Mindfulness and meditation are familiar terms these days and the benefits are both intriguing and supported by science. Unfortunately, the times when we most need a calm mind—in the grip of intense emotions like sadness, fear, overwhelm, frustration, desperation, rage—are the moments when mindful awareness can seem most out of reach.
This exercise by by Carla Naumburg (published on mindful.org) is quick, simple, and easy to remember, perfect for when your thoughts and emotions are spiraling out of control.
STOP whatever you are doing. Take your fingers off the keyboard, put down the phone, call a time out on the argument with your partner. Whatever it is, you can deal with it later.
NOTICE what is happening, around you and inside of you. Notice what you are seeing and hearing, what sensations your body is experiencing, what thoughts are running through your head.
ACCEPT the reality of what is going on. You made a mistake. Someone is upset with you. The world is a mess. Raging against the unfairness of it all will not help. Accept what is before you attempt to change it.
Be CURIOUS about your experience. Ask questions like “what am I feeling right now?” “What do I need in this moment?” Name the emotions but reserve judgement. You might ask “Does this need to change, or can I let it be?” but avoid the temptation to start problem-solving right away. Acceptance comes first.
Be KIND to yourself. Acknowledge that you are suffering, that you - just like everyone everywhere—want to be happy and well and that what you are going through right now is hard and painful. Recognize that you deserve compassion and kindness. Offer it to yourself first, then extend that kindness to others.
STOP, NOTICE, ACCEPT, be CURIOUS and be KIND - then return to the task at hand, the problem to solve, the argument in progress. You will find yourself better prepared to respond calmly, consciously, and compassionately to whatever challenges you are facing in this moment.