For this APA Mental Health Blog Party, I’m going to get right down to it. If there’s one major lesson I’ve learned it’s that we can’t always control what happens to us, but true freedom lies in cultivating the awareness to choose how we want to respond.
Mindfulness is key to mental health.
In my work I see people who have suffered from addiction, anxiety, depression, and multiple forms of trauma. The fact is, they didn’t choose to struggle with this pain and stress, it just happened to them.
An unknown person once said:
“A diamond is just a piece of charcoal that handled stress exceptionally well.”
But how do we get to the place where we can handle this stress exceptionally well? That’s the trick. It doesn’t just happen overnight and it’s often a lifetime practice and one that thrives with patience.
For most of us, realizing that we don’t have to be held hostage by our uncomfortable feelings is a revelation. We can choose to hold them and relate to them from a place of curiosity and warmth. But before we can even do that we need to be aware that the feeling is there.
There is a tremendous amount of freedom in this and is also a practice in connecting with our own inner wisdom. We all have the power to be aware and to break free from the habitual ways of living that bind us. I wholeheartedly believe this.
The great question for you is how do your emotions run your life? Does fear hold you back from engaging in things that could make you happy? Are there moments in your life where you shut down from communication because you feel overwhelmed or angry? Does shame keep you stuck in the same addictive cycles?
Here is 3 steps to get started on regaining control over your life and beginning to recognize how much more freedom there really is.
Of course these instructions are simple, but this is not an easy task. Recognize that you have a choice in how you relate to your feelings, choose this different response, and start recognize that even though you can’t control what happens to you, you can control how you respond to it and this is where freedom lies.
As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.
Photo by Christina Rutz, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.
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Last reviewed: 18 May 2011