Mindfulness Activity #15
Have you ever had days where you are trying not to think about something upsetting, but it seems like you can’t stop thinking about that very thing? You tell yourself not to think about it, but it comes back stronger? Many people right now are finding it difficult not to think about their health, the health of others, finances, etc…Many people have had painful things from their past that they find it difficult to move past. Maybe it is a current problem that you can’t control.
Whether something is painful or pleasant, we need to notice or attend to the problem. It’s the way we make good choices in our life and create the kind of life we want. But, once we know what we need to know from any situation, the information ceases to be useful and can cause us unnecessary suffering…running something over and over again in our mind, along with the unpleasant emotion (fear, anger, sadness) it brings.
It is hard, if not impossible, to tell yourself to stop thinking about something. As soon as I decide I am going on a diet, all I can think about is chocolate cake and Hershey’s Kisses. The whole point of mindfulness is that all of these practices we do each day are training or disciplining our minds. When you train your mind, then you can control your emotions and behavior so you can make choices in order to have your best life possible.
So, how can you turn off an unpleasant thought, script or feeling that seems stuck? The trick is not to tell your mind to stop thinking about it, it IS TO TELL YOUR MIND WHAT TO NOTICE.
In other words, we can more easily direct our full attention towards something else…almost anything else. Make a cup of tea and notice the smell, then take a shower and notice the feeling of the warm water. Attending to the present moment gives us relief from painful or unnecessary worries.
But, you say the thoughts or worries keep coming back. Indeed they do, so the practice of mindfulness needed is what we call “turning the mind.” It is making a decision or commitment not to think about something when it is not useful to do so or when it is not useful to do so excessively. Make a commitment to watch news once or twice a day only rather than a steady stream. Whatever is troubling you, assuming you are making or have made steps to do what you can to address it, make yourself a promise that you will notice when it comes back and turn your attention to something else. Dive into noticing anything other than the upsetting thought. You need to do this over and over. When you do, you will notice that eventually, the worry becomes less intrusive.
So the practice for today is to sit comfortably. Take a deep breath in and call to mind something that causes you unpleasant emotions today. Make a commitment to turn towards something else. Using your senses is helpful. Notice something you see, or smell, notice the taste of your breakfast, do a puzzle, talk to someone about their problems, do exercise and notice your heart rate go up…you have the idea. Now the practice for today (all day today) is to continue to do this turning of the mind, intentionally, away from what’s bothering you towards something else you can lock into using your senses.
I wish you a peaceful and productive day!