On any given day, my mind is captured with thoughts of exams, papers, lectures, appointments, meetings, seminars, lunch dates, formal dinners, and a billion other things. Something as simple as having a conversation with another person can be a task of extraordinary feat. 10 seconds in, I find myself debating if I should email my teacher now or if I should skip class and go to whatever debate/discussion/event my friends are prodding me to attend. And by the time I get back to the conversation we’re already talking about something else.
I’m also one of those people who, for the life of them, can’t manage to sit still. I always have to be doing something. If I’m eating, I am also either reading, watching TV, completing an assignment, or engaged in something. Even when I am answering emails, I’m working on something else too. Like most problems in life, I blame it on my parents. When I was a kid, I would always pretend to be doing something while trying to sneak some TV in. Be it folding laundry, reading a book “for school”, or cleaning, my parents made sure I was not wasting my time. My multitasking habit followed me well into adulthood. Now, the only thing I can do and not multitask is sleep (although, it could be argued that my dreams are a source of entertainment and my mind and body are rejuvenating simultaneously).
In health psychology, we learn about the mind-body connection. We’ve already learned so much about stress, gender health, biopsychosocial model, prevention, and everything in between. It is really hard to not learn these things about health and not be conscious of your own actions, thoughts, and beliefs. So this week I tried something new: mindfulness. I picked mindfulness because most of my day is spent on overdrive. I attend class half in half out. I brush my teeth and plan my morning. Everything is done with one foot already on the next task. I talked to a friend about mindfulness and she recommended this ted talk. Specifically, for one hour a day, I meditated. There is no way I could convince myself to sit down for an entire hour so I broke it down into 6 ten minute increments throughout the day. When I woke, before I slept, and the rest in between.
If you’re someone like me, the task itself is quite daunting and distressing. I was sure this was the one thing I couldn’t do. But, I had to give it a try. So my form of meditation was basically giving my mind a break. For one hour, I would sit in either silence or meditation music (Spotify came in handy). I cleared my mind by focusing on where my thoughts were coming from and instead of fixating on the thought, I would watch it pass me by. Sounds easy, right? Wrong. For the first three attempts, without even trying my mind would wander. I got frustrated at having to call my mind back and just focus on now. But there more I tried, the easier it got to just focus on being present. Sometimes I would close my eyes. Other times I would sit in the dark.
So here’s what I learned and felt after a week of mindfulness. My bedtime is filled with trying to sleep for hours and tossing and turning throughout the night. I found that I fell asleep with a less effort than before. I noticed throughout the week how hectic my life is. Flitting from one thing to another with ever truly being there. My ten minutes of mindfulness before a meeting or interaction helped me focus on the conversation more deeply than before. I also noticed that using mindfulness between studying sessions made the material less exercising. Before, I would scroll Instagram or my twitter feed for 10 minutes and call it a break. But even though it was a break from my homework it was not a break for my mind. My mind really needed the rest from trying to under concepts and words, it didn’t need mindless social media browsing. I enjoyed being mindful. I enjoyed the benefits of being mindful more. The one thing about being mindful that I found difficult was squeezing it into my schedule. I had to convince myself many times that it was necessary and not a waste of time. It took a lot of justifying just to be mindful and meditate.
Overall, I had a positive experience. I thought I would just use this tool for a week and be done with it. I find myself craving some peace and quiet from my own mind. I think I will carry mindfulness and meditation through to my life well after my class ends. When we think of self-care, it can sometimes be a bit overwhelming to think “Gee, how can I fit salon time and a good book and a fantastic meal together this evening?” But I learned that self-care can be something as quick cost-free as ten minutes.