Mindfulness Week 7: When Did You Stop Dancing?



As we are on the penultimate week of this Mindfulness course, this week's tasks are much more free form. There is no habit releaser for the week, nor any new meditation so this week's post may be slightly shorter than usual. We had a small task which I'll be talking about in more detail than the meditations, a task that I encourage all of you suffering from stress to try out when you have a quiet moment.

Meditations

This week, the instructions were to pick two meditations from previous weeks and practice them this week, specifically looking for meditations that created a "nourishing" feeling for me. Any meditation that left me feeling rejuvenated and restored energy to me. I chose the Breath and Body meditation because it feels the most natural after so many weeks of practice.. I also chose the Body Scan meditation because, although  I struggled with it in the week I was introduced to me, it left me feeling totally relaxed when I was able to complete the meditation.

The meditations went all right, there were still some struggles particularly with the Body Scan since it is quite a long meditation. It got me to think about what my plan of action will be once the routine of the books is over. Will I be disciplined  enough to continue meditating, and will it help me in the same way without this blog and the book as guidance?

The conclusion I am at presently is that I need to make changes in my life in order to stick to this and other new habits I want to keep.

Changes, not sacrifices.

Re-shuffling my schedule, sleeping earlier so I can wake up earlier or having to-do lists for the day to keep myself productive and create a routine that isn't suffocating, but still gives me spaces in the day to do fulfilling things that my anxious brain might consider time wasters.

Task of the Week: Nourishment vs. Depletion

This week, the task given to me in the book was to write a list of 10-15 things I might do in a typical day. Once I had completed that, I was to then mark an N next to the tasks which felt nourishing to me mentally and physically, and a D next to the tasks that depleted me, drained me of energy. I could then tally up the average split between depleting and nourishing things happening in my daily life. Some tasks are actually a combination of both, and so I would give them an N/D mark and give half a point to each side. My list was as follows:


  1. Shower: N/D
  2. Bus to/from work: D
  3. Customer facing work: D
  4. Talking to colleagues: N/D
  5. Work away from customers: N/D
  6. Eating: N/D
  7. Sleep: N/D
  8. Writing: N
  9. YouTube: N/D
  10. Facebook: N/D
  11. Listen to music: N
  12. Talking to friends online: N
  13. Tumblr: N/D
  14. Check emails: D

Depleting Activities: 7
Nourishing Activities: 6.5

I am just slightly off-balance, but there are so many things I do daily that are N/D and don't have to be. When I'm on the internet, in particular, I enjoy the things I'm doing but I always have this voice in the back of my head telling me I'm wasting time, telling me I could be more productive. However, I've probably spent a draining day at work and so can't accomplish those productive things with low energy. I think about the things I could or should be doing and I feel a wall between me and accomplishing it because I need to recharge. I don't see it as that however, I see it as a clear sign of my laziness, uselessness or whatever else. My mood gets lower and so I resort back to the instant-gratification amusement of the internet and the cycle begins again until I just get stuck. This leads to carrying this burden right up until the point I'm supposed to be sleeping, resulting in poor, uncomfortable sleep (which is why sleep is marked as N/D) so I start the next day with low energy. No wonder things eventually build up and begin to feel difficult, if this cycle persists?

The next step, after this exercise, is to make a list of five changes I could make to adjust the excess of depleting nature of my everyday life, and attempt to implement these changes in the coming weeks. The list I came up with was:

1. Walk to and from work rather than getting the bus
2. Going to the gym regularly to relieve stress and tension and life more healthily
3. Doing my most regular activities, like eating and showering, more mindfully
4. Using reading as a relaxation method as well as Facebook or YouTube
5. Breathing Space Meditations during the day

Another task to create more nourishing moments on a daily basis is to turn one common activity into something called a Mindfulness Bell. A Mindfulness Bell is an action, sound, or anything that you can associate with switching yourself into a mindful way of thinking. I chose taking a walk as my bell, because it's something I will be doing more regularly and being outside will give me a chance to observe the sights, sounds, and smells around me mindfully in an ever-changing environment.

The reason I stressed changes as opposed to sacrifices, is because whittling away things that are important to you as a person creates low mood rather than fixing it. It isn't as simple as cutting out things that might take up time in order to make room for greater productivity. It's more about weighing up aspects of these things like time, importance, how depleting or nourishing, to create a balanced schedule.

This diagram is from the book I'm using, created by Professor Marie ├ůsberg to describe how any of us can get burnt out when our lives become focused on fewer and fewer things. The ring at the top represents a life with a variety of activities, and each lower ring is a life with less and less diversity, focusing on nothing but what we percieve as the most important things, and the words on each side are the symptoms of this focus. It's important to maintain a varied, nourishing but active lifestyle rather than just cutting out one thing after another. As we see in the diagram you become constrained, unable to branch out because of poor mood, hopelessness, joylessness, fatigue and many other negative symptoms. All of it ultimately leading to exhaustion.

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