I recently came across a great post on Facebook, which referred to a ‘Mindfulness 101’ poster created by Kate Alan, in which a cute little bunny talks us through how to use mindfulness to deal with emotions. I’ll give you the link at the end.
I loved it because it was so simple and straightforward, and yet this is something that trips an awful lot of people up.
One of the key reasons why many of us are in a constant flurry of activity, getting stressed and burnt out along the way, is because we are trying hard to avoid negative emotions. Deep down we may feel sad, or angry or anxious, but so long as we can keep busy enough, we don’t have to feel those things, right?
Unfortunately, wrong. The feelings are still there, but by not acknowledging them we actually feed them and they grow bigger. They start to affect our lives anyway, as we snap at those we love, or find ourselves in tears over something on TV, or get ill because we’re so exhausted.
If we can learn to catch these thoughts and feelings as they arise in us, we can also learn that they actually don’t need to have any power over us. It’s only when we hide from them that they grow into the big scary bogeyman in the cupboard.
Mindfulness can help us develop the muscle of being able to notice and sit with these thoughts or feelings, like an observer. ‘Oh, how interesting, I’m noticing a feeling of jealousy and insecurity about Joe getting praised for his work.’
Notice how I phrased that. Not ‘I am jealous and insecure.’ A really key thing to learn is that you are not your feelings or your thoughts. As the saying goes, ‘don’t believe everything you think (or feel).’ These thoughts and feelings may come up for a variety of reasons, but you don’t have to listen to them or believe them. Just notice and acknowledge them.
It’s fine if you don’t notice the thought or feeling in this detached way until after you’ve thrown a wobbly or burst into tears. These kinds of thoughts and feelings come from the lizard or chimp brain, and they’re super fast and super automatic. But every time you notice the thought or feeling and recognise that it isn’t really you, and that you have a choice about whether to believe it and attach to it, you are weakening that automatic response, and creating a new and more useful neural pathway. In time, you’ll start to be able to notice the thought before you act on it. And that way freedom lies.
If you want to see how the bunny rabbit puts this , here’s the link.