When you find yourself in a tough life circumstance, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and fall into despair.
But Dr Elise Bailylew, the founder of Mindful in May, an online global mindfulness campaign that teaches people to meditate, whilst raising funds to build clean water projects in the developing world, says the solution could be easier than you think.
Below are her five tips on ways to bring mindfulness to challenging times, which she believes can help you stay afloat and strengthen your resilience.
1. Use mindfulness to manage overwhelming emotion
Mindfulness, the ability to bring non-judgmental awareness to your present moment to support greater clarity, is the first step to managing overwhelming emotions. It enables you to witness the emotion rather than be overwhelmed by it.
Making a mindful video diary can help. Here’s how it works:
- When a difficult emotion hits you, pull out your phone
- Speak to the video about what you are feeling, thinking and any sensations in your body to re-ground into the present moment
- Try to clearly identify the emotion and name it to tame it. Science suggests that when you use language to describe your emotions it helps you regulate your emotions more effectively
Watch your video a few days later and be reminded of the law of impermanence – all emotions that arrive will also pass. You may feel greater compassion for yourself and even laugh at how all-consuming the emotion felt at that moment.
2. Be mindful of what media you ingest
What we choose to focus our attention on creates our reality. So when you are going through a difficult time, be intentional about what media you are watching. Find stories of hope, optimism, inspiration and shared humanity like those on Karma Tube or The Optimist for the more hopeful side of humanity.
3. Practice self compassion
Self compassion is learning to be your own best friend, rather than falling into harsh self-criticism. Our self-critical, harsh internal narrator can create a second layer of suffering when we’re faced with difficulties. Practicing active self compassion is a powerful way to neutralise these automatic thought patterns and bring more kindness to yourself, supporting greater resilience in the face of hardship.
Try this self-compassion practice. Place your hand on your heart and actively sooth yourself by quietly saying a kind phrase like “this is such a difficult time, I’m doing the best I can and I’m here for myself with love and kindness”.
Our mind can be our greatest ally or worst enemy. Meditation is a practice that helps you learn how to be master, rather than slave to your mind. However, just like facing a marathon, we need to train towards greater mental fitness and strength, so that we have the skills to manage our minds when the going gets tough. Learn the skill of mindfulness meditation when things are calm and develop an inner resource that you can call upon for the rest of your life.
5. Start a gratitude group with friends
Gratitude is a powerful way to train your attention to notice the good rather than the deficits in life. Research actually suggests that focusing on gratitude will support greater happiness in daily life. Create a gratitude group with friends and hold each other accountable to check in daily or weekly with something you feel grateful for. I have enjoyed using Whats App to create gratitude groups with friends around the world.
- To register for Mindful in May click here – there you can commit to 10 minutes of mindfulness a day and help bring safe drinking water to the world.