So, you’ve decided to become more mindful.
Perhaps you’ve invested in a yoga mat, meditation books, or some other items you think may help you on your journey.
However, when you sit down for your first few sessions, you can’t help but get distracted. Your mind wanders. Every little sound breaks your concentration, and you become frustrated.
You think to yourself, “wasn’t this mindfulness thing supposed to be easier?”
It’s normal to find practicing mindfulness hard work. You’re training your brain to be completely aware and present in the current moment. This takes time to master and you will encounter various challenges along the way.
By learning to recognize what these challenges are, you can figure out ways to overcome them.
This will help to keep you from feeling discouraged and abandoning your practice.
In this blog post, I’ll go over some of the most common difficulties you’ll face on the path to mindfulness. If you feel your progress has stalled, this blog post should help to get you back on track.
Is It Normal to Find Practicing Mindfulness Difficult?
If you’re struggling with mindfulness, this isn’t abnormal.
After all, mindfulness is a way of training your brain to be more aware of the present moment, and that’s no easy feat.
When you think of focusing on being more mindful, you assume your brain is too busy for such practices.
You might think you’re too scatterbrained to focus.
You may also look at practicing mindfulness exercises as one more thing to add to your already overloaded to-do list.
Keep in mind that your mindfulness practice should be something that works for you. That means it has to work with your schedule, no matter how busy.
If you’re active, you might incorporate yoga sessions into your mindfulness practice. If yoga isn’t something you do, meditation is another option.
You can even practice mindfulness while doing everyday activities like eating or showering. There’s more time for it than you realize!
Mindfulness is something that is with you and within you at all moments, but mastering it takes time.
As with any new skill, you will encounter various challenges along the way. Here are some of the most common difficulties you may experience on your path to mindfulness:
- A lack of understanding of what mindfulness truly is
- Finding the time to practice
- Maintaining interest in your practice over the long-term
- Becoming bored or uncomfortable during mindfulness
- Encountering difficult, unexpected emotions
- Dealing with and overcoming distractions
The most important thing to remember when practicing mindfulness is to be kind to your mind and yourself.
It’s okay if your mind wanders off while meditating or you get distracted by the sounds of the world around you.
Don’t allow yourself to become discouraged by these events.
When you catch yourself slipping, bring your mind back to the present moment and start over. This is all part of the practice.
With time, you’ll find the distractions that were once such a big deal don’t even phase you anymore.
As we proceed, I’ll discuss each of these difficulties in more detail. I’ll also give you some tips to help overcome them. Let’s begin.
A Lack of Understanding About Mindfulness
Mindfulness isn’t about maneuvering through life in some sort of happy fog.
It’s not even about being laser-focused and completely present all the time.
Instead, mindfulness is about choosing to observe the given moment with awareness and kindness (without judgement). It’s also about recognizing when your mind wanders and returning to the moment.
Don’t forget to embrace your curiosity in your practice.
The details of everyday life aren’t always enjoyable or even interesting. Traffic is a nightmare, your supervisor’s jokes are terrible, and you still have to do laundry later.
Instead of wanting the small realities of the day to be different, embrace them with vigor.
You may find you’ll observe certain details in a different way, and the challenges of life may feel a little easier.
Finding the Time to Practice Mindfulness
One of the most common complaints about the practice of mindfulness is finding time for it. Try to build a small amount of time into your schedule like we mentioned earlier.
Don’t pass judgement on yourself if you miss a day or two in the beginning. Find a routine that works for you and remember to be patient with yourself.
You can also bring mindfulness into activities you already do every day.
For example, try brushing your teeth or washing a dish with the opposite hand you usually would.
Be sure to devote all your attention and focus to the task. Don’t be critical of yourself for not being as fast or efficient in what you’re doing as you usually would be.
Take in the feelings and sensations as you go and allow yourself to observe the present moment.
Maintaining Interest in Your Mindfulness Practice
Staying interested can be challenging when practicing mindfulness. If you’ve settled on a routine you’re comfortable with, that’s great.
If your routine and practice feels too repetitive, then it might be time to change things up.
You can try practicing with like-minded friends or a group that is local to your area.
Change the time of your routine and switch up the exercises you do if you’d prefer to keep a solo environment.
You may find it difficult to stay awake when you practice mindful meditation. Avoid ending your day with meditation sessions then, because you’re more likely to feel tired.
If you practice in a position where you’re lying down, then try lying on the floor rather than your bed.
You can also change your posture if you practice from a seated position. Try sitting in a chair rather than on the floor.
Most importantly, make sure you’re getting regular sleep. Being overtired will almost always lead to you nodding off while in practice. (Been there, done that!)
Becoming Bored or Uncomfortable When Trying To Be Mindful
You should achieve awareness of the present moment and its state of being if you’re mindful.
If this is making you bored, try to examine your feelings of boredom when you become aware of them.
Incorporate a sense of curiosity to your boredom without passing judgement on yourself.
Associating these feelings with negativity can cause you to become discouraged. It may even lead you to abandon mindfulness practices altogether.
You may begin to experience discomfort during meditation as you sit or lay still for a long time. Part of mastering mindfulness is accepting this difficulty and moving past it.
In fact, feelings of discomfort are actually a good way to learn.
It could be something as simple as a slight itch at the tip of your nose or tension in your back and shoulders.
Take a brief moment to acknowledge the feeling. Examine your discomfort and remember to be as accepting of it as you can.
Encountering Difficult Emotions When Practicing Mindfulness
Mindfulness can be a very powerful tool in dealing with some difficult emotions.
When you shed light on the present moment, these hidden emotions may surface.
As strong emotions come up, be with them in the moment rather than suppress them. All emotions want to be felt and will pass as any other experience would.
While easier said than done, avoiding difficult emotions only strengthens their influence.
As you deal with your emotions in practice, difficult thoughts may arise as well. It’s very important to remember that your thoughts are just that: thoughts.
Take a step back to detach yourself from thoughts that may be difficult to deal with.
Imagine you are in a car watching the world pass through the window. You can also visualize clouds in the sky and “pin” your thoughts to the clouds.
Observing your thoughts this way will help break their hold on you.
Dealing with Distractions During Mindful Meditation
Getting distracted while practicing can be annoying, especially if you’re a beginner. These distractions may be unavoidable even if you have a quiet place to meditate.
Remember that it’s okay to get distracted as long as you bring yourself back to the present moment. Rather than try to shut it out, turn your attention to whatever is distracting you.
By doing so, you are accepting and allowing it. This is the essence of mindfulness.
Distractions can take many forms. They can be sounds, thoughts, or feelings of restlessness.
These are completely normal and will pass with time. Try to allow these experiences and distractions to unfold.
If it becomes too much for you, take a short break before returning to your practice. Remember to be kind to your mind.
Don’t get annoyed with yourself for becoming distracted.
Return to the moment and begin anew.
If you’re struggling with mindfulness, know that this is normal, at least at the beginning.
There will be challenges that present themselves along the way. Understanding what these challenges are will be a key part of your success.
Remember that no one is in control of your mindfulness journey but you!
Achieving mindfulness takes time and dedication to your practice. When you find yourself becoming frustrated or discouraged, take a step back.
Examine these feelings as an opportunity for further practice. Soon you’ll find yourself wondering why these things challenged you in the first place.
Is there something, in particular, that you find challenging when practicing mindfulness? Let me know in the comments below.