Creating a new habit takes time, especially when it comes to hard-wiring our brains to be more mindful.
Mindfulness is the practice of being in the present without worrying about the future (which can create anxiety) or dwelling about the past (which is linked to depression).
For the past 30 days I took park in the MindWell-U 30-Day Mindfulness Challenge with fellow blogger and friend Hillory from First Time Things. It was both our first time taking a challenge for our minds and it was definitely an interesting journey.
I first learned about mindfulness a couple years ago when I was dealing with a lot of stress and anxiety. I was on the mission to become more mindful. I read books, listened to podcasts and attended mindful-yoga classes. I learned a lot of techniques and incorporated different aspects of mindfulness into my life, but taking this challenge has brought my mindful way of thinking to a whole other level.
As a Type A, sensitive Pisces, my mind is always on the go…and it’s totally prone to stress and anxiety. It’s non-stop, thinking about what’s next on my to-do list, what I have to get done and anticipating the future. I’m a huge “worry-wart” and I often overthink. Training my mind to stop worrying and overthink has been a lot of work, it’s like training my body for an iron man.
The 30-day challenge has been a huge step in better understanding how to incorporate mindfulness into my daily life. The challenge is structured in a routine, repetitive nature, which is perfect for helping create a new habit. Each day begins by logging on to your personal dashboard where you take a quick 30-second check-in questionnaire about how you felt the day before. Upon completion of the questionnaire, you watch a two to three minute video about mindfulness, share a thought about how the example presented in the video applies to you and then you are provided with a cue to help remind you to Take 5 – which is a practice to stop your mind in its track to get yourself off a particular thought train, or off autopilot to be in the zone and mind what’s going on around you.
The cues are things we do daily – i.e. brush our teeth, open a door, text a friend, wash the dishes, etc. In the early stages I would complete one to two Take 5’s a day and I realized how good they really made me feel. As the days went on, the Take-5 practice got easier and I started remembering previous cues, which cued me to do more Take 5’s. This practice made me feel more focused, less-stressed and calm.
One of my most memorable Take-5 moments was walking our pup, Maya, in the park. It was a gorgeous day and Maya and I were on our routine, morning walk. As I walked and watched her sniff around, I kept thinking “we’re almost done our loop, then I can get home and start my list of to-dos”. As I thought that, I remembered one of the Take-5 cues – which was just plain old walking. I snapped out of my “thought train”, took a minute to take in everything around me, breathe in five deep breaths and got into the zone. It was such a wonderful feeling. I heard the birds chirping, felt the sun on my skin and noticed that there were so many squirrels running around. It was like I turned off my busy brain and could actually enjoy our walk. At that point I didn’t even want to go back home, I was loving our walk…so I stretched it out a little longer.
The 30 days didn’t make me a 24/7 mindful wizard…but that wasn’t the intent of the challenge. Success in the challenge wasn’t just getting through the 30 days, but about how to live life after the 30 days. How to make room for more mindfulness throughout the day and how to take more time to be present.
I was a little nervous nearing the end of the 30 days when I was questioning how much I really got out of it, but after hearing that the 30 days was really just a kick-start to a life of continuous mindful practicing, I felt so much better and proud of myself for the 30 days that I stuck with the program.
At the end of the program there were three questions that were asked:
- Are you learning to work with Take 5?
- Are you a bit more open, non-judging and patient?
- Are you able to notice when you fall out of the zone and operate on autopilot?
If we were able to answer yes to at least one, it meant we were already succeeding. I was able to answer yes to all three – which gave me that motivational boost to keep on practicing the simple, yet delicate practice of mindfulness.
I learned that we’re never done practicing. So, as I move forward I shall be reminded to use Take-5 in a way that works best for me and to choose cues that spark my mind to step back and be present. Practice makes perfect!
I would 100% recommend this challenge for anyone and everybody. It’s a routine that everyone should get into and it’s worth the money. It’s $100 to take the challenge and invite a buddy…so if you and your buddy split it, it’s just $50 each…for 30 days of mindful motivation to give you a life of mindful living!
All photos were taken by the beautiful Kirsten Wendlandt.
Location: Her Majesty’s Pleasure.