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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Enhancing Mindful Self-Acceptance

Artwork by Rita Loyd
Article by Carson & Langer

(1) Actively observe novel distinctions. The act of observing new distinctions increases positive affect and also increases interest in the event, object, behavior, or situation (Langer & Pietrasz, 1995). Actively noticing new things in the environment (or actively noticing new aspects of things previously taken for granted) is a hallmark of mindful thinking. As active mental exploration becomes a way of life, it becomes easier to explore those aspects of self that have previously been kept hidden or avoided. Active exploration is judgment-free; as individuals continue to actively explore new aspects of self, they will enhance self-acceptance.

(2) Think of yourself as a ‘‘work in progress.’’ When one thinks of oneself in rigid immutable terms (e.g. ‘‘I am no good at math’’ or ‘‘I am not attractive’’) he or she becomes mindless and paves the way for self-fulfilling prophesy. Studies in Ellen Langer’s lab indicated that when rigid words such as ‘‘is’’ and ‘‘am’’ were replaced with ‘‘may be’’ and ‘‘could be,’’ participants responded with increased production and creativity (see Langer & Moldoveanu, 2000, for a review). Individuals can replace rigid words with possibility words in their self-narratives. The very act of replacing the certainty of convictions with the possibility that things ‘‘may be’’ true opens up the possibility that things may not be as one currently interprets them. This, in turn, creates a mindset open to personal change and acceptance.

(3) Contemplate puzzles and paradoxes.
Life is full of paradoxes. For example, individuals may both love and hate their parents or their bodies. They may at once feel victimized by—yet responsible for—an illness or a seemingly intolerable situation. Actively thinking about paradoxes increases one’s ability to tolerate ambiguity (and decreases the anxiety associated with uncertainty). Increased tolerance of ambiguity is another hallmark of mindfulness. The contemplation of paradoxes (example: the healing but destructive properties of time) allows one to accept paradox within him- or herself and leads to self-acceptance.

(4) Add humor to the situation.
Humor itself relies on mindfulness by forcing people to see a new and unexpected side to a given situation. (This is why a joke already heard and remembered, without being newly considered, is rarely funny.) When individuals notice humorous aspects of themselves or their situation, they are more likely to accept those aspects.

(5) View the situation from multiple perspectives.
When people are stuck in a rigid interpretation of their situation, they are less likely to be accepting of it. One way to become more mindful is to try to view problems from the perspective of different individuals. This may include the perspective of others involved in the situation (and, if appropriate, the humorous perspective of fictional observers, such as a dentist or a hairdresser).

(6) Consider alternative understandings of problematic aspects of yourself. How many ways can a ‘‘negative’’ aspect of self be viewed as useful? In what contexts could the problematic factor be considered beneficial? All problems can be seen as useful in some contexts. Viewing purported negative aspects of oneself or one’s life as having a silver lining may serve to increase self-acceptance. The difference between an ordeal and an adventure may be in how one looks at it.

(7) Keep a catalog of moments of joy.
The catalog can be written descriptions of joyful moments, photographs, or simply a mental file of memories that are easily accessible. Keep the catalog handy and open it often. A growing body of research indicates that an increase in positive mental state, even a mild increase such as one experiences from remembering positive events, markedly influences mental flexibility and creative problem solving (Langer, Janis, & Wolfer, 1975; also see Isen, 2000 for a review). The accumulation of moments of joy helps one to be accepting and grateful for his or her experiences.

(8) Start a ‘‘mindfulness’’ journal. Make a point to begin or end each day by writing down the significant events of the day. Look back on the events with the purpose of observing new things and new perspectives about them. Practice at mindfully viewing events and situations in retrospect will enhance the ability to mindfully experience events and situations at the time they occur. Keeping a journal also helps individuals to observe continuity and direction in their lives, enhancing self-acceptance.

Carson, S., & Langer, E. (2004). Mindful practice for clinicians and patients.
In L. Haas (Ed.), Handbook of primary care psychology (pp. 173–186).
London: Oxford.


Jody said...


My name is Rita Loyd. I am the artist that created the image you are using for your wonderful blog entry - Enhancing mindful self-acceptance. Would you be so kind and give my artwork, artist credit? I would really appreciate it.
Namaste, Rita Loyd

YY Ong LTR! said...

very advisable ways!