What’s missing from mindfulness

Without acceptance training, your practice may be moot.

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Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University had meditation novices learn basic, guided mindfulness (concentrating on staying in the present moment, focusing on what their body was feeling) or guided mindfulness plus acceptance (not only focusing on current feelings and sensations but also not judging or resisting any of the feelings). After the participants meditated for two weeks, 20 minutes a day, they were put under a stress test involving public speaking and math problems. The results: Those who had also learned acceptance during their meditation practice exhibited lower blood pressure and levels of cortisol than those who had not.
Acceptance is the key to mindfulness’ ability to minimize anxiety. "Without an effective emotion regulation strategy, just bringing more attention to present experiences could intensify a person's experience of stress," says study author Emily Lindsay, Ph.D., postdoctoral research scientist at the University of Pittsburgh. While mindfulness allows you to notice, differentiate, and concentrate on physical and emotional body sensations, acceptance training takes it one step further and teaches you to approach these sensations with a welcoming attitude. "By allowing all experiences to arise and pass without trying to change them or push away stressful thought, experiences start to feel less problematic."
Try using an meditation app for 20 minutes each day, suggests Lindsay. Developing awareness for the present moment and accepting whatever feelings arise can help you build a tolerance for stressful situations. That way, when you experience them either at work or in the gym, you'll be better equipped to deal calmly.