As some of the regular readers may know one of the main aims of this blog is to inspire other busy parents to give mindfulness a go AND to help us help the next generation embrace mindful living.
A very happy and unexpected by-product of the blog (and something I am extremely grateful for) is that I have become acquainted with some lovely like-minded bloggers. So I invited some of these bloggers to explain a little bit about their relationship with mindfulness and add their voice to my blog through the ‘Mindfulness and Me’ guest series. If this sounds like something that you would like to participate in then please do contact me by completing the form on the on my own ‘Mindfulness and Me’ page. It is a chance for us to have a great insight into how flexibly mindfulness can be applied to our lives. The idea for this series was first conceived from the somewhat tongue-in-cheek interview which I did with my hubby recently. You may want to read this here.
I am so pleased to welcome Jen from Tripping Through Treacle as our 12th participant. Jen is a blogger who I have known for years having attended more than one drunken party with her in our schooldays. Jen told me she had MS when we were doing our A Levels and so when I discovered her incredibly uplifting and frank blog about her life and her struggles with MS I have become a regular reader. Her posts offer sensible advice on healthy living for mind and body for all as well as there being more reflective elements to her blog too. She certainly is an inspiring woman. Here is what Jen has to say about mindfulness.
- When and how did you first come across mindfulness? It’s really difficult to think of a specific time… I think that it is something that has been slowly creeping up on me. I used to do a lot of yoga, and often the emphasis was placed on concentrating on breathing and being ‘in the moment’. I definitely felt the benefits of that. About 3 years ago, I started following a programme for my multiple sclerosis that focuses on living as healthily as possible with MS. Part of this is stress reduction and meditation so, along with my yoga, I also started regularly meditating. Again, I felt the benefits so I have stuck with it. Trying to incorporate ‘mindful moments’ during every day life has been a bit more challenging but I am slowly getting there!
- What were your initial thoughts about it? I felt positive about it right from the start – I felt the benefits of it right away. I think both being a Mum and having a chronic illness means that it is very easy to not spend time on yourself, or to get overcome by things that are out of our control. I feel like Mindfulness helps me a lot with that.
- How has mindfulness helped you personally?
I think that mindfulness has helped me a lot. It has helped me to keep calm (or at least a little bit calmer!) at times when it is easy to be overcome with emotion (for example when asking the kids to put their shoes away for the thousandth time!) I am so aware that my kids are growing up so fast (they are now 9 and 7) – I feel mindfulness helps me to focus on appreciating them every day – playing board games together, baking with my little girl… sounds a bit cheesy but I stop and ‘feel the moment’, because I know things will change in a blink of an eye. Also, in regards to my MS, focussing on the ‘here and now’ helps me to appreciate what I do have and not what I have lost as a result of disability. It’s very easy to be swept along by negative emotions and I feel like being mindful helps me to keep on a bit more of an even keel.
- How do you fit mindfulness into your busy life? I do try and meditate for at least 10 minutes everyday. This isn’t always easy when I am working as I am so shattered by the time that I get home, I just want to fall asleep! But I have found that doing it first thing or at before bed helps. That and just making myself stop, sit down and really listen and engage with my family is the way that I manage it. I’ve also actually been spending sometime with my son, encouraging him to just stop and focus on his breathing. He gets easily frustrated and angry so I am hoping that it is going to help – he is somewhat sceptical, but it helps me as I do it alongside him!
- What are your ‘go to’ – informal or formal – practices (if you have them)? I still do adapted yoga and love ‘Yoga with Adriene’ for this as she really places emphasis on breathing. I also use the meditation app, Headspace, and occasionally just listen to soothing music on You Tube so I can concentrate on my breathing. I did attend a mindfulness and mediation class on a couple of occasions – but I found myself getting a bit too distracted by other participants, so it isn’t quite for me.
- How important do you think formal meditation is to someone who is trying to approach life mindfully? Hmmm, I’m not sure. It really helped me but I am a bit believer that everyone is different and that people need to find what works for them, as it isn’t a one size fits all approach.
- How would you like to extend your mindfulness practice further? I’d like to increase my time meditating to 20 minutes a day if possible as I have done that in the past and definitely felt the positive effect it had on my stress levels. I’d really love to encourage my kids to get into it… I have read a lot about the benefits for children. But most of all, I just want to continue being mindful. I am hoping that over time, it will become more automatic for me to just stop and take the time out to enjoy those ‘mindful moments’.
- Do you have friends or family who use mindfulness techniques too?
Not really… I have tried to encourage it with my husband but it’s not really ‘his thing’ – I will keep working on it!
- What ‘top tips’ do you have for someone thinking of trying Mindfulness for the first time? Don’t give up! If formal mediation classes aren’t ‘your thing’, try some you tube videos. Start small, just a 5-minute breathing activity, or sitting outside with your face to the sun enjoying and appreciating the moment. And don’t worry if other thoughts pop into your head – it is normal and, over time, it will be easier to just accept them and move on.
- Who would you recommend mindfulness to and why? It is easy to say ‘everybody’, because I find that the benefits are so great, there are no negatives. But I particularly feel that people with chronic illnesses, like MS would benefit from the ‘me time’ and the chance to take time out to just ‘be. And of course parents! We hardly get any time to ourselves, wouldn’t it be great if the time that we do have is spent truly relaxing? I know that it makes me a much calmer parent as a result!
It’s so lovely to hear from Jen and find out more about her mindfulness journey. I found this a particularly emotional guest post to put together. Maybe it’s because I think back to knowing Jen from when we were teenagers and think how quickly that time has flown. Or maybe it was Jen’s words about appreciating what we have and seeing how quickly the kids are growing up that has really struck a chord with me tonight. Anyway a big thank you to Jen for taking part in the ‘Mindfulness and Me’ guest series and good luck with getting hubby on board :-). I would really encourage you to vist her blog here.
Thanks and bye for now.