PhD Self-Care Project: Mindfulness

Meditation and mindfulness seem to have been the hype for several years now. I never thought I had any need to be mindful in my life. I just had so many things to do. I don’t have the time!

Well, that all changed when a crisis occurred in April. One that was completely out of my control, which basically forced me to re-evaluate my life, values, and ways of thinking. Since then, I’ve actively practiced mindfulness each day, whether for five minutes as I jotted down the top three things I was grateful for, or when I struggle to fall asleep, or when I allow myself to be truly present in moments with friends and family.

In addition to what the thousands of books, TED talks, and published academic papers on mindfulness outline as the benefits of mindfulness, below are the key areas where mindfulness has really helped me with my self-care.

Improve self-awareness
While allowing me to be more present, the practice helps me to focus on quietening thoughts and gives me a space to learn about myself.

Makes me grateful and joyful
Being mindful and allowing myself to focus on the simpler things in life. It also helps me to realise how much I really have to be thankful for, given the small things I may have taken fro granted, such as an able body, a sound mind, and a solid group of people who genuinely love and support me. That may sound frivolous and full of fluff, but really, when I think about all the people who are truly alone, homeless, fighting for their lives, in pain, and so on, I can’t help but be grateful, and immediately it’s as if I’ve increased the serotonin levels in my system.

Reduces perceived pain
For some reason, because I’m able to feel more grateful and more joyful in the present moment, the aches and pains I feel seem less distressing and uncomfortable. It reminds me to put things in perspective, and when I’m able to do that, the physical pain or the emotional hurt feels less harrowing.

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