Mindful acceptance is a simple technique to cope better with difficult or challenging emotions like anxiety, sadness, anger, or shame. It uses skills from cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness practices to help us learn to better cope with difficult or distressing emotions.
Mindful Acceptance means observing and accepting what you are experiencing. Think of yourself as the sky and the emotions as the weather. You simply observe and accept the changing weather. Here are some simple steps to help you practice mindful acceptance by observing and accepting the four parts of your emotions.
(1) Scan your body with the intention of observing and accepting sensations. Notice the qualities of the sensations and make space for them without trying to change them.
(2) Label your feelings. What is the emotion that goes along with that sensation? Allow it to be what it is without trying to change it.
(3) Watch your thoughts as they come and go, as if you were standing by a stream watching leaves flow down the stream. Name the thought to yourself, “There’s a thought that ________”. Then let that thought go and wait for the next one to come.
(4) Notice urges. Notice if the emotion comes with an urge to do or not do something. Allow yourself to just notice the urge as an urge, without acting on it.
(5) Notice how distressing the emotion is on a scale of 0 – 10, with 0 being not at all and 10 being as bad as you can imagine. Don’t judge, just notice.
(6) Begin again with sensations. Run through the entire sequence 2 or 3 times.
Using this process the distressing emotions will naturally calm down all by themselves. Sometimes they will last longer, but it is still a useful exercise. Emotions will always come and go in their own time. We don’t need to be afraid of them.
The more you practice these skills, the better able to cope with difficult emotions. It will become easier to notice and accept your difficult emotions rather than running from them or acting out on them. This will give you more freedom in how you live your life and free you from wasting time and energy trying to escape your emotions.