Mindfulness has been shown to improve our mood, reduce stress, improve our performance and reduce pain. Part of mindfulness is to accept the present moment as it is, to be fully present. Practicing mindfulness as we go about our daily routine can be a challenge. One of those challenges is in accepting reality as it is. This is often particularly difficult for emotionally sensitive people who experience the emotions of life so intensely.
More than one fairy tale is about having wishes that come true. We’ve all made wishes, some more important than others. Sometimes though wishing can become a daily routine. You wake up , turn over, and say, “I wish I didn’t have to go to work today.” You stay in bed longer than planned and then wish you didn’t have to rush to get to work on time. You walk into your closet and wish you had an outfit that fit and then wish you could lose ten pounds. On the way to work you wish the traffic would clear. You get to work and wish you had time to stop for coffee before you have to start your day. At your desk you wish you didn’t have to write that report and that you had a different boss. Your significant other calls and you wish he or she would be more serious about marriage or career. Maybe you wish you could take a vacation or that you could afford to pay someone to clean your house.
Many people wish at times that their life situations were different. There’s probably no harm in wishing unless you find yourself constantly wishing life were different and experiencing a chronic discontent. Consistently wishing things were different is non-acceptance of what is. When you are wishing for life to be different you may be missing out on the life you have. In addition, for some people, wishing builds dissatisfaction and suffering.
Chronic complaining is also a way of not accepting reality as it is. You might complain because it is raining, too cold, or too hot. You might complain about your boss being too demanding or your spouse gaining weight. Complaining is about being dissatisfied with what is and that is not acceptance.
When you complain repeatedly, you are focused on what you don’t like about your world. Soemtimes that builds discontent and leads to more complaining. Over time you may find that you are focused more on what is wrong than what is right about your day. You may even ignore the positives and only focus on what didn’t go well. In that way your reality can become distorted and your suffering increases.
Another way of not accepting reality is to say that events or people should not be the way they are. You might believe that your daughter shouldn’t quit her job to tour with a band or that you shouldn’t have to work so hard or that doctors shouldn’t make mistakes. The word “should” implies that there is a set way lives should be lived and the universe should operate and the situation you are talking about deviates from those rules..
Maybe what you truly mean by saying your daughter shouldn’t quit her job to join a band is that she is taking a high risk that is unlikely to pay off and is likely to have negative consequences. She is more likely to have difficulty paying her bills if she quits her job, for example. In that case perhaps you are using “should” to mean a better or safer choice. You might use “should” to indicate that something does not fit our sense of fairness. For example, children “shouldn’t” get cancer or you shouldn’t lose valuable, irreplaceable photographs of your family.
A woman once told me she did not go to the doctor for several years because she was afraid of what he would say. She believed she had a serious illness and did not want to know for sure. A gentleman shared that for several weeks he avoided being alone with his wife for fear she would ask for a divorce. There are many ways of avoiding and most if not all are ways of not accepting reality as it is. When you are mindful, you notice your fear and do not let it control you in ways that are not consistent with reality.
Being aware of problems is different from shoulding, complaining, wishing or avoiding. If you notice a harmful situation and work to change it, that is problem solving.
Try going for an hour or a day noticing when you are complaining, shoulding, or wishing things were different. Notice and bring yourself back to the presnt moment and reality. Acceptance is not about agreeing with the way things are, it is simply an acknowledgement that reality is what it is. You can accept what is and still work to change it.
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Last reviewed: 17 Mar 2013