My first experience with mindfulness training was a terrible one. I had been interested in the topic for a long time, but never participated in a training session until I was forced to participate in one. The reason I used the word ‘forced’ is because the session was booked for me and some others without us knowing about it, and to solve a problem that couldn’t be solved with a session like that. I remember sitting there squeezing some raisins we were given and thinking about Gael from How I Met Your Mother.. “Experience your food.” It felt ridiculous. I was too irritated to get anything out of the day. As a consequence, I wanted nothing to do with mindfulness after that. Luckily I wasn’t the one paying for the session.
It took me a long time to start reading about mindfulness again.
In my opinion, mindfulness practices can be very useful, but only if you are fully engaged with it. This isn’t something you want to briefly look into and then think it’s a scam if it doesn’t work. I know people who believe that it could work for someone, but are not even a bit interested in practicing themselves, so I would say they probably will not get the most out of it. Besides, there might be medical reasons why you shouldn’t practice mindfulness, so remember to take that into consideration. This post is in no way produced by medical professionals.
If you, however, want to learn more about mindfulness, there is absolutely no way someone else could tell you which app, video or instructor is the best for you. It may take a while to find the best one, but I think it will be worth it to explore different options instead of giving up if the first one doesn’t suit you.
You can find countless mindfulness videos on YouTube, mindfulness courses are offered on online course platforms, independent mindfulness coaches offer their expertise online… I could never present all the choices in one post, but I’ll give you a couple of options. The examples I’m about to give are in English, but if that’s not what you want/need, I’m pretty sure there are resources in your native language as well.
But first, what is mindfulness, and why would you want to explore it?
I would say the goal of mindfulness is to be present without distraction, not regretting the past, not worrying about the future, and accepting what’s happening.
A lot of benefits has been claimed to result from regular mindfulness exercises: being less stressed out, better focus, less mistakes, enhanced performance, etc. I would argue that all of these sound appealing to all of us. And if these truly are the benefits of mindfulness, no wonder employers are interested in organizing mindfulness training at workplaces. Likewise, no wonder some business schools have incorporated mindfulness in study programs.
Why has mindfulness become so popular? And why should it be even more popular?
Multitasking has become something people do and think they should be doing. People brag about being great multitaskers. At the same time, many employers still look for employees who can multitask. Even though, more and more studies talk about people not performing as well if they need to multitask. In addition, people seem to feel more and more stressed out at work since they feel they are obligated to immediately react to every phone call, email, text, etc. the very minute they receive them.
Somehow it feels that people are not willing to admit how much happier and more productive they would be without multitasking. Is the reason fear of looking weak? I don’t know. I do know, however, that this should be not only talked about more. Tangible efforts should be put into place in order to allow better concentration. On your free time, this, of course, is your own responsibility. At work, your employer plays a huge role in creating a culture of unitasking and concentrated work.
Still, I would have to agree with Rob Cook (https://www.ted.com/talks/rob_cooke_the_cost_of_work_stress_and_how_to_reduce_it?language=en#t-623042) that companies can only do so much. At the end of the day, you need to actively study your own behavior and stress levels. You are the only one who can make long-lasting changes in your habits.
It can be gruelling, for sure, but I believe you can do it!
How to start?
Here are a couple of options to start the process with. But, like I mentioned earlier, these are not the only ones you have.
On futurelearn.com, you can find a course by Monash University called Mindfulness for Wellbeing and Peak Performance. This course may be a good fit if you are new to mindfulness and want to learn the basics and some background information. The course is in English. If you need some help with the language, you can view the transcript. In addition, you can alternate the speed of the video. To help you understand the terms used, you can download a glossary of terms.
The course begins with theoretical parts. The first exercises are simple, but they show you how easy the start is. However, your mind might surprise you. To me, it was a positive surprise, that on this course, it is talked about, how negative thoughts can arise during meditation. Not every course brings this up, and to a new meditator this can be extremely scary.
If you want to expand your knowledge with the same instructors, there is also a follow-up course on FutureLearn called Maintaining a Mindful Life.
On the other hand, if you don’t need much background information, and would rather only do some exercises, there are for example different kinds of apps you can choose from.
For example, UCLA (The University of California, Los Angeles) Mindful Awareness Research Center offers a free UCLA Mindful -app on your phone. The app contains a few guided mindfulness meditations (most of them are in English, but you can also find some basic meditations in Spanish) that are plenty to start with.
I’ve now given you a couple of examples what kinds of resources you can use to start exploring mindfulness. Always remember, though, not to be discouraged even if this may feel challenging at first!
Disclaimer: I have no medical training. I am writing from my own experience as an online learner and from my own point of view. The opinions expressed in this post are solely mine and therefore subjective.