My mind has always been on-the-go. I’m the person who prefers to brainstorm ideas during a long walk, or who would rather dance through the house while on a phone call than sit in one spot.
From time to time I’d considered finding ways to practice mindfulness—which is the practice of being aware of the present moment—but I would always end up talking myself out of it. I’d download an app at the suggestion of a friend but wind up using it once and then forgetting about it.
After a couple of rough years dealing with a disability called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which is a grouping of disorders that affects the skin, joints, and blood vessels, I decided that I needed to give self-care a serious try. I was having a lot of symptoms and was open to anything that might provide relief.
I knew I needed to bridge the gap between how I wanted to feel about my body and how I actually felt. Because I wasn’t getting anywhere with mindfulness on my own, I signed up for a personal coaching program, which included weekly webinars, warm-up videos, workouts, cool downs, and meditations.
self-improvement challenge: The Program
Each week, I dedicated 40 minutes to the webinars, which guided me deeply through numerous weekly themes, like mastering your subconscious mind, creating a healing mindset, ending self-sabotage, letting go of destructive relationships, and forgiveness. (You know, pretty light stuff.)
I also dedicated time to the workouts and meditations, committing to get outside in nature—free from modern-day distraction—and move my body at least once a day.
That first week, I admit that I felt a little silly sitting in front of my laptop, listening to the webinar. Would I really, actually feel transformed? But as I listened, closed my eyes, and felt the energy travel through my body, I knew: I’ve been hiding behind my own busyness. I haven’t been taking the time to work through my own emotions and listen to what they’re telling me. I’ve been unable to find true peace, especially when it comes to my disability or wellness, because I’ve been refusing to be vulnerable and raw about the situation, even with myself.
I realized, if I want to make authentic peace with my life and my body, I needed to really feel my feelings.
The webinars talked a lot about how we connect to ourselves (and to something deeper) when we move our bodies—not only at the gym, but also if we’re doing simple workouts in our own homes or getting outside in nature. I hadn’t been making as much time for these things in the last few years. Instead, I’d been keeping myself busy and not taking the time to honor my emotions.
How The Self-Improvement Challenge Changed Me
It’s become more and more difficult to stay totally present as I’ve gotten older, advanced in my career, taken on new responsibilities at work and at home, and dedicated myself to more passion projects. Not to mention social media! Being present in the moment is so important—even though it’s easy to lose sight of.
After doing the six-week coaching, I committed to incorporating some of it into my wellness regular practice. Now, every day after work, I take at least 30 minutes to be with myself and in nature, mostly through daily walks on the beach or in the park. On the weekends, I spend at least two hours a day doing this; sometimes with others, but at least once each weekend I do it alone. Walking on the sand, with the waves crashing next to me, I’m able to be in tune with what’s going on in my life and what I’ve been ignoring.
Mindfulness is about so much more than just sitting still. I’m finding that mindfulness works best for me when my body is physically moving (like during a slow walk break), but I still really need to be present in the moment. That’s the hardest work for me: not taking out my phone to scroll through Instagram while I’m in the grocery checkout line, paying attention to how my body feels when I’m running, and listening to my breathing when I’m alone at the park, looking up at the sky.
I realized throughout my six-week coaching program that I’d been actively avoiding being completely present in the moment for a while now, especially since my disability has caused more pain and fatigue in my body. I didn’t want to listen to what my body had to tell me or how I felt about it—I just wanted to escape it.
The other day, I was feeling a lot of pain. Instead of turning on the TV to drown it out, I laid down on my heating pad on my living room floor, closed my eyes, and visualized my life the way I want to live it. I visualized being a little closer to living pain-free, not feeling fatigued, and doing everything I can to respect my body’s needs, including accepting it as it is. I would have never tried this before my six-week coaching; it turns out opening your mind really can lead to calming your body and spirit.