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Six Strategies for Overcoming Obstacles in Building Emotional Balance

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Mindfulness isn't an intellectual exercise but more of an experiential one. Meaning, that simply reading through the articles over the last few months and gaining an intellectual understanding of the main ideas will not be enough to cultivate mindfulness and emotional balance. Reading the practices will not substitute for actually experiencing and regularly practicing the concepts and exercises. Unlike what is depicted in the opening picture, it is safe to say that the path of cultivating mindfulness and emotional balance is not a straight line of steady progress. Though our opening picture did get the rises and dips part correct, the road is often more winding, curvy, with roadblocks requiring us to take detours. When we encounter such bumpy roads and lack the feeling and motivation go to on, we often tend to give up, turn around, and go back to what is familiar. This is to be both understood and expected. Afterall, the mental and emotional habits that have been cultivated over decades of our lives will naturally fall back into place and take over again.

It is this stagnation and resistance that we must be aware of and overcome. There are many obstacles (both inner and outer) that come up including arguments such as: "I just don't have any time to do this," or the "I have too much work to do, too much on my plate already," or the "At the end of the day, I'm just too tired," or the "I don't have a quiet place to practice," or the "I just can't do it right." When these excuses pop up into your life, you my friend have encountered resistance. And this list of excuses is not all inclusive. We can come up with dozens of reasons not to practice. I know I have. It is not at these times that we should criticize ourselves. It is not humanly possible to not have obstacles. Instead, it is these obstacles that give us clues to some growing edges, further exploration and development. Use this exploration of our obstacles and transform them into opportunities for practice. And every situation is an opportunity for practice; and every person that we meet is a teacher. This article we will explore together a six strategies to help you maintain the inspiration you had at first and navigate any obstacles and resistance that will naturally arise.

Set Realistic Expectations

When we are deciding on a practice routine for mindfulness, we have to be realistic with what we actually can and cannot do. When we set unrealistic expectations for ourselves, we inadvertently set the stage for inner resistance to practicing. Here is an example or two of what I mean. Say for instance your plan is to practice at 10pm each night. This is the only time that the kids are finally asleep and the house is quiet enough for you to focus. You may start out doing well for a time. However, realistically, how likely is it that you will fall asleep as soon as you hit those first 5 or 6 deep breaths? Then there is the, well I'll wake up at 4am each morning before everyone else is up. This too may work for a time as long as the snooze button is not your friend. Which leads to my next point.

Choose a Time that Works...For You

Regardless of how your favorite guru arranges their schedule, their life is their life and yours is yours. It doesn't matter when you practice (morning, afternoon, evening). There is no perfect moment only YOUR moment. And your moment doesn't mean waiting around for a strong sense of desire to hit you. It does mean finding a regular time. Whether that means taking an extra 15-30 minutes each morning. Whether that means 15-30 minutes at lunch. Whether that means 15-30 minutes in the evening. However, what it also means is that you can't skip all week and then try to binge meditate. Choose a time. Keep it consistent. Another thing about time.

Start with shorter sessions

In a lot of the guided meditation practices you may encounter, they are sometimes 30 to 45 minutes long. This may not be realistic for a beginner. It takes time to discipline our attention. Additionally, we want to engage in meditation ending on an enthusiastic note rather than drudging our way through. That is why it is better to start out with short and regular periods (maybe 10 to 15 minutes) and then gradually increase. So, if you are just getting started but your guided meditation is longer, give yourself permission to pause it and take a break. The quality of the meditation is what is most important not the length of time. And more on quality.

Your Safe Haven

You do not need a yoga studio to practice. All you need is a quiet corner in your home whether it is a room, a walk-in closet. If you start out ready, you don't have to get ready. Meaning if you keep your space set up, you do not have to set things up each time. Make this space your oasis, your safe haven. You can include a meditation chair or cushion, some books on meditation and mindfulness, inspiring artwork, flowers, incense, a stone, whatever evokes the inspiration and overall feeling you desire to have in this safe space.

Have A Game Plan

There are so many variations to meditation practices. To make the best use of your time, know what you are going to practice before you sit down. If we take into consideration any type of sports team, they do not wait until game time to decide which plays they are going to run. They have been practicing all week the plays that they will use. For our meditation practice, we should have an idea of what we want to do. One thing that may be helpful is for you to practice the same practice for a week and then switch. For example, one week you can do body scan, then maybe the next week focus on thoughts, then the next forgiveness, the next kindness, you get the point. Or you can make each practice two weeks long or a month long. But develop some sort of plan so that you will know what you are doing, your mind will thank you for the structure and predictability.

Dear Diary

You can keep practice logs or you can start a meditation diary. After you are done with your meditation, it can be helpful to write down a few notes afterwards about what came up for you. Keeping track of your record in this way not only helps you keep track of your practice but it also helps you see the progress of your process. It will help anchor the insights that come to you and hopefully you'll be able to better integrate those insights into your daily life. I personally have a thing for journals.

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Shameless plug and guilty pleasure admission here. I personally have a thing for journals. I currently own too many. I write in 3 every single day. It has definitely helped me and my wellness practice. As returning Amazon Affiliate I want to encourage you to start your own journaling journey. I cannot say how long the price will be reduced on this unisex Lined Journal. Disclaimer, I will earn an affiliate commission but at no additional cost to you.

Celebrate Small Victories

We spend more of our waking hours focusing on what's wrong or what doesn't work. If we are to rewire our brains and become more emotionally balanced, we have to set intentions and pay attention to what does work. So, give yourself permission to celebrate your small victories. After you begin a regular practice you are going to notice changes. There will be times that emotional distress won't escalate you to panic. There will be times that you will not accept your self-depreciating thoughts as truth as you once did before. There will be times that you find you are taking time to cool off rather than escalating to heated arguments. And even more to your surprise, you will find yourself choosing to forgive in ways you never thought possible rather than holding on to resentment. These small victories are important. These are significant. It's okay to acknowledge and celebrate them for they represent the long-term transformation is at hand.

I hope that you have found this series of articles on mindfulness useful. I also hope that I have expressed to you the importance of establishing a regular practice of your own. Mental and emotional fitness, just like our physical fitness, requires regular effort. Yes, difficult emotions will feed our reluctance to accept what is happening both inside of us and outside of us. But keeping our expectations balanced, choosing time and session durations that work for us as individuals, decorating our safe havens for meditation, having our game plan, writing our insights, and remembering to celebrate our victories no matter how small can help us overcome those obstacles to practice. Please remember, wherever you are on this wellness journey, do not worry about getting it perfect; just get it going. Until next time. Happy reading!

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"You will never 'find' time for anything. If you want time, you must make it." ~Charles Buxton


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