My mind is a whirling vortex of fun. A daydreamer from day one, I’ve never been 100% able to hack being a focused and productive member of society. I’m pretty sure the real reason I was born 10 days late was because I was thinking about what it would be like if my Dad was Elton John and forgot that I should be exiting the womb.
I joke, but it can be a real problem. I’ve always been a terrible sleeper. It was a genuine shock to me when I started sharing beds with men (aged 21 mum I swear) that people can just drop off and not wake up again for seven hours. I am poor at losing myself in a moment. At its worst, it can affect my ability to work productively, sit still, watch TV, to maintain uninteresting conversations. Although these aren’t always a curse, and my daydreaming, which is sometimes the source of my best ideas, has gotten better with age, it can really frustrate and get me down.
I know that a lot of the causes of these issues aren’t something that I can solve with a simple voyage into finding ‘inner peace’; antidepressants have made a world of difference to my attention span. If you’re reading this and think it sounds like you, I’d encourage you to seek proper health advice rather than feel like a failure because yoga isn’t solving your problems. A lack of focus can be symptomatic of several issues, as well as a legitimate problem in itself. If it’s causing you issues, you should speak to someone.
However, as much as a difference has been made, I still have some poor habits in terms of my own focus that I’m genuinely curious to see if mindfulness can help. The problem? Mindfulness, and self-care in general, is becoming an expensive industry. The expense can go as high as Gwyneth Paltrow’s infamous pillows with copper threads, sleep pods for taking a nap near your office (for a fee), or retreats and spas with no limit on the price they can charge. There is no end to how much you could spend on keeping up with these trends. There are cheaper alternatives but even these come at a cost. Mindfulness apps cost money for premium packages and recordings beyond introductions. Adult colouring books are shockingly expensive. My gym, which at the price of Not That Cheap but is still one of the cheaper ones around, runs one yoga class a week. This gets filled up quickly by people paying a premium membership cost to access the booking system early. Therefore, I’d have to go to another studio which costs, you’ve guessed it, MORE MONEY.
Mindfulness doesn’t require expenditure, of course. But what spending money on it does is make it a hell of a lot easier to build habits; if you pay a lot to be relaxed at a spa, the effort bit is pretty much done for you. Apps give you a guide on what to do when it comes to mediating, making it easy. Trying to achieve mindfulness on a budget seems to require a lot more effort than without it, and if you believed everything you read in magazines you would feel like you were barely doing it at all, and that you needed the ‘stuff’ to be doing it right (this would be the point to insert rant about capitalist cycle, but I can’t afford the tangent).
I have also tried and failed to do a few bits of mindfulness on a budget. I made it through all of Headspace’s first week, which was great, but then immediately fell off the meditation wagon the second I would have to pay for anything. I managed to make it to a single yoga class once ever, during which I needed help because I couldn’t breathe properly and accidentally flipped over from a backstand. I tried a mindful sleeping tape via the free bit of an app, in which a woman named Lynn makes you imagine misty mountain tops as you ‘surrender your body to your bed’. This was surprisingly effective for a while, but I was no longer able to take it seriously after, in tandem, my boyfriend found it hilarious and Lynn’s effectiveness diminished at a certain time of the month. Among her many talents, Lynn cannot soothe me through my uterus tearing itself apart.
I need to do some things that stand a chance at sticking. In true Dua Lipa style, I have new rules, that I’m hoping will be cheaper, and offer me a starting place to get into mindfulness:
- Meditate three times a week, and each time find a free solution to guide through it. What works will go on trashfire (what doesn’t probably will too cause funny).
- Gym twice a week. I know that this one isn’t for everyone, and definitely not worth putting too much pressure on yourself for, but I know myself well enough to know that the gym is one of the few places I can well and truly switch off, and I genuinely love going. Mostly because I’m focussing on how tired I am and not anything else, but it works.
- No more playing games on my phone while I’m watching TV. This one truly breaks my heart, because it goes against all my instincts, and I’m obsessed with a game where you make little coloured hexagons. But I’ve started lying awake at night playing it in my head and I think about it all the time. I’ve deleted it, and feel like I’ve lost a part of myself. But I’m ready for my hexagon-free life, and more importantly, to absorb myself in one activity at a time.
- Bed is for sleeping, and maybe watching a bit of TV. It is not for eating or working (she types under her duvet). This I think will present the biggest challenge to me, but also stands to be of the most beneficial, in particular for my poor sleeping. Recent CBT trials at the UK’s first insomnia clinics suggest that if you have trouble sleeping, you actually should spend as little time in your bedroom as possible; no more than 15 minutes of waking time, ideally. This is a lovely idea, but I live in London and a living room is an expendable luxury to me. My kitchen is about the size of me, and I can’t spend my whole life in the shower (I would if I could). There is literally nowhere else to go. So, as the most reasonable alternative, you will find me at my table, which is next to my bed but importantly, not in it.
These are the starting points, and as time goes on I am sure I can add more, knowing what works for me. These may seem like very small, boring adjustments, but once I set myself a task I have in the past been very all-or-nothing; experience tells me I need to start small. There are things that I could be doing that, for now, I’m not doing and I’m going to forgive myself for. I could meditate daily, but I don’t want to do that while I’m staying at my boyfriend’s or cram it in in-between things; setting this rule risks making it more stressful than relaxing. I’m also not going to punish myself for looking at my phone first thing in the morning. I know this will be a sin to a lot of zen yoga mums. However, I’m not good at waking up in the morning and scrolling through Twitter for 10 minutes makes it easier. If blue screens are going to keep us awake, I may as well use that to my advantage. Otherwise, I will sleep. I must assess my net benefits here.
To make sure I keep my promises, and to shamelessly spin out an idea for further content, I will be keeping a diary and posting on here, which I hope you’ll follow with me. I’ll also be trying some of the more established methods, and more out – there things that have been claimed will contribute to mindfulness. So, watch this space; hopefully I’m about to transform into a spiritual queen, but more likely, gain a small amount of insight on what does and doesn’t work.