How To Reduce Your Judgments to Improve Your Attitude
Remember how in a previous article you learned that how you think affects the way you feel? Well, that’s really what this post is about, but in a very specific way: the way that your judgmental thoughts increase your anger, bitterness, resentment, and other emotional pain; and how, when this emotional pain is increased, it has more of an influence on how you behave. In this post, you’ll learn how to change your thinking so that not only will you change how you feel, but this will be reflected in how you act toward others, which will often have a positive effect on the people around you.
What Is a Judgment and Why Is It a Problem?
First, let’s clarify what we mean by the word “judgment.” When we talk about judgments, we’re really talking about the language we use: good/bad, right/wrong, stupid, ridiculous, and so on. Perhaps you’ve heard the expression “inflammatory language.” Well, when we’re using this type of language, we’re doing just that: inflaming the situation with judgmental, blaming, emotionally provocative words. Think about how many times you judge throughout a typical day: “School sucks,” “The weather is crappy,” “That guy’s a loser,” “My parents are so mean,” and on and on.
The main reason that judgments are so problematic is that, as I mentioned earlier, they increase your painful emotions. More often than not, a judgment is triggered by a feeling. Maybe you’re angry at a grade you got, so “school sucks”; maybe you’re disappointed you won’t get to play baseball today, so “the weather is crappy”; perhaps that guy bullied you last year and so your feelings of hurt and anger cause you to call him a “loser”; and if your parents grounded you and you’re feeling angry at them, you’re likely to label them as “mean.” So it’s understandable why we judge: we’re feeling hurt, angry, frustrated, jealous, and so on. But the judgment is adding fuel to the fire of your emotions. Once you start judging, your emotions increase, which causes you to judge more, which causes more emotions, and the cycle continues. And now, you’re being controlled by your emotional self. Let’s look at a couple of examples to make sure you get the idea.
- Caitlyn judges herself for her anxiety. She sees people her age getting along and managing fine, and she gets down on herself because she’s different and can’t do the same things other people do: What’s wrong with me? This is ridiculous; I shouldn’t be anxious sitting in class. Everyone else is fine, and I can barely breathe. I’m such a loser. You can probably see that Caitlyn’s judgments are likely coming from frustration, or maybe disappointment in herself for not being able to do the things she’d like to do. But hopefully you can also imagine that Caitlyn’s judgments are actually increasing her emotional pain; instead of just feeling frustrated and disappointed in herself, she’s probably now feeling angry with herself, and maybe even more anxious as she wonders what’s “wrong” with her.
- Michael judges his parents for not understanding him and the struggles he has with his ADHD. When his parents express disappointment in his report card, for example, he thinks: They’re totally ridiculous if they think I can do better. They’re so clueless. If Michael’s parents expressed disappointment in him for not doing as well as they thought he could, it makes sense that he would feel hurt, but Michael’s judgmental thoughts likely take that understandable hurt and add to it the feeling of anger.
Hopefully from these two examples you can see that judgments increase emotional pain. If it’s still a little unclear, try thinking of a recent time (for most of us, there’s been a recent time!) when you’ve vented about something. Maybe it was a grade at school or something your parents or a sibling did, or maybe it was about the school bully. Perhaps you were venting to a friend or a parent, or maybe you were just going over and over a situation in your head and, in a way, venting to yourself. People tend to think that venting is a useful activity—it helps them feel better and gets things off their chests. But we know from research that this really isn’t true in fact, venting only causes emotions about the situation to intensify; you end up reliving those emotions as though the situation were actually happening again. And what do you do when you’re venting? Well, you judge, of course! So keep this in mind the next time you want to vent or rant about something—the judgments are actually just making things worse for you by intensifying the pain you’re feeling. And when you’re more emotional, it’s difficult to not let those emotions take over and get in the way of your interactions with others.
You might have noticed from Caitlyn’s example that self-judgments create just as much extra emotional pain as judging other people or situations, and here’s why: when you’re judging yourself, you’re essentially verbally abusing yourself. If you’re a self-judger, you probably say things to yourself on a fairly regular basis that you wouldn’t dream of saying to others in similar circumstances. Think about how often you judge yourself: when you don’t do well on a paper or exam, you’re “stupid”; when you say something you later regret, there’s probably a “should” (for example, “I shouldn’t have said that!”); when you have a disagreement with your boyfriend, you’re a “loser”; when you send a text with a typo in it, you’re an “idiot.”
The saying “We’re our own worst critics” exists for a reason: many people are extremely hard on themselves. And when you’re judging yourself so regularly, those messages stick with you and affect your self-esteem and your self-respect. You may have heard that people who are verbally and emotionally abused in a relationship come to believe what the other person is telling them; for example, that they really are unlovable and unworthy, and they’ll never find someone else who wants to be with them. In the same way, you actually come to believe many of your self-judgments, and because they happen so automatically, they become a very harmful part of your self-talk. When a person’s self-esteem and self-respect suffer, the likelihood of having healthy relationships lessens— think of Rebecca, who does anything she can to hold on to friends because she doesn’t feel good about herself, and can’t understand why others would want to be friends with her unless she does things for them. So self judgments aren’t healthy for you, and they also influence your relationships and the way you interact with others.
One quick tip here: when you notice self-judgments arise, ask yourself, If I were speaking to my [best friend, mother, sister, or someone else close to you] , what would I say? Often you wouldn’t say anything close to what you’re thinking toward yourself, and realizing this can help you change that judgment to a more neutral statement.
Do You Push Others Away with What You Say?
Of course, judging others can be damaging to your relationships. We all know how it feels to be judged—it’s hurtful, and it often causes us to feel angry toward the person judging us, and to become defensive. If you’re regularly judging others, it’s likely that they will choose to limit the time they spend with you in order to avoid feeling hurt and angry. Even if you’re not directing your frequent judgments toward another person, people might find your negativity a turnoff and want to spend less time with you. So start thinking about what you say to the people in your life, and how this might be influencing your connections with them.
Why Do We Judge Others?
We all judge; it’s a very human thing. And really, the question is, how could we not, given how judgmental our society is? We’re exposed to judgments constantly from early in our lives, hearing that we’re good or bad, that we should have done this or shouldn’t have done that (“shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” are almost always judgments), and so on.
So judging becomes a matter of habit. But it’s also in part a matter of convenience: judgments are short-form labels that we put on things, rather than taking the time to spell out what we really mean. For example, when you label the girl walking down the hall a “loser,” what you might really mean is that you had a disagreement with her and she hurt your feelings. Or when you call your sister an “idiot,” what you might really mean is that you’re feeling angry with her because you’re trying to get an assignment done for tomorrow and she’s playing her music so loud you can’t concentrate.
Before we turn to what to do about judgments, there’s just one more thing you need to understand, and that’s that sometimes judgments are necessary. I’ve come to relabel these necessary judgments as “evaluations.” You need to be graded or evaluated at school in order to ensure that you’re learning what you need to learn, and you need to be assessed at work to make sure you’re doing your job properly; sometimes you need to evaluate whether a situation is healthy or safe for you to be in, such as when someone offers you a ride home from a party and you’re not sure whether she’s been drinking. You also, of course, need to evaluate whether your relationships are satisfying, healthy, and positive, or if they are unsatisfying, unhealthy, or even detrimental to you in some ways. Hopefully you can see that these are different from the judgments we’ve been talking about here; they’re more objective and impartial.
One final point about judgments is that there are occasions when judgments don’t cause extra suffering for us; for example, you might walk into the bathroom after your brother’s been in there for a while and think to yourself, Wow, does it ever smell bad in here! While the word “bad” signals a judgment, you can probably see that this isn’t a judgment that’s coming from an emotion and therefore likely to trigger more emotions. In a case like this, a judgment doesn’t necessarily have to be changed. But it’s important to practice your self-awareness around thoughts that are bringing up extra emotional pain for you. If you notice your pain increase, especially with feelings like anger, frustration, or resentment, then tune into your thoughts and see if you can identify the judgments that are probably there.
How Do We Change Judgmental Thinking?
Now that you know about what judgments are and why they can be problematic, what do you do about them? Well, let’s break it down into steps to make it as clear as possible, because this is not an easy thing to do!
You might have guessed this would be step number one: increasing your awareness of when you’re judging. There will be some specific mindfulness exercises at the end of this post that you can practice to help increase your awareness, but for now, just work on tuning in to your thoughts when you notice your emotions increasing (again, especially the painful emotions such as anger, resentment, bitterness, frustration, irritation, annoyance, and so on). Even just becoming aware of your judgments can sometimes help you change your thinking so that you’re more able to manage your emotions rather than letting them affect your behavior.
Don’t judge yourself for judging!
This is worth repeating: don’t judge yourself for judging. Remember, it makes sense that you judge, given the society you’re growing up in. And some people grow up in more judgmental families than others—if this is you, you’re probably even more judgmental than the average person and you’ll have even more of a challenge with this skill. But the bottom line is, if you’re judging yourself for judging, you’re only increasing your judging (and heightening your emotions) ; so instead, work on just noticing it. Remind yourself it’s understandable, and then go on to the next step.
Describe the facts and feelings.
This step takes a lot of practice, because it’s about getting out of the habit of using those shorthand, judgmental labels, and instead thinking about or saying what you really mean. Remember, a judgment usually comes from an emotion, so first of all, see whether you can identify the emotion that’s causing you to judge; as mentioned earlier, more often than not, it’s feelings of hurt, or some level of anger (perhaps frustration, annoyance, or irritation). It’s important to note that emotions (and this includes not liking something, being unhappy with a situation, and so on) are not judgments— they’re just feelings. Expressing your emotions about something is nonjudgmental.
Once you’ve identified the feeling, work on describing the situation that’s causing this feeling in a factual, nonjudgmental way. In other words, remove the judgmental label and replace it with the long version of what you really mean. I’m sure this is crystal clear, right? Let’s go back to our earlier examples to shed some light.
Caitlyn’s self-judgment was: What’s wrong with me? This is ridiculous; I shouldn’t be anxious sitting in class. Everyone else is fine, and I can barely breathe. I’m such a loser.
Emotion: Caitlyn identifies that she’s feeling disappointed in herself for not being able to sit in class without panicking.
Fact: Caitlyn has panic attacks while in class.
Nonjudgmental statement: Putting these two things together, Caitlyn’s nonjudgmental statement would go something like this: I’m disappointed in myself, and I don’t like the fact that I am not able to sit through a class without having a panic attack.
When You’re Trying to Be Nonjudgmental
I want to say again, this is a difficult skill to learn because judging is such an automatic behavior. Here are a couple of ways you can avoid problems people sometimes encounter when they’re trying to be nonjudgmental.
DON’T RATIONALIZE OR EXCUSE
Sometimes when they’re learning to be nonjudgmental, people fall into the trap of rationalizing or excusing behavior, rather than not judging it. For example, rather than trying to be nonjudgmental toward his parents, Michael might rationalize their reaction by thinking something like, I know they get frustrated with me and they just want the best for me. The problem here is that, by extension, Michael is telling himself that he shouldn’t be feeling hurt and angry with his parents. In other words, when you rationalize or excuse instead of being nonjudgmental, you end up judging yourself for your own feelings; as you can probably guess, and as we’ll see shortly when we look at validating your emotions, this isn’t helpful either.
WATCH YOUR TONE OF VOICE AND BODY LANGUAGE
Just because your words aren’t judgmental doesn’t mean you’re not judging! You can still be judgmental with your tone of voice, your facial expression, and other body language, so it’s important to be aware of all of these things. Eye rolls, for example, are judgmental you might not be saying anything out loud, but you’re sending a clear message with your body language. Likewise with your tone of voice. For example, you tell your mother: “Sabrina asked if tomorrow I could drop her off at work on my way home. That makes sense.” You might say this in a regular tone of voice, which would indicate to your mother that Sabrina’s request is logical. Or you might say this in a tone that conveys a different message—for example, that you think Sabrina is crazy for asking for a ride. The words you use are exactly the same, but the tone of voice conveys two completely different messages.
What to Do When Others Are Judging
Unfortunately you can’t control others. But hearing others judge, especially when the judgments are directed toward you, can be very difficult. Again, we’ve all had this experience at times, and we know how much hurt and anger it can cause. So what do you do when someone is judging you? When the school bully is calling you names? When you’re fighting with your best friend and she tells you what a bad friend you are? Or when your sister tells you you’re a loser?
Remember, first and foremost, that if you join in the judging, you’re only triggering extra emotional pain for yourself. Think of being nonjudgmental in this sense as self-protection: it has nothing to do with the other person in this situation, and everything to do with how you want to feel. So don’t judge the other person for judging. Instead, describe to yourself the facts of the situation and your emotions.
Conserve Your Energy!
I remember my aha moment about judgments a few years ago. I knew it made sense to be nonjudgmental and that it was helpful, but one morning I was driving down the road on my way to work, and another driver gave me the finger (for no good reason, of course!). I became angry and started judging (and ranting and raving), and at some point I realized how much energy I was expending on this person I didn’t even know. So I find it helpful to ask myself, Do I really want to give this much energy to [this bully, this other driver, or whomever? This may be easier to do with people in your life you don’t know well, but it can be a helpful tool to remind yourself of the energy you’re spending on the other person if you continue to judge.
Now’s the time to pull out the assertiveness skills you learned and use them! Even if the other person is judging, you can speak to her in a respectful, assertive way. This will take practice, of course, because it requires accessing your wise self—or your own inner wisdom—when emotions are more intense. But doing this will, at the very least, prevent you from making things worse; and best-case scenario, things might actually get better as you don’t escalate the situation, and the other person might reduce her judgments in response. Finally, in this scenario, you’ll come out feeling good about yourself for the way you behaved, regardless of the behavior of the other person.
Of course, keep in mind that the priority is to keep yourself safe. If this is a bully who uses physical violence, for example, I’m not suggesting you stick around to talk—instead, use your assertiveness skills with a teacher, a guidance counselor, or someone else who can help you in this situation. If you are a victim of violence or other abuse at the hands of anyone—parents, siblings, bullies, or others please reach out for help; you don’t have to deal with this on your own. If you don’t feel you have anyone in your life you can trust with this information, there are help lines you can call for anonymous support and assistance. Abuse of any kind is not acceptable.
Positive vs. Negative Judgments
Of course, we’re not always judging things in a negative way sometimes we’re actually positive! So you might be wondering, what about the positive judgments? Do they matter? The long answer is that, while it’s important to be aware of the positive judgments, we’re not as concerned with those as we are with the negative judgments, since it’s the negative judgments that create extra emotional pain for us. However, the thing with positives is that they can turn into negatives; for example, if Michael did well on his report card and his parents told him how smart he is, does that mean if he doesn’t do so well on his next report card he’s no longer smart, or even that he’s stupid? Likewise, if a friend you consider wonderful does something you don’t like, does that make her a bad friend?
Another pitfall here is positive self-judgments: if you’re used to calling yourself an idiot when you make a mistake, it’s probably not realistic to turn this into a positive judgment like, No, I’m really smart, because you’d have a hard time believing it. So be aware of the judgments and, as often as possible, change your judgments positive or negative—to neutral statements.
Being Nonjudgmental with Emotions: Validation
There’s another important aspect to the skill of being nonjudgmental, and this is with regard to emotions; this skill is called validation. Essentially, validation is about accepting an experience as it is. This experience could be, for example, a feeling, thought, or belief, but here we’re going to focus on validating an emotional experience. With this skill, we’re not saying that we agree with the experience necessarily, but we’re able to acknowledge it and understand it. It’s important to validate ourselves and others, and we’ll look at doing both in this post. Because we need to be able to manage our own emotions in order to have successful interactions with others, we’ll start by looking at the importance of validating ourselves first.
The Messages We Receive About Emotions
We receive lots of different messages about emotions from our families, but these messages also come from our peers—including our friends—especially earlier on in our lives, and from society as a whole.
MESSAGES FROM FAMILY
There are all sorts of ways we get messages from our families about emotions. For example, you might have a family member who tends to blow up in anger. The message you might learn from this is that, in order to make yourself heard, you have to blow up at other people. Or, if you’re someone who is frightened by your family member blowing up, the message you might learn is that anger is a scary emotion and you should therefore stuff it and not let others see when you’re angry. Another example is through more direct messages; for example, you might recall your parents telling you that you’re silly for being afraid of the dark, and you therefore learn that being afraid is silly, and you shouldn’t feel this way.
MESSAGES FROM PEERS
In a similar way, our peers can teach us which emotions are okay to feel and which ones will be judged. For example, if we feel hurt and start to cry, we might be made fun of. The lesson here might be “It’s not okay to cry,” or even “I’m weak if I feel hurt about things.” Being bullied is an extreme form of invalidation, in which your emotions and many other aspects of your experience are judged harshly.
Hopefully people who receive such invalidating messages also have more positive interactions with their peers at times—you might have one or more friends who validate your emotions, counteracting the invalidating messages you receive when you’re being bullied. Or you might have been brave enough to reach out for help from an adult, and hopefully you received validation there. This doesn’t undo the damage, of course, but it can certainly help if you’re not hearing just that invalidating message all the time, but have someone else who’s supporting you and telling you it makes sense and is okay that you feel the way you do.
MESSAGES FROM SOCIETY
Of course, society also plays a role in teaching us certain things about emotions. For example, one well-known stereotype is that boys shouldn’t cry. Some boys will take this to heart and think that they are weak if they cry, or that it means they are defective in some other way. Many people learn from stereotypes that anger is a “bad” emotion and should be suppressed; this can lead to beliefs about anger such as “I’m a bad person if I feel angry,” or “It’s wrong to be angry.”
We all develop different beliefs about emotions based on the experiences we have with them and based on the messages we’ve received throughout our lives. Some people are more sensitive and will take such messages more to heart than others. Some people grow up just knowing that emotions are part of the normal human experience and are okay to feel, in spite of the messages they receive. But most of us grow up internalizing these messages at least to some extent, and this leads to our invalidating at least some of our emotional experiences.
Invalidating Your Emotions
When you invalidate your emotions, you’re judging yourself for having that emotion. Think back to the example of Caitlyn earlier in this post. Caitlyn was judging herself for feeling anxious and invalidating her anxiety—telling herself she shouldn’t be feeling it, and that there was something wrong with her for being anxious. And remember the emotions that came up in Caitlyn because of this? She was disappointed in herself and frustrated.
Often when you invalidate yourself, you intensify your painful emotions. You start off with a primary emotion, or a feeling that arises in response to a situation, and when you judge yourself for feeling that primary emotion, you increase your painful feelings by generating secondary emotions, or feelings about your feelings. One of the main benefits to validating yourself, therefore, is to keep other painful emotions at bay. When you’re not generating those extra painful emotions, you’re more able to access your inner wisdom, which can help you figure out if there’s something you can do to make the situation better in some way.
Of course, keeping your emotions from becoming more intense is also going to help your interactions with others go more smoothly and will reduce the likelihood of taking your emotions out on the people around you, which is likely to have a positive impact on your relationships.
Think of this skill as being nonjudgmental with your emotions. In other words, when you notice you’re judging yourself for feeling a certain way, change that judgmental thought to a neutral or nonjudgmental statement. Again, let’s break this down to make it clearer, and then we’ll look at a few more examples.
Surprise!—here it is again. The first step, as always, is to become aware of when you’re invalidating yourself. Just like with self judgments, noticing when your painful emotions (especially some kind of anger toward yourself) start to increase will be a big clue for you that self-invalidation is going on.
Name the emotion.
The next step is to figure out what primary emotion you’re experiencing; name the emotion, using your skills and referring to the list of emotions in another post if you need to. Often the hard part here is figuring out what emotion is the primary one, especially when you’re feeling a few different feelings all at the same time. See whether you can figure out which emotion came first in response to the situation you were dealing with, and which emotions are how you feel about your feelings. This will often take practice, so have patience.
Identify the invalidating thought.
Ask yourself, What is my judgment about this emotion? Sometimes you’ll know without having to think about it why you’re judging the emotion and where the message came from that’s causing you to judge your experience now. Sometimes you might not be able to figure this out right away. Either way, it’s important to identify what judgment you’re having emotional experience so that you can change the invalidating thought.
Accept the emotion.
Once you’ve identified what the primary emotion is and what the invalidating thought about this feeling is, you can work on accepting it. The good news here is that acceptance doesn’t have to be anything fancy—it can be as simple as just acknowledging or naming the emotion, and putting a period on the end of the sentence instead of continuing down the road of judging the emotion. Sometimes, of course, it can be more than this—you might be able to give yourself permission to feel the emotion, or you might even be able to tell yourself, It’s understandable that I feel this way. All of these actions are validating.
It’s important to note that validating your emotion isn’t going to make the feeling go away. But it will prevent you from triggering the secondary emotions that intensify your painful feelings. Now let’s put this into practice with some examples.
Sitting in class, Caitlyn was feeling anxious to the point of having panic attacks. She judged herself for feeling anxious, thinking, What’s wrong with me? This is ridiculous; I shouldn’t be anxious sitting in class. Everyone else is fine, and I can barely breathe. I’m such a loser.
Notice: Caitlyn notices that she’s not feeling just anxious now but also disappointed and frustrated with herself. This gives her a clue that she’s invalidating herself.
Name the emotion: It doesn’t take too much for Caitlyn to figure out that her primary emotion is anxiety, because she knows that school often triggers this feeling for her (it’s the primary emotion because it’s the emotion that’s arisen in response to the situation—sitting in class); and she knows that this is the feeling she’s invalidating.
Identify the invalidating thought: Caitlyn recognizes that the main judgment is I shouldn’t be feeling anxious.
Accept the emotion: Caitlyn changes her judgment to the neutral thought I feel anxious sitting in class. Instead of invalidating her anxiety, she just acknowledges it.
Let’s take a brief look now at how you can use this skill to improve your connections with the people in your life. Now that you know how good it feels to be validated by others—to have someone tell you that your emotional reaction is understandable, it makes sense, and even that it’s okay that you feel this way—it’s important that you be able to do this for the people in your life as well. It helps you connect with others and helps them feel understood by you, which goes a long way in improving relationships.
When you’re validating others, you want to express acceptance and understanding of their internal experience—again, whether it’s an emotion, thought, belief, or something else. Here are some tips to help you get started.
- Start by paying attention and showing interest in what the other person is saying; this shows her that you care, that what she’s saying is important to you. You’ll have to put your mindfulness skills to use once more and bring your full attention to the interaction. Turn off the TV, put your books away, close your laptop, and listen. Notice when your attention starts to wander, and make a point of bringing your attention back to the conversation.
- Reflect back to the other person what she’s saying periodically, so that you both know you’re understanding her correctly. Sometimes you can guess what the other person might be thinking or feeling in the situation, or you can pick up on clues in her facial expression, tone of voice, and so on, that tell you she’s probably thinking or feeling certain things. When you can point out things that the other person is leaving out of the story (for example, “It seems like you feel pretty angry about this”), she will likely feel really understood.
- It will also be helpful for you to pay attention to how much you’re contributing to the conversation. Remember to notice how often you’re saying “I.” When you’re trying to be validating, it’s more about the other person than it is about you, so keep your “I’s” to a minimum!
Asking questions, really paying attention, showing you’re interested, and accepting the other person’s experience will go a long way in improving your relationships with others.
Your Next Steps
Of course, these skills often don’t come easily. Noticing when you’re judging or invalidating yourself or others takes a lot of awareness, which means practice. In this final part of the post, I’ve outlined a couple of mindfulness practices that will help you become more aware of your thoughts. When you’ve been practicing these kinds of exercises for a while, you’ll start to become more aware of your thoughts naturally, which will improve your ability to notice the judgments that might follow and then do something about them. So over the next couple of weeks, really work hard on practicing these exercises.
Begin by reading through one exercise to familiarize yourself with it; then put the this post aside to actually practice it. You might find that you have a preference for one exercise over the other, which is fine, and you can certainly stick to the one you prefer. If you don’t have a preference, feel free to alternate between the two.
Exercise: Observing Your Thoughts and Emotions in a River
Sitting in a comfortable position, close your eyes. In your mind, picture yourself standing in a shallow river. The water comes to just above your knees, and a gentle current pushes against your legs. As you stand in the river, notice as your thoughts and emotions slowly start to float down the river, gliding past you on the current. Don’t try to hold on to them as they float by, and don’t get caught up in them; just watch them as they float past you down the river. When you notice yourself getting caught up thinking about a thought or an emotion so that you’re going down the river with it instead of just watching it float past, come back to just standing in the river. Bring your attention back to the exercise, and focus on just observing. As best you can, don’t judge the thoughts or feelings that you notice as they go by; just become aware of their presence.
Exercise: Observing Your Thoughts and Emotions in Clouds
Imagine yourself lying in a field of grass, looking up at the fluffy white clouds. In each cloud you can see a thought or a feeling; observe each thought or feeling as it slowly floats by. Don’t judge them, don’t label them; just notice them as they float through your mind. Don’t try to grab on to the thoughts or emotions, and don’t get caught up thinking about them—just observe them. If you notice that you’ve gotten carried away with a particular cloud, bring yourself back to lying in the field of grass. When you notice your attention straying from the exercise, bring your attention back to observing and labeling the thoughts and emotions, without judging yourself.