Module 2: Mindfulness and Defusion
Using the Weekly Rating Sheet, please rate how well your life is working.
Looking back at your commitment from Module 1, how often were you willing to practice the “Introduction to ACT” exercise?
How often did you practice?
If you kept your commitment, what was the experience like for you?
If you did not keep your commitment, what thoughts or feelings got in the way? (For example: “I don’t have time, this won’t help, it’s too difficult,” depression, anxiety, etc.)
1. Since we can’t always control our negative thoughts and feelings, the alternative is to make room for them. This doesn’t mean we like them or want them around, but we are willing for them to be there.
2. When we spend less time trying to control our negative thoughts and feelings, we have more freedom to make choices that improve our lives.
3. We can make room for our negative thoughts and feelings by practicing skills called mindfulness and defusion.
4. Research has shown mindfulness and defusion skills to be very effective.
5. Mindfulness and defusion aren’t about controlling negative thoughts and feelings. The purpose is not to make us feel better (although sometimes this does happen), the goal is to reduce the impact that negative thoughts and feelings have on us. Remember from Module 1 that negative thoughts and feelings never go away for good. The aim is to give ourselves the freedom to make choices that improve our lives.
Practice New Skills
The following exercise will help you experience the process of mindfulness. Sometimes it is easier to understand something if you experience it, rather than have someone try to explain it to you in words. As you read the following exercise, follow along as best you can with the instructions as you read them. Don’t worry if you get distracted or lose focus. This is normal. Just refocus on the exercise as soon as you notice that your mind has wandered.
Mindfulness of Emotions Script (click here for guided exercise)
From the Centre for Clinical Interventions
Position yourself comfortably in the chair…feet flat on the floor, arms placed comfortably, chair fully supporting your body…
Begin by paying attention to your breathing, taking a few long breaths to get settled…
Now gently guide your attention to how you are feeling emotionally within yourself at this moment… note whatever feelings arise within you whether they be positive, neutral or negative… whether they be strong or weak in intensity… they are all just emotions… all just feelings to be felt.
Whatever feelings arise, remind yourself that it is OK to allow yourself to feel it. Remember that you are not your emotions, you are the watcher of your emotions. Take some time just to observe your emotional experience, making no attempt to change how you are feeling…
You might label the emotion to yourself (i.e., “ah there is calmness/ happiness/ indifference/ surprise/boredom/ frustration/ fear/ sadness, etc”)… You might describe where and how you feel the emotion in your body… take time to notice the physical signs that you are feeling the way you feel… Watch as the emotion changes in intensity and nature.
Bring whatever image to mind that helps you be the watcher of your emotions (e.g., seeing your emotion like an ocean wave, express train, cloud floating in the sky, leaf floating on a stream, an empty room, a naughty child, etc)… You don’t have to buy into your emotions and get swept up in them. You don’t need to change your emotions, fight them or get rid of them. You are just here to watch, observe and experience what is going on right now.
See if you can make some space for the emotion, seeing it as part of a broader landscape within you that contains lots of things like other feelings, thoughts, memories, body sensations, etc. Your
emotions are just emotions… your feeling just feelings… nothing more and nothing less… When you have fully experienced whatever emotion is there, and the experience has run its natural course,
redirect your attention towards your breath… note each inhalation and each exhalation… bind your attention to the back and forth movement of the belly as you breathe in and out… note the sensations in your body as you draw breath in and then out again.
Take some time now to allow your breath to be your anchor to the present moment… If your mind wanders away from the breath to an emotion, or thought or sensation, that’s OK, that’s what
minds do. Congratulate yourself for noticing, and give your mind the time to again observe and watch what you are experiencing… Once that observation has run its natural course, again gently bring your attention back to the breath as your anchor to the present…
Try to continue your mindfulness practice for the next 10 minutes or more…
When you feel ready, you can gradually bring this mindfulness exercise to a close.
Between now and the next module, if you are willing…
1. Read the article 7 Really Good Reasons to Start a Mindfulness Meditation Practice by Jennfier Abbasi. If you are feeling ambitious, you can also read The Skeptic’s Guide to Meditation by Dan Harris.
2. Select one or more of the resources below to help you practice mindfulness and defusion skills. You can also practice with the Mindfulness of Emotions Script from today’s module.