You see mindfulness invites us to feel into every moment for exactly what it is. It wants us to experience whatever we feel in that present moment. Changing is not necessary. Neither our thoughts or our feelings.
When we are told to find gratitude in a really shitty situation we are being told to change our way of thinking. So do we forsake how we feel or what we think in order to see things from a more positive perspective? Certainly moving positions and opening ourselves to different perspectives cannot be discounted but should we be doing it in order to change our feelings. The intentions for mindfulness practice are totally different to what I have been seeing online recently. It is NOT changing anything in order to force yourself to feel a certain way.
In fact forcing change can often set you up for feeling worse than when you began. Change nothing. Allow yourself to be. This is what mindfulness practices really ask of you. At the end of the day intention plays a big role in what I think these individuals who are asking us to change about our feelings or thoughts.
Let’s start to examine who we are changing our feelings for? Most times the people who are delivering the message to either “change your mindset” or to “be grateful” are saying it because they simply do not know how to handle your emotions. And honestly that’s okay with me. If someone doesn’t know how to handle my emotions, fine and dandy here because well half the time I do not know how to handle my emotions. But please don’t tell me my emotions are wrong and I need to change them.
I think I would appreciate someone either reminding me to be WITH what I am feeling rather than asking me to change my feelings because it makes them feel uncomfortable. Even better maybe if they just sat with me while I was with those feelings and said nothing, just sat in silence and well just be with me while I feel like shit. That would be good. Unless I am ranting and then well maybe I dunno rant with me and guide me gently through the rant with well place ‘where do you feel it in your body?’ questions. But please do not tell me to change how I feel or what to think!
Practicing mindfulness in those difficult to explain or highly emotionally charged moments has far more beneficial outcomes than telling someone to change how they perceive the situation. Mindfulness is an opportunity to observe your feelings and watch how those feelings will change for themselves often without having to do more than acknowledging them. Watching our thoughts may not give them clarity and it certainly does not change them. But it does give us an opportunity to manage our responses to those strong emotions.
As happens strong emotions can often cause strong uncontrolled (and often socially unacceptable) responses – like ranting or throwing things (personal experience here and it is totally different for everyone but I hope you see where I am coming from). And this is where the desire or need for people to help us change those feelings. Uncontrolled responses can lead to all sorts of consequences. Consequences that can result in making us (or others) feel worse.
Therefore learning to sit with our emotions and observing the feelings consciously supports an understanding of our responses meaning we avoid being on the emotional rollercoaster of response and consequence.
Mindfulness can keep us off the emotional rollercoaster but it is not through changing anything in that moment. We can find a place of accepting socially-considered negative based emotions for ourselves through mindfulness. You will find through mindfulness techniques that stick to the core meaning of mindfulness that you can manage your responses to those same emotions. It is totally possible to change your perspectives. To see things from a different angle. To feel happier and calmer within yourself over an event or situation that would once send you into meltdown. But it is not by forcing the change. It takes practice and perhaps some well guided mindfulness reminders.
Saying to someone in the moment of crisis “how do you feel right now?” or “just sit with this feeling and observe it for what it is?” is far more helpful than “change your feelings”.
There are plenty of resources available for learning mindfulness techniques on the internet just make sure you are working with a reputable source that understands what mindfulness really is about.