Mindfulness is about self-compassion, self-awareness, recognition and understanding of our thoughts, emotions and senses, it is about quietening our thoughts and taking them under our control. Two mindful exercises are referred to by the acronyms RAIN and STOP aid in the learning of mindfulness. Below I will explore each in detail, including how to practice the technique, why it works and the purpose of it.
RAIN is widely attributed to Michele McDonald, the acronym stands for R – Recognition. A- Acknowledge or Accept or Allow. I – Investigate. N – Non-identification or Natural Awareness. Although A and N are referred to slightly differently in some sources they have the same meaning of the action attached to the word.
R – Recognise or notice what is going on for you. Step back internally and consciously observe your thoughts, feelings and senses.
A – This is about accepting or allowing your thoughts, feelings and senses to just be. Acknowledge your current experience and be compassionate to yourself, do not attribute blame, reason, cause or self-judgement to your thoughts, feelings and senses.
I – Investigate your thoughts, feelings and senses, do this neutrally from your judgement less, accepting position. Wonder about the thoughts, feelings and senses, think about them, how they rest in your body, what sensations are there? What reactions do they call forward without conscious thought? What responses would you usually give?
N – Non-identification. This should come as a natural stage, which is why it is sometimes called natural awareness. I find it the hardest to put into words. This is the recognition that our sense of self is not intrinsically linked to our thoughts, feelings and senses. Our responses are not fused with our thoughts, feelings and senses. We do not have to be angry because we have felt angry. Do not identify with the automatic response.
For example: we Recognise that we have felt the emotion anger, we feel physically hot, we clench our jaw or fists, we want to shout. We Accept this feeling, we allow it to be felt, to happen, we don’t try to push it down or cover it up, but we do not react to it either. We Investigate it, we wonder what about the situation called something in our learnt behaviour, or response system, we investigate our physical response too. Finally we Non-identify, or we know we felt anger but we do not respond with anger.
Over time our bodies will hopefully stop offering us the learnt behavioural responses automatically and we will be calmer and more analytical about our responses, thoughts, feelings and senses.
STOP is attributed to Jon Kabat Zinn, the key letters stand for S – Stop, T – Take a breath, O – Observe, P – Proceed. The aim of this technique is to introduce Mindfulness naturally throughout your daily routine and reduce the amount of auto-pilot behaviours or automatic negative thoughts that occur.
S – Stop, stop what you are doing, and pause for a moment.
T – Take a breath, breath in and out, notice your breathing, notice its speed, slow it down, relax into breathing for up to a minute if you like, anchor yourself to the present moment.
O – Observe, take a look at your thoughts, feelings and senses or behaviours. Name them, recognise them, be curious about them, what are they, inside and outside your body. Are you judging, are you reacting, assuming, are you sensing, feeling, thinking?
P – Proceed, you can now return to your activity, you can continue the same if you want to or you can adapt your behaviours and thoughts based on your observed moment, do you alter your action or reaction or are you happy with what you noticed?
For example if you Stop and pause just before entering a meeting, Take a few deep calming breaths, be aware of your breathing for a while, Observe your emotions and physical sensations and notice that you are sweaty, heart racing, and feeling anxious. Proceed by changing your plans, or adapting your thoughts or by recognising you were anxious you may be calmer and more productive in the meeting. You may even realise meeting anxiety is something you wish to take to your next therapy session.
Overall the aim of this technique is to increase awareness of activities, emotional and physical response to them and to notice our judgements or automatic thoughts and behaviours, then adapt them if necessary to help us be calmer, more relaxed and more self-aware and self-compassionate.
Both these techniques work well with cognitive behavioural therapy because they are about the recognition of the key elements in the cognitive triangle of our thoughts, feelings and behaviours and learning to recognise and adapt them.
If you’d like some face to face counselling in the Stoke-on-Trent, Newcastle-under-Lyme or Staffordshire area please do contact Wright Minds at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 07598810304