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How to cope with change

Uncertainty shakes most of us. In fact, the mere mention of the word "change" is enough to send a shiver down the spine. While this fundamental part of life can often feel disorienting and scary, it’s also what helps us grow, move forward, and ultimately live a fulfilling life.

Every single one of us deals with change on a daily basis — be it external (the place we live, the people we know) or internal (emotions, physical sensations, thoughts). But even if we’re able to acknowledge change on a fundamental level, it may still feel difficult to openly embrace it.

Learning how to accept change requires us to relinquish our hold on certainty and control — a significant perspective shift that may feel easier to navigate with mindfulness in tow. With the right techniques in practice, change may begin to feel less overwhelming and more like a welcome part of life.

Mindfulness - How to cope with change
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How do we adapt to change?

Key takeaways:

  • 3 common sticking points might prevent us from embracing change

  • The more we resist change, the more tension we create for ourselves

  • Try 16 meditations to help embrace change

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What tends to hold us back from embracing change?

Anyone struggling to understand how to deal with change in life might take note of Headspace co-founder and former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe’s perspective — that this may be due to 3 common sticking points:

  1. A lack of awareness
  2. A sense of attachment to the way things are now
  3. A tendency to resist the unknown

Andy says that attachment to how things currently are usually fuels our tendency to chase after and hold onto the things we know and feel comfortable with. Human nature seeks certainty and if it can’t find certainty, it prefers the familiar. But by tightly gripping to life as it is, we create tension between how we want things to be and how things actually play out — at home, at work, in a relationship, or within our very character.

Ultimately, the more we resist change, the more averse to it we become. Not only are we swimming upstream trying to keep everything under our control, but we’re also actively pushing against those things that we don’t like or fear in some way.

“Because of these things, most of the time we’re caught up in the world of thought,” Andy says. “We’re just experiencing what feels like the same thing over and over, but that’s just our habitual tendency. It can be different than that, but only once we become more aware.”

How mindfulness can make change feel easier to navigate

Truly learning how to feel more accepting of change is a skill that requires practice. Thinking about being more open to change is very different from actively experiencing it. Mindfulness can be an immensely helpful tool in helping us sit with uncertainty.

One of the first skills a mindfulness practice like meditation provides is the ability to fully focus on the present moment — acceptance of the now. As we work on bringing our attention to the here and now, we might begin by doing a body scan. So often, the easiest way to start becoming more aware of change is by noticing the different physical sensations in the body.

As we gain a better sense of how the body is feeling and how it’s changing in the moment, we're more able to tap into how our thoughts and emotions do the same. We are, in effect, training the mind to better deal with, and accept, all that changes.

When, with practice, we’re able to step back and look at thoughts more objectively, we can get a better understanding of where and when resistance to change comes up, and how that resistance is tied to old thought patterns, storylines, and conditioned beliefs.

By observing how the mind behaves in this way, we’ll start to see how resistance is wanting things to be held in place — and these are the areas where we can work on loosening our grip, allowing life to flow and unfold at its own pace.

Pause and refocus with this free mini-meditation

Find your focus

Mini-Meditation: Find Your Focus

1 min

Try 16 meditations to cope with change

Looking for more meditations for dealing with change? The Headspace app offers subscribers several courses and single meditations on anxiety and change, including:

  • Impermanence and Change guidance. In life, and in meditation, change is the only constant.

  • Letting Go guidance. Unless we learn to let go of our thoughts and narratives, we'll never realize our full potential.

  • Navigating Change course. Train your mind to experience a greater sense of flow and be more comfortable with change.

  • Changing Perspective guidance. Thoughts can be absorbing, but what if there was a way to step back from them?

  • Regret advice. You can't change what happened in the past. You can change how you feel in the present moment.

  • Get Good at Failure video. Explore the art of bouncing back and how it could change your life.

  • Stressed meditation. Notice what you're holding onto and drop the preoccupying storyline, allowing you to reframe stressful situations.

  • Letting Go of Stress course. Enjoy a healthier mind by developing your awareness of stress and learning how to reframe negative emotions.

  • Acceptance course. Learn to let go of resistance and find acceptance not just toward your own thoughts and feelings, but also other people and difficult situations.

  • Managing Anxiety course. Experience anxious thoughts from a new perspective.

  • Transforming Anger course. Connect with anger and use it to train your mind.

  • Feeling Overwhelmed meditation. Give yourself room to breathe.

  • Panicking meditation. Anchor your mind and body in the present.

  • Losing Your Temper meditation. Let go of whatever is causing you to feel frustrated.

  • Flustered meditation. Bring an unsettled mind back to the subject at hand.

  • Reset meditation. Find some focus and relaxation during a busy day.

Change is inherently challenging. Ultimately, it’s how we adapt and react to challenges that can make all the difference. By using mindfulness as a guide, we can begin to actually experience and sit with uncertainty in a gentle way that helps us become more accepting in time. In stepping back and letting go, we can finally learn to see change for what it is: a natural and often beautiful part of life.

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