8th week: practice begins now

This programme is just the beginning

It may be that you have yet to notice how going through this programme and doing the exercises has affected you. However, you have spent a lot of time and resources on the programme, so this week we will turn our attention to your experience over the past seven weeks; what you have felt, learned and found important. 

Let us go all the way back to the first exercise of the programme, the conscious eating exercise. Do the exercise again now.

Raisin exercise

How was it to do the exercise again today? What kinds of thoughts, emotions, sensations and bodily experiences did you notice during the exercise?

Look back at how it felt to do the exercise for the first time. If you wrote something down about your experience, you can go through your notes. Was today’s experience with the exercise similar to or different from your experience at the beginning of the programme? Write down your observations. 

Depression sensitivity often develops over a long period of time. This programme lasted eight weeks, which is a relative short time compared to how long depression has potentially been present in your life. The aim of this programme and mindfulness is to change your lifestyle choices – i.e. how you act every day for the rest of your life. In this context, how you act refers to how you approach difficulties, how you use your mind consciously and what kinds of deeds you do every day. Eight weeks is a good start for making such a change, but the true practice period is only beginning at this point. 

The front page of this programme listed its goals for you: to learn to examine the functioning of your mind, to look into mindfulness and to begin to notice how your thoughts contribute to your mood. Take a moment to think about how well you think you have reached these goals. 

Contemplate: now that we are at the end of the programme, do you think that you understand what mindfulness is? What is it to you? Have you learned to examine the functioning of your own mind? In other words, do you notice how your mind reacts to situations, thoughts, emotions or bodily sensations? Have you begun to notice things about how automatic thoughts produced by your mind affect your mood? Write down your thoughts. 

Exercises for the week

This week, practise conscious listening in different moments. You can listen to music, the sounds of your home or nature and conversations in particular consciously.

In addition to conscious eating, return to other exercises of the programme as well and do exercises that you like on as many days as possible.

Keep thinking about and clarifying what is important to you. You can do the writing exercise on several days or have a session longer than 20 minutes. If you identify things that are important to you, return to the small step principle: what small deeds towards things important to you could you do this week? Write down such deeds and aim to do them every day.

Final words

Practising mindfulness can create a whole new path in life. And if we choose to go down this path, we may find a whole new way to live our life. We may realise that it is possible to be kind towards ourselves instead of trying to be someone else, something else or somewhere else. We may realise that when we acknowledge the existence of our inner critic, we can also hear a different voice: a quieter, wiser and more considerate voice that tells us in a clearer and friendlier way what we should do even in the most difficult of situations. 

Practising mindfulness is not about distancing ourselves from life and emotions. It is about living our life authentically and with participation, profound emotions and compassion. We can become estranged from ourselves so easily. Mindfulness can bring us back to ourselves.