Mindfulness and Acceptance tasks

Following my previous post Thought Challenging or Thought Accepting, here is a few tasks that may help to explore on how to “accept” your thought without causing too much emotional distress.

Task 1

Pick a word that may cause slight distress in you (e.g. “cockroach”, “snake”, “work”, “boss”, “kids”, “boyfriend”, “presentation” etc). Now repeat this particular word as quick as you can (while still making sure that the word is pronounced clearly) for 30 seconds.

This tasks doesn’t make you feel better about “presentation” itself, but after repeating the word for so many times, you probably can no longer take the word so literally – it loses its meaning. Same goes to negative thought (e.g. “I’m a failure”, “everyone hates me”). If those thoughts pop up in your mind, try to see them only as some words, accept them as they are, but not to relate yourself to them, as if it’s just some unrelated persons saying it to you.

Task 2

Sit down in an undisturbed place, close your eyes and imagine a tiger (or a dog if you find it difficult to picture a tiger in your mind). Let the tiger does whatever it wants to do there in your mind, not to control what it does or doesn’t. If the tiger stays quietly, let it be; if it moves around, let it be, too. Do this for about 5 minutes.

Next, for 5 minutes, try NOT to think about tiger at all. Do not think about tiger. Whenever it pops up in your mind, suppress it, avoid it.

What do you realize? Which part of task 2 is harder? To accept the tiger being there and does whatever it likes, or to suppress the tiger, avoid the tiger?

Task 3

Take a few minutes to practise to complete the following sentence, “Right now I’m aware of …”, and putting different descriptions at the ending each time. For example, “Right now, I’m aware of the brightness of the screen”; “Right now, I’m aware of the sound of the air-conditioner”; “Right now, I’m aware of some numbness on my left foot”; “Right now I’m aware of my thoughts on completing the homework”. Name and describe, avoid making judgement. By using language to describe things, you get to control your attention and get to connect to your field of consciousness, rather than its content, so you’re becoming like an observer to your experience. This task requires more practice!

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Now imagine this: A and B fell over badly in public.

A thinks, “this is so embarrassing, ah, but it’s so funny at the same time”, so he laughs at his own carelessness and let go of it.

B thinks, “this is so embarrassing! Everyone is going to laugh at me and watch me like a clown”, he gets so angry and ashamed.

Most of the time, it’s how we relate ourselves to those incidents, thoughts, feelings etc, it’s really not what that happens. If we choose to calm ourselves down and accept whatever that happens, that come to our minds, and allow ourselves to feel the waves of our emotions, the discomfort will soon no longer be “discomforting”.

2 thoughts on “Mindfulness and Acceptance tasks

  1. How do you make a difference between circumstances and just a thought? Some thoughts are pretty adequate and label them as just thoughts seems… confusing.
    For example, if I think “It’s not a good idea to cross the road now, there are too many cars”, it seems more like a circumstance than thought. And same thing about wishes. For example, I think “I want ice cream”, is it really correct to take it only as a thought?

  2. Thank you for pointing that out, O. That does indeed need some clarification.

    I think “seeing thoughts as only thoughts” are most applicable to (1) ruminations about the past (2) worry/anxiety about the future. Those are very meaningless acts(thoughts), as we want to live in the here and now (although we can still reminisce beautiful memories in the past or plan for the future – both make you feel better, happier, less anxious now, not the other way round).

    In fact one easier way is to practice mindfulness first. When we’re able to always bring our thoughts back to the here and now, we should get less confused with what’s “only thoughts” and what’re meaningful/practical thoughts. So perhaps start with some breathing skills, muscle relaxation, meditation, checking “is it related to the here and now?”

    Hope this helps. Do let me know if I can make clear anything further.

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