As of November 2018, I decided to embark on a journey. Not a physical one. Not one with a point A and point B and that’s it. Rather, it’s a continuous journey. One in which there is no end designation. It’s a mental journey. I would like to call “mindfulness.”
I have already come out with an article called “Mindfulness 101,” which explained what meditation is and how to do it. However, I did not do a good job breaking it down further as to why you should do it. In case you need a refresher, mindfulness is simply acknowledging your thoughts, emotions, and any other bodily sensations and learning how to embrace them (neither ignoring nor letting them consume you).
I feel like a good way to begin the explanation of why I meditate and practice mindfulness is with my background, my past, and my story.
I grew up in a very Catholic household with an alcoholic father, a damaged mother, and a distant sister. I also have a brother but he’s pretty chill. Simply put, a lot went on primarily in my first 18 years of life, which has calmed for the most part since I went away for college. Although I can go into further detail about my past, the main takeaway is that I developed a lot of pent-up anger, rage, sadness, envy and every other negative trait a person could have. With all these negative emotions leading to similar thoughts and beliefs, I did not know how to deal with them in a healthy, productive manner.
Within the past three years, I have had four different counselors (as a side-note: there is no issue with jumping around counselors until you find your right fit). I will always be an avid advocate for mental health counseling. However, there is one extremely important lesson I’ve learned from counseling that helps motivate me during my journey through mindfulness:
The only person who can bring about change to your life is you.
Counselors are extremely helpful and useful in terms of offering techniques and tools based off whatever you are going through, but it is up to you to actually follow through with their advice. It is up to you to push yourself out of your slump and change your life for the better. And that is how I found myself practicing mindfulness.
I have heard of meditation earlier in my life, but I always refused to do it. I was a skeptic and didn’t believe it would work. Why? Because people made me believe that meditation would be the magic pill that solved all life’s problems, but when I tried it out, it did nothing. I did not understand that first, nothing will solve all life’s problems and secondly, more goes into leading a positive lifestyle than just meditation.
Think of becoming mentally healthy in terms of becoming physically healthy. Although you might be able to rely solely on exercising, it is strongly advised that in order to become in shape or physically healthy, you should also eat healthier and continue being productive on the days off from the gym. Meditation is like going to the gym or working out at home. I personally like going into meditation with the belief that it is the gateway, the initial step, to me loving myself.
Mental health is something that needs to be constantly worked on, and there is a wide range of activities you can do to maintain it.
Meditation has led me to activities that I never thought I would ever do a mere three months ago. One of which is journaling. I recommended in my “Mindfulness 101” article to journal after meditation, because it is very euphoric and relieving to be able to let free whatever is going on through your head out onto paper. However, I also got into doing morning pages (journaling right when you wake up in the morning), which I credit to Julianne Hough.
On top of that, I have gotten into adult-coloring and crocheting, two of which are extremely stress-relieving activities. In order to keep myself surrounded by positivity, I followed various motivational quote accounts on Instagram and Twitter and downloaded a motivation app that notifies me with positive, motivational quotes throughout the day.
With all these additional activities to meditation, I am constantly reminded to make the conscious effort to lead a more positive lifestyle and to forgive myself whenever I slip up in my mindfulness journey. And I know––mindfulness sounds like a lot of work and time and effort and energy. In all honesty, it really is; however, mindfulness is entirely worth everything you put into it because you end up not only enjoying yourself but loving yourself as well.
This is exactly why I meditate. Why I practice mindfulness. Why I love myself more now than I ever did before.
An important disclaimer to keep in mind: everyone’s mindfulness journey is entirely different. I have been taking my journey one step at a time. I didn’t jump right into doing all of the activities I mentioned above when I started my journey, whereas others might have to immediately throw themselves into a million activities at once. You might not end up doing a lot of activities. You might only find yourself being satisfied and maintaining your mindfulness with only one or two activities.