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Why is Mindfulness So Difficult? (& What to Do About It)

“Be mindful, be aware. It’ll help you during this pandemic.” Does this sound familiar? Probably so, because mindfulness is the “it” word on social media these days.

You might finally be convinced of its many benefits. So, you create a schedule. As part of your “mindfulness for beginners” experiment, you take on yoga, meditation, mindful cooking, mindful gardening, and more. (the list is long!). And yet, you get frustrated - “I did my best! What happened? Why can’t I be mindful! Why is mindfulness so difficult?”

If this is you, raise your hand.

Your struggle seems real, doesn’t it? That’s because it actually is!

Understanding the ways of your “monkey mind” is a good first step towards conquering it. In today’s article, we’re going to discuss how a lack of mindfulness is actually based in psychology. And hopefully, it will help you get over the challenge you face while engaging in mindfulness. Let’s explore what psychology and experts have to say about this.

But before we deep dive into the world of all-things-mindfulness, let us first understand…

A woman is meditating on the side of mountain with her arms open wide.

What Exactly is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the act of being present in the moment.

Yoga and meditation have now become widely popular daily mindfulness exercises. But they are not the only methods out there!

When simplified, mindfulness really comes down to two things:

  • Paying attention
  • Focusing your energy on the task at hand

You can be mindful throughout the day, at whatever you are doing, and not just during your yoga or meditation practice.

Shifting your conscious awareness to little things throughout the day can pay off in a big way in the long run. Mindfulness gurus like Deepak Chopra have stated that being present in the moment allows us to enter a realm of pure potentiality.

This state of unlimited potential is the birthplace of creativity and intuition. It was believed since ancient times to be restorative to our health in multiple ways. We can also successfully deal with negative emotions like fear and anxiety by harnessing energy from this realm.

Why Does the Mind Wander?

Our minds are simply unwilling to sit still for even a single moment. A steady stream of thoughts and emotions constantly thwart our every effort at finding stillness.

Our mind wanders mostly in these three ways:

  1. Ruminating about the past,
  2. Time traveling to future possibilities, or
  3. Escaping to an entirely hypothetical “what-if” world - born out of pure imagination (a.k.a daydreaming).

At a fundamental level, we know that our mind works this way.

What many of us do not understand is: what makes the mind want to wander to begin with? Here are two reasons that explain why even simple mindfulness exercises can be hard to achieve.

1. Mindfulness - A Survival Threat?

Yes, that is right! Our brain could be perceiving mindfulness as a potential survival threat! How could that even be possible? Here’s why:

Humans have been evolutionarily hard-wired to seek predictability. Our brain perceives a predictable outcome as safe and secure. And since the time of cavemen, safety equals guaranteed survival.

Not surprisingly then, safety is a top priority for our brain. Now you might be wondering - Okay this is great! But what do predictability and safety have to do with mindfulness?

Practicing mindfulness transports our mind to a state filled with limitless possibilities. As mentioned above, this alpha state of existence is the seat of creativity, intuition, and unimaginable healing potential.

But, with limitless potential comes an extreme level of uncertainty and unpredictability. Pretty much anything is possible from a meditative state. For this reason, the limitless potential of mindfulness is perceived as a survival threat by our brain.

Uncertainty is the foundation of fear. This fear makes our mind wander. This is why mindfulness becomes so much of an uphill battle for many of us.

A woman sitting in a windowsill looking out at the city skyline. She is holding a mug in her hands as she sits in silent mindfulness.

Mindfulness From the Comfort of Your Home

Hygge pajamas, warm gravity blanket, calm music app, your favorite herbal tea…...sounds like the perfect zen zone for mindfulness, right? Nothing about this scene suggests “survival threat”... right?

The “thinking logical brain” would agree. Unfortunately, the brain in “survival mode” begs to differ.

Per Dr. Joe Dispenza, your brain does not differentiate a real-life experience from “not-so-real” thoughts that reside nowhere else but within your head.

Do you now see, hygge-zone or not, how mindfulness and your mind are not the best of friends? That being said, it doesn’t mean that this is impossible! (Don’t worry, we’ll get to how to do this soon).

Read this next: Top 5 Absolutely Cozy Tips That Will Make You Feel More Comfy

2. Being overly attached to the results

Right from the get-go, some of us might have expectations of ourselves to get the technique of mindfulness right. We then begin stressing out about it. Is this how we breathe? Am I doing it right?

It is okay to have questions if you are at the “mindfulness for beginners” stage. However, this pressure we place on ourselves is a good enough reason for why it is challenging to be present in the moment.

Being solely focused on the results of mindfulness can make the practice extra hard to achieve. If you find yourself in this situation, remember to love and embrace your journey, no matter how imperfect it may be.

Read up on The 7-Day Soul Reset for more ways to practice mindfulness

2 Ways to Deal With Your Monkey Mind

When practicing mindfulness, your primary opponent is fear of uncertainty. We have compiled three ways which will make it easy for you to face this fear. Stepping out of your comfort zone in this way will help you to better engage in mindfulness.

1. Mindfulness With a Self-love Mindset

Given that fear is what you have to face, it becomes extra essential that you show yourself extra TLC. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Do not expect immediate results in your mindfulness practice.

What does self-love refer to in this situation? It means having the patience to get through a bumpy beginning. Telling yourself it is okay to let the mind wander, but also, not giving up.

Remember, discipline is the greatest act of self-love.

A woman is practicing mindfulness on the side of a cliff. She is looking out at the palm trees.

2. Practice Radical Honesty

In the beginning, your mind will want to skip any and all efforts at achieving mindfulness, particularly meditation. Know that you do not have to do this all by yourself. It becomes easier if you seek out accountability partner(s).

Share this article with them. Have an honest conversation letting them know what you are up against. Ask that you not be judged, shamed, or ridiculed for skipping a day (or multiple days) of your mindfulness exercise. Track your effort with a morning/night routine calendar.

Practicing radical honesty in this way with yourself, and with those closest to you, allows you to get all the necessary support you need. In no time you can become a mindfulness pro!

Final Thoughts…

You are now equipped with the know-how of why your mind resists mindfulness. Now, it is time for you to make a choice: past, present, or future? Where do you choose to live?

At first, living in the present can seem oh-so-impossible. But in the process, what you gain is truly worth the pain. A whole new amazing “you” awaits to be revealed via the consistent practice of mindfulness.

Remember, you are not alone. We at Daily Life, and you, are in this together.

Check out A Meditation to Find Peace Uncertain Times to help you get further in your mindfulness journey

Anu Sataluri

Anu Sataluri

Anu (short for Anupama) is a clinical researcher by profession. She worked in the healthcare industry for over 7 years, and was responsible for workflow management of clinical trials. During this period, she witnessed several hundred patients walk away in disappointment with "no cure" due to the "symptom-based" approach of Western... Read More

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