Congratulations! If you’re reading this then you’ve already taken an important first step towards greater health and happiness by signing up for a Mindfulness course. You’ve made a commitment to prioritise your own wellbeing for the next eight weeks, and to learn tools and techniques to help you thrive long-term.
These tips will help you get as much as possible from your course. They are drawn from my experience of teaching Mindfulness to dozens of students over the last few years, in all kinds of settings; mental health charities, community groups, big companies. I hope you’ll find them helpful and reassuring.
1. Keep an open mind
You’ll be learning a whole range of practices on your course – from mindful movement to breath-based exercises and compassion meditations. The idea is to get a taste of all the different facets of Mindfulness and to test out what works for you (and what doesn’t). You’ll find some practices come naturally to you and are really enjoyable, while others might take a while to get used to or take a bit of perseverance.
If you don’t take to a particular practice straight away, don’t worry. I’ve had students who can’t bear to sit still, but find it really easy to do mindful movement. That’s fine! There’s more than one way to be mindful, and you won’t know what works best for you until you try. If you keep an open mind you might even surprise yourself – a practice you start off hating can sometimes turn into a favourite.
2. Don’t expect results straight away
When you’ve invested time and money in a course, it’s natural that you’ll want to get some serious benefits from it; to feel calmer, more relaxed, less stressed. All of these are perfectly achievable goals, and will come with time. But it can be helpful to put your goals to one side initially, to take the pressure off and allow yourself to focus on the process rather than the outcome. There’s a reason why Mindfulness is traditionally taught over eight weeks rather than one day. It takes time to absorb the key principles and embed the practices in your daily life.
I often tell my students that it’s like starting a new exercise programme. You wouldn’t expect to be fitter and stronger after just one visit to the gym! Similarly, Mindfulness is a training for the mind and it’s only once you’ve made it a regular part of your daily routine that the ‘muscles’ of awareness, wisdom and self-compassion will really start to strengthen and you’ll reap the rewards.
3. Commit to daily practice (at least for the eight weeks you’re on the course!)
You won’t be giving it a fair shot if you don’t. It’s always hard to fit an extra activity into our already busy lives and many people worry that they won’t be able to stick to the recommended daily home practice. Before you start it’s good to ask yourself; will I realistically be able to carve out 10 minutes, twice a day, to practice these new skills? If you can’t honestly answer yes to that question then maybe it’s not the right time for you to start learning Mindfulness just now.
Most people, however, can manage to find the time if they take a good look at their daily routine. For example, how long do you spend scrolling on your phone? Or watching TV? Most of us spend a LOT longer than 10 minutes on our screens every day, and often not on productive or fruitful activities. If you can spend just 10 minutes less on your screens, then voila! You have time to practice. And if you don’t manage to practice every day…
4. Try not to judge yourself
We all have off days (yes, even Mindfulness teachers) and sometimes life just gets in the way despite our best intentions. If you don’t manage to practice one day, try not to berate yourself or feel too guilty, you will have another chance tomorrow. Remember it’s never too late to start again. Even if you haven’t practiced all week, next week you can start again. You can rest assured that you won’t be the only person in the group who hasn’t managed to practice every day, and your teacher will be able to offer tips and advice to help get your practice back on track.
5. Make the most of your teacher
One of the bonuses of doing a Mindfulness course (as opposed to learning from an app or book), is that you have an expert on hand to answer your questions and offer personalised advice. Their whole raison d’etre is to support and encourage you, so take advantage of their expertise! Keep falling asleep? Getting distracted? Your teacher can help you reflect on any challenges you’re facing, and give you helpful pointers. That said, we’re not mind-readers, so we can only offer support if you ask for it. So please don’t be shy, reach out and make the most of your personal Mindfulness expert for the eight weeks you have them.
With these tips you have everything you need to get the most from your Mindfulness course and take your next steps towards a fuller, healthier, happier life. I wish you well in your course, and your journey towards a more mindful way of being.
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