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How Do You Deal With Challenges?

How mindfulness helps us discover solutions

Source: By Umberto Salvagnin - originally posted to Flickr as Another Flying sidekick, CC BY 2.0,

Meaningful challenges can strengthen us and give our lives purpose. What undermines our health and well-being is often not a major challenge but a pile-up of minor annoyances: computer glitches, traffic jams, waiting in line, rude colleagues or schedule changes at work (Karren, Smith, & Gordon, 2014). These hassles can destroy our peace of mind, compromise our immune systems, and lead to ill health—if we let them.

We often focus on a problem with an intense inner dialogue that tries to “solve” it without the necessary tools or expertise in a process psychologists call “rumination.” The problem churns around through our heads, going around and around like a dog chasing its tail.

Yet despite the American tradition of individualism and self-reliance, what some have called “the doing mode,” some problems cannot be solved with our cognitive processes or by pushing through with personal will power (Williams, Teasdale, Segal, & Kabat-Zinn, 2007, pp. 43-44). In fact, rumination not only doesn't solve these problems—it actually makes them worse, gets us stuck, increases our sense of frustration, helplessness, desperation, and can even lead us into depression. Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal, and Jon Kabat-Zinn explain this process in their book, The Mindful Way Through Depression, and offer another, more effective approach: mindfulness. Research has shown that when we slow down to focus on what’s happening and what we’re feeling we gain not only greater peace of mind, but greater insight, seeing new possibilities within and around us (Teper, Segal, & Inzlicht, 2013).

Diane Dreher
Source: Diane Dreher

Mindfulness helps us see more clearly, so we can choose new ways of responding. Sometimes this means reaching out beyond ourselves to the larger community, asking a friend for help. Sometimes it means having patience with the process, staying in touch with our values, waiting for right timing and right action.

What about you?

Are you facing a challenge or frustrating annoyance?

If so, you could take a moment of mindfulness, as you:

Close your eyes

Take a deep breath and slowly release it.

Ask yourself, “What is this?” “What am I feeling now?”

Focus on the feeling,

Feeling the sensations in your body.

Then, with an attitude of kindness,

Focus on your breathing for the next few moments,

And when you are ready,

Open your eyes.


Karren, K. J., Smith, N. L., & Gordon, K. J. (2014). Mind Body Health. Glenview, IL: Pearson Education.

Teper, R., Segal, Z. V., & Inzlicht, M. (2013). Inside the mindful mind: How mindfulness enhances emotion regulation through improvements in executive control. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 22, 449-454.

Williams, M., Teasdale, J., Segal, Z., & Kabat-Zinn, J. (2007). The Mindful Way Through Depression. New York, NY: Guilford. This book combines research insights and powerful strategies for becoming more mindful, along with a meditation CD by Jon Kabat-Zinn.


Diane Dreher is a best-selling author, positive psychology coach, and professor at Santa Clara University. Her latest book is Your Personal Renaissance: 12 Steps to Finding Your Life’s True Calling.

Visit her web sites at