Mindfulness and Emotion: Acceptance or Avoidance?

I had a realisation today.  Being a long-term anxiety sufferer, I have an automatic tendency to over-analyse practically everything.  I am aware I do it, and am actively working on trying not to do it so much, using mindfulness to breathe, let go of the thoughts and be more present in what’s happening now.  It’s quite funny then, (and it’s OK to find it funny, I find humour a wonderful way of managing and understanding my interactions with the world) that the practice of mindfulness itself should spark a raging internal debate as far as emotions are concerned.  Now, bear with me whilst I try and make these thoughts into readable words that you will understand.

 

My last post addressed the nature of being; being present and accepting and not dwelling on events, thoughts or feelings in the past or future. My inner monologue, upon addressing emotions and their positive and negative effect on one’s feelings, went pretty much as such;

 

“So, the idea isn’t to let any emotions have any affect on your state of being?”

“Yes, I think so,”

“Good ones as well as bad ones?

“From what I gather… being  is living in the now and so that would mean not dwelling on the past, including happy feelings.”

“That doesn’t sound right.  Are you quite sure?”

No. I think I need to think about this a bit more,”

So I thought, and thought, and thought a bit more.  I had over-analysed to the point I had (wrongly) drawn the conclusion that in order to practice mindfulness, I would have to become distant and cold and avoid all emotions, both positive and negative.  After some further careful pondering, I realised the error of my ways, the first being that I had over-thought it!

It’s not about avoiding emotions, whether they are positive or negative.  A popular analogy, one I try and implicate myself, is to observe my emotions as an outsider, or like a train passing through a station.  It’s bloody difficult and I am still working on it, but being aware of the emotions I am feeling and the effect they are having on my body.  Being aware that the emotion will pass; just as the train is passing through the station and that I just have to ride it out for now.  It’s about accepting.

It seems  bit wrong, having to accept anything that leads to unpleasant feelings both mentally and physically. To me though, acceptance doesn’t mean the same as putting up with.  To me, acceptance of negative emotions means accepting that they are happening, being aware of how they are affecting me and trying to use mindfulness to centre myself and relax so that the effects aren’t as harrowing.  With positive emotions and feelings, I endeavour to use mindfulness to really make myself aware of what I am feeling, and the physical and mental effects it’s having on me.  Gosh I hope this makes sense and doesn’t seem to wishy-washy!

Would it be too cheesy to add “It ain’t what you do it’s the way that you do it?” in this case, the experience of emotion?

 

In summary: mindfulness isn’t detachment from or avoidance of emotions.  Otherwise we would be just like zombies and never have any kind of fun and that isn’t cool.  Mindfulness is about accepting emotions for what they are without letting them have a detrimental effect on our wellbeing.

 

 

 

 

 

Being vs Doing

I have had a much better day today, probably because I have had better sleep thanks to the baby sleeping in his own bed all night last night!  I have eaten better, and managed to ration myself to one episode of Sons of Anarchy so I could spend some time with my “Practical Mindfulness” book.

 

Tonight, I have been reading about the difference between being and doing.  To be mindful is to have a mind that is experiencing “being” rather than busy “doing”.  I shall try and articulate this a little more clearly; a busy mind with distraction and anxiety is not in the moment but elsewhere, so is therefore not able to experience mindfulness.

 

When the mind is busy doing, it is occupied by

  • Judgement
  • Self-Criticism
  • Problem-Solving
  • Engaging with feelings, past and present
  • Remembering
  • Speculating
  • Reacting

 

When we are simply being, (simply,ha!) our minds are aiming to experience the now with

  • non-judgement
  • Acceptance
  • Passivity
  • Non-Engagement
  • Living in the Moment
  • Attention
  • Responsiveness

 

It looks a lot when listed like this, however the latter list to me encompasses what mindfulness is all about, and how i can use it as a tool to deal with everyday anxieties and to help cope with addressing my phobia.  I found today that a few times I felt a bit short with the children; their behaviours were making me very quickly feel annoyed or angry (tell me a parent who doesn’t ever feel like this at one time or another) so I was really working on accepting my feelings, and responding to them without reacting.

 

I found that when I was putting toddler to bed, writing down my feelings helped me to deal with them so that I wasn’t dwelling on how angry and frustrated I felt when he decided it was time to squawk and climb out of bed several times.  And of course my patience and calm mindset paid off as eventually he stayed in bed and is sleeping soundly!  But my focus was on being mindful. accepting what was happening and letting any emotion I felt drift away onto the paper.

Ironically as I am typing this i can hear the baby stirring so it’s time to pack up the laptop and go settle him, but I am glad to be back on it with my studies and getting pleasantly lost in the world of Mindfulness!

Little bit Lost

Here is my confession; I’m struggling. With diet, exercise, CBT and generally looking after myself both physically and mentally. 

My mindfulness studies have become stalled, my diet is atrocious despite sticking to my lentern promise (aside from a pizza Hut last week) and I feel bloated, tired and a bit down.
I am struggling to recapture the motivation I had mere weeks ago. All I want to do is eat popcorn and watch sons of anarchy so it’s probably a good job I am on the final series. I never was able to ration things or have self control when it came to little pleasures. This is why ice.cream doesn’t last long in my freezer.
Hopefully I will come out of this soon and be back to maintaining myself physically and mentally. 

Here I Am!

It’s been a little while, and in that time I have not been following my exercise plan, practising Mindfulness minimally and becoming obsessed with watching Sons of Anacrchy whilst making a good go of consuming my own bodyweight in popcorn. I also had a battle with conjunctivitis, or rather the littest small did. Today is day 9 and his eye is still swollen, he has been quite poorly with it but is thankfully on the mend now. I also managed to scrape the side of the car on the fence this morning pulling out of the drive. 

I have, however, managed to stick to my lent commitment of giving up chocolate, sweets and takeaways for the duration. Only a few weeks left now!  Anyway, after talking to a friend on a rare night out at the weekend, I have decided to pick up my fitness challenge from day 20 and resume my commitment to good health. I have done as a bonus 50 squats and 50 crunches that I didn’t even need to do today. 
Not going to punish myself or feel bad for taking some time out, back on it onwards and upwards 🙂

Friday Daily Update

Completed day 17 of my fitness challenge today, it’s definitely getting harder and I have to complete the exercises in stages a lot but as long as I get it all done I am happy!

Also, tonight when I put toddler to bed I decided to have a go at reiki on him and he went down like a dream, no issues and no fuss! Will definitely have to keep this up!

Happy with my food intake as well, apart from the chilli crackers and popcorn.

Watching an episode of sons of Anarchy before bed with a glass of amaretto and salted caramel vodka. 

Thursday Update: Medical Stuff

15:40 I am tired and to be honest, a bit scared.  I knew having had an ultrasound on my gallbladder recently that I have gall stones, quite a of as it happens. I knew from my own research, and confirmed by a phone call from my doctor, that surgery was pretty much inevitable.

Now a month later, I am sat in the waiting room to see the consultant in surgical outpatients and I feel nervous. Aside from a c-section, I have never had surgery before and never been under general anaesthetic. 

Will they want to remove the stones or the actual organ itself?

How will the do this?

Will I have to stay in? (That I wouldn’t actually mind, a night off sounds wonderful)

How long will it take to recover?

16:12 Confirmed my gall bladder is to be removed under general anaesthetic as a day surgery case, looking at an approximate wait of 6 weeks followed by a 2-6 week recovery. Slightly worrying as I am self employed.

Also advised to avoid all fatty food, including cheese and butter. So naturally I bought a pack of sweets to deal with it so managed to fail lent on day 2. Ugh. Don’t think daily challenge will happen either because i am not there mentally, going to watch Sons of Anarchy and sob on the sofa.

Awakening

Firstly, happy pancake day!

I hate eaten so many at lunch time – both as part of my main and dessert – i think i have definitely had my fill for another year.

It feels quite ironic in a way experiencing such a thing as an awakening when I am very tired physically following a restless night courtesy of both toddler and baby, but I need to write this down.

 

Last night, whilst an upset and tired but unwilling to sleep toddler cuddled up to me in my bed I had a thought – would Reiki help him with his behaviour and overall help him feel a bit more calm and relaxed?  I was attuned to Reiki level 1 in 2006 but have rarely used it since, and i felt like i was channelling it last night as I lay awake and holding him.  this evening i  put out a call on Facebook for any friends who were knowledgeable in such matters to make themselves known and have had some fantastic responses which have really helped me and led to a bit of an epiphany.

 

Mindfulness is something i came across whilst undertaking CBT (which is still happening slowly but surely) and this has in a way reawakened my spiritual side but for me.  Not in a “I want to read for everyone and heal the world” way but a more “how can i be the best me and create a positive self and environment” way.  Ten years later, older and I like to think somewhat wiser, I am ready to use these skills primarily to help myself and my family.  If it leads elsewhere, so be it.

 

I don’t know if it’s the endorphins from my exercise (another day, another part of the 30 day challenge complete!) but I feel so positive about it right now.  And it doesn’t matter what other people think, this is for me.

Daily Update

A much better week at Speech and Language group for toddler today, and a very helpful and positive chat with the health visitor.  I have felt generally more energised today, and have remembered to read through my affirmations I posted about yesterday.  Still going with it though!

I am on day 14 of the 30 day full body toned workout challenge.

180 Jumping Jacks DONE (130,50)

135 squats DONE

11 push-ups DONE

75 crunches DONE (managed about 50 or so in a row and then had to have a couple of pauses)

1min 30 plank DONE (1min, 30 secs)

2min 20 wall-sit DONE (over 3 attempts, really felt the burn tonight!)

One of the affirmations I posted about yesterday is “I choose my own goals and my criteria for success in reaching those goals”  My goal is to complete this 30 day challenge, though I know it’s OK if I don’t manage 30 consecutive days.  And I allow myself to complete the exercises in stages, over the course of the day if necessary.  As long as I do the correct amount of exercises for the right amount of time I feel it successful.

I may have mentioned before, when performing any kind of exercise when it gets hard I try a mindful approach, feeling and embracing the pain and difficulty to try and bear it for longer and push myself.  It’s still difficult but definitely noticing a difference, which is why I note down how many attempts it takes me to reach each goal e.g. performing a 1min 30 plank in 2 sittings.

 

Something else I am proud of myself tonight; I watched “The Walking Dead” with no snacks apart from my between-exercise amaretti biscuits. Wow that makes me look like I have some kind of food problem!  Ha!

Yeah, I  was enjoying an amaertti biscuit after every completed exercise.  Makes me feel like I earned them!  So that was today’s update. Still trying to work on “I accept what happens to me without frustration”!

Growing yourself: Mindfulness and Your Potential

I would firstly like to say that a lot of my material I use for study comes from Practical Mindfulness: A Step-By-Step Guide (Ken A.Cerni, Dorking Kindersley 2015).  it’s such a vast, detailed yet easy-to-read book that I have made it the focus of my studies.  it will take a while to get through but it’s important that I take my time.  I have purchased a few other books to read at a more leisurely pace but this is the main one for me.

This afternoon I have been (whilst looking after the children so go me!) looking at the role of Mindfulness and realising one’s potential, living life as fully and a contentedly as circumstances allow.  To me it’s not in itself about being wistful and planning on making massive changes, it’s about living and growing in a way that’s manageable and realistic to now.

The idea is to focus on an authentic reality of my present experience, and detach myself from others’ opinions – a massive thing for me.  So stop wishing, fantasising and focising on what I want/haven’t got.

Be aware of artificial cues for failure or success!

Positive and negative events, e.g. good results vs bad results, can influence our attitudes and expectations. E.g. recently I didn’t do as well as expected in an assessment.  This doesn’t make me bad at what I do, it is a result I got along with information on how to improve.

Our inner dialogue can influence whether we build barriers that prevent us from realising our potential. “Can I see myself…?” is one of the most limiting thoughts we have as we often see ourselves askew.

On my phone, and pictures above, I have typed a list of self-realisation statements to look at frequently and remind myself that I am ME, and not the sum of what others think of me, to remind myself to live in the moment and accept what happens without frustration.

 

As I mentioned earlier, although I follow a main text for my studies here are the books I purchased today.  I’m definitely into my overdraft but I felt it was important to buy them, enjoy them and learn from them.

 

 

Last but not least, my daily fitness challenge targets have been hit!  Which is good because I have put on half a stone in a week.  My food intake has just become ridiculous, so I really need to rein myself in.

Jumping Jacks – 170

Squats – 130

Push-ups – 9

Crunches – 75 (was meant to be 70 but I forgot so did more)

Plank – rest

Wall Sit – 2 minutes

 

This is only day 12.  I’m not even officially half way through yet and it’s only going to get harder!  Again, with the stupid food attitude, I was having an Amaretti biscuit between exercises.  Stupid.  Then had popcorn and chocolate whilst watching “Call the Midwife”.   You’ve probably noticed the flow and style of this blog seems to change a lot – that’s because I’m still finding my own style and I make plans and change them.  I want it to be my own diary as much as sharing info on my mental health development.  Thank you for sharing it with me.

Daily Update 

Seriously…these blog post titles are boring me let alone anyone else but I can’t think of anything more relevant!  

160 jumping jacks: DONE (100, 60)

Squats: REST 

Push-ups: REST 

65 crunches:

1min 30 plank: DONE (30s, 30s, 30s)

2min wall sit:

Making a really healthy chilli for tea tonight. Maybe it will counter the pick n mix sweets I have been scoffing all afternoon? 
As you can see, not all of the exercises were completed for today’s challenge, and I had a lot of sugary snacks whilst watching a film tonight. Not a smart move. Must try better tomorrow!