Category: Mindfulness

The Happiness Myth: Embracing The Power of Radical Acceptance

radical acceptance

Are you happy? How much time do you spend thinking about happiness? Everyone seems to be chasing it. The pursuit of happiness is ingrained in Americans. Do you think happiness is an achievable, permanent state? I think a lot of us do. Most clients mention happiness as one of their goals for counseling. I hear a lot of people say things like “I’m just not happy”; “I just want to be happy”; “Life shouldn’t be so hard”.

As I listen to people speak about happiness, I’ve observed a common definition of happiness. Most view happiness as the fulfillment of personal desires and pleasure and/or the absence of struggle, conflict, or pain.

Unfortunately, this definition of happiness describes a fleeting, temporary experience not a permanent state. This collides head on with our expectation that happiness be permanent. We freak out thinking something is wrong with us because we aren’t happy. If our expectation of life is perpetual happiness, we will find ourselves continually frustrated. Because life is full of difficult circumstances, painful emotions, and challenging people.

There’s a great concept in psychology called radical acceptance. I’ve thought about this idea a lot this week. Basically radical acceptance is accepting all of what is instead of resisting reality. You may not think you resist reality but you probably do. Radical acceptance involves accepting your circumstances, your emotions, your past, and your pain.

You see, we add to our pain by resisting. We resist reality, we resist emotions, and we resist our circumstances. One way we resist is by dwelling on how awful something is and wishing it were different (or desperately praying for God to intervene and change it). Take a moment and think about what situation or emotion you are resisting? How are you resisting? Radical acceptance involves accepting reality for what it is even if it isn’t what we want it to be.

Radical acceptance involves accepting reality for what it is even if its not what we want. Click To Tweet

Acceptance isn’t approval. Much of life falls outside our control: we may lose a job, a close family member dies, a marriage ends, a traumatic event happens, or we may become ill. All of these situations are not things we would choose or approve of. However, we can radically accept that they are a real part of our life. Failing to do this actually increases our suffering and delays healing, growth, and problem solving.

Acceptance isn’t approval. Click To Tweet

Acceptance is also not surrender. We accept what is in our past and in our present moment. Change comes by what we do next…in the future. Accepting reality allows us to let go of what we have no control over and look at the power we do have. It is a shift towards resilience which is the ability to recover from difficulties. Resilience first begins with accepting that the difficulty exists.

Acceptance is also not surrender or hopelessness. Click To Tweet

This is not easy. Radical acceptance is a deeply internal and difficult experience because our nature fights against this idea.

Radical acceptance  involves accepting:

  • reality for what it is
  • that everything has a cause
  • that life can be worth living even during painful circumstances.

Now I think radical acceptance is a part of faith for the Jesus follower. The Bible teaches that God is sovereign and that suffering is a part of life. Jesus radically accepted that he must go to the cross even though he experienced suffering and betrayal. Paul radically accepted tremendous hardship for the sake of spreading the gospel. Nowhere in scripture is happiness taught. What is taught is contentment in all circumstances (Philippians 4:11-13).

So here’s what blew my mind this week….contentment requires radical acceptance. Contentment is a deeper satisfaction despite circumstances. This is sustainable.  Unlike happiness, contentment is rooted in acceptance: acceptance of reality as it is and the acceptance of God’s unchanging truth.

Unlike happiness, contentment is rooted in acceptance. Click To Tweet Contentment requires radical acceptance of reality and God's unchanging truth Click To Tweet

These two ideas increase the power of radical acceptance

  • I can radically accept reality. We live in a broken world with broken people.Whatever is going on in your life that is outside of your control, accept it. That difficult person, accept them for who they are. You may wish they would change but you have no power to change them.That challenge you are facing (loss of job, physical disability, loss of a relationship, unfair treatment, large amount of work for school, the political chaos right now etc), accept it. It is what is.

    Wishing circumstances were different doesn’t change reality and doesn’t empower you for the next moment. Accept it. Change, growth, and hope begin with acceptance.

You can radically accept reality Click To Tweet
  • I can radically accept God at his word. God is good and works all things for his glory and my good. His definition of my good may look very different than mine. Yet, I can trust what God says and walk by faith regardless of what I feel.I can radically accept myself because of who God says I am (Psalm 139, Ephesians 1).I can radically accept that I am saved, justified, and made right because of Jesus.

    I can radically accept that I live in a broken world and will have trouble. I can radically accept that God has overcome (John 16:33).

  • Radical acceptance brings contentment, peace, and rest. (Matthew 11:28-29)You can radically accept God at his word. Click To Tweet
  • What are you resisting accepting?

    How has this resistance increased your suffering?

    How might acceptance empower you for what’s next?

    Struggling or want to learn more about radical acceptance? Follow my social media this week for additional articles and information. Need help, reach out and contact a good counselor.

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    Help! My Thoughts Won’t Stop!!

    As a counselor, one of the common things people struggle with are what I call spinning or out of control thoughts.  The psychological term for this is rumination and we all struggle with this.  Usually we ruminate about a fear or worry.  We are worried and afraid, so we continually think about it to try and solve it or fix it.  Often we are trying to think our way out of a feeling!

    Mindfulness is very big in psychology right now and has proven very helpful with rumination.  Mindfulness has personally helped a lot of clients.

    Mindfulness Overview

    Mindfulness has to do with the quality of awareness that we bring to what we are doing and experiencing, to being in the here and now.  It has to do with learning to focus on being in the present, to focusing our attention on what we are doing and what is happening in the present. We have to learn to control our attention. Many of us are distracted by images, thoughts and feelings of the past, perhaps dissociating, worrying about the future, negative moods and anxieties about the present.   It’s hard to put these things away and concentrate on the task at hand.

    So the One-mindfulness skill is an effort to help us focus our attention on the here and now, to be able to absorb the DBT information and take part in the present. Please do not judge yourselves about this. This can be a difficult skill for people to learn. It requires lots of practice and willingness. Be patient with yourself.”

    From DBT Self Help

    Mindfulness is a Biblical Idea.  Although, these concepts are fairly new to psychology, the principles and concepts are found in scripture.

    • Be Fully Present in the Current Moment with God
      • “Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:9
      • “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him, fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices” Psalm 37:7
      • “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 46:8
    • In the present moment, notice how God cares for the world around you and for you in very practical ways! God wants our focus to be in the present of today’s moments!
      • “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,  yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6: 25-34
      • When Jesus deals with his disciple’s anxiety, He points out what He observes in the present moment around them. Look at the birds, consider the flowers. Sometimes, just simply observing the world with our senses (smell, taste, touch, sight) can bring mental calm. If nothing else, counting your breaths and slowing them can bring physical calm. Jesus keeps them in the present moment by telling them to only focus on today.
    • Christian Mindfulness is Rest for your soul! In emotional distress, the Bible indicates that God wants us to come to Him and find rest. What specific activities keep you in the present moment with Jesus and give you rest?
      • “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28
      • “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7
    • Don’t assume your judgment of your thoughts or feelings is truth (just observe your thoughts or feelings without judgment in the moment). Observe the thought and test it against God’s Word
      • Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered. Proverbs 28:26
      • “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2
      • “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthythink about such things.” Philippians 4:8

    Mindfulness Examples

    Mindfulness involves:

    Awareness: What is going on around me, what do I see, what do I smell, what do I taste, how do things feel as I touch them?

    Nonjudgmental View of Thoughts: Thoughts or feelings aren’t bad or good, normal or abnormal. They are  just thoughts and feelings.  They flow in and out like water.

    Staying in the Moment: This may be the hardest part for those that focus on the past or worry about the future.

    Takes Practice: This takes practice during non-emotional times so that it becomes easier to do during emotionally overwhelming times. Practice staying in the moment and observing what you notice with your senses during showers, brushing teeth, or during daily chores. Click Here for samples of mindfulness exercises.

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    rest and hope in God

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