Mindfulness involves paying attention to whatever is in our present moment experience, with an attitude of openness, curiosity, and non-judgemental acceptance.
How can mindfulness practice help with acceptance in the current climate?
How easy is it to accept what is happening around you now and not let it impact on your thoughts and behaviour? In the current climate of COVID-19, many of us are struggling to deal with how our everyday lives have changed, and we are often overwhelmed with fears about what lies ahead. Mindfulness practice can help us control our thoughts and improve our response, rather than reacting automatically to stressful situations. It can help us maintain our focus in the present and prevent our negative thoughts escalating and leading to stress and anxiety (or coronanxiety).
Thinking of how we respond to an everyday annoyance (rather than the more complex issue of a global pandemic!), here is a simple example of mindful acceptance which we can all relate to:
Reactive response: “I don’t like rain. I wish it wasn’t raining. My day would be better if it wasn’t raining. My day is ruined. Every day is like this. It’s always like this.”
Mindful acceptance: “Yes, it’s raining.”
This example illustrates how our thoughts about one factor (which is outwith our control) can lead to a series of negative thoughts which can last throughout the day and in fact, spoil our day. In everyday life, there will be some sources of pressure where you really cannot change anything, not even the way you think or feel about them. In these cases, rather than try to control or change the negative thoughts and emotions aroused, watch them pass through your mind and accept them.
Karen Barr, Mindfulness Trainer for In Equilibrium, shares her expertise on mindful acceptance:
“The premise of this example (the weather), which aligns well with the pandemic, is the notion of fighting against things you can do nothing about.
The Serenity Poem sums it up well:
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference” Reinhold Niebuhr.
A different (maybe deeper) notion is that we spend so much time wishing things were different and disregarding our negative emotions. We are largely taught - and exacerbated by social media - that we have to be ‘perfect,’ i.e. never angry, resentful, jealous, shameful, guilty etc. While these are not very nice emotions to have, they are all part of being human. Acceptance can be in recognising when we are in those states and rather than pushing them away; we can embrace them as part of the human condition.
Using the analogy of a beach ball, imagine you are trying to push it under the water. It takes a lot of effort, and no matter what we do, it bounces back up again as soon as we stop paying attention. But if we learn to accept that we can’t keep it down, it will just float away!”
A mindful approach
It is important to note that mindful acceptance does not mean that we are putting up with difficult situations and not considering ways to improve things. By using a mindful approach, we are pausing, in ‘doing mode’ and being aware of what the situation is, without judgment and accepting our feelings about the situation. With practice, this approach can improve our response to the unprecedented challenges we are facing at home and work.
As well as focussing on acceptance, practising mindfulness techniques can help you:
- Identify ‘doing’ and ‘being’ mode and recognise ‘auto-pilot’ and conscious choice
- Reduce anxiety and stress and improve wellbeing
- Switch off from your working day and improve ‘work-life balance’
- Face your fears in a constructive way
- Deal with uncertainty
- Improve your focus and attention
- Increase compassion and empathy
- Enhance working relationships
To find out more about training in Mindfulness practice, click here to visit our open course programme with details of virtual, live, open courses with Karen Barr.
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