“Try this next time you are avoiding your emotion… This simple act begins the process of rewiring your brain. As you increase awareness of what’s going on in your brain, you will be on your way to feeling better about life.”
Here’s a way to understand Mindfulness even better. One of my therapists taught me the 3 As of mindfulness. They are 1) Awareness, 2) Acknowledgment, and 3) Acceptance.
Awareness is where you gain access to all of your power to change. This is huge! Some people have a really hard time with this. It is not only damaging to themselves but can also be very damaging to others. If you are able to continually become aware of yourself and your brain, you can do anything.
A basic but powerful meditation skill to help with this is the noting technique. I touched on this in Part 1. Maybe you tried it. Without going too in depth, what this is is when you are aware of a thought or feeling you are having, identify it and call it what it is. Is it a thought, feeling, or body sensation? I find that it helps to say it loud. And be careful with the words you use. Rather than saying “I’m anxious.” I might say instead “I notice I’m having a feeling of anxiety.” If it’s a thought, identify what the thought is and tell yourself “that’s just a thought.” This technique helps to stop identifying so personally with thoughts and reacting emotionally. It creates a little space between you and the thought, emotion, or sensation. Try this next time you are avoiding your emotion. Notice it. Identify it. This simple act begins the process of rewiring your brain. As you increase awareness of what’s going on in your brain, you will be on your way to feeling better about life.
I like to think of acknowledgment as what you would do if someone you cared deeply about came to you with a problem. But with yourself. If your friend told you “I’m such a bad person. I’m worthless. Why do I even try when I just screw it up all the time!” Would you tell them they’re stupid for even having thoughts like that? No. You wouldn’t stand for it. You would listen to them. You would love them and not judge them. You would validate their struggle and do whatever you could to support them. Acknowledgment is like doing these things for yourself when your brain is coming at you.
My brain can send me things that are so mean to myself. And these mean thoughts cause me to feel horrible. But thoughts are not always facts. My life coach, Brooke Castillo, says you need to commit to “Have your own back. And “Refuse to put yourself down.” Your brain does things for very good reasons. Thought patterns are learned and your brain will do what it’s good at if left unmanaged. It can be helpful to think of your thoughts and emotions as a zoo animal. You are at the zoo to see what the animal is going to do. Observing with fascination and curiosity and nothing more. Practicing this will create even more space between you and your thoughts and feelings.
Acceptance saves us so much trouble and frustration. It allows us to stop fighting against things that we cannot change. Your thoughts and feelings will inevitably keep coming. They will be positive, negative, or neutral. They will come and they will go. The analogy I like for this one is being in a riptide while swimming in the ocean. A riptide is a strong current that pulls you further and further out to sea. If you try to swim directly against it, toward the shore, it will win every time. It is a natural current that is stronger than us humans. If we accept this, then we can work with how nature works. The way to get back to shore from a riptide is to swim parallel to shore, until you are no longer in the riptide. Then you swim toward the shore. Accepting that thoughts and feelings will come, good or bad, and they will go (if we don’t hold on to them), good or bad, is a very important step in mindfulness. Allow your thoughts and feelings to happen.
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