“I’m too sleepy.”
“My mind is wandering.”
“I don’t have time.”
These are the thoughts and beliefs that stand between you and a mindfulness routine that can change your life. These are the most common obstacles that people report in mindfulness programs. They are all real and very normal…and also entirely surmountable. An important part of one program, Mindfulness-Based Strengths Practice (MBSP), involves the direct use of character strengths to overcome any obstacle you are facing.
In addition, new research by Kelly Birtwell and colleagues in England, finds there are four main supports to help you with your mindfulness practice. You’ll be keeping up with your practice in no time.
1. Practical Resources
What are the concrete tools or resources that will help you with your practice? Perhaps you need an app or MP3 audios to get you started? Maybe you want to read a newsletter or blog post about what others are doing with their mindfulness practice? Perhaps you want to dig deep with a meditation book or a review of why mindfulness is beneficial?
Those who are interested and committed to mindfulness but who struggle with the discipline of the practice, or who forget to practice, might turn to the resource of cues. Cues are visuals, sounds, or tactile elements in your environment that remind you to be mindful. The sound of a bell, the tactile feel of a bracelet on your wrist that says “just be,” or the visual of your meditation chair, can all bring you back to the present moment. Turn to your love of learning strength to decide what you need to learn most and what will help you get there.
How will you make time during your day to practice? Research has found that what’s more important in the practice of mindfulness is having a steady practice (high frequency) rather than long periods of practice (duration).
Many people find it useful to link mindfulness with their daily activities. One example is to practice mindful breathing for 3 minutes before breakfast and dinner each day; another example is to start your day with 5 minutes of walking meditation after you get out of bed each morning. Discover what works best for you.
The key idea here is to create a routine that you will remember and keep up with. To create a good habit with mindfulness, be sure to think about how your highest strengths of character can help you. If you’re high in gratitude, embed a gratitudepractice into your routine. If you’re high in curiosity, be sure to involve time during your meditation for open and exploratory questions about your present-moment experience.
3. Support from Others
A central path for sustaining mindfulness practice is to be part of a community that practices. This can be in-person as a group, in-person online, or it can be a group that comes together to discuss their practice (and everyone practices on their own). The key idea here is that you feel supported in your practice.
Here’s how David described his experience in an online meditation group:
“When we come together as a group I get this sense that we’re all in this together. All of us are trying to improve ourselves with mindfulness. We all have challenges with the practice, from time to time. But there’s no judgment or feeling that one person is better than someone else. We all have our issues and are trying to move forward, together.”
Other examples of support include having contact with a mindfulness teacher, having a “mindfulness buddy,” or participating in social media outlets on the topic. These connections do not have to be daily or weekly, they could be monthly connections. Examples of supportive communities can also be found in workplaces and schools where students or employees look forward to a weekly practice group or just a place to talk about the practice with one co-worker or a student group.
4. Attitudes and Beliefs
How you think about mindfulness, how you feel about it, and the character strengths you put forth in regard to mindfulness will go a long way in determining your degree of success at keeping up with mindfulness.
If you avoid the hundreds of scientific articles pointing out the benefits of mindfulness and you focus solely on one negative blogpost about how one person doesn’t like it, you will probably have a negative attitude. But if you keep a curious and open attitude, one marked by self-kindness when you forget to practice and self-forgiveness when you struggle, then you’ll probably be cultivating a healthy set of beliefs about the practice.
A couple of concluding reminders about healthy beliefs you can cultivate in regard to your mindfulness practice:
- You have the resources (i.e., character strengths) to mindfully approach stress and problems.
- Pursue your mindfulness practice imperfectly.
Other mindfulness articles you might find interesting:
- 5 simple strategies that will help you maximize your success.
Birtwell, K., Williams, K., van Marwijk, H., Armitage, C. J., & Sheffield, D. (2019). An exploration of formal and informal mindfulness practice and associations with wellbeing. Mindfulness, 10, 89-99. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-018-0951-y
Niemiec, R. M. (2014). Mindfulness and character strengths: A practical guide to flourishing. Boston: Hogrefe.