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Embrace the Unchangeable: Harnessing Radical Acceptance for a Happier Life!

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Radical acceptance. The first time I heard that term, I furrowed my forehead and quickly went to good ol’ Google to find out more.

Reading through all the different definitions, I deduced that radical acceptance is accepting reality for what it is. (Not to be confused with settling, of course.)

It’s about responding to the things we can’t #change in a way that mitigates suffering and lowers #stress and #anger levels. In short, it’s about accepting the things we can’t change and making a more #empowering#choice of how to move on from those things.

For example, say I’m waiting online to get tickets for a concert I want to see. The online queue is long, and my anticipated wait time is more than 40 minutes.

Since the wait time is moving slower than maybe I’d like (and because sometimes I can have the patience of a gnat when I have other things to do), I could do any of the following:

A) I could complain about the wait time

B) I could scream obscenities at my computer and pound on the return button to repeatedly refresh my screen OR

C) I could wait my turn and occupy my time listening to some of my favorite music.

Options A) and B), while tempting, aren’t going to change the reality that there’s a long online queue. Not to mention, complaining and acting out are just going to create stress-related chemicals in my brain and body. (Stress-related chemicals = potential brain, body, and immune system impairment.)

Option C isn’t going to change reality either, but if I pass the time and enjoy my favorite music, I’m not stressing out o ver something I can’t change. And I’m engaging in an activity I love which is going to release some feel-good chemicals. (Feel-good chemicals = body healing, stronger immune system, and elevated mood.)


Meditation guru Joseph Goldstein summed up #radicalacceptance best when he said (I’m paraphrasing here) that when we struggle with something, that’s a sign that we’re not accepting something.

We can take that feeling of struggle as a sign to engage in some radical acceptance by experimenting with the following:

Asking the question, “What do I have control of here?” And then only taking ownership of the things you can change or do something about.

For the things outside of your control, try just noticing them. For example, when someone cuts you off in traffic, “Hmmm, that person must be in some sort of hurry.”

And here’s my personal favorite. Suppose there’s something you can’t change (i.e., traffic or another person’s behavior). In that case, consider your options and choose something that will lower your blood pressure and help you to maintain a level head. (Geeky brain factoid: the brain loves choices. When the brain anticipates making a choice, the reward center gets activated. Hello, feel-good chemicals!)

We have the power to change what we can, and we get to choose how to respond to things we can’t. (Which is much better for our brains and bodies.)


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