I've been really inspired recently by some wonderful people and groups showing some fantastic innovation and leadership in the mindfulness space. So I thought I'd write a little bit about my mindfulness journey and practice.
I've been practising mindfulness meditation for a few years to help me with my anxiety but mostly used it as a thing to help in the moment, rather than as a regular practice. I was really impressed with the mindful approach my counsellors took with me while discussing anxiety and depression treatment options which ended up having a huge impact for my mental health in general.
I moved into regular mindfulness practice just this year when I learned a bit more about how I could incorporate it into my daily life as a leader and manager. I learned a lot of this from attending the 'Mindful Leaders Conference' held at Te Papa earlier this year. There were some incredible speakers, many of whom I took some useful and practical tips for incorporating mindfulness into my leadership style. As an aside, I highly recommend attending this conference next year - I certainly will be.
Anyway, here are just a few ways in which I try to incorporate mindfulness into my daily life.
Meditation for me has previously been something quite inaccessible, simply due to lack of information about what it is, what it isn't and what it can look like. In order to make it more accessible for me personally, I mostly use an app to do guided meditations. I use Headspace (iOS and Android) and will often do themed guided meditation packs throughout the day, starting off with one called 'Managing Anxiety' in the morning, a 'Creativity' one in the early arvo (this has only been practically possible for me as I'm between jobs) and then a 'Sleep' one at night. Because of the types of skills you learn over & over in these guided meditations, I also often find that I'm able to do a short session unguided if needed which is super helpful.
At my last workplace, I had the privilege of organising a Mindful Meditation group with some of my team and colleagues where we would meet every morning and start the day off with a short meditation session. I loved doing this as a group because we were more likely to actually do it and we could discuss how we felt afterwards. I highly recommend doing something like this in the workplace if you can.
The effects meditation has had had been numerous, from helping me sleep way better, being more balanced when making important decisions, helping me understand and respond to my anxiety and also enabling me to be much more present with the important people in my life, whether they are the people I manage, coworkers or my friends and family.
Reflective writing for me looks like spending some time both in the morning and in the evening writing a few things down to help me understand and process my day, and to help me focus my attention for the following day.
Here's what I do:
Start of the day:
- Write down 3 things that I'm grateful for that day. Practising being grateful helps bring me balance and positivity to start my day.
- Write down what I think would make today a success. For a really busy day at work, success could look like taking sufficient breaks. For a day where I'm feeling super resilient, success might look like running an engaging workshop.
- Write a small affirmation for myself. A little mantra can help me some days and some days this step isn't that helpful. If I'm particularly anxious, simply having an affirmation of 'Just Breathe' or 'You got this' can really help.
End of the day:
- Write down 3 things that were awesome or surprising that day. This is a chance for me to practice gratefulness again and also celebrate my successes (super important!). This is also a time to notice anything that came up that surprised me and process that.
- Write down something that would have made today better. This gives me a chance to reflect on my behaviour, my actions or my reactions and be honest myself about what I could have done a bit differently.
- Write down what I'm looking forward to tomorrow. This helps me stay positive about the following day, esp if it's a day I'm not looking forward to overall.
What's important to note in this section is that I have some core values that I try to live by and I keep a little post it note with them on it in my diary so that I can use those to help me measure my success or help me understand what I could improve on for the next day. One of my values is around fun and silliness so a successful day will incorporate some of that - if it doesn't, I can write about that in my daily reflection and think about how I could help ensure I fulfill that the next day. To help me understand what these values are, I used the Emotional Culture Deck designed by Riders & Elephants and I'll write a post about that sometime. Check them out and I'm happy to show you my deck of cards sometime too if you're around in Wellington.
Less phone, more creativity
I've been consciously spending way less time on my phone and more time doing creative things with my hands to help me stay mindful. I realise that being able to have time without your phone isn't possible for everyone and that my privilege allows me to be able to do this a lot more easily so I just want to call that out. Also, very much recognise that I use my phone to do my meditation sessions so this concept seems a bit contradictory but I'm sure you understand what I'm getting at in the section below and will forgive me ;)
There are two things I'm mostly doing to have more time away from my phone. Firstly, I have my phone in another room while I sleep. It's been wonderful. I can't tell you how much my sleep has improved and how much better my day starts without having my phone as the first thing I pick up and check. It takes me out of that loop of checking all the social media and seeing all the terrible news out there as the first thing I do in the morning (I acknowledge and understand why this isn't possible for a lot of people) and gives me some space to focus. I am also going to be trialing having a couple of nights a week where my phone stays in another room as soon as I get home so that I'm way more present in my surroundings.
Instead of phone time, I'm finding that I want to do stuff with my hands and so have been getting a bit more creative. I've been making candles, soaps, tinctures and growing tonnes of plants. I'm finding that I can practice mindfulness when I'm focusing on a particular task and take myself out of my anxiety really effectively too. It's the first time in my life where I've really understood that having tactile activities is important for my mental health and I'm really benefiting from it.
Again, I'm very privileged to have the time and resources to be able to do this.
I've really got a long way on my journey to feel comfortable with these practices and will be always evolving it. It's super exciting though and I'd be really keen to hear what you all do or are trying right now.
Thanks for reading!