As we soak up the last few weeks of summer, our thoughts turn to the changes ahead. Your schedule may be changing as the kids go back to school and all of their activities. The change in the weather signals to our bodies and minds that it’s time to trade-in our carefree attitude and get back to our routines. Maybe you’re on the threshold of a bigger life transition.
Big or small, change is an inevitable part of human life. What is not inevitable, though, is how much change affects our thoughts and emotions. That may come as a surprise if you have ever felt bowled over or whisked away by a sudden shift. But it’s true. Using the incredible power of our minds, we get to decide whether each new experience is liberating or terrifying.
So how can you approach your next season of change mindfully, without allowing it to take you off track?
Tools for Mindful Change
The following are tools for mindfulness that will help you accept change as a part of life, keep your mind clear of too many worries, and give you the space you need to deal with the situation with grace.
- Making the intention to stay positive: It turns out that your Kindergarten teacher was right about a lot of things, one of which being that having a positive outlook can make even our least favorite tasks more bearable. Maintaining the intention to stay positive is a key ingredient in mindful change.
Even as you feel negative emotions arise, be gentle with yourself and remind yourself of times when you have survived or even thrived through more difficult situations. You have amazing coping skills. Trust in those skills as you manage your emotions during this time of change.
- Journaling: This tool is essential for building resilience and making mindful change a part of your life. You can use your journal to remind yourself of your core values and the bigger picture.
Here are a couple helpful journaling prompts:
- Have you created a list of personal values? This is different from a list of priorities or responsibilities. Your values are all about what really drives you. Choose from a list of values, like this one from Brene Brown’s book Dare to Lead. Brene Brown recommends limiting yourself to your top one or two. Once you’ve chosen, write a bit about what that living that value looks like for you.
- When life feels chaotic and the unknowns are really starting to dominate your thoughts, quiet the endless stream of “what-ifs” by writing each one down. Something magical happens when we put our worst fears or worries into writing. It’s almost as if once they are outside of our heads, they no longer have any power over us. We can see them for what they really are: products of our imaginations. From here you can put your problem-solving skills to work to come up with a game plan for each “what-if.”
- Being aware that change can trigger old patterns of thought: Learning how to bring an attitude of gratitude to changes in life is not a one-and-done task. Mindful change takes patience and consistent effort. It’s a lot like building a physical muscle. As you train your mind, you will have setbacks. One day you’ll feel like you have it all together and the next day those old critical voices will be back. But being aware that change can bring up old baggage makes it easier to say “no, thank you” and keep moving forward with confidence.
- Planning, but also being open to what comes: Planning can certainly help with change and make us feel more in control. But it’s also helpful to let go of plans and be open to unanticipated gifts that come when things don’t go according to plan. For example, if you’re moving overseas, planning well can save a lot of stress and worry. It can also free you up to deal with any immediate unexpected stressors.
What happens if the moving company isn’t on time? How long can you live out of a suitcase before it becomes intolerable? Can you think of this change as an adventure, rather than a chore? If something doesn’t go according to your exact plan can you change your mindset to be more flexible?
- Coming back to our bodies to feel the sensations: When you start to feel especially ungrounded, which can happen often during times of change, come back to your body. Tune into your breath (e.g., practice breathing in for 5 seconds and out for 5 seconds) or feel your feet on the ground. You can even lie on the ground (or the floor) and feel the Earth’s support underneath you. Your body can be your anchor when you need to lean on something familiar.
- Being loving toward ourselves: Go back to self-compassion when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Big changes such as losing a job or ending a relationship can be frightening and sad. Allow yourself to feel those emotions without judgment. It’s important to acknowledge those feelings and to give yourself permission to take the time and space you need to heal.
Change happens every day. Some types of changes feel much more difficult than others. But mindful change—being mindful of our thoughts, allowing our emotions, and coming back to our bodies—allows you to see each period of change as a passing event. Stress comes and goes, so to joy. Practice being present for each moment and discover the peace it brings.
Mindful change is just one element of learning to live the Conscious Strong™ lifestyle. Join us for one of our events to find out more about how you can apply these ideas to your own life.