You may well be wondering what mindfulness, meditation and tantrums have in common. Let me explain.
Recently I started a course on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). It’s an 8 week course where once a week a small group (mine group has 4 people in it) meet up in Maryhill and develop their knowledge and skills to help them live a life with less stress and more happiness.
Now, given that I’m The Happiness Guy and should (and most of the time do) have my mental and emotional shit together, you may well be asking; why am I attending?
When I signed up for the course it was primarily as a way of achieving a more formal education in mindfulness. From a professional perspective I wanted to experience how the course would be delivered. My attendance was far less about helping me reduce my own stress levels and more about developing a professional skill set.
That said, having purposefully spent much of 2017 and 2018 focusing on my physical wellbeing, in 2019 my focus is on improving my mental and emotional wellbeing and therefore attending a structured mindfulness course fitted perfectly with my personal goals.
I’ve meditated regularly for 3 years now, primarily using apps like Calm and Headspace however it’s all been self taught. Whilst I feel I’m doing pretty good with it and it definitely seems to help I know I’m still really just a beginner and I’m probably just scratching the surface of what’s possible.
In addition, unlike my physical wellbeing habits like regular gym visits, yoga, walking, very cold showers and delicious healthy eating which happen almost all of the time, my mediation practice is something that’s a bit too sporadic for my liking. When meditation slips, so do my happiness levels as stress levels rise concurrently!
Elevated stress levels lead to decreases in tolerance and I’m guilty of having a quick temper. Sometimes the intensity of my emotional reaction is simply not appropriate to the events that caused the reaction and this is exactly what happened when I came home to my fabulous girlfriend last night.
Emma was at home having had a great day, just back from a run and taking care of her stretches and foam rolling, having prepared a lovely meal for the both of us when Angry G (that’s what we’ll call him) decided to make his appearance. I wasn’t even angry when I came home – I’d had a great week, but I was tired and something Emma said triggered me and off I went like a mini volcano! Not good!
This over reaction is one that I’m not proud of. Most of my clients and friends have never experienced this side of me and when I tell people about it they simply don’t believe me.
The truth is we all behave a bit different in environments where one way or another we unconsciously think we can get away with it. However what we “get away with” and what’s acceptable are two very different things!
So given my short fuse (and legs) I’m pretty certain MBSR could make a massive difference to my temper, however I’m realistic that it won’t make me any taller!
So back to the course. So far I’ve been twice and here’s the biggest thing I’ve noticed. The people running the course expect us to do A LOT of meditation. I was thinking, one evening, 2 hours a week, I can do that.
But in reality, in addition to the two hours a week we spend together, we also have to do a minimum of 6 days a week, 45 minutes a day of meditation (30 minute daily body scan and a 15 minute focus on the breath meditation).
In addition, we have a list of daily activities (driving / washing dishes / teeth brushing / eating etc) that we choose from each week and this activity has to be performed mindfully.
Sneakily, it looks like they get us to choose a new activity each week which means that we gradually compound the amount of time where we behave mindfully. Last week I chose mindfully brushing my teeth and this week it’s mindfully eating my breakfast. I reckon by the end of 8 weeks they’ll have pretty much covered the majority of things I do habitually and this has to be a good thing.
So far, I really like the course, but then again given my passions and beliefs, I would. I do enjoy meeting a group of strangers with something in common and having new experiences. Not only that – one of the members has brought home baking each week – week 1 was scones, clotted creams and jam – whats not to love?
And I get it… If the participants are to experience life changing results in 8 weeks, then we have to cram a lot of practice (so that the practices become habitual) into the 8 weeks.
So far I have noticed a few benefits. I am definitely calmer (most of the time), my clarity and focus is improved and I have more energy. I think this is interesting as it’s helping me be more productive, which I think most people wouldn’t expect.
Mindfulness may well be about getting us to slow down, but perhaps this slowing down helps us be less busy with everything and more purposeful and driven in achieving what truly matters.
My final observation at this stage, is that only 4 people are attending and that’s sad. My course is half full despite the amount of anxiety, depression, frustration, anger and stress we are experiencing.
I really hope this post encourages you to consider doing something like this for yourself.