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Mindfulness. Does it make you happier?

Updated: Dec 1, 2021

As someone who practices mindfulness and meditation I really want to say a huge "YES" to this question, but the reality is a little more complicated. Being mindful will literally wake you up from the dream you don't even know you are in and it can be quite overwhelming.

People who don't practise mindfulness might look at someone who meditates regularly and think they must surely be happy and calm all the time and have the answer to any problem that comes along.

Well unfortunately it isn't quite that simple.

You see, being mindful can throw up all sorts of negative feelings and emotions. Sitting with these thoughts and feelings, even for 10 minutes, can be overwhelming. I already knew through my own experience that my practise had brought up some uncomfortable realities and made me see things in a way I never had before but for some people this journey can take a very negative turn if not supported correctly.

I will tell you about my own journey with mindfulness and meditation and why 6 months in I felt more depressed than I've ever felt before.

I've always been drawn to meditation, yoga, spiritualism and alternative therapies but always failed to really get into anything for more than a couple of weeks. "Life would always get in the way" I would say. This is something I hear all the time and now when I hear it I can't help but shake my head and think if only I had taken control of "life" and started this journey 20 years ago.

Instead, here I am, 3 and half years in wondering where all those years went and not really remembering much of them. Yes I have some great memories of holidays, days/nights out, important events when my son was growing up and at school, and some really funny times at work but the thing I remember the most was wishing my life away!

Why was I doing this?

Well I worked in a school and every term I was just wishing the time away to the next holiday. I think most people are guilty of wishing their weeks away to the next weekend or the next break in a shift pattern. Especially if they are in a job they don't really like. But you see the problem with doing this is that the time you are wishing away is now, and now is all we have. What you are waiting for will (probably) arrive but you must not live in that future event before you are in it.

I remember going on holiday and spending the whole week thinking about the day I would be going home and how quickly it would arrive and then being really down at the end of the holiday because it had disappeared in a blur. I had no idea how to live in the present and I spent all my time in my head living in the past or the future.

This is what I mean when I say you are in a dream you don't even know you are in and if you choose to start your own mindfulness journey I can promise you that you will wake up. If you have already started this journey you might already know what this feels like.

Waking up is both exhilarating and frightening.

It may throw up regrets, negative feelings, emotions long ago buried and open your eyes to how unhappy you are in the present. This is exactly where I found myself 6 months into my journey. I couldn't understand why I felt so down and the thought of meditating and being silent with these thoughts and emotions was unbearable.

So I stopped.

I got more frustrated.

I got more depressed.

I hated my job as it wasn't what I wanted to do with my life.

But the problem I had was I couldn't now just forget what I had learnt and it made me angry. I was annoyed with myself for wasting so much of my time doing things I didn't really want to be doing. I was full of regret for putting trivial things first when I should have been focusing on what was important.

I read a story once about an old man who was sitting at his table writing a letter. In the letter he talked about all the things he had done and seen in his long life. He talked of his wife, his children, his friends, his job. He then went on to talk about how he had never really pursued the path he had wanted to. He had dreams of making loads of money, being famous and being 'someone'. He had always thought to himself "I wonder when my life will start? When will I have what I want? When will I finally be happy?" Now as he wrote the letter he realised that his life had started a long, long time ago, he had just missed it by living in a fantasy that was never going to happen. He had not lived in the present, had not realised what he had had, now. He never woke up and now it was too late.

This story has stayed with me and I was getting frightened the same thing would happen to me. I needed to sort it out. Life hadn't got in the way, I had got in the way of my life and allowed myself to live it in a dream!

And my mindful meditation had made me feel like this!

So what was I going to do?

Luckily I have a very sensible son who is also on his own mindfulness journey. He convinced me to start meditating again and introduced me to a new app called "Waking Up". This app is quite different from your conventional guided meditation apps in the sense that it goes much deeper and looks at the theory behind it. One of my favourite practises in this app is The Headless Way which talks about who you really are at zero distance. I was fascinated by this and together with the Calm app it got me back into meditating and allowed me to work on these emotions and feelings that were making me feel so negative. I had to learn to be kind to myself and forgive myself. I also started yoga which helped with this as well. It's an ongoing process and journey that doesn't have an end. It is a new way of life and if you can work past any negativity that may arise it is amazing.

I now appreciate the little things which are actually the big things. I am more confident and even though I still get stressed out about things I am able to handle them much better and quicker than I ever could before. I now don't let others effect me in the same way I used to. I understand that everyone is on their own journey and this helps me to be more tolerant of others (although this is probably the hardest part of being mindful). When I feel things getting to me I know there is a place I can access that is completely calm and unaffected by the outside world. The most helpful part for me so far has been to stop regretting past events! To understand that this has gone and can not be changed and to be okay with that.

So to answer my own question at the start of this blog, I would have to say that you are the only person who can make you happier. If meditation and mindfulness help you realise this then yes. But if you come up against any negative emotions please talk to someone about it and work through it. This might just be too hard to do alone.

If you are unhappy with any part of your life the only person who can change it is you. You will probably need to come out of your comfort zone to change but is that comfort zone really that comfy?

“There is freedom waiting for you,

On the breezes of the sky,

And you ask "What if I fall?"

Oh but my darling,

What if you fly?”

Poem by Erin Hanson

If you would like somewhere you can go to talk to other like minded individuals who are on their own mindfulness journey, I have a free Facebook group One Sanctuary, One Community with Fiona Stretton-Emerson where I share lots of helpful tips and quotes to help you stay positive and mindful. You can share your own thoughts and journey within the safe environment of the group if this is something you feel comfortable in doing. There is no pressure to be actively chatting and interacting in the group and if you just want to use it as a tool to help you stay focused and positive then that is fine too.

If you are having trouble sleeping I have a great free pdf that you can download. It is full of helpful tips and advise on how you can get a great nights sleep. Just click here.

Until next time...

Lots of love

Fiona xx

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