Gratitude: expressing thankfulness for all you have, including the people in your life
- Kindness: performing random acts of kindness
- Social Connection: being intentional about connecting with people including strangers
- Exercise: getting 30 minutes or more of physical activity, a few times a week
- Sleep: getting quality sleep for at least 7 hours a night, several times in a week
- Meditation: meditating for at least 5 minutes regularly to control mind wandering
The habit I chose to focus on is Meditation. I didn’t do too well with this one. I spend a lot of time in my thoughts and would like more control over my mind.
I used to think meditation was about having a blank mind while focusing on breathing exercises. But, as was explained in the course, it’s more about being present. In forcing our minds to focus on the here and now, on the moment, instead of wandering which it does by default when we’re not focused on a specific task.
Our minds do wander to pleasant times. It might be imagining something great from the past or something exciting coming up like a vacation. But often times it wanders to bad memories, or anxious or negative thoughts which can increase our stress. So, it’s important to me that I gain some control over this. Practically, I’ll be doing a few things to achieve this end.
The first is to use reminders.
I’ve added reminders in my fitness and daily planners. This ensures I see the reminders because I tend to look at these planners multiple times during the day.
The second is to get some encouragement.
Enter my Happy Journal. This journal is the Happy Life Guided Journal that I use for wellness; primarily journaling and gratitude. This week, I used the Happy Goals, Live Creatively and Modern Farmhouse sticker books by The Happy Planner. I chose encouraging stickers that had to do with persevering and being in the present. I really like this one on the bottom right which says “be present. Life is right now. Live it!“
Thirdly, have a plan for success.
What I plan to do, when I recognize that my mind has started to wander, is to first take note of where it’s wandered to. I don’t want to ignore this by just forcing it back to the present right away. There may be something that needs my attention, something important that I need to address, something unresolved. Maybe it’s a warning, something that I’ve forgotten that I really need to attend to. But after that, I will redirect my thoughts to the present by focusing on what I’m doing or what is going on around me or praying if needed.
So, how was the first week, you ask? It was very challenging indeed.
There has been repeated problems in this home we’re currently living in. If I’m being honest, I really don’t appreciate this home despite my attempts otherwise. In November, I practiced writing gratitude to have a more positive outlook. Since then, we’ve had water damage and lived through the construction to repair it. And we now have a mice situation which required bringing in Pest Control and living with the resulting smell.
It might be easier to “be present” and “live in the moment” when everything is going well. But when it’s challenging, I just want to escape to wherever my mind wants to take me – Hello Narnia! – so that I can avoid the unpleasantness of where I am. But that’s not healthy or productive, is it? Nor can I guaranteed pleasant circumstances.
So, I might as well learn to overcome.
What I found most helpful this week was prayer. I prayed myself but also turned to several friends to ask for their prayers. And God gave me His peace, as His word promises.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:6-7
Connecting with my friends and sharing what I was experiencing was also very helpful in itself. That’s partly because it gave me an opportunity to process my emotions by talking through them. And receiving encouragement and comfort in return. I was also surprised to learned that I’m not the only one currently with this problem. Yet, those friends responded differently which helped me to do the same.
Lastly, it helped to take a long term view. If I were to look back on this time years from now, what do I want to remember? I want to see that life went on and we celebrated it and made good memories. So I made sure that happened.
I hope you’re encouraged to be present in all you do this week. And to live fully the life that is happening right now despite the circumstances.
Joy & Peace, Sister!