Today started out as a difficult day before I even got out of bed. Have you ever had this happen? Or perhaps you’ve had a time when your day was humming along smoothly when a bump rudely appears in your path, jarring you off course. (Surely I’m not the only one who experiences this?). In case this happens to you, I thought I’d share what I did to prevent my difficult morning from ruining my whole day. I used these three mindfulness concepts. Perhaps they’ll be helpful for you, too.
Difficult Day? If You’re Human, They Happen
This morning didn’t bode well for the quality of my day. I forgot to set my alarm last night, so I overslept. I opened my eyes to a room that was already starting to lighten as the sun came up (well, it’s cloudy and rainy today, so it was a gray sort of light, but it still was distinctly not dark). Not wanting to run further behind, I began to scramble to get ready.
As I stood in the bathroom waiting (im)patiently for the shower to warm up, my phone rang. My husband, who is driving home from an out-of-town business meeting, called to inform me that he received a call from the roofing company. A guy was on his way to our house to look the roof and our ceiling. (Oh yeah. Our roof is leaking, and I had again noticed the spots on the ceiling above my bed as I was leaping out of it in a hurry.) We’ve been waiting for a week and a half for a scheduler to call and make an appointment, but apparently it’s a better idea to show up almost unannounced at 7:00 on a Wednesday morning.
I turned off the water, threw on some clothes, and made it downstairs in time to open the door with wild hair and no make-up. It wasn’t even 7:30, and things were not looking promising for my day. Happily, I noticed my negative thoughts of doom and caught them so I could turn them, and the quality of my day, around by drawing on a few mindfulness concepts.
3 Mindfulness Concepts to Help You With a Difficult Day
You might be wondering why I would use mindfulness concepts to deal with a difficult morning. After all, mindfulness involves paying purposeful attention to the present moment. A bad day doesn’t seem to inspire one to pay attention to it.
That’s a legitimate concern. Mindfulness does involve paying attention to the present moment–the moment itself, not our thoughts and feelings about it and ruminations about the past or worries about the future that influence those thoughts and feelings about it. With mindfulness and the concepts that are part of it, we can pull ourselves out of our mind and into the moment so we can deal with it, no matter what that moment is like.
There’s a lot to the practice and lifestyle that is mindfulness. I used these three mindfulness concepts to help me this morning.
1. Notice and Pause
Tune in to yourself, and notice your negative thoughts and feelings and/or any physical symptoms (soreness, headaches, or abdominal discomfort, for example). As soon as you catch yourself stuck in problems, pause. Stop running around in a stressed rush. Close your eyes. Take a few slow, deep breaths. This resets your nervous system, switching off the stress response and switching on the calm response. As you do this, pause your racing thoughts by turning your attention to your breathing. Notice the sound and feel of air entering, filling, and leaving your body. Your moment is this inhale, this exhale. Nothing else.
It’s important to know that pausing to breathe isn’t like rubbing a magic lamp. You don’t unleash a magic genie. You don’t need one. You are your own genie, and pausing to breath and center yourself allows you to summon your inner powers like acceptance and nonjudgement.
2. Acceptance, Nonjudgement
The brief pause clears a mental path. Once you’ve centered yourself, you will likely notice that your situation hasn’t changed. I was still standing at the door looking like Little Orphan Annie (minus the fantastic red hair) about to interact with a human being about a leaky roof, and I was not at my desk working on an enormous to-do list. No action I could take, no thought or feeling that I could have, would change this fact.
By pausing to breathe, calm down, and reset my nervous system, I was able to recognize and accept this fact. I didn’t have to like it, but by accepting it, I could respond to this situation calmly rather than reacting emotionally and making everything worse.
Nonjudgment is an important part of acceptance. When we fight and struggle against something, we automatically label it as “bad.” Often, we label ourselves negatively, too. Berating myself for being “lazy” and oversleeping or the roofing company for being inconsiderate or incompetent (they replaced our roof less than a year ago, and they made a mistake that led to the leak) doesn’t lead to positive and effective change. It doesn’t make things better. It only makes the difficulty take root, deepen, and grow.
Resisting and judging feed difficult mornings and days. Acceptance and nonjudgement allow us to feed and nurture ourselves instead.
Now that I had paused to reset and accepted the situation without judging it, myself, or the roofing company, I could take action to turn the situation around. Gratitude is an experience, and it’s also a choice that guides action.
I woke up this morning. Not only that, but I woke up in a warm bed with a roof over my head. Sure, the roof has a leak, but it’s still providing shelter and security. Someone showed up to discover and fix the problem. People make mistakes, and it’s not the end of the world. Mistakes can be fixed. These are all things to be grateful for, and there’s so much more positive in life, too.
It can be hard to have gratitude in a difficult moment. Gratitude and mindfulness enhance each other, so use the practice of mindfulness to shift your thoughts and feelings from grumbles to gratitude.
- Other than the problem, what else is going on right now?
- Use your senses to home in on something tangible in this moment that brings feelings of joy and appreciation. Perhaps look at a loved one (or a picture of a loved one).
- Breathe slowly and deeply as you take in all the details. Notice or visualize nuances about this loved one: the way their voice sounds, the warmth of their hugs, etc. This, too, is your moment–not just running late, standing at the door looking like Little Orphan Annie, talking to someone about a leaky roof.
These three simple actions and perspectives–pausing, accepting without judgement, and gratitude–genuinely shifted my day. The tension left my body and mind and was replaced with positive thoughts and emotions. The problems didn’t disappear, but I gifted myself with the energy needed to respond to them rather than spending my entire day in reaction mode.
Discover more tips, strategies, and resources for creating your quality life despite difficulties and living in your moment rather than your mind in these books. Also, visit my new and growing resources and recommendations page!