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How to cope with change

How do you handle change? If the mere mention of the word is enough to send a shiver down the spine, you’re not alone: uncertainty shakes most of us. 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.

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How do you 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

  • Mindfulness techniques can help us learn how to cope with 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 you to 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 you work on bringing your attention to the here and now, you 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 are 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.

To put these skills into practice, consider the Navigating Change* course available on the Headspace app. Over the course of 10 guided sessions, this series is designed to help us feel more comfortable when life’s unexpected twists and turns come into play.

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.

*only available to Headspace subscribers

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