Do you find practicing mindfulness challenging?
Mindfulness helps reduce emotional suffering and reactivity. Mindfulness helps you feel more in control of particular thoughts and emotions that may make you feel like you’re out of control.
Mindfulness is counter-culture. It requires you to slow down and just notice, without judgement.
Practicing mindfulness isn’t complicated – but it can be challenging.
The mindfulness practice challenges
Here are some common challenges that come up during mindfulness practice:
I don’t feel relaxed
The goal of mindfulness isn’t relaxation. The goal is paying attention to the present moment.
Focusing your attention in this way will sometimes feel relaxing. Our nervous systems calm down when we focus on one thing at a time.
Modern life, which continually pulls our attention in ten different directions, can be exhausting. We’re walking down the street, rushing to an appointment, and wrapping up a phone call. Or eating, reading the news, and responding to texts.
That’s why focusing your attention on just one thing can calm you down.
But other times it won’t. And that’s ok. It doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong.
Particular things you choose to do mindfully will be inherently relaxing – like listening to nature sounds while sitting on a blanket in a park, or soaking in a hot bath.
Mindfulness makes you anxious
This is understandable if you’re not used to not being in the moment; slowing down to focus your attention is unsettling.
It’s unsettling because it’s new and new things can create some anxiety.
If this is the case for you, be gentle with yourself. Ease into mindfulness practice. Start with doing something you enjoy and do that thing mindfully for just 2 minutes (like sipping your favorite hot tea or petting your cat).
Sometimes anxiety comes up when you’re practicing mindfulness because you think you’re not doing it right. If this happens for you, then read about the following challenge.
You keep thinking you’re not doing it right
There’s no ‘doing it right’ in mindfulness, there’s just noticing. Remember, the definition of mindfulness is purposefully paying attention, without judgement.
If the thought, “I’m not doing this right”, or, “I suck at this”, comes up, simply notice the thought for what it is: a judgement. And then return your attention to your mindfulness practice.
Your mind can’t stop thinking
This is completely normal. It’s what our minds do.
Every time you notice your mind has wandered and you bring it back to the present moment – that IS being mindful.
If you catch your mind wandering a hundred times during a mindfulness practice, and bring your attention back to the present moment, that is a hundred moments of mindfulness.
You get sleepy
Feeling sleepy sometimes happens when you practice mindfulness. You may feel sleepy because you’re running around exhausted and don’t know it.
Your mind is accustomed to business, and your body is accustomed to being on the go.
When you finally allow yourself to stop, all your brain and body want to do is rest.
This is normal. Take this kind of sleepiness as a signal that you need more down time and more sleep.
If you find yourself getting sleepy when you practice mindfulness, and you’re well-rested, then treat the mindfulness like any other sensation. Just notice it. You can label it in your mind as a sensation, by saying “sleepiness has just come over me”, and then return your attention to your practice.
You can also choose to engage in mindfulness practices that are more active and don’t involve you closing your eyes, like mindful walking or even mindful running. You can choose to practice anything mindfully.
The point of mindfulness practice is to become more awake and aware; it helps reduce emotional reactivity.
Practicing mindfulness is challenging
Don’t let the challenges of practicing mindfulness stand in your way. Notice the challenges you’re experiencing without judgement, and keep going.
Interested in how DBT and mindfulness can help you?
Call the Bay Area DBT and Couples Counseling Center at (415) 310-5142 to set up your therapy appointment.