This article was originally published on my blog Wantrepreneur on 19 January 2017.
Amy Malloy is on a mission for healther, kinder minds for mums. Following years of personal mental health battles, she developed a long-lasting personal meditation practice and became a professional mindfulness teacher.
Amy has kindly agreed to be interviewed as part of my #2017habits series. It's January, and my habit for this month is mindfulness.
What is mindfulness to you?
AM: Mindfulness for me is being in the present moment, being aware of the present moment, and using that as a way of separating out your thoughts and more automatic thought processes and cognitive processes that are going on that might be unhelpful in the background when you don’t realise it.
It is a way of creating space between an event that happens in the present and your automatic reaction to it, so that you create a bit more time to respond, rather than just react, and that gives you some space to breathe. It means that you can ride out fluctuations in your life a little bit more easily without the ups and downs.
Describe your own mindfulness practice.
AM: Before I had a baby, my mindfulness practice was waking up every morning and doing 10 minutes from an app – probably Headspace, but I also use a couple of others – and I’d do a guided meditation, just to learn the processes.
Then I had a baby and it all went out the window, and so now that I have a toddler, if I wake up and she isn't awake, I will do a ten minute meditation. I’m also training to be a mindfulness coach, so I’m learning about other ways you can get the benefits of getting some time out to meditate just in your day. I might take a mindful walk, where I use the focus of my feet on the floor and stopping and closing my eyes and focusing on my breath; I might use the focus of my feet and the contact against the floor, and how that changes, to be my anchor in the present moment; it might be eating, where I stop and really think about what I’m eating; it might be that sometimes, I just stop and feel the table, or the wall next to me, and then just listen to my breath. Anything that can pull me out of my thoughts, basically.
What prompted you to get into mindfulness?
AM: I had some mental health difficulties in my twenties, and my head felt very very noisy. This was coupled with a lot of other stuff that was going on; a sick dad and doing an MA alongside a full-time job, which was really stressful, and just lots of complications.
Eventually, I just decided that I needed to be a bit kinder to myself, and I needed to stop, because my head felt so noisy. A friend introduced me to Headspace – the app – and said ‘just try this’, and I’d never really heard of meditation before. I started it, and just thought I would see what all it was all about, and really loved it. Gradually (it isn’t always easy, and it took a long time to get into it), I started to feel the benefits of doing it every day, and felt my mind just change. I started to have a bit more space in there and just started to feel a bit more tolerant, and be able to recognize times when I wasn’t being tolerant. I guess I just became a lot more aware of myself and my little quirks, my cognitive quirks, and it was really useful.
That's how I got into it, it was just through a friend recommending it at a time when my head felt very noisy. I would get caught in cycles, and I couldn’t work out how to get out of them.
What tips would you give to someone who is trying to develop their own mindfulness practice?
AM: Go easy on yourself and be kind to yourself. Don’t expect that there’s a certain way to do it; there’s no ‘right’ way to be mindful. Meditation is a very good place to start, so do mindful meditation, perhaps a ten-minute practice each day, if you can manage that, or something very achieveable in your day. Starting a habit, even if it’s just for ten days, and thinking ‘right, I’m going to commit to it for that time’, and not expect anything from myself, but just see what happens, and just use it to notice things.
That can be a very good way of just getting yourself into the habit, because if you think of mindfulness as driving on a busy motorway, meditation is like a driving lesson on a quiet country lane where you have got the space to practice the technique, so it can be very hard to just start being mindful in a busy world, whereas actually, if you start by just giving yourself ten minutes a day, a quiet time just to learn the technique, and find that space in your head that is beyond thought and just learn about yourself in a quiet space every day; don't expect too much from yourself. Allow your thoughts to wander, allow yourself to find it difficult, it doesn't have to be profound every day. Just see what happens.
Amy Malloy is a mum on a mission for healthier, kinder minds for mums. She blogs at NoMoreShoulds, where you can find details of the latest mindfulness courses she is running. You can find NoMoreShoulds on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Go on, give them a follow.
Click here to download the Headspace app that Amy refers to in her answers.
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