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Slow Down for Better Mental Health: A Tip for Mindfulness When Triggered

With a heavy snow storm this winter, a large plum tree at our house split in three ways down the trunk.  The tree was a complete loss which was very disappointing because we loved the plums it produced and there were over 5 years of nurturing that went into getting the tree to that point.  

Fortunately, one of my daughters was happy to have some daddy daughter time with me on a Saturday to clean it up.  As we worked together, we talked about how to deal with the loss of the tree and deal with some of her triggers with friends.  She had overheard me talking about mindfulness techniques and started asking me questions, knowing that I often would discuss principles of Buddhism and combine them with principles of Christianity to help people with their mental health.  

After loading the remnants of the tree into a trailer, we headed to the local dump to dispose of the green waste.  While waiting in a rather long line at the dump, I turned on a podcast of Tara Brach discussing a recent revision of her famous book, “Radical Acceptance”.   In that podcast, Tara indicated suffering comes from not accepting reality.  She talked about a mindfulness technique to employ any time things get rough or when you are triggered and suffering, known by the acronym, “RAIN.”  

The way I view RAIN is:  

  1. Recognize what is happening–see that you are being triggered and not doing well; slow down/pause; observe what you are feeling and thinking.

 

  1. Allow it to just be–sit with the negative feelings without trying to push them away; validate and not judge yourself; see your worth and that the negative feelings are to be expected as we struggle with the inevitable rough experiences in life.

 

  1. Investigate kindly–look at your thoughts, the patterns of your triggers, and the roots of your suffering with kindness.

 

  1. Nurture–address the roots of your suffering and work to no longer be carried away in a “trance” of irrational and distorted negative thoughts.  Work to return to a reality with more hope and to Christlike nurturing of self.    

I love this mindfulness approach to our struggles–slowing down, non-judgmental observing and validating, sitting with the negative emotion and thoughts long enough to identify the problem, and nurturing our way to a better place. 

Author
David L Paulson, MD Board Certified Psychiatrist

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