Mindfulness: It is what it is

April 2nd, 2014

I love watching sports. I appreciate the passion and the drama. Post-game interviews, however, I can do without. The same coaches and players who spare nothing in an effort to earn a victory often offer very little when they sit down to talk to reporters after the game. This is especially the case after a loss. When asked about a five-game losing streak, a player or coach might utter a few clichés and then end with, “It is what it is.” In these situations, “It is what it is,” seems to suggest that there is nothing left to be said on the issue. Though, I think that the player or coach often has much more to share (e.g., frustrations, disappointments, or views about how to change things for the better).

Despite my complaints with, “It is what it is,” I appreciate the sentiment behind it. “It is what it is” suggests acceptance of a difficult situation and an intention to focus on the present moment.

Acceptance and focusing on the present are core ideas of mindfulness. Mindfulness is a way of being where you are “in the moment” with your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Mindfulness also involves accepting (and not judging) what you are noticing, even if you are noticing upsetting thoughts or feelings.

I heard someone once say that mindfulness is simple, but not easy. I interpret that to mean that while mindfulness is simple in terms of what is asked of you (e.g., be present and notice your experience without judging it), it is not necessarily easy in practice. Over the years, I have observed the challenges of learning mindfulness while practicing it myself and teaching it to others.

However, not all is lost. There are wonderful resources for learning mindfulness. I prefer books by Jon Kabat-Zinn and Tim Gallwey. Or you might begin by practicing a mindful exercise on your own. I suggest mindful breathing. Mindful breathing involves noticing your breath moving in and out. Focus on the physical sensations of your breathing. Then focus your attention on the lower part of your abdomen as you breathe. If you get distracted during the exercise (this is common), just gently redirect yourself back to your breath moving in and out.

Research supports the use of mindfulness to reduce stress and improve health. I invite you to practice mindfulness. And if it doesn’t work out for you, “It is what it is.”

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