There’s often this misperception that a mindfulness practice should rid us of all our worries. That if we meditate long and hard enough, we’ll be permanently peaceful and calm.
Rather, mindfulness practices help us get more in touch with the highs and lows of life. They allow us to see our reality more clearly, and be with the ebbs and flows of our moods, emotions and thoughts without necessarily needing to change them.
Mindfulness practices also help us more fully understand our own unique personality and how we view the world.
Neuropsychiatrist, therapist and author Dr Dan Siegel writes in his book Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation, that there are 3 affective (mood) states with distinct brain pathways involved in personality. These states determine where our attention goes - that is, what we tend to focus on. These are:
Some of us may be prone to being fearful and anxious. We may worry about our family, get anxious about coming events, or feel scared in the face of uncertainty or change. Some of us are prone to becoming distressed, sad or helpless, particularly when we feel disconnected or cut off from others. We may retreat into ourselves and withdraw from friends and family. Others of us may be prone to anger. When faced with challenge or adversity we become frustrated or outraged, and feel we need to act in the face of injustice to restore order.
It can be helpful to know how our attention is shaped to then know how our personality colours our perceptions.
3 mindfulness strategies which can help you better tune into your experiences, be with the highs and lows of whatever you face, and know your personality type better, include:
Listen to your inner dialogue (how you relate to yourself)
Mindful walking (tune into how you relate to your environment)
Mindful listening / conversations (check in with how you relate to others)
These 3 practices can help you become more at ease with yourself and resilient in the face of change, challenge and uncertainty. Letting go of the need to feel a particular way, or get rid of a certain aspect of your personality allows you the freedom to be with your life as it is.
As Dr Siegel writes:
“...as we develop mindfulness as a trait, we can move the brain to a left shift as we learn to approach and not withdraw from life’s challenges. This can be seen as a neurosignature of resilience.”
Now, perhaps more than ever, we need strategies and tools to help us better manage how we relate to ourselves, our external circumstances, and each other, to support resilience and be adaptable in an ever changing world.