Everyday Practices

We don’t have to be controlled by our thoughts and emotions

We are presented with many opportunities throughout each day to practice stepping out of reactivity to choose an alternate response. Reactivity can be accompanied by a habitual urgency to act – to fix, change, or hold onto our experience. Instead of acting on this urgency, we can pause and respond first with equanimity, offering ourselves the possibility of allowing our internal experience to be here, as it is, for even just a few moments. 

When we do this, we may find:

  1. Our internal experience loses its charge and becomes more manageable than we first thought. We may observe that it shifts or changes on its own.
  2. There may not be a need to act right now, or possibly at all. We can take time – even just a moment – to consider how to proceed. In this time, we may find an increased sense of clarity about our situation, and what action best serves us.

Practicing equanimity is useful not only for managing reactivity or stress, but also for managing low mood and sadness.

Imagine you’re feeling a sense of sadness and heaviness in your chest. Normally, you might try to push this feeling away, distract yourself, or ruminate, trying to figure out why you feel this way. What if, instead, you try to approach this experience with openness, curiosity, and non-judgement – with equanimity?

As you practice, you may find that feelings like this become less intense and overwhelming. You may also gain a better sense of mastery and agency over your emotions, as you increase your capacity to skillfully respond to a wide range of  difficult emotions.

Over time, this practice can help you reduce the duration and intensity of depression, as well as lead to a greater sense of emotional balance and well-being. With equanimity, we step out of habitual conditioned reactions to choose skillful responses in the moment. This can profoundly change how we respond to ourselves and other people.[1]

Practicing Equanimity with a Moment of Challenge

Many symptoms of anxiety and depression are maintained through habitual thought patterns, along with reactivity to body sensations associated with these thoughts. Through developing our ability to rest attention on body sensations and intentionally feel them – instead of automatically reacting to them – we can then have a choice of what to do next.

Below is a quick (30 second) practice we can try on and off throughout our day, or as a part of a meditation practice, when our thoughts, emotions, and associated body sensations get more intense.[2]

  1. Locate the area in the body in which sensations are the most intense.
  2. Focus all your attention at the centre of this area of intensity.
  3. Describe the basic characteristics the sensation is composed of:
    • Weight  – is it light or heavy?
    • Temperature – is it cold, cool, warm, or hot?
    • Motion – is it still or moving?
    • Intensity – is it concentrated or diffuse, expanding or tight?
  4. Apply equanimity to this area of sensation for 30 seconds:
    • Try not to identify with or react to the sensations.
    • Recognize them as physical events that are impermanent, knowing that sensations always change.
    • If your attention moves to thinking about the sensations (e.g., interpreting or drawing conclusions about the sensations), release attention from the thoughts and bring it back to the felt sense of the 4 characteristics (weight, temperature, motion, intensity).

Bringing attention to the body with a willingness to experience sensations as they are, without needing to “do” anything about them – even just for a few seconds – increases our capacity to be with the more intense aspects of our experience and creates a small “pause” that then allows for choice as to what next steps might be most adaptive.

This is a core mindfulness practice in Mindfulness-integrated Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, one of several evidence-based mindfulness treatments for anxiety and depression.[3]

Mindful Pause

In previous lessons, we’ve applied our mindfulness skills to a specific everyday activity. In this lesson, we’re inviting you to choose your own everyday activity. This might be brushing your teeth, washing your hands, combing your hair, drinking a glass of water, locking the door, putting on your shoes, or any other simple activity you do throughout your day.


Before you start:
  • Choose one activity. If it’s an activity that you do often throughout the day, like washing your hands, you could practice a mindful pause each time you do so. Alternatively, you could limit the time frame; for instance, if the activity is using your cellphone, you could start by practicing a mindful pause whenever you reach for your phone in the morning before work.
Step 1: Pause
  • Use this activity as a signal for you to pause and practice equanimity. Form an intention to pause whenever you’re first aware of this activity. In practice, this might happen right before engaging this activity, in the midst of it, or after it’s completed – whenever you remember this intention is an opportunity to pause.
Step 2: Notice Responses
  • In this brief pause of one or two breaths, check in with your internal experience, cultivating equanimity.
  • For instance, if you notice a sense of hurry or frustration or other reactivity, you could get curious about how that’s showing up (e.g., tense body sensations, thick clouds of ruminating thoughts) – allowing it to be just as it is, for now, without trying to change it.
  • If you notice a sense of ease or equanimity, you could offer an equal interest to how that’s making itself known (e.g., light body sensations; gentle, spacious thoughts) – allowing it to be just as it is, for now, without trying to hold onto it.
  • Notice what happens when you pause to bring this equanimous attention to an everyday moment. How does it affect your experience of what’s arising, if it does?
Step 3: Resume Your Activity
  • As the pause ends, and you continue with your activities, what do you notice now – about the quality of your attention? About what you’re choosing to do (or not do)?

The Mindful Pause helps us to step back from autopilot and remember, more often, the intention to be present to our internal experience with equanimity.

When we first start practicing, our first insight may be how strong a force autopilot is, and how hard it can be to remember! That’s okay! Every time we notice that we’ve forgotten is a moment of awareness – and an opportunity to pause, inviting equanimity.

With practice, remembering comes more readily, and equanimity is gradually more accessible, helping us skillfully manage our emotional state.


  1. Atkinson BJ. Mindfulness training and the cultivation of secure, satisfying couple relationships. (2013). Couple Family Psychol. 2, 73–94. https://doi.org/10.1037/cfp0000002
  2. Cayoun B. A., Simmons A., Shires A. (2017). Immediate and lasting chronic pain reduction following a brief self-implemented mindfulness-based interoceptive exposure task: a pilot study. Mindfulness 11 112–124. 10.1007/s12671-017-0823-x
  3. Cayoun, B. A. (2015). Mindfulnessintegrated CBT for wellbeing and personal growth: Four steps to enhance inner calm, selfconfidence and relationships. Chichester, UK: Wiley.