A journey to mindfulness
Word by Uzma Afridi, Head of careers, NABS
As I enter the tube station, listening to my Ibiza playlist, thinking about what to have for dinner. I remember a text I need to respond to. The weekend is approaching, I see an email pop up and I go into panic mode. Momentarily I contemplate Anthony Joshua (just his general being…), before someone barges into me and I am alerted to remembering I am on the tube platform, my fist is clenching. WHY ME! Why is the world against me!
I can’t be the only person who has felt like this, and before I encountered mindfulness, most commutes, workplace meetings and conversations with my friends and family often elapsed that way. To be candid, sometimes they still are but far less often.
Stress and mindfulness are words that have cropped up more and more in the last few years. As one of the Executive Coaches at NABS, I’ve seen the effect that stress can have in day to day life; in my own life and others around me. Over the last few years, mindfulness has become a frequent tool that comes up in my coaching sessions. I usually get three common reactions when I mention mindfulness; which I’ve dubbed the Cynic, the Dabbler and the Convert.
My journey started as the Cynic. It took endless research to convince myself that this was something worth pursuing, worth believing in. I use this evidence to convince the Cynics who sit across from me in my coaching sessions. Now armed with the knowledge and finally believing that practicing mindfulness wasn’t just for hippies and hipsters, did this instantly transform me into a mindfulness practitioner extraordinaire?
I must be blunt here – no.
My first experience of Headspace, ended quickly. Like many of my clients, my good intentions failed to translate. I realised that I was struggling to prioritise the time.
Capitalising on the research, which shows that 8 weeks is the length of time required to practice mindfulness daily and enlarge the front part of the brain; I challenged myself to 8 weeks of 10 minutes a day. Again, my good intentions didn’t translate. There was always something; a late night, a deadline, or a Love Island marathon. After a third attempt at this, I began to notice the changes. This was my biggest challenge yet: sustaining my new habit. After a few years I’m still between the Dabbler and the Convert. The quick fix I craved was never going to work. Practice and consistency is the key to creating new habits. I wouldn’t leave the house or go to bed without brushing my teeth because I’ve done it every day since I could reach the bathroom sink. I apply this to mindfulness. Most weeks finding ten minutes a day feels a struggle.
While the changes are subtle at the beginning, I have noticed the benefits. My self-awareness is higher; I notice things that I hadn’t before. I listen to signs my body provides when it is trying to communicate with me. The times when I have noticed it the most is comparing it to situations which I regularly react to and I have to say, I don’t recognise that as me anymore.
In order to gain my Convert status, I need to remember the benefits and reflect on the goodness it brings in order for me to continue to reap these benefits. So, if you sit in cynic camp, I challenge you to take on the 8 week challenge of mindfulness exercises, see how you get on. Come and chat to one of the Coaches and see how we can help you move towards being a mindfulness Convert.
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