Mindfulness is in. What began as a form of Buddhist meditation has now been picked up by the mainstream, with even the NHS recommending it as a treatment for mental health conditions. It seems like everyone and their gran is preaching the benefits of switching off and finding your inner peace. So qmunicate challenged 5 of our contributors to take a break from their stressful lives of lectures, essays and making the best magazine in Glasgow. Here they report back on the challenges and benefits of the latest craze in mental wellbeing.
When I volunteered to put mindfulness exercises to the test for two weeks I knew there was only two possible outcomes: I’d either become irrevocably obsessed with this concept and swear by my new way of life within a few days, or I’d become overwhelmed with the commitment. In an attempt to prevent the latter, I downloaded an app called ‘Mindfulness: The Art of Being Human’ (the free version, obviously) based on the fact it wouldn’t bombard me with annoying, and oddly passive aggressive, reminders on a daily basis. Unfortunately, it still felt like a chore.
Initially, I had great ambitions and I was ready to finally get my life together with this app. When researching the benefits of mindfulness, I’d read that taking ten minutes out of every day to focus on your breathing in the present moment was a beneficial way improve your perspective and clear your thoughts. As someone with an incredibly chaotic and cluttered mind I thought I’d found the answer to the source of my anxieties but, alas, no clear sense of organisation followed. I tried my best to be consistent, keeping to the same time every day apparently makes it more effective, but I couldn’t help thinking that if I was able to have this sort of structure in my life I wouldn’t be looking into using a mindfulness app in the first place.
The first thing I discovered about using a mindfulness app was the importance in putting your phone on silent first; the constant buzzing doesn’t have a calming effect, it does the opposite and prompted my incessant internal nagging about needing to check Twitter. Following that seminal finding, I was able to fully appreciate just how long ten minutes actually was (spoiler: it feels like a really long time). After the first few days, I would already feel deflated before even starting the session because I was worrying about my impending essay deadlines. For me, practicing this ten minutes of mindfulness felt like when you force yourself to go to a lecture hungover, but instead of making notes you spend the entire duration checking the time to realise that barely a moment has passed. I became frustrated at myself for struggling to concentrate, I couldn’t prevent random thoughts from popping up in my mind and they would usually just remind me about something I’d forgotten to do.
By the end of the two weeks I was considerably more irritable than I was when I started. I felt guilty for spending this time sitting doing nothing, it felt like a complete waste of precious essay writing time (which I would totally have spent procrastinating anyway, but that’s another issue). I wasn’t any calmer, and I certainly wasn’t any more organised. Mindfulness is supposed to make you aware of the moment, preventing you from getting caught up in your head, but I don’t think it’s the best way for me to overcome tension; in fact, it became a sort of enabler. I’m sure the claims I read online weren’t outright lies, I don’t believe mindfulness is a conspiracy of any sort (if I did this would be a very different feature) but it’s definitely not the best way to cleanse my gutter of a mind.
[Stacey Anderson – @staceyanders0n]