Mindfulness Makes Bad Days Manageable!
It’s easy to google, ‘mindfulness benefits’ and read about all the multiple aspects of life it can help us with. From helping us develop self-awareness that leads to better management of our emotions, enhancing our ability to communicate with one another authentically and of course, increasing our ability to manage the stresses and strains of every day life. What much of the current news and views doesn’t tell you however, is that generally speaking, a regular mindfulness practice really helps you when you have those rubbish days when nothing goes right and when you feel like it’s all too much. Perhaps as you read this, you are having one of those days now. Or perhaps you had one yesterday and felt like you were banging your head against a brick wall as you tried, without success, to change the way you felt about your day and to control what was happening.
So let’s explore this further and let me give you my top mindfulness techniques for when your day feels crappy and you wish you were somewhere else or wish it was over. Oh, and how do I know these tips work? Because I too have crappy days and use these techniques whenever it happens.
Ok so let’s take the scenario. You wake up on a Sunday morning and for reasons you can’t quite explain, you are feeling sad, frustrated, muddled, not happy in your own skin, wishing it wasn’t Sunday morning, wishing you felt happier etc. Without a regular mindfulness practice, what may follow could look like this depending on who you are and your habitual reactions to feeling anxious or having the blues:
Crappy day without Mindfulness
1. Get back into bed and sleep it off – this can work but you don’t always have that option.
2. Eat and then eat some more in an attempt to distract yourself from the way you are feeling.
3. Shout at your work colleague, partner, child for no particular reason.
4. Avoid answering the telephone to people you consider ‘difficult’.
5. Be more argumentative in meetings and see problems in everything, or be unwilling to consider the opinions of others.
6. Send emails that you later wished you hadn’t.
7. Say no to help from your colleagues or partner as you are determined to fight your way through this bad feeling.
8. Spend half the day caught in negative thought loops about your work, your life and the future and the other half just feeling distracted, restless and agitated.
You see, I told you I had been there too. I have been there many times. Now thankfully, mindfulness has enabled me to open up a toolbox of techniques that can at the very least, make those crappy days less crappy, and at the best, enable you to snap out of them altogether.
Crappy day with Mindfulness
1. You will be delighted to know that I am not going to suggest you write down 3 things you are grateful for. If anyone told me to do this when feeling this way, I would not appreciate it.
2. So first things first. Admit you are feeling bad. Admiting does not mean you are giving in to it. It is just an honest appraisal of how you are feeling right now.
3. If you feel up to it, tell someone close to you that you feel bad. The old adage, ‘a problem shared’ does work and it also enables the people closest to you, to become more aware of their behaviour towards you whilst you are having a tough time.
4. Investigate your feelings in your body. How does this bad feeling show up? Do you feel heaviness in your chest or throat, or does it feel like a heaviness all over? It may seem counter intuitive but remember that we are not one thing or another. We have the capacity for great joy and the capacity for experiencing difficult emotions. Exploring the sensations of these strong emotions in the body, can also help us to get some perspective on them, by identifying them as physiological occurrences. I have heaviness in my chest and throat is a lot different from saying, I feel like the world is ending and I just want this feeling to go.
5. This perspective also allows us to be kind to ourselves. Sometimes those strong emotions are physically painful and uncomfortable. If you had a bad headache you would look after yourself and take care of yourself, wouldn’t you? You can do the same when experiencing strong uncomfortable emotions. If your best friend knew what it was like to be in your mind and body right now, what would they say to you? I suspect they would be caring and compassionate.
6. Reflect for a while on why you may be feeling this way? Is there something going on in the depths of your mind that is bringing you down? Journaling is a fantastic tool to use to reflect and explore what’s going on inside. You could start just by writing, ‘I am feeling this way because…..’ and see what comes up.
7. It can also be really helpful to remind yourself that you’ve had bad days in the past and you got through them. Strong emotions aren’t easy to manage, but if we can find ways to create spaciousness around them, knowing that they won’t last forever and that we have the inner resources to manage them, we can often let them come and go with greater resilience, calmness and equanimity.
All of the techniques above are born from mindfulness practices, attitudes and reflections. The ability to be kind to ourselves, the ability to admit how we are feeling without resistance, the ability to investigate our inner world without judgement and the ability to ask for help when we need it. Mindfulness is a powerful tool which enables us to be at our best and also enables us get through the tough days with greater kindness, awareness and humility.
Emma Carbery, Managing Director, Mindfulness Dubai.