Mindfulness: Don’t believe everything you think

Photo by Camila Quintero Franco on Unsplash

Two weeks ago I wrote about four guideposts on the path to a more nourishing kind of love than many of us are used to experiencing. Last week I went into greater detail about the first guidepost, self-love. This week I’ll elaborate on the second, which is mindfulness.

The instant someone begins taking seriously the importance of self-love, they will also begin to notice how difficult a practice it actually is. Have you ever stopped to pay attention to what the voice in your head is saying about yourself?

“I’m an idiot!”

“I can’t do anything right!”

“What’s wrong with me??!”

Sometimes we’re completely oblivious to this background commentary, and it isn’t until our self-flagellation is overheard by a loved one that we’re made aware of how habitual this form of self-abuse has become. It may seem trite and overplayed, but the “would you ever say that to a close friend or a child that you cared for?” litmus test can be pretty sobering. Many of the people I work with are highly compassionate individuals who care deeply for others, and yet when it comes to loving themselves, all bets are off.

So how can mindfulness help? Self-esteem is essentially just a set of beliefs about oneself and one’s worth. Beliefs are essentially just thoughts that our mind is in the habit of producing. Mindfulness can be seen as a certain relationship with one’s thoughts and beliefs. Most of us are used to believing the thoughts that come most easily to us, simply because our minds produce them often. It makes sense. If I’m stuck in a room with a voice coming in over an intercom and that’s the only voice I ever hear, it’s only natural that I’ll start to identify with that voice.

This is why it’s important to have a little bit of knowledge about the nature of the mind. Its job is to produce thoughts and solve problems with the ultimate purpose of keeping me alive. Its understanding of the world was shaped by my limited lived experience and my limited ability to interpret that experience, often at a very young age. Any honest reflection will tell me that I’ve had countless thoughts that ended up being untrue. Now, I’ve also had countless thoughts that ended up being true, as far as I know. So what safe conclusion can I come to about my thoughts? Ultimately, all I can be certain of is that my thoughts are made of words. Those words only have power if I decide that they do. So, the guidepost here is the knowledge that the mind is an incessant chatterbox whose job is to look for problems based on prior experience, so it’s helpful to hold lightly anything it tells me. Even if I can’t get the voice in my mind to agree that I am good enough all the time, that does not have to shake my faith in my basic goodness.

The most important thing to understand about mindfulness is that it takes practice. Old habits are extremely difficult to break even when they are habits that you can actually see, like smoking or chewing your nails. Mental habits such as the type of verbal self-abuse that many people subject themselves to are much better at flying under the radar, unless we cultivate a practice of noticing what we are thinking and feeling without getting caught up in or identified with the mental traffic.

In order to support you in building a mindfulness practice, I’m offering a free online workshop on March 19, 2021, about how mindfulness is understood in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Join us and see how these tools can help with anxiety and depression as well.

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Upcoming workshop – Friday, March 19, 2021, 12-1pm PST: “Class: ACT – Transforming anxiety and depression in distressing times using mindfulness tools from Acceptance & Commitment Therapy”

Do you struggle with depression, anxiety, or low self-esteem? Do you have trouble completing valued tasks and reaching your goals? Have you had enough of “positive thinking”? In this hour-long online interactive workshop, you will learn four of the six core principles of Acceptance & Commitment Therapy, an empirically based psychological intervention that uses acceptance, mindfulness, and behavioral strategies to ease suffering and increase one’s sense of meaning in life. Learn how to increase your psychological flexibility so that you can begin to take committed action guided by your values. Click here for more info.

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Nauser Bear is a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT#123099, licensed with the BBS as Nicholas Reynolds) in California. To work with Nauser, send an email to nauserbeartherapy@gmail.com, call (510) 394-5373, or schedule a free 20-minute consultation by clicking here.

Disclaimer: This blog and comments on it do not constitute medical or mental health advice. If you are in need of support and live in California, contact me to set up a consult to see if working together is a fit. Otherwise, seek mental health support in your area. If you are in danger of hurting yourself or someone else, please call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention hotline, which is available 24/7, at 800-273-8255.

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