Mantra for Empowerment: I Am Choosing

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In my last article I discussed ways to remember to practice being mindful. Here is one more way.

Another way to remember is to use uncomfortable emotions as signals to ask the fundamental question. For example, if I’m feeling anxious, take that as a cue, and ask the question, the answer may be that I’m choosing to worry: something I usually do unconsciously since I know it causes emotional and physiological stress and thus I would not consciously choose to do it. Emotional discomfort is often a signal that you have made unconscious choices. As such, it’s an invaluable tool for supporting a shift to living by choice.

“I Am Choosing…” Practice

There is another layer of practice in addition to asking the fundamental question. Once you’re comfortable with the idea of asking the question and noticing your answers, you can mentally declare your choices to yourself as you go through your day:

I am choosing to get out of bed. I am choosing to put on my exercise clothes. I am choosing to exercise. I’m choosing to complain about the pain in my back. I’m choosing to focus on the benefits of the invasive test I chose to get.

The purpose of this practice is to reinforce the realization that literally everything you do, you do by choice; it reinforces the power of choice. Although thoughts automatically pop into your head, you can choose what to do with them; you can get caught up in them or you can choose to recognize them as nothing but insubstantial mental constructs, which you do not have to obey.

An example of how mindfulness-based behavioral change practice works

Let’s say you’re sitting at the table eating and you say to yourself, I’m choosing to eat. If you begin to feel full, the very simple act of making this statement serves to increase your awareness of this. In that instant of awareness, you now have the opportunity to say, I’m choosing to stop eating immediately and I’m choosing to put this food away. Just saying the words I’m choosing to eat serves to put you in full contact with your experience of that moment.

This practice involves making the phrase I am choosing a part of moment-to-moment awareness, and this moment-to-moment emphasis on choice is a powerful antidote to the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness that so often plague those of us who live with chronic medical conditions and who feel lost in the health care system.


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Dr. Berkelhammer is a retired mind-body medicine psychologist. He writes about mindfulness-based practices with a unique emphasis on optimization of wellbeing and health. Dr. Berkelhammer also lectures at San Francisco State University and UC San Francisco, and is currently teaching a class in Marin County through College of Marin. He is the author of the book "In Your Own Hands; New Hope for People with Chronic Medical Conditions".

See his extensive website:

In Your Own Hands: Mindfulness-Based Practices to Optimize Wellbeing - College of Marin Community Education

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