Your brain is a liar. Mindfulness helps.
Everyone is banging on about mindfulness right now and I’m sure you’ve heard of it and even dabbled in a bit of meditation yourself.
It can all seem a bit yogi and zen (both of which are great things but not for everyone) but does it actually do anything useful. Or are you just sitting in silence trying not to think about thinking?
I think of mindfulness as like the gym for your brain. You gotta work it to see the results and my god having a fit, healthy brain is a game changer!
Did you know that your brain is a little lie machine that just pumps out unhelpful thoughts all the time without us even giving it permission to? #science
And even worse, these unhelpful thoughts then trigger emotions which cause all sorts of trouble.
And we are so busy with all these thoughts, scenarios, and worries that we are never really living our lives in the present or appreciating the bloody beautiful moments we are having or the people in them.
You know how you’re out to brunch with your gal pals and you get lost in uploading your eggs bene to your Insta story and totally miss the convo about your friend’s latest holiday?
This is what you are doing all the time when you are stuck inside your own head. You miss the world happening around you and you miss quality time with others. You also fuck around a lot because you can’t concentrate on one thing at work without being distracted by every little thought that pops up. And what happens then? Internet worm hole, that’s what.
And going back to your brain being a little liar.
How many times have you been stressed out or anxious over something THAT ISN’T EVEN TRUE?
Well that’s real great, thanks for the heads up but how is focusing on my breath and the feeling of my feet on the floor going to stop me thinking about whether Bruce from Hinge is not messaging back because he’s out charming another girl over an espresso martini?
Well friend, firstly don’t date a Bruce unless you are 50 and he is also 50.
And secondly, it’s really simple but also really hard. Focusing on the present moment whether that be your breath, your body or just actually looking at the streets you are walking on means that there is no space in your brain to think about anything else.
Simple concept but hard to do.
Because holy shit, once you try to only concentrate on one thing you really see how little control you have over your thoughts. It’s like herding cats up there! It goes a little something like this…
One breath in, two breath out
Three breath in, four… I wonder what Bruce (seriously gf, I hope he has a nickname) is doing right now. He hasn’t replied to my message for like a day. I didn’t say anything weird but maybe I was too boring. He was quite flirty so I can just see him chatting with other girls. Probably in that Clapham bar that does the best cocktails that I told him about!
Damnit, I’m thinking. Let it go… One breath in, two breath out.
And that’s just your head. Getting pissy about Bruce at the cocktail bar triggered your stress hormones so hello lump of annoyance in your chest and hello tense body making it even harder to stop thinking about him.
And guess what, Bruce messages you back an hour later saying sorry, he went out for a mate’s birthday last night and got written off so spent the day in his cave of a bedroom with old Maccys on the floor.
So you literally just worked yourself up for no reason and wasted your energy on thinking shitty thoughts that make you feel bad about yourself.
Not helpful and not necessary.
You honestly honestly have the power to choose what you think.
And yep, Bruce or other negative thoughts will pop up all the time but we can learn to see these for just a thought. Not the truth and not something you need to get involved in. Bye Bruce, you can go now.
Training in mindfulness is like teaching a puppy to sit.
It’s going to squirm around everywhere, wander off, jump up at you for kisses and sometimes just nap. And each time it does that you just gentle bring it back to sit and probably give it a little treat.
The more we learn how to bring our mind back to concentrate on one thing. The better we get at it. Which means when we see unhelpful thoughts pop up, we can choose to focus our attention on something else and they will disappear.
It’s fucking hard though. Like real hard. Especially if you’ve got something big weighing on your mind.
Sometimes all I do in meditation is sit there and cry. Eyes closed, tears running down my face.
A battle going on in my head to focus on my breath and let all the thoughts that are working me up go. Sometimes it’s 20 minutes until I’m breathing easier, my thoughts are calm and my body’s relaxed.
But it happens. Every time.
Why the F would I want to sit by myself crying with anxious thoughts you might ask? Surely taking your mind off it with a bit of Netflix is a better option.
Yep, sitting in that discomfort is really crap. But once you know you can let thoughts go, then they lose their power. They are just a thought.
So when another negative thought pops up at any time, you can choose to let that go as well and carry on with your day.
Meditation is a practice and you are practising.
Netflix will distract your mind from the thoughts but they are still there, swirling around to give you an emotional slap at a later date.
And you will let yourself get slapped over and over again.
All this comes back to the core principle of mindfulness.
If your mind is focused on the present, it means it’s not focused on thoughts from the past or worry about the future.
And why do you focus on the breath? Well what’s more present than that? It is only here, now. Then gone. Then a new breath.
So a challenge.
Try to sit with your eyes closed and count twenty breaths. 1 with the in breath, 2 with the out breath.
See how you go. See how long you can concentrate on that before a thought pops up and you get lost in in.
I barely ever make it to 10.
It seems counter-intuitive but once you know how little control you have over your mind, you have more power. You can see a thought as a thought, not a part of you and not the truth.
Then you can kindly tell those thoughts to F off, let them go and stop them distracting you or making you anxious.
You’ve got right now to focus on. Which involves getting back on Hinge and finding a Tom.