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Stress, Anxious, Depressed, Addicted? Try This Mindful Phrase

08/03/2011 08:24 am ET | Updated Oct 03, 2011

We've all heard the adage that, "It is what it is," telling us that whatever is happening is simply the reality of the current experience. But I like to add on another piece saying, "It is what it is, while it is."

This speaks to a larger reality that whatever is here is also impermanent. Bringing this saying with you throughout the day could have beneficial effects for a range of difficulties, from everyday stress, to anxiety, to depression and even addiction. Here's how:

As automatic negative thoughts start creeping into your mind, and you notice an irritability starting to creep in, saying, "it is what it is, while it is" pops you out of auto-pilot, into the present moment and reminds you that there's impermanence to this feeling. This reminder helps you not get so wrapped up in it and can also give you the choice to be kinder to yourself. This can help stop a spiral into a deeper depression.

When cravings in the form of desiring thoughts and urges in the form of physical impulses raise their heads, saying, "it is what it is, while it is" externalizes these reactions, giving you some distance from them and enough room to choose a different response. Maybe the new action is surfing the urge and not engaging with the addictive behavior.

As the mind gets triggered into the "what if" game, looking at upcoming scenarios through a catastrophic lens, saying, "it is what it is, while it is," reminds you that you just got triggered into a mind trap and can now recognize the fear or anxiety that is currently there. The thoughts are not facts, but the feeling is. You can begin to recognize that the anxiety has a life of its own and is subject to the natural law that all things come and go.

The phrase, "it is what is, while it is" isn't meant to be a panacea to stress, anxiety, depression or addiction -- of course you'll want to integrate this into the other avenues you have found to be helpful along with finding a supportive community, whether that's a therapist, a group of peers or friends or another form of communal support. It is meant to be a helpful tool along the way that can break up the automatic reaction just long enough to insert more space for choice to engage a different response.

Depending on the level of difficulty, that response could be engaging in the greater art of distraction, or maybe approaching the vulnerable feeling with warm presence of kindness and compassion. Inevitably, this is the road to transforming the feeling and giving you a greater sense of self-reliance.

Of course, saying, "it is what it is, while it is" can also be used with our more comfortable emotions to give a sense of their preciousness, to elicit a sense of gratitude and savor the goodness while it's there.

Go ahead and bring this into your day, treat it as an experiment without any judgment or expectations. See if it breaks up the habit for enough of a time to allow for a new way of thinking or responding.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom that we can all benefit from.

Adapted from a publication on Mindfulness and Psychotherapy at Psychcentral.com. Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is Co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook. You may also find him at www.drsgoldstein.com.