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Starting the day in a grumpy mood and finishing the day feeling totally exhausted, mentally and physically, was normal for me. Over the past five years I’ve been stressed, depressed and sometimes not nice to be around. I’ve tried the pills, CBT sessions, art therapy, numerous relaxation techniques – all worked to some degree but I still experienced too many problems and felt the constant overwhelm.
How I found mindful practice
I’d heard about mindfulness in passing; something in a magazine I think. It wasn’t until a friend – also a mum, mentioned she’d done a course of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) that I really became interested. I’d come across cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) first as a psychology student, then when I was referred to my local health service to help me with stress as part of a CBT course.
Speaking to other parents it became apparent that mindfulness had helped them in their daily lives. I wanted to find out more and how it could help me to enjoy my time with my two boys without feeling stressed and irritated all the time.
On my journey to discover mindfulness, I found a book in the library – Mindfulness on the Go: Peace in Your Pocket by Padraig O’Morain. It explained mindfulness in a couple of short chapters and contained a wealth of simple ways to include the practice in daily life. I became hooked by Padraig’s promise to show me how to be mindful even when screaming at the kids – perfect!
Like many parents, I’m busy and constantly on the go. This book helped me to see that I could include mindfulness in my day. I started with a few breathing techniques and straight away felt calmer and more in control.
Wanting to know more I went online and was staggered by the resources available. Mindfulness seems to be everywhere once you look for it.
When I was a student, mindfulness was on the fringes of academia, but it was gaining traction. Over the past 20 years it has successfully moved to the mainstream with research backing up initial claims over its effectiveness in helping a range of physical and mental conditions.
Buzzing about my new discovery I put a number of books onto my Christmas wish list. These included Mindfulness for Creativity: Adapt, create and thrive in a frantic world plus Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world and The Little Book of Mindfulness: 10 minutes a day to less stress, more peace (MBS Little book of...).
A mindful reading list
So far I’ve read (or am in the process of reading):
- Mindfulness on the Go: Peace in Your Pocket, Padraig O'Morain
- Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world, Prof Mark Williams and Dr Danny Penman
- The Little Book of Mindfulness: 10 minutes a day to less stress, more peace (MBS Little book of...), Dr Patrizia Collard
- Mindfulness in Eight Weeks: The revolutionary 8 week plan to clear your mind and calm your life, Michael Chaskalson
- Mindfulness for Creativity: Adapt, create and thrive in a frantic world, Dr Danny Penman
I’m not suggesting you read so much however! If you want to discover mindfulness for yourself, a good starting point is Padraig O’Morain’s book. It’s quick and easy to read, gives you the basics and has some brilliant tips on how to practice mindfulness throughout your day. I've noted Padraig's short guide to mindfulness on the resources page.
I'm currently following Michael Chaskalson's 8-week course which involves a daily short meditation and will post about the results soon. Find out how mindfulness has helped me so far.
How you can discover mindfulness
Being a busy parent makes it tricky to find the time and energy to start something new.
To start, I’d recommend dipping into Padraig O’Morain’s book. Read the first couple of chapters to really get a sense of what mindfulness is, then have a go at some of the exercises. If you need to, write a couple of the exercises down and put them on your fridge door or in your bag so you have them on hand when you need them.
Commit to putting mindfulness into your day– maybe when you’re cleaning your teeth or waiting for the kids at the school gates. The Little Book of Mindfulness by Dr Patrizia Collard has lots of little mindfulness exercises that would be easy to incorporate. To really get the benefit of mindfulness, you do need to practise it regularly.
Try one of my favourites – the tea meditation. It involves taking a few minutes out to drink some tea - perfect!
You’ll probably find that once you’ve found out more about mindfulness and tried it, you’ll want to try more! Trying a mindfulness meditation might sound like, to quote a character from out boys’ favourite film, a bunch of hippy dippy baloney. But honestly, carving out 10 minutes in your day (maybe when the kids have gone to bed, or before they get up in the morning) to do a meditation is the best present you could give yourself.
I'd love to hear about your experience of mindfulness - let me know in the comment box below.