From dealing with uncertainty and loneliness to dissatisfaction with life, mindfulness can help you navigate the hardest of times. Here’s how
In today’s Mindfulness for Modern Life video, Ruby delves into the realities of life with our creative director Dagmar Brusse and how mindfulness can help you steer a calm course.
TODAY’S READ: How mindfulness can help your bigger picture
We have reached the last day of this mindfulness masterclass! So far, we have looked at how mindfulness can help you deal with acute moments of stress, but it can also help us process the bigger worries that can keep us awake at night. As your mindfulness practice becomes more of a natural habit in the small moments of the day, the next step is to reflect more deeply on your inner self and use mindfulness to challenge your thinking on deeper matters.
“Insight is everything. Through mindfulness, you’re learning about yourself, what your triggers are, what your reactions are and you’re giving yourself self-compassion. So you don’t go ‘oh god that’s typical me’ which is what we do,” says our mindfulness ambassador, Ruby Wax. “You’re learning to go ‘this is how I was born, the recordings I have in my head are not my fault. My parents put it in, my past put it in but it’s forgiven, it’s over’.”
During the pandemic - arguably the biggest worry that the whole world had to deal with in a long time - Ruby looked at how people were responding to the adversity and why so many people struggled. “We were ill-prepared because we were suddenly forced to confront what I call the Big Six: difficult emotions, uncertainty, loneliness, change, dissatisfaction and death. We should have been taught how to deal with them as children, but we try to avoid anything unpleasant or painful, not realising that when they land on our doorstep, they will render us useless.” And the pandemic, sadly, proved that to be true. Suddenly we were faced with all of the Big Six in one go and in the first year of the pandemic the World Health Organisation reported a 25% global increase in anxiety and depression. Finding a way to deal with your emotions when something huge happens to you is an essential life tool.
“If you know how to anchor yourself by using mindfulness techniques, everything changes,” says Ruby. “The problems aren’t going to go away, there’s nothing you can do about that, but you can calm your brain down and that will help you deal with reality much better. It comes down to realising what you can do something about, and what you can’t.”
Boosting self-compassion with mindfulness
While the ‘Big Six’ are inevitable, a little self-compassion can go a long way to anchoring us in moments of reflection. “When you feel compassion, your heart opens and you release this hormone called oxytocin. And that is the love hormone,” explains Ruby. Reacting from a place of love, kindness and compassion can help temper negative chatter and will always lead to a better outcome than responding out of fear, anger or resentment.
Most of us struggle to say kind things to ourselves, so Ruby recommends starting your compassion practice by saying kind things to those you love whether it’s sending nice thoughts to your grandmother such as “I hope you are happy” or looking at your cat and telling them all the reasons you love having them in your life. “Sending love to this person allows us to open our hearts to sending compassion our own way. You may feel a sensation in your body of open-heartedness,” says Ruby. Once you get comfortable thinking of all those positive things about another and you feel more open, turn the tables, and say these kind things to yourself.
Mindfulness is about repetition. Self-compassion may not come easy but keep repeating this compassionate self-talk because you can train yourself for joy. “Some of us are caught up in habits of anger or resentment or envy or all those critical thoughts of I’m not good enough,” says Ruby. “Unless you’re a naturally compassionate or loving person it’s another training.”
So, whether it’s in the moment of panic before a presentation, or you’re lying awake at night worrying about the bigger picture, practising different facets of mindfulness daily can help strengthen your resolve against life’s big and small challenges.
TODAY’S TASK: Mindfulness for uncertainty
The future is out of our hands and uncertainty is a universal worry for many. Without uncertainty, however, there is also no surprise and while we’re not saying you shouldn't plan (because then there would be no progress), this exercise will help you realise that uncertainty is ok and you've been coping with it for quite a while.
Write down a time in your life you were at a crossroads. Then think about these situations and what you thought would happen next:
* When you finished school
* When you got your first job
* When you got married or moved in with a partner
* After you had kids (if you have)
* After the lockdown was over
Now, write beside each one what actually happened. This will help you to realise that you are much better at dealing with uncertainty than your mind will have you believe.
Congratulations on completing our Mindfulness for Modern Day Masterclass with Ruby Wax. We hope you have learned some useful tips and tricks and have plenty of takeaways to help you stress less and stay calm whatever life throws at you. Want to explore our other masterclasses? Click here to see all the free programs we have available.