MINDFULNESS TECHNIQUES TO COPE WITH LONELINESS
Some of you already know from my social posts that I am going through a break -up. It’s not something I really want to document in detail on the internet but I definitely don’t mind sharing what I’ve learnt and how I’m dealing with the situation.
I happen to be on the other side of the world from my family and currently I am not able to care for my dog, so yes I feel lonely in that regard. BUT you don’t necessarily have to be ‘on your own’ to experience immense feelings of loneliness. It might be that you are finding it hard to fit in to a new work environment, or you feel that the people around you don’t really understand you, or you are going through a transitionary period….whatever it may be loneliness can be a crippling feeling and can have harmful effects on physical, emotional and cognitive wellbeing. Having a large Instagram following or presence in the public eye does NOT mean you won’t experience feelings of loneliness. It is subjective and social isolation can come from many different sources.
In my case I found my ex partner when I first arrived in Australia, so learning to cope on my own as a single person has been really difficult and is something I am still working on every day. It’s so easy to reflect and spend too much time focusing on the past when really we should be grateful for the present moment right now. I know this, and I talk and preach a lot about this but putting this theory in to practice has been really difficult.
Recently, I finished my mindfulness and meditation teacher training with Hart life coaching and something I have learnt and done from the beginning is mindfulness meditation. I went to Bhutan in November last year (2016) and this is when I experienced a new appreciation for mindfulness in general but also the concept of living in the present moment and adopting mindfulness meditation into every day.
Firstly, I want to say I am not perfect and I have my ups and downs with meditation and mindfulness practices. Yes, I’ve done lots of practicing, reading and I can now call myself a teacher BUT I am by no means an ‘expert’ as I feel this is a life long practice that takes time and cultivation of non-judgmental perspective of the self and others. It is also a way of developing an awareness of ongoing life experience and accepting the world as it is right now – not easy to do. So don’t be hard on yourself if you have started adopting these practices and you are finding it difficult – the fact that you are willing to give it a go and sacrifice a very small amount of your day to improve your overall health is commendable! Don’t give up and remember to enjoy the moment x x
Meditation is not necessarily a cure for loneliness but integrating it in to your life can have tremendous effects. Often when we are feeling lonely we are feeling disconnected (regardless of our social situation) and meditation can help relieve this feeling of distress, helping to calm your mind and ease the stress and anxiety you are experiencing related to loneliness.
I have turned to these exact mindfulness practices recently and I have been feeling much more centred and calm, I hope this works for you too!
Dismissing negative thoughts
Being non-judgmental allows us to let go of unpleasant thoughts or feelings. When an unpleasant thought pops into your head create a word to get rid of this thought. It could be anything from ‘dismiss’ to ‘no’, ‘expel’ and so on. Find a word that resonates with you and use this technique when you want to get rid of this thought.
Breathing/Mindfulness Meditation (also known as Visspassana):
This encourages switching the focus from being the thinker of the thoughts to being the observer of the thoughts. When we adopt mindfulness practices we are working towards being present and aware of each moment. These techniques can be used as a way to reduce stress and attain inner peace.
- In a seated posture gently close your eyes and relax, you can bring your eyes to full or half closed. Focus on your breathing. Notice the way your breath fills up your lungs and your chest expands. Observe this breath as you breathe out.
- Try to dismiss any thoughts that pop in to your head and focus on your breathing.
- Do this for at least 10 minutes and when you are ready bring your focus and awareness back to your surroundings.
- It is perfectly normal for your mind to wander during this process and it can be extremely frustrating, instead smile and bring your focus back to your breathing. Don’t be too hard on yourself when this happens, just remind yourself to come back to your breath.
This is a great meditation practice to learn straight away as you are lying down so there will be no feelings of pain and discomfort in your back or neck as the flat surface will take the weight of your body. Also it is quite a ‘busy’ meditation leaving no feelings of silence during the practice. A body scan is a way for you to rest and recover and is a time set aside solely for you. The aim of this practice is to be aware of your experience whatever that may be.
- Firstly get comfortable, remove your shoes and any tight clothing.
- Lie with your arms by your side, palms facing up and legs gently apart.
- Start by feeling the weight of your body on the flat surface. On each out breath allow yourself to sink into the flat surface even further. Become aware of your breath for a few minutes. Allowing the air to fill your lungs and your chest expand and notice as you breathe out.
- When you are ready move your focus to the left leg, past your knee and ankle al the way down to your big toe. Noticing the temperature of your body and any clothing may be coming in to contact with this left leg.
- Pay attention to the sensations of the big toe and move this attention to every other toe. When you breathe in imagine that breath channelling all the way down to your toes. When you breathe in allow the breath to travel all the way back up your body and exit your nostrils.
- Expand this awareness to the sole of your left foot, focusing on the ball and the heel of the left foot. Feel the weight of the foot and the sides and upper part of the foot. Breathe into the foot and when you’re ready let go of that foot.
- Repeat the process of gentle, kind, curious and accepting awareness with the lower part of the left leg, the knee and the upper part of the left leg. Notice the difference in the feelings of the left leg compared to the right leg.
- Shift your awareness around and down the right leg, to the toes in your right foot. Move your awareness up the right leg in the same way as before. Then let it go.
- Become aware of your pelvis, hips, buttocks and the organs around here. Breathe into them, imagining you are filling them up with nourishing oxygen.
- Move up to the lower torso, the lower abdomen and lower back. Notice the movement of the lower abdomen as you breathe in and out. Notice any emotions you feel here. See whether you can explore and accept your feelings as they are.
- Bring your attention to your chest and upper back. Feel your rib cage rise and fall as you breathe in and out. Notice your heart beating. Be grateful that all of these vital organs are functioning to keep you alive and conscious. Be mindful of any emotions arising from your heart area. Allow space for your emotions to express themselves.
- Notice both arms together, starting with the fingertips and moving up to the shoulders. Breathe in and out of each body part before moving on to the next.
- Focus on your neck. Notice if your jaw is clenched and bring your attention to your lips, inside your mouth, your cheeks, your nose, your eyelids, eyes, temples, forehead, the back of your head and lastly the top of your head. Be mindful with each part of your head, taking time to notice sensations, curiosities and warmth.
- Imagine your breath sweeping up and down your body, slowly breathing in and out. Taking a few minutes to appreciate the oxygen nourishing your cells and giving you energy to live and breathe.
- Now let go of your mindfulness practice. Be still in the moment and appreciate the feeling of completeness. Allow yourself to rest in this stillness
- Give yourself time to come out of this awareness slowly and transition into whatever you want to do next.
- I recommend setting aside around 30 minutes to complete a thorough body scan to feel the benefits.
- Body scanning is a great way to release emotions stored in the body, increase awareness, letting go, connecting with your body and training your attention.
- the body scan is something I learnt from my friend Shamash Alidina. He details this meditation in his best-selling mindfulness books.
Mindful walking is a great way to relieve stress, especially if you find it hard to sit still in one place. I adopt mindful walking exercises every day and I find it really helps awareness.
- Begin walking at your normal pace
- Start noticing your feet touch the ground
- Place your focus on the entire foot lifting off the ground and placing down again
- Shift your attention to your ankles, noticing the muscles in your ankles relax
- Bring awareness to the temperature of your skin and any clothing that might be touching your ankles such as socks or trousers
- Move your attention to your knees, feeling them bend and straighten and the touch of your clothes around this area
- Shift your focus to your hips, noticing each hip movement as you place one leg in front of the other
- You can continue to move up your body or go back down to your ankles and repeat.
- I recommend doing this meditation for 30 minutes per day.
These are just a few mindfulness and meditation exercises I have been doing lately to reduce the level of loneliness I have been feeling along with many other benefits such as boosting confidence levels, being more attentive, being more productive and to decrease stress.
Photography: Rob Mulally
Please let me know your feedback on this post. I would love to know if any of you have been adopting mindfulness techniques and have seen a benefit and please let me know if you would like to see more of these posts x x x