I never realized how much energy was burnt by the thoughts running through my head, until I found that mindfulness increases energy.
Recently I disclosed to a friend how much I have battled with my body over the years. I have never had an eating disorder. But I have always felt as if I was taking up too much space. I wanted to make myself disappear, or shrink into a miniature version of myself. But I never knew how. I’ve hidden my insecurities and self-harm for years. But recently, I decided to live a more authentic life and talk about things that most of society keeps under wraps.
When my friend and I discussed this issue, she told me she didn’t know my generation still had this problem. I’ll self disclose and tell you I was born in 1989. So I grew up in the 90s. We didn’t have snapchat filters and Instagram to poison our minds about what was “beautiful.” But we did have JC Penny catalogs and women’s magazines that helped us define what was desirable and healthy and what was not. My body type, with an oversized top, birdlike legs, and large awkward feet, was never featured in any of those places. I never learned to accept it. I definitely didn’t love it.
Fitting in Physically
I am a person that has always said I don’t care what other people think. And in many ways that is true. But I wanted to physically fit in. Going to specialty bra shops to find my large size was embarrassing, and the options available made me cringe. Often when I was trying on men’s shoes, the attendants would point out that I was in the wrong section. When I asked them if they carried my size in women’s shoes their eyes went wide and they shook their heads.
I didn’t feel I could live up to others’ expectations of how a woman should dress, walk, or behave. Some part of me always felt too fat, too awkward, or like I was in the way. It didn’t matter if I was on the sidewalk, in the grocery store, or in my seat on an airplane. I had this feeling that I was an inconvenience; an awkward, ugly inconvenience.
Running around in my head
On top of feeling physically awkward in social situations, I had a running commentary in my brain that was criticizing everything I did. It also invented what other people were thinking about me. “Maybe they are judging how my shirt doesn’t fit, or how worn out my sandals are. Maybe I smell bad or my elbows are too far onto our shared armrest.” I didn’t question those voices often enough. So I made myself small and tried not to inconvenience anyone.
As I walked around in life, I also thought about what other people were doing. I wondered where they were going. I often noticed and judged their appearance. Now it sounds rather embarrassing saying this but it felt harmless since I wasn’t acting on those judgments. And most of it, I wasn’t doing it consciously. It felt like the thoughts just popped into my head and I let them ping pong around in there as I went about my day. I assumed others were doing the same to me. Maybe that is why I felt so self- conscious. I never considered what life would be like without these thoughts in my head.
What mindfulness changed
But, I have learned, I don’t have to let them do that! When I practice mindfulness, I can let a thought pop into my head, acknowledge it, and dismiss it. Then…. Silence! My mind can be quiet and calm. Then, I can pay more attention to what I am doing at the grocery store in the first place!
When I walk around the city, I use that mental space to notice things that are beautiful or unique and to appreciate them instead of letting negative thoughts run wild inside my skull. Since I’m not spending my energy entertaining this barrage of thoughts, practicing mindfulness increases energy levels throughout my day.
Mindfulness reduces my self-image issues
The more I think about other people without judgment, the less I worry that others are judging me. It turns out, I feel so much better about myself when I’m not letting my mind run around judging others. I still find myself slipping into old habits, but now I can take a deep breath, and look for something to be grateful for. That act of recognizing something that I can appreciate shifts my focus and I’m able to stay grounded.
Being more present
Before finding mindfulness practice, I feel like I spent more of my life in my head and less on the earth. Now I am more present in everything that I do. When I enjoy a meal, I notice the flavors more and appreciate the effort put into preparing it. Spending time with my partner, I feel the connection between us. Mindfulness increases the energy in my relationships by allowing me to be completely focused and actively listen and participate in conversations instead of just “hearing” and forgetting.
Practicing mindfulness has been a way to stop letting my mind control me. If you are interested in learning more about mindfulness and how to get started taking back control, here is what I recommend.
- Start a gratitude practice.
- Begin some kind of mindfulness activity that you can practice regularly, on the way to work, during your lunch break, whatever works for you.
- Practice taming your thoughts. If this is hard for you because of chronic illness, check out Dawn Super’s amazing advice about “Monkey Mind.”
- Start a meditation practice
- Be compassionate and kind to yourself as you go through this change.
Why try it?
If telling you that mindfulness increases energy isn’t enough, I’ll give you some examples. I used to believe mindfulness was something that I didn’t have time for. However, now I have learned that it gives me so much more time back than what it takes. When my head is clear, and I can focus on any task, it gets done so much faster than when the monkeys in my mind were running the show.
I can fall asleep faster now. That means more efficient naps and a more relaxing evening. I know I am able to turn off the running commentary in my head and sleep when I want to. It also has had a positive impact on my hypnogogic hallucinations and nightmares.
All in all, there isn’t much negative to say about mindfulness. Sure, if you bring it up to some people they may try to tell you that its a load of crap. But more and more research is proving its benefits (all in addition to the practical ones I have mentioned here.) What do you have to lose?
I hope you will try it out and let me know how it goes!
Disclaimer: While I wrote all of this in the past tense, my battle with self-image issues isn’t over. In the photo above you can tell how awkward I feel. Every day I continue to work on my mindfulness practice, self-love, and acceptance.