By Anette Svendsen
In our hectic everyday life, I think the fewest of us actually take the time to just breathe. Rewind. Just exist. With the constant pressure to be the best, we tend to forget how to take proper care of ourselves. To find some peace. Where do we even start?
I spoke to the founder of “Mindful Living” Viggo Johansen, and yoga instructor Ruth Rostad. They provided me with advice on how to relax and focus on being present in the moment; “Mindfulness is first of all a philosophy, an outlook on life. Second of all, it is a systematic form of mental training through what we call Mindfulness meditation. It provides you with a mindset that can help you to live a good life,” says Viggo Johansen. By meditating and focusing on your breath, you train your ability to be focused and present in the moment, and also to reclaim your focus when your mind wanders away. I was told 10-15 minutes a day would already make you notice big changes in yourself. So, I tried to take a deep dive into the world of mindfulness.
At first, I was not sure what to expect. Is it possible for me to find inner peace? To get to a place where I can look at myself, and tell myself that I am good enough as I am? I decided to combine regular meditating with a morning yoga routine, because according to Rustad, Yoga is a godsend for your mental health: “Yoga teachings are about seeing what is behind your thoughts, because behind your thoughts your mind is in a constant state of peace. In Yoga you use your breath and body to work on your mind. You break the constant flow of thoughts that can be overwhelming. Especially the bad thoughts.” I was really doubting myself in the beginning because it started with Ruth having to teach me how to sit down correctly. I thought all humans, including myself, knew how to sit down properly but apparently not.
My first association with Yoga was skinny girls in dreads on Instagram doing poses that could challenge the flexibility of an infant. An important part of Ruth’s job as a Yoga instructor is to break the bad associations people have: “Yoga is literally about forgetting about the constant pressure to be good enough and embrace yourself and your body. It is about seeking a peaceful state of mind, instead of body goals and accomplishments,” she says. So, I have been following an easy 20 minutes Yoga routine every morning.
After a couple of days, I found that the most challenging thing about this was actually the structure. I am not a planner, but now I had to plan my daily routine in order to combine this with everything else, but after a couple of days I could tell that I was actually looking forward to it. Especially the meditating, where I got a few moments to myself to just breathe. Exist. It felt surprisingly good.
But it was not always easy. I had one meditation session when I got home from work one day. I had worked a 12-hour-shift, and I was falling behind on the assignments for my studies. The exhaustion was starting to get to me. I sat down and just burst into tears. I never let myself do that. Afterwards, I regained my focus, and kept on meditating and breathing, breaking the cycle. It felt so good, peaceful. Both, because I let my feelings out, and because I regained my focus when I was ready to start meditating again.
According to Viggo, this is normal: “We have so many difficult thoughts and feelings. And what do we do with them? Nothing. We suppress them. Because most of us have never learned healthy ways to cope. Not even from our parents, because they never learnt it either. Sometimes, being a human can be hard, and we need to start focusing on something so basic as dealing with our own thoughts and emotions in a good way.”
After my ten days were up, I was left with a lot of impressions. I had taken a deep dive into my mind, and I have become much more aware of the patterns of my thoughts. By being aware of them, I found it easier to break the bad cycles I sometimes find myself in. It horrified me to see how I can beat myself down. I would never treat any human being like that, so why do it to myself?
Meditating, doing some beginner’s Yoga and taking long walks is usually available to most of us, it does not have to cost anything. After this whole experience I highly recommend it, because you truly gain a lot of strength by doing it. I know for sure that I will keep meditating after this, because I had not realized prior how much I need a mental break during the day. It has left me feeling stronger.