After experiencing a breakdown and overwhelming pain, I was pushed to find a new way to manage my mind, quiet my internal chatter, and calm my insecurity, anxiety, and aggressive behavior.
Developing the Skill of Mindfulness for Bipolar Management
Ten years ago, due to my own overwhelming pain and breakdown, I felt compelled to do the work of creating ways to manage my mind and learn the skill of mindfulness. When I needed healing and guidance, I collaborated with a Louise Hay life coach who helped me work through several concepts related to positivity and mindfulness.
Adopting the habit of mindfulness is easier said than done, which is why I share what I learned and what helped me to live differently, to live more mindfully, which is a change from living with bipolar’s depression and mania, and anxiety, without the knowledge or infrastructure of mindfulness practices. It makes a big difference. Huge!
Mindfulness is not a state we can snap into or something we can effortlessly achieve. Just like a runner can’t run a marathon without training first, we need to remember that mindfulness is a skill to be developed, a muscle to be built, and a mindset to be cultivated with time, practice, and intention.
What Is Mindfulness & How Can It Help?
It is all about changing how you manage yourself, your presence or way of being, and your mind, to have more influence and control over yourself, your focus, and your actions. Being mindful means to be more present in the moment, to be disciplined for our own happiness and mental stability. And it is a means of taming other ways of being in which we are less mindful and more reactionary.
Meditation for Mindfulness
Meditation is necessary for cultivating mindfulness because it is the only way that literally teaches us how to quiet the internal chatter of our minds. I believe this is the best skill to have for anyone with mental health conditions. Accomplishing the ability to silence the mind is what helps to achieve focus, be present, listen and be disciplined, all of which helps with self-control. It is no easy feat to gain what I consider “mastery” of meditation, but the payoff is worth it.
This is not mastering the practice of meditation, but it is an important skill to cultivate, so, when you’re in your everyday life, you have the ability to shut off the internal chatter when you need to most. Be forewarned, it could take months to reach this point, so don’t let discouragement, frustration, impatience, annoyance, or anything negative derail your efforts if you choose to take up meditation, which I would recommend.
Self-Discipline & Self-Control vs. Anxiety, Aggression, and Regrets
Being mindful is a way to get out of our own way. It’s an awareness that helps in social situations, such as being cautious to not put your foot in your mouth or act in ways you know will backfire on you. It means being attentive to ourselves and our actions, especially ones that can get us in trouble. Being mindful helps us improve self-discipline and self-control, for instance, by first becoming aware of mindsets and habits that don’t work for us, like mouthing off, being insecure, anxious, or even aggressive and argumentative. Mindfulness brings our attention to the moment before we slip into the default of reacting when triggered.
Being mindful can, and in my experience does, become a way of life. This is because it becomes a new means of self-management that will help us in our happiness and mental well-being. But, like self-care, it’s up to each of us individually to secure a new system in place that we can default to, instead of unconsciously defaulting to ways we are not aware of or mindful about at all.
Being Socially Conscious and Respectful
Being mindful also helps us to be present, focused, and respectful. Yes, because it helps us to be available to other people in our experience and to focus outwardly on them and their needs instead of defaulting inwardly and being distracted. When building a mindfulness practice, it took constant internal reminding for me to be mindful when I caught myself lost in my own distractions.
It’s like catching yourself and setting yourself straight each time your mind wandered instead of being present. And through repetition and consistency, I have found that it is possible to retrain the mind to be more aware, until it is learned and becomes the new default.
Mindfulness Is Not Perfect Attention
Of course, it’s not about being mindful all the time to every little thing—being mindful to a level of perfection—because that’s unrealistic and not possible. It’s about starting to focus first on the important things because they are the moments you’ll savor and enjoy most. In my experience, this benefit also helps with the learning process because we start to prioritize mindfulness and being mindful to the good, eventually to the level of mastery. We start to realize that the more we are able to be mindful, the more it will benefit our mental health and our quality of life.
Mindfulness Is Also about Letting Go
Last, another important concept involved with being mindful and in the present is the process of truly letting go of what is not in the present. Believe it or not, it is our own memories that can keep us in the past and out of the present moment. Memories that can come flooding back when triggered.
Being mindful and present requires not allowing any thoughts into your experience except for being in moment and present. We haven’t learned to let go of the past, and, yes, this also keeps us from fully living in the present.
So, to choose being present is choosing to let go of the past, and it’s also deciding to live in the present with new skills keeping you mindful, focused, disciplined, and in control. As my experience shows, these skills can help us be aligned with the present, which is better for our mental health and happiness. All of this, just from working on mindfulness, to the level of mastery.
Debbie Jacobs is an advocate, writer, and healing specialist living in Alexandria, Virginia. She lived most of her adult life with a diagnosis of depression and anxiety, and then was diagnosed with bipolar. She speaks out on how self-improvement is life improvement and believes we all can live happy lives by making positive changes to ourselves. Her influences are Louise Hay, Napoleon Hill, Les Brown, and Tony Robbins. She does positivity life coaching and is in the process of writing her first book on her healing process of accomplishing positive thinking, positive effective coping skills, and healthy self-esteem—what she calls “freedom and happiness.” She shares her work to motivate, inspire, and help others make positive changes to themselves for their freedom and happiness, too.
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