A Mindfulness Exercise to Evaluate Your Experiences
Mindfulness encourages you to become curious about all aspects of your experiences. In everyday life you experience a whole range of different experiences. They can all be grouped into pleasant, unpleasant and neutral experiences.
Pleasant experiences are the ones you enjoy, like listening to the birds singing or watching your favorite television program. Unpleasant experiences can be like having to sit in a traffic jam or dealing with a difficult customer at work. Neutral experiences are the ones you just don’t even notice, like the different objects in the room you’re in at the moment.
This can be done through the following exercise, which is normally done over two weeks:
Take a sheet of paper, or use your journal, and create four columns. Label them ‘Experience’, ‘thoughts’, ‘feelings’, ‘bodily sensations’. Under each column heading, write down one experience each day that you found to be pleasant. Write down the thoughts that were going through your head, the feelings you experienced at the time, and how your body felt under the appropriate columns. Continue this each day for a whole week.
In the following week, repeat the exercises, but this time for an unpleasant experience each day. Remember, you don’t need to have very pleasant or unpleasant experiences – even a small, seemingly insignificant experience will suffice.
The purpose of this exercise is to:
Help you to see that experiences aren’t one big blob. Your experiences can be broken down into thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations. This makes difficult experiences more manageable rather than overwhelming.
Notice your automatic, habitual patterns which operate without you even knowing about them normally. You learn how you habitually grasp onto pleasant experiences with a desire for them to continue, and how you push away unpleasant experiences, called experiential avoidance, which can end up perpetuating them.
Learn to become more curious about experience instead of just judging experiences as good or bad, or like or dislike.
Encourage you to understand and acknowledge your unpleasant experiences rather than just avoid them.