We hear a lot about the concept of personal growth – the idea that we ‘should’ constantly be looking at ways to improve ourselves. But sometimes, we make changes to our lives based on social norms and expectations or our own insecurities, when in fact, these might not be what truly makes us happy.
This is where mindfulness can help. Mindfulness is the ability to focus on the present moment – the ‘here and now’. It allows us to observe and note our thoughts and feelings without judging or labelling them. Mindfulness can help us to focus on the present rather than dwelling on the past or the future, worry less, and appreciate our lives more.
Practicing mindfulness can be a great way of ensuring that any personal growth is truly reflective of who you are and what will make you happy. Mindfulness has several core principles which can encourage authentic growth, including patience, trust, and developing compassion towards ourselves and others.
Mindful growth begins with acceptance of the self and the knowledge that although growth can enhance your life, you are already complete and enough exactly as you are. By starting with acceptance and self-compassion, you can connect with your true intentions and your own intuition, which will empower you to make healthy choices about your life and what will make you feel content, safe, inspired and fulfilled.
Mindfulness can be practised formally through guided meditations and personal practice, or informally, such as mindful eating or giving someone your full attention during a conversation. It can take time to develop a mindfulness practice, so be patient, and trust in yourself: authentic, natural growth comes from being open to all possibilities and giving ourselves space and time to reach our potential. Try the Centring Mindfulness Practice I’ve put together for you as a starting point for learning how to connect with your authentic self. You can try this practice for 3, 5 or 10 minutes depending on the time you have available.
A Centring Mindfulness Practice:
- Find a quiet place where you can sit or lie down. Give yourself permission to let go of any other tasks you ‘should’ be doing for the duration of your practice.
- Make sure that your feet are connected to the ground, and you are comfortable but can still remain alert.
- Close your eyes and bring your attention to your thoughts for a few moments. Notice them, but then allow them to pass without stopping to analyse them. This will help to build self-awareness and help you choose what to focus on.
- Next, move your attention to your natural breathing pattern. Use the movement of your breath entering and leaving your body to ground you in the present moment: notice the coolness of the air and how your chest rises and as you inhale through your nose and breath rushes in, then notice the warmth of your breath and the fall of your chest as you exhale through your mouth.
- Your mind may wander during your practice, but this is completely natural. When you notice you’ve been distracted by a thought, daydream, or sensation, let it pass and gently bring your attention back to your breath and the present moment. You may need to do this repeatedly but try not to get frustrated with yourself – it’s all part of the process, and noticing you’ve been distracted is still self-awareness.
- As you bring your practice to a close, notice your thoughts again – are they different or the same as when you began?
- Take a moment of gratitude for making the time to connect to your true self, then gently open your eyes and stretch.
Remember: we are all a work in progress, but we are also completely enough as we are. Sending you love and compassion on your journey of authentic, mindful growth,
Tools to help connect with your authentic self:
Space to Be: Go for a walk or sit on your own and be with your own thoughts without any distractions.
Write it Down: Free writing or journaling can be a really helpful way to explore your own thoughts and feelings.
Visualisation: Imagine your preferred future and the steps you will take to get there – how do you feel when you visualise yourself in this place?
Gratitude: Focus on the things you do have and your positive attributes. This way, any growth is likely to come from a more positive place of self-development rather than criticism.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hannah Colton has worked in the mental health field since 2006 after obtaining a BSc (Hons) in Psychology. She qualified as a mindfulness teacher in 2018 and continued her training by studying Integrating Mindfulness and Compassion into Professional Practice (CPCAB accredited). Hannah facilitates mindfulness classes in Bristol as Hanni Rose Mindfulness, and is also a meditation guide for the Expectful Meditation and Sleep app. Find out more by visiting www.hannirosemindfulness.co.uk.