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What even is mindfulness and how can it help me?

The blog post I've been wanting to write for the last 3 years.


I’ve been wanting to write this blog post for the last 3 years.

But I haven’t done it.


Because even though it’s something that gets me SO DAMN excited I have to write in cap locks, I’m worried other people will think it’s boring

And when something feels that amazing and exciting and life changing for you, you want it to feel that way for other people too.

See I want to write about what exactly is mindfulness and how can it change your life, but even though it’s literally my job to explain that, I find it SO HARD to adequately articulate how amazing it is. 

Like explaining the taste of chocolate to someone who’s never tried it before - it’s just never going to sound as good as it actually is until you’ve tried it for yourself.

And so I faff, and every time I try to write it, I get caught up in worrying about making it perfect. 

(anyone else procrastinate around something they’re scared of? Technically mindfulness helps reduce that kind of thing, but hey, I’m not perfect and this feels important, so yes, I’m procrastinating). 

How about starting with a slightly different question?

What is life like when you DON’T live mindfully?

For me, not living mindfully looks like 

  • Worrying over small details that don’t really matter, like when to start a new paragraph and exactly what title to write; things which don’t affect how much you get from this blog post, but which will stop me actually writing the damn thing.

  • Driving my poor husband mad by being a total control freak and perfectionist. Never being able to stop. Not switching off, because you want to “just do one more thing”. When I’m not being mindful, my perfectionism TAKES CONTROL.

  • Catastrophising. My husband doesn’t reply to a WhatsApp in 30 mins and I start imagine him dead somewhere. Not helpful.

  • Doing more-more-more. When I’m not being mindful, I feel stressed. Because I feel stressed, I try and rush through my to-do list so I can do something relaxing to help me switch off. But then reading a book becomes one more thing on my to-do list and I end up even more stressed, on this hamster-wheel of busyness that I don’t know how to get off. 

So how does mindfulness help?

You’ve probably heard it’s “about being in the present moment”. 

But it’s something you can have heard so many times that it doesn’t really register what that means.

A bit like when you try and sing along to that song you’ve heard so many times and you’re sure you know the words, until you try and sing along and you realise you actually only know the last two words of each line…

So you know mindfulness is “about being in the present moment” but what does that mean?

Or more importantly, why does being in the present moment matter?


It matters, because every one of the examples above, all the little ways we make our own lives difficult, happen because we’re not in the present moment. 


We worry about the little things because we can’t cope with the idea of it not being perfect and then having to deal with the consequences of that IN THE FUTURE.

We can’t switch off in case we miss something and make our lives harder IN THE FUTURE. 

We catastrophise because we don’t think we can cope with challenges IN THE FUTURE.

Or even if we know we’d cope, because on some level we’ve taught ourselves that we’re a badass, we don’t want to deal with a challenge IN THE FUTURE (which is fair enough, but somewhat ironically creates a constant stream of unhappiness and challenges in the present moment instead). 

We feel stressed because we worry we don’t have enough time IN THE FUTURE to finish everything on our to-do list, or that the things we’ve done IN THE PAST aren’t good enough and will create a problem IN THE FUTURE.

We rush through our to-do list, to get to some imaginary time IN THE FUTURE where we’ll let ourselves relax. But that time never comes. 

What if, instead, we just dealt with everything as it happened? Rather than constantly trying to protect ourselves.

Tell me if this is the same for you, but what I used to find hard about mindfulness was only doing it some of the time. 

So I’d say “well if I try and focus on the present moment and not worry about my-do list today, it’ll create more work tomorrow and I’ll be more stressed then.”

But what if when tomorrow comes, and I STAY IN THE PRESENT MOMENT AGAIN. 

Now I can deal with any challenges that come up IN THE PRESENT MOMENT.

Before I go onto a tangent on how mindfulness helps you manage a busy to-do list (check out this blog post for more on that Do this when you want more time), there’s another aspect to mindfulness that we haven’t discussed yet that’s critical here.

It's something I don't see other coaches talking about, even though it's massive in being able to cope with anything in the present moment.

See mindfulness isn’t just “being in the present moment”. 

It’s about “being in the present moment WITHOUT JUDGEMENT”. 

What does “being in the present moment WITHOUT JUDGEMENT” even mean?

Well at the moment, when you’re not being mindful, you experience everything through a lens of past-experiences - you add judgments to things.

You do the washing up and even if you try and focus on the present moment, you end up thinking “this is boring [judgement], I want this to be over so I can sit down and relax [future thinking]”.

You’re having to squeeze in the food shop after work before dinner, so you power walk to the entrance, so you “get it over with quickly [future] because you hate having to shop in the evenings [judgement]”.

You get to work and see an email from a particular colleague that makes you go “argh they’re always nagging me [judgement from the past]” before you’ve even opened it. 

It’s human nature to make assumptions, to have opinions on things you do every day. 

But they stop you from seeing things honestly. 

They stop you enjoying so many little moments because you rush past them in an attempt to get to “something better”.

What if you did the washing up like you’d never done the washing up before? You’d be as excited as my 2 year old daughter. You’d marvel at the bubbles and get them all over the floor, without worrying about cleaning it up later - partially because that’s in the future but also because you LOVE that too in the present moment!

What if you did the food shop after work like you’d never done it before? You’d walk around in awe at the variety of colours in the fruit section, the variety of cheeses, the rustle of the pasta packets (again, like my 2 year old).

And what if you get an email from that colleague and you open it like you’ve never received an email from them before. You’d be calm, intrigued, curious as to what they had to say.

And then even if they did ask for a document you literally sent them yesterday, you’d calmly remind them of that and send it again. No big deal, no overwhelming emotions. 

But perhaps more importantly than stopping you experiencing joy every day, these little judgments are contributing to your stress, every day.

You ASSUME an email from your boss will mean more work for you and so you groan and feel bad before you’ve even opened it. 

And even more than that, even more than causing you stress multiple times a day, the judgements make it harder to cope when things are genuinely hard.

I remember when I was new to lecturing, a student made a complaint about one of my mental health lectures, saying it was inappropriate to discuss the content without trigger warnings. 

I remember getting the email and feeling my face go red and a massive lump form in my throat.

I’d put SO much effort into those lectures; I’d spent weeks searching the literature for accurate data while also providing honest and vulnerable stories about my own experiences with mental health. It hurt so so much to receive an email that effectively said it wasn’t good enough.

I started running the whole lecture through my head, worrying about every slide and every anecdote. 

Somehow, I stopped myself, calmed myself down and looked at it mindfully. 

I reminded myself it was ok to feel crap about a complaint.

Because it was a judgement that “I should be able to deal with this”.

I stopped trying to make myself feel better and I stopped trying to find a solution while I still felt emotional. 

And then once I was calmer, I was able to objectively discuss with a colleague whether we needed to change the anecdotes and/or add a trigger warning. 


Life won’t be rainbows and sunshines all the time - and mindfulness gives us the tools to handle that too. 


This is getting too long (another judgement - maybe you’re thinking it’s awesome and it’s just getting started 😉 ), so I’m going to wrap this up here. 

I don’t know if it’s helped you get any closer to understanding why mindful living is so amazing, and how it can change your life.

Maybe it's given you some interesting perspective, or made you want to know more, about the power of being present and the power of removing judgements. 

If it has, please please let me know.

And consider subscribing to get new blog posts directly to your inbox.

And maybe one day I'll write a beautiful blog post that perfectly summarises what mindfulness is and all the amazing ways it can change your life.

But the only way I'll get there is by practising. Mindfulness let’s me do that.

Thanks for being on the journey with me 🙏


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