By Joe Acciaioli, LCSW
Mindfulness vs. Worry: How to let it be… even the “bad” stuff.
A good short definition of mindfulness is: nonjudgmental noticing of our thoughts, feelings, and
body sensations in this present moment. When I share this definition with my clients, the word
they almost always get hung up on is “nonjudgmental.” How on earth are we supposed to not
judge as BAD the challenges we face? “My spouse is really sick.” “I let my child down again.”
“That plumbing repair is going to be expensive.” These are not pleasant thoughts. We do not
want them. And this is where the work of mindfulness comes into play. To say to yourself, in
those tough moments, “I can just let this thought be as it is, without judgment”–that is not easy
While it may seem normal to dwell on things that are challenging, this, as the Buddhists say, is adding suffering to our pain. There is the initial emotional pain of your spouse getting sick, and then there is the excessive worry that you add–thereby creating suffering for yourself.
So try this: “I am willing to be with this thought–even though I don’t like it. I’m willing to open up to it, rather than push it away. I’m willing to explore this bad thought by noticing how it’s showing up in my body. Where is the tension, the tightness? I will simply notice–not judge–and allow it to be present. Hello, thought! I may even send some deep, healing breaths to fill the space where the discomfort is. And now I notice that the thought has settled down a bit, and the physical tension has lifted.”
None of this, of course, has healed your spouse’s illness, but these mindful moves will help you stay in a calm mind and body. With practice, this builds good “habit of mind.” And that is important, so that you can spend less time and energy in a state of worry, and more time moving forward on things that matter to you. So keep practicing nonjudgment with the “bad” stuff. It really does work!
Joe Acciaioli is a licensed clinical social worker who works in Chico, CA and sees clients both online and in-person. Joe is trained and experienced in a wide variety of therapy modalities, but those he uses most often incorporate mindfulness and are trauma-informed.
Joe understands that much of our coping mechanisms today come from some negative experiences when we were younger: a schoolyard bully, a role model who had their own negative self-talk, or caregivers who didn’t give the care you needed. He helps people overcome the hurtful and sabotaging whispers of past experiences and teaches them new ways of interacting with themselves, their own thoughts, and the people around them so they can increase their levels of peace and enjoyment. To set an appointment with Joe, use the link on this page to our scheduler.