Pam attending a free mindfulness class at Peak Brain Institute in Venice, CA

I don’t meditate regularly though I do believe it has all of the promised benefits and probably more. Instead, I practice mindfulness throughout my day. I notice textures, colors, and sounds. I pay close attention to how I’m feeling and why I’m feeling that way. I feel my breath as my lungs expand. I listen to my thoughts but create space to be present and purposeful.

Creating this space is hard. We’re used to just having thoughts and acting based on them. That’s how it’s supposed to work, right?

Not when you know that your thoughts are influenced by your assumptions, stories, and fears. Thoughts are just ideas that you can accept or change.

When you’re mindful of your thoughts, you can see them for what they are decide how to act rather than unconsciously reacting.

I attended a mindfulness class at Peak Brain Institute, pictured above, and learned two acronyms that may help you be mindful of your thoughts. The idea behind each is the same but the technique varies slightly so choose the one that works for you.

Stop what you’re doing
Take a deep breath
Observe what’s happening

In this version you focus on your breath and observe your situation before deciding how to proceed. This sounds simple, and it can be, but that doesn’t mean it’s ineffective.

Recognizing what’s happening
Accepting it’s happening
Investigating the body
Not identifying

In this version you notice your thoughts, accept that something out of your control is happening and that it’s okay, turn your awareness to your body to feel where you have tension, and release the emotion by realizing that you are feeling it but it doesn’t define who you are.

Both options can have the same effect but both require that you are able to notice when you’re feeling a way that you don’t want to or when you’re caught in a thought pattern that isn’t healthy. Developing this ability is difficult so it’s helpful to keep a reminder around, especially in areas where you’re normally stressed or where your emotions run high. A Post-It near your desk or even an alert on your phone every hour can help you reconnect with yourself.

Pick one of these acronyms or another cue that centers you and use it to create space between your thoughts and your actions so you can feel more in control and let go of unhealthy patterns.