14 days of mindfulness challenge

I’m a big mindfulness fan. I’ve taken several NHS courses on it and can now meditate independently, however, like many people I’ve let it the meditation part slip. While I still think and act mindfully, the meditation is an important part of my mental health care and for myself and those around me, I need to get back into using it regularly. So I’m attempting a challenge; 14 days of mindfulness.

In an attempt to hold myself accountable I’m going to keep this diary, and starting today 14th June I’m going to try to do mindfulness twice a day. A quick few minutes unguided ‘finding’ myself after I’ve gotten up and eaten right before I start my work for the day. Then at 3 pm, I’ve got an alarm set and I’ll drop whatever I’m doing to do a guided meditation. At first, I’ll be started with a 5-10 minute one to get myself back into practice and then by the end of the week I hope to be working towards longer ones. Ideally, the 45 min body scan would be great, however, I know how difficult that one can be so that may be unreachable.

Day 1

14th June

2:30 pm

The few minutes unguided wasn’t as difficult as I expected and the clarity felt good. I’m actually excited to do the 3 pm one.

3:20pm

That was not fun and it had nothing to do with the meditation itself. There is a guy across the road who has been building for the last few days with dance music blasting as he does it. It just started up again I was doing my meditation and it’s the kind that has a loud steady bass that reverberates. I have noise sensitivity because of my ME and it’s giving me a migraine as I write this (I’ve had to pop my industrial sound dampeners on), so trying to meditate with that going on was near impossible.

It made me irritable, which made my body irritable. My neck hurt, my fingers started hurting and urgh. I just couldn’t relax and get comfortable and then I started stressing about not being able to do it.

I’m going to try again later when the noise stops.

Day 2

15th June

3:16 pm

I completely forgot to do the unguided this morning /facepalm I didn’t even realise until I went to do my main meditation either. Bad night and morning combo lead to that.

Yesterday 3 pm crept up on me so I decided I’d set a pre-alarm and that worked like a treat today. I also got a 5 min warning on Whattsapp from my best friend too so I was able to stop what I was doing, go to the bathroom etc. and be ready at 3 pm to sit down to do my meditation. And just as I did banging starts. Seriously?? It seems that 3 pm is the guy across the road’s building time too. I may need to start at 2:45 or 2:30, I can’t go any earlier. I’ll see tomorrow.

The actual meditation was better than yesterday, but still not great because of the noise. I ended up putting my noise dampeners on top of my headphones and it felt like my head was in a vice grip. I was not comfortable, it did drown out the banging enough for me to concentrate so I got something out of the meditation this time.

Day 3

16th June

3:32 pm

I’m finding it harder to do the morning meditation than I anticipated. I’m not too worried about missing that one as it was just a few minutes to centre myself quickly. The more important one is the afternoon one and that I’m sticking too. Once again right on cue, the noise started at 3 pm, so I’ve changed my alarms for tomorrow to try to avoid it.

Today’s meditation went much better despite the music, banging AND my neighbour’s door going right next to my head. I went into the bedroom and chose to do a 10-minute meditation. This time I actually reached that blessed state of relaxation. It was still a bit awkward, although this time it was because I’ve been really chesty and bunged up due to hayfever. I was trying to concentrate on my breathing and I was struggling to breathe.

Day 4

17th June

4:31 pm

I’ll get the timing right eventually.  Today was a mess because we had a grocery delivery due and Chris’ mum coming over so my meditation got pushed back to 3 pm rather than the earlier time I wanted to try. I managed to avoid Mr builder dude (he’d been at it since 12pm though) and was a minute into my meditation when another neighbour started mowing/strimming their garden. Anyone who follows me on twitter knows that garden strimmers are the bane of my existence. I hate them with a passion and everyone seems to be obsessed with them.

There was NO WAY I was getting anything done with that going on. I gave up, waited until it was over and got a nice peaceful meditation session in. It went great, and I’m beginning to feel the bonuses of actively doing mindfulness regularly again.

Day 5

18th June

4:30 pm

Today’s meditation was really delayed due to our own gardeners. The poor guys had 3 months worth of garden to destroy so they were here for quite a while. Unfortunately due to the pandemic, there was literally nothing we could do about it until now. I couldn’t do my meditation in the bedroom like I normally do as the windows were open when they started and the whole room reeks of fresh grass which is really bad for my asthma and hayfever. It wasn’t too bad doing it in the living room though, and I managed quite well. Again I think it’s all about getting into the groove again. Once you’ve done it for a few days you can just slip back into it.

Day 6

19th June

17:02pm

I knew today was going to be messy as I had a therapy appointment so it doesn’t surprise me that I ended up doing my meditation so late today. The important thing is that I did it. I struggled a lot today to concentrate because my face was hurting. My jaw was tight and wouldn’t relax, and my cheeks felt hard and filled with cotton wool. I tried massaging them and they’re still aching from it which tells me it’s my sinuses again. The fun of having rhinitis. It’s not a surprise considering the high pollen count and the fresh grass from yesterday.

Day 7

20th June

3:01 pm

I actually started to do my meditation on time today. The more I do this diary the more I’m realising that there is no perfect time to do meditation. I’ve tried changing the time to work around the building noise, to work with the builder’s breaks and see the patterns, and honestly? It’s impossible. You can’t plan for it. And my life is uneventful. I’m just dealing with one set of noise. I don’t have kids, I don’t share a room, or have people coming and going all the time. The point I’m trying to get at is that you have to take the time you can. You can plan a time to do it like I’ve been trying to, but more times than not it’ll fail somehow.

3:38 pm

I managed to get my meditation 10 minutes later in a down period of peace. As I write this now I can hear the drumming beat of the bass going yet again. It was another awkward session. This time my neck was stiff and wouldn’t relax which put me off. Then my mind kept wandering.

I originally intended for this diary to be 7 days and culminate in me reaching a 45-minute body scan. That was a completely unrealistic expectation. Today is the halfway mark so I’ve moved from 5-minute meditations to 10 minutes. I’ll do that for a few days and then up to 20, and so on.

Day 8

21st June

3:06 pm

No building noise today which means either the weather (it’s raining, not that it’s done anything to the heat) or the fact that it’s Father’s Day has made a difference. I think it’s probably the later as it was raining sporadically yesterday and that made no difference. Today I struggled again with the 10-minute practice so I’m going to take some time later to find some new ones to do on YouTube. I only have 5-minute ones at the moment, and this one is with a male voice. I don’t like male voices for meditation, I find them too harsh.

I also think where I’m sitting is causing me neck pain and thus the discomfort from yesterday and today so tomorrow I’m going to switch that up too.

Day 9

22nd June

3:08 pm

I have a migraine so no formal meditation for me today. I did do about 5 or so minutes of unguided meditation when I did my steaming. I have non-allergic rhinitis and my sinuses get blocked frequently so regular steaming with boiling water and eucalyptus oil help to relieve the pressure. It’s also great for my skin!

I used to hate steaming because I can sit still without doing something. Then I started mindfulness and I was like, aha! So I started combining the two. I space out doing some unguided mindfulness meditation while I do my steaming and it works.

Day 10

23rd June

16:58 pm

I was a bit later doing my meditation today due to our grocery delivery coming; our normal slot is 2-3 pm so I don’t even bother trying to meditate until after it’s arrived. By the time it’s been put away and I’ve rested after doing all that it’s always a fair bit later. I then completely forgot to tweet and do my diary. Yep, it’s one of those days today. I’m just jotting this down before I go prep dinner before I forget that too.

Today I looked up a new 10-minute youtube video and changed my seating arrangement as I mentioned two days ago. The video ended up being a mini-body scan which was kinda perfect since that’s what I’m working towards. It also worked in a previous type of meditation I’d done with sounds so it was all round a good one to do. Here’s the link for anyone wanting to try it. I’ll be sharing my entire playlist at the end of this diary too.

The sitting position was better, however, my neck was still pretty stiff. I think it’s more my neck right now and sitting upright is aggravating it. I’m going to try laying down tomorrow.

Day 11 & 12

24th June & 25th June

These two days were a complete write off due to migraines. I’d overdone it the day before and had what I call a fatigue migraine on day 11. It’s basically my body yelling at me when I do too much work and tire myself out. I knew I’d done it and expected this to happen. I’d hoped to be able to still do some meditation, however, an hour after I woke up and my head was just too hazy. I wasn’t focusing on anything.

The heat has gotten worse again, and the combination of heat with a bad PMT month meant day 12 was horrible. Another lurking migraine, sinus pain, and unbearable pain from a sore gland. I should have probably pushed harder to at least try some meditation but any activity just felt like I was slogging through treacle. I chose to not push it and rest.

Day 13

26 June

18:00 pm

I’ve just gone back and written up the past few days. They’ve literally been a blur of migraines and PMT monthly hell. I pushed myself to try to meditate today. I needed to do some steaming to relieve the building pressure in my head and so I used that tried and tested tactic. I failed miserably. Even though I wasn’t feeling that hot at the time I quickly overheated, and I just couldn’t relax. The jarring dance music from upstairs wasn’t helping matters.

Writing this has just poked the migraine bear. I’m going to try and do some meditation later if I’m able to, otherwise, I may just have to admit defeat until the hormones have finished their monthly jaunt.

In Conclusion

You’ll notice that despite this being a 14-day exercise there was never a day 14 entry in my diary. Day 14 was another migraine and my health started to worsen from there (see below). I wanted to round up my thoughts on what happened during this 14-day challenge because it may seem to some that I failed. In some ways I did. I set myself an absurdly high standard to meet, 2 sessions of meditation a day with the aim of extending the length of those sessions in a short period of time. While my enthusiasm is to be commended my plan wasn’t; it was unrealistic and the pressure of trying to live up to it ultimately led to my downfall.

One thing I hope people do take from this diary is that even people like myself who have done meditation many times before can fail at meditation. There are so many things that are beyond our control. The building noise that I reported? It continued for a month or so after this diary concluded. That was just terrible timing and nothing I could do anything about. There will be obstacles that you’ll need to work around whether it’s pets, family members or noisy neighbours. Even your own body, as you can see from my diary, can betray you as you try to relax.

One thing I feel I did succeed at was that I kept going. While I did end up having to give up due to a multi-day migraine, there were other times when I felt ill and I pushed through. I may not have gotten much meditation done, but I got some done and that’s the important thing. I also noticed how much better I felt during this period and how my health deteriorated afterwards. While that deterioration isn’t due to stopping the mindfulness meditation my body would certainly have benefited during that time from the added boost mindfulness provides me.

What happened next?

3rd September

There’s been a massive gap between me originally logging this exercise and posting this diary. I ended up stuck in a neverending cycle of being too ill to meditate and needing to meditate to feel better again. Over the last few months, my fatigue has gotten worse again, and I’ve had other health problems (see my forthcoming monthly update for more details if you’re interested). When you’ve got 7 chronic health conditions and you’re on multiple medications already it becomes a case of simply managing symptoms and changing one medication to make one thing better can make something else worse. It’s catch-22, and so I need to do everything I can to help myself which means doing my meditation regularly.

That means as of September 1st I started meditating again, and as keeping a diary seems to be a good way to keep myself accountable I’m going to keep doing it. So at the end of each month, I’ll be posting a Mindfulness Diary. I  will be using a weekly format rather than a daily format and anyone who wants to join me is welcome to do so!

Over to You

I would love to hear your feedback on this post as it’s something a bit different, and I’d like to know what you guys thought about it. If you’d like me to talk a bit more about mindfulness I am happy to include some information in my Mindfulness Diaries each month.

For those who would like to join me in my challenge or are interested in the videos I use for meditation you can find my playlist here on Youtube:

I challenged myself to 14 days of mindfulness - here's what happened!: In June 2020 I challenged myself to 14 days of mindfulness. To help keep me accountable and offer an insight into the practice I kept this daily diary.

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2 Comments

  1. I saw this pop up and just now had a chance to give it my full attention. I’m also glad you stuck with it and did your best despite everything. This is really inspiring. I want to start making an effort to do a guided meditation every day instead of just when I think about it or when a dear friend reminds me to do it. 😉 I know it would really help with my mental health, no matter how short it might be. I know we’re almost 2 weeks into September already, but I will join you! I might make Twitter entries until I get my digital bujo together.

  2. I’m really glad you decided to stick with it, even when it wasn’t working. In our aikido classes, we do breathing exercises (that are derived from some kind of Indian practice, but I don’t know exactly what – I need to find out more in order to describe it well) – I find if done for several minutes, my attention span becomes less of an out of control fire hose and more like a calm ocean.

    It’s interesting you mention the steam too. I just got myself an electonic aroma diffuser, and am keen to use it soon. I don’t know if it works the same way. (Again, something I probably have to research.)

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