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Freedom comes with Mindfulness

Rachael Lewinski, Director of Wellness & Marketing

July 6th, 2020

Mindful Mondays

Freedom comes with Mindfulness

Freedom is on our minds these days as we come out of our very unique 4th of July 2020 weekend this year. It inspired me to reflect upon how mindfulness encourages freedom within our minds, bodies, and lives.One of the benefits that the practice of mindfulness provides regarding freedom is helping us be free from negative thoughts and emotions owning us and our actions. Our behaviors are often reflexive responses to our emotions and thoughts and if they are more of our strong/difficult emotions such as anger or sadness, our unconscious behaviors may become devastating to ourselves and others.

One of the best practices to help us with creating freedom in our minds from reactive, unhealthy autopilot behaviors is Labeling your Thoughts and Emotions. We can train ourselves to more often step into a space of awareness, non-judgment, and curiosity when experiencing our emotions, allowing ourselves to experience and be with them fully, and therefore, "owning" them, vs the other way around. We can then consciously step out of that space and choose a more wise response to the situation. Practice these simple steps today:

  • Find a mindful position or use this practice when you notice yourself becoming irritable or upset in every day situations.
  • Focus on any emotions you may be feeling at this time. When you notice an emotion come up, take a slow deep breath.
  • Imagine you are observing yourself experience your emotions from a space or state of kindness and curiosity, perhaps stepping outside yourself. Perhaps you might think you are observing a good friend experience these emotions.
  • Label your emotion or thought that precedes the feeling. Perhaps you say in your mind "Frustrated!", "Not helpful", "Fear", "Worrying", "Overwhelmed"
  • Just that act of labeling puts space between the feeling and your subsequent action. It can help detach you from automatically moving forward with saying or doing something you may regret later or could make the situation worse.
  • Once you have given yourself the space and permission to feel your feeling, take another few deep breaths to create calm in your body and mind, and then make a choice of what to do next.

According to the statement below from the Psychology Today article interviewing Loch Kelly author of Shift into Freedom: The Science and Practice of Open-Hearted Awareness, emotions last about 90 seconds. That small step in labeling your feeling, noticing what you notice, feeling what you feel, without reacting can give you those 90 seconds of freedom from an automatic negative reaction.

"Emotions themselves are not a problem. The goal of awakening is to live a fully embodied human life. Emotions and thoughts get tied in knots however, and create secondary suffering. It’s being angry about being angry or fearful about being fearful. Disturbing emotions are mostly based on ignorance and by this small sense of self that feels threatened. Recent studies by some neuroscientists have shown that when emotion is felt fully without reacting, identifying, fighting or fleeing, it lasts ninety seconds. However, if that fear reminds you of the last time you were afraid or triggers an early childhood memory, then you get engaged and you’re regressed back to that fear rather than what just happened."

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