“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” – Viktor Frankl
In last week’s post, “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction: Week Seven,” we explored the importance of taking care of yourself through becoming increasingly mindful of how each behavior impacts your physical, mental, and emotional health. Each action and inaction that you choose has a direct or indirect effect on your overall well being. The trick is to begin to tune in to how your behavioral choices affect your health. Once you become more mindful of how your regular habits impact your overall functioning, you gain greater power to maintain behaviors that are healthy and discard those that hold you back.
Many people avoid conscious awareness of how what they do impacts their general well being, because stark self-awareness often results in a gnawing sense that something needs to change. Why would we want to resist changing behaviors in ways that are truly in our best interest? The answer for most people is that it is uncomfortable to change things that are “familiar,” even when they are unhealthy. We are creatures of habit in many ways, and when we teach our minds and bodies to become accustomed to dealing with stress and joy in particular ways, we become very attached to these behaviors.
It should be a relief to know that simply because you are “attached” to dealing with life’s events in certain ways, that doesn’t mean it has to be that way. Once you become conscious of how your behavioral choices impact your health, you have the freedom and the responsibility to do something with that knowledge. Most lasting changes don’t occur overnight, so be patient with yourself as you pry yourself loose from old ways of behaving. The first step is consciously acknowledging how you choose to act in certain situations and then deciding that you wish to do something differently in the future.
MBSR Week Eight: Reflection & Change
Problems or obstacles occur in life as a result of external circumstances or as a result of your own actions. When hurdles present themselves that seem insurmountable or fundamentally unsolvable, there can be a draining sense of exhaustion through repeatedly trying to solve the problem. During times when you feel particularly “stuck”, feeling as though you have tried everything you can think of, do something different.
For now, simply accept circumstances just as they are without trying to change anything. Let it be. Allow yourself the physical, mental, and emotional space to step back from the problem to the perspective of an unbiased observer. Give yourself the gift of letting go of your struggle to rage against, deny, or fight to change the circumstances. Accept them just as they are… completely.
When you allow yourself this act of kindness through radical acceptance, you may notice an ironic twist occur. Acceptance in and of itself is an act of change. When you choose to fully accept reality just as it is, you have changed yourself from someone blinded by frustration or denial into someone who is willing to look at the problem with fresh eyes and a calm heart. Acceptance allows you the peaceful space necessary to come up with potential solutions to the problem that you would be unable to see in your state of anger, frustration, or helplessness.
MBSR Week Eight: Practices
During this final week of your personal journey with MBSR, take the time to reflect on what changes you have noticed and how your own actions have contributed to those changes. Recognize as you move forward that even short bouts of practicing mindfulness can significantly impact your well being in a positive way. Decide how willing you are to commit to practicing your favorite mindfulness exercise for just a few minutes (or more) each day. Make your commitments to yourself even more important than commitments you make the other people… take yourself and your well being seriously.
What have you found to be most helpful during the last seven weeks of your MBSR practice? Record your thoughts and feelings about your experience(s) in your MBSR journal during each day of this final week. What mindfulness activities that you have practiced feel most realistic for you to integrate into your daily routine?
- Decide which formal mindfulness meditation practice you would like to do for each day of this final week of MBSR. Commit to your practice and then carry out this decision to the best of your ability.
- At the end of Week Eight of MBSR, reflect on your overall experience and record your thoughts and feelings in your journal. Reflect on how your levels of stress changed over the course of the program and how you met difficulties in life in a different way as a result of taking part in this course.
- Congratulate yourself for reaching this point in your personal experience with MBSR, no matter how “much” or how “little” you were able to do. It isn’t easy to practice formal mindfulness meditation exercises on a daily basis, especially when being mindful can feel like a somewhat foreign concept when life is hectic.
Take the benefits that you received from your experience with MBSR into your daily life. Take the time to notice any and all positive changes that you experienced within yourself and in your interactions with others. Take these positive changes, no matter how small, very seriously. The trick to changing behaviors and building a more mindful life is noticing what works and doing it. Conversely, when you notice things that don’t work, stop doing them. Ultimately, the power to make real changes in your life is up to you. It always has been and always will be your choice. What are you willing to do differently as you move forward?
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This article is not intended to be a substitute for therapy or MBSR as developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn. This article is intended to introduce you to the basic concepts of MBSR that you can practice in your daily life. If you are interested in exploring MBSR in greater depth, you can explore an online course or a directory of MBSR classes worldwide.
Alidina, S. (2011). Mindfulness for dummies. West Sussex, England: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Featured image: Ready for the opening day by Steve-h / CC BY-SA 2.0