How mindfulness has changed my life

Someone asked me recently about what benefits I had experienced from practising mindfulness. It was quite challenging to put these into words without having given the question any forethought. Having now had a chance to reflect more on the matter, I am going to try to summarise my thoughts on this…

When first starting to learn mindfulness, it is often difficult to really know what difference it is making. We sit and notice the breath or sensations in the body, for example, and maybe we feel a bit calmer, or maybe we don’t! Sometimes we simply become aware of how distracted the mind is and how many times we have to redirect attention back to where we’d intended it to be.

We can make significant progress during an 8-week mindfulness course but the benefits are cumulative on an ongoing basis after that finishes. Looking back over 10 years of regular practice, the shift from the often-subtle incremental changes is certainly apparent.

One of the most obvious physical changes for me has been the reduction in tension carried in my shoulders. During my early experiences of mindfulness practices I would notice the tension held here. Then I started to become aware of it outside of the practices as well and this gave me the opportunity to make the choice to release the tension. At a certain point I realised that my shoulders were never really raised anymore and as a result this part of my body no longer ached on a regular basis.

Another significant difference is in awareness of the body generally. I used to be someone who lived in my mind most of the time. I got easily lost in my thoughts and rarely noticed sensations in my body, unless there was pain or intense discomfort. Inhabiting the body more has helped me to feel more grounded and spacious in response to situations.

Being less caught up in thoughts has had the hugely beneficial consequence of being able to enjoy what’s happening around me more fully. When watching a sunset or going for a walk in nature, I take in the experience in much greater detail: the sights, the sounds, the sensations of touch and any smells. This has helped me to feel greater appreciation for these experiences.

Additionally, the greater awareness of what I am thinking that has developed from mindfulness practice has allowed me to see thoughts for what they are – just thoughts! That may sound obvious but our thoughts can become very skewed when we are in a negative state of mind, and because the thoughts fit with our mood we usually believe they reflect reality and don’t question them. Coming more into a position of observing thoughts, as mindfulness encourages, it is easier to have some distance from them and not assume them just to be true. When my mind sets off down a negative track now, I notice much quicker and can then consciously choose to place attention somewhere else e.g. on sensations of breath or in the soles of my feet.

Alongside this shifting relationship to thoughts, I have noticed improvements in my ability to focus. Sustaining attention on a task happens more readily and my mind wanders less.

Another positive outcome has been better sleep. My mind is more settled and thoughts do not keep me awake as often. Consciously placing attention in the body has made it far easier to doze off.

I’m sure this post isn’t exhaustive and more benefits mindfulness has had in my life will probably occur to me as soon as I stop writing. Reflecting on this subject makes me look forward to seeing what the next 10 years of mindfulness practice will bring!

If you are interested in learning mindfulness, or extending and deepening your mindfulness practice, I facilitate an 8-week Mindfulness for Life Course, a 12-week Mindfulness: Taking it Further Course, and also offer introductory taster sessions in Exeter.

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close