What does acceptance mean to you? Deal with it? Get over it? Maybe magically stop feeling bad about “it?” This is what most people think is meant by well-intentioned people who suggest that you accept a situation. But this is not entirely accurate.

The best path I know to true acceptance is through mindfulness. The definition of mindfulness is the non-judgmental awareness or acknowledgment of the moment. With mindfulness in mind, acceptance means to notice, acknowledge, and feel whatever is presenting itself in the moment…in a non-judgmental manner. Notice what is going on in your body (physically, emotionally, mentally), in your immediate environment, and in your larger surroundings. With this awareness, connect yourself to your immediate environment. Feel it and acknowledge that this is where you are in this moment.

One may wonder “why on earth anyone would want to simply be aware of the moment and what benefit would this have for me?” Good question. This awareness takes us out of the external rush and stress of our lives, for one thing. When we focus on the internal we can’t be focusing on the external in that same moment. External focus often creates stress in our minds and bodies. Stress calls upon stress hormones in the brain, such as cortisol, to flood the body. Cortisol (among other stress chemicals) are meant to support the body through fight or flight during an emergency. Unfortunately, we often live non-emergency moments from a stress perspective, thereby living with cortisol in our system. Excess and prolonged cortisol in the system is associated with health problems like stomach ulcers, irritable bowl syndrome, Crohns disease, and excess weight gain, just to name a few.

When we take a few moments to acknowledge our inner reality and what is going on immediately around us, anchoring ourselves in the immediate moment without judgment, we signal our brains to flush cortisol and other stress hormones out of our bodies for the moment. We signal the release of more positive, health-ful chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin into our systems. In this state of mind we are more positive, and able to achieve a whole host of positive outcomes such as relaxation, opening the mind to positive perspectives, and growing healthy neural connections (all topics for future posts).

So next time you notice that you’re experiencing some strong feelings of any type, take a few moments for acceptance. Sit with your feelings. Acknowledge what they are but don’t judge them. Feel them, breathe deeply and relax, and notice how your body feels. Remind yourself…it’s neither good nor bad, it simply “is.” You will feel better, even if it’s only for a few moments.

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