The following is Part 1 in a 4-Part Series of Self-Care experiments, conducted and reported on by the fabulous intern: Adra Brown.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness meditation is simply being aware of the present moment. It requires being nonjudgmental of thoughts and feelings that come up, and instead nonjudgmentally recognizing them as they pass through your mind and leave.
How is Mindfulness Helpful?
Practicing mindfulness meditation helps you to become more present in all your moments. It helps with focusing on tasks, memory, and decision-making. Mindfulness has been shown in studies to reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety.
My Experiment: To Practice Mindfulness Meditation Every Day For A Week
Before this week, I had done mindfulness meditation twice. However, both times I was not completely invested in it and did not really know what it was all about. So, this week I am going to give it another try and meditate for 10 minutes every day for a week. When I started out, my only expectation was to have a few moments to myself every day.
Here’s how it went:
Day 1: The first day I meditated was very busy, and I was tired and stressed by the time my reminder went off telling me to mediate. Even though it was a long day, I was still excited to practice meditation and get some “me-time” and to be still for a while. I sat down on the floor, and I turned on the Headspace app and started my first 10-minute session. Surprisingly, the 10-minute session flew by, and afterward I was relaxed and ready to settle down for the night.
Day 2: When day 2 rolled around I could not wait to meditate again because of the relaxation I had experienced in day one. I once again sat on the floor and turned on session 2 on the Headspace app. I quickly was transported to a world where all my stress could melt away for a while. After the second session I once again was feeling great. I was absolutely convinced I might have just mastered this whole mindfulness meditation thing in the record time of 2 days.
Day 3: Day three is when I really started to struggle. I was having a hard day and feeling down. I sat down again and started session three. I did not want to practice mindfulness meditation that night, but I had committed to a week, so I did. After the session finished, I was feeling better and went straight to sleep.
Day 4: Day 4 was no easier, but for different reasons. I had a relaxing day. I had been with my friends all day, and then it came to the time I had committed to meditation. I asked my friends to go to the next room while I meditated, and then I started my meditation routine: I sat on the floor, turned on Headspace, and tried to tune out my friends in the room beside me. All I could think about that session was the funny moments I was missing with my friends, what assignments I have due in class tomorrow, and that I should probably study for my exam. Every time I was distracted, I chastised myself, and then forced myself back to noticing my breathing. This 10-minute session felt like hours as I struggled to keep my mind focused.
Day 5: On day 5 I once again was with my friends as it came to my time to meditate. This time I had to meditate with a few people in my room. So, I put in my headphones and tried to meditate. This was difficult even though I could barely hear them. I was trying to concentrate so hard because I didn’t want to be distracted. My head started to hurt just a little with how hard I was trying concentrate, and at this point I realized, maybe I’m not doing this right. I’m trying so hard and I feel worse than I did before I started.
Day 6: On day six, the Headspace guided meditation recommended that you must find a balance of letting go and keeping focus. I stopped trying so hard to stop any thought or feeling from passing through my mind, and instead let my thoughts drift through and out as I focused on my breathing. This day I really started to understand what mindfulness truly is.
Day 7: My last day I sat down again when my reminder went off. I was aware of the thoughts and feeling that went on during the session, and occasionally I would start to focus on one of them. However, instead of chastising myself like before I simple noticed what I was doing and let it go, and returned to focus on my breathing. After this session I wasn’t necessarily more relaxed, but I felt more forgiving to myself and felt more connected to who I am.
After a week I am in no way an expert on mindfulness meditation. I would say my biggest improvement over the week was to stop judging myself when my mind would start wandering. Instead, now I just notice the thought, and bring my attention back to my breathing. I also realized how much time I think about what I am going to do next instead of thinking about what is happening in the moment. This was a real struggle and I didn’t even notice I was doing it. Living for the next thing is exhausting and you never really enjoy anything because you’re only thinking about what to do next. Honestly, I probably will not meditate every day because I am so busy, but I want to meditate at least 3 times a week so I can check in with myself, be more present, and be more patient and forgiving to myself.
About the Author:
Adra Brown is an undergraduate Senior at Welch College studying Psychology. She has a passion for counseling and mental health. She loves her cats and trying new, exciting experiences.