MINDFULNESS AND ACCEPTANCE
Regulating mood and working through problems
Mindfulness is a mental process whereby we maintain a moment-by-moment awareness of particular aspects of our experience without judgment, evaluation, or abstraction. It can be done formally, such as in mindfulness meditation practice, or it may occur spontaneously, like when you are very engrossed in an enjoyable activity. When practicing mindfulness intentionally, the goal is to sustain attention on various aspects of our experience, without judgment or reaction, for a particular duration. Sometimes people pair mindfulness with a specific ritual, such as sitting a certain way each time or focusing on a word or phrase.
From a mental health perspective, practicing mindfulness regularly can help regulate mood by reducing emotional reactivity to stress and triggers. Similar to how practicing drills in sports can improve successful outcomes in a game, practicing mindfulness can improve emotional functioning in real life.
People often confuse mindfulness with “letting go”, but nothing is actually let go of, so much as accepted as it is. Sometimes difficult thoughts, feelings, memories, and experiences arise. Mindfulness practice can help us navigate these difficult experiences and build psychological flexibility.
Oftentimes the word “acceptance” is problematic for people because they assume that to accept something means to agree or like it. In counseling, acceptance in its simplest form is to just acknowledge its existence; to notice it. You can accept that you did or did not agree or like something. One way to work through problems is through the process of mindful acceptance.
Many people start a mindfulness practice without the assistance of a counselor. But sometimes it helps to have a supportive coach to go over your specific technique or process the experience. Traumatic memories also can occur during mindfulness, which may include experiencing increased emotional discomfort. Having a counselor to assist in healing trauma and associated symptoms can be helpful in establishing a mindfulness practice.