By: Donna Byrne
I am still on about mindfulness. Be in the moment!! Inhabit the present (breathe). Mindfulness has been found to inoculate people against aggressive impulses according to Whitney Heppner and Michael Kernis of the University of Georgia. They did an interesting study showing that those who participated in a mindful experience prior to being provoked in another exercise, were unwilling to inflict pain on others. Those who did not participate in a mindful experience prior to being provoked by social rejection took it out on other people. “Mindfulness decreases ego involvement,” explains Kernis. “So people are less likely to link their self-esteem to events and more likely to take things at face value.” Mindfulness also makes people feel more connected to other people—that empathic feeling of being “at one with the universe.”
Mindfulness boosts your awareness of how you interpret and react to what’s happening in your mind. It increases the gap between emotional impulse and action, allowing you to do what Buddhists call recognizing the spark before the flame. Focusing on the present reboots your mind so you can respond thoughtfully rather than automatically. Instead of lashing out in anger, backing down in fear, or mindlessly indulging a passing craving, you get the opportunity to say to yourself, “This is the emotion I’m feeling. How should I respond?” Mindfulness increases self-control; since you’re not getting thrown by threats to your self-esteem, you’re better able to regulate your behavior. There is a simple exercise you can do anywhere, anytime to induce mindfulness: Breathe. There is no better way to bring yourself into the present moment than to focus on your breathing. Because you’re placing your awareness on what’s happening right now, you are in the present moment. Try to see if you can concentrate on your breathing and be somewhere else. It can’t happen.
Another tip for today is If something is bothering you, move toward it rather than away from it. Accept it. We all have pain in our lives, whether it’s the ex we still long for, the jackhammer blasting across the street, or the sudden wave of anxiety when we get up to give a speech. If we let them, such irritants can distract us from the enjoyment of life. Paradoxically, the obvious response to focus on the problem in order to combat and overcome it—often makes it worse, argues Stephen Hayes, a psychologist at the University of Nevada. The mind’s natural tendency when faced with pain is to attempt to avoid it by trying to resist unpleasant thoughts, feelings, and sensations. When we lose a love, for instance, we fight our feelings of sadness. As we get older, we work hard to recapture our youth. When we’re sitting in the dentist’s chair waiting for a painful root canal, we wish we were anywhere but there. But in many cases, negative feelings and situations can’t be avoided and resisting them only magnifies the pain.
The problem is we have not just primary emotions but also secondary ones. We have emotions about other emotions. We get stressed out and then think, “I wish I weren’t so stressed out.” The primary emotion is stress over your workload. The secondary emotion is feeling, “I hate being stressed.” It doesn’t have to be this way. The solution is acceptance. Let the emotion be there. Be open to the way things are in each moment without trying to manipulate or change the experience and without judging it, clinging to it, or pushing it away. The present moment can only be as it is. Trying to change it only frustrates and exhausts you. Acceptance relieves you of this needless extra suffering. Learn to say “feelings of loss are normal and natural. It’s OK for me to feel this way.” Acceptance of an unpleasant state doesn’t mean you don’t have goals for the future. It just means you accept that certain things are beyond your control. The sadness, stress, pain, or anger is there whether you like it or not. It helps to accept what we cannot change. Acceptance doesn’t mean you have to like what’s happening. “Acceptance of the present moment has nothing to do with resignation,” writes Kabat-Zinn. “Acceptance doesn’t tell you what to do. What happens next, what you choose to do; that has to come out of your understanding of this moment.”
If you feel anxiety, for instance, you can accept the feeling, label it as anxiety—then direct your attention to something else instead. You watch your thoughts, perceptions, and emotions flit through your mind without getting involved. Thoughts are just thoughts. You don’t have to believe them and you don’t have to do what they say. Playfully have your thoughts but when they try to get you to ruminate about the past over and over or worry about what might happen in the future get the hook. Pull yourself back to the here and now. Try it!! It might work for you.
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