Making Change Through Acceptance & Mindfulness
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
These are the opening lines from AA’s serenity prayer. It breaks our experiences into two distinct categories: the things we can change and the things we can do nothing about. The prayer challenges us to look at all of our experiences with a different mindset, especially the many things in life that we cannot change. The prayer challenges us to cultivate the wisdom necessary to look at our experiences with an attitude of acceptance.
Acceptance is at the core of mindfulness. It is a way of responding instead of reacting. Acceptance means we are able to look at our experience and acknowledge it. Ancient Buddhist wisdom teaches that there are many things in life we cannot change or control and that an accepting way of looking at our experience will greatly reduce our unhappiness and suffering. For instance, by mindfully accepting anxiety or anger instead of resisting or struggling against these uncomfortable feelings, we can help the feelings to naturally decrease.
Acceptance is not resignation. Acceptance is in fact, the first step toward change. Acceptance does not mean that we agree with or are happy with what is going on and believe that it must always be this way. Instead, it is mindfully recognizing the experience or situation we are in and taking that first step toward change. Instead of automatically reacting through conditioned patterns of behavior, we begin to realize we have an alternative. When we practice acceptance, we decrease anxiety and depression and become more resilient. We begin to understand that just because something didn’t go our way or turn out as we expected, we can learn from the experience.
We all tend to focus and spend a great deal of energy thinking about things or worrying over which we have no control. We worry and fret about things that we cannot change: we cannot change our past, our history, our past behavior, or whom we are related to. We cannot change how others behave or what others believe. Once we learn to accept what cannot be changed, we experience less anxiety, less depression, less inner turmoil.
Yet we can change what we can and improve what we can. We can change our habits, our attitudes, how we think and how we react. We can change how we treat others and we can change how we allow others to treat us.
At Groundwork Counseling in Orlando, we can help you develop skills in changing behavioral, emotional, and thinking patterns that cause distress, pain, anxiety, and depression. At GroundWork Counseling, our therapists and counselors can help you to understand that acceptance is a crucial part of change.
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