After 5 days of being bedridden from migraine, I felt confident that mindfulness couldn’t possibly help. After all, at that time, I was spending more time with migraine than not. I wanted drugs. I wanted surgery. I needed an out and I needed now.
I had all the information I should have needed to choose mindfulness. As a researcher, I had witnessed it help women with sexual pain find intimacy with their partners when they hadn’t for years. I had read the papers that demonstrated quite convincingly how well mindfulness worked on treating things like depression, anxiety, and the symptoms associate with cancer treatment. I had even been trained in mindfulness-based counselling! And still, I made the choice to put it off. It’s not going to work. I’m too busy. I have better things to do.
I don’t know. If any of this feels true for you, I get it. That said, eventually, after several years of managing my pain semi-successfully – walking and yoga had had the biggest impact - I got to the point where I needed to give it a solid try. At least then I could say I had tried everything.
And then, it started working.
When I really started to feel the impact of mindfulness, it was subtle. I almost missed it. For example, one day, instead of my usual inner critic, I heard my inner dialogue say It’s OK, making mistakes is human. Or, another day, an argument with my partner that would normally go on for 30 minutes, started to shift more quickly toward acceptance and finding a solution. Now, I know that the 15 minutes I spend practicing mindfulness in the morning is useful because today, I overrode my typical Type-A perfectionist-self and went for a midday walk with my colleagues rather than saying Sorry, I’ve got too much work to do.
Here are some of the reasons I eventually turned to mindfulness, in spite of myself:
1. It’s free. If you want to try mindfulness, there are a bajillion online resources.*
2. You can do it anytime. 5 minutes at work. In the car. Part of your morning routine.
3. You don’t need to rely on anyone or anything. It’s a solo kind of thing. No strings, no props, and no excuses.
I’m not the boss of you. You’re going to try it or not. But if, after reading some of my experiences, you are considering trying mindfulness on for size, know this: You’re probably not going to be very good at it in the beginning. Mindfulness is a muscle. It’s called a practice for a reason. It’s going to feel awkward and you are going to get distracted. Give it time. Part of being mindful is learning to shift compassion and acceptance toward yourself, just like you might a friend. Just like you would starting any new sport, get some advice from others who might have more experience. Read a book, listen to a podcast, watch a YouTube video.
Over time, you will get better.
Mindfulness surprised me and, through a nerdy Psychology lens, I am excited to share with you why I know these things are good. Surprisingly so.